FUN-travel: Asia Part 2

May 24, 2010 by  

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Day 25 – Saturday, March 20 – Siem Reep, Cambodia

  • Good News – arrive Victoria Angkor Hotel – get upgraded to Maharadjah Suite and invited to managers cocktail reception (only happens once a month, how lucky is that?)
  • Afternoon Excursion –  2:00 – 6:00
  • 1st stop Angkor Wat – up for one of the 7 New Wonders of the World (guide tells us it is since UNESCO said so) – world’s largest religious monument covering 200 hectares, architectural masterpiece, fine proportions & rich detail of Kmer construction – 600 meters of bas relief & 2000 apsaras (celestial dancers) – continue walking out south gate to
  • 2nd stop Angkor Thom – one of largest Kmer cities ever built – compound includes King’s Palace – in center of complex
  • 3rd stop Bayon – temple of 196 Buddha faces carved in massive stones – 37 towers still standing with 4 faces carved on each side of each tower – continue walking NW


  • 4th stop Bapuon – enormous temple mountain – massive 5 tier pyramid with wonderful stone carvings – continue walking to
  • 5th stop Elephant Terrace – raised promenade with carved elephants on walls leading to Royal Reception & Pavilion – includes five projecting stairways
  • Good News – full day and ready for managers reception
  • More Good News – lots of imported wine and good food, don’t need dinner
Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

FF – face masks are not for pollution – brown face means you’re poor – white face means you have good job – not a farmer/fisherman

Day 26 – Sunday, March 21 – Siem Reep, Cambodia

Full Day Excursion 8:30 – 4:00

  • Good News – good coffee
  • More Good News – very well educated, articulate guide
  • 1st stop Pre Rup – structure of brick towers – golden sandstone color very different & pretty – name means “turning of the body” which is corpse cremation rite
  • 2nd stop Ta Prohm – strangler figs and silk-cotton trees entwined among ruins – plant takes hold in crevice (usually deposited where bird drops a seed) roots seek soil and overtake structures – where they filmed Tomb Raiders
  • 3rd stop Banteay Samre – excellently restored Angkor Wat style temple – remote, isolated, peaceful setting
Banteay Samre

Banteay Samre

  • 4th stop – Beng Mealea – 70 km from city – takes 1½ hours, part on dirt and rock rutted road– really isolated, in condition it was discovered, totally overgrown by jungle – “most explorable” temple in region – wonderful carvings & considerable disorder make it  all the more FUN for climbing – served as the model for Angkor Wat – only been open for 2 years (had to remove land minds from the war)
  • Good News – walk through town, meet shipmates for drink, have dinner & go to local market

FF – didn’t see ravages of American War other than Da Nang

This Little Piggy Went to Market

This Little Piggy Went to Market

Day 27 – Monday, March 22 – Phuket, Thailand – Really, Really Hot & Humid (like everywhere we have been except Hoi An)

  • Good News – have had an incredible experience!
  • Bad News – early flight and not nearly enough time in Siem reep – over 80 temples in area, only saw 9 – must go back!
  • Good News – plane takes off early – at hotel by 2:00
  • Bad News – did not have internet on Mekong Delta River and computer crashed!
  • More Bad News – hotel charges for internet in 15 minute increments (when was the last time you saw that!) – we have had free internet almost everywhere we stayed
  • Good News – F&B Manager walks by – nab him & ask him why there is a charge for internet – tell him computer problem and he helps by locating Dell store in downtown Phuket (what are the chances)
  • Bad News – 45 minutes away and $45 round trip
  • More Bad News – had to leave computer at store for two days
  • Good News – going to Koh Yao for two days!

OOO – Obscenely Outrageously Overpriced – internet at JW Marriott costs over $12.00 per hour – have had free internet everywhere else

Day 28 – Tuesday, March 23 – Koh Yoa, Thailand

  • Good News – Cappuccino & good coffee – serenaded by morning birds @ breakfast overlooking the ocean
Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay

  • Good News – 9:00 pick -30 minute drive to boat – Farook our guide quite FUN – have boat all to ourselves – go sea kayaking around towering limestone rock formation islands that jut straight up out of the ocean – go in to very narrow caves with very low ceilings – pitch black in the middle and open up to lagoon of blue skies and trees – lunch with sister boat of traditional Thai dishes of whole fresh fish, rice, vegetables, chicken, pork, fruit
  • More Good News – see very shy, rarely seen Kingfisher bird

    James Bond Island

    James Bond Island

  • More Good News – get to Koh Yoa Paradise Resort & Spa – totally remote and isolated – just the staff and maybe 30 guests (reminds me of Koh Sumui 20 years ago)
  • Good News – amenities abound, DVD player, magnifying mirror, mini bar, Jacuzzi tub (filled with cool water and orchids)

FF – Phang Nga Bay consists of hundreds of uninhabited jungle islands

Day 29 – Wednesday, March 24 – Koh Yoa, Thailand

  • Good News – pretty decent coffee – 9:00 more sea kayaking – go snorkeling with bananas and create a feeding frenzy – 100 fish eating out of my hand and nibbling on my toes
  • More Good News –coral colors range from fuchsia, orange, purple, red, green, mocha
  • Bad News – some coral stings – feels like little pricks on skin & lips – didn’t touch it, some kind of energy they send out in the water
  • Good News – back in time for a massage (real massage table) in cabana draped in mosquito netting – start by steam bath (that’s one way to feel cool when it’s 100 degrees) come out for dip in waterfall pool – Swedish & Thai combined with oil – oo-la-la- almost like Sandra’s – cost $63 US with tip
  • Bad News – imported wine is expensive
  • Good News – bought 2 bottles in Duty Free for $36 US

FF – James Bond Island was made famous by the movie “The Man With a Golden Gun”

Day 30 – Thursday, March 25 – Phuket, Thailand

  • Good News – 9:30 take tour of island (koh) by tuk tuk (teeny tiny open car with fabric roof) – have lunch and take slow boat back to Phuket – go to Central Festival (huge totally Western mall) so Chris can get a haircut – one person washes and massages head for 10 minutes, then hair cutter cuts, then goes back to for another hair wash, then to dryer, then back to cutter to style – takes 1 hour – cost $12.00 US
Tuk-Tuk Tour

Tuk-Tuk Tour

  • Good News – have Starbucks
  • Good News – computer fixed!
  • More Good News – taxi driver left his cell phone number and picked it up for us yesterday

    Koh Yoa Paradise Resort & Spa

    Koh Yoa Paradise Resort & Spa

  • Bad News – have Dell warranty and charged $18 – total cost with taxis $87 – Have had numerous problems over last 2 years, everything that can be replaced has been, after hours on phone with tech support numerous times last year Dell finally agreed to send me a new replacement (should have had it before I left – this is probably the last Dell I buy after being a loyal customer for the last 15 years)
  • More Bad News – computer restored in Thai not English – must redo applications

FF – beware – any hotel with Resort & Spa at the end charges at least 25% more for everything – but they do have all the amenities (magnifying mirrors, mini bars, DVD players, high thread count sheets, pillow selections, thick towels, robes)

Day 31 – Friday, March 26 – Phuket, Thailand


Fish Feeding Frenzy

  • Good News – 9:00 snorkel trip in Adaman Sea
  • Bad News – takes 1 hour to pier
  • Good News – have 40’ power boat all to ourselves – go to Racha Island – crystal clear and full of colorful fish, (parrot, angle, Nemos) see moray eel  – then on to Coral Island for lunch and more snorkeling – boat captain throws out line and catches a squid – see it shoot it’s black ink
  • Good News – have dinner with photographer from Mekong Cruise and his wife

FF – Adam Lambert hair is all the rage in SE Asia

This ends the first portion of our trip. We customized our itinerary and had private tours with English speaking guides and included all airport pickups and drop offs. We controlled where, when, and how long we wanted to stay at each site we visited. If you want to know more about our agent that we booked this with in Bangkok email me. He is a wholesaler and deals with travel agents. You need to do your homework first, know your budget and where you want to go. Best time to go is November & December, however, it’s more expensive. Second week of January prices drop and shouldn’t be as hot and humid. Also, water levels in rivers should be higher unless drought continues.

Tieneman Square

Day 32 – Saturday, March 27 – Beijing, China (begin new trip with Ritz Tours)

  • Good News – 4:15 pm flight to Bangkok – on time – no charge for excess baggage
  • Good News – 7:15 pm flight to Beijing on time
  • More Good News – have 1st class for coach price
  • Bad News – only 2 bottles of red wine (no French, only Great Wall available) for entire 1st class (we blew through that quite quickly)
  • Good News – Beijing is air conditioned – get off plane and even jet way has AC – leave it to China
  • Bad News – arrive hotel 3 am

FF– could be in any US city – totally surprised by how cosmopolitan Beijing is

Day 33 – Sunday, March 28 – Beijing, China

Forbidden City Sculpture

Forbidden City Sculpture

  • Good News – sleep in – get up have breakfast – find lobby filled with people – turns out big wedding is happening – Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini & Porches drive up – out pops young woman in wedding dress and fur with tuxedo clad young man – “must be rock star wedding?” we ask. To which hotel concierge replies, “No, just rich.”
  • Good News – get up & realize all of Beijing has turned on AC for us. We are so lucky! It’s a balmy 55 degrees
  • More Good News – good coffee – take walk & attempt to read map in Chinese, head to Silk Street to shop
  • Bad News – Silk Street is 6 floors of 100’s of stalls with the same stuff
  • Good News – each floor organized by items
  • Bad News – shopkeepers grab, pull on your clothes, & beg you to buy
  • Good News – great prices, but must bargain hard (start at 25% of what they want and work up)
  • More Good News – get Tommy Bahama embroidered shirt for $14 US
  • Bad News – may have to buy another suitcase so we can buy more to take home
  • Good News – get Tumi luggage (knock off  I’m sure) for $38 US!
  • Good News – back to hotel in time for Happy Hour – get nachos ($15 US) pretty good

Day 34 – Monday, March 29 – Beijing, China

  • Morning Excursion – 8:30 to noon – Tiananmen Square – 110 acres restored for Olympics
  • Forbidden City – 180 acres – largest Imperial Palace in world – 9,999 rooms total
Forbidden City

Forbidden City

  • Afternoon Excursion – 12:30 – 3:30 – Temple of Heaven – groups of Chinese playing cards – groups of kids kicking colorful feathered badminton type object
  • Bad News – hate to be negative, but Beijing feels a bit anti-climatic due to seeing such beautiful temples for last month – can’t go inside, no lighting, plus not very spectacular
  • Bad News – Mao Mausoleum is closed on Mondays
  • Good News – Dinner of Peking Duck good – kids from all over the world on field trip to see Kung Fu show having dinner with us too
Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

Day 35 – Tuesday, March 30 – Beijing, China

  • Good News – today they even turned on the misters in addition to the AC!
  • Good News – brought long johns
  • Bad News – no gloves (50 degrees)
  • Bad News – drive for 1 ½ hr to Ming Tombs (only 20 miles – traffic is horrendous (not to mention how erratically they drive)
  • Good News – Ming Tomb – bare weeping willow trees and 18 stone carved statues line the promenade Sacred Way to the tombs
  • Bad News – heavy fog & rain
  • Good News – buy postcards so we know what it looks like in good weather
  • Good News – off to Great Wall, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World (Badaling section) – wall is like giant dragon snaking over 4000 miles across China
  • Bad News – drive another hour – shrouded with thick, dense fog and drizzling rain
  • More Bad News – very few steps, path of stone tiles that snake up, very steep & slippery
  • Good News – buy postcards so we know what it looks like in good weather

FF – there are no single family houses in Beijing

Day 36 – Wednesday, March 31 – Beijing, China

Ming Tomb Statue

Ming Tomb Statue

  • Good News – free day – no rain and warmer (50’s)

    Great Wall

    Great Wall

  • Bad News – disappointed that Great Wall trip was not rescheduled for today
  • Good News – take a cab to see Hutongs – old section of Beijing with narrow alleyways – see the Bell Tower & Drum Tower (how  they told time in 14th century) bell could be heard 5km away (tour not included – wanted $50 US per person – took ourselves for $3)
  • Good News – take nice walk to Mexican Wave Restaurant (since 1988) – missing my comfort food
  • Bad News – poor excuse for Mexican food (frankly nachos at Millennium bar were pretty good)
  • Good News – stroll back down 3 block long shopping mall covered by LED ceiling of ocean scene w/colorful coral, fish and whales swimming

FF – Food not as good as SE Asia

Day 37 – Thursday, April 1 – Xi’an, China

Summer Palace

Summer Palace

Morning Excursion – 8:30 – 10:30 (clear but cold)

  • Summer Palace – large manmade lake w/temples

    Terra Cotta Warriors

    Terra Cotta Warriors

  • Good News – stop to see Birds Nest Stadium on way to airport
  • Bad News – on other side of freeway, so can’t take any good pictures
  • Bad News – Air China baggage charge $35
  • Good News – part of United Star Alliance so don’t have to pay
  • Bad news – don’t get to next hotel until 6:00 pm
  • Good news – very clean city, take walk in search of imported wine store, can’t find so ask police man for directions (they offer  ride in their golf cart and can’t find it either for 15 minutes) trees covered with white lights line the boulevard

Not so FF – tour should have been more flexible – scheduled around weather and sites open

Day 38 – Friday, April 2 – Xi’an, China Full Day Excursion – 8:30 – 5:00

  • Good News – take bus to Terra Cotta Army – unbelievable! Called the 8th Wonder of the World – 210 BC
  • 8000 life size (6’ -6.5’) terracotta warriors, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, (the majority of which are still buried in the pits) arranged in battle formations in 3 pits (16,300 square meters) discovered in 1974 by farmers digging a well
  • More Good News – Go to bell tower & drum tower, tallest structures downtown, connected to the original stone city wall 9 km around – city filled with trees in bloom and hundreds of tulips, nice mix of old & new architecture
  • More Good News – dinner of dumplings, 18 kinds, restaurant filled with Chinese people, not tourists!
  • More Good News – Ming Dynasty Show after dinner

Day 39 – Saturday, April 3 – Chongquin, China

  • Morning Excursion 8:00 – 10:00
  • Good News – go to largest, most famous Buddhist Pagoda – dubbed the Westminster Abbey of China
  • Good news – see beautiful gardens and Jade factory
  • Good News – only 1 hour flight – bags checked by tour bus driver and no excess weight charges!
  • More Good News – JW Marriott executive lounge on 36th floor – really good, free imported wine

FF– Chongquin very hilly – called “Hong Kong of the East”