Flip Floppin’ Traveler goes to Siem Reap

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November 4 to 13, 2014. The flip floppin’s traveler was able to answer the strong call of wanderlust that he had been hearing for almost a year now.

Yes, I had 9 days to travel! And how my soul was doing cartwheels the sooner it arrived. And now, I’m going to write about it.

Now 9 days seems fairly short but for me it was actually long already. This trip was intended to be one week only but since I absent-mindedly booked additional two days since there were no more flight seats on sale for the 1 week trip. I just said “go with it!”. The call for wanderlust was just that strong.

What is different with this trip is that I will be doing it SOLO for the first time ever. Well, I have travelled locally to prepare for this but hey, it is still a daunting thing to face. But then again, you will never know when you are ready unless you do it. So I packed by backpack with clothes and soaked up on the online information and was ecstatic to go.

My destination: The Kingdom of Cambodia through the city famous for their ancient temples, Siem Reap.

I arrived in Siem Reap, instead of November 4, but on the 5th already because of some delays. I was sort of bummed out for it but just thought otherwise as I am now on explorer mode. My initial stay in Siem Reap was with The Siem Reap Hostel, the highly recommended one based on online resources. I met two Filipinas also heading for Siem Reap in the airport in Manila and they were also going to stay in the same hostel. So we were picked up by our tuktuk driver, and arrived at the hostel past 12 mn. We checked in and called it a night, or rather a morning.

This is the first part of my stay in Siem Reap.  I spent two days then decided to take the bus and head for Bangkok and spent another two days there then headed back through train to the border then bus back to Siem Reap and Stay in Jasmine Family Hostel and stayed three more days before heading back home.

Did I mentioned that I had no planned itinerary for the entire 9 day stay? Yup! I figured I would just wing it each day passes confirming this trip as a #YOLO (you only live once).

Now these are the things that I did in the small town of Siem Reap in the days that I was there:

1. Angkor National Museum

Soak up on Cambodian culture and on history of the temples. This was recommended by my good friend, the footloosefoodie, who did this travel a year back. Solo as well. He mentioned that this museum will help you understand the temples, why it was created and the stories that are inscribed in its walls.

I spent a total of 4 hours here skipping lunch an emerging from the museum at almost 5PM. And you guessed it correctly, I am a museum junkie.

They have a number of exhibits that show their religion Buddhism, Hinduism, and King worship, as well as how and why the temples were built.

Museum entrance cost USD 12. But if you would like to have an audio guide with you, you need to pay additional USD 3. The audio sections of the museum are a bit limited but the additional information are just OK. No need also to take the tuktuk, you can easily walk it from where ever your hostel is located. Or better yet, take a bike with you to get there.

2. Temple hopping at the Angkor Archaeological Park Cambodia

Entrance to the Angkor grounds costs you per day:

  1. 1 day pass = USD 20
  2. 3 day pass = USD 40
  3. 7 day pass = USD 60

They may appear costly, but believe me they are worth it! I only took the one day pass and hired a tuktuk to take me to the temples. Your local hostel will most probably have packages available for you depending on the temples you would like to visit. They have the small circuit (consisting of about 5 to 8 temples) and the big circuit (consisting of 8 to 12 temples). Apart from that they also have sun rise and sun set packages where you can see the rise and fall of the sun on selected temples.

I opted to visit Bantay Srei, Pre Rup, Ta Phrom, Angkor Throm (Bayon), and Angkor Wat . The trip cost me USD 25 which I think was worth it because Bantay Srei was really FAR. I took us almost 2 hours to get there but it was worth it! Bring a bottle of water to quench your thirst. It can really get hot

TIP: the tuktuk drivers will tell you that biking to the temples is really far. But in reality it is doable! I’ve met a number of tourist who did it. So I decided to do it. I made it to the place where you buy tickets but was stopped mid cycle by police (afraid!). Apparently, anyone can pass through the road 5:30 pm onwards. But since my bicycle didn’t have lights for night travel, I had to turn back. So if you bought the 3 or 7 day pass, you can go biking and you will save up on your tuktuk fare.

TIP: Share the tuktuk to be more cost effective. If you meet people in your hostel that would also like to visit the same temples you would like to visit, it is worth it to share.

TIP: as you might have read on other blogs, if you purchase your tickets at about 5:00 to 5:30 PM, you can have get in the temples for free to view the sunset and come back the following day for a full day of temple exploration!

3. Bike around the town

Siem Reap is a really quaint town and very picturesque at that. Especially, the park along the river with several benches along its banks. I was there during the Loy Kratong festival but was not able to witness the festivities that happened along the river mainly because it was a bit crowded with tourist and locals alike. A big mistake on my part as it was by chance that my travel period coincides with the festival. Well, maybe I’ll just come back next year for it.

There are also a number of Wats or Buddhist temples that you can visit around town. Some of the Wats are really old and you can see monks within the compounds doing their daily routines of praying, cleaning the temple grounds or tinkering with their smart phones and tablets (yes, they also live in the 21st century).

All the Wats are right next to schools and had a chance to get to see Cambodian students in school. Make sure to ask permission first and check if you can walk around. Be mindful also not to distract children and the teachers in their class. You might get lucky and a class might take a break during your visit.

I actually took a bike and just rode around town. I followed the river and got to see how everyday life for the locals are. I highly recommend doing it also. The town is a bit small and I am sure your can find your way back into the city and your hostel.

Bike rentals at your hostel can either come for free or would range from USD 1 – 2 per day. Yes. That is per day. So this is the cheapest mode of transport there is.

TIP: as always, double check the tires and breaks of the bike that you are renting. Some bike rentals may offer cheap rates but will charge you USD 1 for any damage.

TIP: bring your own bike locks. I read somewhere that there are cases that the bike locks provided have duplicates and are stolen by people and returned to their rentals while you are hassled looking for it and would have to pay for it. Better sure than sorry.

4. Go on a shopping bonanza at the Old Market

The Old Market is the place to buy souvenirs, live produce, exotic food, silver ware and antiques. Yes! You can find them there as well as fried crickets or fried black beetles while you shop.

You have the tank tops and t-shirts that have different designs of either “I love Cambodia” or elephant designs or cultural designs. There was even a tank top that I bought that reads “SAME SAM” in the front and reads “BUT DIFFERENT” at the back. Apparently, this design is popular with tourist. I bought two tank tops actually. Well, I think I got what the wordings meant. Now the tank tops and shirts costs about USD 5 to 8 per piece.

There are also wallets sold of different designs where you can buy USD 3 to 5 for 5 pieces (these comes in packs); while there are ones that costs USD 1 each.

There are also pajama like pants (I don’t know what they are called but you will get it when you see them) that comes in thin fabrics that you can use to sleep in or walk around in. these items are generally unisex (well, it depends on your preference). BUT the absolute things to get here are the pajamas that are triangular when spread out. It looks like a skirt when you wear it but it is actually a pajama too. It is kinda hard to explain but again you will get it when you see it. These stuff also costs about USD 8 to 10 per piece

There are also silver trinkets that you would might want to take home with you. I believe that Siem Reap have amazing artisans around the city who make these stuff. You can get bangles and figurines of elephants or apsaras or little silver boxes where you can put stuff in. Really pretty. I was not able to ask how much they cost.

TIP: HAGGLE! Yes! As with any market place you can haggle for prices specially if you are planning to buy more than 3 pieces of the items. Now, call me cheap (by all means, I accept this comment well), but I haggled my best here to get stuff for people back home. The tank tops I was able to get USD 3 a piece for two pieces; the shirts, I was able to get USD 24 for 5 pieces; the triangular pants I was able to get USD 5 per piece for 3 pieces.

TIP: If the seller would not budge on what you want, the ultimate technique is to slowly walk away. Then count to about 3, and the seller will call out to you and give you another offer or your desired price.

5. Party at Pub Street

There is a fairly decent party scene in Siem Reap by the Pub Street. Don’t worry about not locating it. You will find it. Just follow the neon lights. You won’t miss it promise.

Like in every city, the Pub Street is where you can let loose and party the night away. The hippest place seems to be Temple Bar and Angkor What? which are situated in front of each other.

A new found friend went out with me to the pub street and we checked out Angkor What? The place just stood out for me because of all the graffiti that you can see from the outside. While Temple Bar was just a bit the same as a sort of posh bar. For me Angkor What? had   more character.

Now a glass of draft beer cost USD 1.50 for Angkor Beer and Anchor Beer. Don’t be confused with the spelling now! But either way, they are both local beers and it would not matter anymore when you get drunk now would it? Eh? Now cocktails are also available. But if you want a bucket of beer or cocktails, you will be literally be given a bucket with the alcoholic concoction with straws to sip. Seems hygienic enough plus the bucket contains alcoholic beverages some of which are known to be disinfectants too so I would not worry about it too much. Again, all of this would not matter if you are drunk.

There are other bars and pubs along the street, but the Temple Bar and Angkor What are the, let’s say, happiest and there is a time that the crowds pour out on the Pub Street and the party pics up from there.

CAUTION: there would be locals offering you marijuana. I was SO tempted to try it but the image of me being locked up abroad in a foreign country didn’t appeal to me as much so I begged off the drugs.

6. EAT

Yes eat! There are a number of restaurants lining up and down the city. Cafes, restaurants, pizza joints, ice cream parlors litter the town. Everything is just walking distance from the Old Market. There are actually Thai, Mexican, Western, Indian food joints also. Meals range from USD 5 to 18. A bit pricey indeed.

Now since I am on a budget, I only ate at USD 1 to 3 places. But I would recommend this joint run by Wan and she specializes in stir fried noodles Cambodian style. Each order is only USD 1. You have an option of using Cambodian noodles (short stubby ones that kinda looks like bean sprouts) and Vietnamese ones (these comes in pack). Each order also comes with a sunny-side up egg. Wan’s Cambodian Noodle joint is located at almost the end of the airport road. It is this small food cart next to a school on the left side of the temple. You won’t miss it. And Wan is just an amazing person to talk to. Please give her place a visit and eat her noodles and you will be coming back for more.

If you are into the exotic, you may chance upon a person who would sell fried crickets and fried beetles. I personally tried the fried crickets and it surprisingly tastes like small deep fried shrimps. It is was surprisingly good. The beetles were a bit daunting for me so I skipped it. But I would have tried deep fried tarantulas and scorpions though.

7. Learn to cook Khmer food or make pottery.

Some restaurants offer Khmer food cooking classes. These are located in the alleyways within Pub Street. It is not dingy as you might think. These one are legit though I forgot that name of the restaurant. But for sure, you can check with you hostel.

Pottery classes are also offered.

8. GIVE BACK

Based on history, we know that Cambodia went through a lot. And they need all the help that they can get.

You can research the best possible way that you can give back but I recommend visiting Life and Hope Organization online or go to Wat Damak in Siem Reap and ask the monks to volunteer. They would be able to assign you.

The monks of Wat Damak together with Life and Hope Organization are working hand in hand to teach English to their students, build houses, provide food to remote communities, teach livelihood programs to locals. Robert Pattinson (yes, the hot vampire LOL) donated shelter for female students who were taught how to sew.

There are other organizations definitely but please do select carefully.

 

Siem Reap has definitely a lot to offer same as with any other country. Because of the locals that I met, the small town grew close to my heart honesty. I would have stayed longer if I had the time. But alas, everyone has to go back to reality right?

Do proper research and plan accordingly to make any trip organized. Or you can just wing it like I did.

flippin’ out!

 

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Mascardo Boys

InstagramCapture_cb64f388-5c95-4bd8-badc-1df19a701a08[1]January 2012. i have gained my quasi independence! yey me! and i am finally am renting.

nope, i am not that rich to get a place by myself. well, yet, that is. so i ended up joing two of my friends from college. we knew each other since our third year and we have been co officers in our college’s student council for two years and have been friends ever since. and despite pursuing diffent careers, we’ve kept in touch.

they were already rooming for two months before i came in after discovering that their place was walking distance from a previous employment. i asked themif i can join in and they said yes! there was the matter of convincing my folks but i eventually got their approval after a lengthy discussion might i add. i moved in January of 2012.

we called ourselves the mascardo boys after the street of our rented place although they were the boys and i was otherwise.

the 1st few days consisted of adjusting to each other. who would wake up first to take a bath. who would do the chores what time they’d arrive and what time we all would turn for the night. since they already had a double deck, i had to bring my matress and set it up every night which was ok by me.

i actually tookthe reaponsibility if cleaning. well youknow how boys are: unless it is really dirty or if there would be guests coming over, that’s the only tine to clean. i was more than willing to do the cleaning and tidying up. i even bought an apron to feel the part (LOL). then if the schedule permits, we would wait up for each other and have dinner together.

it was like were a family looking out foreach other and sometimes it would seem like i was in a relationship with them. yeah, a good brotherly one at that.

it was awesome!

it went one for almost 2 years for me and a full two years for them.

alas, as they say, all good things must come to an end. two months ago, we decided to give up the place due to some changes in life and career.

i am sad in all honesty. it feels like in breaking up with this two people whom i’ve had an amazing run with for almost two years. call me clingy but in reality, it is what i feel right now.

but instead of being sad about it, i’d rather share how happy i was to room with them as well as the things that i would miss about them. here are the list:

1. Ma-Ling nights
what the heck is Ma-Ling you might ask? it is chinese luncheon meat best fried to a crisp and enjoyed with rice and ketchup plus soup. this was one of our bonding nights. i would normally cook it, somebody would buy rice and somebody would do the dishes after we’ve eaten. we used to do this every week but due to changes in work, we haven’t done it in a while

2. Movie nights
this would normally coincide with ma-ling nights. so we have this contraption what allows us to watch movies on the tv so long as the file is saved in a USB. we’d watch one or two movies sometimes during midweek and sleep late. the genre normally is horror, suspense or action

3. Biglaang Dine-out
when ever we find ourselves together and have cravings, we would satisfy it by eating out. it could be as simple as twister fries, jolly spaghetti, savory tapsilog or awesome burgers, we’d do it. provided if we had budget that is.

4. Talking ’til when ever
this is what i’ll miss the most. all the talking about future plans, what happened in the past, what’s happening at work, the cartoons we uaed to watch, some funny memes we cames across on facebook, what’s in the news. well i think it already establishes what type of relationship we had. sometimes we’d forget the time and realize that it’s two in the morning then we would turn in for the night or rather the morning

5. The Best in ______
we had this thing about awarding what we are best at. no rewards just the title. we still have an on going battle for the best in workaholic (im not in the running for this) but normally grab the best in science and best in conyo all the time. LOL

6. Playing hookie/ staying at the dorm
we only did the hookie thing on our 1st year. there was a sudden attack of tamaditis and we just thought to skip work and just hit the mall. we had to choose one far from makati where we all worked that time. it was good. though there were also a couple of times we were stuck in the dorm during typhoons. so we spent those days either sleepibg, talking or staying at a nearby mall.

7. Let’s VOLT IN
no, we are not robots that converge to form a bigger robot to save the world. but, when somebody needs help in work, we would putour heads together and help each other out. three heads are better than one right? where it is a marketing plan or an promotional essay, you name it, we can do it.

admittedly coming home after work was something to look forward too. need less to say, we were stress buster for each other.

but again, the reality is kicking in.

before getting to the dorm was a delight. it was like my space that was i share with two other guys despite the clutter of all the stuff. now, it’s tidier. some items are already packed for pick up. not like what it was before.

i honestly cried a bit when i noticed it. it really feels like i’m breaking up with two people whom i was with for a two year fun filled smooth ride to somewhere that didn’t matter because of all the fun that we were having.

things will never be the same

to the mascardo boys, you know who you are. I WILL MISS YOU by this MMMMMMUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCHHHHHHHHH! i understand that this has to happen and i’ll come into terms with myself in time. we’ve gotten to know each other better in those two years. i wish you all the best in everything.

i love you guys, seriously

Things to do to combat “Petsa de Peligro”

What does “petsa de peligro” mean?

Well, this is a term that I have heard in the course of my professional life. Literally, it translates to “day of danger”. But it is not like danger as in danger in life that will eventually lead to pain, injury or death.

This phrase is commonly used during a period wherein your wallet or ATM or cash on hand is running low and payday seems so SO far away and it gets you wondering “how will get through?’. So you got it? I hope so.

I think almost every young professional at one point experienced petsa de peligro. Heck, I am still experiencing this even now that I’ve been working for more than 6 years now. I know what your thinking, I should have had some sort of savings from all those 6 years but unfortunately, I have nothing. I even have to make “katok sa ginintuan puso (knock on the golden hearts)” of my parents at times when all else fail. In short, I borrow money from them to be paid off or to be compensated by doing errands or helping them out for something they need. I know, I should be self sufficient by now. But like i said, I have nothing. Well, I think I’m richer in other aspects.

So what are the causes of petsa de peligro?

1. Spending beyond your means – Yup. You might have not budgeted your cash on hand well to a point that you over spend and leave nothing for your day to day spending.

2. Emergency cases – Well, there are things that happen unexpectedly that will mess with ones budget plan.

3. You got less than what you were expecting – What I mean by this is that what you saw in your pay slip was less than the usual you got for that cut off. Reasons may include deductions from tardiness, increase in taxes or monthly deductions.

4. Absence of Budget plan – Let’s face it, majority of us have no budget plan. Or rather, the discipline to stick to that plan. Am I right or am I right?

It is really not sure if I covered it all but am sure that I got the major ones.

So, can you relate?

You might be asking, how can we prevent entering petsa de peligro.

1. Be in the KNOW – Simply put you need to know the following things:

  • What you EARN – know what is your income and how often it comes
  • What you SPEND – daily, weekly and monthly spending is crucial. What I mean is daily is as in every thing you spend on a day: from a transpo expense, a pack of cigarettes, your snack. EVERYTHING. Tally everything up so you know where your money goes
  • WANT or NEED – from your list of expenses, identify what is a necessity or luxury

2. PLAN – given the data that you have, you need to determine expense that you can afford to cut off or at the least, trim down.

3. Put SAVE in your equation – you can put money from the trimmed down or cut off expense into savings. I know finance people say that the proper equation is INCOME less SAVINGS is EXPENSE. But I think this only applies to people who have enough income to cover their expenses. Don’t you agree?

4. Stick to the PLAN – this is the difficult part honestly. Sticking to it. I have problems on this area. I always say ” Stick to the PLAN or the world will STICK you up”. I wouldn’t want that believe me.

But if you are already in the “petsa de peligro” phase, then here are the things that I recommend doing:

1. COUNT your pennies – I know it sucks but you got to know what you have remaining. So take a look at your last withdrawal slip. I would also recommend scouring your bags for spare change. It will help believe me.

2. PAY DAY – Oh yes! The much awaited day! One needs to know how may days left you have till your cup will be full again. Divide it with what you have to know how much you have to spend each day.

3. Know your OPTIONS – More often than not, the resulting everyday budget is a big STRETCH! So adjust your spending particularly on your necessities like food and transportation cigarettes (they’re one of mine). Go for the cheaper ones For example, food from a carinderia/ food stall/ jolly jeep (if you work in Makati) are cheap! Convenience store like 7-11 and Ministop have options too. Oh, and eat slowly. It will make you feel full longer. As for transportation, go public or if you can walk to your office, the better Just remember to adjust your time though to factor in.

4. Make and stick to the PLAN - this is really crucial. It is hard to do it but it is not impossible.

And if all else fail…

5. Borrow with the INTENTION to PAY - borrowing entails a responsibility. Make sure that you also plan for this and commit to settling it.

I’ve been through a number of petsa de peligro days myself and have no sufficient fingers to count for it. And to be honest. I’ve learned the hard way with the help of some of my friends’ and parents advice.

Yes, I acknowledge that it is a reality but it can be over come and ultimately preventable. I am still fighting to be debt free at the moment.

Now, I do take these steps to heart but have lapses of my own due to lack of discipline and that “bahala na si Batman” attitude. But at the end of the day, I always say to my self, Batman won’t pay for my dues as he is a fictional character. Plus I don’t want to live by the pay check.

I hope this was of help somehow.

flippin’ out!

Please help me find this guy, Tho

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I should come up with better titles for my blog posts right?

Thailand is one of the countries that is in my bucket list (that is ever growing might i add) and it being about 6 hours away by land from Siem Reap plus 9 days of approved vacation , i just had to go!

After spending two days in the Siem Reap I decided to travel to Bangkok by bus. Fortunately, the hostel I stayed in was able to book me a seat in the direct bus to Bangkok (i will post another entry separately) that leaves Siem Reap at 8 am.

I arrived in Bangkok at around 7pm because of heavy traffic! The traffic was almost like what we have in Manila. The only good thing was I was comfy inside the bus. Plus it was the Loi Krathong festival

Now, a tip for travelers, don’t go to Thailand without Thai Baht in your wallet like I did. Yeah yeah, silly me wanting to travel to Bangkok with USD in my pocket. Must have been too excited to go and just thought that there would be 24 hrs money changers in the bus station. There were no money changer but there were banks which were unfortunately closed. TOINKS! So there i was in the bus terminal in a foreign country with no legal tender and i have to get to my hostel! imagine the PANIC!

As Tim Gunn would say, “make it work!”, i just tried to talk to locals and ask then if they can at least give me a ride to Khampang Phet MRT station fortunately a motorcycle driver agreed agreed but i had to pay them USD 2 which was really expensive for me but i had no choice. At Khampang Phet station, there are still no money changers so i tried to talk again to locals and ask them to give me BHT 30 in exchange of my USD 1 (conversion is normally at BHT 32 for a dollar). After talking to the 3rd person, I was feeling a bit desperate already. Finally, somebody saw me talking to the guard haggling. He approached us and asked what was the problem. I told him my predicament and he said ok and told me to follow him. He went to the ticket booth purchased his ticket and gave me TBH 30. And when i was about to give my dollar, he said that i should keep it. I had to insist but he still refused.

At this point, I realized that there are still good people out there in the world contrary to what we perceive it to be. I honestly felt blessed. Imagine being on your own in a country where you know no one and you will find a stranger who are just willing to help you. And if it would have not been awkward, I would have hugged and kissed him right there and then <wink wink> just to show my gratitude. So he said goodluck to me and went inside the train station.

I looked at the fare and found out that I only needed TBH 25 to get me to Suthisan. I just thought I’ll keep the TBH 5 coin as remembrance of the guy who helped me out. So I purchased the ticket or rather the tap-up coin and went inside the train station again.

Fortunately, the guy was still there and I approached him and thanked him again. He mentioned that his name was Tho and he worked around the area and is taking the trains two stations forward to get home. He was 31 years old and can speak a little English. He asked me where I was from and I told him from the Philippines and he mentioned that he thought I was Chinese (I had to laugh a little bit there because I was so dark from traveling to be considered Chinese). I told him that I was my first time in Bangkok and I was travelling solo for the first time. Again I insisted to give him my dollar but he again refused saying that it was his help to me with a very heart-warming smile that can melt me.

I still wanted to ask him some questions but the train arrived. And we both got in. I was supposed to stand next to him but it was a bit cramped and he might have had enough of my inquisitiveness and would like to take a rest already. So distanced myself and decided to stand by the door although I was trying to glance at him from time to time and he would be looking at me also (OK, ok.. He is definitely my kind of knight in shining armor!). Two stations forward, I glanced at him again and he was smiling and waving me good bye. I said good bye back before he exited the train. I was just looking at his sort of buffed body with tattoo on the back side of his arm as he blended in to the crowd of commuters. Then I panicked a bit because I have neglected to ask for his Facebook or email address that I can contact him with (FACE-PALM motion!). Must have slipped out of my mind since I on panic mode earlier and was not mentally present to think properly because this dreamy knight in shining armor (with tattoos) just rescued me from having to spend the night on God knows where.

Since I do not have Tho’s contact number and am not actually sure if I got his name correctly, I am writing this post on my blog to search for him. I just want to repay his kindness by sending him over some of my knitted stuff. It would be my way of thanking him.

So if you do know this guy, Tho or if you are from Bangkok, please share this blog post among your friends and help me find him. I just want to extend my thanks again to him. If you do know him, please comment on this post so that I can coordinate with you.

I really appreciate it already