Goodbye, Asia

Hey everyone!

It’s been a while again. I’ve been slowly rounding up my trip. I’m already back to Europe and I’ve been keeping busy here! 🙂 But let me get back to Cambodia, the last proper stop of my journey…

The ruins of Angkor Wat
On my bus ride to Siem Reap, I’ve met two girls, Mirjam and Leni. We’ve chatted a little and shared a tuk tuk to the hostel. Just like everyone else headed to Siem Reap, all of us were planning on visiting Angkor Wat in the few coming days. They asked me to join them and I happily accepted – visiting temples for days is definitely something I could use some company for.

We opted for taking bicycles the first day. A bit of exercise is never too bad 🙂 We got rather lucky, because although it was insanely hot (as always), it was a little overcast. Despite this, the whole day was quite tiring. We’ve collectively decided that the next day we’re taking a tuk tuk to go to the further temples 😀

Mirjam, me and Leni in front of one of the gates.
Mirjam, me and Leni in front of one of the gates.

Our first stop was naturally the actual Angkor Wat. It was a great, beautiful temple. It looks just as amazing as captured on all the arty photos online. And it would absolutely take your breath away, if only it wasn’t completely packed with tourists… I have to admit got fed up with the loud Chinese tour guides and their flocks photographing every single inch around them rather quickly. I was seriously worried this is what I would have to put up with for two days. Luckily, not all temples were that popular and it got better. Because of the crowds, I enjoyed small temples much more than the famous ones.

My failed attempt to take one of them arty photos of Angkor Wat.
My failed attempt to take one of them arty photos of Angkor Wat.

 

I love how these trees grow around and through the temples.
I love how these trees grow around and through the temples.

We’ve spent two full days going around the temples and admiring the intriguing combination of Hindu and Buddhist artwork. Despite already seeing loads of beautiful temples, Angkor Wat was definitely special and I’m happy I made my way here.

Siem Reap outside of Angkor Wat
After two full days of templing (yes, it turned into a verb), we’ve all decided that we’ve had enough. We wanted to stay active though, and found a silk farm nearby, which offered guided tours throughout the factory. It was interesting to see how the silk is produced and turned into beautiful scarves. I always knew that handmade textiles were a lot of work, but seeing the whole process shed a lot of light on the details.

Leni and Mirjam also talked me into joining a cooking class. I was a little skeptical at first, I’m not the biggest fan of cooking (and it’s almost unrelated to the fact that I’m really bad at it). Truthfully though, it was actually better than I expected. I still don’t really know how to cut the damn carrot into a flower, but at least I had good fun 🙂 And the result was actually quite tasty too!

I'm a chef now!
I’m a chef now!

Also, I’ve finally tried eating durian! It’s a strange, spiky fruit with a very pungent smell, which has been discouraging me from eating it for the longest time. But now I finally found someone willing to try it and suffer with me! 🙂 We bought a few pieces at a market stall and… (dramatic pause) It was just as digusting as I expected. Not just the taste, even the consistency made my stomach turn. I don’t even think I’m very picky with food. Well, except for the whole vegetarian thing, but that’s for different reasons! Anyway, another thing crossed off the checklist 😛

The (in)decision
I still had no plan for what to do after Siem Reap. I’ve considered many options, including diving in Malaysia or Thailand and doing a yoga workshop in Cambodia, but every time I’ve almost made up my mind, something made me reconsider. I did not want to get stuck in Siem Reap for too long without any purpose and so I kept going with my two German friends into Sihanoukville, where we spent one night, and then Koh Rong Samloem.

Little piece of paradise
Koh Rong Samloem is a beautiful little island. Mirjam and Leni had a recommendation about a nice place, where we could sleep in a tent hanging from a tree. Upon hearing this, I was sold, a tree tent sounds like a lot of fun 🙂

Our tree tent :)
Our tree tent :)

To get to this place, we had to cross the jungle to the other side of the island. It took us about an hour to walk along the beach to the jungle path and another 40 minutes of going uphill and downhill through the jungle. Let me just say, it was no easy task with the backpack which appeared to be getting heavier with every minute, but it was totally worth it. Apart from the fact that it felt like a little victory, the place we arrived to was marvelous.

Early morning view of the beach in front of our tent.
Early morning view of the beach in front of our tent.

There were almost no people whatsoever. The white beach was surrounded by the lush, green jungle. The constant wind on this side of the island felt very pleasant in the high temperatures and the restless sea was perfect for swimming. The ambiance was very, very calm and relaxed. And the whole sky turned red and pink when the sun started setting… For all of that, I’d walk through the jungle any day.

The sky at sunset.
The sky at sunset.

We spent three days on this little island. On the first one, I decided to go diving again. I hoped to still get a few dives in before I go home. I loved the feeling of being back under the water again, but unfortunately the diving sites were not very impressive. For the remaining two days, I just relaxed on the beach, read a lot and enjoyed a few good swims.

Why I love nature
One of the beauties of Koh Rong Samloem is that it’s one of the places where it’s possible to see bioluminescent plankton at night. I’ve been fascinated by this phenomenon ever since I heard of it in my childhood. And I was very excited to finally have an opportunity to see it.

Since our side of the island was a little windy and the sea was very wavy, we were told we need to cross to the other side. We came there before it got dark and got a pretty good dinner. When the darkness set in, we walked along the shore to one of the places with no lights around.

We slowly got into the warm sea. It was shallow and we kept walking for a while. When my hands submerged into the water, I shook them quickly… And everything around them lit up. I felt absolutely surreal. The bright, little, brief lights around me were so beautiful! We went a little deeper and started swimming. This time, there weren’t only a few little lights around my hands, but everything around me lit up. Without any exaggeration and at the cost of sounding very cheesy, I think that was the most magical moment of my life. I wish there was a way to capture it, but there really is not. It was dazzling, almost otherworldly. And I loved every moment of it.

Getting stuck
After leaving Koh Rong Samloem, I’ve decided to head on to Kampot. Harriet (on of the girls I traveled with in Vietnam) has been telling me about this amazing hostel, Arcadia, that I simply had to visit. Retrospectively, I understand why 🙂 I came there, intending to stay 2 or 3 nights and I did not leave for 6 😀 Granted, it was partially because at some point, it felt a little silly to try and go somewhere else, when I knew I need to get to Bangkok and catch a flight soon. But I would have gotten way too bored and antsy to leave if I were anywhere else. In here, I did not.

Describing Arcadia is quite hard, because a bit part was about the people and the atmosphere. The hostel was situated on a riverbank and there were a lot of fun things to do in the water, such as kayaking, tubing and most of all, the famous blob 🙂

The blob!
The blob!

Me vs The Blob
I had a lot of fun being blobbed, for a day. Generally, the idea is that you spread out like a starfish and wait until two heavy guys jump on the other end, launching you up into the air. After a few starfish jumps, I’ve decided to try the so called “cannonball”, where you hold you knees and start spinning like mad when launched. I’ve seen a few unsuccessful attempts and I’ve decided I’m gonna do it right. And I did! Except for the landing… It turns out that going face first, when gravity combines with the spinning force, is not very good for you and results in your face swelling up like a balloon for a few days. Before you all get scared of the picture – nothing serious happened, only my beautiful face was looking a little puffy for a few days.

This is how I first saw myself after icing my eye for 15 minutes.
This is how I first saw myself after icing my eye for 15 minutes.

I visited a hospital called Sonja Kill (which in my opinion is a suitable name for a Mortal Kombat character, not a hospital, but maybe that’s just me) and the x-ray has shown no damage. Special shoutout to Leni and Mirjam, who went there with me <3

Contrary to all expectations, I did not get a black eye! Instead, I got a bunch of free drinks and for days after, everyone was extremely nice to me. And everyone who saw my (in)famous jump kept telling me that it was epic. So, in conclusion, I’ve learned that next time I absolutely have to get it on camera 😀

The rest of Arcadia
Apart from getting my face messed up, I also did a whole bunch of other stuff! With Anthony I drove a bike up to the nearby mountain and saw a creepy, abandoned casino with a great view. With Mirjam and Leni, I went kayaking and played a lot of cards. I joined a small hike to a waterfall in the area. I also had a whole bunch of lazy days, where I caught up with my journal, read a book, listened to music, played pool or table tennis and drank a few beers, most often with the few permanent residents, whom I grew rather fond of.

Waterfall selfie.
Waterfall selfie.

Going home
After six fun days at Arcadia, I had to get to Bangkok. As much as I did not feel like it yet, I was not going to miss my return flight (see, I did learn something from this trip! 😀 ) I went through a grueling bus ride from Kampot. It took 14 hours and I had to switch vehicles 6 times, but finally, I arrived to my hostel. I spent one day in Bangkok, got a Thai massage and ate my last mango sticky rice for a while… and then, the next day, I was off to Prague.

I’ve spent the last few weeks visiting some friends and family, and yesterday evening I finally got back to Amsterdam. I think this officially concludes my trip… And damn, I’m going to miss it 🙂

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Epilogue
For the longest time, practically since I started this trip, I’ve been thinking what I am going to say at the end of it. Unfortunately, I haven’t really come up with anything but a bunch of messy thoughts and emotions. Here goes.

It’s been an amazing half a year, with more experiences than I ever wished for. I’ve seen and done things I’ve only read about before, some I never even knew existed.

I laughed. I laughed from the heart, like a child does. I caught myself doing so often and I was happy.

I met a ton of people, who were interesting, surprising, funny, kind and inspiring. I would have never made it without some of them. I’ve also had a lot of people reach out to me when I was not feeling well. Others randomly messaged me to tell me they admire what I’m doing and wished me best of luck. I was very touched by all these reactions.

It was rough too. At times, there was blood, sweat and tears (literally, although luckily not all at once 🙂 ). But that’s what made me tougher. Conquering that is what makes me proud. It’s part of my journey and I love it, all of it.

I care to think I learned a lot and grew as a person. I got out of my comfort zone and I am proud of that too. Traveling like this changes you, it makes you realize you are capable of much more you than ever thought. You simply have to be, it’s not a choice. And it’s a hell of a feeling once it occurs to you that you’re doing things you never thought you could, without thinking twice about them, without as much as a blink of an eye.

Now, I need to carry all of this into my upcoming everyday life 🙂 And I’m certainly planning to make the most of it.

Thanks, everyone <3 It’s been a blast.

N.

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