Wat Arun: The Temple of the Rising Sun

Hiking Up Wat Arun

Wat Arun was one of those temples I saw in the guide book and I knew that I had to visit.  I was intrigued by the look of the temple, which I now know is done in the Khmer style (ala Angkor Wat), and I wanted to climb to the top to see the incredible views of Bangkok from the top.  Imposing Wat Arun

I honestly was not impressed with Bangkok the first day we were there.  The traffic was overwhelming, the city was huge and modern, and while the Grand Palace was gold and opulent it just was not what I was expecting.  After a day though I was able to come to grips with the city more and was up for more exploring.  Wat Arun was on the top of my list and it was the first thing we saw our third day in Bangkok after a dish of Pad Thai across the river.  The view of the temple was imposing as we stepped onto the rickety dock which led us to the temple. Alex and BuddhaDetails of Wat ArunThe Easy Part of the Hike Up Wat Arun

The first set of steps up Wat Arun are deceptively easy but as you look up you can see the increasing steepness of the steps to climb to the top of the temple of the rising sun.  Wat Arun is named after the Hindu god Aruna who is represented as the rays of the rising sun.  Offerings to BuddhaI like that Buddha was just serenely watching on as we sweated and hauled our asses up the temple.  The temple was so high that Christopher, my best friend and terrified of heights, did not accompany Alex and I.

The Steps of Wat Arun Just Keep Getting SteeperView of Bangkok from Wat ArunThe view from the top of Wat Arun was worth the hike up.  Bangkok goes on forever!Goofing off at the top of Wat Arun

Ashley at the top of Wat ArunStairway to the very top of Wat ArunOnce you reach the top of Wat Arun, the central prang, you can see the ladders that reach to the very top of the temple which symbolizes Mount Meru, the center of all physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes.  We clearly were not on the right path to be able to reach the center of all universes.

Guardians of the TempleAshley Climbing down Wat ArunUnfortunately once you go up you have to go back down and my skirt did not want to cooperate with allowing me to head back down easily.  So beware if there is even a bit of a breeze and you are wearing a skirt it will not be easy to climb back down these insanely steep steps.

Alex Clinging on to the Rope Bannister at Wat ArunWat Arun is a temple that was definitely worth the entrance fee and I am glad that we paid it.  It helped change my view (literally) of the city and I learned a very important lesson, do not wear a loose wavy skirt when you decide to climb a very steep temple even if it does cover your knees.

Details of Wat Arun

Ahh the things you learn in Asia…..  Have you been to Bangkok?  What are your thoughts on the city and Wat Arun?

Wat Arun

 

 

 

 

Sunday Wine Down: Ancient Wine

Sunday Wine Down: Ancient Wines

Welcome, to the very first Sunday Wine Down for IPoA. Ashley and I sat down and decided that we should add a bit more education to our blog. As a blog that focuses on all aspects of culture we have decided that every Sunday I will write a post to educate our readers on everything from wine to beer, to spirits. I’ll be diving into all aspects of these vices and hopefully we can all learn something as well. I am also a believer that if you are going to drink around the world you should know a little about it. As many of our readers know I work with wine everyday and it has become passion of mine and is just as important to me as travel.  By doing this I hope to educate our readers on wine, beer, spirits from around the world as well as help me study for my future aspirations. So grab a glass and welcome, to Sunday Wine Down; I hope you enjoy!

Wine in Pienza

Ancient Wine

Let us start with the history of wine.  It has been an important beverage around the world for thousands of years and I believe that it deserves to be the first topic for our Sunday Wine Down. We all know wine is older than written history and is pretty well established throughout written history. We cannot really tell you when vines were first cultivated and used for wine, but archaeologist have discovered that one of the earliest known civilizations to have wine might have dated back to China around 7,000 BC. They have found traces of tartaric acid and other organic compounds normally found in wine. They cannot yet prove that it was specifically grapes or something else that had tartaric acid.

 

We have found that wine’s history leads us to the Caucasus and to the northern region of the Middle East. Wine stained pottery has been found in Georgia dating back to 6,000 BC as well in Iran dating back to 5,000 BC. Through genetic mapping we were able to learn that the heritage of over 110 modern grape varieties originated in Georgia. Also the first evidence of preservation of wine was found in the pottery of the Iranian site; they treated the wine with the preservative turpentine pine resin. We also know that wine made its way to the Grecian Macedonia around 4500 BC. They also found the site of the first crushed grape and an entire winery that dates back to 4100 BC in modern day Armenia. We do know though that is was a different vine species then Vitis Vinifera which is the common species used in winemaking today. The fact of where wine started is still debateable as the search for the origin of wine continues.

“WAIT, WAIT, WAIT… Alex, what about the Romans and the Greeks?” you say.  “Were they not the wine drinkers of Ancient times?”

Dionysus, or Bacchus to the Romans, was the Greek God of wine.  Can't you tell?  He is often depicted with Maenads, his female followers, and Satyrs, creatures with the body of a man but with a horse's ears and tail.  They are often shown drinking and partying and enjoying the occasionally orgy.  Why not?
Dionysus, or Bacchus to the Romans, was the Greek God of wine. Can’t you tell? He is often depicted with Maenads, his female followers, and Satyrs, creatures with the body of a man but with a horse’s ears and tail. They are often shown drinking and partying and enjoying the occasionally orgy. Why not?

Well, of course they were and they have had a huge influence on the world of wine. We need to talk about a few other civilizations before them though. The story of grapes and the fermentation of their juice was an important part of ancient civilizations, like Mesopotamia, Israel, Ancient Egypt, the Phoenicians, Greeks, and  Roman civilizations. The altered consciousness effect that wine has on people has been considered religious and has been a part in many religions. The Greeks and the Romans had Dionysus/Bacchus, The Jewish community consumed it for ritual practice since the biblical times and for the Christians wine is an important part of religious sacrament and goes back to the last supper. Islam, even though they forbid the consumption and production of wine, had used it for medical purposes during the golden age when alchemists would distill it for medicine. As I said earlier though, I should talk about a few of the civilizations that help wine become the king of beverages and this week we are going to start with Egypt.

 

Ancient Egypt, a civilization that still seems to have the ability to keep us in awe with every discovery we unearth, they are the society that had the fertile soils of the Nile.  Wine was very influential in the ceremonial life of the Egyptians. The industry of wine was established on the Nile delta with the introduction of grape cultivation from the Levant (eastern Mediterranean) to Egypt around 3000 BC. The industry of wine though was most likely the result of trade between Egypt and Canaan during the early Bronze Age, starting around the 27th century BC at the beginning of the Old Kingdom. By the end of the Old Kingdom there were at least five distinct wines, most likely grown and produced in the delta. Wine became so important to the Egyptians that archaeologist have found scenes of winemaking on tomb walls. This delicious beverage constituted part of the Canonical set of provisions for the afterlife.

If only the Egyptians had learned about cheese pairings with wine.  Would totally go back in time.
If only the Egyptians had learned about cheese pairings with wine. Would totally go back in time.

For you solely red wine drinkers out there you would have been in paradise. Wine in Ancient Egypt was predominantly red. Yet there is evidence that in some tombs they found residue that archaeologists believe could have been white wine.  So it was available but not a common sight in the market. The most precious of the of the red wines in Egypt was called Shedeh. Originally it was believed to be an alcoholic beverage made from pomegranates but evidence proves that it is actually made from red grapes. Egyptian originally were superstitious of wine because the dark red color reminded them of blood. Superstitions and tall tales stated that red wine was the blood of those who had fought the Gods. The Gods beat those who rebelled against them and sent them tumbling down to earth and their blood combined with the earth. Where the victims had fallen vines sprung from the earth. The Pharaohs thought this to be the reason for drunkenness because people who consumed wine filled themselves with the blood of their forbears. That is why prior to the Psamtik or Psammetichus (three Pharaohs who ruled during the Saite dynasty) Pharaohs did not consume wine or even offer wine up to the gods. I would have to say we are lucky the Egyptians wisened up to the possibilities of the grape and wine.

 

Part two will come next week where we dive into the Phoenicians, Ancient Greek, and, most important to modern wine, the Roman Empire. If you have any questions please leave a comment below. I would be more than happier to discuss more with you. So have another glass on me and enjoy.

 

My Biggest Regret About Living in Italy

My Biggest Regret While Living in

Every time I mention that I lived in Rome for two and a half years (that half is really important) people generally respond with “Oh you must be fluent in Italian then?” and then I must guilty reply “Well, actually….No”.

 

This is by far the biggest thing I regret about living in Italy.  How did I live in Rome and have a life there but not speak the language?  Yes I could get by.  I could have a basic conversation, order food (which is truly important) and identify all the food in the grocery store but I couldn’t go farther than that!  I could go ahead and give you all the excuses that I used while I lived there for not learning the language better:

The Romans always respond in English.

All my Italian friends speak better English than I do.

I am an English speaking tour guide

 

The truth is though, that I was embarrassed.  I was embarrassed about how bad my accent was.  I was embarrassed about how little I knew.  So instead of confronting this and studying and learning I chose to do nothing.  Looking back on this I realize now what a HUGE mistake this was.  I missed out on a lot of opportunities to get to know the local Romans more and to learn even more about the city that I love to hate but love so much.

I cannot describe how much I love this city but also how much it frustrated me.  Perhaps if I had known the language better I would have been able to interact with our neighbors and feel more accepted.
I cannot describe how much I love this city but also how much it frustrated me. Perhaps if I had known the language better I would have been able to interact with our neighbors and feel more accepted.

I always suggest to people to learn a little of the local language before they travel somewhere.  It helps to know hello, please, thank you to get by and show the locals that you are trying.  Language can open up so many doors while you are traveling.  It is such an imperative thing to learn before you go anywhere and I dropped the ball.

 

Alex and I plan on returning to Italy and to Rome in the near future and I am trying to rectify this mistake.  Nothing will change the fact that I did not learn Italian while I lived there but hopefully by the time I return all those Rosetta Stone lessons will have worked.  I want to talk to locals about their traditions, their life and learn more about this beautiful country.  I don’t want to be held back because I am embarrassed about not knowing the language.  Fear never gets anyone anywhere.  After all what’s the worst that can happen if I mispronounce something?


The goal for 2015 is to become fluent in Italian.  
Soon I will have much more free time on my hands and I can study more.  I will become FLUENT.  Internet and dearest readers I need you to help keep me accountable.  It may not be December 31st yet but I am already planning my resolution and I will not fail this time!

Our Thanksgiving Traditions

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is a day where American families come together from across the country to eat copious amounts of homemade food, booze and maybe turn on a football game. Thanksgiving is a tradition in American culture that a lot of us take apart in. From the outside some might see it as a way to gorge oneself with a cornucopia of food.  The butterball on the table and the pigskin on the tube is not the point of Thanksgiving though. It is easy for us to get lost in all that food, booze, and family but in reality it is a time to step back and give thanks to the things we have. We find it important to remind ourselves that we should be grateful for our family, friends, and the food in our stomach and the roof over our heads. It is also a time to give and help the people who might not have the same opportunities. Food drives, and soup kitchens open up across country were meals are given to the less fortunate.

Thanksgiving is an important tradition for all us here in the United States and we all celebrate it a little different but we all have the same idea and that is the idea of being grateful and giving a little back to the community. I believe one should be grateful everyday that your eyes are open, but the holiday is a way to remind us to continue to appreciate the blessings bestowed upon us. People get caught up in everyday life and we can get stuck in the muck of all the things going on. So it is nice to have a day to remind us of what we have and how lucky we are to have it whether it’s big or small.

Thanksgiving traditionally was a way for the pilgrims to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and the agricultural year, hence the idea of having a table full of food. Tradition is important and I take tradition seriously. One of the many reasons why I travel is to learn about other culture’s traditions and if possible take part in them. So what are some of the traditions for Americans during Thanksgiving? It is a big family event and my family would all come together from all around the country to celebrate together. My favorite was when it was held at my house. I am bias towards my dads cooking and his food plus we lived on the beach and in November the weather was still nice. My dad would spend a few days before Thanksgiving preparing for an all day cooking session on that final Thursday of November.

When I was young I would make sure I was up early so I could watch my dad make pies. He would make more pies than I could remember and there was plenty of variety. The traditional pie of Thanksgiving is pumpkin and probably my family’s favorite. He would make more pumpkin then any other pie. My favorite was butterscotch because I got to lick the bowl and spoon afterwards. Some of his other pies would be lemon meringue, pecan, rhubarb, apple, and he would make multiple of each. He always told us that a pie is all in the crust and that you should learn how to make crust from scratch.  I would have to say pie is my favorite part of Thanksgiving.

Football is a classic event during Thanksgiving and it is always part of my family’s tradition. Traditionally two teams host the game the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. Each team host a different conference team every year on a rotating basis. There is also third game which had no set teams. Now football was always on but it was a way to gather together. It really acted as background noise as we drank beer, cocktails, wine, and, if you were a kid, soda.

We ate all day as my dad would deliver out little snacks and my mom always made sure that everybody had enough to munch on throughout the day. Now if you are a kid it is not always fun and games. If you wanted to lick the spoon from the pie fillings you had to learn how to shuck corn. Shucking corn was something that everybody in my family knew how to do.

Dinner on Thanksgiving is not at normal dinnertime for Americans. We tend to hold dinner in the early afternoon. Three pm is the normal time for the meal to start and it last all day or as long as you could go before you fall asleep. If you are Ashley, they eat the meal at a normal time but we all have our own tweaks. We all sat around the dining room table with a pop up table for the kid’s table with the food set up family style. Some years we would have too many people over and have a buffet instead and just crowd around the living room. One important tradition before we dug in was to say grace over the food and then go around the table saying what we were thankful for. After that it was time to dive on in. Now for my family what was traditionally served was a giant turkey, stuffing, spinach, yams with a marshmallow top, mounds of buttered mash potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, collard greens, roasted corn, and scallop potatoes. Throughout the meal the wine is flowing because what is a good meal with out a lot of vino? Oh and don’t forget the pie afterward and the homemade whip cream with a little spiced rum in it. Now I am sure I missing some classics and my family will surely let me know what I forgot. All families have tweaked their dinner to fit their taste.

Now this was my family’s tradition; food, family and drink have always been important to us, it is what brings us all together. I know other families play an actual game of touch football or not cook a meal at all and go out and eat Chinese which are usually the only places still open. Other families spend the day at a soup kitchen and pass out meals to the less fortunate; others go on vacation instead. No matter what Americans do for their Thanksgiving it all centers around the idea that we need to give thanks and remind ourselves to be thankful for everything we are blessed with. I wish all of our readers a Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you all get to spend it with the ones you love.

Ashley and I on the Via Appia

Side note:

Ashley and I have decided to start a new tradition feature. We want to highlight your cultures traditions. If you are interested in writing a guest post for our new tradition features please email us at inpursuitofadventure@gmail.com We would love to hear from you and love to have you teach us about your traditions.

Angkor Wat in Black & White

ANGKOR WATAngkor Wat is something I dreamed about seeing ever since I was young.  I should have known I was going to major in archaeology since the top places I have always wanted to visit are the Pantheon, the Parthenon, the Pyramids, Machu Picchu, the Hagia Sophia and of course Angkor Wat.   Angkot Wat was always so far away though.  I never really considered actually visiting Cambodia.  I figured one day I would get there but it was never a first choice.  But then my best friend, Christopher, decided to teach english in Malaysia and bam! I had an opportunity like no other to visit.  I knew immediately that we would have to visit Angkor Wat.

 

Angkor Wat was everything I dreamed of and more.  It was HUGE and imposing, crumbling and in ruins and yet standing majestically and proud.  The complex was almost overwhelming and I wish we had had more time to explore.  We were able to hit several different temples throughout the day especially with the 4am wake up call.  Here is just a little glimpse of the temples we explored while I pretended I was Indiana Jones :)

The Moat before Angkor Wat
The moat that surrounds and guards Angkor Wat
The famous main temple of Angkor Wat.  We got here before sunrise to catch the mythical sunrise but of course it was so overcast we couldn't see anything.  The best thing about coming early was we were there before all the tour buses
The famous main temple of Angkor Wat. We got here before sunrise to catch the mythical sunrise but of course it was so overcast we couldn’t see anything. The best thing about coming early was we were there before all the tour buses

Angkor Wat Temple Details

Baskei Chamkrong is a small temple we discovered when we decided to walk to Banyon Temple.  Walking was one of the best things we could have done because it allowed us to explore lesser known temples.  We were able to climb to the top of this temple and view the Sanskrit writing on the temple doors.  The temple lists all the Khmer kings even before Angkorian times.
Baskei Chamkrong is a small temple we discovered when we decided to walk to Banyon Temple. Walking was one of the best things we could have done because it allowed us to explore lesser known temples. We were able to climb to the top of this temple and view the Sanskrit writing on the temple doors. The temple lists all the Khmer kings even before Angkorian times.

Bridge to Banyon

The many faces of Banyon Temple
The many faces of Banyon Temple

Banyon TempleClose Up of the Banyon Faces

Monkey at Angkor Wat

Ta Phrom was what I had always envisioned the ruins to be; run down, crumbling, perhaps the home of the lost idol :)
Ta Prohm was what I had always envisioned the ruins to be; run down, crumbling, perhaps the home of the lost idol :) Or plenty of tourists

Details at Ta Prohm

Crumbling Ruins of Ta Prohm
While the archaeologist in me was sadden to see how the ruins have been abandoned and not taken care of, it was absolutely fascinating to see how the jungle is taking over these ruins. It was a surreal place to see nature overtake the ruins of a civilization.

Sculptural Details at Ta Prohm

Endless Arches at Ta Prohm

Sculptural Reliefs at Angkor Wat

The entrance to Ta Prohm and the last site we saw of the spectacular ruins of Angkor Wat
The entrance to Ta Prohm and the last sight we saw of the spectacular ruins of Angkor Wat

 

Have you ever been to Angkor Wat?  What was your favorite spot?

 

 

 

 

The Best of Utah

In Europe we always say something about the Japanese way of traveling: 10 Countries in 10 days is insane. Just taking a snapshot and moving on again, off to the next country. While I can be very critical towards other people’s way of traveling, I realized something…  wasn’t I driving around like a madwoman recently myself, cruising around the US and doing 4 national parks in 4 days? Crazy all the same!

delicate-arch-small

During my 4 week roadtrip, I visited 7 different states. The one I was most surprised by was definitely Utah. When I look at the places I normally enjoy traveling to most, it’s the mountains, forests and crystal clear lakes. Glaciers and wildlife, that sort of stuff. Not the red rocks and a desert kind of landscape.

I was afraid that I’d get bored after the second park. That I’d seen enough red rocks and that I made a big mistake by spending about a week in Utah, while I could have been out hiking in the Rockies and meeting grizzlies in Yellowstone. I shouldn’t have been afraid though, because Utah was even more amazing that I would have ever imagined. With good planning and a bit of luck, you can see a lot, just by spending one day (or less) in each national park. I’ll be sharing my favorite sights and activities with you:

Best place for hiking: Zion National Park
For most travelers, Zion is the place to go. It’s one of the most visited parks in the US and it’s easy to see why. Located within reasonable driving distance of Las Vegas (approx. 2.5 hours only), it’s an easy trip. Access into Zion Canyon is by organized buses which is a bit of a shame. However, if you wake up early, you should have no trouble escaping the crowds.
angelslanding9
Zion is the place to be for hiking. There are two magnificent hikes that are mentioned in every hiker’s wishlist and with a bit of planning, you can do them both in one day. The one I picked as most important was Angel’s Landing. It’s a strenuous 4 hour hike to a plateau high up on a rock, with stunning panoramas all over Zion Canyon. It’s not for the faint hearted; you have to hold on to chains various times with nothing but very steep drop offs on both sides of you. But once you reach the top, the view is just phenomenal and you won’t regret the effort you had to make coming up.

angels-landing

The other hike I can definitely recommend is The Narrows. Basically, the Virgin River is the hike, you mostly just wade through the water. Sometimes it’s quite easy, sometimes quite a challenge, depending on the water level. For shorter hikes I can recommend the Weeping Rock, which makes an easy evening stroll, or the Emerald Pools & Kayenta Trails. For the best views of Zion without doing Angel’s Landing, make sure to do the Canyon Overlook Trail, an easy 45 minute trip.

( For a detailed hiking guide to Angel’s Landing, go here: http://www.we12travel.nl/angels-landing-in-zion-should-you-do-it/ )

Best place for sunrise: Bryce National Park

overlook bryce2
Even though Zion and Bryce are often mentioned in one sentence, they are completely different from each other. The most amazing sight within Bryce is the natural amphitheater and its hoodoos. Never before I have seen such a stunning geological feature. You just can’t help but wonder “how?!?” If you are visiting Bryce, make sure to start all the way at the far end of the park and work your way back to the entrance. If you really want to see something special, then make sure you are at Sunrise Point to see … the sun rise! It’s pretty amazing to catch the first rays of sunshine lighting up the massive hoodoos one by one. Just make sure you are there early since you won’t be the only one…
sunrise bryce

Best place for sightseeing: Arches National Park

Arches National Park is relatively small and that makes it a perfect day trip from the nearby town of Moab. If you make it a long day, you can easily see all the important sights in one day. I spent around 12 hours in the park and started off with breakfast near Balanced Rock. Then I drove up to Devil’s Garden where you can find the fragile Landscape Arch. A piece of this arch collapsed a couple of years and nobody knows how long the rest of the arch is going to last. Most arches are easy to reach, no need to walk a lot. The best place to be for sunset is Delicate Arch, however once again you won’t be alone. The sun lighting up the arch with its final rays of the day is just stunning, as are the snow covered La Sal Mountains in the distance.  Other sights within the park worth visiting are Tower of Babel, Fiery Furnace (book your entry ahead, I was too late!) and Park Avenue. You will definitely be amazed by the beauty of Arches National Park!
balanced-rock

Best place for viewpoints: Canyonlands National Park
When you are looking for 360 degree panorama’s, Canyonlands National Park is the place to go to. The park is divided into three sections by the Colorado and Green Rivers and the best accessible part of the park is Island in the Sky. I spent just one morning here, my aim was to witness the sun rise on Mesa Arch. Just Google Mesa Arch and you will get the image I wanted to get. Even though the gentleman at the Moab Visitors Centre told me I would be disappointed that the orange glow wouldn’t be there, I was not disappointed. Waking up at 3.00 am was definitely worth it.  Further down the road, the views into the distance at Grand View Point overlook are just amazing. Just sit down and imagine how this was all formed centuries ago… On the way back out, also make a quick stop  at Upheaval Dome. Very impressive.

mesa arch 5

( For a blog about how to capture sunrise at Mesa Arch, go here: http://www.we12travel.nl/sunrise-at-mesa-arch-how-you-can-capture-this/ )

Unfortunately, I had no time to visit Utah’s fifth national park: Capitol Reef. Instead of being sad about it, I’m happy to still have something to come back to, which makes a great excuse to also head back to the other parks one more time.

As you can see, each of Utah’s national parks has its own unique features. I won’t decide which was my favorite because basically, I loved them all. Sure, the first park you go to is always the most impressive because it’s all “brand new” but still, looking back at this great adventure, I can definitely say that Utah has been given a lot of mother nature’s best…
About the author:
Antonette is the female half of we12travel, an outdoor adventure blog. She loves to go on treks all over the world and enjoys camping in nature. When home, she’s an office worker and travel writer for her own blog and various Dutch travel websites. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

A Tuk Tuk Ride Through Phnom Penh

The humidity slapped us in the face as soon as we stepped off the plane in Cambodia.  It had been hot in Thailand but after the plane ride and air conditioned customs the humidity was a wake up call.  We were in Cambodia! Cambodia, a place I had dreamed about going for as long as I could remember.  The country that held the mystical Angkor Wat, ruins that the archaeologist in me had been racing towards this entire trip.  But first we had to make it to our hostel in Phnom Penh.

Serene Cambodia

As soon as we recovered from that first wave of humidity the onslaught of tuk tuk drivers began calling our name.  As we negotiated through the throng with our bags we finally found one who would take us to the Mad Monkey Hostel at a reasonable rate.  Now we had been in a tuk tuk in Bangkok but that did not prepare us for the next twenty minutes of weaving in and out of traffic, vying with bicycles and scooters where school girls rode side saddle without a care in the world.  We had been in Asia for 2 weeks and for the first time I felt that we had truly arrived in the Far East.  The traffic, the chaos, the noise and even the pollution was invigorating.

Rural Cambodia

The ride into the city was timed with school being let out and the streets were chaos.  There were street vendors crossing at any opportunity with their carts full of steaming exotic food which filled the air, swirling with the smell of diesel.  The students, on bikes, scooters and on foot, weaved their way through the traffic in their blue and white uniforms pausing as they passed us to give us huge smiles, looking at the three tall, white and gangly Americans crammed into a tiny tuk tuk with our luggage.

Tuk Tuk in Cambodia
The buildings that lined the street into the city were in various states of disrepair, some crumbling while others showed signs of reconstruction.  As we neared the city center the building began to reflect a more modern city with cell phone stores a plenty and mini marts.  Then we reached the Independence Monument and the grand boulevard of Preah Sihanouk Blvd and we were treated to stunning architecture surrounded by a lush lawn.

The grand architecture of the palace in Phnom Penh
The grand architecture of the palace in Phnom Penh

As soon as the tuk tuk passed round the roundabout we were back into the maze of streets.  As we were nearing our hostel we suddenly came to a halt.  The streets were jammed packed and we could barely see the intersection that was causing all the chaos.  The chaos was caused because everyone simply decided to ignore the light that was working.  Our tuk tuk driver came to the rescue just as I was feeling car sick (between the lurching of the tuk tuk and the diesel fumes and the vodka we drank back in Bangkok, who wouldn’t?) and instead of crossing through the intersection we just went over the curbs instead.  The man was my hero as our hostel was just on the other side of the intersection.  We had finally arrived at the Mad Monkey and I was so excited to explore….right after a beer and a nap :)