Island Life: Gili Air


IMG_3901As soon as we arrived on Gili Air, our Dutch friend who now lives on the island, said “Welcome to Paradise”. This little island, about 45min fast boat ride from Amed (on Bali), can really be described as paradise.

Complete with white sand beaches, beautiful sunset views, great snorkeling and scuba diving, the island is also car-free, with only bikes, electric scooters or horses, ‘Cidomo’, to travel around on the island. It’s a beautiful place and I was lucky to spend a week here during our recent trip to Bali.

IMG_3818From the port to the dive shop the Cidomo ride cost us 100,000Rp (for 2 people and our bags) and saved us from lugging our bags all the way there. You can also bargain with the driver about the price but with our luggage we thought the price was reasonable.

20151126040944First few minutes on the island and we were in a horse cart lol. What an adventure!

There is one main road around the island with guesthouses and hotels running along it. Most places have their own restaurant or cafe that serves guests breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner too – local Indonesian dishes and some Western dishes are available. The restaurants are often right on the beach and if you buy food, you can use a sunbed for free.

20151202_155715This is the cafe associated with the dive shop we dived with, Blue Marine Dive. They had great smoothies and mozza sticks! A few places also started putting out their Xmas decorations.

There are a couple of really fancy hotels on Gili Air with fancy restaurants. We stopped to have cocktails at one of them, the Grand Sunset. The views were amazing and the mango cocktail was pretty delicious.

20151130114725Gili Air is a Muslim island with a mosque and calls to prayer during the day. The island is Pork-free and having a dog as a pet is forbidden, although we did see a couple of dogs who most likely belonged to expats on the island.

20151130125655No pork around here! Beef bacon and pineapple fried rice.

Gili Air is one of the three Gili islands and is the closest one to Lombok. Gili Trawangan is the biggest and most developed and considered the party island. Gili Meno is the least developed and Gili Air is quiet with some nightlife, great for families and snorkeling and diving among other water activities. During our stay on Gili Air, the volcano on Lombok wasn’t visible because it was still steaming.

IMG_3960Gili Meno being the least developed of the 3 islands, this was one of the only restaurants on this side of the island. We stopped here during our snorkel tour.

I had a wonderful stay on Gili Air. The locals were always friendly especially to me (since they kept thinking I was also Indonesian). Many people working on Gili Air live on Lombok and commute daily. We saw boats full of locals head out at the end of the day. They told us Lombok didn’t have as many job opportunities. Aside from lounging around at a cafe for WiFi, I spent time at the hotel’s pool, scuba diving and snorkeling right in front of our bungalows. It was one of the most relaxing weeks of our vacation.

20151127_11383220151127_113828Our hotel, Kaluku Bungalows, served us some really nice Balinese breakfasts. Our favorite was the banana pancake with fruit plate and Bali coffee. Kaluku started getting really busy during the end of our stay and the kitchen was slow. They did only have one girl, Sophie, making all the breakfasts and their restaurant was still under construction. Hopefully, they can hire a few more staff to help with the breakfast rush.

20151202_130447Locals hard at work trying to build the kitchen for the restaurant. They told us that they hoped to finish it before high season in Dec 2015 (so it must be done by now!).

IMG_3876Beautiful Kaluku Bungalows with a king bed, tv, and really great AC.

IMG_3852Our bungalow had an outdoor bathroom with a rainshower.

We dived with Blue Marine Dive for a few days during our stay. They even let me borrow fins on the days I didn’t dive so I could snorkel. I had a few really amazing dives where I saw so many turtles, a huge wrasse, and baby reef sharks sleeping under rocks. Awww!

FB_IMG_1454027343146Photo credit to my co-pilot for this shot of the baby shark sleeping.

IMG_3891Kitty supervising the scuba gear preparations.

We signed up to do snorkel tour one of our days on Gili Air which was 100,000Rp/person. The snorkel tour started around 9am and took us to 4 different spots for snorkeling around the Gili islands. We stopped on Gili Meno for lunch and were back in Gili Air around 2pm.

20151130052722There were a couple of turtle sightings during the snorkeling and beautiful coral around the islands. One turtle was chowing down on his lunch not caring about us snorkelers swimming above him. I guess they are used to people or maybe he was just too busy eating.

Although, I must admit it wasn’t the best snorkel tour, they did have one guide in the water and he directed us to where the turtles and fish were. We ended up swimming with him the first couple of snorkel spots but after lunch, he stayed on the boat and we just snorkeled around and when they called us back we all had to return to the boat.

IMG_3985A few from our group who were still snorkeling after they called us in.

Noone was left during this time luckily although it was low season so there weren’t as many boats out there. In high season, I can imagine how confusing it can be, you really need to remember the color or name of your boat and stay near to your group!

20151130061746Our group almost at our Red and Blue snorkel boat.

IMG_3955One of the other snorkel tour boats and their snorkelers.

There was also that incident with one of the girls who was boarding the boat from the other side of the island. It was low tide so the boat couldn’t get close enough to shore, so she ended up having to walk out onto coral to meet the boat. The problem was she had a bag with her that she refused to get wet, so she couldn’t swim toward the boat, and it was hard to reach her with the waves. She finally made it onboard and we all clapped but her feet and legs were cut up and the snorkel guide and boat captain could only say sorry. We gave her some bandaids and disinfectant after the snorkel tour but she didn’t let that stop her from enjoying the snorkeling.

IMG_3950Walking back to our snorkel boat after lunch. Long way to go since it was still low tide.

IMG_3972One of the residents of Gili Meno. I was admiring his cool bike so he let me take a photo.
IMG_3978This was someone’s ‘pet’ on the Gili Meno at the restaurant we stopped at for lunch. This looks like an eagle. They said they used him for hunting.

Gili Air is a great place to chill and spend some time relaxing in paradise. If you want to just relax and sit on a beach or sunbed you can. If you are interested in doing more activity, you have snorkeling, scuba diving and other water activities to choose from.

It offers something for everyone which is why it’s great for families. There are also fewer people trying to sell things to you when you are just sitting on the beach. This makes it much quieter than the beaches on Bali and a nice break from having to say “No, Thanks!” to people offering to sell bracelets etc. Island life is marvelous when you find yourself on an island like Gili Air.

20151127014439Kaluku Bungalows
You have the option of staying in one of their front bungalows or their new modern rooms in the back (next to the swimming pool) Wifi is much better by the pool. Breakfast is included.
Rooms from 350,000RP and up.
Website: Kaluku Bungalows

Blue Marine Dive
New dive boat and new equipment. Guides were great and very knowledgeable about the dive sites. We were often in our own small group when diving.
Website: Blue Marine Dive

Travel Tips

*To get to Gili Air you can take a fast boat from Amed or Padang Bai. The fast boat stops at Gili Trawangan on the way to Gili Air. They can get full, so it’s best to book it a day ahead. If you show up in the morning and expect to get on you may be disappointed. Be prepared to get wet, as you will need to walk into water to get on the boat.

IMG_3815Waiting patiently for our bags to be offloaded from the boat after arriving in Gili Air.

*Make sure you see the sunset at least once. Seeing the sun sink into the ocean as the sky turns to pink and orange is a beautiful sight.

IMG_4002Sunset walk to get some dinner

*Snorkel! (be sure to rent fins as well it will help you cover more distance and swim stronger if there is current)

*Have a massage it’s a bit more on this island than on Bali but still much less than back home and so worth it. Walk around and check prices at different hotels around the island. If they aren’t busy, they might also offer you a discount.

*Walk around and see the island. There is a ship building area near the port and many restaurants as you walk along the road. It’s also nice just to see where the island residents live. It’s one thing to sit and enjoy the beach, but it can also be interesting to see what the residents live like. Everyone is friendly there and saying Hello or greeting them in Bahasa Indonesia (Apa Kabar? or How are you?) is always a nice thing to do as you explore the island.

20151127054546There were so many cafes and bars along the sandy main island road.

20151127055016Some land for sale, with cattle just hanging around in the middle of the island.

20151127063619Fish drying in the sun behind some local’s home.

*Wifi is hard to find on the island so be prepared to disconnect for a few days and enjoy it!

*There are 2 atms on the island so don’t worry about having to bring a lot of cash with you when you go to the Gili islands.

*During rainy season the torrential downpour can come down for hours and it can be really windy. The sandy main road will likely be flooded so stay close to your hotel/bungalow.

*Don’t order ‘American’ food and expect it to be good… Just stick with the local cuisine. Mozzarella sticks are the exception though. They were crispy, cheesy and delicious. The nachos I had on the other hand was the most disappointing meal and something I really didn’t need to order.

20151126044113For really delicious food, be sure to visit Chill Out Bar on the island! They offer some incredibly delicious grilled skewers and grilled fish dishes. Check out my Trip Advisor review for more details.

*PLEASE DO NOT harrass the turtles. We had a few run-ins with idiots touching the turtles. One girl was completely rude about it and another guy was pushing the turtle up. Poor turtles are at risk for infection or bacteria when people leave their oily hand prints all over their shell. Touching turtles is illegal in many places around the world and dive shops often enforce this. Just let them be and take your photos and video without getting too close 🙂

FB_IMG_1448754980809Happy Travels!



Tribute Blog: Bohol



Just a short fast ferry from Dumaguete and you will reach another island in the Visayas called, Bohol. A popular tourist destination, Bohol is known for the adorable tarsiers and a natural phenomena called ‘The Chocolate Hills’. Like much of the Philippines, it also offers some stunning diving.

We arrived in Taglibaran and made our way across the bridge to Panglao island where we would be staying. We found a place near Alona beach at a small guest house.


This is where we met Lumpi, the little white puppy who lived there with the hotel staff. I also learned how to drive a motorbike here (practicing on the empty dirt road at night, the security guard thought it was pretty funny).

We decided to go diving on one of our days in Bohol. Like many of the other islands where we dived, we saw some amazing coral and some beautiful turtles (my favorite!).

For the tarsiers and Chocolate Hills, we did a day road trip renting a motorbike from the hotel where we stayed. They also lent us a rain jacket for two (it was rainy season afterall).

The first stop on our road trip was the official Philippines Tarsier Sanctuary(the official sanctuary not to be confused with the one in Lombok – where we heard they don’t care for the tarsiers as well). We stopped on our way there to ask for directions from an ‘lolo’ sitting by the road. He gave me a strange look when I got off the motorbike but when I approached and asked him in Tagalog if he knew where the Tarsier sanctuary was, he smiled and pointed in the way we were headed saying we were almost there.



The tarsiers were so adorable with their huge eyes and much smaller than I expected! They are incredible little creatures. It’s no surprise that ET was loosely based on tarsier. There was a small museum at the sanctuary which displayed some interesting facts on the tarsiers.

Tarsiers are acutally nocturnal creatures. They are active at night when they hunt. During the day, they are supposed to be sleeping. Touring the sanctuary, one can see them resting on trees, their big eyes wide open and ears moving about.

At the sanctuary, a guide takes you around to see the different tarsiers resting on trees. It’s a small area and doesn’t take very long to see all of them. I think there were about 8 including 1 baby tarsier it’s and mom.

After visiting the tarsiers, we stopped for some bakery snacks and lechon manok lunch which we ate in the small town. The town consisted of an old historic church, 2 bakeries, and a lechon place hehe. I love Filipino bakeries! You can find all sorts of good pastries and for just a few pesos each.



It was quite a scenic drive to the Chocolate Hills. There was even a popular hiking trail we passed but since we wanted to make it to our destination with enough time to look around, we didn’t stop.



To describe the hills of Bohol as stunning is an understatement. They were absolutely incredible. Little mounds one after another, covered in green (due to it being rainy season). It was so bizarre that it was only in that area. To get the best view you walk up a flight of steps but that viewspot is really popular. You can take your photo with different props and there were some creative groups – like the Korean tour group and their jumping photos.



There were 2 girls who asked if we could take their photo. But they specifically asked if we could take 4 photos for them. And they barely posed any differently. They were nice to take our photo when we ran into them again as we were about to leave.

This has to be the craziest number of passengers we saw on a motorbike in ALL of our travels in Asia. These kids were sooo cute and excited that I was taking their photo!! I hope they had a safe ride home too.


Walking along the beach in Bohol there were little restaurants. We had Halo halo at one of them (my favorite dessert).


After diving I also saw (heard the bell) of a guy on his bicycle yelling Baluuuuut as he rode by. I ran up to him when he stopped to buy one. Mmmmm! Balut in the Philippines (on the beach no less) – CHECK!! What is Balut? Fertilized Duck Egg that is popular in the Philippines. People were eating it everywhere.

I really enjoyed our stay in Bohol. I have such great memories of the sights and the cute dog Lumpi! I remember feeding him my leftovers and teaching him how to fetch a stick 😉 He was like my little puppy for the time we were there.

Bohol is a beautiful place and a must-see when you visit the Philippines. It is such a tragedy that Bohol’s old churches and even the Chocolate Hills were damaged during the earthquake.

IMG_0094 IMG_0107

SE Asia Trip 2012 – Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

(catching up on older posts)
Apr 21
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Left Singapore and arrived on the island of Borneo! Our first stop was in Kota Kinabalu (or KK as the locals refer to it) on the Malaysian side of Borneo!

We could actually walk from the small airport to our guest house when we arrived. After checking in to our guest house we left our bags in the room and went out to the beach area in search of food. We found a food court that had the most delicious Milo shake on our trip!! Yum!!

Chicken fried rice

“Mee Goreng” or fried noodles

Busy night at the food court for late night eats

We saw people sitting around a big screen and decided we’d sit and see whatever movie they were showing too (it was free after all!)
Bad thing was we got bitten by so many sand flies… 😦 Mosquitos and sand flies are the worst!

The next day, we decided to move to a hotel in the city centre. We took the ‘public bus’ to the bus station and then the city bus to the city centre. The public bus was basically a van and it got pretty crowded. We weren’t sure if we had to pay on the city bus but some locals joked that they were treating us when I tried to pay.

Kota Kinabalu city centre is pretty small. Just a few blocks of stores and restaurants.

In the evening we walked along the waterfront to see the sunset also stumbled upon a huge mall.

Suprisingly big mall in relation to the size of the city itself haha

We decided to treat ourselves to a movie – our first movie in months! What’s so great about movies in Asia is not just the really cheap ticket price, but also it includes assigned seating! I’ve noticed this is a new thing in North America, but one usually pays extra to select your seats.

We watched Cabin in the Woods with some really good Caramel popcorn and even played some arcade games before the movie started. It was the perfect ‘date night’. We still remember how delicious that caramel popcorn was to this day!
When I left the theatre I thought I was back home for a second (going to the movies is one of my favorite pastimes and it was in English, with subtitles).

Apr 23
Booked some diving for the next day, and met Yoni’s friend who was staying with his family in KK. Went to eat Indian and checked out the markets.

Rested at the hostel and went to BB Cafe for music and drinks that night. Ended up getting home really late, and we had to dive the next day!

Apr 24
Dive day with Diverse Borneo. First experience with entry into the water by sitting backwards. Scary entry if I may say so, since we were only used to diving off with ‘giant step’ entry.

Went to 3 different sites, but the whole day I was feeling pretty crappy with the lack of sleep and drinking the night before. Being on the boat with the waves made me feel a bit naseous too. After that, I learned my lesson! No drinking the night before diving.

Stopped at a restaurant on Gaya island. Beautiful dock.

We were so exhausted after the diving, we ate dinner and watched videos.

Apr 25
Search for a camera battery or hard drive, and found one. The Teksi driver was so fast he got us to the bus station before 2pm. We even had time to grab some snacks. On our way to Sepilok by bus with the Tu Mang bus company. It was nice to get a recommendation from Yoni’s friend and have him travel with us. He could tell the bus driver to wait in Bahasa Melayu instead of me always being worried about them taking off without Yoni.

Stopped for dinner and had rice and chicken dish. Police came onto the bus to check our IDs.

Arrived in Sepilok and walked from the bus stop to Sepilok B&B.
Chatted, played with beetles (they were all over the table outside) and planned our next day in Sepilok!

SE Asia Trip 2012 – Singapore

Apr 17


Evening flight to Singapore from Phnom Penh arriving to our hostel at around 10pm. Our hostel in Singapore was the worst value for what we paid (around $50). It was basically a closet with a bunk bed and shared bathroom. It was among the most expensive accommodations during our SE Asia trip where we had beach bungalows on the super cheap.


We decided to check out the nearby Hawker food area – Lavender Food Square. It doesn’t matter what time it is apparently, when Singaporeans are hungry, they will eat. And even though it was around 11pm, many locals were out having their late night snacks/meals. Just a quick note, the food places in Singapore are similar to Food courts in malls where there are many different food stands right next to each other. Of course the quality of the food is way better than mall food. The cost of these meals also seemed to be the cheapest thing in Singapore so it was totally worth chowing down.


Apr 18
First day in Singapore
Walked around our area and saw Little India! Tried Tea Tarik, which is like
Chai tea, and the most delicious naan bread. Also tried delicious Mutton curry.

Took the MRT to Chinatown and walked from there to Clarke Quay.

And then towards the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel.

For dinner, Yoni arranged for us to meet his friend’s cousin, who is from Singapore. She took us out for Haianese Chicken Rice at Chin Chin.

We also had sweet potato leaves, noodles, fish and fried chicken. The sweet potato leaves were a bit too bitter, but the rest of the food was really good.

We walked to Arab street afterwards and back to the hostel from there.

Apr 19
Singapore zoo!

Other than the fact that it was pouring rain for a short time during the day, the Singapore zoo was as amazing as we heard. Not only did they have a wide variety of animals at the zoo (from all over the world), it wasn’t like a typical zoo. The enclosures for the animals were pretty spacious and instead of railings, some of the enclosures were separated by rivers. For example, for the lions, it was a river that separated them and the monkey set-ups were amazing, with ropes for them to climb and bridges for people to walk
on to see them.

We arranged to meet up with our old friend Jon in the evening and had dinner at a Hawker food stall place a few blocks away from Chinatown station.

Chai Tow Kway or “Carrot Cake” doesn’t use any carrot and is not in any way related to the sweet carrot cake from North America. It’s basically stir fried cubes of radish and is soft and doughy.

Beer in Singapore is pretty expensive. Jon took us to an import beer stall that his friend owned so we bought a couple anyway.

Apr 20
Spent the morning walking around and checked out Orchard road, the famous shopping street.
Also ate at the Hawker place near the hostel again for lunch.

After that there was some drama with our hostel…
They didn’t tell me in the morning, instead they told me they thought they had us down. It was so annoying. We moved to their sister hostel on Arab street (good location but the hostel was a shared room with 6 other people and there was no ceiling for the room so we heard everyone snoring. No lockers either. I kept waking up thinking someone was stealing my stuff. After we moved to our new hostel we went to Marina Bay to catch a free yet impressive light show on the waterfront.

We also walked across the bridge and ate at Glutton Bay

On the menu for dinner was Sting Ray, Chili crab w/ bread (Even though it’s called “Chili”, it’s not even spicy, it’s more of a sweet flavor), Calamansi juice and Kachung dessert

It was so packed you had to camp out to grab a table as soon as you noticed people were finishing up

We also tried some mee goreng (fried noodles) and more curry with Fresh soft roti!

Apr 21
It was raining so we decided not to go to the botanical gardens. We met Jon at
Holland Park for lunch. Tried Katong Laksa – Malaysian soup with curry broth, white rice
noodles and Nasi Campur.

We headed back to Arab Street to pick up our bags and then took the MRT to the airport. Next stop: Borneo!!

SE Asia Trip 2012 – Siem Reap

(catching up on old entries from last year)
Apr 12
Siem Reap, Cambodia

-To get to Siem Reap, we took an overnight bus from Sihanoukville that passed through Phnom Penh and arrived in Siem Reap in the morning. We originally bought the bus t ickets for the regular bus. But when the ‘sleeping’ bus showed up, they told us they had extra space for us. So glad we got the sleeping bus!

-Sleeping bus had 3 rows of bunk beds. We managed to get a bed by the window and one next to that in the middle section.

-I remember the bus had a mechanical issue, so they stopped for a brief time to fix it – bus drivers in SE Asia also seem to be trained as mechanics. I went down from the bus to see an amazing sight – the night sky full of stars!!!

– We stopped in Phnom Penh (thankfully because the sleeper bus didn’t have a bathroom).

We reserved a guesthouse before arriving in Siem Reap because we knew we’d be too tired when we arrived. They sent someone to pick us up from the bus station and the tuk tuk driver was already waiting for us to arrive.

As we were riding in the tuk tuk, my backpack slipped off and the back wheels of the tuk tuk ran over my bag!! And when it did that we could have easily flipped to one side. I looked at Yoni’s expression and knew he was thinking the same thing I was! I guess the driver didn’t hear or notice that we had almost flipped, so we shouted at him that my bag has fallen off. He stopped and ran down to grab it. Man, that was scary and exciting tuk tuk ride to our guesthouse.

We got his business card to call him in case we wanted rides during our stay in Siem Reap to the temples.

Today was the first day of Khmer New Year. We visited Pub street and had some street food. We ordered hot pot and it was the  first cooking we did in months. Also visited one of the night markets across the river, where many kids were begging for money around the art center night market.

Apr 14
Second day of Khmer New Year was our first day at the Angkor temples. It was packed with Thai Tourists who arrived in huge tour buses, all wearing red.

– We called the tuk tuk driver whose card we had taken the first day we arrived. We decided to do the ‘Smaller loop’ w/ the tuk tuk for $12. Funny thing was, he said he d couldn’t take us, and instead his ‘cousin’ would be our driver.

So many Tuk Tuks!!

Despite the change in tuk tuk driver, we had a great time and enjoyed seeing the famous Angkor Wat temple (no climbing temple though, it was closed that day), the Bayon temple (with faces), Ta Phrom (Temple famous for where they filmed Tomb Raider) and Ba Phuon.

Yoni at Angkor Wat

At the amazing Bayon temple

Line-up just to take a photo with the huge tree engulfing the temple stone. One dude actually got pretty impatient and started arguing with the group before him. Oh Tourists!

Apr 15
We decided to ride bikes to the temples that day. Late start to the day because of all the walking the day before. Really nice bike ride there, with space next to the cars for bikes/motorbikes.

Hey I see a ‘Batman’ Tuk Tuk in the background!

Stopped by the river where all the kids were swimming and the adults were eating or preparing the picnic lunch.

When we got to the lake at Angkor Park, it started to rain! We took shelter under a covered area with locals. Order some mama noodles and beef balls.

After the rain cleared we went to a temple which had an entrance way similar to Ta Phrom but was an entirely different temple. Hard to keep track of all of the ones we visited that day. There were about 4 or 5, all different with different people offering to be our tour guides.

-Our bikes had their own wheel locks so we just parked them and left them there while we explored the temples.

-Volunteer tour guides usually expect a little something for their trouble after the tour, but it’s entirely up to you whether you want to pay up. I remember giving one guy a little money after his explanation.

We tried to catch sunset at Angkor Wat, but biking from where we were with the traffic, proved harder and took longer than we thought so we ended up missing it. It was so busy in that area with locals having picnics on the lawns, so many motorbikes and cars parked around there too.

Biking back to town was both enjoying and  interesting. There was so much traffic at one point that we decided to bike on the sidewalk/grass and all the other bikes behind us started doing the same. The only bad thing was, my bike’s tires kept slipping against the grass, so it was so hard to pedal. Yoni and I got separated but I later discovered I had been just ahead of him since we saw the same lady (walking her bike in the bike lane).

Our trusty rental bikes for the day:)

Dinner we ended up sharing a table with another couple who were traveling but the food (my bowl of noodle soup) took so long. There seemed to be only 1 burner at the outdoor street market.

A common tourist scam is a lady carrying a baby (who she is bottle feeding with plain water) asking people to buy her some powdered milk for her baby. The lady would then return the milk and split the money with the store where the milk was purchased. What’s really sad is the little kids who work with her, begging people to buy the milk.

We really wanted to see what would happen if we opened the milk after we had bought it for her. She couldn’t return it that way. Would she be forced to feed her starving baby?

Well we actually didn’t get a chance to test this theory. We went to the store with the lady and the little boy and realized milk wasn’t cheap! $22?! Even the small can was expensive so we just left.

We asked the little boy if he was hungry we he kept refusing, saying the baby needed it and not him. We’re sure his boss was probably watching and he wasn’t allowed to eat. But he finally told us he was hungry so we ordered some fried rice at the street food place for him. The rice took forever and when it was finally done and we offered it to him. He refused! We weren’t sure exactly why, but I think he either thought the people had tainted his food with soap or something else or he had preferred the chicken wing to the fried rice. We kept trying to give it to him but each time he walked away all mad and pouted. We ended up giving the food to two other kids (a little boy and little girl) who  for started eating it right away and were really happy at the surprise meal.

Went back to our guest house and they were having a party for the last day of the new year. We joined them for a drink and managed to call our tuk tuk driver to arrange pick up for the next day sunrise at Angkor Wat

Apr 16
Sunrise at Angkor Wat!

All I remember was our Tuk Tuk racing along the dark road, and the beautiful colors slowly appearing in the sky.

We made it to catch the sunrise and stood by the lake for the popular sunrise photo of Angkor.

Visited 3 other temples that day, one was the Bantaey Srei women’s temple that was a bit further away.

Helping the guards hold up the railing is hardwork!

Yoni sitting in our hired Tuk Tuk for the day

We also had the chance to climb to the top of Angkor Wat (since it was open that day, we just had to!)

This was the view at the top of Angkor Wat. You can see the entrance to the temple and even the hot air balloon ride in the distance!

Steep climb down on Angkor Wat, and many of the temples at Angkor Park

It was the perfect ending to our stay in Siem Reap! We took a bus back to Phnom Penh later that day to catch our flight to Singapore the following day.

Cool shot of the tree through the hole in the roof of one temple.

Back to Phnom Penh
We actually had a pretty productive half day stay in Phnom Penh which included a $2 haircut for Yoni, my fav Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt place, stopping at central market to buy t-shirts, and a quick stroll through the Royal Palace. We managed to ask our guesthouse to laundry the only good shirt Yoni had, so he could use it for his interview in Singapore.


Streets of Phnom Penh

Self-serve frozen yogurt reminded me of home and was a well-deserved treat on a hot day.

IMG_7442$2 Haircut!


Heading to the Central Market


Center of the Market – Bought a headphone splitter here so we could both watch TV on my netbook

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Plenty to see outside the market too!

SE Asia Trip 2012 – Kep, Cambodia

Apr 3
Kep, Cambodia

Continuing from the previous blog, we arrived in Kep in the evening and it was pouring rain. We found the place we wanted to stay at called “The Boathouse” and they still had available rooms!

After we dropped our stuff off, we went to have dinner in the dining area of guesthouse. I remember everything tasting really good!
Beef Luc Lac with fries Mmmmmm….

We stayed in “Boathouse 2”

The front entrance to our guesthouse. Rooms from $6 to $20 (private bathroom & AC).
Think we splurged and got private bathroom and AC for $20/night

-There was a really cute cat that lived there, I fed her my breakfast scraps
-The staff at “The Boathouse” was extremely nice and friendly. They helped us out with directions and also we rented a motorbike and bikes from them. The Manager even let us use his own Motorbike! So we had to be extra careful. He told us what kind of petrol to look for (yellow), because some people just sell water to trick foreigners.
-Could only get Wi-Fi in the lounge area, so we spent a lot of time there as did the other guests. Heard everyone’s Skype conversations LOL

Some highlights from our stay in Kep
Woke up early and walked over to the fancy Kep resort . As long as you ate dinner there, you could use the pool! We planned to do that before we left Kep.
Had my first ever fresh sugar cane juice! It was so refreshing and they squeezed the juice out of the sugar cane right there in front of us.
Rented bikes , 1 was free, the other was $2.

Biked to the big crab statue and over to a village with houses on stilts. We saw the manager from our guesthouse there! It was his village.

Kids were laughing and wanted Yoni to take their photo! Very cute kids!
Had lunch at Breezes, num 1 rated place in Kep on Trip Advisor
Ate Fish Amok, Cambodian National Dish, Lok Lak beef with lemon pepper sauce and sauteed mushrooms. Everything was delicious.

Biked around Crab market and took photos. On the way back we saw monkeys! Locals & tourists were feeding them

Rode our bikes to the Crab Market for dinner. Delicious crab!

Hiking at Kep National Park!

Wore socks with my keen sandals that day to avoid getting dirt in my sandals. It was sooo hot that day.

Ran into some cute mountain goats during our hike:

Video of the goats

We also met my Cambodian Aunt lol. We were running low on water and snacks and were pretty tired at this point. We were passing by a house and some dogs were barking at us. A lady hushed her dogs and said hello to us as we were walking by. I stopped to take some photos of her dog and the garden, and she asked me to take more photos of different plants. And then she beckoned us to sit at her outside table. She went into her house and brought out a bowl of fruit and some bottled water! She didn’t speak much English but she did speak French, and asked us where we were from and where we were staying. What a sweet lady! We didn’t have anything else to offer her but a bag of peanuts which she liked 🙂

This was the plant she wanted me to take photos of

The plate of fruit the lady gave us

My Cambodian Aunt and I 🙂

Motorbike to Kampot Pepper Plantation
We spent the day motorbiking to Kampot to check out a pepper plantation. When we got there, we got a bit lost and stopped in at a farm to ask the people we saw for some directions.pepperStory

Rabbit Island for a day
We had such an amazing day trip on Rabbit Island! It was so relaxing over there. There were a few monks visiting though and I felt like I needed to be covered up when they walked by.

Met the cutest dog as well!! Who we think was na’med ‘Choti’ (that’s what the owners called out and she ran to them)

Link to my Rabbit Island photos

More food photos from Kep

Delicious khmer style beef , lemongrass soup

My Cambodian friend back home was surprised that we found cheesecake hahaha (this was at one of the fancy resorts)

From Kep we headed to Sihanoukville.

-Kep was very relaxing, we really enjoyed our stay there.
-Before the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, Kep used to be more of a tourist destination with fancy resorts.

SE Asia Trip 2012 – Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)

Mar 28
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), Vietnam

Train we wanted to take from Hoi An was full and flights cost about the same maybe a little more, so we decided to fly to Ho Chi Minh. We arrived the evening of Mar 28, took a cab and got dropped off at my friend’s apt!

-Vinasun and MaiLinh are the two safe cab companies. We saw the Vinasun cab in the line of cabs at the airport and just ran to get that one.
-Takes about 30min from Airport to the District 1 (where we were staying) and the cab cost us around 120,000 – 150,000 VND
-the weather wasn’t that great and we heard Nha Trang was just a beach, nothing special. Since we’ll see many more beaches on our trip we decided to skip Nha Trang and go directly to HCMC.
– A friend from College who I last saw a few years ago in Tokyo, told me she had moved to HCMC for work! She was extremely kind to let us crash at her place! After all the guesthouses, it was really cool to stay in an actual apartment!
– Ho Chi Minh City was full of motorbikes just like Hanoi, but it was a tiny bit more organized here with some lanes designated only for vehicles or only for motorbikes. And after training in Hanoi, crossing the street wasn’t as bad but it still made my heart skip a beat each time I put my foot out to cross.

Motorbike traffic and Vietnamese ice coffee

We ended up staying at my friend, Katsura’s place for 3 nights, and it was so relaxing 🙂 Really felt like we were living like Kings once again.

Day 1 – Catching Up With Old Friends, Mekong Delta Tour and Banh Xeo!
We also heard from another friend we had met in Laos, the Gibbon experience, that she was still in HCMC as well. We arranged to meet up with her for the Mekong Tour 8-5. After the tour we met Katsura and her bf for Banh Xeo (vietnamese pancake) dinner followed by  ice cream by the river! What a fabulous first day in Ho Chi Minh!

This is really how crowded that little river was, they told us to keep our hands in the boat because of crocodiles, but really, I think it’s so your hand won’t get pinched by another boat.

Women on passing boats would say ‘money, money’ as they paddled by! Not sure why we’d be paying them when they weren’t even the ones paddling our boat.

Those raiden hats were ours to wear during the boat ride and we had the option of buying them at the end.

We stopped at  a Crocodile Farm for lunch where you could feed the Crocs, using a fishing rod w/ some raw meat on the end!

Here are some videos from the Crocodile Feeding:
Part 1:
Part 2:

Those huge vats are full of coconut milk

Gooey, but not sure what it tastes like. With my minor coconut allergy, I was avoiding coconut as much as I could on the trip – the exception was eating Green Curry in Thailand because it was just soo delicious.

After the Mekong Delta tour, we met up with my friend and her bf for dinner. Here are some photos from our first Ho Chi Minh meal which included Banh Xeo – Vietnamese Pancakes which are apparently from the South – Spring Rolls, Chicken and some really huge SNAILS!

First time eating snails, and these were huge. It reminded me a bit of eating squid.

For dessert, my friend took us to the riverfront where you could order coffee and ice cream.



Dessert on the riverfront – Coffee Ice Cream 🙂 Yum!


Day 2 – Pho, Banh Xeo and more Pho!
First day in awhile that we actually got to sleepin without having to worry about packing our bags and checking out on time. We actually did our own Laundry for the first time in months (thanks to the Laundry facilities in my friend’s building)!!
After our chores we went out in search of lunch and found a Pho place around the corner from my friends apartment! We ordered two bowls of pho and two Vietnamese ice coffees.

The pho was deeelicious. It was actually similar to what we were used to back home, with the same bean sprouts and even hoisin sauce on the table. Pho back in North America is definitely more like Pho in the South of Vietnam. In the north, they put Chinese donuts into the pho (the cuisine is definitely more influenced by China because of how close they are)
At the end of the meal, I glance at the receipt and see that the ice coffees were COMPLIMENTARY! Best lunch ever, and it was under $5!And the portions were decent, like a small size back home.

Pho in Ho Chi Minh City!

We already had plans to meet our friend for Banh Xeo, which just refers to Vietnamese pancakes! Second Lunch time!

Saigon Beer


Fresh Spring Rolls

Beef on rice noodles

Delicious and tender beef skewers

Banh Xeo with seafood!

After lunch we went to visit the War Remnants Museum. They turned out lights when ppl weren’t leaving at closing time. Seemed very one-sided, like the other museums we visited during our trip to Vietnam. Very sad and shocking images of Agent Orange in one wing of the museum as well.

War Remnants Museum

After the museum we headed back to my friends apartment.
We got ready to go to a party of one of my friend’s coworkers but the traffic was terrible and it turned out that the party ended earlier than we expected and instead we decided to meet them at the Ben Thanh Market.
-Cab on the way to the market got stopped by the police because his light was out. He got fined and we were a little nervous, we thought we would have to get out. What really sucked for the cab driver was after he fidgeted with the light himself, the light bulb started to work!! So the fine was a complete waste.
Went to Ben Thanh Market just to browse. I wanted to see if they were selling any bras- ok, I did bring a few with us on the trip but had to trash my favorite one. Funny thing was, I kept thinking I saw bras in the market but it turned out being face masks for people to wear when they ride motorbikes! See the face mask in the photo below.

Katsura and I at Pho 2000 in full Motorbiking Gear. Which actually makes sense because of all the exhaust one is exposed to while riding a motorbike.

Pho 2000 photos

Pho for the President!

We went to a Piano Bar after dinner where you could submit song requests. We actually submitted a few songs but none of them were played…

Piano bar we went to after the Pho

Ended our night with drinks at my friends place – plum wine! 🙂

Day 3 – Last day in Ho Chi Minh

Woke up early for breakfast of Banh mi

Yoni went off to the tunnel tour and I decided to spend a day with my friend. It was the first time Yoni and I were apart during our Asia Trip.

Went to locals market and picked up some vietnamese snacks after breakfast.

Jelly dessert w/ beans and fruit we picked up at the market. A bit too sweet for me.

After the market we decided to treat ourselves to Pedicures at a place my friend knew in Japan Town.

Beautiful Pedicure with a hand-drawn flower design for only $11!

After our pedicures we visited our other friend at the fancy schmancy place she was staying at …Saigon pearl
View from Saigon Pearl Apartments

After the visit, we went back to my friend’s place to pick up our backpacks. It was time to head to the bus stop!
Grabbed a sandwich from a bakery on the way and headed to meet Yoni at the bus stop which would take us to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
We had to leave because our visa was expiring the next day. Ho Chi Minh City is only a few hours away from Phnom Penh.
Had a great few days in Ho Chi Minh, thanks to our friends’ hospitality! The food was delicious and it was a nice way to end our Vietnam trip. Bye Vietnam! I’ll always remember to cross the street Vietnam style when I come back 🙂