Archive: May, 2012

Sunrise at Angkor Wat + More Wandering | Cambodia

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

I arose at dawn to meet my motorbike driver, Mow, (shown in this entry sleeping in a hammock) who took me through the crisp morning air to join the masses for sunrise at Angkor Wat. Though it was crowded with tourists (many of which were using tripods and cameras, which they clearly didn’t really know how to use!), it was magnificent to watch the sun emerge from behind such a masterful piece of ancient architecture. Travelers, be careful not to sit on the mats right in front of the lake, or a local vendor will suddenly appear and insist you are sitting on “their mat.” They will offer you tea or coffee and charge you a dollar or two for the mat and coffee. Crafty business, if you ask me! After a much needed nap, I headed back out some of the remaining temples I hadn’t seen yet. It was a long few days of site seeing in some unbearable heat, and at times I wished I had a friend or fellow traveler with me, but at other times, I was happy to move at my own pace and take photos without being hurried. I was really happy when our third day of temple-seeing came to an end, because I was staying at a really sweet gusthouse, Okay 1 Villa, which provided a rooftop pool and clean room at $8 night. (Traveler tip: make sure to ask for the secret cheap rooms). I met a bunch of awesome people there, (you will get to see a bit of our antics in an upcoming post-Shout out to Lauren, Nadja, and Peter!), and rather than moving along, I decided to linger in Siem Reap for a while…and get into some trouble.

they were getting ready for a wedding…

this young lady made a tough sell for some water…. even though i already had some i couldn’t turn her down.

my lovely driver

i love these two pictures, this lady cracked such a smile for me!

this band is comprised of victims of land mines… it’s a genuine way to support land mine survivors and it also supports local traditional music

this nun gave me a blessing…

i climbed this steps, and it’s more dangerous than it looks!

i love this photo of this monk futzing with his camera phone!

this little boy came up to me and hugged me. didn’t ask for money just more hugs! gotta love it.

My Favorite Temples | Angkor Wat | Cambodia

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Angkor Wat is a massive complex of archeology, architecture, and forests from the 9th to the 15th century. It contains the remains of various capitals of the Khmer Empire, including Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple. Angkor Thom and the Bayon temple were two of my favorite temples in the complex. Bayon is also known as the Buddah temple because it has over 200 Buddah faces carved into it. The detail is stunning. Angkor Thom is believed to once have a population of over 1 million. As I wandered through the endless temple walls, I kept trying to imagine what life was like during Cambodia’s golden age. It’s truly hard to envision. Though Cambodia is known mostly for its temples and heart wrenching history, Cambodia is so much more than this, and absolutely fell in with it and the warmth and kindess of the Cambodian people I met. While I was descending upon one of the temples for sunset, I met a young girl named Sunday (she was born on sunday), we were both by ourselves in a large crowd of people, and she began making conversation. Sunday helps take care of her family following her mother’s death, (her dad has another family now and doesn’t live with her and her sisters). She hopes to one day be a tour guide around Angkor Wat and Siem Reap. Though our sunset was hindered by clouds, we had a lovely evening chatting about Cambodia, culture, and our aspirations.

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Angkor Wat Photos | Siem Reap | Cambodia

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

I’m not a serious history buff, but I must say Angkor Wat is one of the most spectacular pieces of world history that I have witnessed. It is the largest religious structure in the world, and to this day, is one of the most sacred sites for Cambodians. Over the next few entries, I will share with you a bit of Angkor’s history, beauty, and magic. With over 1,000 temples, this formerly thriving city is one of the most intricate wonders in the history of architecture. It’s hard to accurately convey the sheer size of Angkor Wat, and those who visit with the intention of spending a day, are often in shock of its grandeur. I spent 3 full days exploring Angkor Wat on motorcycle, and though utterly exhausting and painfully hot and humid, it was an experience of a lifetime.

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Koh Samui | Thailand | Couchsurfing with Alex

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

I ONLY PLANNED TO SPEND A FEW DAYS on Koh Samui to a shoot a wedding, but a few days turned into a week, and it became one of those experiences that left me saying, “this is why I travel.”

I’ve couchsurfed all over the world, but couchsurfing in Europe in 2005 will always stand out, because it was my first big trip. It’s like falling in love for the first time. Though I am still in awe of each place I go, there’s nothing like one’s first taste of the road, and for me, couchsurfing was a big part of that. In Lusanne Switzerland, my host Jerome greeted me with swiss chocolate, pizza, and hookah, and my own room overlooking Lake Geneva. I met my friend Sophie in Lyon, France when I surfed her couch, and had a magical weekend in the countryside with her and her friends. (We’ve since seen each other two more times). I had a free boat tour and private scuba diving excursion while couchsurfing in Australia with Meg. I met Alison, who took me on a road trip along the Great Ocean Road. The list goes on. Couchsurfing is not only a way to experience culture and meet new people, it is, for many people, a way of life, a philosophy, a value system.

Every once in a while (actually more often than not), I meet hosts that go above and beyond, and Alex was just one of those guys. I was immediately comfortable in his home and his presence; it was as though we had met before. Alex moved to Koh Saumi from Russia after a friend encouraged him to pack up his bags and live on the beach. He works as a translator, and since he works mostly from home, we had a lot of time to explore the island on his motorbike and widdle away hours at his favorite beach spots. We spent our evenings down the street at a new pool bar called lucky lips (haha) where we got to know the local ladies (oh yea), and I frequently kicked Alex’s ass in pool.

Our mornings were lazy, but eventually, we’d cruise into town to find the best coffee on the island. We also put away a lot of pad thai and Tom Kha Gai soup at Alex’s favorite food joints. “This is the best soup I’ve found on the island, and I’ve had a lot of soup.” Tom Kai Gai is a traditional soup that I’d had many times but not like this.This was, as Alex affectionately called it, magic soup. It was a freaking pimped out party for your tastebuds. Where does one find this soup? A German sports bar of all places, owned by a German/Thai couple whose daughter prepares the soup. It doesn’t have an online presence yet, so you’re just going to have to ask around for directions to Baden Sports Bar.

During one of our post-swim motorbike adventures into the hills, Alex and I stumbled upon this hidden cafe with spectacular views. We enjoyed a coconut shake while we talked about life and looked down into the valley. It was at that point Alex said, “Yep, life here is pretty sweet, Erica.” And that’s all he really needed to say. “I’m coming back,” I told him.

I went to Koh Samui expecting something similar to the over-developed touristy, (but beautiful) Phuket. But I was lucky, thanks to Alex, I got to experience an underbelly of Koh Samui that few travelers do. Thank you Alex! See you next year…

alex + the magic soup

view from the hidden cafe…

post-coconut shake bliss

alex putty lips at lucky lips

the beach

morning coffee

my attempt at this didn’t go as well, so i’m not including the pictures!

and so begins one of the most epic sunsets i’ve witnessed…

from darkness to light.


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