Thursday, June 28, 2012

I'm going to Cambodia. No biggie.

For those who haven't heard yet: my summer plans are official. I'm going to be flying to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) four weeks from today (woah!) and spending twelve days mostly in Cambodia before flying out of Bangkok.
Originally I was thinking I'd spend a fe days in Saigon and a couple in Bangkok, but I'm thinking now that I'll focus this trip on Cambodia, trying to get some tropical into my life.
It will be rainy season, which makes travel a bit tougher, but the jungle is supposed to be emerald green, the country's usual layer of dust traded for a lustrous shine and terrible mud pits for roads.
Eh, it happens. I think it'll be worth it. It's not like I had a choice for when my vacation time is.
In addition, monsoon season causes the Tonle Sap lake to flood a nearby forest, submerging the bottom chunks of trees, creating what is known as the flooded forest.
That'll be me in that canoe.
Photo Credit
Angkor Wat
Photo credit for Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
And of course there's the largest religious building in the world - Angkor Wat, part of the complex of Angkor temples outside of Siem Reap,

which also contains Bayon, home of over 200 iconic giant carved smiling faces, as well as the where much of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed: tree-root covered Ta Prohm.

Planning has been crazy, as planning a huge, international trip is apt to be, but I love it. I pour over my (somewhat disappointing) Lonely Planet, scour internet forums, and spend far too much tome comparing tour companies for the few things I think would be easiest by tour (such as mt journey on the Mekong from Saigon to Phnom Penh).
I found a really excellent-looking tour agency that is doing a special at the moment for buy-one-get-one urban adventures- if you book by the 30th! They're half- and full-day tours of a city (or starting in a city and going somewhere nearby), and at buy-one-get-one, why not! I only have so much time, and so I know I will need to take a few tours to get the most out of my journey. I'll probably do one in Phnom Penh and another as a day-trip from Siem Reap. I was thinking of adding a second in either one of those cities and doing one in Bangkok, as well. When they'e two for $40-50, they're hard to resist.

As you can tell, I've gotten a bit obsessed with the whole planning thing, but that's half the fun (who am I kidding, hopefully only 1/100th of the fun)! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

So apparently my last post was in March... Say wha??

I haven't posted in quite a while, I know. I've mostly just been settling in to life here, so there's not much to talk about.
Recently, though, I've taken a couple trips: one to Seoul where I accidentally saw a lantern festival and one to the beach, where I stayed in a pimped out penthouse and plopped my ass in the sand.
The thing about living in another country is that everything is remarkable and everything is the same. To me, this is just my life now, but I'm trying to come up with something to say, because I know that even though it's just daily life to me, it's interesting because it takes place on the other side of the globe.
Lotus Lantern Festival
About a month ago now (maybe more??) I went to Seoul, simply because I hadn't really been yet. I informed my boyfriend that he would be joining me (as if he didn't want to see the capital of our current county of residence) and then he promptly forgot until I mentioned it the night before we left. Guess how much planning I had done at that point. Yeah... I find that's generally the best way for me, though. I booked a hostel while on the way to the bus station on Saturday and barely knew what I wanted to see. 
It's a good thing we didn't have much of a plan, because that left us googling at our hostel (The Kimchi Guesthouse in Hongdae, a pretty decent place, especially for the money), where we discovered a lantern festival was happening. Our friends wanted to meet up there, and we set off to find them.

We never did.

That's okay, it was awesome anyway.

On the Saturday night we stumbled upon a giant parade.
*This will be one of those times when I mention how odd it can be to be a foreigner here.*
As we were standing to the side of the road, taking pictures, a woman comes up to me... and puts a shirt on me. Not gives me the shirt, this woman puts it on me.
And then procedes to photograph me.
Photographing in my beautiful new shirt
This country can get on your nerves sometimes, but that was just hilarious.
Other than the parade, we saw some stereotypical tourist sites in Seoul, like the gyeongbok palace and then we (I) did some shopping. It was a nice weekend, but I definitely have more to see and will be going back.
Some more lanterns from the parade
Blub blub
The main lantern design, the lotus (it was the lotus lantern festival, after all).
These two ladies smiled nicely for me =)

The other trip I've been on so far was to the beach. A few weeks ago (the weekend before my birthday, Memorial Day weekend in the States) was a holiday here as well as back home. Generally, Memorial Day weekend maks the beginning of the summer season, and so what better place to go for the weekend than the beach!
I think I'm the person about a third in from the left, but I'm not sure, Ed took this...
Koreans don't really do the beach, they don't like the sun (hence the amazing skin), so the beach was pretty deserted, which worked for us. The sun was also pretty patchy, but I definitely got some color. Mostly it was just nice to have a wekend way from Cheongju to relax and drink with friends. Which brings me to another odd thing here: no open container laws. Run to the mini mart, buy some beer and/or soju, and go drink it on the beach. perfectly legal.
Then we went back to our PENTHOUSE (I did mention that, right?)
Super excited about our penthouse!
 that the eight of us kinda accidentally ended up in and had a jolly old time until the wee hours of the morning. Rinse and repeat the next day.