Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mr. Smith Goes to Thailand & Cambodia

So with my visa running out at the end of the month we were faced with a few different options of what to do. The easiest thing was to leave the country for a few weeks and come back. Due to plenty of things to do for Harilo, Kim was faced with what is essentially a business trip where she gets to see family around Christmas and new year. The cost of flying all the way to the states for both of us is a bit prohibitive and I came all the way out here to not visit Asia not fly back and forth to the US. So I'll be flying to Bangkok on Sunday and will split the next few weeks split between Thailand and Cambodia.

  Map showing the route I'm looking to take.

As usual I don't have a set in stone itinerary, I like to remain flexible with my plans. The current plan is to spend a day or so in Bangkok on arrival and then head over to Cambodia via the Poipet border crossing and head over to Siem Reap and spend a few days exploring Angkor Wat and the surrounding jungle and ruins. From there I'm planning to spend a few days in Phnom Penh before heading back to Thailand, possibly via Battambang, depending on the amount of time I have spent other places. This part of the trip is a little touristy, but I'm really looking forward to seeing Angkor, and despite what I've read about Phnom Penh, I can't imagine it's much worse than aspects of Kathmandu. 

I've read a few books and seen a couple documentaries and movies about the tragedies that occurred there under the reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, and I'm a little hesitant about visiting some of the sites like the killing fields as a tourist attraction. On the one hand it's an important thing to be aware of in history and I would really only want to visit the sites if I felt it made them clearer, otherwise it feels like rubbernecking a really bad accident scene where it's more of an act of a morbid voyeurism. Growing up, my city had a small, but decent sized, population of Cambodians who had escaped and were now living in the US, many of the children that were my age were evacuated from their country as small infants or were born on US soil shortly after their parents arrival.It wasn't anything I had ever discussed with any of them until I was in High School, and their views on the whole tragedy was always interesting, and it will color a bit of the trip for me.

This will be my third time in Thailand, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the ocean again, it's been far too long. My plan is to head south to the island of Ko Tao, or Turtle Island which is said to be a decent dive and snorkel site with some cheap beach side accommodation. For me I'm just looking for a place that is touristy enough that there is WiFi but not so touristy that it has an airport or is over run with package tourists. On the other hand I want to avoid the full moon partying twenty somethings that engage in lots of binge drinking and general obnoxious behavior. From the little research I've done I hope this island can provide that.  If not I can always head back down to Ko Phi Phi or some place on the coast north of Phuket.

After some relaxing on the beach and hopefully some small hikes around the island I'll head back to Bangkok a few days before my flight home to get some sight seeing in. I think the royal palace in Bangkok is one of the most under rated tourist attractions out there, and I had hardly heard about, and considered skipping it my first time through, it is definitely worth a trip, and I might go back. I'd also like to visit a few of the larger Buddhist temples in town that I haven't been to, and possibly check out a floating market and find some good street food. The only food I have ever turned down while traveling was in Thailand...fried bugs were just too much for me, maybe this time I can overcome my preconceptions and take a bite. If it's terrible I'll be justified in not eating it again, but if I never do I might be missing out on a tasty treat. We'll see.

I'll be taking my netbook with me so I hope to update this blog from the road and stay in contact with family and friends. I'll be back in Kathmandu in the middle of January...just in time for Nepal tourism year. It'll be interesting to see if there is anything at all different on arrival back in this country.

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