Ever since our first experiment with AirBnB (where we snagged a New York City...
Siem Reap gets no respect. It’s true, it’s a western enclave. There isn’t much to see in town, and it exists mostly as a basecamp for Angkor Wat. And if you’re looking for immersion in Cambodian culture, this isn’t where you want to be. But having said all of that, it’s wrong to conclude, as so many people do, that Siem Reap isn’t “real” or is somehow inauthentic. Siem Reap is very much a real city, albeit a heavily westernized one. I say that because there are plenty of places in the world where people live and work that are very much like Siem Reap. We know, because we used to live in, and still love, one such place.
To us Siem Reap felt like the Hoboken of South East Asia. Now that probably doesn’t mean anything to anyone who hasn’t lived in our former city, but suffice it to say, Siem Reap felt a bit like home to us.
We spent seven days in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and three days exploring the temples of Angkor Wat. Here are some of the things we wish we knew before arriving at the largest religious monument in the world.
Now that we have our 2015 plans buttoned down, we’re starting to think about winter 2016. We have only the vaguest idea of what we want to do at the moment so we figured we’d ask our readers to help us fill in the blanks. Here’s what we know:
We’ll ring out 2015 in Key West, Florida. From there we’d like to go somewhere geographically nearby. We’re not interested in enduring more 20 hour flights just yet so that rules out Asia, Africa, Oceania and the like–for this winter, anyway. Cold weather and visa issues rule out most of Europe. Sunny South America, Central America and the Caribbean, meanwhile, are all on our radar.
We’re going to try to limit our time spent in transit, which means we’re not likely to plan a multi-country tour of South America with loads of overnight bus rides and internal flights. Our preference is to pick one or two countries where we’ll have plenty to do while we travel slowly and mostly overland for a couple of months.
So with all that in mind, tell us where to go this winter. What’s your ideal itinerary?
And that’s pretty much what’s been keeping us occupied these past few weeks that we haven’t been blogging. What started out as a temporary hiatus designed to give our full-contact-blogging related injuries time to heal, morphed into an all-out effort to nail down the specifics of our life going forward – or at least for the next eight months.
What made this particular stretch of our itinerary so challenging is that we decided to significantly slow down the pace of our travels this fall. And while normal people might think that would make planning easier, in reality it hasn’t. We’ve struggled mightily to find suitable apartments in desirable locations to rent for an entire month at a time. One month leases are mostly unheard of in the U.S., which is exactly where we’ve been trying to find them.
We were also attempting to incorporate a number of good travel deals into our plans, all which came with various restrictions. We’d find a great airfare deal only to discover that the car rental we needed would cost double if we flew on those days; or the apartment we wanted wasn’t free on the days we could use our frequent flyer miles to get there; or – when all those things seemed to finally fit – we’d learn that one element of our carefully crafted plan had mysteriously become unavailable, sending our entire itinerary into a cascading failure.
That is until now.
When we arrive at a new destination, it’s not uncommon for us to quickly, easily step into rhythm with the place. But sometimes, we get off on the wrong foot. Which is exactly what happened in Battambang in western Cambodia.
Battambang was a late addition to the itinerary. We rolled into town tired and sweaty after a seven-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh, only to be given a mosquito-infested room at our not-inexpensive hotel. Dinner at a recommended restaurant was dismally mediocre, while a walk around town showed that the preserved colonial architecture the city is hyped as having really isn’t all that picturesque.
Our less-than-stellar start in Battambang had us wondering why we even bothered to detour there on route from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. If we hadn’t already booked a four-night stay, we might have hastily left town…and that would have been a shame. In Battambang, we ended up having some of our most memorable experiences in Southeast Asia so far.