Search

mapsofthemoon

follow me to where we belong

5 places to eat in Siem Reap

My friends often ask me about good places to eat in Siem Reap, a town I visited last year. I usually don’t write too many details about my experiences on my travel blog. But this is for one of my colleagues. So today I will summarize the restaurants which I visited in Siem Reap. Siem Reap is a city that is easy to fall in love with. The magnificent, historical Angkor Wat made me remember how small I am. Apart from temple hopping, though, the joyful part of travelling to this city is about eating. The laid back city offers a variety of choices when it comes to food.  These are my five recommended places to eat if you are in Siem Reap.

 

Bayon
Bayan tree can destroy pagoda
stunning view
entrance

  1. Old House Restaurant

This is a hidden gem which I found unexpectedly when I was walking around the night market. It is actually on Hospital Street opposite the Siem Reap Provincial Hospital. You can get all kinds of traditional Khmer cuisine there. This is the real authentic taste!  Try Amok and pomelo salad. The traditional Cambodian amok is fish whipped into a mousse with coconut cream on top. It is served in a cup of banana leaves.

pomelo salad
fish amok

  1. Sister Srey Café

One reason I love travelling is waking up late to have brunch at a good restaurant in town. This social enterprise café was founded by two sisters from Australia. They help their staff continue their education through university. The atmosphere there is warm and friendly. The food, of course, is super delicious and very instagramable. I wish I could wake up to delicious brunches like that every day. This is a must-stop when you are in Siem Reap. I had the summer mango and chicken burger, watermelon juice, and I ended sweetly with passionfruit cake.

  1. Mamma Shop

My love for Italian food has been growing for the past few years. I think it is as much about the dining experience as it is about the food. I haven’t been to Italy yet, but I enjoy every dish at Italian restaurants. You might wonder how I know that this is my favourite restaurant in town without even trying the others.  I had read a ton of reviews before choosing this restaurant. As like you, I don’t want to waste one of my few evenings in Siem Reap going to a bad restaurant. The chef himself is an Italian, if I am not wrong. The restaurant is small, clean, and the decoration is simple. The staff are friendly and efficient. Remember, it is all about the experience. I don’t recommend a place for the taste alone. A good experience has a great influence on how the food tastes. By the way, forget about the calories. You are on holiday!

second visit

 

  1. Miss Wong Cocktail Bar

I always wonder how I would feel stepping back into old China. Going to this little bar is a little like diving into a classy film from the old days. It has a spectacular old Shanghai decoration and excellent cocktails. It is on a dimly lit alley called ‘’The Lane’’ near Pub Street, Siem Reap. Send yourself back in time in an old Shanghai themed atmosphere.

went to cultural show after potent cocktail
  1. Joe to Go

I usually give myself a bit of time to get to know the city that I am visiting. I don’t follow a strict itinerary to see the city just to take the mandatory photos. I need to feel the city. The best way to do that is to find a café where you can do your pleasure reading and enjoy some local food or drinks. This restaurant café is a fusion place which offers a variety of choices. I tried mint lime juice. There is a gallery of paintings in the front of the restaurant. It is very near the old market. Don’t worry. You will find everything within walking distance. Just keep walking, keep walking.

gallery in front of cafe

A Weekend Getaway to Laos’s Capital City

   

🤘
  
to the nature
  
bored fluffy dog
 
I do not exactly remember how or why I decided to visit Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. I think I was in the same situation as so many other people out there who want to make a short trip on a weekend especially a three day weekend. Singapore, where I reside and work, is situated close to most southeast Asian countries, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. It always comes up to you to decide what are you gonna do in your trip. Is it sight seeing, adventure, fooding or just for relaxing weekend getaway?

But, let me warn you first: Don’t ever say, “Laos seems boring,” because you will end up in trouble with anyone who loves Asia. And, you’ll regret saying it yourself because, having a rigid mindset with strict boundaries will hinder you from growing beyond it. An explorative mindset, on the other hand, is limitless. Believe me. Every country has its own unique beauty. It’s just that you can’t expect to have a Marina Bay Sands and Vivo City like malls in Laos.

 

dramatic sunset over Mekong river
  
Mali Namphu Guest House
   

Laos kitchen, my fav restaurant

  

This laid-back capital is situated on the banks of Mekong River near the border with Thailand. Even though it is the largest city of Laos, the relaxing and warm atmosphere gave me the feeling of a small town. I stayed at Mali Namphu Guest House, which has bit of colonial architecture and an indoor garden. Most places in town can be reached by foot or bike except for far away places like the Buddha Park. Walking around the town really made me feel of closer connection to the town. 

   
 A significant figure of my trip was the Scandinavian Bakery, which was right around the corner from my guest house. I didn’t expect that Vientiane would have such a lovely bakery. It offered me good motivation to wake up for my brunches there.

 You can also wonder down to the riverside and have a relaxing jog where you can enjoy the sunset over the Mekong River. There is a night market nearby as well. The market is pretty local and chill. I walked there nearly every evening before my dinners.

   

beef lurb
  
river side walk
 
My favorite food in Laos is a minced beef salad called larb. This is a totally unique signature dish of Laos and matches very well with sticky rice. By the way, Laos is the country with the highest consumption of sticky rice in the world. I recommend Laos Kitchen, a restaurant to try local food with decent price and friendliness.

   
   
Another less known fact about Laos is its unique ties to French cuisine. Laos used to be a part of France’s colonies. There is still a strong French cuisine scene in Vientiane. You will see many French restaurants in town which are run by French chefs themselves. I visited a restaurant called La Cage Du Coq where I tasted wine from the south of France. The lady in charge there was friendly and fun. She explained about the food very patiently. My overall dining experience there was wonderful.

   
 I also visited the Ai Capone restaurant the next day to fulfill one of my goals for the trip, since it has became a habit of mine to find a fine Italian restaurant everywhere I go. I tried an amazing mango pizza along with a mozzarella cheese salad. I rarely visit Italian restaurants in Singapore because it is so expensive if you want to have an overall nice dining experience. I cannot afford to go eat at a 5 stars hotel either. I just need a less crowded place with some cheerful staff and good food. Where can I find that kind of a place in Singapore, where I can eat for less than 50 dollars for 2 persons?

 

Patuxai
  
Phat That Luang
  
For a local tourist attraction, rent a bike and go visit Patuxai, which resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and the Phat That Luang, which is situated a few kilometers from the center of Vientiane. Having fewer places to visit really makes your trip more relaxing and it can give you more time to enjoy the town by walking around it.

 

Buddha Park
  
Buddha Park
 

Buddha Park

 If you get bored of downtown, you can plan a getaway to Buddha park where there are many statues. It is not really a temple, but rather it is a park with various statues from Buddhist mythology. It was a good trip. But, I warn you, if you have visited Angkor Wat before, or if you have high hopes to learn about standard Buddhist culture, please try to modulate your expectations before you go. It is just a park with some crude sculptures of the Buddha and other characters from mythology. And, there is a “demented pumpkin” to welcome you at the entrance overlooking the park. Please go and find it. 🙂 

national flower of Laos
  
Wattay International Airport
  
bye bye Laos!
 

I recommend everyone to visit Vientiane for a relaxing weekend getaway, for French cuisine and for the different perspectives which we all need to experience in order to grow in different areas of our lives. I guarantee that you won’’t regret your trip.

@mapsofthemoon.

     

 

Three highlights of Mae Hong Song

Nobody wants to finish their holidays. Post-holiday depressive syndrome is real. It is the feeling of waking up for work on Monday morning after a great weekend.

IMG_1685
view from the coffee shop

When I was preparing for my trip to northern Thailand, I was fascinated by the MHS loop and wanted to take a biking trip. Even though I didn’t include that in my itinerary, I managed to get the taste of being on the loop by visiting a rustic coffee shop which is situated further south of Mae Hong Son town. The coffee shop is called MumAndGengCoffeeShop and it has an amazing views a background. My cappuccino tasted better with the view overlooking the mountains. I tried to take a photo with the view. Unfortunately, my camera could not capture me and the view together very well.

I had lunch on my way to the coffee shop. The restaurant was located right next to the rice fields. The view was calming and it gave me the feeling of long summer days. I had excellent northern Thai food at the restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant’s name is not in English and is also not in the list of Trip Advisor’s restaurants either. My friend told me that the restaurant’s name is “Suan Ahan Chai Thung” in Thai. It can be translated as, roughly, Outdoor Restaurant at the Edge of the Meadow. I had good sticky rice and Thai-style minced chicken and mushroom soup. The mushrooms were very delicious and I could feel the freshness of all the ingredients.

 

The last highlight of my trip was flying on KanAirlines from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai. It was a 35 minute flight through mountains on a small propeller plane. I paid about 70 SGD for a one-way ticket.It happened to be one of the most thrilling experiences of the trip! I felt like I was on my own private jet as there were not many passengers on board. After taking off, the flight passed over Mae Hong Son town before passing over the massive mountains of northern Thailand.

Looking at the areas densely covered with green where I stayed for a few days, it gave me a sense of belonging and connection to Mae Hong Son. Broadly saying,I felt connection to Thailand. I realized that I experienced a different life for a few days, and enjoyed and fell in love with the town. It was not easy to say good bye.

Life is all about moving, though, and I am sure new thrilling things are ahead to experience.

Bye Bye….  Mae Hong Son!

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 270 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

When I started to plan my 2014 December trip, I wanted to include a hiking experience. There are many mountains in northern Thailand which are popular for hiking. However, I wanted it to be intimate since it was going to be my virgin hiking experience. I wanted to build a romantic or passionate connection with the mountains. I still remember a Burmese novel that I read when I was young in which the writer gives the reason why he smokes. He says he smokes because he is too old to climb the mountains. I don’t know how others relate to the story, but for me, mountains are a metaphor for life, which can inspire you to climb it.

When I was in Mae Hong Son, I decided to climb Doi Pu Luang (1,731 meters above sea level) which is situated inside the Doi Pu National Park. The most interesting part of the trip was staying at a village which is situated right at the base of Doi Pu Luang. The name of the village is BaanHuaiHee, which is a small ethnic Karen village 26 kilometers southeast of Mae Hong Son town. The village is operating as a CBT (community based tourism) project. I believe some amount of money that I spent for the tour guide and the home stay will go to the forest reservation, orchid growing, and education about CBT according to this aboriginal ecotourism website. Be a proud and responsible traveler.

The tour guide picked me up from town at 7 in the early morning when there was still a thick layer of mist. After driving up a gravel road into the forest-covered mountains for nearly four hours, we finally got to the village. We made a few stops on the way to take some pictures. We were literally in the clouds, and the views were spectacular and the air was refreshing.

IMG_1600

Fresh coffee was served in a bamboo cup when I arrived at the home where I was going to stay. I think this was the freshest coffee that I have ever had. The family grows coffee plants right in front of their house. You can see the whole process of making the coffee from harvesting the plants to pouring the cup of coffee you are having.

Houses from rural Asia are not strange to me as I was brought up in a small town as well. As usual, they had pets and children. My tour guide’s family included dogs, pigs, and chickens, as well as his grandchildren. It was a simple life with few material possessions.I always thinks that being a minimalist is the key to having a simple and enjoyable life, especially when you live in the city. Having a large number of possessions doesn’t guarantee happiness because they might take away all of your time. You might be spending time more on your possessions than on yourself.

 

We needed to trek for about two hours to reach the peak of Doi Pu Luang. It is not easy to trek as it requires a good endurance level. Hard work, however, is always paid off in the end. The views that greeted me at the peak were amazing. I didn’t bring my sunglasses and I regretted it.it was so bright and I was frowning in most of my photos!

 

IMG_1657

Christmas Eve

It just happened that it was Christmas Eve when I was at the village. The villagers explained that this was the night when most of the villagers from several different nearby villages nearby would gather together for dinner and singing at the church at night. So, the whole evening was very special as everyone knew that there were many guests in the village—not just me. Everybody greeted me with excitement and kindness. Dinner was served around 5pm to all of the villagers and guests in a common area. They all ate standing, and the food was served on bamboo leaves. I didn’t really like eating standing up. But, I finished my meal since I had been super hungry after the hike. Anyway, I enjoyed the feeling of something new.

I joined their prayer services later. Their temporary place to hold the Christmas Eve is interesting where I needed to sit on the floor covered with hay. There were no chairs.

It was very cold at night and I couldn’t sleep. A kitty came and slept in my bed. I knew I couldn’t fall asleep as I didn’t have a full meal. I was hungry. I heard that the host familywas awake and sitting near the fire to get warm, so I decided to join them. We all sat down quietly near the fire. I knew I was sitting right under the mountains and the sky filled with sparkling stars.

Suddenly, the tour guide stood up and disappeared into the dark. Then, I heard the sound of a running chicken. I thought he was preparing a chicken dish for the next day. I was like, “why is he doing this in the middle of night?” It all happened quickly in the darkness. He was starting to bbq the chicken before I realized it. Wait a minute… no flour… no sauce…..

But, it turned out to be the best grilled chicken I have ever had. It was a fantastic and satisfying way to complete my evening. I think I ate the largest portion of the chicken. That made me sleep better and I can say that this was one of my best experiences welcoming Christmas.

A quiet day in a misty town (Mae Hong Son, Northern Thailand)

 

After my trip to the Surin islands (December, 2015), I headed to the northern-most part of Thailand. I flew from Phuket to Chiang Mai where I took the local bus to Mae Hong Son. I arrived at the town around 7pm at night. I went straight to have dinner at a fusion restaurant near the lake which is situated right at the center of the town. As usual, there is a night market nearby. The lake is best viewed from Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu on top of a hill overlooking the town.

IMG_1411

The best part of travelling is waking up late and having a slow and stretchy brunch.

After a relaxing morning, I decided to walk around the town to explore in the afternoon. The town is quiet, clean and calming. Everything is within walking distance. The chilly weather made me excited to walk further and I decided to go up Doi Kong Mu, one of the hills overlooking the town.

It took about 30 minutes to get to the top. The view you will see is impressive. You will see the real beauty of Mae Hong Son from a different perspective. You will probably recall some iconic images of Mae Hong Son because the view you will actually see is what you might have googled and seen before you arrived.

The first time I heard about Mae Hong Son is when I asked my friend where I should go that has the charming nature of a small town, but fewer tourists. He suggested Mae Hong Son: “Why don’t you give it a try?” I googled it right away and I decided, without a second thought, that this was the place I must visit. This is where you can get a vast amount of fresh air, see big green fields, massive mountains, and small roads, and visit boutique coffee shops. Tell me what more could you want?

Definitely, this town is not for party goers and those who crave mandatory travel shoots of the world’s most-visited wonders. It is a small escape from meddling crowds to get to know yourself better. What travelling can give you is a connection with your inner-self. This is my way of deep-travelling.

IMG_1447

The perfect time for coffee is just before sunset. (People who are sensitive to caffeine won’t agree with me.) Don’t we all dream of having a cup of coffee in beautiful or peaceful settings like the middle of the forest, standing along a bridge, or looking at the rain through a cabin’s window panes? For me, I wanted to have coffee while watching the sun setting behind the mountains. Of course, I didn’t want to be jostled by a huge crowd of tourists to see a highly commercialized sunset.

The best part of my first day in Mae Hong Son was enjoying the sunset from a little coffee shop called Before Sunset Coffee, on top of the mountain behind Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu. It was a very private evening sensitive to the feeling of a fresh breeze, views of mountains and trees, and your own balcony.

IMG_1460

A sunset is not really an end. It is the beginning of a fresh new day.

The best part came after the sunset. It was the rural night sky which I had been waiting for. It had been many years since I had experienced the night sky without light pollution. The sky was clear and gorgeously dark blue. And, still on the mountain overlooking Mae Hong Son, I had a 360 degree view of sky. You know you are rich when you can see the whole sky—not just the piece of sky you can see from your small apartment. Yeahh….I loved everything about that evening.

Then, I slowly walked down to the little town which was waiting for me with a warm hug. Without being noticed, I became a part of the town again in my own way.

Some tips  

I don’t recommend you to take the local bus from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son if you are not keen to experience the long and tiring bus ride.

By the way, I was not so pleased by the Salween River Restaurant—especially the tea leave salad that they served. As I consider myself an expert in making tea leave salad, nothing can beat my own version of it. The overall experience, though, was good. Try to make sure you chose the right dishes. They are popular in selling Shan and Burmese food.

IMAG6225

@mapsofthemoon

Quiet Escape to the Surin Islands

What comes to your mind when you think of visiting a remote island?

I went to the Surin Islands, Thailand, for an overnight trip last December 2014.As December is peak season, most places in Thailand are more or less crowded with people from all over the world. I was quite worried that the Surin Islands would be crowded too, as I was visiting in the third week of December.

Where is it?

1-LB-map-surin-islands

The Surin Islands are chain of five islands of the Andaman Sea. They are situated in PhangNga province roughly 60 km off of Thailand’s west coast. The Surin Islands and their surrounding waters are part of Mu KoSurin National Park, which was proclaimed a national park by the government of Thailand in July 1981.The Burma border is just a few kilometers away to the north of the islands. To the south are the Similan Islands, which are equally famous as the Surins. You can’t access the national park during the rainy season from May to October.It closes down for the safety of visitors.

Transport

There are many direct flights from Singapore to Phuket International Airport. I went from Singapore to Phuket on an evening flight. I arrived around 9:20pm and took a taxi which I booked in advance to KhaoLak, where I stayed for two days to work on a class assignment. Yes, I travelled when I was in the middle of a difficult module in the diploma course that I was taking! It took fairly over an hour to get to KhaoLak town. I stayed in town at a beautiful guest house called Seaweed KhaoLak for two days to finish my biomechanicsassignment. I didn’t go around Khao Lak much as I was rushing to finish my assignment.

IMG_1252
Guest house at Khaolak

Most tours to the islands start from Khuraburi Pier which is the closet port town. It took less than an hour to get there from Khao Lak town. I booked the tour exactly a month earlier. f you are staying in Phuket, it will take, more or less, three hours to get to the islands by speed boat. I am sure there are many tour agencies which operate such tours.

What then?

These islands are popular among divers as there are many dive sites around. I cannot swim well, and I cannot go on dives, but I can go snorkeling! I still cannot believe that I did it so many times. I didn’t have a GoPro camera when I went there. Sorry, I don’t have underwater photos!

IMG_1271
Site of snorkelling

What I enjoyed most was lying down on the beach where there is no noise or crowds. It’s only you and nature. Everything you breathe is fresh and clean. Everything you see is enchanting blue and green. You will feel like you have an ultimate connection with Mother Nature. It’s a wonderful place to lose yourself in nature.

I woke up to the sounds of waves and little birds. I stayed in a beach front tent at Chong Khad Bay, at the headquarters of the national park.

If you like to have panoramic views and swim in shallow water, chose Mai Ngam Bay. You may like to check with your tour operator. When I booked, I didn’t know that there were two different beaches where I could stay.

Pano_0030

Mai Ngam Bay

 

I went to visit a Moken village to understand sea gypsies as part of the tour. In Myanmar, they are called Selung. It’s interesting to learn about their way of life. But, I felt like the village had become more or less commercialized. But, you could still feel the charming nature of their village in the way they look at you. It speaks a lot. It is said that some groups of sea gypsies knew about the tsunami of 2004 before it hit. Some said they were the first to evacuate. Basically, they had been living on boats and moving around the sea. According to the guide, this was the village which the Thai government gave them for settlement after the tsunami.

Safety

The basic requirements are safety and accessibility. Only with that can you feels secure enough to enjoy your holiday and adventure.

It is also your responsibility to stay safe, follow basic precautions, and respect the local customs. You need to act like an environmentalist, especially when you visit a small island. Don’t spoil the nature.

Here I am not taking about crowded Pi Pi Island or the Maya bay area of Phuket. I am talking about the feeling of having a private, untouched beach for a day or two. It is good that I went there to experience the stunning nature.

IMG_1392

If you are a person who wants to feel the art of doing nothing at the beach, you should go and enjoy a day or two. I am sure your memories of the island won’t fade away. It is not about how much we pay, it’s about how the experience is. Go out and connect yourself with the world.

@Mapsofthemoon

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: