All of us have must-haves when it comes to preparing for a trip. For children, it’s their favorite toy, for the resident fashionista it’s the humongous makeup kit that contains brushes of different shapes and sizes and palettes of different colors, and for the businessman it’s gadgets that will help him process business transactions. Since I bought the Jaromanoy shirt last December, it has become one of my travel must-haves. It’s one of the first things I pack when I’m preparing for a trip. I have a certain attachment to the shirt because I believe in the people behind it and I want to share their story to the world. More than liking how the shirt fits me, it also makes me feel like they are with me wherever I go. It sounds cheesy and they’ll probably laugh at me but that’s the truth.
When my mom told me that we’ll be going to Angkor Wat to take a picture of the sunrise, I immediately thought of wearing my Jaromanoy shirt. It’s corny but I was thinking, “ah, they’ll see the sunrise with me”. Anyway, I paired it with a skirt that I bought in Thailand since they compliment each other. The ground was still muddy from the previous night’s rain so I decided to wear my trusty chucks.
Before leaving for Siem Reap, my mom and did some research on organizations who produce water hyacinth products. We came across Osmose, an organization that not only makes baskets from water hyacinth, but gives workshops on weaving as well. My mom and I were so thrilled when we learned about this. We set an appointment with Mr. Vang Vorng, the Water Hyacinth Handicraft Project Manager.
We arrived at 9 in the morning and we started the workshop immediately. The Osmose ladies taught us how to weave placemats and coasters. It was nice to learn weaving styles that are different from what we know. We paid close attention as they guided us with each step, making sure that everything will be remembered.
After three hours of weaving, I managed to make this:
With continuous weaving, this can become a coaster, a basket, or a bag. They also gave us tips on how to add color using organic materials. We were really excited after the workshop. I was already thinking of new designs that we can use for our products. 🙂
Our group wanted to visit Tonle Sap since we heard from friends who have been to Cambodia before that it’s nice to capture the sunset while at the lake. We left at 1 in the afternoon and paid $20 for the boat ticket.
Tonle Sap, a combined lake and river system, is very important to Cambodia. In 1997, it was designated as a UNESCO biosphere and is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. With these merits, we were hoping that the trip to the lake will be worth every penny but I have to say it wasn’t. We didn’t get to see the sunset because we were too early and the driver of the boat said that if we extend for one more hour, we will have to pay extra. We were also required to purchase food as a “donation” for the children at the orphanage.
I have to admit, it was heartbreaking to witness the situation of the people living in the area. Imagine living for days in a house that gets support from four wooden posts that aren’t even high enough to keep itself dry once the river overflows. Babies live on boats because their parents bring them along as they ask for money from tourists. It really saddened me that these children have to live in this kind of situation. When we were paying for our “donation”, I prayed silently that the kids will really receive what we bought for them.
We had our first family trip outside the country last month thanks to Cebu Pacific’s seat sale. It was last May when we learned about the promo and since we’ve been wanting to go on a family vacation abroad, we booked tickets immediately. We were very happy to have James, my brother from another mother, on board.
We wanted to see the Angkor Wat sunrise on our first day but since it was raining cats and dogs, it wasn’t possible. We left the hotel at 9 in the morning and made our way to the temples, a must-see when you’re in Siem Reap. We went to Bayon Temple (the temple with many faces) first.
After the Bayon Temple, we walked to the Baphuon Temple to see the reclining Buddha. It was a good thing that we were wearing comfortable footwear because this temple is popular for its height. Visitors have to climb up a very steep ladder to reach the top. It’s scary, but fulfilling once you reach the peak.
Ta Prohm, also known as the Tomb Raider Temple, is breathtaking. I like how there are trees that wrapped its roots around some sections in the temple, and how they managed to stand tall and strong while resting on top of blocks of concrete that were just stacked without cement. Unfortunately, a huge part of Ta Prohm was undergoing restoration so we were given limited access. Nonetheless, we still had a great time.
We then made our way to Angkor Wat. We wanted to shoot the sunset, but since it was too cloudy, we decided to walk around and take pictures inside the temple. I remember crying during my first visit because I was in awe of the beauty that was in front of me. One year later and I’m still amazed.
I guess my mom really wanted to see how beautiful the sunrise is in Angkor Wat that she requested that we go back on our last day in Siem Reap. I decided to accompany her because I wanted her to experience what I experienced. My mom and I went to Angkor Wat at 4:30 in the morning and patiently waited for the gates to open. We were allowed to buy tickets at 5 in the morning. My mom and I were surprised when we arrived at the lake because there were a lot of people already. We managed to find a good spot. We went trigger happy when we saw the sky change color from black, to dark blue with hints of pink and yellow.
We ran into another Filipino who happened to be a photojournalist. He told us about the laughing Apsara dancer in one of the walls just before the temple exit. Since my mom and I were up for the challenge, we looked for her and we found her proudly showing her teeth. According to the photojournalist, she’s the only laughing dancer among the thousands carved in the temple’s walls.
1) There are three ways for you to get to Angkor Wat. You can rent a bike, Tuk-tuk, or a taxi. A Tuk-tuk costs $20 whole day while a taxi costs $30. If there are four of you, the taxi is cheaper.
2) Wear comfortable footwear because trust me, you will be doing a lot of walking.
3) Some temples don’t allow hats, sleeveless/tube tops, and shorts/skirts that are above the knee.
4) Bring an umbrella.
5) Wear sunblock.
6) It’s good to go early because you get to see the sunrise plus, you don’t have to worry about running into huge tourist groups.
7) If a local offers you an incense stick and asks for $10, say NO.
8) Bring water.
9) Make sure that your camera is fully charged and you have an extra SD card.
Anyone who has been to Siem Reap and Thailand will recommend that you visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Angkor Wat and Ayutthaya. Angkor Wat in Siem Reap is a sight to see especially when you go there at dawn and wait for the sunrise. It’s breathtaking to see the sky change its color from black to different shades of blue with hints of yellow, orange, pink, and purple. I cried the first time I saw Angkor Wat because I was so amazed at how it was constructed (think manual labor) and how something so beautiful was preserved through the years. The Ayutthaya temples in Thailand are just as beautiful. Legend has it that it was in 1767 when the Burmese attacked the city and chopped the heads of the Buddha statues. The Buddha tree in Wat Mahatat, Ayutthaya is very famous because of the Buddha’s head that sits firmly in it’s tangled roots. To show respect, one must kneel or sit down when taking a picture with the Buddha.
Since the temples are sacred, there are outfit restrictions. People who wear caps, sleeveless tops and skirts that drop above the knee are not given access in some of temples. I was aware of this since I did some research before going so I had time to plan my outfit.
I went with a white blouse with butterfly sleeves since I knew that it will be very hot. The butterfly sleeves and the blouse’s cotton fabric allowed air to pass through so I wasn’t sweating that much. The wrap-around skirt dropped down to my ankles so I didn’t have to worry about not being able to enter some of the temples. The Roxy baller never left my left arm since a surfer friend gave it to me last Christmas – it makes me feel that the ocean is with me wherever I go. I bought the bangle during my trip to Vietnam last year. I decided to use it since it matches the color accents on my blouse.
It’s important to bring a bag with you when you’re visiting temples. You will need to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration, a face towel, and extra clothes. For this visit, I used the bag my mom gave me since it can hold a lot of items and it has a secret pocket. I managed to fit the essentials plus my DSLR without it being too bulky.
What I enjoyed the most about my visit to the temples was mentally revisiting all my history notes dates since elementary. The stories and articles that I only saw in text books, articles, and journals were finally standing before me- I didn’t have to imagine what they looked like anymore. It is true that travelling is the best form of education because you don’t just read about it; you experience it, real time.