Home » Posts tagged 'travel in southeast Asia'

Tag Archives: travel in southeast Asia

VIDEO: Eighteen Days in South East Asia with Mike & Jeff

I finally finished the video montage of our South East Asia trip with Broadway On the High Seas 5 through Playbill Travel in November 2015. You can watch it here but I highly recommend watching it full screen to get the full effect of the incredible scenery.

 

 

 

If you haven’t already read my daily blog posts from the trip and want to know more– start reading my previous posts at the end of October 2015.

I hope you enjoyed it!

The Haunting Faces of Angkor Thom: A Photo Essay

A Sweaty Selfie at Angkor Thom.

A Sweaty Selfie at Angkor Thom.

Angkor Thom was probably my favorite location of all that we visited in Southeast Asia. There’s an aura that is simply magical. I found myself standing– high up amongst the faces in the ruins– and I got kind of emotional. How incredibly lucky was I to actually be standing there? It was one of those moments that words fail. Hopefully, these images will explain it all.

 

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

 

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

 

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

 

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

 

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

 

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

 

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

 

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

 

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

 

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

 

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

 

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

Angkor Thom (Photo credit: Jeff Linamen)

The Heat Is On In Saigon

On the Vespa tour of Ho Chi Minh City.

On the Vespa tour of Ho Chi Minh City.

Southeast Asia Travel Day Eight: We had breakfast early and then had to check out of the hotel before our tour this morning. We almost didn’t book this Vespa tour… so very glad we did! It made up for the shortcomings in yesterday’s tour and then some. If we had only gone on yesterday’s and not today’s, I’d have said I didn’t really see much in Saigon. Luckily, choosing to ride all through Ho Chi Minh City on a motorbike was the best thing we could have done. The experience itself was pretty thrilling. Add to that, all the sights we visited and we really got an opportunity to see and feel the vibe of the city.

The tour was with Vespa Adventures and there were 10 in our group plus our guide, Yu. We each had a driver—all we had to do was enjoy the ride and not fall off. My driver was Gai and she was definitely skilled at manipulating the bike through some pretty tight situations. I have video I’ll try to post later. It’s too difficult to just describe how crazy the traffic is; combining all the motorbikes and cars is intense for an outsider.

Visiting the bird park.

Visiting the bird park.

We started out at what is known as a bird park. Residents bring their birds (in cages) to socialize and learn how to sing and fly from other birds. I thought this was pretty unique and certainly something you don’t see in the states. There’s a little outdoor café there and people sell treats for the birds like grasshoppers and crickets.

Next we visited the monument for Thich Quang Duc. He was the Buddhist Monk who burned himself to death at a busy intersection in Saigon. He did this to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government on June 11, 1963. This was a pretty powerful moment. Our guide Yu, turned us around from the monument and showed us the exact spot where it happened. One person can make a difference. The photo of this tragic event was seen around the world; for the first time bringing worldwide attention to what was happening here.

Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street June 11, 1963 to protest alleged persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. (AP Photo/Malcolm Browne)

Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street June 11, 1963 to protest alleged persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. (AP Photo/Malcolm Browne)

 

The monument to Thich Quang Duc.

The monument to Thich Quang Duc.

We visited three more beautiful temples, each as different as they were alike. We did have to remove our shoes at one of them, as is the custom, showing our respect.

A temple courtyard in Saigon.

A temple courtyard in Saigon.

 

Inside one of the Buddhist temples in Ho Chi Minh City.

Inside one of the Buddhist temples in Ho Chi Minh City.

Natural medicine being assembled at one of many city pharmacies.

Natural medicine being assembled at one of many city pharmacies.

At a pharmacy, we were able to watch natural medicines being assembled for a variety of ailments. Many are delivered to customers and then brewed into teas by the person in search of a cure.

Pho 24 was our stop for lunch. I can now say I’ve had authentic Vietnamese Pho soup. Pho soup is basically a fresh clear broth with noodles, meat and seasoning. I prefer Pho Ga (chicken). It is both delicious and filling.

 

The flower market in Ho Chi Minh City.

The flower market in Ho Chi Minh City.

After talking with our guide, we made a little change in our tour and she took us through a fish and flower markets. In the flower market we also went down a maze of alleys and were able to see some of the small rooms and apartments people call home. I’d guess most of these tight alleys couldn’t be more than three feet wide.

 

We were supposed to go through the highway tunnels out to a spot for a great view of the skyline, which we did—as it started to pour. We pulled over long enough to put on rain ponchos and then continued but didn’t stop at the spot due to the rain. It was a typical tropical downpour and didn’t last long.

Our group taking a refreshment break during our tour.

Our group taking a refreshment break during our tour.

Our last stop was near what was the U. S. Embassy during the Vietnam War. From that spot we could see where the last helicopter lifted people to safety from the roof of the Embassy. It was another powerful moment personalizing history to childhood memories.

The last helicopter to leave Saigon as the city fell in 1975.

The last helicopter to leave Saigon as the city fell in 1975.

 

The top of the old U.S. Embassy where the last helicopter flew people to safety during the fall of Saigon.

The top of the old U.S. Embassy where the last helicopter flew people to safety during the fall of Saigon.

The Vespa Tour made the trip to Ho Chi Minh City complete. It’s a must do for anyone wanting to get a great, short introduction to the city.

All Aboard. In the afternoon we were driven to the port and finally boarded the Ponant ship, Le Soleal for the actual Broadway On The High Seas 5 cruise. We had the always annoying (but mandatory) safety drill (this one was especially bad) followed by dinner.

The first concert of our cruise was given by two-time Tony Award Winner, Christine Ebersole. It was magical. The perfect start to many wonderful performances we’d be blessed with on this year’s BOTHS5 cruise.

 

Christine Ebersole gave the first concert of Broadway On The High Seas 5.

Christine Ebersole gave the first concert of Broadway On The High Seas 5.

 

Christine Ebersole with special guest Norm Lewis.

Christine Ebersole with special guest Norm Lewis.

The Majestic Beauty of the Angkors

Southeast Asia Travel Day Four: Michael and I were both up and wide awake way too early this morning. Not that unusual for me but Michael is usually a good sleeper. Between jet lag and the exciting day ahead, it was difficult to go back to sleep.

Silly Selfies at Ta Prohm.

Silly Selfies at Ta Prohm.

We were the first ones at breakfast and there was an incredible spread. So many choices from traditional breakfast to local cuisine– everything that Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor does is first class.

In regards to this trip, today was probably my most anticipated day. That can be dangerous this early in a long vacation but there are also so many unique and exciting things ahead. As a precaution, I try not to allow my expectations to be too high; just to avoid any chance of disappointment.

Today did not disappoint.

Today was one of those few days in your life you’ll remember forever. A whirlwind of experiences that totally consumes you. Every sense heightened and challenged. Memories indelibly imprinted in your mind.

I have a bit of an obsession with history and what was left behind. I’m not as consumed by the facts as I am the aura of the experience. To put it bluntly: I like old things.

History not only connects us from the past to where we are now; it connects us metaphysically to all the people that came before us. For me, it’s magic. It gives me chills. There’s nothing else like it in the world.

On the Road to… This was our first opportunity to meet some of the people that would be continuing on with the Broadway On the High Seas 5 (BOTHS5) cruise. About 80 of the nearly 300 BOTHS5 participants came to Siem Riep for the 3-day pre-cruise adventure. As we’d find out later, the group was pretty evenly divided between three choices of hotels; then split again into groups of about a dozen for our tour experiences in Siem Riep. This gave us a perfect opportunity to meet new friends, more intimately; prior to the whole group coming together in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in a few days.

On the road in our tuk-tuk.

On the road in our tuk-tuk.

We all boarded tuk-tuks for the short ride to Angkor Wat. What a fun and relaxing way to travel!

Some tuk-tuks are bicycle-driven but most are now powered by motor bikes.

We were all connected to our guide, Jun, by headset so he was able to narrate the sites along the way.

Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat. Depending on the source, Angkor Wat is frequently called the unofficial 8th wonder of the world. It’s often on lists of must see places in your lifetime. I think all the Angkor temples (as a group) should be included.

Bas Reliefs at Angkor Wat.

Bas Reliefs at Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat was built in the early part of the 12th century, over a 30 year period. The workmanship is almost impossible to comprehend. From a distance, it looks like a massive, crumpling stone ruin. As you get closer, the impressive detail begin to be revealed. There are so many elements to be appreciated. The bas reliefs alone contain more than 12,000 square feet of intricate sandstone carvings. What stands out most about Angkor Wat from the other temples is the size. It’s pretty incredible that it has survived the centuries and much of the detail is in such good condition.

 

Inside the heart of Angkor Wat.

Inside the heart of Angkor Wat.

 

Looking up in one of the entries in Angkor Wat.

Looking up in one of the entries in Angkor Wat.

 

One of the statues of Budha.

One of the statues of Budha.

 

Monks can be seen throughout Angkor Wat.

Monks can be seen throughout Angkor Wat.

 

Incredibly detailed exterior walls protect the inner temple.

Incredibly detailed exterior walls protect the inner temple.

 

One of the Angkor Wat towers and balconies.

One of the Angkor Wat towers and balconies.

 

A cemetery at Angkor Wat.

A cemetery at Angkor Wat.

Tomb Raider, Jungle Temple or Ta Prohm? Here is a spot that nearly everyone is familiar with, even if they don’t realize it. Most famously recognized from Tomb Raider, Ta Prohm has survived from its origins in the mid 12th century.

The famous Banyan tree root snakes its way through the temple.  There are hundreds of statues in the complex. Ta Prohm is under a long, delicate preservation and restoration process. Primarily, this involves structural strengthening to prevent any further, rapid deterioration.

The famous Banyan root at Ta Prohm.

The famous Banyan root at Ta Prohm.

 

The Banyan tree rising out of the temple.

The Banyan tree rising out of the temple.

 

Deteriorating but naturally beautiful.

Deteriorating but naturally beautiful.

 

Angkor Thom. It means the great city. It is the temple of faces. Each tower has four carved faces so they can be seen from any direction. Angkor Thom was the final capital of Khmer Empire. The city was surrounded by a wall with  causeways lined with 54 statues on each side leading to the entry towers. Inside the ruins is the magnificent Bayon Temple… a sight to behold.

 

The causeway and entryway to Angkor Thom.

The causeway and entryway to Angkor Thom.

 

Statues lining the causeway.

Statues lining the causeway.

 

The Bayon Temple of Angkor Thom.

The Bayon Temple of Angkor Thom.

 

Looking down in the maze of pathways at Angkor Thom.

Looking down in the maze of pathways at Angkor Thom.

 

Four faces surround every tower.

Four faces surround every tower.

 

I took nearly 800 photos today. In an effort to try and keep up with posting here, I’m only sharing a few now. Later I’ll do a couple photo essay posts with many more pictures of the Angkor temples. This was such an incredible experience.

Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor

Southeast Asia Travel Day Three: We arrived at the beautiful Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor at 11 AM, November 1st, not expecting to be able to check in until 4 PM. We’d packed a carry on so we could use the pool while we waited– but as luck would have it, we were able to check as soon as we arrived.

IMG_1554The historic 5-star hotel first opened in 1932. It welcomed the beginning of travelers coming to the region to visit the ancient Angkor temples.

It is situated on 15 acres which includes several classic French gardens and boasts the largest swimming pool in Cambodia.

We couldn’t have selected a better place to call home for the three days we’re in Siem Riep. Everything about it is classic. It has the desired modern amenities while maintaining all of its original, traditional charm.

The entire staff is very friendly, helpful and perfectly accommodating. They truly go out of their way to make you comfortable and welcomed. It’s a luxurious experience without the pretense.

We checked in, briefly settled into our room; then did a little exploring of the grounds before returning to our room for a much needed nap.

Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor.

Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor.

 

Raffles pool is the largest in Cambodia.

Raffles pool is the largest in Cambodia.

 

The working, vintage lift.

The working, vintage lift.

 

Our Room facing the balcony.

Our Room facing the balcony.

 

Our room in the original 1930's building of the Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor.

Our room in the original 1930’s building of the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor.

 

The view from our balcony.

The view from our balcony.

Up, Up and Away

Southeast Asia Travel Day 1 & 2: 35 hours to travel halfway around the world. Even flying business class — it’s a challenge. I don’t know how people who travel internationally on business manage to keep their sanity.

The good news is that none of our flights were delayed. All the airports we used had free WiFi, making the stops go by pretty quickly. There were only small pockets of turbulence once we got out over the Pacific Ocean that came and went throughout the rest of our flights.

IMG_1493We flew Virgin America from Chicago to Los Angeles. (I have to note their use of contemporary music and pink and purple mood lighting for a refreshing take on air travel.) From LA we flew Singapore Airlines to Tokyo in about 12 hours. We had to disembark, go through security again; then get back on the same plane (same seats) about an hour later. The flight crew changed at this point and I was envious that they didn’t have to continue on. By this point, Michael and I were both ready to be done with the flying.

IMG_1502From Tokyo, we continued on Singapore Airlines– for another 7 hours to Singapore. We had a five hour layover at Singapore’s Changi Airport, which has a reputation as one of, if not the best in the world. We spent a chunk of time in the SilverKris Lounge and then did some exploring. Lots of interesting things to see and do at Changi including free movies, a pool, many stores and some beautiful gardens spaced throughout the massive complex.

IMG_1513Our last 2 hour flight was on Silk Airline to Siem Riep, Cambodia. (I barely had time to finish my movie on this one.)

I watched the movies Trainwreck, Magic Mike XXL, The Age of Adeline, Once and The Lucky Stiff. I was especially glad to see the last one since it was recently released but not available yet in our area. It’s based on a small cult musical and was a lot of fun.

Beautiful cloud formation on the last leg of our journey to Siem Riep.

Beautiful cloud formation on the last leg of our journey to Siem Riep.

By the time we reached Siem Riep, Michael and I were both tired, sore and in desperate need of showers. I slept as much as I could during the flights but still felt exhausted and disoriented. Honestly, by that point it didn’t matter if it was breakfast or dinner time or morning or night; I was just completely grateful to be on the ground.

When we left Chicago and it was 37 degrees and when we arrived in Siem Riep  in was humid and about 80 degrees– and climbing.

We were fast-tracked through customs in Siem Riep, where we met Jun, from Trails of Indochina. He escorted us to our vehicle that transported us to our hotel, Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor. It turned out that Jun would be our guide during our stay in Cambodia– but more about that later.

All in all, the length of the trip aside, it was a fairly painless process. Sleeping on planes, even in business class is challenging. We both managed to get some decent sleep time in though. The service personnel all along the way were very attentive and extremely nice. We moved through all the security checkpoints quickly and I loved not having to take off my shoes after leaving the United States.

Here are some images from Singapore’s beautiful Changi Airport:

Deserted at 3 AM. Changi Airport.

Deserted at 3 AM. Changi Airport.

 

On November 1st, even Changi Airport is already decorated for Christmas.

On November 1st, even Changi Airport is already decorated for Christmas.

 

A Koi pond in Changi.

A Koi pond in Changi.

 

One of the many gardens in Changi Airport.

One of the many gardens in Changi Airport.

 

Inside the SilverKris lounge at Changi.

Inside the SilverKris lounge at Changi.

 

The Sunflower Garden at Singapore Changi Airport.

The Sunflower Garden at Singapore Changi Airport.

 

Singapore Sunrise.

Singapore Sunrise.

Broadway On The High Seas 5: Here We Come!

We’re finally packed and ready to go. In less than 24 hours, Michael and I will be on the first of four flights taking us to the other side of the world. Chicago to Los Angeles to Tokyo to Singapore and finally Siem Riep, Cambodia.

We had an incredible time  traveling with Broadway on the High Seas 3- two years ago; and Broadway on the High Seas 5 is destined to be an exciting adventure. From the wonderful talent to the exotic destinations; it’s like getting two vastly different vacations in one.

Sponsored by Playbill and Playbill Travel and arranged by Judy Perl Worldwide Travel, Broadway on the High Seas is an exciting way to travel the world and tour on land by day; and at night, meet and be entertained by some of Broadway’s best performers.

7b748485-4edf-46ff-f8a5-e9afa48a02c7

Here’s our itinerary:

Nov 1- 3 2015     Siem Riep, Cambodia

Nov 4- 6 2015      Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam

Nov 7, 2015         Sailing the Saigon River

Nov 8, 2015          Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Nov 9, 2015          Ko Kood, Thailand

Nov 10, 2015        Bangkok (Siam), Thailand

Nov 11, 2015        At sea

Nov 12, 2015        Ko Samui, Thailand

Nov 13, 2015        At sea

Nov 14, 2015        Tio Man, Malaysia

Nov 15, 2015        Singapore, Singapore

Itinerary2015

 The Talent:
 Here are the incredibly talented performers that will be entertaining each night on the ship. (Click on the pictures or links to find out more about each performer.
 I’ll be posting throughout the trip. If you want to get updates in your email… follow my blog! It’s going to be a culturally rich experience.