សូមអរគុណអ្នក, សៀមរាប!

I realized that I never finished writing about the Cambodia leg of our trip that we had until I saw that it’s been almost a year since this happened. (Almost, because this time last year was the Bangkok leg of the trip.) Then I saw this in my drafts, and I thought – why not post it on the anniversary?

Massive photo dump. And I may not remember the order of the places we went to. But even so, that Siem Reap trip was a good one. I think I kind of fell in like with Cambodia after that, and now I smile every time a photo of the Angkor Wat or Ta Phrom or any of the temples appear on my feed.

So here’s a very, very late recap, because  I kind of want to reminisce. :)

I am no stranger to crossing borders in trains, I realized, as I was thinking of how to start this post. I realized that I had done that several times when I was in Europe – when I rode the train from Switzerland to Paris, then Vienna back to Switzerland. Somehow, this border crossing from Thailand to Cambodia felt different, perhaps because of the company, and the fact that the Asian experience was different from the European one.

So early morning on the third day in Bangkok, we headed over to the train station at Hua Lamphong to ride a train to Aranyaprathet. I didn’t have high expectations for the train, based on the blogs I’ve read, and I was glad that I didn’t, because the it was a third class train, very much unlike the ones I rode in Europe. Nevertheless, I was in good company, so it was all right.

Bye, Bangkok!
Bye, Bangkok!

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siemreap02

It was a long, long train ride, though. We arrived at Aranyaprathet about an hour later than expected, and it was hot and we were tired, but we must press on! We rode a tuktuk, had lunch, had a money changing experience, and then we made our way to the border.

And then we were in Cambodia! But there was a bus ride, and then a long van ride, and we almost got lost in Siem Reap. Thank goodness our hotel owner was nice.

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Then, hello, Siem Reap!

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ขอบคุณ กรุงเทพฯ!

My first international trip was about 10 years ago, before my dad went to Saipan for work. We set off to Bangkok, Thailand that summer before junior year in college, which was a lot of firsts that I unfortunately wasn’t able to document. I never got to blog about it in my old blogs because I didn’t know what to say, nor what to write about, partly because there was a time that I was a bit of a brat back then. :P

But I remember one time while we were there, I told my dad that I wanted to go back, and that I wanted to travel more and he said that it’s a good place to visit with friends. I remember planning a trip mentally with my college friends but that never materialized, and Bangkok didn’t become a priority destination for me…

…until some book club friends brought up the topic of an Indochina backpacking trip. And of course I said yes.

So last October, after lots of planning, booking hotels, and grabbing really cheap airfares for a trip, some book club friends and I set off to our first international trip together, to Bangkok, Thailand (and later, Siem Reap, Cambodia). I was excited, mostly because of the company and the idea of traveling again before the year ends. I was excited about the place, but it has been so long since I was last there that I could hardly remember anything, except that I knew I wanted to eat everywhere instead of restaurants, because I didn’t get a chance to do that on my first time.

Sawasdee-kha, Bangkok!

Batch 1: All sleepy and eye-baggy, but ready to go to Bangkok! (Delayed flight, boo!)
Batch 1: All sleepy and eye-baggy, but ready to go to Bangkok!

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ありがとう日本!

When I was a kid, I fell in love with the Sailormoon series. I loved it so much that everyone in school associated it with me, and I even cried several times when I missed it, or when I watched a particular episode where they all died and such. It was my first introduction to anime, and I thought that because I loved Sailormoon, I would probably like other anime, too. Eventually, I watched some, and then because I was such an otaku (or so I thought), I found this how to speak Japanese booklet at home and started trying to learn it, because I thought it was cool and all that.

Then I just lost interest, and never really looked back. (Except when I catch some Sailormoon episodes that they air here every now and then.)

Here’s the thing: I never had Japan in my bucket list. I have friends who love everything Japan and Japanese – from music to food to TV shows and all that, and every time they talk about it, I just nod politely and listen. It’s not that I didn’t want to go – I just didn’t have it in my list of places I wanted to go to. I wasn’t as fascinated with Japan as I was with New York City, or Europe.

Then late last year, a friend called me and asked if I wanted to go to Osaka because there was a seat sale and they were about to book a flight. Being a Yes-girl to a lot of travel stuff like that (which is how I got to go to Jakarta last year in the first place), I said yes, and then ta-da! I had a ticket to Japan!

I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t do much research until a few weeks before the trip when we were working out our itinerary. We had five days there – less, because we arrive in the evening on our first day – and there was just so much that everyone in our group of 9 wanted to do. In the end, after we got our visas, we decided to go crazy over it: Osaka – Tokyo – Kyoto. All in five days.

Let me tell you: it was ambitious and achievable, but prepare for aching feet, long rides, and very quick stops. Because friends, three cities in five days = crazy. Even more so, Japan in five days = NOT. ENOUGH.

Time to let the pictures speak for themselves! (Photo dump!)

大阪

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It was raining on our first night, and we got lost on our way to the hotel. :D
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First group selfie at the hotel! :D
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The next morning, near the Osaka Castle. :)

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