Travel diary: Cambodia and Istanbul

Dear friends! This is it, this is the last travel diary of summer 2018. And what a summer it has been! It’s been an incredible, exciting, adventurous journey that lead me to thirteen countries across three continents and filled my heart with love and happiness. No matter who I was with, where I was, what I was doing – it was all just glorious and I can’t help but smile whenever I think back on it. But before I’m getting too emotional here and start crying tears of joy on the plane we better switch subjects – it’s time for the travel diary from Cambodia! Cambodia was AWESOME, and the time there was like wine or men – it got better with age / time 😉

I started off in Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat and as much as I would love to love it, I just didn’t. I guess I was just overtempled after my time in Myanmar and so when I went through Angkor with a million other tourists in the scorching heat I wasn’t particularly excited. In fact, I envied the tuktuk driver who got to nap in a hammock in the shade while we climbed up yet another temple. It was just too crowded and also I’m more into colourful ornaments à la Alhambra or the sparkly mirror mosaics that embellish Thai temples than these blackened stone buildings in Angkor. So yeah, I feel a bit bad to admit it but Angkor didn’t cut it for me. To be fair, the amount of detail and the sheer size of it is quite impressive though. And there’s one temple which has several huge faces made of stones as adornments and that was truly breathtaking, so maybe it wasn’t all that bad. And also, the mixed feelings about Angkor Wat aside, I had a fantastic time in Siem Reap in general as I got to enjoy the company of two fun American guys I met on the plane from Myanmar to Cambodia. We devoured delicious Nutella-filled rotee off the street while sitting on ridiculously tiny chairs, went to the national history museum (well educated and highly cultured as we are) and to the circus (super fun and animal-free!), gulped down entire coconuts in one sitting trying to avoid dehydration, and they even let me sleep in their room as my hostel was so incredibly noisy all night it wasn’t possible to get a second of rest. Kinda my fault for booking a hostel in the party street of the town I guess, I once again forgot to check the location beforehand (I was probably just way too euphoric for finding what seemed like a decent hostel for 1 dollar a night, goes to show that you usually get what you pay for and that there’s always a catch with these too good to be true deals), but in the end I got lucky since their room was super quiet and nice, so it was all good.

After Siem Reap I started making my way down south. I stopped in Battambang for two nights at a really great hostel with amazing people, and we spent the night watching lightnings over the city from the rooftop bar, me eating pancakes and them drinking Angkor beer as if there was no tomorrow. Then the next day we did a tour where we got to see how rice paper and rice wine are made, we took a ride on the bamboo train (basically just a plank of woven bamboo and a motor that speeds through the landscape for twenty minutes – it was super fun I couldn’t stop laughing! And the cool breeze felt sooo good on our sweaty skin), hiked up a hill to discover that the surrounding countryside was flatter than the Netherlands and of course to look at another temple, what else. This one was nice though, I loved the little figures holding up the roof and the monkeys climbing up the golden roofs. After that we watched thousands and thousands of bats emerging from their cave to hunt at dusk, it was super impressive. And after Battambang I finally, finally got down to the islands. I was running out of money and since travelling around is always more expensive than just staying in one spot and since most activities on an island (swimming, running on the beach, going on hikes, tanning, reading) are free I decided to just stay on the islands for two and a half weeks. It was the perfect ending of my trip, the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind and recharge before going back home, the perfect place for some reflection and me-time and for getting back into the good old habits of exercise and enough sleep. The island life was amazing, I almost never wore shoes (apart from the hikes since I’m not very keen on stepping on a cobra), I didn’t need a bag, I didn’t need anything really except a bikini, a little cash and a towel slung across my shoulders. And the people I met there! Everyone was just so incredibly warm, friendly and loving – must be the island that brings out the best in people or maybe it just attracts these amazing folks from near and far. Either way, I had the best time ever. There’s no better start into the day than waking up with the first sunrays brushing your face, then slipping out of bed and jumping right into the sea. And then just staying salty and sandy and free all day and all night, living and loving it. It was the best. I miss all the people I’ve met like crazy – I miss our conversations that seemed deeper than other places, I miss our laughter and the nights spent stargazing and licking overpriced Magnums. I miss waking up in an open space to the sound of the ocean, I miss that there was no need for clothing, shoes, walls, blankets. I miss the sea, the jungle, the sound of the geckos and the birds, the butterflies and the fluffy puppies messing around. I miss everything about it. I miss it so much that I’m considering going back and volunteering for a while – just to get into that life a bit more. But we’ll see. For now, I’m still filled with the quiet happiness that fills you when you get to live a life like that – simple, but with everything you really need. Good company, surrounded by nature, sun on your skin, salt in your hair and sand between your toes, some dried bananas to snack on and some good books to read. If perfection exists, then this was it.

And then there was the journey home. It was insane, twenty-one hours spent on three different buses to get from Sihanoukville to Bangkok and then two flights to get me from Bangkok to Abu Dhabi and from there to Istanbul. I honestly dreaded this journey considering the long time periods and everything, but it was actually quite fun! On the first bus I met a guy I briefly talked to on Koh Rong Sanloem and turns out he also had to go to Bangkok and his flight was at the same time as mine so we travelled together, sharing the beds in the hotel buses which is always way better with someone you’re comfortable with than with a total stranger, talking and laughing and cuddling and sleeping too little, and then we went to Kao San Road in Bangkok to get a massage and one last Pad Thai before heading to the airport. So that was a pleasant experience to kick the journey off. Then I got really lucky with the planes, both of them were basically empty so I had a full row for myself to lie down and sleep. And then Istanbul. It felt like going home, roaming the streets surrounding my hostel, getting recognized by everyone and invited to many warming cups of apple tea. At the hostel they were so happy to have me back that they upgraded me to a really nice room for half the price I would have paid for my original room which was awesome and we drank some tea and raki and shared stories of the past few months. The moment I entered the city it felt like a big cozy blanket was wrapped around me, with all the people smiling and laughing and asking questions and inviting me over. Istanbul is pure love. And then the next day on the bus to the airport I met a super nice Colombian guy so the time waiting at the airport passed by in the blink of an eye and he even gifted me a little notebook from his hometown Medellin in the end, so cute! So yeah, the perfect ending to a perfect trip. It showed me once again that there are great and interesting people everywhere and that if you are outgoing enough to chat them up, you will never be bored and you will have a fantastic time even when you’re stuck in buses and airports for three days. What a life. What a world. Filled with so many opportunities and fantastic humans I want to get to know. And the best thing is that I actually am so privileged to grab all these opportunities and get to know all of these beautiful people out there, ain’t that just so awesome! Sometimes I really can’t believe my luck ❤

But let me show you the pictures so you can see it yourselves! The crowded Angkor, the smiley faces, the ridiculously white beaches and the blue and green sea, the happiness that radiates even through the laptop right back at me while I sort through all the pictures. I hope it makes you happy, too, and gets you dreaming of paradise while you escape reality for a second or two ❤ (And maybe it even encourages you to jump out of your comfort zone and take the leap into the unknown! Go travel and explore the world as you will not only discover the world outside but also the world within you and it’s the best thing one can do in my opinion. Time travelling is never wasted. So get your ass out here!)

Some pictures from Angkor and Siem Reap:

My mood after getting back home haha:

Battambang:

Four people and all of our luggage crammed in one tuktuk, quite a rare achievement!

And finally, paradise on Koh Rong Sanloem and Koh Rong. Makes me want to go back soooo badly, just the feeling of the sand and the sun and to not have to wear so much stuff… I hate that my nose feels cold as soon as I step out of the door here. Please let me go baaack!

First things first, beachtiiiime with Luzie, Markus and a group of young Germans going wild all day every day and infecting everyone with their overboarding energy, it was fun!

Then there was the abandoned lighthouse I hiked to with Peter, my Bradley Cooper look-a-like… The view was simply breathtaking, we overlooked almost the entire island and as you can see it is really natural and unspoilt still which will hopefully remain that way for a long time still! 

We also came across some cute dogs and puppies on the way, heartmelting… I wish I had smuggled one of them back home in my backpack haha

And our accomodation was a dream too, an open room facing the sea, just a mosquito net seperating us from the beach… And some flowers Peter brought me from one of his early morning runs while I still slept haha

And some random moments along the way… Chilling in the hammocks with a bunch of crazy Irish guys I spent a few days on Koh Rong with, eating my favourite Magnum with Nils and halloween party preparations with the ever smiling Jordan (though you unfortunately can’t see his smile due to the mask, let me tell you you’re missing out! This smile has the ability to brighten up the whole world). What a gloriously fun time!

Two snapshots of Tom and me on the way back to Bangkok:

And last but not least, beautiful beautiful Istanbul… Most beautiful city in my opinion. Manages to be charming even in wintertime 😉 And David, his notebook and my lunch on the plane back home which was probably more suitable for five year olds than grown-ups but whatever, I’m a child at heart and that food (if you can call it that) was delicious.

Alright, that’s it! Probably the longest blog post so far. But good things take time so thanks for reading through this and I hope I could send some warmth and sunshine and happiness your way ❤ Take care babes, I’ll be off trying to adjust to the weather and looking for new challenges in life until I’m off for work, can’t just spend money forever it’s time to make some again 😉 Besos!

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