Cambodia Part 2: Siem Reap

~By:  Amanda

Waking up refreshed a few hours later it was time to enjoy the party scene in Siem Reap. We started the night at our new favorite place Charley’s with a few glasses of sparkling wine. We found Temple Bar for dinner, the colorful atmosphere grabbed our attention and we settled at a table facing the street, perfect for people watching. The drink menu had quite the interesting selection of shots, including the “Red Hospital Set” because nothing says “lets get drunk” like fake syringes full of red junky alcohol. Ultimately, we chose a bucket of some fruity sounding concoction, which showed up with flowers floating on top.

We spent the rest of the night charging up and down Pub Street testing out every bar. Pub Street is the Siem Reap equivalent to Khaosan road in Bangkok. We ventured in and out of all the divey bars drinking delicious local beers for next to nothing and enjoying the music. Pub street is fun, but nothing compares to Khaosan road in Bangkok, for us at least, and I am pretty sure nothing ever will.

Our last full day of our trip needed to be chill before we headed back to cold and snowy NYC.We spent the morning relaxing at the pool, enjoying wine and cheese from the convenience store down the street. The interesting thing about Siem Reap is that they attempt to cater to the western cultured visitors by having available proper English biscuits and decent wine and cheeses in both convenience stores and restaurants. I am not sure how I feel about this, since on one hand after 30 days of Southeast Asia it was nice to have something different, more like the flavors from home. However, my motto (besides YOLO) is “When in Rome” and nothing annoys me more than complainig visitors who have an inability to adapt to something new. Feel where you are, and learn about it; otherwise, why leave home?

Our calm morning left little time for a full day’s excursion. So after (you guessed it) another google search, we found a distillery which makes flavored spirits from rice wine. After getting lost three times, we finally found a tuk tuk who knew where the Sombai Distillery was located. Before your free tasting, the guide gives you a tour of the shop and explains the history of the liquor and their distillation process. The liquor is sold in intricate bottles hand painted by young artists in Cambodia. After the tour we were given a tasting of all eight flavors. It was difficult to choose a favorite from the unique combinations. The good news was buying a few of these finished out the gifts I needed to purchase for friends and family back home. Its rude to travel a month and not bring home something for mom and dad, and well, they like alcohol— the apple didn’t fall far from the tree!

For our last supper we wanted traditional Cambodian cuisine. Our hotel recommended Viroth’s restaurant which also had a nice rating on TripAdviser. Viroths’s was fancy enough to have white tablecloths and higher priced than most places we would have selected on a backpacking trip, but on your last night you might as well go all out. Even then, the bill didn’t touch what I would have spent on a similar meal in Manhattan. Pretty much everything on the menu sounded amazing and we ordered like it was our last meal, because YOLO! I couldn’t possibly remember what we ordered, but I know we considered licking the plates. Overdoing it on the food and wine made us sleepy and we called it an early night.

Red-eye flights leave late, so we still had a full day to kill before heading to Seoul to make our connection back to the US. We only had a hotel until 12 noon, but it wasn’t a problem, as the hotel promised to hold our luggage while we killed time. We had 26 hours of travel ahead of us, plus a long day in one of the most hot and humid countries in the world. As much as we wanted to do that waterfall tour, I couldn’t bear to fly back sticky and smelly. Our only option was to get massages in the cool, air conditioned spas and day drink. Life is hard.

We headed back to Charley’s once again for much needed lunch and sparkling wine. Nachos, that what I rememer, yummy nachos. After about three glasses of heaven we started getting ideas. The walls of Charley’s are covered with custom placards, which they will create for $20. We decided that we needed to commemorate the end of our trip and be immortalized at our favorite bar. We indulged in one last massage while our plaque was being created. We returned to find our plaque just the way we requested and hung it on the wall, toasting with one last sparkling wine.

We learned there was an annual puppet parade that evening in celebration of the community’s efforts for the arts. The timing correlated perfectly and would end just before we needed to grab a tuk tuk for the airport. We settled in at a patio table in a bar along the route and at dusk the parade began. The giant ‘puppets’ are paper mache and are lit from within, so that they glow in the night. It is proper, but not required, to give donations so choose a couple of favorites and throw them a couple of bucks.

After the lights and music died, we scampered back to our hotel and collected our bags for the airport. Mr. Makara was not available to make the airport transfer, but the hotel staff informed us that it should cost no more than $5 for a tuk tuk. Locating a driver on the street, I verified the price. We enjoyed the last crisp breeze of a tuk tuk ride as we sped back to the airport.

Upon arrival the airport, I handed the driver a $10 and asked for $3, giving a dollar tip for each of us. He immeditaly began to argue, “No no no it was $10 total, $5 per person.” No, wrong! I refuse to be swindled. I kindly offered to get the policeman nearby to assist with handing the disagreement and the tuk tuk driver quickly changed his tune and gave me the proper change. Never feel bad for standing up for what is right. I know it was only $3, however the principle of the matter is, he was trying to cheat us.


Checking in for the flight, I felt the sadness I always do at the end of a trip. I began to wish I was back in Singapore, fresh as a daisy, my backpack still smelling like it hadn’t gone through a tsunami of smells. I considered all the amazing moments over the last 5 weeks, savoring the details about each unique culture that makes up southeast Asia. I already couldn’t wait to explore more of Indonesia and Vietnam. Being on limited time, we had only scratched the surface. Of course, we would be back to our beloved Thailand, but the next trip was not planned until September, seven months away. Taking it all in, I realized….. this is why I travel, I go, this is my calling. I can never get enough and so the life of the nomad.

Check out part one of our adventure, Cambodia, exploring the temples of Angkor Wat

Way too Wanderlust Recommends

Charley’s: 98 Hospital Street, Siem Reap Cambodia +855 12 181 4001

Temple Bar: Pub street, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Sombai: 176 Sombai Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia +855 09 581 0890

Viroth’s Restaurant:  246 Wat Bo Street, Siem Reap Cambodia +855 12 826 346


~By: Amanda

As much as I love traveling in a large group, you get to see things from a much different perspective when traveling with only one or two other people. I was fortunate to experience Angkor Wat this way, one of the world’s most beautiful sites, which is how I suppose the universe intended. Touching down in Cambodia at the end of a very long backpacking trip through Asia, my party light was extinguished, and it was time to be spiritual and calm to see one of Buddhism’s largest monuments. Don’t get me wrong though, I still had a complimentary beer on the flight from Bangkok.


Cambodia has one of the most efficient visa processes in the world. Utilizing a visa upon arrival program, with an assembly line that made me shiver; I thrive on efficiency. The visa forms are dispensed on the in-bound flight. Because we had done our research, we had our $35 and passport pictures ready. We were in and out in less than 15 minutes— on-ward to fun! Strategizing properly for once in our lives, we hit the ATM asap since we were in need of local currency, as they don’t take Thai baht in Cambodia. What they do take is USD. Seriously, it’s actually preferred. The ATMs offer the option to choose between Cambodian Riel or USD. Choose $$$, as everywhere accepts the Riel, but we definitely got some disapproving looks.


For accommodation we choose the Damnak Kunthea Villa, which had an amazing pool and balcony area, so we could secure our tans before flying back to NYC. The hotel provided a complimentary shuttle from the airport, which is where we met Mr. Makara, who was soon to become our new best friend. After settling in at Viva Restaurant, we sat down to plan our next few days. They had a margarita happy hour, so we ordered drinks and nachos and got our google on.

Guided fancy tours for Angkor Wat were far out of our price range. The best way to visit the site is to hire a tuk tuk driver for the day. Our hotel offered the services of Mr. Makara and we determined this was the best option within our budget, plus his tuk tuk was pretty. Two options were offered: the extended tour and the short tour. But the short tour still covered a great deal of ground and most of the important ruins. My memory is fuzzy from a year of beer, but I believe the cost for the short tour was $20-25 with an additional $5 for the sunrise tour. Trust me, pay the extra $5 and get out of bed for the sunrise over Angkor Wat! I know you are tired, but stop drinking buckets early for one night and see some culture. If I can, so can you!!

With an incredibly early morning planned, we opted for a namaste evening of shopping, massages and exploring the city. Stumbling upon Charley’s, we decided to have a quick night cap before heading to bed. While it doesn’t seem like much from the outside, once inside you definitely feel the western influence on this bar. Don’t judge; after a month of Southeast Asia we were ready for something that felt more like home. Much to our delight sparkling wine was on the menu for $2.50. I love bubbles! A recent Buzzfeed quiz told me that if I was a drink, I would be champagne. I accept this.

The next morning before the sun even considered peaking over the horizon we were out of bed and meeting up with Mr. Makara. The hotel staff had packed us a to-go breakfast and we set off in the dark towards Angkor Wat. Since Angkor Wat is considered a sacred Buddhist temple it is important to keep in mind the attire you choose for that day. It is highly offensive to wear reveling clothing or show an excessive amount of skin. Ladies this means no tank tops, a short sleeve shirt works nicely or bring a pashmina to cover the shoulders. Short dresses and shorts are prohibited as well.


We soon realized half of the other tourists in Siem Reap had the same plan to see the sunrise that morning and we joined a convoy of tuk tuks headed down the road. At the entrance of the Angkor Wat complex, you are required to pay the $20/pp entrance fee into the ruins. Discounted 3 and 7 day passes are available. Be forewarned, the entrance fee to Angkor Wat will rise to $37 for the day pass as of February 2017. This process was a complete mess and several lines of anxious tourists spiraled backwards, creating a huge crowd. Angkor Wat entrance fees must be paid in cash and once again, they want those green USD.


A throng of activity welcomes you as the tuk tuk pulls up to the parking area near the big temple. Mr Makara dropped us off and pointed to the general location where we could find him later. Thank God that tuk tuk was an easy to spot bright green. With the crowd, we crept through the dark towards the Grand Temple. In hindsight a flashlight would be a useful tool to stash in the day bag. Luckily the iPhone has a fantastic flashlight function and in unison our cell phones lit the path.


We all settled down next to a lake forward of the main ruins and waited for the sun to creep over the horizon. The sky began to lighten and highlight the ruins in pinks and oranges with hints of purple, creating a beautiful outline of the temple against the sky, which soon faded into a blue as then the sun poked over the horizon. With the sun now shining over the landscape we set out to explore the ruins, starting with the main temple. The architecture of this ancient structure is fascinating, considering the intricate detail they used with such little technology. I mean, they didn’t even have an iPhone flashlight.

After getting all the Instagram worthy photos we needed from this temple, we retraced our steps to the parking lot and found Mr. Makara napping in a hammock rigged up on the tuk tuk; not a bad way to kill time. We set off for the next part of the tour and while interesting and wonderful, all the temples began to run together. The day had grown hot, plus this ancient culure seemed to have a thing for stairs. Towards the end, we were more delighted by the stray dogs napping in the street.

Exhausted and sweaty after a long morning, it was time for lunch and a beer. By this time we had been exploring for about 6 hours. Honestly, unless you’re a history enthusiast or that person who must see everything, the half day tour will suffice. It gets hot midday and the exhaustion of getting up at 4 am and climbing a million steps will inevitably get to you. I was highly impressed by the precision of the architecture, the details of the faces depicting ancient gods and the sheer size of these temples, but I really like lunch too. Even after a month in southeast Asia, spring rolls never get old and we washed them down with the local beer. It was time for our afternoon nap and we headed back to town to succumb to exhaustion.

Read about the Angkor Wat after party in part 2, exploring Siem Reap

~By: Amanda

Way too Wanderlust Recommends

Damnak Kunthea Villas: 112 Wat Damnak, Krong Siem Reap Cambodia +855 78 792 976 booked via

Viva: #697, Group 10, Mondol 1 Svay, Siem Reap Cambodia +855 63 963 151

Charley’s: 98 Hospital Street, Siem Reap Cambodia +855 12 181 4001

Cambodian Visa Info:….for Americans

Phi Phi Boat Cruise 

~By:  Amanda

Having a large posse of travel buddies definitely has its benefits. While vacationing on The Phi Phi islands in Thailand, our group of 11 allowed us to affordably rent a private speed boat to visit the neighboring islands. After negotiating with several travel agencies on Phi Phi Don we rented a boat and hired a two man crew for approximately 11,500 Thai bhat, after math about $30 per person. Before heading out for our trip, we stocked up on snacks and a lot of beer. Our itinerary included Bamboo and Monkey islands, before speeding off to deeper waters for snorkeling. Snorkeling equipment was provided with the boat.

Our last stop was the famous Phi Phi Lee, which is the beautiful and uninhabited island, where a bulk of the movie Thek Beach was filmed. Here we spent the remainder of the day playing in the clear shallow waters and sunning on the white sand beach.

The interior of the island is a small sandbar seated between two towering limestone rocks. Here you can explore the national park and visit the memorial for the travelers camping on the island when the 2005 tsunami hit. Our wonderful boat crew concluded our day with a snack of fresh, delicious pineapple! If you can gather a large enough crew to make a private boat tour of the Phi Phi islands, we highly recommend this option as you can tailor your itinerary and enjoy the scenic islands in a far more intimate setting!

Check out our other Thailand blogs

Ha Long Bay Party Cruise, Vietnam

~By:  Amanda

When planning our trip to Vietnam, I was told the Ha Long Bay Cruise was the number one thing… the must do experience. After several Google searches Anna and I determined that a Party Cruise versus the traditional cruise (full of old people) was the best choice for our group. There are many websites for Vietnamese based tour companies, I actually found the best deals through We selected Ha Long Party Cruise for $110 which was inclusive of all meals and transport between an Old Quarter hotel in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay.

The shuttle van far exceeded the expectations for our group of 8 and contained charging outlets and a television /DVD player. The coach style seats reclined allowing for the most ideal sleeping position you can have in a motor vehicle. About half way to Ha Long Bay the shuttle van stops at a tourist center with restroom facilities, shopping and a snack bar. Of course we bought roadies for the continuation of our journey and ice cream flavored Oreos😍


Upon arrival at the pier we were ushered to a covered waiting area, before boarding our traditional style Chinese Junk Boat. All the cabins are  air conditioned and have an en-suite bathroom, however mediocre in decor, but what do you expect with party boat. Presents of two beers per person and a bottle of water were laid out on the beds Santa Claus style. There was a large dining and social area with a bar and roof-top deck with lounge chairs. Upon arrival on the boat, lunch was served. Traditional Vietnamese style food was served family style. Each dish was spectacular and many left us scraping our plates. The cruise company can accommodate most dietary restrictions if notified in advance. Two of us elected to be vegetarian for our stay in Vietnam, as we heard cat and dog are common menu choices for dinner, terrifying!

Timing is everything and as much as Vietnam is part of Southeast Asia, Ha Long Bay actually sits further north on the latitude scale, making a boat cruise in January quite cold. As luck would have it we also chose the week it decided to rain, cutting out half the planned itinerary. Still bundled up and with beers for warmth we sailed towards the Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace cave). The Ha Long cave system is one of the largest in the world. The guide on-board the cruise leads you thru on a tour of this beautiful cave.

img_8658 img_8649

Back on the boat with kayaking, swimming and snorkeling being a bit too titanic-esque, the decision was made to open the bar and  start the ‘party’ early. With rain pouring down our group crowded around a dining table to play drinking games. Beverage prices on-board were fair and the bar staff keeps a tally to settle at the conclusion of the cruise. We snuck a bottle of Absolut and mixers on board to save cash, however that quickly drowned amongst 8 friends.

Dinner was served in the same manner as lunch and was exceptionally filling and delicious. After dinner the lights were dimmed and be DJ began spinning hits as the party kicked into high gear. Dancing and drinking games dotted the room and at this point, typical Patty started buying trays of shots for the group. This is also where I stop, because what happens on the boat stays on the boat and we will leave it at that. Also I really just don’t remember!  Turning in at 3:30 I could still hear the bass shattering thru my cabin.

Seven-thirty am comes awful early after a night of fun and the cruise does require a ridiculous check out of 8:30.img_8643 After another filling and delicious breakfast with, thankfully, gallons of coffee the group is split between those with 1 and 2 night bookings. Due to our weather constraints we spent the morning watching the rain and chilling in the dining area before our cooking class. The boat staff gives an excellent demonstration on how to make spring rolls and after much practice we too are now well versed in the art of making this yummy snack.

Before departing the boat, lunch is served because hadn’t we already gained 5 pounds on this boat? Luckily we received our same fancy shuttle coach back to the Old Quarter of Hanoi and all taking a much needed nap! Our future plans to visit Vietnam defiantly include another Ha Long Bay boat cruise, likely the 2 night option, this time in a proper season to swim in the bay!

~By:  Amanda


Way too Wanderlust Recommends

Ha Long Party Cruises booked via
Bai Chay Wharf, Ha Long, Vietnam

Do or die
•Always check the weather
•Always pack a deck of cards