Monthly Archives: June 2013

Beyond the Beauty of Angkor Wat : Five Lessons I’ve Learned From My Travel in Siem Reap

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust

Traveling abroad is not only a matter of seeing new places we’ve never been to, or getting new stamp on our passport pages. Well, seeing my passport pages filled with foreign immigration stamps is exciting, but it is more exciting to recall the memories I’ve had in a place when I see the stamp of the country. The lessons I’ve learned also change the way I see things, sometimes. One of the most memorable places was Siem Reap, and here are 5 lessons I’ve learned when I was in this town.

1. Being friendly doesn’t have to make us becoming compliant

After a night of stay at @Hua Lamphong Hostel in Bangkok, I took a morning train to Aranyaprathet, the land border area between Thailand and Cambodia. It was a 3rd class train that departed at 05.55, and it took about 5 hours to reach Aranyaprathet. I saw some fellow travelers in the first two coaches, but I decided to sit in another coach, in an empty seat across a mid-aged man. He talked to me in Thai, but I told him -with my very limited Thai, of course- that I’m not a Thai. We ended up talking in sign language. Yay! I was becoming a Tarzan since then! Haha.. He then asked me whether I was a Buddhist or not, because he saw me wearing a bracelet that I got from a monk in Wat Arun. Thanks to my Thai language illiteracy, I had to demonstrate a monk praying, splashing some holy water to me, and putting a bracelet on my wrist!

In the midst of our absurd conversation, he showed me someone who sold a lottery, and he asked me to take picture of the lottery. So I took a photo of the lottery because it was interesting to me to see an official Thai government lottery. We don’t have that in Indonesia! Long story short, turned out he asked me to buy him some lottery. I didn’t mind to give some amount of money to him, but I wasn’t sure whether it was legal or not for a foreign citizen to buy lottery in Thailand. I thought it was just plain dumb if I got arrested because I bought some lottery that only worth USD 3! Ouch! So I told him politely that I didn’t want that lottery, and I didn’t have enough money to buy him one. Sometimes it’s good to just play safe 🙂

Thai Goverment Lottery

Thai Goverment Lottery

2. Travelers have common interest : to extend their dollars

When I got out of the train in Aranyaprathet, I knew I had to take tuk-tuk to Poipet, the border area in Cambodian side. The tuk-tuk driver told me it would cost me THB 100 (around USD 3) to get to Poipet. It was really cheap, but then I saw other two girls standing around me. So I started the conversation and asked them where they were gonna go, and we ended up sharing the tuk-tuk for three of us. The thing is, we didn’t only share the transport fare, but we also helped each other in the immigration office. I helped them watching over their bags when they were in line to get the visa, and they helped me spending time together so I didn’t feel dumb travelling alone. Moreover, the more people in a group, the safer it would be, because we could protect each other, and we could remind each other to use our common sense.

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The busy border between Thailand and Cambodia

3. When Plan A didn’t work, remember that there’s always plan B. And sometimes it works better!

So in Siem Reap I stayed in a mixed 8 beds dorm at Jasmine Family Homestay for two nights. I planned to do a full day Angkor Wat tour in the second day, and it would cost me USD 12 to USD 15 for renting the tuk-tuk. It was actually a good price for me, until Ryan, a Scottish room-mate of mine offered me to join him and other people to share the tuk-tuk fare. Well, who didn’t want the cheaper price? Plus, there would be some friends to talk with. Then I went down stair to the lobby, and turned out there were already 4 people who wanted to share the tuk-tuk, and it meant that there wasn’t any more space for me. So I went back to my first option ; renting tuk-tuk on my own. Not long after that, another room-mate of mine told me that she was gonna ride a bike to Angkor Wat. I then thought that it would be a good option to enjoy the site, plus, I still have friends to talk with. So, that night, at 11 pm, I decided to went out with my sleeping attire to rent a bike. Yes, I was ready to sleep at that time! And guess how much did I pay for renting a bike? USD 2 for a whole day! Bingo! Haha

Long story short, the next day I started riding my bike early in the morning. In the entrance there was a tourism police who controlled our ticket, and I didn’t have one! Haha.. But I know that God is everywhere! That police didn’t  mad at me, he offered to take me with his motorbike to get the ticket, instead. Well, even if I had to pay some money. It was much better than riding my bike for 5 km to get to the ticket booth! And finally I could see the sunrise at the Angkor Wat! 🙂

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Sunrise at the Angkor Wat

Riding bicycle was much more tiring than riding tuk-tuk, but the experience was incomparable. Riding bike allowed me to enjoy the site as well as the ride. Riding tuk-tuk will make me talk with other passengers and I wouldn’t pay attention to what happened around us. Meanwhile, riding bike gave me time to enjoy the view in silence, in solitude, without having to feel weird not talking to anyone.

Funny thing happened when we visited Bayon temple, where a lot of monkeys hung out that morning. We parked our bike and went visit the temple. Like only a minute after we parked the bikes, I heard that one of the bikes fell down. Turned out the monkeys were eating the mangosteens that Amy and Ivone kept in the bike front-basket. We were scared and tried to hold our laugh at the same time!

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Amy and Ivone tried to save their mangosteens from the naughty monkeys

4. Indonesians travel, too!

Yes, during my Bangkok days, I didn’t even meet any other Indonesian who traveled. But when I visited one of the temple in the Angkor Wat complex, I met two other Indonesian girls. It was funny that at the first time I apologized to them because I passed in front of them while they were taking pictures – in English, of course. But then I heard them chatting in Bahasa Indonesia, and I started to talk with them in my native language! Then we decided to ride our bikes together around the complex. We were almost lost, but it was good to laugh over our stupidity! Then I went back to my dorm room, and tadaaa!!! another surprise came to me! A new room mate came, and guess what? She was Indonesian! Double bingo! Then I asked her to dine out with me and two other Indonesian girls I met in Angkor Wat. We ate at Curry Walla, a cheap Indian restaurant near to night market. I was so happy to meet fellow Indonesians on my trip, that I didn’t realized that I was in Cambodia. I spontaneously called the waitress “Mbak” (sister in Indonesian language) that it burst our laugh that night! That night I learned that Indonesians travel, too! We are the explorer, we are the descendants of Gajahmada the conqueror! Haha

Another stupid thing happened when I was packing my backpack and talking with my Indonesian room mate in the dorm room. I coincidentally spilled my water, and I immediately took a towel to clean it up. After I finished packing my stuffs, I realized that there were two towels on my bed, a used and a new one. So whose towel did I use to clean the floor? Oh gosh! It was Ryan’s towel. Haha.. So I took my new towel, wrinkle it a bit, and put it on the floor, beside Ryan’s bed which was next to my bed. I told this stupid incident to my Indonesian roommate and we laughed together. Oh, I was too excited to talk in Bahasa Indonesia that I lost my brains!

5. Age doesn’t always matter. Hard work does!

Angkor Wat didn’t only give me a great view of a complex of an ancient city, but it also gave me a new perspective on seeing this life. It was raining in the area, so I, Amy, and Ivone decided to take a rest while waiting for the rain to stop. Two very young girls came to us to sell some souvenirs. They talked in pretty good English, and eloquently explained the pictures on the post cards they sold. We bought some souvenir from them, and we talked with Sawin, a pretty and smart little Cambodian girl. We didn’t find any difficulties talking with her in English. I thought I didn’t understand English that well when I was in the 2nd grade.

She might only be a second grader, but she taught me a lot. I also worked during the school breaks when I was younger, but it wasn’t as hard as what Sawin has to do. I couldn’t imagine that I should sell some souvenirs to the tourist. I guess it’s not every girl’s dream part-time job. But Sawin reminds me that I was, and still am, a lucky girl.Ii didn’t have to work hard like Sawin does when I was kid. She’s willing to sell some souvenirs after school time to help her family. It reminded me that I should do something for the less fortunate girls around my area. Thanks for indirectly reminding me, Sawin!

Moreover, she’s able to speak some languages, which I adore!  She even talked to Amy and Ivone in Mandarin, and she knew some French. I learned Chinese Mandarin for a year and I forget a lot! Oh my! She was just smart! She might have to work hard at the moment, but I saw that she was a confident and smart girl. I knew she could get what she wants someday. Amen!

Siem Reap, a humble place, with humble people, has made me feel so humbled! 🙂

Categories: Thought, Travel Journal, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

A Note From My Indochina Trip: How I Kept My Sanity When I Traveled Solo. Part 1. Bangkok

Journeys are made by people you travel with ~ Unknown, I got from an article in an in-flight magazine

That quote sounds almost perfect! For we can share the laughter, silly things, and even hard moments with the people we travel with. Then a question arises ; how would you create a journey if you travel solo, Rani? That was my question at the very beginning of my Indochina trip. I was supposed to travel with my brother, but he had to look for universities he wanted to go for his bachelor degree, so he quit from the trip. Yup, then I had to travel solo!

Well, to cheer myself up, I assured myself that everyone needs a moment of solitude, sometimes. But again, I thought it would be just stupid and boring to travel solo and enjoy the trip in silence. But the tickets have been booked, the itinerary has been made, and the time has been allocated. So I packed my 40 liters backpack and I flew to Bangkok!

Turned out things were not that scary as I thought. I met lots of people to share the laughter with. Yes, I love to laugh, and I don’t want people to think that I’m insane laughing alone. Boys don’t date insane girl! Duh! Haha

The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.  ~Henry Boye

During this trip, I met lots of people who gave interesting experiences for me. From thoughtful small talks to stupid inconsiderate attitudes. So I’ll be writing about the people I’ve met and how I learned from them and the experiences I shared with them. This is the first part of the series.

After 4 hours flight from Surabaya to Bangkok, I arrived at Khao San Road area around 9 pm. I stayed in a mixed dorm-room in Nap Park Hostel in Tani Road, two alleys next to Khao San Road. I was preparing to take shower that night, when a boy asked me “Did you just arrive here? Do you have any plan for tonight?”. “Nope. I don’t have any plan yet”, I replied. “I am going to go to Ping-Pong show with other 14 people. Are you coming with us? We’ll be leaving at 11.30 pm”, he asked again. “I’m a bit exhausted, so I’ll have a shower and take a nap for a while. I’ll see you guys afterwards”. Well, you may wonder what is interesting with a ping-pong show. It is not a sport game, for sure. It is Thai ping-pong show.

I’m not saying that it’s a bad show at all, people may find it as a source of fun entertainment.  I’m just not into it. First of all, I’m not a night owl, I’m bad at staying awake at night. Second, I see this show as an exploitation of women, and third, it is a source of scam. People often have to pay a lot for the entrance ticket or for the drinks. Eww..!! I’d better to be safe than be sorry! So I preferred to go to bed.

I was in a 6-beds room that night. Only I and a guy in the bunk below mine were in the room, sleeping.  He didn’t go to the show either. I was waken up at 04.00 am by a loud conversation between 2 guys in the room. I had no idea whether they were drunk or not, but they just came from watching the ping-pong show. They were talking about how cool the show was, and how one of the guy really wished to hook up with a cute British girl named Georgia. He was disappointed because Georgia shared a bed with her friend, so he couldn’t find any space to hook up with her. Well, don’t get me wrong. Hooking up or not, it is their right, and their personal choice. The thing is, they should haven’t talk about it loudly and at 04.00 am when other people in dorm were still sleeping. Enough said! Haha

On my second day in Bangkok, I intended to visit Grand Palace, Wat Po, and Wat Arun. After exchanging some amount of money – yes, I still bring some cash! An obsolete way that still works!-, I get out of the bank with a hopeless mind. I just walked along when suddenly I saw another Asian girl walked alone as well. I then asked her what was she looking for, and she told me that she wanted to go to the Grand Palace as well. Yay! We then decided to explore the city together that day.  Her name was Jeon. We almost got scammed by a man who said that Grand Palace was temporarily closed due to the Buddhist Day, and we could come 1 hour later, and we could spend the time cruising the Chao Praya river in between. He offered a tuk-tuk for 10 Baht (USD 30 cents) to go to the harbor. We took that great deal, but we didn’t go cruising. The tuk-tuk driver took us to a small harbor, whom the owner he knew so well, apparently. We knew that was an attempt of scam. The tuk-tuk driver might get some commission if we took the tour. Sorry, Sir! We knew you needed some money, but we did, too! 🙂

So we explore the traditional market and got our breakfast in a small restaurant near the harbor and the market. I intended to tell them not to give me the spicy one, but we all lost in translation. I remembered that I had a Thai language application in my android phone, so I showed her the sentence I meant. It was funny because it was a recorded voice that I needed to press a button to listen to. So we all laughed over this stupid lost in translation and the use of this application as the way out. It was a bliss to laugh with strangers. We don’t speak the same language but we understood each other and laughed over the silly things we’ve shared together.

I found that I and Jeon got along well. We both loved to explore the off-beaten places. We visited a museum of King Rama VI, which wasn’t really popular among travelers.  I and Jeon entered the building, turned out it was a military base.  We saw people in a line to get such background check, apparently.Haha.. We laughed at ourselves because we thought we went to a wrong place. Well, actually the museum was in the second floor of the building. We even were accompanied by a beautiful and knowledgeable army major! The museum was dedicated for King Rama VI. He was the father of modern Thailand. He went to pursue a degree  in UK and served in British royal army before he adopted the western system to Thailand after he went back home.

What I learned from Thai people was that they seem to really respect their Kings. I often see lots of photos of the kings in front of a building, with an altar to worship them. So was in the museum. There was an altar with the statue of King Rama VI.

Picture of King Rama VI in the museum

Statue of King Rama VI in the museum

We then went to Grand Palace and Wat Arun. We were happy that we weren’t trapped in the scam. The man offered the Chao Praya cruise for over THB 1000 (app USD 30), and we actually only had to pay for THB 3 to cross the river to Wat Arun when we took the official regular  long tail boat.  And we did some sport in Wat Arun afterwards! The stairs to reach the top were so steep that Jeon and I took a long-deep breath to climb the stairs and she was afraid to step down. I then held and led her to step down the stairs. We both laughed a lot afterwards, it was like grandmas holding hand in hand to step down the stairs. Interesting thing happened again when a monk called and blessed us and gave us bracelets. He spelled some prayers and said “Good luck.. Good luck..” to us. We both laughed and questioned whether we had a bad aura so the monk called and blessed us. Haha..

In the evening I had to say goodbye to Jeon. I know she was sad, so was I. It’s really interesting for me how a stranger could be a friend in a strange place. This experience reminded me of what my dad’s friends told me. They were from Olympia, Washington, which was not a big city at that time. The mother told the son not to talk randomly with stranger. And the son, who was 3 years old at that time, replied to his mom “If I talk to them, they are no longer stranger”. I find it true to me, but again, however deep we can trust them when we travel, they are still stranger. It is good to befriend sincerely, but we haven’t known them for quite long time, so we better set a standard for our own security. We can trust them more after we know them quite well.

It was only 2 days but I’ve learned a lot, that laughters can be shared with whoever, wherever, and whenever. Thailand, the land of smile, had certainly put a smile on my face 🙂

Disclaimer : the links I provided are for information purpose only. I didn’t get any commission from the links of the products I’ve linked here. The products are those I use personally.

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