You may have heard of Angkor Wat, but it’s far from the only temple in Cambodia. Located in Siem Reap, the famous monument shares the city with at least 1000 other ancient temples that also attract curious visitors from all over the world. I had the opportunity to explore four of these incredible feats of architecture on my recent trip to Southeast Asia and each is magnificent in its own way.
I don’t recall seeing “chow down on deep fried tarantula” on the tour itinerary, but when our local trip guide ticked off the day’s itinerary – mouth in a wide grin, eyes dancing at the mention of “eating spiders” – there it was. Given I’m willing to try (almost) anything once, I was game. Besides, I’ve already tried beetle, scorpion, and cricket, so what’s a big ass spider?
I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I decided on Cambodia as a travel destination. A few years ago, a co-worker’s raves of her visit to the fast-developing country in Southeast Asia sparked the idea. After watching several stunningly-shot Cambodia-centered episodes of The Amazing Race, it rocketed up my travel wish list. I envisioned magnificent ancient temples, expansive green rice paddies, picturesque remote fishing villages, and bumpy thoroughfares teeming with tuk-tuks.
Stepping into the bustle of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), your senses are overtaken by the cacophony of whirring motors from scores of motorbikes zipping by, and car horns blowing at pedestrians and cyclo drivers on the chaotic streets where traffic rules seem nonexistent. Your skin dampens after mere minutes of exposure to the powerful sun and relentless humidity. In every direction you look, people occupy space, whether it’s working in one of the many retail shops, restaurants, cafes, hotels, street kiosks, businesses, and residential units that flank the roads
Happy New Year!
2015, like every other year, had it’s ups and downs. However, it’s important not to let the year’s lows overshadow the highs.
When I considered writing an end of the year retrospective, my face scrunched up in disgust as I reflected on 2015. Not my favorite year by a longshot. So much of it felt like a continuous struggle – like I’m in the middle of a significant lesson which I’ve tired of learning.
Though my flight from San Francisco was only a little over an hour to Palm Springs, turbulence plagued the last 15 minutes. As I gripped both arm rests, wondering if this might be where it all ends, I scolded myself for not having made friends with the guy next to me. He might be the last person I see. I should at least know his name. I silently protested: “I’m not ready to go yet. It’s not time!” I heard a small child cry: “Mooom, I don’t like this!” Kid, we are on the same page.
When the bellhop left the hotel room after depositing our luggage, I broke into a touchdown dance.
I dove onto the bed, a European double, spaced at least 3-feet away from a second bed. Larger beds and no tripping over luggage, boots and each other? Minimal upgrades that seemed positively luxe when compared to our accommodations in the past 15 days.
Prague is known as the “Paris of the East” and though I hear several other cities also lay claim to this title, it’s easy to see why Prague (known locally as “Praha“) is a serious contender.
As we walked toward the historic Old Town Square our first night in the city – also New Year’s Eve – scenes straight from the illustrated pages of a fairy tale dazzled our senses.. Our double-socked, insulated boots tread on cobblestone roads and sidewalks slick from evaporating snow. We strode past vibrantly-colored edifices, red tiled-roofs and magnificent Gothic cathedrals – a city oozing with charm.
I liked Berlin when my friend and I arrived in the sprawling German capital a week ago. Our hostel was in Friedrichshain, where our cab driver told us – in heavily German-accented English – is a “good area with lots of clubs. If you come to Berlin to party, you are in the right place!” In fact, the hostel is directly across the street from a club , as well as the S-Bahn – one of the two main railways in Berlin. Not only that, the infamous Berlin Wall that divided East and West Berlin for nearly 30 years until 1989, was just a five-minute walk away.
Christmas is kind of a big deal in Denmark. In Copenhagen giant wreaths adorn formidable wooden doors, twinkly lights border shop and restaurant facades and add sparkle to trees and foliage; wishes of “God jul” (Merry Christmas) in ornamental fonts cover storefront windows, and the requisite Christmas fir trees dot the town. On Strøget, a man with an accordion plays melodies that would make the perfect musical backdrop to a romantic comedy.
We went hard our first full day in Copenhagen, so our second day proved a bit rougher. A few hours after the walking tour, we were on the go again, we went on a pub crawl organized by the same group.
Magnus, our Danish tour guide from the walking tour, also led the four-bar pub crawl. That evening, our group of about 15 people, included a few familiar faces from the earlier tour and represented several nations including England, Australia, Columbia, Trinidad, Peru and, of course, Denmark.
When I heard of Keke Palmer’s casting as the first black Cinderella on Broadway, I didn’t imagine I’d end up seeing the show in person!
It was a girls night out: sisters and groups of friends; an adorable Girl Scout troop of mostly pre-tween and tween black girls and quite a few mother/daughter pairings attended. One little girl dressed like a little lady wearing pearls and donning an updo, accompanied by her very chic and sophisticated mother who wore an enviable black cape, melted my heart. I attend a lot of plays and as I snarked to my sister, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many black people at a play in my life.” I’m so used to being one of few.
One of my favorite things to do in New York is eat. The food in New York is like none other. While I appreciate a fancy multi-course meal like the next fine dining fan or food snob-in-training, those meals often come at a snooty price and I’m on a tighter budget these days. Luckily, there is plenty to eat in New York at non-frightening, down-to-earth prices and I took advantage during my latest trip to New York.