Siem Reap could rub you the wrong way if you tackle it from a certain angle. Much like Khao San Road in Bangkok, it’s easy to wound up exactly in the wrong place of the city (let’s hypothetically call this place Pub Street) and wonder what could have possibly gone wrong in such a quaint, culturally-rich, and spiritual part of the world. I did it, several people have done it, has Lonely Planet told us to do it? We’ve all got our reasons as to why we ended up in the most touristy and dare I say backpacker-damaged part of Cambodia whilst on the hunt for vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Siem Reap.
There is a lot I have missed about Southeast Asia since I was last here – sunshine, fruit that tastes like sunshine, a focus on space as opposed to time, tuk-tuks, negotiable prices, … There is less I currently miss about Berlin – except for one thing. My recycling bin. Traveling as a vegan is becoming a relatively straightforward thing to do, but integrating all my conscious habits from back home is a different story. Especially in Southeast Asia, where they really really REALLY love their plastic packaging, and recycling facilities are currently as mythical as unicorns… So when I rocked up at luxury boutique hotel and ethical resort Jaya House Siem Reap, I was excited not just at the anticipation of a comfy beds and good coffee (fine, I miss these a little bit too), but to find out what a hotel with the ambition to be 100% plastic free is like.
First there was the idea that I was perhaps going to hate India. Then there was the planning to cram as much of the best places to visit in India into ten days to decide whether or not I liked it. Following that was the realization that, if I was going to decide if I liked India, a manic 10 day tour of Varanasi, Delhi, the whole of Rajasthan and Mumbai was possibly not going to be the thing to convince me. And finally there was the cancellation of all flights or plans to do any form of adventure activities in Goa and the sitting down in the Goan sand with the smug look of an expert procrastinator.
One thing that surprised us about Bali was its size. This is no teeny tropical island – like the other Indonesian islands we visited, it’s like a country in its own right. At nearly 100km across you could probably circumnavigate it in a day, but you’d better start early!
And like the other Indonesian islands, it’s sorely lacking in public transport. The options are limited, routes are non-obvious and schedules, in most cases, simply don’t exist. For the budget backpacker, it represents a quandary – the locals clearly get around somehow, but all you see is adverts for private cars or the (generally) overpriced tourist shuttle buses.
There are many places in South East Asia that have become synonymous with the ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle – ditching the regular nine-to-five to work remotely or bootstrap a new business from a warmer climate, with a much lower cost of living and even better quality of life. We visited Chiang Mai last year and loved the city for its culture and easy way of life, and it always stayed in the back of our minds that if there was one place in Asia we’d be happy to put down some roots and live, this was the it.
While budget travel is generally my daily reality, I still have an appreciation for well-designed spaces and beautiful interiors. I do come from a fine arts and design background, after all. So when I found myself in a position to review Maduzi Hotel in Bangkok, a wonderful hotel that combines finesse, elegance and excellent design, I jumped on the opportunity to experience one last taste of luxury on the tail end of a whirlwind two year South East Asian adventure and visit one of the best hotels in Bangkok. I thought I deserved it! Here is the lowdown on this little gem.
I’m sitting in the departure lounge with tears rolling down my face, staring blankly at my telephone screen, knowing he is also online, right there at the other end. Part of me would like a few last comforting words, but I can’t seem to think of anything to write that won’t make me look like the desperate mess that I am. What is there to say anyway? We’ve said hello and goodbye briefly a few weeks ago – and perhaps that was all a huge mistake – but this really should not be what the magic of the journey of self-discovery I have been on those past months amounts to, in the wake of a 20-month South East Asian whirlwind adventure. Yet, here I am, balling my eyes out and feeling like I’m back to square one.
I am back with a cycling video again today, and picking things up where I last left them. Please come with me as I cycle from Koh Phangan to Bangkok and encounter a few technical difficulties! Things were not as exciting as I would have hoped as the landscape quickly got boring – palm oil plantations lining most of the road and no wildlife whatsoever… I still made the best of it though and had a blast! You can watch part one here, part two right over here, and my whole YouTube channel right here. Make sure you subscribe not to miss an update! 🙂