Grand Circuit at Angkor Wat | Siem Reap, Cambodia

I have been told that “one day is plenty for Angkor Wat,” especially if you are on a budget.” Thank goodness, I didn’t listen. Although I was on a budget, I chose to purchase the 3-day park pass upfront, just in case, I did want to return. And in all fairness, I know me well enough to know that I was going to want to go back. I can tell you now, with a high level of certainty, that ONE DAY is NOT enough.

This time, however, was going to be different. My new friend, Laura, and I decided to hire a tuk-tuk driver instead of opting for the hostel’s tour. We were able to make contact with my original tuk-tuk driver, Morl, and hire him for the day. (Exchanging contacts with him was one of the best things to come from Siem Reap. We’re even still friends and will be using him again come October!)

Exchanging numbers with Morl was one of the BEST things to have happened during my week in Siem Reap. It not only gave us the freedom we both wanted but allowed us to create our own “tour” experience by selecting which temples to visit.

Angkor Wat is WAY more than just a sunrise. Before I visited, I didn’t know much outside of the main temple and that it was an ancient city, and I limited my research before avoid spoiling the adventure.

As mentioned in the last Siem Reap blog, there are commonly two “drives/tours,” you could follow during your visit. On my first visit, I did the Sunrise Petit Circuit tour, which consists of the temples in the inner circle. This time, Laura and I decided to do the Grand Tour, or outer loop, with the sunrise AND sunset option.

When you hire a tuk-tuk driver, it allows you freedom to choose what you want to do and where you want to visit. It’s always good to have a general idea and discuss it with your driver ahead of time. For us, we both knew we wanted another sunrise, AND we wanted to see the sunset at Angkor Wat.

When Laura and I were in the initial stages of planning our day, we were sure where we could do sunrise. We did Angkor Wat the day before, so we asked Morl for his recommendation. He mentioned Srah Srang. I had no idea what this was, but he explained that it was the king’s pool. So, at 5 am the next day, Morl was at Onederz Hostel to pick up Laura and me for sunrise at Srah Srang.

There was a striking difference between the “famous sunrise at Angkor Wat,” and this peaceful, non-crowded, quiet sunrise over a beautiful water reservoir. I think, in total, I may have only counted 10-12 other people at this location. The sunrise at Srah Srang is how a sunrise should be experienced, in my opinion.

One thing I remember when talking to my hostel-mates was about “how to beat the crowds at the temples?” After the nightmare feel of Ta Prohm, Laura and I both knew we wanted to beat the crowd. One tiny piece of advice they had for us, “Do the circuit BACKWARDS!” Simple as that.

Typically, the circuit begins by leaving Angkor Thom’s North Gate heading towards Preah Khan (Banteay Prei). It continues to Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon and ends at Pre Rup. Instead, we started our journey at Pre Rup. Since we went there first, we had the entire temple to ourselves. It was so refreshing compared to the day before’s sardine feel.

Grand Circuit: Pre Rup and East Mebon

Pre Rup is a 10th-century Hindu temple, believed to be the sight of funerals. It is built out of combination of brick, laterite, and sandstone, which gives this temple a slight pinkish color. Upon entering the temple, I was staring onto a grand staircase with a small stone “cistern” placed in front. The grand floor plan surrounded me with small towers in every direction. At the top of the stairs stood five towers in a quincunx formation. Each built with their own deities to stand guard. In this formation, one tower is placed in each corner with the final tower in the middle.

This similar style of architecture is also found at East Mabon, our next temple. It is only located only a few minutes from Pre Rup. We also were blessed at this temple to be the only ones, until a family of four showed up. East Mabon is another 10th-century Hindu temple dedicated to the god, Shiva. It was built in honor of the king’s parents, on an island in the middle of the East Baray. The East Baray was once a body of water but has since dried.

According to Wikipedia, “its location reflects Khmer architects’ concern with orientation and cardinal directions. The temple was built on a north-south axis with Rajendravarman’s state temple, Pre Rup, located about 1,200 meters to the south just outside the baray. The East Mebon also lies on an east-west axis with the palace temple Phimeanakas, another creation of Rajendravarman’s reign, located about 6,800 meters due west.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Mebon

It still fascinates me how much thought and planning went into these now-ancient structures at the time of construction. From the perfect placement of the sun behind Angkor Wat to the placement of East Mebon and relationship to the other temples, the king’s vision was able to come to life and remain centuries later.

Grand Circuit: Ta Som

We continued the Grand Circuit tour and headed towards the next temple, Ta Som. We were met with peaceful silence. These temples have such a different feel to them when you can enjoy them alone and truly soak up the beauty.

Ta Som was built around the end of the 12th-century. It has a similar feel to Ta Prohm, including massive trees growing amongst the ruins. Ta Som was thought to have been destroyed around the 16th century, and for many centuries remained untouched. It’s layout consists of three enclosures each containing a gateway, known as gopuras, and main shrine. Thanks to restoration, it can be easily navigated.

Grand Circuit: Neak Pean and Preah Khan

Neak Pean was next on our tour. This particular Hindu temple is very different from others, not only the overall design, but the entrance from the road to the temple is a wooden bridge. It was thought to have been built sometime in the late 12th to early 13th-century, and according to our driver, Neak Pean was built to help cure diseases. The design of this temple consisted of

“four connected pools represent Water, Earth, Fire, and Wind. Each is connected to the central water source, the main tank, by a stone conduit “presided over by one of Four Great Animals (maha ajaneya pasu) namely Elephant, Bull, Horse, and Lion, corresponding to the north, east, south, and west quarters.” (Wikipedia: Neak Pean)

Preah Khan was then next temple along our tour and was far more untouched than any of the other temples we have visited. Preah Khan was built in the 12th century for the king’s father. Its name translates to “holy sword.” It’s a two-story structure, which differs from the one-story Ta Prohm, built for his mother and a features massive trees intertwined with the ancient ruins. This particular temple has been mostly untouched from restoration due to the difficulty of the growth of vegetation and unknown historical accuracy.

Terrace of the Elephants and Baphuon

After Preah Khan, we passed through the North Gate of Angkor Thom and arrived at the Terrace of the Elephants. This 12th-century structure was built in order of the king to view his army and for ceremonial purposes. It is a perfect place for a mid-day walk, just beware of the monkeys.

We walked the entire length of the terrace, stopping a few times to take in the architecture. We continued onto Baphuon, an 11th-century pyramid style temple built high into the sky. To arrive at Baphuon, you walk on a long, elevated walkway. This walkway ends at the entrance and continues to a set of steep stairs. These stairs are a “must climb.” When you reach the top, the view is breath-taking and one of the best in Angkor.

Laura and I were exhausted at this point of the afternoon. With one final stop at Angkor Thom’s Southgate, we made our way home. However, we were not ready to be finished at Angkor Wat. We asked Morl if he would be willing to return us to the hostel and pick up us late to take us back to Angkor Wat for sunset. He agreed, and we were very grateful.

Angkor Wat at sunset was recommended to us by another traveler. We were told that it was much less crowded and much more enjoyable. They were not wrong. Sunset at Angkor Wat did not disappoint. It was very refreshing to watch the day end without the 10s of thousands of travelers.

As much as I have loved Angkor over the past two days, I was ready for a break. I was ready to explore more of the lovely city of Siem Reap. Stay tuned to find out what I did on my day off from Angkor.

First Experience at Angkor | Siem Reap, Cambodia

I don’t even know where to start when I think back to my week in Siem Reap, Cambodia. During the initial planning phase of my adventure, I only intended in staying three full days. I was told that it would be plenty of time. Instead, I ended up staying for six days and LOVED every second of it! It was plenty of days to see both sides of the city, without one spoiling the other!

I knew I wanted to visit Siem Reap because I really wanted to see Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I had been told through several travelers that it’s effortless to cross the border between Thailand and Cambodia. It was a no brainer.

I pre-booked my ticket with Giant Ibis through 12go.asia, the best website for booking or researching transportation in Asia. I also decided to apply for my visa ahead of time to save space in my passport. It was honestly SUPER easy in every sense of the way.

border crossing Cambodia

The journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap was estimated to take about 8 hours and took about 9 hours. The bus ride was pretty uneventful with a little confusion at the border. Thankfully, Giant Ibis was there every step of the way.

Arrival into Siem Reap

Siem Reap Cambodia Tuk Tuk

Once I physically arrived into Siem Reap, I jumped in a random tuk-tuk and headed to my hostel, Onederz. This random tuk-tuk ended up being the best thing that happened. . At the hostel, my tuk-tuk driver, Morl, mentioned to me that he offers tuk-tuk rides through Angkor Wat. I honestly didn’t know my plans and wanted to “wing it,” so we exchanged numbers, just in case!

At Onederz Hostel, I ended up meeting a girl, Laura. She decided to go ahead with the hostel’s Petit Tour of Angkor Wat. I usually wouldn’t do a tour, but I wanted to learn more about the majestic Angkor Wat. Plus, it was only $12. So, I joined Laura and the other hostel people on this Petit Tour.

Siem Reap Cambodia Currency

One thing I want to explain before I go forward is the currency of Cambodia. Cambodia’s official currency is the riel. However, the majority of the country uses the US dollar, including ATMs. It was extremely WEIRD going back to the US dollar after being on the Thai baht for seven months. Another thing, Cambodia also doesn’t have coins for their currency since the riel to dollar ratio is 4000:1. Meaning, they’ll give you US dollars for bills, then riels for change. It’s a pretty unique aspect to Cambodia!

The particular tour I did with Onederz Hostel was the Sunrise Tour or Small Circuit tour with a tour guide. You can opt for a tuk-tuk tour without guide for $6, but I thought having a guide would be beneficial for the first time visit.

Angkor Wat Sunrise Siem Reap

Now, there is something you should know about Angkor Wat. It has been said to be one of the most beautiful sunrises in the world. I was not going to miss it.

The Sunrise Tour started with sunrise at the main Angkor Wat temple. Then continued with a walk around the temple and learning a little about the history from our guide. It continues with a drive through the South Gate and on to Angkor Thom’s Bayon Temple. Next, the tour took us to Ta Prohm (think Tomb Raider), and finished at Banteay Kdei. I’ll go into more details later.

Tour and Ticket Options

Angkor Wat Siem Reap

Sunrise tours in Siem Reap typically mean a 4:30/4:45 departure time and this tour wasn’t any different. The primary reason for the SUPER early departure usually depends on if you need a ticket or not. Plus, the sheer volume of tourists visiting sunrise on a single day means traffic.

You can easily and quickly purchase Angkor Wat tickets the day of the sunrise visit. You can also purchase them the day before as long as it is after 5pm. Bonus, you are able to see sunset if you chose the latter option, for free. There are several ticket options for Angkor Wat; a single day entry for $37, a 3-day pass for $62, or a 7-day pass for $72. Something unique about these multiple-day passes is that you do not need to use them on consecutive days. The 3-day pass is valid for 10 days, and the 7-day pass is valid for 30 days. This means you have options for visiting the grounds of Angkor Wat.

Laura and I both opted for the 3-day pass to give us the option for returning to the temples. The tour itself started off strong with a good history of Angkor Wat. There was plenty of time to experience things like climbing a tower for a view or getting blessed by a monk. However, after the first two temples, it started to become nearly impossible to hear the tour guide, and the speed was becoming increasingly fast.

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in hanging back and ignoring the tour guide. There was another couple who felt very similar to the tour as I did, and the three of us pretty much just took pictures of the majestic temples.

Each temple we visited had a different vibe and look to them. This was based on the century in which they were built, the religious entity who they were built for, and the purpose for the building.

Angkor Wat’s temples were built between the 9th and 13th centuries. They were built as either a Hindu temple for the Hindu god, Vishnu, or a Buddhist temple, for the Khmer Empire. This means Angkor Wat is a beautiful combination of Hinduism and Buddhism and is currently a Buddist place of worship.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat Sunrise Siem Reap

The largest and main temple on the grounds is Angkor Wat, which faces west and allows the sun to rise directly behind it. This skillful placement is part of why the sunrise at Angkor Wat is one of the most famous sunrises in the world. What’s even more unique, during the equinox, the sun rises in direct alignment with the middle tower. (Without knowing, I was a few days shy of this perfect alignment).

These towers and many throughout the grounds have a particular Lotus flower shape to them. The lotus flower is very symbolic in both Hinduism and Buddhism, meaning divine perfection and purity, respectively. It’s not uncommon to see the symbol of the lotus throughout temples, and Angkor Wat is no exception.

Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia


After we watched the sunrise, our guide took us into the main temple where we learned a little more about the stones, carvings, and design of the temple. I even had the opportunity to be blessed by a monk. It was extremely spiritual.

Bayon Temple

We continued our tour to Bayon, a late 12th-early 13th-century Buddhist temple, known for smiling stone faces. This was the point that Angkor was starting to get ridiculously crowded with tourists. At Bayon, I decided to hang back from the tour guide and truly take in the serenity of the temple(s).

Ta Prohm and Banteay Kdei Temples

Next on the tour was the second most famous temple at the park, Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is best known for the massive trees that have physically grown through the stone. They have become one with the structures, engulfing much of the temple. Ta Prohm has been nicknamed “The Jungle Temple,” for this reason. It is also the location where parts of Tomb Raider was filmed. Unfortunately, the majestic site was lost to the glob of tourists, and I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I was hoping. I felt very rushed and at times, felt like a sardine.

Our final location was Banteay Kdei, another Buddhist temple built in the mid 12th- early 13th-century. At this point of the day (it’s only 1 pm), my brain was slowly fading, and I don’t remember much of the history of this temple. Since we started so early, I was ready to be done. This, I would say, is a con to taking an organized tour vs. hiring a tuk-tuk driver.

Angkor Wat Banteay Kdei

We finally returned to the hostel after an extremely long and hot day exploring Angkor, and I wasn’t up for much the rest of the day. After a short nap, Laura and I met to discussed plans for the next day, and concluded with asking Morl to be our driver/guide for the day! I was ready to be done for the day, but I wasn’t ready to be done with Angkor. Stay tuned for another journey through Angkor Archaeological Park!

Two Friends in Thailand | Phuket to Bangkok

It’s hard to believe how quickly a week vacation went with my friend Chris, but all good thing must come to an end, right? (okay, maybe not always)

Thankfully, it wasn’t quite over. We were all set to fly from Phuket to Bangkok in the afternoon. Chris’s return flight to America, however, was not until Sunday afternoon. So, technically, we had another day and a half, which between the two of us, was plenty of time to do a few more things!

We did allow ourselves to sleep-in Saturday morning, which was much needed before we wandered Patong Beach to find breakfast. After breakfast, we ended up finding smoothies and a fish massage place. . You know, those big tanks of tiny fish that you put your feet into and the tiny fish eat the dead skin. That’s what we decided to do on our last day in Phuket, fish massages.

It was one of the strangest feelings, and I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s like a mix between a pedicure, tickling sensation, and mini, painless pinches over your entire foot.

We originally paid for 15 minutes, but the guy allowed us to stay for like 30 minutes. It was pretty excessive but it’s Thailand! We told him at least three times that we were done, but he just sat there.

Once we finished, it was time to star gathering our things and wait for our taxi. Not going to lie when I say it was slightly stressful, as our taxi was quite late. Thank goodness Phuket International Airport was a smaller airport and we were only taking a domestic flight.

Returning to Bangkok

The flight back to Bangkok was uneventful, and we quickly found our way to our hostel. When we initially planned this trip, I booked the two of us in a dorm room, but after a few days, I changed to a private room, to allow Chris the ability to spread out and pack easier.

The hostel, Niras Bangkoc Cultural Hostel, was located in the heart of Bangkok and is located across the street from a very famous restaurant. However, I didn’t know that at the time of the booking, but defiantly good to know for future reference.

Our night wasn’t that eventful. It was mostly Chris gathering a few last-minute items and walking around the neighborhood we were staying. The neighborhood was full of beautiful temples, a bit of traffic, and was close to the Giant Swing, a common tourist spot. Honestly, it was a bit underwhelming and uneventful, but I guess I can say we’ve seen it.

Chatuchak Weekend Market

The next day, we woke up with little plans. However, since it was a Sunday, Chatuchak Weekend Market would be open. It’s one of the top things to see in Bangkok, and it’s where Chris and I decided to spend our half day.

Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the world’s largest weekend markets. It covers nearly 27 acres of land, has well over 15,000 booths, and is the perfect place to gather souvenirs or wander around.

I’ve been before, and since I was at the start of my 6-week backpacking adventure, I wasn’t really in the market for shopping, but it sure was fun watching Chris look around.

Our time quickly came to an end. Before I knew it, Chris and I were in a Grab taxi heading to the airport. Saying goodbye to Chris was hard. It was such a refreshing week spent with a friend who knows me. It also meant that I was about to embark on my longest solo adventure ever.

After Chris left, I only had two things on my to-do list before changing hostels. First thing I needed to do was…get my second anti-rabies shot at a local hospital (SUPER EASY). The second thing I needed to do was to head to a mall and purchase a new GoPro. Mine decided to break while on our Phi Phi Islands boat tour.

Thankfully, regarding my GoPro, I pay for GoPro Plus, which means I can send in my broken GoPro under warranty and get a new one. Unfortunately, I’m in Thailand. This meant I needed to send it home with Chris to the USA to be covered. On the positive side, I GOT TO BUY THE GOPRO 7, which is AMAZING!!! And I did!

My night concluded with me changing hostels, showering, and sleeping. I was heading to Cambodia early the next morning on a bus, and I didn’t want to miss it.

Stay tuned for stories and adventures of my 19th country and second country of Southeast Asia!!!

Two Friends in Thailand | Phi Phi Islands

Today was one of those days where we had no plans on what we wanted to do. I had a semi-rough idea of what we could do, but I didn’t want to set anything in stone, unti I was with Chris.

Together, after a few options were discussed, we decided on another boat day. Except, instead of a sunset cruise, we decided on a sunrise speed boat tour to the Phi Phi Islands. The particular tour we decided on was called The Beach Sea Trips. I’m pretty sure we found at the stand where we rented our motor scooters.

The Phi Phi Islands are kind of a MUST SEE when you come to the west coast of Thailand. They are what most people think of when they think of Thailand. I’m not going to lie when I say, I was really excited about this particular trip! It would be the furthest south I’ve ever been (at this point in time).

As this trip was a sunrise boat trip, it meant another super early morning after a late night. (Remember I was bitten by a monkey and was at the hospital till well close to, maybe even after midnight). Thankfully, Chris is a morning bird and had enough time before our pick up arrived to get us some coffee! (Coffee is a wonderful thing).

The driver drove us to the starting point of the tour at a marina a decent 40-minute drive away. Thankfully, once we arrived and checked in, the company provided breakfast. During breakfast, they went over the itinerary and the safety features, so no significant time was spent on the boat! Always a good perk to a sunrise not trip!

sunrise over the sea

To say we were ready to board the boat is an understatement. I was just tired of standing around and listening to people talk. I wanted to be back on the water in a speed boat, jetting off towards the sun. Don’t get me wrong, I love Thailand, I’ve majorly missed the boat life from the Caribbean.

Koh Phi Phi Ley and Maya Bay Beach

I was so happy when we left the marina and sped off into the sun. We paused for a short while to capture sunrise photos before heading towards the first stop of the day, Maya Bay.

Something you should know. Maya Bay is indefinitely closed after succumbing to over-tourism. Thailand’s government decided that, to bring it back to its beauty, it needs to remain tourist-free. Why the over-tourism? Maya Bay was made famous by the 2000 movie, “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio. It quickly rose to fame as a Thailand island hotspot. Now, you can only witness this beautiful beach from a distance.

After a few minutes, we headed to our next location, Loh Sama Bay. Literally, on the backside of the Koh Phi Phi Ley where Maya Bay is located. This time, we were FINALLY able to jump into the beyond crystal turquoise blue water! That wasn’t all, located in this little reef area behind Maya Beach, were cute and tiny baby reef sharks 🙂

We stayed in this spot for about 30ish minutes. When we were ready to take off, Chris happened to be quite far from the boat and struggling to get back to the boat due to a current. According to Chris, swimming is not his thing. Makes for a great story though!!

The next location on this boat trip turned into an ultimate fail. Apparently, the tide doesn’t always work in favor of the boat. On this particular day, the tide at Pileh Lagoon was just that. The entrance was too shallow for the boat. Even with the motors practically out of the water, the boat was unable to pass over the sand bar. It would have been a great spot for more swimming, but it was just in the plans.

Thankfully, it’s not like this was the end of the boat trip. We had barely just begun. With little hesitation, we continued on our way with a just slow enough to see it, drive by, of a place called Viking Cave.

Monkey Beach

I wish I could tell you more about Viking Cave, but I just don’t have any answers. I was more curious about this Monkey Beach and Monkey Cliff I kept hearing our tour guide mentioning.

Did you read about yesterdays mishap with a monkey? Can you now understand my curiosity? A Monkey Beach with a monkey cliff?

It was pretty much exactly what it sounds like; a beach of monkeys and a cliff of monkeys. It was pretty entertaining watching these monkeys JUMP off the cliff and into the sea, then back up the ropes. It was slightly touristy, and boats were feeding the monkeys bananas. I know it’s not ethical and it does cause monkeys to become aggressive, but I still enjoyed it.

After a few entertaining jumps from the monkeys and soaking up the beautiful island cliffs, we continued to our next location; a beachside restaurant for our lunch. This restaurant is a part of a beach resort located on Laemtong Beach. That’s honestly all I remember. Well, that and that the food was delicious!

Koh Phi Phi Don

After lunch, we headed to Long Beach, located on Koh Phi Phi Don. I’ll explain this to you quickly. Koh Phi Phi Ley is the smaller of the two islands, and Koh Phi Phi Don is the larger island. Okay, let’s continue.

Long Beach is located on the southeast corner of Koh Phi Phi Don, between several resorts. This is where Chris finally got his “James Bond” long boat moment. There were several long boats anchored on the beach right next to each other and was a perfect location for his moment.

Chris and I, being the crazy, non-stop movers we are, decided to grab a beer and take a walk down the beach. It turned into a climb over a rocky corner, down a smaller beach, and over another rocky corner. It was at this point that we noticed the “Viking” sign. Come to find out, this is the location of the Viking Resort, but I did not know that at the time.

It was here where we had a mini-photoshoot on the rocky corner with the picturesque Thailand background, long boats included. I struggled slightly with the rocky shore and may have slipped a couple of times. I never fully fell in, but I had a few close calls.. Chris, being the amazing photographer that he is, captured it ALL on camera.

Bamboo Island

Next, we headed to Bamboo Island, a tiny island located just north of Koh Phi Phi Don. It is home to a beautiful white, sandy beach. Before we made anchor on our final beach of the day, we anchored off the coastline and did some more snorkeling.

This was a huge highlight for me, because…I SAW A ZEBRA SHARK. This was my first and as of now, my only time seeing a zebra shark. Talk about a random wildlife encounter! Chris even got to swim with the shark! Talk about memories in the making!

It was finally time to head to our final stop along our Phi Phi tour, Bamboo Beach. Chris, at this point, had one more item he wanted to check off his list. He wanted to drink a coconut on a beach. Thanks to our fellow boatmates, they gave us one of their coconuts, as they didn’t like it! You could say our boating day around the Phi Phi Islands have been an utter success!!

The best part was that our day didn’t end with the boat trip. When we returned to the marina, it was only about 3 pm. We were spent and knew we needed to rest before heading out on the town.

Our night was a pretty simple night. One thing we knew for certain was that we needed to complete our week in paradise with one final Thai massage. After all, Chris’s first experience wasn’t a true Thai massage. But this one was. There were moments during our massages, where the masseuses and myself were laughing because of the noises Chris was making.

I will say this, a Thai massage is nothing like the typical massage you might think of in America. It’s not relaxing AT ALL. I could totally understand where Chris was coming from, but it was still kind of funny. It wase the perfect end to our amazing week in Phuket.

We still have one half day left in Phuket before our flight the next day, so stay tuned for one final post on my time in Thailand with my good friend Chris!

Two Friends in Thailand | Big Buddha and Phang Nga Bay, Phuket

We woke up extremely early on our 5th day. Reason? We still had a few more hours left with our scooters, and we wanted to see the sunrise, but not just any regular sunrise. We wanted to see the sun come up at the famous Phuket landmark, The Great Buddha of Phuket, also known as Big Buddha.

Big Buddha is a beautifully built, 18-meter tall statue located high on a mountain facing east, towards Ao Chalong Bay. Although parts of the grounds are still under construction, you can see why Big Buddha is a popular destination for locals and tours alike.

Because Chris and I are both morning people (when I want to be, I should clarify), we jetted off towards Big Buddha during the wee hours of the morning. I think it was something like 4:45-5am. It only took us about 30 minutes to drive our scooters to the location, and about 10 of those minutes were spent driving around and up the mountain, arriving before the sky started to light up.

It wasn’t very crowded when we arrived, so I was able to search out a place to attempt to capture a timelapse of the sunrise with my GoPro. (This is an essential part to the story). Everything was going perfect. The sun started to wake, the sky was turning beautiful colors, and everything was quiet. That was until the monkeys appeared.

Monkeys are known to be ruthless little creatures and scavengers on the hunt for food. In my case, one monkey was heading right towards me and getting a little aggressive. Then it started towards my GoPro. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. So, I grabbed my GoPro, which of course, pissed this monkey off. Next thing I know, the monkey jumped on my back and attempted to bite me. It all happened so fast that I honestly couldn’t tell if he made contact with me or not, as he tried to bite my upper back between my shoulder blades. Two ladies, who were nearby, saw this event take place and were kind enough look on my back for any signs of bite marks. Sure enough, the little bugger broke the skin; not deep enough to cause bleeding, but he did break it.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. Why did I reach for my GoPro? Monkeys are known to be carriers, though not frequent, for rabies, and I put myself at risk by going after my GoPro. GoPros are not cheap, and I knew if this monkey got it, it would be gone forever. So, I took a chance.

I told Chris what happened with the monkey and texted my mom, who I am sure LOVED getting that text message. The three of us went back and forth about the rabies vaccination and ultimately decided it would be stupid not to get the shots. It’s just not worth the risk EVER.

Unfortunately, Chris and I had a prebooked boat tour for the afternoon and knew we would not have enough time to go to the hospital before the tour. I understand this probably isn’t the smartest thing, but I wasn’t worried and didn’t want to miss out on Pha Nang Bay, so we postponed getting the vaccination until after the tour.

At this point, it is now 7 am. We were both starting to get hungry, and both in desperate need of coffee. What I didn’t mention from yesterday, was that Chris and I stumbled across this random coffee shop on our drive home from sunset. We were curious about it, so we decided that we needed to make a visit before returning to Patong.

Yes Coffee, we found, was established to support underprivileged people in Thailand. It is more than just a roastery. It is also a school, which provides Burmese migrant children with education and currently has about 50 students and employs three teachers. Talk about a hidden gem of Phuket. Stumbling across this coffee shop was, for me, a major highlight of the trip. I genuinely love supporting businesses like Yes Coffee.

With the time of the tour creeping close and our time with the scooters about to expire, we headed back to Patong and our hostel. We had enough time to change into our suits and gather our things before we headed out towards the marina for our tour.

Now, something you should know about Chris is that he is an incredibly active man, so when looking for tours, I knew I needed to find something more than just sitting on a boat. With all the research I conducted, this tour, John Gray Sea Canoe “Hong by Starlight” was rated exceptionally well. I knew it would be an excellent way to see the beautiful Phang Nga Bay, which I really wanted to see because this bay has what seems like hundreds of tiny islands clustered together creating a breathtaking scene. I couldn’t let either of us leave Phuket or Thailand without seeing this site, so this was the tour I decided we needed to experience.

Okay, back to the day. It didn’t take us long after our arrival to the marina before we boarded the double-decker boat. The main level is a full kitchen because shortly after we left the port and on our way towards the Hong Islands, we were served a delicious lunch with a beautiful selection of Thai food.

Something exceptional about this company is that one guide is assigned to each kayak and they paddle the sea canoe

“through “Tidal Nape” Sea Caves literally inside Phang Nga Bay’s marine limestone karstic islands into “Hongs “(Thai for “Room”)”

https://www.johngray-seacanoe.com/trips/thailand/day-trips/hong-by-starlight.html

Our first sea canoe adventure took us through a tight cave, requiring us to lay completely flat, before opening to an extremely shallow mangrove lagoon. We were even giving the chance to stand in the middle of this lagoon. I mean, really, a once in a lifetime opportunitiy.

We continued to our next location, which was a larger cluster of several islands and lagoons. These lagoons were a bit deeper, and after our first time through with the guide, we were given a chance to go back alone and explore. Chris took the paddle and guided our sea canoe back to the lagoons. This was another major highlight for both of us because once we headed back, we found ourselves alone in the middle of an island in the middle of Phang Nga Bay in Thailand. It was so beautiful and peaceful. Truly a special moment shared with two friends.

The next adventure, which was another reason I selected this tour, included making our own krathong with the help of our guide. A krathong, which is a floating flower offering/basket that is a part of a spiritual ceremony which pays respect to the water spirits during a festival called Loi Krathong. I had the opportunity to participate in the festival in November, and I thoroughly enjoyed the cultural symbolism of the festival and felt that Chris would too. So, after we finished creating our krathong, and after eating a delicious dinner while watching the sunset, our guide lead us through a dark cave with bioluminescence. The cave ended in a beautiful lagoon, where we found our own quiet corner, lit our krathong, and released it into the water, making our wish.

Unfortunately, these quiet, special moments can’t last forever, and it was time we started heading back into port. It was quite late by the time we finally arrived back to our hostel and knew we had another super early sunrise wake up the next day, so we quickly headed to bed.

Stay tuned for the next blog, where Chris and I take another boating adventure to the Phi Phi Islands!!