A Travellerspoint blog

December 2013

Vietnamese noms

I'll get back to Cambodia, but for now: a photoessay on Vietnamese food...because I have no words

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Posted by isabellepurcell 18:29 Comments (3)

Welcome to Cambodia: Siem Reap and Phnom Penh

The main cities minus the main tourist attractions

Cambodia started off somewhat interestingly, a 12 hr day of travelling from Bangkok on the train for 6hrs, nearly being scammed at the most manic, hot and confusing border crossing, 2x tuk tuks, a 2hr minibus and nearly being left at the Siem Reap bus station in the middle of nowhere in the dark left me exhausted, annoyed and unsure. It was all offset though, by meeting a fab group of people to negotiate all this with and then ended spending the 3 days in Siem Reap with. That night was spent recovering with lok lak (best Cambodian meal ever, been hanging out for it ever since I left last time 2 years ago) and cocktails on the aptly named Pub Street.
So being the budget backpacker I am, I was staying at a fun but pretty grungy hostel dorm in town. The other guys however where staying at an amazing hotel, with a gorgeous pool. Lesson learnt: walk in like you belong, have people around you and you can get away with using their pool for the day. Win! That + traditional Aspara dancing show sums up day 1.
The main 'attraction' at Siem Reap is Angkor Wat and the collection of temples. Although met with confusion of everyone I met, I made the decision not to visit them this time round. I had seen the sunrise and spent quite a while looking around last time I was here and yes they are ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. However, I knew that if I did it again, it wouldn't be as awe inspiring as last time and I didn't want to lose that, also it wasn't cheap so I just didn't feel it was worth it.
While the others did the temples, I went to the landmine museum started by a former child soldier who planted landmines and then after the war, dedicated his life to clearing them. His name, Aki Ra sounded familiar and I realised that he had been on Hamish & Andy's gap year Asia show. Truly amazing stuff. Had a wander around the night market and caved an brought some hippy pants, though I swore I never would...oops. I was surprised how much I loved Siem Reap, initially it was only a stop on the way down south, but as a town purely built for tourists and backpackers it was loads of fun, easy to get around and really interesting.
Was Phnom Penh bound the next morning and again, chose not to visit the killing fields and S21 again.
I devised my own 'walking tour' of Phnom Pehn visiting the Russian Market, Victory monument, Friends restaurant (a teaching restaurant for former street kids..amazing!!), national museum, Wat Ounalom and the riverfront. Made the most of the hostels rooftop bar that night (Mad Monkey....highly recommend if you ever find yourself in PP) before heading down to the coast in the morning.
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Posted by isabellepurcell 00:06 Comments (0)

Bhutan Part 2

Everything not nursing!


View Isabelle vs the world on isabellepurcell's travel map.

So Bhutan wasn't all healthcare, hospitals and nursing, we also spent some time sightseeing, exploring and generally having a grand old time.
We did a day trip to Punakha, the old capital, stopping on the way at the Dochula Pass to watch the sunrise over the Himalayas. Despite the fog failing to lift, it was absolutely beautiful and extremely atmospheric, an unexpected highlight of Bhutan.
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In Punakha we walked across a massive bridge, across a river, covered in prayer flags that was honestly the most unstable thing I've ever seen..so much fun! We also explored their Dzong which was really impressive.
At the end of the day we walked up to a monastery through local villages. The general consensus was that the highlight here was seeing the famous 'protective penises.' Images covered houses and there were status everywhere. Very safe lucky..maybe? Kinda immaturely hilarious...definitely!
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Another day was spent around Thimphu at the giant Buddha (gold and huge) and the Takin (national animal of Bhutan) Zoo. Possibly the ugliest animal ever..so ugly it's almost cute. We were lucky enough to have a picnic lunch on a hill surrounded by prayer flags and overlooking Thimphu. Never have I eaten somewhere so picturesque!

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One night we headed out with the students. It was the funniest night, starting with scarily (when we saw the photos) sober karaoke and dancing at club desiree. Topped of with Rosie's traffic directing skills it was an awesome night.

On our last morning in Paro RIHS hosted a lovely farewell morning tea. We all dressed up in kiras and ghos and shared experiences, thanks and stories with those who has been so kind and worked so hard to host us and help us throughout our time in Bhutan. There were tears and we all knew how indebted we are.

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We spent a couple of nights in Paro at the end, mainly to hike up to tigers nest, the quintessential Bhutanese experience. The walk was as hard as you'd expect, on tracks for about 4hrs consistently uphill at altitude, we (really) took our time though and it was absolutely worth it. We had l seen photos but typically nothing matched it. It was the most beautiful sight and touching place and I'll let the photos speak for themselves.
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Our final night was one none of us will ever forget. We had drinks around a bonfire, presented gifts and songs to the incredible staff who had worked and travelled with us and embraced the last night in Bhutan we would have together. It really struck me how much love and experience I was surrounded with and I couldn't believed we'd met at the airport not even two weeks ago.
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I'm writing this about a month after leaving Bhutan, and I still can't get over how lucky I am. It's the most amazing, beautiful and interesting place and I got to experience it with a bunch of incredible people. It's a place and time I'll look back on fondly, and forever be so so grateful I handed in my application to go last minute on a whim.

Posted by isabellepurcell 19:28 Archived in Bhutan Tagged travel himalayas backpacking bhutan paro thimphu Comments (1)

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