Phuket – Thailand
First stop for some much need beach time and fantastic Thai food. Phuket in southern Thailand – giant island lined with beaches and covered in lush tropical mountains. Motorcycles everywhere and tuk-tuks – mini taxis crammed with people. We venture out to Koh Yao Noi and Six Senses Resort – an island paradise in Pha Nga Bay. Infinity pool, in distance sheer cliff islands, great snorkelling and beach visits.
There is ice-cream bar open all day – whatever flavour you want all homemade, chef runs cooking classes with lots of ingredients picked from three organic gardens, spa is huge and complete. The bar has the most amazing view. Spend a few days in Kalama Beach at Cape Sienna with gorgeous views and great, but busy beach. Wonderful visit to Amanpuri Resort for lunch and Thai tea … delicious little pancakes. Days spent visiting Buddha monuments, elephant riding and eating most delicious food – so spicy it makes your ears ache. Beaches and swimming in warm and calm sea. Crazy night life in Patong and Kata…
Wats and Where
Arrived after crippling 30+ hours from Toronto to smiling face of guide Bunchai in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Whisked off to the Foreign Correspondents Club where I am staying. A change of shoes and we leave for Tonle Sap, the massive freshwater lake that feeds and houses and transports so many in this ancient centre of Cambodia. Drive an hour through villages, rice paddies, rows of vendors line highway selling rice cooked inside bamboo cylinders over coals – food on the run Cambodian style. We turn off tarred road onto red dirt track, raised high above flood levels, houses literally cling to banks of the road on stilts.
Longtail boat waits for us at bridge below golden temple, on either side fisherman’s houses hang out over river (in wet season they are at water-level), many have floating gardens of greens, fishnets everywhere and skinny dogs. The poverty is overwhelming; men stand all day in the shallows casting nets for perhaps a bucket full of bait sized fish. Boats pass us with petrol, palm oil and inexpensive Chinese housewares – bound for shoppers who live in the floating villages out in the lake.
Evening in town with ride on back of motorcycle – no side saddle thank you. Dinner at Sugar Palm of delicious Khmer food – crispy shrimp cake, Khmer curry with distinct flavour. Feels like I have been here a week already.
The Temples of Angkor Wat
French Indochina left legacy of colonial buildings in French Quarter of Siem Reap as well as remnants of French cuisine – flaky croissants and coffee make for sunrise breakfast before leaving for temples of Ta Prohm. We have temples to ourselves, trees gown over ancient walls and fantastic reliefs. Restoration work has given new life to rubble. There are miles and miles of pathways and hidden ruins many of which we get to.
Angor Wat, saved for last. We leave hotel before first light and walk in darkness to lake in front of temple. We watch sunrise and then wander the acres of ruins. Trees are taking over whole sections and monks wander through at random. At end of day, we board sweet longtail loaded with canapés and cocktails for final sunset float around the moat which surrounds the temples. Final night spent having cocktails at lovely colonial Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor and then in chaotic night market. Final day here before Thailand – breakfast at La Residence – Orient Express zen property in town for lunch and and tea at Amansara. Well fed and well informed for one last back of motorcycle outing to the night markets. Bhutan bound tomorrow…