[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]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.[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]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?[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]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.[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]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[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]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.[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]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.[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]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.[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]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.[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]Despite the cloudy skies and ever-present rain, Copenhagen is still quite beautiful. We spent our third day in the city exploring stunning views of the city and some of the art culture it offers.
Just around the block from our hostel we found plenty of architecture and design to marvel over.
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]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.[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]Did you know that Danes get minimum five weeks of paid vacation? Or that college students receive money from the government to pay for school? Check out 13 more trivia items about Denmark…[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]By 6pm we found ourselves in a familiar conundrum, starting to get hungry, but not sure what to eat. Our stomachs were on an American, childfree, working professional meal schedule, meaning we generally eat dinner anytime between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., with 9 p.m. pushing it on a weeknight. By 9, Spanish dinner has barely begun! The solution is tapas and cervecerias (bars with snacks).[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]We made it to Barcelona without incident and hopped on the Aerobus, an inexpensive shuttle to the city center and various Metro stops. As we exited the Metro station that first night on our way to the hotel, the familiar smell of ganja smoke wafted past us, not just once, but a few times. I gave my friend a knowing look. It’s like home in San Francisco! I liked the city already. If a city is down with its citizens freely hanging out with Mary Jane, chances are it’s down with other fun-loving shenanigans, and I enjoy not having to fear getting arrested for some random minor offense I didn’t know was illegal.[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]Bright and early I met up with the group of 20 other snorkelers and divers at the pick up point for our guided trip on a dhow. The hyper crew had us all introduce ourselves by name and origin. The group of six from my hotel were aboard, along with two white South African girls. The remainder of the group hailed from places in Europe like Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scotland and Poland. I was the lone person who lived in America. I was also one of only two solo-ers and the only black person aside from the crew. Thankfully, no one directed a shocked exclamation of, “YOU ARE BY YOURSELF?!” my way.[/dropcap]
[dropcap custom_class=”normal”]I spent my last weekend in Tanzania in Zanzibar. Zanzibar is actually a collection of a few small islands off the coast of Tanzania including Pemba. There are a few ways to get there from Moshi, with a flight being the fastest. There’s also the option of taking an 8+ hour ride on a dhow, but I wasn’t interested in a potential repeat of my seasickness bout in Pangani. A few hours after teaching my last class on a Thursday (tear), I boarded a Precision Air plane for the hour-long flight to the island.[/dropcap]