Travelling in Feb 2016
Big milestones can come in simple packages. And simple is beautiful. Just like my better half 🙂
It is (well beyond) that time of the year when we start thinking about the Chinese New Year vacation which happen to best Mon-Wed meaning a one week trip is going to be super efficient. (In fact, history will be witness to the fact that 2016 is/was one of the most efficient years in terms of holidays falling adjacent to weekends).
We intend to keep it nearby and simple even though we realise this is a milestone vacation – our 25th country!!!
Yes, while I still prefer to count destinations (and for example, West and East US coasts are two destinations for me), Heena prefers to count the number of countries which are politically apart as destinations. So this is the 25th destination going by the definition of Her Highness and hence a BIG MILESTONE for us!
Going by chronological order, we would have covered the following countries incl. SARs by now:
Travelled towards end of 2013
Vietnam trip (Saigon was the city we went to) was a memorable one for many reasons. It was one of those trips that we were planning for a long time being so close to our home (Hong Kong) but never happened to finalise it. Usually we ended up travelling to other places which were further and in our eyes, “more exotic”. Moreover, we could never get around spending a lot of money on flights for “just” 3-4 days so again it never hit the radar for us. So when we finally went there, we had a good laugh that it was always so near, yet so far a place for us.
It is also a memorable trip since it was a complete surprise from me. Vietnam is one of the few countries where Indian passport holders can apply visa online and the traveller need not come in person. Hence I could short list it as a place to surprise my better half. It was a new place, had reasonable things to offer and short enough to be a relaxing jaunt overall. With much pride, I would say that I was able to keep the destination a secret till the boarding gate itself! Yep!!!
One more reason that it was a truly memorable trip is that it was the last trip before we seriously thought of “settling down”. Not that we remember it for it or planned it accordingly, but yeah, that is nonetheless a fact to remember.
Travelled in late 2013
Ho Chi Minh (“Ho Chi”) is an interesting city. It has all signs of an upcoming metropolis although the economists can debate how long that would take and whether it has what it takes. Nevertheless, there are ample number of new buildings coming up like many cities in India and draw the parallels of an emerging city in a fast growing country.
That said, the city does have its old world charm as well especially with some marquee buildings still preserving the old world architecture. Our idea for the trip to Ho Chi was to do more of a walking tour and not really see many “places of attractions” etc and we are very glad we did it this way.
That said, the city does have its old world charm as well especially with some marquee buildings still preserving the old world architecture.
Phuket, as is all of Thailand that we have been to, has some of the excellent Thai food. I will really not get into the intricacies of Thai food, how it is made, what flavours were most prominent, which ones had a tinge of this and that, coz to be honest, I would never know about it and frankly, I don’t care much about it as well. All this is reserved for Heena and I will be happy to update this page if and when she gives her inputs for the food mentioned below.
We absolutely love Thai food, which includes the green curry, coconut milk curries with lemongrass essence which goes oh-so-well with steamed rice. Pad Thai is another one of our favorite. I have to say that if pressed to choose, I still prefer the curries with steamed rice relative to the Pad-Thai noodles. But as such, we would rather order and share both the curry and Pad Thai noodles rather than just one of them.
So as the title of this page suggests, we actually went to Phuket really late given that we are from Asia, living very close to this wonderful and famous beach destination and which is usually one of the first ones for Asians would go to. Given that we went to Uzbekistan, Africa, Iceland and most of SE Asia including Bali, it has indeed been “news!!!” that we have NOT been to Phuket yet!
So ladies and gentleman, travel buddies and backpackers… yes, we finally made it to (arguably) the most famous beach destination of Asia – Phuket in 2014! Checked! Done! Been there! Marked!
To be fair (to us!), there had been a few reasons for us not going to Phuket for quite a while…
Old Market of Siem Reap
So we reached Siem Reap after a good flight actually and a very supportive Isha who was a wonderful kid during the journey. In Siem Reap there are two main attractions, Angkor Wat temples (obviously!) and Old Market Area. We went to the latter the first and it was a nice easy evening to walk around the place. It was obviously very hot during the day but evenings were much more pleasant. Not totally but sufficiently to walk around for an hour or two.
Empires rise and fall. Great empires have their peak and then they falter and while some fall slowly but surely, others simply decimate quickly and suddenly due to varied factors. Well, I am not intelligent nor well researched enough on which category the history of Cambodia falls, but what I can say is that visiting the country did showcase the Great Empire Cambodia once had and that it lost its way in between to become one of Asia’s lesser prosperous countries now (2015).
I do see signs that the country wants to get back on its feet and regain some of the lost glory and ironically, the ruins of the glorious past are its immediate catalysts that are helping it do the same. This brings us to the journey of Angkor Wat. Which we took in early 2015. Read on for more! It was surely a delightful / insightful experience.
Let the family trip begin!
Click here to jump straight to the trip
So it was December xmas time and time to plan the CNY vacation. But with mom dad coming just before New year, CNY planning was never in focus.
So then, it was Jan 1st week and the five of us (me, wife, parents and our five month princess) were brainstorming where to go for the Chinese New year 2015… but we could not. Coz just as we were discussing, we realised that mom dad’s visa is a one time visa and hence we cannot go out and come back, before the end of March, till when they are to stay here. Hence, focus moved to easter break in first week April.
Out came the world map again (its hilarious every time we go to Google maps and see where we should go!).
So the brainstorming about which country to make the 22nd entry into our destination50 log book. Options – Japan (haha!!! – long story but, haha!!!) , Greece Turkey or similar trip, Australia which was a close second (but will not be a new one since we did Perth before) or somewhere in Asia.
Greece Turkey was an almost final thought till we realised that mom dad cannot get their visa processed from Hong Kong.
So next, look for countries which have visa on arrival or visa free entry for us, and that has a comfortable direct flight and has something for all of us.
Hence…. Cambodia! It’s easy, has visa on arrival and its world famous temples that we all always wanted to see. Not to forget, the city life that should be exciting as well. Yep, that sounds like a fair plan!
Flights… done! Vietnam Airlines! Call it complacency, but some reason I thought Angkor Wat is near Phnom Penh and not Siem Reap. Good we never made the bookings before I had a casual chat with friends who had been there and they corrected me!
Anyways, so there was a lot of pondering over whether we should take VN airlines but eventually looking at other comments and experiences, we thought we shall go ahead with this. A thumbs up by a fellow friend also gave us comfort to try it. Will post pics and reviews in due course.
As for hotels, we have booked 8-10 hotels on booking.com. Free cancellation till one week before. Heena will decide the final one out of the first cut made by me.
Note – so finally we decided on Lotus Blanc resort in Siem Reap. Between hotels in midst of Old Market and bigger resorts (with much bigger rooms) in bit further away from the city centre (which is small in itself), we decided to go for the luxuries of a resort about 10-15min Tuk-Tuk drive away from the city centre since with a baby, we were not sure how much we will really venture out. Turned out to the right reason.
There was Angkor Paradise resort that was a close contender and in the end, it was price that was the real determinant and 3 days before the trip, we got a secret deal from booking.com for Lotus Blanc at 50% its regular price. Angkor Paradise was also priced similar to Lotus Blanc at full rate and hence the deal we got was the deal clincher indeed. I have to add, it was not at all a bad decision and we absolutely loved Lotus Blanc resort, especially its service! TOO GOOD!
Right, so all set! Jump onto this link for the experience of Siem Reap and Ankor Wat!
First written in 2009, updates in 2012, 2013, 2015
Chill-out, relax, eat eat and eat, Thailand is THE place in Asia for a relaxing and value for money vacation. It has some of the best beaches in the region, soooper warm and welcoming local people, great weather for most of the year, and of course – nothing beats the Thai messages especially while sipping away your fav cocktail at the beaches. Oh, how can we forget Thai food!!! Yummy spicy crabs, prawns, Thai green curry, and lot more!
Thailand is where we’d want to time and again – its one place we never “tick off” from our bucket list – to return again!