Monday, August 30, 2010

Tonlé Sap

(This post is a follow up from our trip around the world. I will be writing a recap for each place we visited during our 4 month trip. Prior to Cambodia we also visited India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore).

- Visiting Tonlé Sap takes some effort, but it's most definitely worth it. We chose to go a bit further at the recommendation of our hotel and it took roughly 2 hours to get to the Kampong Phluk Village (Harbor of the Tusks). This area is less touristed due to being only accessible by water.

- Getting out of the city area was very eye opening and heart warming. We saw so many adorable little school children and even tinier ones with little tanned bottoms that would wave and say 'Hello!' with so much enthusiasm. Once again we were shown so much kindness and generosity without expectations for anything in return. I truly can't think of a more hospitable place.

- As we went down many dirt roads and it crossed my mind that we were so trusting, because we really didn't have an idea where we were. That vulnerable state seems to really awaken all senses. It's so nice to get out of the city and to see how people truly live. This day will forever stay in my mind.

- After our long journey we arrived at the boat station where a young boy started our boat. It was clear he was accustomed to navigating the water. At one point he the engine stopped and he climbed out on the side and began finagling around in the middle of the lake. Evidently he's also well versed in fixing engines.

- Along the way we saw a very small island packed with cattle, random foliage growing in the water, and the occasional settlement or home. The lake was especially vast due to the recent heavy rains and our arrival at the end of the wet season when it swells to 4 times its original size.

- Approaching the large housing area was one of those eye opening moments seeing how people could live entirely on water. I worried about children falling in and found it interesting to think they learned to row boats and swim before running and riding bikes. Impressively these homes have stilts between 6 and 10 meters high to keep them above the water line. When the water decreases temporary housing is built to follow the fish.

- Living surrounded by water naturally brings about the difficult nature of using the water to bathe, clean, and use the restroom. Thankfully this is the largest fresh lake in Southeast Asia. We also saw signs with US flags on several water wells in land. Not having proper bathroom facilities or clean water should be something everyone has access to.

- Fish was clearly the staple food, however we also saw chickens in cages underneath homes, and piglets in boats. There were also small floating markets.

-We were transfered from our larger boat to a small row boat so we could visit the submerged mangrove forest. It was a very beautiful place and surprisingly quite large. I was also surprised when the woman rowing the boat pulled out a cell phone with images to show us where she was taking us. It definitely showed me that even being so far out how inter-connected the world really is.

- The only very tiny area of land had the community school, healthy center, and a small pagoda. We also saw a police station and what appeared to be a lot of political signage.

Kampong Phluk felt like a testament to both what people do to survive and also how resilient people are, although not necessarily by choice. It's so impressive to see people live so close with nature and I wish I could have talked to more people about they knowledge they've gained from doing so.

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you."
- Frank Lloyd Wright

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Munich has had a short lived summer and now each week fluctuates between not yet giving up on Summer and wanting to be Autumn. I love this weather... the biergartens are still open, the breeze is cool, and you could easily have a hot chocolate or an ice cream and be content. We opted for a gelato at Max-Weber Platz in Haidhausen. I refer to this area as 'Nachwuchsplatz' (offspring plaza), because I always feel like we're the only couple there without children.

The sweet little Amorino shop may just have one of the prettiest gelatos - perfectly shaped into a flower. (I chose Pistachio + Spekulatius (almond biscuit)).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Siem Reap

(This post is a follow up from our trip around the world. I will be writing a recap for each place we visited during our 4 month trip. Prior to Cambodia we also visited India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore).

Let me preface this by saying I absolutely loved Cambodia and Siem Reap in particular. There are places you travel that simply resonate instantly and for me they include Iceland, Cambodia, and Hawaii. Natural beauty, geological diversity, laid back style, and kind people are what win me over.

- Our arrival to Siem Reap wasn't very pleasant actually. It was pouring and Cambodia had been majorly flooded. We weren't even sure if we were going to be able to visit or if our plans would be completely rearranged. This would have proved to be difficult because in addition to our Around the World flight ticket we also needed to book several side flights, including this one.

- My name was misspelled on my visa, which was fixed with a bit of whiteout and then I noticed my passport number was incorrectly written as well.

- We managed to get the pre-paid taxi driver who was a bit of a renegade. He wanted to offer us his services as tour guide / driver. We told him we'd consider it and asked if we could contact him once we got some sleep. That wasn't good enough. He began the pressure sales and then came the emotional blackmail on supporting him and his family if we traveled to his country. It started to get borderline hostile. He claimed to not know where our hotel was and wanted to drop us at another one. Then he said he was wasting his time and wanted to drop us at the side of the road in the torrential rain. We told him when we paid at the airport they knew where it was, so we would call them or the hotel if it was an issue. As he drove to the center of the city I spotted our hotel and we quickly got out (stepping into a monstrous puddle) and were welcomed to our fantastic hotel - the Soria Moria, which I can't recommend highly enough.

- One heartbreaking fact is that the sex tourism industry is alive in Cambodia and between 14,000 and 24,000 street children live there. It was nice to see our hotel confronted this and had information on making choices that can benefit the locals. In each room they had a small card that fit in a wallet explaining ways to help or what to do if street children approached us selling things and ways to help, which was sponsored by ChildSafe International. The Soria Moria was a very socially aware place and it was evident they did what they could to be involved with programs to help the community including selling love-cards artwork as well as programs in conjunction with the Sangkheum Center for Children. More can be read about how they engage the community here.

- Every visitor to the Angkor Wat temples must have an 'Angkor Pass', which costs $20 for one day, $40 for 3, or $60 for a week. They had to be used on consecutive days and they take a digital photo when printing the pass, so they are not transferable.

- Despite arriving very early and setting out for the temples before it got sweltering we really didn't have enough time to see everything we wanted. I didn't panic, because it's a place we will likely return in the future.

- We took a tuktuk from our hotel and started with a visit to Angkor Thom and the Banyon area before heading to Ta Prohm, Phnom Bakheng, and Angkor Wat. At times we felt like we were alone as we wandered around, because it wasn't high tourist season.

- The ride through the jungle was a lot of fun. Our tuktuk had the constant buzz of a lawn mower and there was plenty to see along the beautiful journey. One of the funniest sights was monkeys chasing children.

- At Angkor Thom we climbed through the ruins and were in awe of how spectacular things were. Considering the ruins were from the late 12th century it was very impressive.

- Many of the ruins had people selling things nearby and particularly children. At Ta Prohm we were confronted with some characters wanting to sell water or other merchandise. It's really difficult to see little ones selling things they probably don't even get to enjoy. It makes me sad to see so many lost childhoods and the struggle to live. There's a thin line between helping and actually perpetuating the problem.

- Some of the things we heard: "Lady, you buy from me. I give you good price". I declined, which resulted in "You come back tomorrow, ok?" Stefan bought a t-shirt from a road side stand and a young girl wanted to sell him the identical shirt he had just bought. He told her he only had one body and only needed one shirt. Her response was, 'if you lie to me you die!'

- Ta Prohm is widely recognized from the Tomb Raider movies. The trees seem to melt over the ruins and seeing how human architecture is taken over by nature is so powerful. We explored the site and followed several paths that always seemed to lead to another room that held another amazing site. We were almost by ourselves again, which gave us enough time to take in the scenery and take a lot of beautiful photos. It is such a majestic place that words really cannot describe.

- Our driver Mr. Roth took us to Phnom Bakheng, a little hill, which is a great lookout point at sunset. The temple was very steep and some of the steps are only a few inches wide. We walked up the narrow steps to the temple, but didn't stay too long since we wanted to see Angkor Wat, which would be shortly closing.

- We arrived at Angkor Wat as it was closing and were able to get a few photos, however we didn't want to spend another $20 to go back the next day, so it's instead on our list of places to return to. The sheer size of Angkor Wat is impressive, but we both preferred the jungle temple at Ta Prohm.

The next day in Siem Reap we got out of the city to explore the countryside and a fascinating water village in the Tonlé Sap lake, which deserves more than a quick mention.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


This is the 90th year for the Salzburg City Festival where the see and be seen Jedermann (everyman) play is performed. The cathedral is the perfect backdrop for this medieval play about mortality.

Aren't those hairstyles and outfits fantastic?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lady Bavaria

We've had friends visiting so it was great excuse to get out and do some touristy things. It's always embarrassing to not have visited a variety of places around the city, especially because I love to find little hidden places.

I've really wanted to visit 'Lady Bavaria' a lookout point at Theresienwiese (the Oktoberfest grounds). It was really the perfect time, because there is a great view over the tents that are being built for the end all be all of festivals.

This is even the 200th year for Oktoberfest, so it will be more of a celebration than ever. I'm really looking forward to seeing the unique touches this year, including the 25 meter tower by the Augustiner tent that hasn't been built since WWII.

The Oktoberfest grounds are technically closed, however there were a lot of people strolling through and security walking around who didn't seem to mind that we were there.

It also probably helps that it was during the weekend, so we weren't interfering with the workers. I love seeing the process, especially when you consider these 'tents' are really much more structurally sound.

It's pretty incredible to think they are built and taken down each and every year.

Oktoberfest starts 18 September, so it will be here in just a little over a month!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Missing Aitutaki

This week I tried to catch up on editing photos rather than going out in the rain and now we have visitors. Where has the summer gone?! I'm slowly making my way through the zillions of photos from the Cook Islands.

The underwater photos take a while to look at because I desperately miss snorkeling through and seeing so many beautiful fish. Nature never ceases to amaze me. We also have a lot of blurry underwater shots - taking photos of moving creatures in water is a challenge, but we managed to capture some really spectacular things.

I felt a bit bad checking out the fish through the day and then eating them for dinner, but I guess that's the island way of life. This is a photo of some Chaetodon Auriga Butterfly Fish and 3 stripe Damsel Fish.

Since I was feeling nostalgic I wanted to surprise Stefan and create Ika Mata, which is a fantastic dish that is very typical to the area.

The ingredients + instructions are relatively simple:

Sushi grade yellow fin tuna
lime juice
coconut cream
salt + pepper

Marinate the tuna in the lime juice until it turns slightly white.
Dice up the vegetables while the tuna marinates.
Mix the ingredients together with the coconut cream.
Add salt + pepper.
Serve and reminisce over missing those gorgeous beaches.

Monday, August 2, 2010


(This post is a follow up from our trip around the world. I will be writing a recap for each place we visited during our 4 month trip. Prior to Singapore we also visited India, Nepal, Thailand and Malaysia).

- As I mentioned before even traveling 'first class' from Kuala Lumpur was not exactly a smooth journey. Our cabin had a shower, but no functioning toilet. When Stefan asked one of the conductors he laughed and told us none of the toilets worked. The bunks were set up so we couldn't even sit in them. We had to constantly lay on the beds, which would have been nice if we could have slept. There was also a television that didn't work that was knocking around while the trash can was falling out. It was a long night. On the bright side it really makes me appreciate how great the trains are here in Germany.

- Our arrival was really strange. I kept questioning if we were really in Singapore, because there were Malaysian flags and nothing mentioning Singapore (it's technically on Malaysian land). As we left the train station there were no waiting taxis or clear directions to the subway. Before even finding a subway or taxi for that matter we would have to get some Singapore Dollars anyway. It's probably best to fly into Singapore - especially since their airport is continually rated as one of the best in the world.

- Early morning the streets were filled with men and women wearing suits. We asked several how to get to a subway station, which required walking several blocks. Even early in the morning it was sweltering and very humid. Once again we quickly learned people don't often spend time outside.

- While Singapore is rather small there is plenty to see and do. Food and taxis are very inexpensive, which make being a tourist pretty effortless. Clarke Quay seems to be the center of night life, although it wasn't difficult to find something going on. More than once I had to remind myself I was in Asia, because there were always various languages being spoken and especially English with various accents from all around the world. I would have loved to have stayed at least a few days longer to really explore those little culture pockets and neighborhoods.

-The restaurants there are fascinating and many have themes. One was even The Clinic and people would sit in wheelchairs while enjoying their drinks out of IV drips. We didn't stop there, but we did have dinner in a former church outside near the Botanical Gardens at a place called the White Rabbit. Singapore will always be synonymous with food to me. Their famed dish is the chili crab, but I really think it's difficult to find bad food there. With so many restaurants there's a lot of competition and they all seem to always be crowded. We visited one aptly called Brotzeit that even featured Paulaner beer straight from Munich. It was a nice little touch of home.

- Another food area that was fun was called Food Republic in VivoCity (we later saw this in Beijing, too). Stefan and I shared a portion of fried hokkien prawn noodles in an opeh leaf. Then he wanted to make a dessert competition using SG$5 (about 2.50€). Just to give you an idea of how inexpensive things are - I left and came back with 4 keha tutu coconut cakes and a mango pomello shaved ice with 50 cents to spare. He picked dim sum and went over his SG$5 limit (but only by 20 cents).

- As we explored this diverse and wealthy city-state it felt more and more like an adult playground. Fantastic and inexpensive restaurants were everywhere and there were a large array of activities to spend money on. We always enjoy meeting friends or even friends of friends when traveling. We were able to do so in Singapore and quickly learned the food halls / hawker stalls are plentiful with high quality food and were told that Singaporeans really love to gamble. We were even told that on lunch breaks co-workers would gamble on virtually anything. Not exactly what I expected.

- We joined the river cruise to check out the Central Business District and Merlion from the water. It certainly made me feel small with those towering skyscrapers. I think the funniest part was when a man tossed some old flowers into the river and the guide said, "I probably should have called the police."

- Evidently there are $1,000 SG (500€) fines for spitting, picking flowers, wasting water, littering, and I'm sure a multitude of other crimes. That definitely put things into perspective on how much order and rule following were taken seriously. There were constantly groundskeepers taking care of the walk ways and making sure to even pick up detritus and leaf litter that is simply part of nature. I've since had a lot of the Singapore Airlines flight crew on tours, because there is a new direct flight between Munich and Singapore. I always tease them about enjoying the chewing gum while they are here. I always love asking them about flying and the people they encounter.

- It is one of the wealthiest and most densely populated countries in the world. After visiting the Embassy area we could certainly believe it. I've never seen larger homes in my life. Amazingly we were told to buy a car there is a 100% import tax and people must bid for a license that allows them 10 years to buy one, which can cost $30,000 or more before even purchasing the car. I didn't really get any photos of the homes or the Orchard Avenue area, but there are definitely places to drop buckets of cash. There was one great boutique called L'zzie - I could have done some damage there if I had more baggage space, but I did buy a few things there. It was so nice to feel feminine again.

- Going to Sentosa (the southernmost point of continental Asia according to the sign) is an easy and inexpensive way to visit beaches - and of course more attractions.

- Sentosa intends to become Asia's premier adventure and amusement area, which again doesn't surprise me since Singapore really seems to thrive in that department even if a lot of it feels contrived.

- There is a distinct contrast from the city with a lot of nature, including peacocks in the trees and I saw some kind of giant lizard wandering about.

- Somehow I had forgotten that I read about pink dolphins that they have and was excited when we learned we could see them and even pet one! Evidently they older they get the more they have a pink hue (ours was 30).

- The aquarium had jelly fish, a manatee cousin, and an enormous tank of sting rays. It was quite different from the one we saw in KL.

- The aquarium also had this small opening in one of the tanks where I assume people could feed the fish, but kids could put their hands in. It was somewhat strange, but the fish were beautiful.

- I'd be very intrigued to visit again and especially when the Sentosa amusement area and casinos are finished being built. It was a lot of fun to visit the small beach and see another aspect of what makes Singapore such a popular place.

- I get the feeling living in Singapore could feel a bit like college, because there is a young international crowd and going out is easy and inexpensive.

- The Changi Airport really is fantastic. We should have probably skipped on staying in our hotel and waking up before 5am on that last night. People were sleeping everywhere, but they also had free internet and other luxuries.

Next stop - Siem Reap, Cambodia!