Cambodia: The Bestest For Indie-ing

part of the BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge Project

So, let us know – what country do you think is the best for independent travel, and why? Or what four countries (one per region) would you choose as the top picks going into the tournament? Make your case for your country/countries of choice!


although i’ve only been to one area of Cambodia, it gets my vote for the best for independent travel. why?

for one thing, it’s pretty cheap. i think i spent less than half as much on an equivalent hotel room (with wifi and breakfast!) as i would have in the states, much less europe, and you can’t beat the price of food. also, since they pretty much use the american dollar, no need to do crazy math in your head for those of us whose currencies are or are similar to the dollar (remember paying thousands or millions of italian or turkish lira?).

A typical menu. Try and break your $20s and larger as much as you can; some places are reluctant to give you change.

also, while it can be touristy in parts, there’s still a lot of culture awe (i’m purposely refraining from using the term culture shock, since i think you’re more awed — in a good way — than shocked).

Oh nothing. Just a mom carrying a TV. And a kid carrying laundry. While dad drives the motorcycle. Taken from a tuktuk.

you can easily get off the beaten path

Taking a break from ATVing

…but there is a good infrastructure should you need it. for example, i got a pretty bad sunburn but was able to get cream for it without any hassle.

it’s still got a bit of that off the rails vibe, and this tweet (from my private account) is all i’m going to say about that:

spinning room, kept hearing things (a chant that wouldn’t end), kept seeing random images of toys from childhood, barfed in toilet…

and last, but not least, great things to see.

Ruins

Hauling

Buddhas

there’s so much more i could write about this trip but it’s 1:30 in the morning and i’ve still got work to do :\. suffice it to say, if you haven’t been yet, be sure cambodia is on your list!

update

some important information about the “orphanages” you may see in cambodia from @pandpvolunteer. i had always suspected there was something going on with these orphanages and visiting them — i think we were supposed to go to one during my ATV tour but it was just me and the guide so i think he just wanted to have fun and speed along, plus it was starting to pour (i got drenched, but it was fun!).

so yeah, be warned that the “orphanages” you visit may not be real orphanages, and those little kids are likely not orphans at all but innocent pawns in a larger scheme to try and get your tourist (and child trafficking) dollars. scary, and definitely not cool.

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(Nearly-)Religious Experiences in Asia

part of the BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge Project

If you’ve traveled in Asia, what’s your favorite destination? Share a story of one of your best experiences in Asia, or tell us about a place you love.

really? you’re going to make me choose? i’ve only recently started traveling to Asia (other than a couple trips to Hong Kong growing up, as that’s where my parents are from): Beijing/Great Wall in 2010, the Angkor Region of Cambodia last August, and Japan in November. each of those alone was amazing, and i’m not sure i can pick just one to highlight, especially since my options are limited and those destinations were chosen with the intent of having stories to tell.

there are three places, though, that i could spend countless hours in:

Bayon

all y’all must get tired of me talking about this, but this is my favorite temple in the Angkor area. it’s like being surrounded by a couple hundred Faces of Boe, but a lot less creepy. in fact, there’s this serene benevolence that adds a palpable sense of mysticism to what otherwise would be “any ol'” Angkor temple.

Bayon

 

Hakone

i did the Hakone Round Course as an overnight trip on my way from Tokyo to Kyoto. i am not sure what it was — the funicular, the ropeway with soaring views of Mount Fuji, the steaming mountainside of Owakudani (eat those black eggs!), the breathtaking Open Air Museum filled with modern sculpture, or the pirate ship ride across Lake Ashinoko — my first impression of Japanese countryside and fall foliage after being in the urban jungle of Tokyo was absolutely breathtaking.

PROTIP: if you want a treat, take advantage of Fujiya Hotel’s Special Hospitality Plan for non-Japanese passport holders. they have a very small (5?) number of rooms set aside for just $133 per night (based on the number of years the hotel has been in existence, so it will change annually). not only do you get to spend the night in a historic grand hotel, but a morning walk in their Japanese garden is a great way to start your day. also, they had the most amazingly fast (free) in-room internet. even up in the middle-of-nowhere-mountains i got speeds faster than i could ever get at home.

From Owakudani to Ubako, Mt. Fuji in the distance

One of a handful of stray kitty cats I saw near the lake

 

The Okunoin Graveyard and Torodo Hall, Koyasan

walking the two-kilometer path through the forest cemetery (the largest cemetery in Japan) during the day and again at night are two soul-moving pilgrimages. midday, being surrounded by 200,000 tombstones amongst towering grand old trees filtering the sunlight, finally reaching the Hall of Lamps (after passing through many clearly-significant religious sites and devout adherents paying their respects), your heart is filled with awe. at night (be sure to go once during the daytime beforehand so you’re not caught by surprise at the length of the trek), with dim lights illuminating the path every now and then, you’re not filled with dread and fear as much as you are with a sense of reverence and somewhat otherworldly spirituality. combined, it is possibly the closest this devout atheist could ever say he has felt to a religious experience in his life. if you go, definitely stay overnight at a temple: lodging like no other where they serve you food like no other (quite yummy)!

The cemetery

An old mausoleum

Today’s #frifotos — #exotic

i have yet to go anywhere truly considered exotic (and i think the list of possibilities in this ever-shrinking world is likewise shrinking), but: