The city that never sleeps

The city might not sleep, but we did after finally arriving after 1am to Broadway Hotel and Hostel.

First day of finding our feet around New York City. One of those places you don’t have to go far before you see something you recognise.

Finally made it through Central Park after getting sidetracked by the vista of the southern skyline.

Had to have a pretzel!
Arrived off the subway into the downtown area to be greeted by very amiable ticket touts trying to sell boat trips to see the Statue of Liberty. Having done my research regarding the sightseeing, I knew Staten Island ferry was free and had views of the French icon.

She seemed a lot smaller than I expected, but then we weren’t up close.

The New York City skyline from the Staten Island ferry.
Quick turnaround at Staten Island, getting off the boat to queue up to then get back on the same boat to head back to the city. We would have explored Staten Island but there was nothing of real interest there, that we knew of.

Downtown is packed full of sights, we walked through the financial district, Wall Street to get to ground zero and the new One World Trade Centre.
The icon of the financial district is the big bronze bull. It drew a large crowd of people wanting to touch it. Maybe it’s considering financially lucky? 

Now the tallest building in New York as far as I have seen so far, the One World Trade Centre that now stands over the Ground Zero pools.
Felt a bit bad smiling for selfies for these considering what they represent.

Was early afternoon and we hadn’t stopped to eat (apart from the pretzel, but that doesn’t count!)
We re-fuelled and then found a Welsh link.
The white horse tavern. The pub that the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas apparently drank in when he visited New York.

Doesn’t surprise me, he was fond of a drink! 


Beautiful Bali

Started the day with super healthy breakfast at the cafe on the corner by the villa, Remix & co.

Took a dicey motorcycle ride with Laura to the ATM. (The roads were dicey, not Laura’s driving.) Today is the day before Nyepi, or silence day. 

This evening will be a huge festival and procession where they burn effigies of the evil spirits, Ogoh Ogoh. 

Tomorrow, silence day is basically Bali on lock down. No one is allowed out of their homes, no entertainment, no noise, no lights on, no working, and no pleasure. 

So we have to stock up on food and snacks or it will be a fasting day for us!
Once we had done all the boring shopping we hired a driver to take us to to the temple in Tabanan.

You can wade through the water to this temple, have a wash in the holy water while a snake looks on, then the monks place some rice on your third eye and a flower in your hair.

On our drive home we passed a few of the Ogoh Ogoh models that will be burned later.

Messed around in the pool for a hour or so before it was time to get ready for the festival.

Leaving gifts for the gods.

We waited for darkness to fall and the procession of the demons began. 

After all this excitement it’s now time to batten down the hatches and prepare to be silent for silent day. Ha! 

Desired chill out day

After all the temple walking I was ready for a day of doing very little, maybe sit in a cafe and watch the world go by and possibly a massage…
Miles is staying at a 5 star hotel with his family, which has a pool. So a day chilling by the pool would be perfect. 

This was nice while it lasted. Or at least until Miles got bored of sitting around!

We hired a tuk tuk just to take us to town for some lunch, the driver offered to take us to see the sights and said he would wait for us while we have our lunch.
I had suggested the Cambodian BBQ place as it sounded a bit different. 

You have a big metal cooker put on the table with a load of vegetables and some pork fat.

They pour in stock and butter and you have a selection of meats to cook on the dome.

We had all the usuals, chicken, beef, pork. Then some unusuals, crocodile, shark, and swordfish.

It was pretty good, but there’s something about eating bitty food, doesn’t quite do it for me. 
This particular restaurant is on Pub Street, where various beggars come to you at your table while you are trying to eat. This doesn’t make for the best dining experience.
Once we’d settled the bill, which took longer than needed as none of our twenties were good enough, (establishments won’t take your notes if it’s crumbled or torn or written on, which is crazy. It’s money) we went back to our tuk tuk driver and he took us to the war museum, which personally I had no intention of visiting, but it was pretty enjoyable. Mainly by the big kid Miles playing with all the guns and even suggesting I pose with some artillery. 

Yeh, I felt stupid. But it lightened the mood a little, some of the info at this museum is really dark. Like most of the equipment was tiny, because it was built for children to operate. There were photos of children in full war gear. And the free museum guides were war veterans. Just a bit disturbing.
We were taken to the Killing Fields next, again, a place I wouldn’t really want to visit as although it’s an important part of the history of this country, I don’t like the horror of it.
They have built a stupa which contains the skulls and bones they have found so far from the mass genocide.

When we walked around, there were Buddhist monks living in the area. It seemed to be washing day as there were a lot of orange sheets on the washing lines.

I was done with history after all this. It makes me feel a bit sick that so many people died needlessly.
We found a candy shop, just to add a bit more diversity to the day.

You can watch them make the candy right there in the shop!
After this Miles went back to meet his family for a show, and I walked back to my hostel, but not before stopping for an ice cream.

I am attempting to plan the rest of my time here in Cambodia, but every time I sit in a cafe and get my books out I get distracted or side tracked by all the possibilities!
As today was meant to be relaxing I thought I would indulge in a massage. Massage by the blind are popular here, I went with the one that was recommended in the book as apparently there are some places that exploit the blind, and I wasn’t about to support them.
It was a bit of a surreal experience, it was a male masseur, which I’ve never had before, coupled with the obvious fact he was blind.
He definitely knew what he was doing, and was quite firm on my poor temple-tired legs. 
Bit of a weird moment when he asked me to lay on my back, opened my legs and got up onto the table to massage the tops of my thighs!

He also massaged my stomach which isn’t really done anywhere else, he dug the heels of his hands into my belly, and pressed on pressure points I didn’t know were there.
Once my massage was complete I was saturated with oil, which did keep the mosquitoes off! I went back to the restaurant opposite my hostel for food with the intention of eating, showering then napping. 
I then made friends with an Australian, Ben. So we had dinner together and swapped travel stories. He’s been to Battenbang which is my next destination, so he was able to offer some suggestions for tours and places to stay.
After dinner I definitely had to wash this oil off. It was Miles’ last night so we met on Pub street to enjoy some last drinks in Siem Reap.
The Irish bar was quiet and away from the booming of pub street so we spent most of the night there until they closed and we were kicked out. We then found a cafe with Predator outside!

But it was closed, we stumbled across a sports bar, when we asked what time they closed they said ‘When the customers leave’. So clearly we were drinking here! They were still serving food too, so I did have a bacon sandwich. Just because I could! 

By now it was past one in the morning. Time to sleep. Tomorrow is my last full day in Siem Reap and I still haven’t properly planned my next move! 

Boat Trip…the curse of Monkey Island

Early start after a fitful sleep in the cheap-as-chips hostel, a cockerel decided 1am was the best time to start crowing and set off the whole neighborhood of roosters!
Met Gary (the Scottish guy) outside his hotel where they were picking up for the boat trip. 
All aboard the boat and the scenery is like something out of a film…

The boat is full of travelers of all ages and all nationalities.

I just did the whole turn up and hope for the best thing today, so didn’t know what to expect or what to prepare. 

We came to our first stop where we were paired off into kayaks to make our way around and through the caves. I felt like I was on the set for Jurassic Park or something. 

Made it back to the boat without falling in! 

While our food was going down the boat took us to a place to swim.

The water was a lot colder than I expected! 

Drying off in the sun while the boat takes us to the Monkey Island.

Arrived at monkey island, the boat pulls up to shore and we had to walk down a tiny gangplank with a bamboo held by a boat hand as a banister.

There was a walk to the peak of the hill on the island, not prepared at all for any part of this trip, I made my ascent in flip flops. I did make it to the top, it was a lot of work. 

It was a scary walk, and I’ve walked plenty of cliffs in my time. 

With the added pressure of the fact that there was only one way up and the same way down, so you had to clamber past everyone who was trying to get up once you were on your way down.
Made it back out onto the sand!

Enjoyed a pop in the bar, before a monkey came to steal it! 

Lantern Festival

After stuffing our faces with Korean fried chicken (like southern fried chicken but slightly sweeter in my opinion) and having a cwtch with a giant teddy bear, we made our way to a village to check out the Lantern Festival.

Lantern festival and Flower festival is the last day of Chinese New Years, the streets are decorated with, well, lanterns, and people exchange roses. This tradition was meant to be a symbol of you actually fancying someone in your village, but now it’s just giving a rose to get one. 

Reminiscent of watching Santa switch the lights on in town ready for Christmas, people everywhere crowding into a tiny area to see the lights and lanterns.

Being the only foreigners at the event, we seemed to draw a crowd ourselves, to the point of us being interviewed for the news. 

This was pretty horrific for me, as I don’t actually like being videoed, (as you can probably tell from my forced ‘what the hell is happening right now’ smile) Marian was a pro! 

We came across the temple of fire and thunder, which had been all dressed up with neon lights and blasting out techno music.

One way to get the youth of today into a temple! 

We followed the crowd up to the main temple of the village Fudiyijhi where everyone was burning incense and candles. 

By this time we were pretty knackered after all the walking, interviews and selfies with random Chinese people. 

So a quiet walk home around the lake lead to this view.

Never let go Jack…never let go

So the Titanic theme is following us today. Having breakfast of dim sum in a building similar to a hangar, the theme from titanic playing whenever an order was ready.

Marian helped me post my gifts back home, apparently they will take about 6 weeks, so keep an eye out guys! 

I need some Dong (giggles to self) for Vietnam, the banks are closed on Saturday, and usually you have to wait about a week (depending on the currency) for them to order it in, plus the forms, passport approval and photocopies etc etc. 

Instead we visited some little old Chinese ladies who hang out outside the bank ready to change your RMB into anything. Obviously for not as good a rate as the bank, but they are far friendlier and I think they earn their commission sitting outside all weathers! 
So I now have Dong.  

So we’re now sitting in Kaweisi and the Titanic theme starts playing again! 

Traveling and self discovery

You not only learn about the world when you travel. You learn a lot about yourself.
I came to China with the intention of working here for a year and using my new location as a base to visit and explore surrounding Asia. 
I thought my itchy feet were a result of staying in Swansea for so many years, feeling trapped, knowing there’s so much to experience on this planet.

As it turns out, even being tied to a year contract abroad makes me feel uncomfortable and the yearning for further travel and exploration has bubbled back up to the surface. 
So I have booked to go to Vietnam on Valentine’s Day (because I love me) and have an explore around there while I decide what my next move is after that.