I wanted to reflect on some of our favorite moments there first. For me, reflecting back on the things that meant the most to me through our travels is a way to hold on to what I learned from each place and how each location affected me, both physically and emotionally.
Our recent trip through SE Asia included many moments that I’ll always remember, moments of frustration, moments of language barriers and moments of misunderstanding, but among them as well were moments of pure magic, moments of awe and moments that truly define what that part of the world is about. Throughout our time in Thailand and Cambodia, I learned many lessons, took in many incredible sights and spent many moments taking it all in, embracing what those places are about and what they represent, letting it all sink in and enjoying the moments as they came.
In Siem Reap, Cambodia we visited all the major temples of Angkor Wat and the surrounding area, but my favorite and the most awe-inspiring of all of them for me was our sunset visit to Bayon in the Angkor Thom complex. Nick and I wandered around as the golden light fell in shadows within the temple ruins, casting an incredible light as we wandered through, in many places the only people, seeming to have the ruins all to ourselves. It was not only our favorite of the temples but an evening when the ruins seemed to come alive under the golden twilight, and as I sat there within the ruins as Nick finished taking photos, I couldn’t help but think back to all those that used this place so many years ago, never knowing then that they would be in such ruins now. It’s times like those when I feel so finite, like we never know what might come ahead and that each day should be lived to the fullest, taking in our world because it’s important to know what we’ll leave behind someday.
One of the places Nick really wanted to visit was the East Gate of Ankor Thom, an old and falling apart gate out in the jungle about 1 kilometer from the actual temple of Bayon. The gate, most famous for it’s scene in Tomb Raider, is not that easy to get to and is not a normal tourist spot. We hired a tuk tuk driver to take us the kilometer down a very bumpy dirt road (barely a path to follow) through the Cambodian jungle complete with monkeys all over, some with their babies clinging to their bellies as they ran along side us. The 15 minute drive to the gate was an experience in itself on this deserted road, in the middle of the jungle.
The gate itself, it was well worth the process of getting there. Totally empty except for us and our tuk tuk driver, we stood in the middle of the jungle, taking in the falling apart and decaying East Gate of Ankor Thom, once a glorious monument, now with stones lying around it as they have fallen over the years. The stone face that adorned the top seemed to still smile down upon us as the sun began to fall and the sounds of the jungle were our soundtrack to the excursion. It’s moments alone with monuments like this, in the middle of the wilds of our world that make me truly in awe of this world and of the civilizations that have come before us.
Our last night in Siem Reap, we went into town and had dinner on the famous Pub Street at the city center. We wanted to try the local favorite Cambodian BBQ and settled into a cafe with a table outside near the street. We watched the people go by, took in the scene and enjoyed one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had traveling. We enjoyed the delicious Cambodian BBQ which included barbecued chicken along with a delicious soup of noodles and vegetables cooked around the roasting meet. We paired that with incredible fried spring rolls, white rice and the most delicious coconut milkshake I’ve ever tasted. It was a meal we’ll never forget, as we enjoyed the incredible food and took in the scene around us.
On our way home at the end of our trip, we made a stop over in Bangkok and had about 5 hours to go out and explore (which ended up not being nearly enough, as we fell in love with the city). We headed straight for the area with the Grand Palace and Wat Arun, taking the water taxi up the river heading there. We took it because it was Friday evening and traffic around the city was terrible and it seemed to be the fastest route, but the experience we got surpassed what we thought. We loved riding up the river, taking in the city all around us, feeling the breeze off the water to cut through the humidity. The temples that dot the river made for a scenic ride and it made our journey through Bangkok even more memorable.
In our final hours in Bangkok, we spent the evening in a park on the River across from Wat Arun (known as the Temple of the Dawn and a famous spot in Bangkok), taking in the twilight hours, followed by the sun setting and creating a painting of color across the sky. As the hours passed by, I sat on a bench a few feet from the river, with a Thai iced tea in my hand and taking it all in, watching as the night began to appear and the lights lit up the surrounding river banks. Finally, Wat Arun lit up, glowing against the deep navy sky and illuminating everything around it. It was a magical moment, sitting there, watching Bangkok go by around us, water taxis buzzing, people coming and going on their Friday night, and we sat there for hours, just taking in a city that we really fell in love with. It was one of those evenings that seems to fly by in the span of minutes instead of hours and it’s an evening I’ll never forget, a wonderful to end our magical trip in Asia.