At the end of each month I am going to send out a summary of the highlights of the month and update you on our plans for upcoming trips and activities. Here is the summary for January 2018.

Back in South East Asia!

We started off the new year in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We had been here for a few days and loving it. We have travelled though South East Asia a few times before, and while we hadn’t been to Cambodia before, the familiarity of SEA was comforting.

We spent a full day wandering around the city. We stopped past the Royal Palace to have a look at some of the amazing buildings, including the Silver Pagoda. I was expecting more museum-type displays, but there were only a couple of small rooms. We visited a few more Wats during the day and then the huge Central Market before the heat had us scurrying back to our hotel swimming pool.

Phnom Penh

The Throne Hall in the Royal Palace complex in Phnom Penh. The current king still lives in the complex, but (obviously) his residence is off limits.

Phnom Penh

One of the beautiful stupas near the Silver Pagoda

When in Phnom Penh a visit to the Killing Fields is mandatory I think. We chose to book a day tour through Urban Adventures to see not only the Killing Fields and S21 prison, but to also cross the Mekong into the more rural areas and visit a Buddhist monastery and a traditional silk factory. By silk factory I mean a family home with an area out the front with a few looms and an area for making the silk. We saw the silk worms they were breeding and then watched the girls weave! Some of it is so intricate. I had a go at a very simple pattern and was sooooo slow! These young girls coordinate both hands and both feet in a consistent rhythm with amazing skill. I bought a beautiful silk scarf, one of the only things I have bought on this whole trip!

Phnom Penh

One of the simple memorials at the Killing Fields are these bracelets left by visitors on the fence of a mass grave.

Phnom Penh

No photos allowed inside the stark buildings that were previously the S21 prison in Phnom Penh. It now houses the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

Phnom Penh

These looms look simple, but the proces really is not. Both feet and both hands are needed to create those patterns.

Siem Reap was next up on our list.  Here we stayed at the Somadevi Residence. Now I don’t often mention our accomodation, but we spent the better part of two days not really leaving here because it was just so nice. We had a massage in the spa and did an amazing Khmer cooking class. I can’t wait to tell you about this in full whe I write about Cambodia! It was one of the highlights of our whole trip.

Somadevi Residence

Simon learning at the Somadevi cooking class

Of course we went to Angkor Wat while we were in Siem Reap. We actually went there for sunset one night, then were up at a crazy time to be back there for sunrise. We spent all day looking around, but there are so many wats here that there is no way to see everything in that time.

Siem Reap

Sunset at Angkor Wat

After baking in the heat for the last couple of weeks, our next stop in Danang, Vietnam had us pulling out our rather meagre supply of winter woolies. We were here for two days, and it was blowing a gale with intermittent rain the whole time. This meant we didn’t get out a whole lot other than for food, but we did take a walk one night to see the bridges all lit up.

Danang

One of the many bridges in Danang lit up at night. This one is a swing bridge that opens up for a few hours each morning to let the larger boats through.

Next up was Hoi An. We had been here before, and we really liked it, so were looking forward to this visit back. The weather did not improve and we were regularly rained on during our stay. We went for a walk to the beach one day, and of course it started raining while we were there so the whole 4km back we were getting wet. It was good to get out in the countryside though. The one change I really noticed since our visit five years ago was how crowded the main tourist area had become. But even with the crowds and the bad weather, this is a great little town, and I will visit again if we are in the area.

Hoi An

I just love that the Hoi An buildings have still been left with that old look to them and not all repainted for tourism. Many of them have been entirely renovated inside.

Hoi An

Even when it’s raining the cyclos provide some colour. These were mostly seen in groups like this ferrying tour groups around the old town.

After Hoi An we were going to Hue. We went back to Danang and got the train from there up to Hue. It’s a lovely scenic ride along the coast, and a couple of times the sun even came out! I recommed giving this a go during your visit to Vietnam.

Hue is a great place to visit. We were only here for two days, and I really wish we had stayed at least one extra day. We spent the first day doing an incredibly long day trip to see Paradise Cave. The cave itself is definitely worth a visit, but my advice is to not do it in a day. Stay in the Phong Nha area for a couple of nights and visit some of the other caves in the area too. This had been my original plan, but with the bad weather in the area, hiking didn’t seem like it would be too much fun. I should have stuck to the plan. This area is definitely on my list to get back to.

Paradise Cave

Paradise Cave was this amazing blue colour in some areas.

The second day we did a walking tour in the morning, then visited the Citadel in the afternoon. Our guide on the walking tour said we HAD to try salt coffee. Sounded disgusting, but we were intrigued. A few of us trekked across the city to find the place selling it and OMG – if you are in Hue, you have to try it. So delicious.

Hue

One of the imposing gates of the Hue citadel

Hue

The salt coffee drips down from the top into a glass of iced milk. A delicious refreshing drink in the heat

Laos was up next and we had a few days in Vientiane first. We were back in the heat, with temperatures getting up to the mid thirties. I was incredibly exhausted the first day – seriously this long-term travel is so tiring sometimes – so happily relaxed around the pool. We spent the next day making up for it, walking around the town during the day and hitting the night markets in the evening.

Vientiane

Vientiane has it’s own version of the Arc de Triumphe – the Patuxay Monument

On the final day we worked out the public buses to first go out to Buddha Park and then visit the That Luang Temple with the famed golden stupa. Both are worth a visit if you are in the city.

Vientiane

One of the many statues at Buddha Park

Vientiane

The stunning gold stupa of That Luang

We flew up to Luang Prabang for the rest of our Laos visit. This laidback town is that perfect mix of nature and food and markets, with a temple or two thrown in. Highlights were getting up before sunrise to see the monks receiving alms, and our hike to the Kuang Si waterfall. I would highly recommend a visit to this town if you are in the area.

Sunset from Mt Phousi over the Mekong River

We finish off the month in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We are staying here for six nights to have a mini-break from all the moving around. We have done all the usual things, like visit the myriad of temples and spend the evenings at the night markets. We also spent a day hiking out in the jungle to visit some local villages and a waterfall. My legs are still recovering as it was almost all up hill. We spent the last day of the month ziplining, which was great fun, and folllowed it up watching the eclipse of the moon in the evening. A great way to end our first month in South East Asia.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has about a million temples (okay, maybe I exaggerate!). This one is the Phra Singh Temple

Chiang Mai

Ziplining over the jungle in Chiang Mai

Coming Up

We will only be visiting two more countries in February, but it will still be busy. We fly into Myanmar for a few days there. We will be going to Bagan and Inle Lake, and then flying down to Malaysia. We’re very excited about the Malaysia leg of our trip for lots of reasons. The main one is that our youngest daughter MacKenzie will be joining us for a couple of weeks. We will also be celebrating Chinese New Year in Asia for the first time. We will be in Penang, and while we are still working it out, we are hoping we will be celebrating with Simon’s extended family. They usually return to Penang for CNY, so we are hoping that is happening again this year.

Simon and I also both have birthdays in Malaysia, and I will start mine by watching the sun come up on top of Mount Kinabalu. I’ve been wanting to do this hike for years. I will probably regret it afterwards as I won’t have much time to do any real fitness training. I can see it’s going to be a challenge. We will end the month back in Kuala Lumpur, eating our fill of street food before our planned departure from South East Asia early in March.

Where we go then is still a mystery. I was planning to go to Iran since I had to put it off earlier in our trip, but only in the last couple of days have I discovered that the visa on arrival cost for Australians is different from everyone else that can get them. Even the usual fee at €75 ($115AUD) would have been the most expensive we have paid anywhere, but at €145 ($222AUD) each, we would be better off planning a full 30 day trip in the future rather than the brief 7 days I was thinking.

Catching Up

In case you missed them, here are my January blog posts:
December 2017 Summary
My Favourite Things about 2017
Travel Diaries – Oman
Travel Diaries – India
Travel Diaries – Sri Lanka
Travel Diaries – Singapore (Our 2nd Gap Year Visit)
Travel Diaries – Hong Kong

Don’t forget to follow along on social media where you will see some content that does not make it onto my blog.
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Blogging Wins

With much better internet in January I have caught up a little of my posts – I am now only about a month behind. I am feeling enthused and have made a few small changes to the website, and I’m working behind the scenes on some bigger ones to come in the future. I am itching to get home to be able to spend more time putting many of the changes I know need to happen into action.

Something went right this month with my Google Ads, as I started to get a few clicks. This means I made a whole $21.98 from it this month. I’m rich!

Until next month, take care.

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December 2017 Summary