Hello! My name is Kylie and this is my story traveling through Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam! This trip was one of the most beautiful travel experiences of my life. Southeast Asia offers a beautiful blend of culture, cuisine, and nature - and these 3 countries should not be missed. Read my travel story below, and be inspired to take your next journey to this part of the world!
DAY 1 BANGKOK, THAILAND
We finally arrived in Southeast Asia late last evening after nearly 24 hours of flights, passing through immigration, and a one hour bus ride from the airport to our hotel. We are staying at a beautiful little local boutique hotel set near the city center. At first glance – Bangkok is a city of bustling lights, lots of motor-taxis, tuk-tuks, and lots of street food!
For people who love food, this is a great place to be! By the time we got settled in it was approaching midnight, but some of us decided to head out and hit the night markets anyways…the smells of sweet lime and spicy chilies, the flavors of marinated meats, the sights of hundreds of people cooking and eating together – welcome to Southeast Asia.
We were excited to be here and anxious to get started bright and early in the morning with a cultural visit to the ancient capital city of Bangkok – a place that used to be called Ancient Siam. We toured around the beautiful palace, fed bread to giant carp, climbed to the top of temples, and even had distant encounters turtles and giant iguanas.
Later in the day we visited the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya – a place surrounded by giant monk statues in orange robes. We even had the change to see a handful of real monks walking around the grounds, pretty cool! Did you know that at age 6 you can be a monk? Monks live a life of celibacy and sacrifice. They dedicate much of their time to meditation and worship and eat only eat 2 meals a day – they cannot eat after 12:00pm.
We returned to Bangkok via a river cruise that let us see the entire city from the water – quite beautiful. We dined on a delicious Thai Buffet as we listened to the commentary on the history of each site we passed by. Did you know that Thailand has over 37,000 Buddhist Temples? Wow.
In the evening (after several hours escaping the heat in our hotel) we headed out for dinner overlooking the waterfront at a famous restaurant called Yok Yor, a famous local restaurant chain in the city. Here we indulged in menu of shrimp cakes, fried vegetables, and Tum Yum seafood soup. The menu was delicious and light – perfect after a heavy buffet lunch and a long day on our feet. At the end of the evening we were all very tired and hot, so we retired to our beds early, excited for what tomorrow brings us.
Tomorrow we are looking forward to having some time exploring the markets in the morning and obviously – indulging in an authentic Thai Cooking Class in the evening. Must I say, we are excited!
DAY 4 SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA (ANGKOR WAT)
Our boutique hotel here in Siem Reap is lovely – they fed us one of the most delicious breakfasts I have yet to try in Cambodia, complete with fruit picked fresh from the overhanging mango and papaya trees.
After breakfast we set off early, for a full morning exploring the largest buddhist temple complex in the world – Ankor Wat. Our guide and driver were both wonderful, both practicing Christians who used to be Buddhist. They represent the small (but strong) 5% of the Cambodian population that is not Buddhist. With their backgrounds in both religions, we learned a lot about how Ancient Eastern Religion (Buddhism) is similar in symbolism and practice to a Western Christian Faith; absolutely fascinating.
Ankor Wat is considered to be one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to understand why that is. We visiting three main sites today – Ta Prohm, The Bayron Temple, and the original Ankor Wat Complex. It took us most of the day, because there was just so much to do and see!
We walked amongst monkeys & elephants, climbed to the top of ancient temples, and explored the jungle canopy (even having the option to zip line through the treetops overlooking the ruins). We also learned a lot about the lives of monks – who wear orange robes as a respect to Buddha and a symbol of their loyalty to follow his teachings. Everything was so fascinating, it would have been absolutely impossible to remember it all!
Midday we took a break to attend a local church meeting (an optional addition to the itinerary). As we entered to chapel we were instructed to take our shoes off (as is customary here in Cambodia). The people here are so humble – and very welcoming.
We returned to Ankor Wat in the evening to see the sunset and capture the last of our stunning photographs of the complex. In the evening we were taken to a lovely dinner buffet and traditional Khmer Dance Show – that gave us a good glimpse into the ancient and modern fusion of culture that still exists in Cambodia today.
Tomorrow we are looking forward to our first Cambodian Cooking Class in a nearby village – it will be a real treat! The food here is so delicious - fish amok, papaya salad, and khmer curry are three of my favorites!
DAY 8 HO CHI MINH, VIETNAM
It couldn’t have been a better day. We spent the morning learning about Saigon city and it’s rich and controversial history. We visited the Vietnam War Museum, saw the Reunification Palace, and even toured Chinatown – before our cooking class even started!
In the afternoon we set out for our cooking class held at an Organic Farm just outside the city. This was by far one of our best cooking experiences. We learned how to make prawn coriander rice wraps, green mango salad, stewed mushroom and fish, and sweet banana spring roll. We were able to tour an organic farm, pick our own herbs, and even visit a mushroom farm – it was an incredible experience.
The next day we visited the Mekong Delta and went to two of the four islands, Unicorn Island and Turtle Island. We saw a traditional honey bee farm, a coconut-candy factory, a crocodile farm, and many beautiful artisan shops.
In the evening we came home and spent our last evening dining on traditional Pho, Bahn Mi, and Bahn Xeo. We even visited the night market and went souvenir shopping. It was a great last day! If you are ever in Saigon – eat at Pho Hung, one of the best Pho restaurants in Ho Chi Minh!