BOAT MAGAZINE ISSUE NO. 8 / LA

When I got to LA I had reached out to Boat Magazine because I fell in love with their aesthetic, nomadic nature, and content. Each issue is dedicated to a different city around the world and as the universe would have it, their next issue was to be an LA issue. Enter happenstance. I didn’t want to miss the boat so to speak. I’m currently working on two stories due out in September and I couldn’t be more excited to be among such amazing collaborators within the pages of the most ridiculously beautiful designed magazine. PRE-ORDER NOW!! Available here.

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And in case you missed it, Boat had previously featured me on their website a few months ago.

Check it.

 

JOSHUA TREE, CALIFORNIA

JOSHUA_TREE_1 Since being back in California, I had to visit my beloved Joshua Tree National Park.

The landscape is unreal and the stars are glorious.

This camping trip was featured on Ardent Magazine in a two part series. Here is Part I and Part II.

Stay at Hidden Valley Campground if you want to be nestled among amazing boulders.

Below are some images that you might not see in the Ardent feature. Watch out for coyotes!

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EL CAMINO TRAVEL

After leaving Vietnam in April and feeling like my life was in disarray (the jist) I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had just left a major trip, a relationship, and was coming back to my hometown to take care of a sick parent. The transition was bumpy. Everything felt foreign coming from foreign lands and I wasn’t sure where life would take me. As time passed the bumps started to smooth out, I started regaining my footing, and the stars started to align. I mean really align. So much so that I’ve become co-founder of an amazing travel company.

After an exchange of serendipitous emails between DC and LA, a few google hangouts, a shared love of socially responsible travel, and an appreciation for creativity and innovation, El CAMINO was born.

I am so excited to officially announce the launch of EL CAMINO alongside my amazing co-founder Katalina Mayorga.

two_nom What is EL CAMINO?

+ Authentic and well curated travel experiences for groups of 10-12 people to unique locations.

+ Travel experience includes a professional and creative photographer that accompanies the group the whole time. You can live in the moment and not worry about capturing the moment. (I will be the resident photographer for the first few trips!)

+ 10% of profits goes towards the efforts of a local social entrepreneur who is radically changing their country and who will also lead a dinner one night so you get that unique and intimate perspective into the country.

Where are we going?

We are currently planning a sold out trip to Nicaragua in November, but have no fear, 2015 will bring 3 more trips to Nicaragua and trips to Colombia and Guatemala. We are just getting started!

But we can’t wait to get the party started so Katalina is planning a midweek pop up vacay in the DC area to a nearby swimming hole. Yes, please! Details below on where to rock your oversized inflatables.

POPUP_NH What is a Pop Up Vacay? It is an excuse to take a vacation, relax, and #yolo the hell out of life in the middle of the week. It keeps with the spontaneous and adventurous vibe of El Camino and is a preview of the atmosphere that El Camino is committed to providing on all of its trips, in whatever part of the world we may be.

Where: A quarry turned swimming hole on the outskirts of Baltimore aka Beaver Dam Swim Club. This includes a rope swing, diving board, and several floating docks. This place is magical.

When: August 6th from 10AM to 5PM

Price: $85 if you sign up before 7/28 and $95 thereafter.

Includes: Oversized inflatable swans and inflatable half eaten donuts, the sweet sweet sounds of DJ Ayescold (our official El Camino Music Curator), creative photographer extraordinare Emma McAlary (you will get access to these photos soon after the event), delicious food, table settings that you might freak out about, transportation there and back, a copy of the beautifully designed and wanderlust filled Boat Mag, and a special appearance by #yolo and #vacay.

Sign up here!

shop_nh El Camino has launched ‘LA TIENDA’ a store filled with eclectic and beautiful items from our trips abroad. We are currently selling a limited amount of hand picked and brightly colored frazadas (blankets or rugs) from the markets of Cochabamba, Bolivia. You will fall in frazada love. Guaranteed.


So there you have it.

Life is nuts, crazy, amazing, and everything in between.

Come along for the ride.

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instagram + facebook + pinterest

BE A TRAVELER, NOT A TOURIST.

#elcaminotravel


Trans-Siberian Railway meets Artillery Lane

Back in December of 2013, photographer Valentina Eleanora Costa of Halo Communication got in touch with me about using some of my Trans-Siberian Railway images as backdrops to her latest project.

The result? An amazing scarf campaign for Artillery Lane with projected Siberian images.

I’m thrilled to finally share the final product! See the whole campaign here.

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BACKPACKING 101

BACKPACKING 101

So you are ready to take on the world. You’ve quit that soul sucking job where you wanderlusted on your company computer. You’ve pinterested in between meetings and instagramed during meetings and now it’s time to pack your bags.

What are you taking? What do you really need? Here are a few of my fav’s.

BACKPACK // How hard is it to find a front loading backpack? Really hard. Top loading packs make it hard to reach those items you’ve stuffed at the bottom. I loved this backpack because it made everything in my pack accessible without all the bells & whistles.

SHOES // Remember my post before I left about how hiking boots are not sexy? Guess what? They are still not sexy. Not much has changed in the women’s hiking boot world in the past year. Since I bought these boots and traded out the laces for some bold red ones, they’ve seen the Arctic Circle, Trans-Siberian Railway, and Gobi Desert to name a few. They are still in great condition a year later and currently use them for California hikes.

RAIN COVER // Oh hey downpour. Caught in monsoon season? Don’t get caught without a backpack cover. This one saved my pack from several downpours and from all that ferry sludge in Thailand.

UMBRELLA // So you have your rain over and your pack is safe but what about you? I am so glad I brought an umbrella because I can’t tell you how many times the clouds unexpectedly opened up.

TOWEL // Budget travel doesn’t allow for those plush 5 star towels. Take your own. They double as pillows.

FIRST AID KIT // Blisters, cuts, gashes, etc. You will get them all. Be prepared.

ELECTRICAL TAPE  // Saved me in a pinch for a lot of random needs. Also used this to tape my shampoo and conditioner tops down when in transit.

NYLON CORD // Remember that bunk rail on the Trans-Siberian Train that was broken? Rigging it with nylon cord was the perfect solution. Also, all those times I was hand washing my laundry in the shower, I used this to hang my undies to dry!

SUNSCREEN // You will burn. It will hurt.

WET WIPES // Clutch for that 8 day trip to the Gobi Desert.

BUG REPELLANT // I’m allergic to mosquito bites. Enough said.

FLASHLIGHT // I’m not afraid of the dark, but I’m afraid of the dark when I have no idea where I am.

SCARF // Style, warmth, and that perfect thing to tie around your waste if you need to squat in the middle of Mongolia with a little discretion.

Women + Solo Traveling

GOSOLO Traveling hardly seems like an option to me anymore. It’s such an integral part of me that it has become a lifestyle. I live to travel and I travel to live.

Before my year long trip I was a timid traveler. I hadn’t faced the world alone and feared traveling solo as a woman would be both dangerous and intimidating.

As the trip progressed I thought, ‘I can do this.’ All the things I feared slowly started melting away. Could I handle all the logistics? The physicality? The complications? Yes, yes, and yes. I grew more confident and ‘I can do this’ evolved into ‘I will do this.’

I’m currently gearing up to embark on my first solo trip to Indonesia and Australia in August. I am anxious to dive into the experience.

As I was doing my research on Yahoo Travel, it turns out many women are boarding planes alone. As I perused the site, I found THIS fantastic article about the rise of women who travel solo. According to the article, 72% of American women will travel solo this year. Go women! The article also tells of inspiring women who have done bold things like climb Mt. Kilimanjaro alone as a 40th birthday celebration. There are so many courageous woman who are willing to take a chance on the world.

I challenge all you women out there to be brave and make the leap into the world. Even if it’s just a short trip. For all the women who have done solo trips, what were the challenges? What was the beauty of it? Lastly, any tips?

Find more travel tips and articles at Yahoo Travel.

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FRAZADA HEAVEN!

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Love these?

They are Frazadas from Bolivia and can be used as rugs or heavy blankets.

I am launching a new business with cofounder @theyoufinder (more on that to come soon, but expect travel with an unexpected twist) and will be selling these to help kickstart the effort.

We will be posting product shots of each blanket individually so you can see all the colors and designs.

Please email katamayorga(at)gmail.com if your interested in purchasing and receiving the link once they are ready.

 

Happy Father’s Day

dad Happy Father’s Day to the man who sparked my need to see and document the world!

Above he is stylish on his scooter and playing in the forest with his siblings in the Indonesian forests.

This post is dedicated to him and his photography.

Remember this post?

It explains when I discovered my dad was a total closet photographer with a treasure trove of slides tucked away in that closet.

Here are some of my favorite slides shot by my dad.

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Happy Father’s Day Dad!

Black Star Canyon Road | OC, California

When most people think of Orange County, better known (or worse known?) as ‘The O.C.’ they probably think of either Disneyland, or reality T.V. (Housewives of Orange County, The O.C., Laguna Beach). Truth be told there is beautifully wild side to Orange County absent of the cliché. Enter Black Star Canyon. There are urban legends and tales of the supernatural associated with this area which make it an even more interesting destination. Look out for ghosts. The images below were taken on Black Star Canyon Road in Santiago Canyon. To get to Black Star Canyon, walk Black Star Canyon Road about a mile past the gate and turn right. Happy trails.

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Maibe Maroccolo – ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 9.30.17 AM Maibe Maroccolo reached out to me when she stumbled upon my block printing workshop in India but I was quickly consumed by her artistry. She is gorgeous and so is her work. If you loved my block printing story, you must check out Maibe Maroccolo who hails from Brazil.

WHO

I’m a textile artist, maker and dyer that works with organic dyes and fabrics, focusing on the creative reuse of natural materials. I gained my inspiration from nature and ecological principles found in permaculture. The theory of permaculture living is simply that if we accept man as an animal we will always have needs and demands from the land and environment, then, through education, inspiration and a dedicated view towards the future, man must put back what he has taken for any chance of the cycle to continue and prosper.

In 2012 I founded my own consultancy and fashion brand “Mattricaria”. Mattricaria grew out of the idea of producing honest products and making beautiful garments that are a living blueprint for my values: people and the planet are central to everything we do. Our products are handmade and dyed in organic cotton and sustainable materials, using traditional dying skills and Brazilian raw material. We seek to encourage thoughtful buying by giving our customers a personal connection to their purchases. We give customers an alternative to fast fashion that has a devastating impact from sweatshops, child labor to pollution, and global warming. I support healthy integration between nature, culture, and preservation of traditional textile methods. Mattricaria is the scientific name of chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla), which refers to calm, slow and lightness, so that’s my inspiration!

WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO TRAVEL?

I’m very curious when comes to traveling. I love going to different and exotic places, but my heart is where the nature is, so my sacred escape is Chapada do veadeiros in Goiás. It is 3 hours from home (Brasília, capital). It’s a gorgeous landscape full of exotic flora and fauna, lots of spectacular waterfalls, bizarre rock formations, caves, and grottoes. According to NASA, when observed from outer space, the Chapada’s high plateaus are the most luminous point visible on Earth; this bright glowing is caused by the reflection between the sun and the abundance of quartz crystal in the region.

WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH?

I always take my family pictures with me! They always make me smile and they remind myself of who I am and it keeps me going in order to achieve my purpose in life, spread love, and be kind to others.

THANK YOU MAIBE

 

Tiny Atlas Quarterly | Block Printing Workshop

I am thrilled to be part of Tiny Atlas Quarterly’s AIR issue!

One of the highlights of India was taking a workshop to learn the ancient practice of block printing. It’s a stunning process.

Check out the entire feature here.

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THANK YOU TINY ATLAS!

Don’t forget to check out the entire issue. It is brimming with beauty.

Road Trip With Dad

Now that I am in LA, I’ve been able to spend some quality time with the folks. I’ve also been able to appreciate the natural beauty of California as well as indulge in delicious Mexican food. My dad and I took a short road trip down south so he could hit the jackpot at the casinos and I could lounge by the pool. These photos are all off Highway 76 where we stopped off at the amazing Jilberto’s Taco Shop.

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He didn’t hit the jackpot, but we did enjoy the view.

Authenticity

AUTHENTICITY

Whether it is in my day to day or in my travels, I often find myself yearning for an authentic experience. What exactly is an authentic experience, and why do I keep digging for these moments? In an age where everything feels saturated and commercialized, I wonder if authenticity is still alive.

So what is an authentic experience? I had this fantasy before my trip that the lands would be laced with true and authentic experiences devoid of tourism and commercialism. I imagined I would feel connected to people and places in ways that felt absolutely true. I thought that if truth lived in moments, that I would find them, feel them, and share them. But as a tourist and as a stranger to distant lands, I wondered if it would be that much harder to find the scraps of truth.

I think back to a moment that comes to mind when I think about authentic experience. The first time I rode a horse was in Mongolia as I helped a nomad herd his sheep in a landscape that was straight out of The Land Before Time. Needless to say, all other horse rides in my lifetime will pale in comparison. Thank you Mongolia for single-handedly ruining all future horse rides and giving me one of the best experiences of my life.

_MG_0504 The nomad rode the horse as if they were connected. They were one symbiotic, beautiful beast, and while I was holding on for dear life, he casually smoked a cigarette while navigating the land and his livestock. We didn’t share language, but we shared this moment. It was so beautiful I could cry at the memory of it. It was beautiful not only because it was an objectively impressive scene, but the physical memory and the emotional impression is engraved into me, onto me, and all over me. I argued with myself over the authenticity of it. Mari, you are only having this experience because you paid for it and this tour was set up for tourists to make money. I previously had such strict authentic experience guidelines… anything commercialized and driven by tourism and money could not be authentic I would argue. But I cannot deny the truths I felt in those moments. Yes, I had paid for a tour which I knew included horseback riding. What I didn’t know was that I would actually be herding sheep with a nomad. It felt more like he needed to get his sheep back to base and also provide a horse ride and that he was killing two birds with one stone. I was happy to be a bird because then I was flying in his authentic air space. He wasn’t simply taking me for a ride, I was riding in his world, and I actually did feel as free as a bird. I was soaring.

_MG_0593 I realized that authentic experiences cannot be achieved by checking off a near impossible list of rules. There’s actually nothing authentic about boxing in moments with a checklist. An authentic experience comes from within. If you experience truth in a moment, whether it’s on a tour or on a solo wander, it IS an authentic experience.

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While my extravagant fantasy of living in continuous authentic moments while traveling was not achieved, the reality was that I found pockets of authenticity that live inside me in brilliant ways. When I think back on other such moments, I realize the common denominator is shared human experience. When we connect with other people, it’s magic.

Abracadabra. Authenticity.

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SCOTT HAWAII GIVEAWAY

SCOTT_HAWAII_1 I cannot tell you how difficult it is to find a solid pair of flip flops to travel with that are equally as stylish. I’ve been through blisters, strap snaps, and ugly but comfortable pairs. Oh the flip flop woes. Finally, I found a pair that I’m flipping for that won’t flop thanks to Scott Hawaii.

Nomadic-Habit has partnered with Scott Hawaii for a ‘slippah’ giveaway! Here I’m sporting the LOKU style in black and I’m loving the suede insole and soft leather braided straps. Bye bye blisters. These retail for $42, but you can get them free, or you can choose from their other styles if you are the winner. While I’m showing off one of the women’s styles, this giveaway is open to men as well as there are plenty of men’s styles to choose from.

How do I win?

If you are already subscribed to the Nomadic-Habit mailing list then you are already automatically entered. Thank you loyal readers! If you are not subscribed, click here to subscribe and enter for a chance to win. A subscriber will be selected at random when the giveaway closes.

What do I win?

A free pair of really comfortable, quality ‘slippahs’ that will be sent to you once you choose your preferred style and size.

When will I be notified if I win?

The giveaway will close on June 1st and the winner will be notified by email on June 2nd.


My favorite part about this pair is that you can sport them with just about anything.

Here I am rocking two looks with one pair. SCOTT_HAWAII_2 SCOTT_HAWAII_3 SCOTT_HAWAII_4 SCOTT_HAWAII_5 SCOTT_HAWAII_6 SCOTT_HAWAII_7 SCOTT_HAWAII_8 SCOTT_HAWAII_9 GOOD LUCK! Don’t forget to sign up by June 1, 2014 !

One Year Anniversary

start I left the United States one year ago today to embark on an epic trip.

This picture above is the very first picture I snapped. It was in Barcelona. The sky was beautiful. I remember it well. Since this photo was taken, I have edited down my trip collection to just under 9,000 images which means I probably actually took triple that if you include all the images I have deleted since. Wow.

A year has gone by and I have seen so much, felt so much, and so much has changed. The world was my oyster and I was illuminated. Then life stepped in.

While we were in the Thai Islands I got word that my mother would be going through chemotherapy for lung cancer. I made the decision to go back to LA to be with her during the duration of the treatment. I left from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam and consequently Rick and I decided to part ways. I thank you in advance for your understanding in this private matter as both of these decisions were made with a heavy heart.

So what does this mean?

I am currently in LA plotting my next nomadic adventure and hope to be back on the road in a few months when I take on Indonesia and Australia on my own. I will still maintain this blog with plenty of travel content so have no fear, I have a lot up my sleeve. Nomadic-Habit is entering a new phase and I am so excited for what’s to come!

And hey, if you are in LA, reach out. I’m available for photo work (and coffee).

Check out my photography site here and don’t forget to follow me on instagram.

What a difference a year makes.

Life. You can’t even escape it when you are off escaping it.

I started this post with the first picture of the trip, and now for my last.

end-1 I guess it’s lights out.

To everyone that has supported me through this tough time, your love is invaluable. Thank you so very much.

 

Independence Palace | Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Independence Palace (Dinh Độc Lập), also known as Reunification Palace (Vietnamese: Dinh Thống Nhất), built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, is a landmark in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was designed by architect Ngô Viết Thụ and was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.

Above text taken from Wikipedia

This isn’t your typical palace. Some rooms are fancy, some are stark, some look like they are straight out of the 1960′s, and the bunker is downright sparse. It’s a hodgepodge of styles all mixed into one ominous building. It’s much less opulent than the Thai Grand Palace. From the outside it appears less palatial and more generic. IndependencePalace_1 IndependencePalace_2 IndependencePalace_3 IndependencePalace_4 IndependencePalace_5 IndependencePalace_6 IndependencePalace_7 IndependencePalace_8 And now to the cavernous bunker…

IndependencePalace_9 IndependencePalace_10 IndependencePalace_11 IndependencePalace_12 IndependencePalace_13 IndependencePalace_14 IndependencePalace_15 IndependencePalace_16 And I guess a palace isn’t a palace without a shooting gallery?

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

HoChiMinh_1 So Cambodia was equally amazing and emotionally exhausting. It was time to move on to Vietnam. We took another bus adventure from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. It was another one of those trips that took way longer than what they estimate for you. The border crossing is easy (as long as you have your visa) and you make a stop for lunch along the way.

We stayed in the backpacker area—Pham Ngu Lao, located in District 1 where you’ll find plenty of lodging and restaurants.

The area is dripping with color and life.

And the food… well, it’s delicious. Pho real. HoChiMinh_2 HoChiMinh_3 HoChiMinh_4 HoChiMinh_5 HoChiMinh_6 HoChiMinh_7 HoChiMinh_8 HoChiMinh_9 HoChiMinh_10 HoChiMinh_11

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Cambodia

genocidemusem1.1 The Killing Fields were brutal, but the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum made me ill. Literally. While it was once a school, it was transformed into security Office 21 under the orders of Pol Pot on April 17, 1975.  Office 21, or S-21 for short was designed for detention, interrogation, torture and killing.

The prisoner records of S-21 counts up to 10,519 prisoners from the years 1975-1978.

It is quite eerie to walk the halls of a once primary and high school knowing it housed over 10,000 prisoners in abhorrent conditions. The energy is rooted in the walls and it had my stomach turning.

genocidemuseum_2 genocidemuseum_4 genocidemuseum_3 Bodies of fourteen victims were discovered by the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea (UFNSK) on January 7, 1979. The corpses were unidentifiable due to decomposition and were buried in front of the building. These were the last people to be tortured and killed by personal before they fled.

Below are a few of the rooms where the fourteen victims were found. Each room has a photo of what was initially discovered by the UFNSK. The images are graphic can be really tough to look at. This isn’t your typical museum where replicas are in place to show you the conditions. You are in the actual room where these bodies were found and their beds and other objects are right there with you.

genocidemuseum_6 genocidemuseum_7 genocidemuseum_8 genocidemuseum_9 genocidemuseum_10 genocidemuseum_11 The first building is what made me feel ill. Absorbing all that took place in the actual place is exhausting to your soul. We move on to another building where classrooms were converted into several small brick cells. Stepping into one is claustrophobic and you wonder just who and how many people were crowded into these walls that were once full of children with educational aspirations.

genocidemuseum_12 genocidemuseum_13 genocidemuseum_14 genocidemuseum_15 genocidemuseum_16 genocidemuseum_17 genocidemuseum_18 genocidemuseum_19 genocidemuseum_20 Other rooms are filled with faces, faces, faces. Everyone is photographed and documented. A picture is worth a thousand words and these faces say it all. As a photographer I am feeling at odds. Some of these images are actually beautiful portraits, but for the ugliest of reasons and so I can’t call these pictures art and yet I can’t stop starring at them. What were they thinking? What are their stories? The sheer number of faces is overwhelming.

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Click on the images below to view them larger…

The woman below I was particularly mesmerized by because her eyes evoked such desperation.

If the eyes are the window to the soul, her soul is certainly screaming for help.

_MG_6552 I cannot tell you how deeply impactful this experience was and how desperately sad it made me.

How and why as humans do we kill our own fellow man? And why is it still happening?

For more images of the prison, go here.

Killing Fields, Cambodia

KillingFields_1.1 Readers beware, the next two posts are going to be heavy as we dig into the genocidal history of Cambodia. While in Angkor Wat I saw Cambodia as this magical place with a rich and beautiful past. I wondered what the grounds must have looked like at its peak. While that was the rise of Cambodia, we are now delving into the fall of Cambodia, and the magic turns into terror.

If you are not familiar with the Khmer Rouge or the genocide that took place in 1975-1979 led by Pol Pot that killed up to 3 million Cambodians, then here is a quick overview.

As a result, the country was filled with mass graves called killing fields. We visited the most well known one called Choeung Ek just outside of Phnom Penh. It’s horrifying, unfathomable, and absolutely terrifying.

What troubled me most was the “killing tree” (seen below), where children were smashed and beaten against the tree to death. The other troubling aspect is that this took place in the 70′s. It is not ancient history and the world did nothing. This is nothing short of infuriating.

The grounds include a memorial that house skulls that have been unearthed. Their violent deaths are visible on their skulls as many were killed in vicious, barbaric ways.

The earth is visibly scarred from the atrocities.

The land now with large dips where bodies were once piled also has not recovered.

Could it ever?

KillingFields_1 KillingFields_2 KillingFields_3 KillingFields_4 KillingFields_5 KillingFields_6 KillingFields_6.1 KillingFields_7 KillingFields_8 Then you ask yourself…

How did this happen?

Angkor Wat, Cambodia | Part 1

Now that we’ve explored Siem Reap, it’s time to see what we really came here for… Angkor Wat! While Angkor Wat is the main temple that you think of when you think of Angkor, the area is filled with different ruins and the task of exploration takes two days.

You can buy a 1 day ticket for $20, or a 2 or 3 day ticket for $40. It’s best to explore the area by hiring a tuk tuk for the day which is exactly what we did. The drive is beautiful, lovely, and peaceful. Angkor Wat is well kept and impressive, but I particularly loved the more unruly temples and ruins that the earth appears to be claiming back, one tree root at a time. Trees devour the temples like an ancient stone meal and it looks as if Medusa’s hearty locks are in the form of roots. The decay is terrifyingly beautiful, and it’s apparent that earth’s mouth is hungry for man’s meal.

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Siem Reap, Cambodia

After some New York pizza in Bangkok, we hopped an Air Asia flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia where we stayed at Angkor Orchid Central Hotel. It was a steal for around $15/night when we booked on Agoda.com. Airport tuk tuk pickup included!

While Siem Reap is the jumping off point for Angkor Wat, I found the central town to be both charming and photogenic.

Don’t you think?

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Koh Tao to Bangkok | Thailand

After Phangan we hit Koh Tao and stayed in Sairee Beach. We stayed at Amonrada House which was simple and small but at least had A/C for under $30/night. It’s a short walk from the beach and close to several restaurants. We hit some rain here so I was weary to bring my camera out and only got a few shots of a nearby patch of palm sprawl.

KOH_TAO_1 KOH_TAO_2 koh tao This was our last island hop for Thailand and we made the treacherous  journey back to Bangkok which took around 10 hours. We took a ferry to Chumphon then caught a bus back to Bangkok. We made it back to Bangkok around 9pm. Another full day of transportation!

While we had stayed in the Khao San area of Bangkok last time, we opted to stay in Sukhumvit where we would have easy access to the sky train.

It has a more downtown, city feel, but we were missing the quaintness of the small Khao San streets.

While we love Thai food, I stumbled upon the perfect non Thai place for dinner one night. Ronny’s New York Pizza. Two things I was missing at the moment: Pizza and New York. Done. Let’s go. We finally find it among the fleshpot of Nana Plaza and go to town. It even feels and looks a bit New York-ish.

Big apple or Bangkok?

Ronnys_1 Ronnys_2

 So our Thailand adventure ended with New York spirit! Next up? Cambodia!

Koh Phangan | Thailand

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 9.06.54 PMWe were hesitant to visit the nearby island Koh Phangan due to their full moon party reputation. We are talking about a Phi Phi crowd times 10! Google “full moon party haad rin” and you will find this. It’s one part hoochie mamma and one part poser and together you get 100% debauchery. Our original dates we had planned landed right in the middle of full moon swing, so we delayed a day hoping the antics would be over. I also made a concerted effort to find us some lodging that was FAR from the scene of Haad Rin Beach.

My efforts proved to be a success! While Haad Rin is at the south end of the island, we stayed at Thongtapan Resort on the north east side located on Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach. The 45 min drive to get there was well worth the rough roads. It was cozy, remote, and there was no full moon mayhem in sight.

Our garden bungalow was a short distance from the water and the beach was surrounded by lush, mountainous terrain.

KOH_PHANGAN_1 KOH_PHANGAN_2 KOH_PHANGAN_3 KOH_PHANGAN_4 KOH_PHANGAN_5 KOH_PHANGAN_6 KOH_PHANGAN_7 KOH_PHANGAN_8Just south of Thong Nai Pan Noi is Thong Nai Pan Yai. I know. The verbiage gets confusing. It requires a decent walk and an uphill, sweaty battle around a hill to get there.

KOH_PHANGAN_9 KOH_PHANGAN_10 KOH_PHANGAN_11 KOH_PHANGAN_12 KOH_PHANGAN_13 When we finally reach the beach, we understand why it’s known as Thong Nai Pan Noi’s less attractive sister. It’s still quite beautiful but there is less wave action here which means the shore is dotted with anchored boats. It makes for glorious photos, but not so glorious swimming.

KOH_PHANGAN_14 KOH_PHANGAN_15 KOH_PHANGAN_16 KOH_PHANGAN_17 KOH_PHANGAN_18 KOH_PHANGAN_19 KOH_PHANGAN_20 KOH_PHANGAN_21 KOH_PHANGAN_22 So while we initially shied away from the famed full moon island, we found a nook that felt nothing like a howling rave.

STAY: Thongtapan Resort

WHERE: Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach | Koh Phangan

PRICE: $21 (fan double standard bungalow) booked on Agoda.com

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KOH SAMUI | Thailand

After Khao Lak, we took a really long and unnecessary mini van + bus + ferry trip to Koh Samui.

All tourist routes from Khao Lak had to go through Krabi which meant we were back tracking. The entire trip took 10+ hours.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 5.05.15 PMSo when we finally got to Koh Samui, we were hoping our accommodation choice, The Sundays Sanctuary, lived up to the name. While Chaweng Beach is the tourist hot spot in Samui, we opted to stay in Bophut which is known for Fisherman’s Village. I was hoping for a local fisherman community, but it’s actually a very manufactured area with higher end restaurants on the waterfront. The beach is lined with resorts and since we also hit some overcast weather and rain, we barely made it to the beach and instead enjoyed our lodging.

I don’t usually review our accommodations because a backpacker budget has limitations, but I was loving that minimalist chic on a budget can actually exist! We booked through Agoda and opted for the mountain view room which set us back around $30/night. There are more expensive deluxe cottages that overlook the pool, but we found the mountain view rooms which are set back a bit were quite peaceful.

What did I love about this place? The pool, the balcony, and the minimalist concrete & wood design.

The only downside? There is only internet in the lobby.

KOH SAMUI_1 KOH SAMUI_2 KOH SAMUI_3 KOH SAMUI_4 KOH SAMUI_5 KOH SAMUI_6 KOH SAMUI_7 KOH SAMUI_8 KOH SAMUI_9 KOH SAMUI_10 KOH SAMUI_11 The Sundays Sanctuary Resort & Spa

WHERE: Bophut Beach | Koh Samui, Thailand

PRICE: $30/night (inclusive of all taxes) | double mountain view room

BREAKFAST INCLUDED

*Prices reflect high season rates. Low season rates are considerably cheaper*