This was my first trip to Asia and the long haul to get there. And while I love to share all the highlights of my trips, there are certainly lows when dealing with the unpredictability of weather and flight delays.
With time, my memory blurs quite a bit. But I remember being delayed out of JFK, then also being stuck circling above Dubai due to a sand storm and being diverted to Oman. So in turn, I missed my connection upon arrival in Dubai. Ugh. So with an 8+ hour layover, Emirates gifts you a free hotel room but it will take 2 hours to sit in the line with all of the other angry passengers. What do you do?
I opted (of course) to go explore instead in this opulent city. Thankfully not needing a visa, I jumped on the city tram to head directly into the madness. I walked for 4 hours in the three story mall without retracing a single step. It was over the top with an indoor aquarium, biggest LED screen in the world, replica airplane, theme park, 2 Niketowns, ice skating rink, haunted house, Ferris wheel, 3 story fountain and the tallest edifice in the world (Burj Khalifa).
So I also gambled with a change in itinerary with a brief layover in Bangkok then on to my final destination in Ho Chi Min City. However, it backfired because we were delayed again in the air and despite running through another airport, I missed the first day of my tour kayaking in the national park. After another night of no sleep, I landed in Vietnam with 6 hours to kill before my group returned from their excursion, so I took off on foot through the city’s museums. Finally I crashed after a tuk tuk ride to dinner and city center.
The next day we crossed over into Cambodia and wound through numerous small villages to get to the prized jewel of experiencing the elusive Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious structure in the world. We spent 2 full days getting lost in these ancient remains and it was crazy amazing! Around every corner we were surprised with history lessons and eye popping ruins. Our guides even knew all the cool tourist shots and we posed for every single one. If you are willing to work for it and brave the extra hours to get there, it is THAT special.
One of my other favorite moments was our ATV ride through the countryside each in our own speedster. We stopped at numerous hidden temples and learned stories for each. Then I asked to let the throttle loose and one guide took me alone on a high speed jaunt & I had the time of my life. We took turns too fast, barreled over obstacles and whizzed by cows mooing at us. We landed in an open field waiting for the rest of the group while enjoying a picture perfect, unobstructed sunset over the rice fields. I literally held the sunset in my palms. Priceless. Then we got dropped off at a local restaurant to try the local delicacies….. grilled crickets. Yum. 🦗 😋
We then visited the floating cities and stopped in quaint fishing villages, where we interacted with a local family with 10 kids all under the age of 12 that were helping cut off fish heads for dinner and to sell to the tourists. Yes, even the 2 year old braved a sharp knife. They had a flip flop to play soccer with and all slept on the same old mattress on the floor. Truly heartbreaking BUT they all had beautiful smiles as they didn’t know any differently.
The border crossing into Thailand wasn’t so smooth, as we waited 4 hours just because they didn’t want us to pass. No issues but nothing we could do about it.
Bangkok was beautiful and I explored every inch over the next 2 days. The palaces and temples were the biggest and most gorgeous I’ve ever or probably will ever see. All plated in gold, it was insanely impressive. I even splurged to get an amazing foot massage inside the Grand Palace walls for a measly $15. We jumped on a local ferry to see more temples up close and even experienced the infamous floating markets. And I ate Pad Thai every chance I had. 🍝