Temple Hopping in Cambodia

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I have been wanting to visit the Angkor Wat temples and Terracotta Army since the Asian history unit in my language arts book in 4th grade. Also, growing up watching the amazing kids game show “Legends of the Hidden Temple” also contributed to my intense need to see ancient ruins live and close up.

Seeing the Teotihuacan pyramids outside of Mexico City contributed towards feverish love for temples and ancient ruins. Macchu Picchu is also on the list. For now, the Angkor Wat Temple trip has turned reality and here I am in Cambodia.

Flying into Siem Reap was just about one hour on the lovely low cost carrier Air Asia. After an uneventful flight (though secretly rather petrified a rougue Russian missile may launch my way…I know, I know, I just don’t like flying okay) we landed in the tiny but international Siem Reap Airport.

Major points for me, as I insisted Jorge and I do our E-Visas pre-arrival. We swooped past customs as an uninterested officer simultaneously watched youtube videos and made sure I wasn’t a threat to the country, all while a HUGE line queued up at the “Visa Upon Arrival” counter.

This is one of those types of situations where everyone makes fun of me for being overly organized, and I of course, have the last laugh. MUHAHAH.

Anyway, our Tuk Tuk driver, pre-arranged with our hotel, was there waiting for us, and of course Jorge couldn’t contain his excitement about getting to ride in a Tuk Tuk. I too found it entertaining, however my bottom less so. Driving through the dusty town was crazy. Seeing how people carry EVERYTHING on bicycles and motorcycles is crazy. Bamboo sticks, huge baskets of straw and fruits, entire families (max we saw were four on one motorcycle, I have seen up to six in Morocco though), babies (of course no helmets on anyone) and even a ladder. There are no traffic lights and it isn’t uncommon to see people driving on the wrong side of the rode.

And this man has a restaurant as a side car...amazing

And this man has a restaurant as a side car…amazing

 

We made it to the hotel, the Siem Reap Evergreen, which was charming and boutique-like, my favorite style of hotel. The staff was welcoming and quite charming really, and helped us organize our visit.

After lunch, a pool dip and a nap, we wandered down towards Pub Street and the night market, which was just a little too touristy for my liking. However, I did enjoy the night market and look forward to wandering through it more during my visit. We headed back home early to get some rest for our first day of temple exploring, Indiana Jones style.

Getting the three day temple pass  ($40 pp) seemed to be the best decision, and we also chose to do our visit via Tuk Tuk. For just $15, we had our driver for an entire day, choosing to see as many temples as we could. Sunset and sunrise visits were $5-10 more and so was seeing some further out temples.

Day One at Angkor

Day One at Angkor

 

The first day we started off with the famous Angkor Wat temple that everyones seen the photos of. It was super crowded and busy, and while I found it awesome, I realized later on that it was actually my least favorite. After getting to see some more deserted temples further out into the jungle, I realized that all these temples I’d never hear about were even more awesome.

Adorable yet naughty monkeys sharing stolen goods

Adorable yet naughty monkeys sharing stolen goods

I kinda want a baby monkey!

I kinda want a baby monkey!

 

We also loved the wild monkeys that run around. They are so cute, but they are naughty little creatures too! We saw one climb onto a moving Tuk Tuk and steal a girls bushel of bananas. It was hysterical, but I certainly held on a bit tighter to my bag after that!

My quads are still burning after this vertical walk!

My quads are still burning after this vertical walk!

Back to the temples. Most of the temples in this area are from the 12th century. Most were originally created to honor Vishnu (Hinduism) and then later turned Buddhist, which I found extremely interesting. The next temple we saw was the Banyon group, which is actually a complex of several temples requiring you to walk through the jungle to get to each of them after the first.

Banyon Temple

A Banyon Temple face carving

Day One at the Banyon Temple

Day One at the Banyon Temple

 

The main one was amazing, as it had a ton of faces carved into the rock. They really must have copied this one from “Legends of the Hidden Temple”(LOL). Following that were some more pyramid like structures, and then a terrace like temple honoring elephants. I had minor heatstroke in these temples, at this point it was well over 100 degrees and soooo humid. It finally started to rain a bit, which was actually pleasant as I was dying.

We had a brief lunch, where I tried the Chicken Amok, a type of curry that has spices and coconut, pretty good!

Jorge "meditating"

Jorge “meditating”

Jorge Climbs

Jorge climbing, typical

 

Me thinking I am an explorer...LOL

Me thinking I am an explorer…LOL

 

The last temple we hit was my favorite one, Ta Phrom, also called the Tomb Raider temple. This one is pretty famous for the trees literally growing in and out of the temple. It was so fun exploring this temple, we actually got lost within in several times, finding doors and openings and climbing over rocks and running over a jungle bridge. I really felt like a kid, exploring this giant temple, running around in the rain, getting all muddy, and not even caring! Jorge, in typical Jorge fashion, insisted on climbing on every single rock and having his photo taken, which I of course whined about but this is secretly why I love him. I discovered a creepy looking lizard snake creature hiding under a rock, which was awesome (I am my father’s daughter, after all). There were many times were Jorge and I were completely alone in areas of the temple, and all we could hear was jungle sounds. I tried to close my eyes and just listen and smell: the rain, the insects, the birds. These are the kinds of things people dream about and here I was, living it!

The famous tree at the Tomb Raider temple

The famous tree at the Tomb Raider temple

We finally got a solid pic of the famous photo that everyone has seen-the huge tree enveloping the temple when our camera died. Good timing though! Absolutely knackered at this point after nine hours of temple viewing and heat in major humidity, we headed back to the hotel where I promptly dove into the pool.

The jungle bridge!

The jungle bridge!

We headed to bed early, as we had decided to do the sunrise tour the next day and had to be up at 4:30.

The so-called sunrise at Angkor

The so-called sunrise at Angkor

I actually don’t think I have ever been up that early in my life (not counting airport runs and staying out the night before). It was suprisingly not that bad, perhaps the excitement masked the exhaustion? We got to Angkor with about a million other people and then slowly realized that due to the cloud coverage, there wasn’t going to be a sunrise. One moment it was night, the next it was cloudy. Voila. We laughed about it–oh well! There is nothing you can do about weather, and continued on our tour. We did the outer circle of temples, which was cool, but not as amazing as Ta Prohm in my opinion. However, we did see a few that involved more water, one called Prean Khan that was pretty nice. We were the only people there, so it was like we were exploring on our own which was so cool. Another was super tiny, but we had to walk for awhile on a wooden bridge, which was also unique.

Jorge being Jorge

Jorge being Jorge

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I couldn’t believe it…a deserted temple!

Trees and temples grow together!

Trees and temples grow together!

 

 

This will look fab in my bedroom!

This will look fab in my bedroom!

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Epic, truly epic

In the last temple, there was a vendor selling handmade paintings on rice paper, and Jorge and I picked one out for our bedroom. I am really excited to find a frame and put it up…and I know that every time I see it, I will remember this epic adventure I have been able to embark on.

We also had a nice chat over a coffee with our Tuk Tuk driver. He explained to us that he grew up on a rice farm and now has a family and they live in the village of Siem Reap. His kids go to public school, which is only three hours a day, because there are so many kids (and so few schools) the kids go in shifts. The teachers work all day, six days a week and do two/three shifts of kids a day. Most people can’t afford private school ($8-10 a month) so this is just how it is. His dream is to own his own Tuk Tuk (he uses one that belongs to the hotel), but they cost $900, so many a few years from now.

The amount of poverty here is extreme. Little kids selling things and people living in unsanitary conditions are the norm, but I must say, I envy them in a way. They seem so happy and free, you often see kids simply playing with leaves and rocks, adults napping in hammocks, and people smiling and laughing. They have simple, happy lives, work and eat off the land, and life is good for them, despite the fact they don’t have iPads or fancy cars (isn’t this the Buddhist way, after all?) If only Western life was that simple!

We ended up heading back to the hotel around noon, but considering we’d been temple hopping since 5 am, we thought that was enough. Tomorrow, we are going to take a break (we don’t want to get temple burnout–apparently it’s a “real” condition) and head to the markets. Wednesday, we will use the last day of our pass to see more temples via Tuk Tuk, and then Thursday, it’s off to Vietnam.

I adore the Cambodian food, culture and people. They are friendly and kind, and are proud of their jungle land! I love it here, and I think everyone should see these temples in their lifetime, they are truly a marvel.

Until Vietnam!

Until Vietnam!

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The Sights and Smells of Bangkok

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After a long but relatively smooth flight, we arrived in Bangkok fairly exhausted and jet lagged, but excited. First item of business, get to the city center. I had mapped out directions, but in typical fashion my phone wasn’t working so we were on our own! Through some serious gesturing with some nice Thai airport workers, we got a handle on the situation.

We took the airport train into the city center and then the BTS above ground subway system to the Chong Nonsi stop, and walked over to the W Hotel. We found out our regular room was upgraded to a suite, (SWOON) and it had the most amazing bathtub I had ever seen.

The amazing bathtub at the W Hotel Bangkok.

The amazing bathtub at the W Hotel Bangkok.

The view of a coming monsoon from our window at the W Bangkok

The view of a coming monsoon from our window at the W Bangkok

Two baths and one nap later, we woke up ready to hit the city. First we strolled around in our neighborhood (kinda the finance area) and had lunch at a yummy secret spot called Fueng Nara. After some delectable Thai food, (spicy for me, nonspicy for Jorge!)We started off by taking the subway over to the free ferry to take us to the Asiatique Market. It was clean and tourist centered, but we still loved walking around and seeing everything. We then got foot massages (30 min for about $3 each person) that were to die for, and headed back to the hotel.

The Grand Temple

The Grand Temple

Jorge being...well, Jorge.

Jorge being…well, Jorge.

Day 2 started with exploring the temples. It was about 100 degrees and excessively humid, and in out of respect for Mr. Buddha, you have to be wearing long pants and a shirt covering your shoulders to enter most temples, especially the Grand Palace. When we finally entered in the main temple, I was happy to sit down among the other tourists, locals and Buddhist monks praying. I stretched my tired legs out in front of me, only to immediately be reprimanded by a stern guard “don’t point legs towards Buddha. Shows disrespect”. Oops! A dumb American tourist error I suppose! I aint mean no disrespect Buddha!

Us at the Reclining Buddha

Us at the Reclining Buddha

Although I thought I might literally die of heat (this coming from a girl who sweats it out daily at Bikram yoga!) the temples were stunning. After the Grand Palace (and almost getting scammed by annoying tour guides outside the palace lying to us and telling us the palace was closed and we should go with them…we suck and weren’t prepared!), we headed over to the Reclining Buddha, which I actually liked even more. It’s a huge gold Buddha lying down, and it’s just so different from anything I have ever seen.

Pool time at the W Bangkok.

Pool time at the W Bangkok.

After sweating out literally my own body weight, we thought it was time to head back to the hotel and enjoy some pool time and a mini nap, which was marvelous after the hot day.

In the evening, we braved Chinatown and some street food (yes, still alive and so is my tummy-for now) which was rather dirty and overwhelming, but I am glad we experienced it. I was surprised that I didn’t see the typical fried bugs and stuff, it was really mostly noodles, rice and fried dishes. There were a lot of locals there and not as many tourists as I had expected.

My incredible rice/chicken/basil/ginger dish at Tongue Thai.

My incredible rice/chicken/basil/ginger dish at Tongue Thai.

Day three started off with lunch at a restaurant I had researched called “Tongue Thai”. I had spent some time searching online for the perfect lunch spot, and it certainty paid off. For the equivalent of about $8, Jorge and I shared some kind of fried noodle appetizer, followed by Pad Thai for him and some sort of Spicy lemon ginger chicken for me. Jorge got a coke, and I opted for freshly squeezed watermelon juice, which really hit the spot! Finally, fresh pineapple and watermelon for dessert ended the meal on a great note. The presentation was gorgeous and the waitress was super sweet–this place was an amazing find.

We then headed over to Khao San Road, the famous backpacker street, where Jorge and I used our freshly learned bargaining skills. We ended up getting 4 tank tops for about 8 euros. Not really sure if we got cheated or not, but it seemed a good price and it had started off much higher! We also enjoyed some more 30 min massages (this time only 2 euros each) and tried Thai beer-both Singha and Chang (I prefer Singha…lighter and crisper!). Here I got my wish, I was repeatedly haggled to buy friend scorpions, which I politely declined each time, but not before morbidly staring at the fried creatures.

Jorge posing on the commuter ferry!

Jorge posing on the commuter ferry!

Bangkok is a huge, dirty, crowded city…but I must say, I kinda loved it! I went with low expectations and ended up really enjoying it. The ferry boat service was super fun and cheap, and we ate amazing food for super cheap as well.

I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Bangkok again, especially if I needed a layover somewhere in Asia. It’s a great destination to visit for a few days.

Stay tuned for Cambodia!

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From Madrid…To Asia!

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My poor Life and Style Madrid! How I’ve neglected you so these past few months. Needless to say, I haven’t been in Madrid much at all. Career wise, I have been very blessed lately, and have had a lot of opportunities with The Points Guy and Best Dressed Man on the Planet (among some other exciting new projects in the works, coming soon!), which has included traveling around to many destinations around the world. But, it’s time to vamp things up and again and I really want to get back into my posting for LSM, so I promise to be a better blogger.

Lately, when I have been here in Madrid, I have been visiting the newly opened Sport Mind Club, which offers a variety of workout classes such as TRX (suspension training), yoga sculpt, bikram yoga, vinyassa flow, and pilates—all in the extra hot room. It’s so addicting. The studio is clean and modern and the teachers are friendly and helpful, which is great.

I haven’t been able to yoga it up as much as I would have liked because I have been traveling a ton as I previously mentioned. I was able to hit up fashion weeks in both London and Milan and January and June, all fantastic. I will be seeing one MFSHow Men, Emidio Tucci before I head off on my 5 week Asia trip.

The five week Asia trip! It’s finally here. I have spent so long organizing and planning, it almost seems surreal that it is really here. I will be heading to Thailand (Bangkok, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Koh Phangan) Vietnam (Hanoi, Halong Bay) and Cambodia (Siem Reap/Ankor).

Can't wait for our cruise through Halong Bay in North Vietnam!

Can’t wait for our cruise through Halong Bay in North Vietnam!

Perhaps I should change the name of my site to Life and Style SE Asia?! I know it’s not technically related to Madrid, but I would love to share my updates and travels on here. I am super excited to see some amazing people, places and things and I feel it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t post a little bit on my travels. So, stay tuned for some exciting travel posts, starting mid July!

XO Lori

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MB Fashion Week Madrid: Andres Sarda

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Andres Sarda is a swimsuit/lingerie designer. I absolutely adore the Andres Sarda runway shows, because they are always just a big party. The designs are not super wearable but they are gorgeous, and I love seeing them, especially the silky capes and robes that float down the runway.

This season, the theme was Las Vegas-bright, sexy, bold and glittery. My personal favorite was the Britney Spears Toxic video-esque glittery sheer bodysuit. Really, I can´t think of a single occasion where this may be appropriate (except for a Britney Spears music video of course!) but it was still absolutely fabulous.

Mid show, a curtain dropped, and live DJ´s were spinning at the top of the runway. One of them was Bimba Bose. Later, Bimba walked the runway as Elvis, with a model dressed as a bride. Viva Las Vegas!

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MB Fashion Week Madrid: Teresa Helbig

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Teresa Helbig is always one of my favorites for her light and airy sportswear and cute dresses. Of course I was not disappointed this season with her 70´s retro undertones, pantsuits and of course, her onesie short outfits, my absolute fave. In fact I need to head to the gym for a solid leg workout so I can wear some of the fab daisy dukes shorts this summer! Images taken by Paloma Canseco.

Favorite: white onesie with gold studs and sweater onesie.

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MB Fashion Week Madrid: Francis Montesinos

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The Franscis Montesinos collection, ¨Silk On the Road¨, simply put, was bossy and fabulous. Inspired by the Silk Road, the Asian and Middle Eastern influences made the line unique and bold. Bright colors, gorgeous silks, tons of imagery of peacock feathers, this line was extreme and just so much fun. I adored the long onesies too. And the blue cowboy boots were to die for. An amazing collection! Photos by Paloma Canseco.

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MB Fashion Week Madrid: Maria Barros

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Maria Barros showed gorgeous collection of slimfit, pencil type dresses and gowns. The colors were bold and sharp, evergreen, pale pink and cobalt blue. Unfortunately for me, several of the looks were tea length, and us short girls just cannot make that work, but it looked amazing on the models.  I also loved the touches of blue in the models hair.

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MB Fashion Week Madrid: Devota y Lomba

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Devota y Lomba showed a gorgeous collection of 80´s inspired looks.  The tan colors also gave it a retro 70´s vibe as well. Playing with geometric shapes and volume, the line was modern and fun. I especially loved ALL the mint green looks, a fabulous color-although quite springish for a fall line.

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MB Fashion Week Madrid: Duyos

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The Duyos collection was beautiful and soft, yet juxtaposed with an edgy modern twist. The girls wore floaty, fringy, flowery garments that seemed to swim down the runway, all with determined stares and black lipstick. This fairy like, ethereal collection seemed more spring than fall, but I’d take some flowers on a cold February day anytime! Excuse the poor quality of the photos—-technical issues!

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MB Fashion Week Madrid: Roberto Verino

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Major flashback to Mad Men times! This amazing collection was inspired by the 1950′s and 60′s, paying homage to some incredible icons like Audrey Hepburn. The first part of the collection was filled with tweed and houndstooth with sexy matching over the knee boots. The second part was literally dripping with luxury and glamour! Loved every second of this collection. Thanks to the lovely Paloma Canseco for the photos!

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