Angkor Wat, Cambodia

“The City of Temples”


Angkor Wat is a palace complex, a collection of temples that’s quite clearly falling apart,  and hands down my favourite archaeological site.

It is, according to the almighty Wikipedia, the largest religious monument in the world that began as a Hindu site, and ended as a Buddhist one.


It is not just one or two complex, and it’s not a pseudo-country like Vatican City is – it does have the size of a big ancient city and a modern small city!

Most tourists opt for a “tok-tok” driver (sort of like your private taxi without the luxury) and usually a three-day ticket. You negotiate the price for the former, and it’s up to you to make your money’s worth with the latter. Whilst some may want to observe even a tiny spot for hours, it is entirely possible to rush through the whole town in half a day.

…Given that you have a very early start, that is. And you do want an early start. It’s not because it’s terribly far from Siem Reap, the wonderful city you’d be staying at; it’s not to avoid the tourist traffic; it’s because Cambodia, and Angkor Wat especially, is incredibly hot.


Look! It’s the Face of Boe a Buddha!

Since it’s so seriously tropical with little wind, one has no choice but to rise at 5am and retire before the blistering sun reaches its peak power after noon. A fan of some kind is highly recommended and water is essential.

Although of course nothing is really essential, since you can quite easily buy stuff on site. There are many, many Cambodians – many children – selling different things, trying to speak to you in English (“buy sumsing” is code for “would you like to buy something?”) or Mandarin. They sell, apart from the essentials and souvenirs, musical instruments. Presumably traditional and handmade. You can use US dollars there no problem (and when I was there, most things seemed to cost only a dollar each), but if you require change, you may get some Cambodian money back, which is not ideal unless you’re a collector.


One thing exorbitantly cool and unique about Cambodia is that you practically have unrestricted access to everything.

Angkor Wat is certainly a major tourist attraction, but Cambodia still isn’t that popular on a global scale, or at least it wasn’t when I went, so you get lots of space to yourself.

What’s even cooler, despite the heat, is the fact that you can hardly see any guards of any kind there. Even though that’s not necessarily good from the point of view of preserving the valuable, priceless world heritage site, as an individual tourist, hopefully a responsible one, it’s totally possible for you to just walk into everything and even to take a piece of the temples as a souvenir (I’m not endorsing this).


As somewhat of a historian, and self-proclaimed historical sites lover, I’d discourage you from actually taking a piece of the building home. Many of the buildings are already substantially damaged with only temporary fixes apparently funded by the Chinese or something, and I do think we all have the responsibility to preserve it for our future genrations to appreciate the palaces.

Nevertheless, there’s perhaps a balance here. Many of the stones that made up the buildings have fallen, and more than a few monuments have been heavily weathered. It won’t be rare for you to see a tiny piece of weathered rock on the path somewhere, and if you insist, I guess that’s the lesser evil, as it’s at the same time a part of Angkor Wat, but may not actually have been a part of the structures.

It’s illegal though, I think.


Apart from the grand buildings, something I didn’t capture was the fine patterns on some of the walls. True story: a single white male tourist stood for three hours looking at one brick.


As its size is comparable to an actual city, it may not be possible for you to walk to all the different sites. Your tok-tok driver will need to negotiate with you as to when to meet you again to take you to which part of the ancient municipality. They don’t necessarily speak English but you should be able to communicate simple messages with the help of body language. We did not use Google Translate or learn any of the local language,

Speaking of that, we were quite worried at one point – we were supposed to meet the driver at 1pm but he wasn’t waiting for us. I think we waited for more than an hour before he showed up, apologizing, saying he was at a wedding or something. It was OK, we weren’t mad or anything. Our meeting point was outside of a restaurant anyway, so it was honestly just the heat and the mosquitos. In any case, it was some much needed rest.


Very interesting sign. If you pay close attention to the blue ones, you can see one of them being a t-shirt. Can you guess what it means?

Yes, it means you are obliged to put a shirt on. And it’s actually a much needed reminder. On the site, you will most definitely see some guys, most likely young white boys adults walking around shirtless. Remember, it’s boiling there! And white tourists do seem to have the tendency to walk around topless – I’ve seen many in the steaming Mayan sites in Mexico. 

And once again I think this is a genuine legal requirement. There were two French girls posing for nude photos (not quite the same thing, I concede) and were fined or jailed or something. It’s still a religious site after all, even though the country’s monarch may be a raging closeted homosexual (it’s not an insult, Your Majesty, it’s a marvellous thing to be gay, regardless of what your subjects think!), it doesn’t mean the country is particularly open-minded socially speaking.


If you want, you can conduct other activities such as riding an elephant. But as Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year Grammy winner de facto queen of Barbados Rihanna found out, it’s not always an ethical thing to do, as the animals may have suffered quite a bit.

I didn’t do it (though I might’ve done in Thailand in the past) and I don’t think you should, just to be on the side of probably being moral.


Furthermore, there’s the smaller complex where honorary dame, United Nations Special Envoy Angelina Jolie filmed one of her more famous films. You can look it up, it’s a rather nice temple, especially with the big tree eating it up with its massive, visible roots. Promise.


Not to mention there are several raised areas, mostly artificial, for you to climb up and look at the brilliant architecture. Keep in mind though, nothing is well-maintained in Angkor Wat and as a result, climbing anything could be dangerous.


In addition to the major structures, there are smaller, separated temples/palaces that are real nice to look at. You may even see some exhibition somewhere on site.


One last thing – you will see more than a few vendors attempting to do business with you. Some of them are very small children and so they could hide somewhere and scare you (children need to have fun). Oh, and it’s never too early to get there. The sun is up and it’s not right next to the city so 5am is the perfect time.

The hotels are incredible though! So you may want to stay in the city for a bit longer if only to enjoy your place.


Hanoi/Halong Bay, Vietnam


Vietnam, or in Cantonese “South of Yuet (Canton)”, isn’t exactly south of Canton. But then I heard Cantonese people came through Indochina rather than via the northern lands á la Han Chinese people in the north, so maybe it does make a little sense.

Anyway…Viet Nam is an intriguing country. Like Chile, it’s very “long” and thus, different natural landscapes can be expected. Like China, it’s “communist” but in reality capitalist, sharing many of its political systems and features. Like Mexico, it’s generally seen as a poor country that’s not the strongest political force in the region, yet it does control Laos as an unofficial client state.

This post isn’t about politics though, so I’ll just get back to talking about what I’ve done there. Once again, we spent merely a few hours there, mostly to go through the world-renowned Halong Bay – a bay with more than numerous small hills popping out from the sea, much like Guilin in China – as well as to experience a tiny little bit of Vietnamese culture.

The bay was fine, the caves were similarly amusing. Haven’t met nearly enough Vietnamese people (I did go to one of Lana Del Rey’s Vietnamese realms a few years later so it’s all good). Food was great.

Verdict: If you want Vietnam, don’t visit it on a cruise.

Hainan, China


During one of our cruise trips, my family and I visited Taiwan (no photos kept, I’m afraid), Hainan, and Vietnam (coming up next). This is about the huge island in southern China.

Just in case there’s any confusion, the words do say “the match that sells little boys” (or perhaps better translated as “The Little Boys Match”?). It’s either a wordplay on the story The Little Match Girl (which in Chinese sometimes turned into a boy – talk about transgenderism!), or the owner was just exceptionally twisted (and was called “little match” or something).

When I said visited, it was like a few hours, much like all other cruise tours all over the world. It’s not my favourite destination but this interesting sign was just something you cannot possibly miss.

The island itself was fine – it’s got beautiful beaches. That’s it, really.

Also, I have got my first follower! I’m not Taylor Swift-ing this – I’m genuinely surprised a complete stranger actually managed to find this site (created just last night) and liked it with the two less-than-stellar blog posts with ultra-old photos.

I was totally expecting the first reader to appear only after 50 posts or so, so this means a lot to me!


Seoul, Korea


Seoul, the capital of one of the most technologically advanced states on Earth. I went there not for the Sansungs, but rather to ski. After all, being from a subtropical city, I’ve never really even touched authentic snow at that point. (My family did travel quite a bit, but my parents were more into the sun and the beaches of even hotter places.)

The city itself was fine – I bought a random shirt there actually. There were lots of heaters on the street even though it wasn’t exactly snowing downtown.

When we ventured out of the metropolis, we saw loads and loads of snow. And it’s not all good.

Whilst it was incredibly picturesque, the “Christmas” town as depicted above, it was intolerably cold. Or at least intolerable for a boy from Hong Kong. We had barbeque semi-outdoor – it was sheltered but the structure didn’t have actual doors, and instead had only plastic blocking the wind (and snow) from blowing in). It was cold enough staying there, it was even colder getting from there to our hotel room – my hands were frozen and I couldn’t feel them! At one point, I thought perhaps I’d lost them forever!

The spring was amazing, however. It was the other extreme – most pools were way too hot. But the outdoor one was uber fine. And cool in both senses of the word. Imagine being almost completely naked in a warm pool while playing with snow/ice, seeing even more snow falling from the sky without a barrier. Absolutely wonderful.

Travelling wasn’t at all without hassle though. Our coach literally got stuck in the middle of the road as one of the wheels fell into a hole or something, and we all got down to remove the snow. It was great fun tho. Then we went to a fresh fish market etc.


Did I mention we went there to ski? Truth is, I felt it was way too dangerous so I literally just put on all the gears, took several photos for Facebook, then just went for a snowboard. Snowboarding was likewise difficult so I only really got on one, fell down, got on one, fell down. Posed for pictures and all that.

Good photo though, no?

Siem Reap beyond Angkor Wat, Cambodia Pt 2


One thing I cannot stress enough is that Siem Reap is not just Angkor Wat!

It’s an amazing city with many other sites that are definitely worth visiting.


An example is the museum that houses abandoned war machines and old weapons, left behind by the world’s greatest powers.

Once again, no guards so you can go into a freaking Soviet tank or perhaps dangerously touch and hold old landmines and granites, and let the spirit of Diana, Princess of Wales goes through you.

Well, I didn’t do that cuz I didn’t think that was appropriate, but you get my point. If you wanna.


Unfortunately, Cambodia does have a pretty violent recent past; fortunately, that translates into some unique displays for us. This, for example, is a small building with actual skulls, a memorial of a sort.

Much better than many war museums that really just glorify wars.


All across town, you can also see numerous interesting structures such as this. You get to see struggling Cambodians trying to live a life – this was built cheaply yet still managed to be next to the main road.

Whilst I don’t have a photo for this, they likewise have a wonderful market. Pretty handmade souvenirs and household items that are all incredibly economic. Excellent food, too! I remember that brilliantly made sweet chicken with rice in leaves…Yum!


Another attraction you cannot miss is the lake. The lake per se isn’t particularly eye-catching, but the cultural side of it is.

Here, you see how they attempt to live, make a living, and even to school their children all on water. Private boat tours are not pricy at all here.


Even though I don’t have a picture for that, Siem Reap is not that underdeveloped either. Wi-Fi is available everywhere, for example, on top of the truly wonderful hotels.


Last but not least, you get to see the relatively modern religious buildings. Simply impressive.


Yunnan, China

I’ve been to China many times and Yunnan is by far my favourite – it’s got nature, it’s got history, it’s got animals, and it’s got interesting food. What’s not to like?


This beautiful ethnic minority province is full of unique cultures and I have had the opportunity to visit the capital Kunming (uneventful), Dali (doesn’t look Chinese at all – looking back their ethnic dress looks more Mexican), Shangri-la (an overrated underdeveloped place), and one of the best citis in the country: Lijiang.


Whilst Shangri-la boasts certain Tibetan buildings (and it’s much accessible than Tibet is), Lijiang is truly the crown jewel of the region, if not of the nation. I honestly don’t remember much (I do remember breaking my camera and getting it fixed there) of anything, but I recall vividly the ancient market town with its little alleys and romantic river (not that romance was really my thing at the time, what’s with my going with my family and just starting puberty), especially the candles on the little paper boats going down the stream.


Unfortunately, when I was holding my baby brother’s hand, he suddenly broke free from my grip and my Olympus was dropped to the ground. We tried getting it fixed but alas, it held together for like 10 minutes and fell apart again.


But hey, at least I’ve got some other pictures, huh? Although actually they might not even have been taken in Yunnan…


The dates suggested that they were taken during the same trip though, and somehow I set Yunnan as the location on Facebook back when I uploaded them.


So for now let’s just assume they were taken in Yunnan. Or at least just appreciate them for what they are.

They were definitely taken in China, that I can guarantee you.