Cambodia: Siem Reap – Phnom Penh – Kampot – Kep
It may seem kind of ridiculous posting now. I took my trip to Cambodia in January and its already July. Where has the time gone? I’m starting a job very soon and moving soon to start a new phase of my life but I can’t help but reminisce, as memories are far more valuable upon returning to familiarity.
Travelling doesn’t always go to plan and I can safely say the trip to Cambodia was challenging. It was somewhere I’d always wanted to tick off my map. Lured by Siem Reap, the reality was I was disappointed with it being such a tourist town. I also got the worst case of food poisoning I have ever experienced, taking tablets for a 5 hour bus to reach Kampot, I then stayed at the hotel heading to the bathroom, even after a drink of water. This lasted a few days. It was bad, despite Kampot being a lovely place (as far as what I saw – it seemed so)
I started to feel better and planned to go to Koh Rong. But…the idyllic island had an outbreak of some illness, so having recovered from food poisoning, we decided to play it safe and go to Kep. A nearby small town famous for crab – quieter, beautiful sunsets, amazing seafood and lovely people it was without doubt my favourite part of this trip. It just goes to show that what you expect isn’t always what you get. From ‘gap yah’ trousers to ruins, and finding out more about it’s recent history, in hindsight Cambodia was challenging but certainly well worth a visit. It was a memorable and incredible experience and amok – the national dish is delish.
Vietnam: Hao Lu, Ninh Binh
Dubbed as the inland Haolong Bay, Hao Lu Tam Coc in the Ninh Binh province lies a couple of hours outside of Hanoi. The excursion to the former ancient capital (Hao Lu) is a world away from the honks, narrow streets and chaos in the old quarter. Meandering through incredible mountains and caves, these small boats are steered by men and women using their feet. This shot captures a lady wearing the non la (Vietnamese hat) just as we’re about to leave the cave.
Korea: Bujeon Market, Busan
On New Years Eve we revisited Bujeon market. Bujeon market feels like stepping back in time. It is a real slice of old-school Korean flavours and a chaotic maze, bustling with locals getting the best kimchi, fish and fresh vegetables. On the way out I spotted these birds hanging out above us. It was kind of creepy. Cue Hitchcock’s The Birds, I kind of felt like I needed to move quickly past them.
Apologies for the late post. It’s been a hectic week. TGIF!
Hong Kong: somewhere
‘福 Fu is the ultimate good luck character. Good fortune, wealth and good luck.’
This is my last post of 2016. Whilst I’ve been living in Korea the UK has left the EU, we’ve got a new Prime Minister, a different 5 pound note and Darlington has a frickin’ Nandos. It’s safe to say a lot has happened in Blighty.
From a personal perspective, another year in the expat bubble has been pretty great. I’ve preferred having a full year cutting out the awkward adjustment period, revisiting places and ticking off experiences I didn’t get to do last year in Korea. Whilst the UK made some terrible decisions *cough-Brexit*, I will look back on 2016 fondly as the time I travelled to Sri Lanka, Japan, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan and… Japan (again). I really can’t complain.
Now that it’s coming to a close I can’t help but feel anxious and excited about what 2017 has in store. Sometimes new years can mark new starts whether its giving up chocolate or…walking more? I don’t know, I never kept resolutions. 2017 certainly will be a new start for Dave and I as we’re leaving Korea in February. 2 years ago I had mixed feelings about moving to Korea and now knowing I’m returning home soon, it’s exactly the same. With a couple months left, my mind is already preparing for the transition. You may be wondering why we’re leaving. We have not fallen out of love with Korea but it feels like its time for a change.
Busan will always be my home away from home. Korea will remain special and I’ll be incredibly upset to say goodbye. I’ve never been a home bird and it’s mostly an unknown returning to the UK but I can have some peace of mind knowing its the right decision. At least soon I’ll be able to play Pokemon Go; I’m way behind the hype, its not available here.
I will continue posting my black and white photos and who knows, I may move abroad again in the future. For the meantime 2017 is being kicked off with a trip to Cambodia, a birthday in Seoul, more travels, my best friend’s wedding and finally seeing my family. I’ve always been a planner but maybe I need to accept that sometimes we can’t plan everything.
Happy New Year and love the ones you’re with.
42. Korea: Cheomseongdae, Gyeongju
Being abroad over the festive season is without doubt the one time of the year where you really want to be at home. Whilst the celebration was still short, this year Christmas was much more festive than I’d expected. Before staying in our wooden lodge on the outskirts of Gyeongju we wandered around Cheomseongdae. These girls were decked out in winter hanboks. I can’t decide if they are moody or sporting their best ‘aegyo’ a term used to describe a cute display of affection.
Korea: Insadong, Seoul
The dances here often showcase the hanbok; Korea’s traditional dress. However, you may also get the chance to see other performances. This group burst out singing, dancing and playing drums into the streets of Insadong. I think this dance stems from the folk villages and holds its roots in farming culture. Whilst the hanbok is elegant, this outfit is more in your face. I loved how happy this lady looked wearing her colourful pom-pom hat.
Korea: K-Dramas, Jinju
Each year Jinju hosts a lantern festival. When the sun sets, the lake is transformed into a romantic spectacle lit up by colourful inflatables. On one side of the river they were holding a survey where you could vote for your favourite k-drama actor/actress. I have never watched a drama (I know, don’t judge me), but from living here I have now come to recognise some famous faces. This year, Descendants of the Sun (2016) starring Song Joong Ki (송중기) was receiving an overwhelming majority of the vote. The success of the show means you’re hard pressed to turn a corner without seeing his baby face advertising something or other. From milk and beer to ice cream and cans of tuna (seriously) the man is everywhere!
Korea: Oncheonjang, Busan
In the UK I come from a tiny little village, it’s very ‘Vicar of Dibley’ style. A sleepy hamlet full of old people, keeping themselves to themselves unless they want to enroll you in the church. That’s why it’s quite funny how when I moved to Korea I was placed in Oncheonjang, an area which is also chocka-block with old residents. Oncheonjang is most famous for having the biggest spa in Asia. In the daylight, it feels like you’re stepping back in time as the place is brimming with stern looking ajummas selling kimbap and a range of goods in the markets. However, when the lights go out, everything changes. There’s nothing sleepy about this place and surprisingly it holds a rather seedy reputation. Whilst the walk back to my apartment is lit up with love motels, ‘massage’ parlours, dodgy noraebangs (karaoke) and drunk ajosshis, it’s definitely been an experience to live here. As the only foreigner in my building, I have certainly turned quite a few heads.
Korea: Seokbulsa, Busan
The first time I went to Seokbulsa I felt like I was part of some Indiana Jones adventure. It’s difficult to find and a treasure to behold. This is coming from someone who doesn’t like hiking. It was my first big adventure in Busan so seeing the Buddha carved into the side of the mountain was an incredible introduction to the city. It made me really excited for the year (two years unknowingly) ahead. This trip takes you on a cable car, through Namun village, Seokbulsa and then to Mandeok. When I’ve been since, Seokbulsa has always been so serene. There are very few people around and I think for any temple, being alone is a factor which makes your experience of any temple, truly memorable.
Korea: Jagalchi Fish Market, Busan
Jaglachi fish market is the largest in Korea and famous throughout the country. The indoor and outdoor stalls sell live and dried fish. If you’re brave enough, try some live octopus (sannakji 산낙지) but be warned, it isn’t for the faint-hearted. The small octopus is chopped up into little pieces and its legs are left squirming on a plate. The nerves are still active so when you touch it with your chopsticks, you can trigger their movement. When my family came to visit, my dad was eager to tick off trying this dish. He turned white as a sheet when the tentacles started sticking to the inside of his mouth. The key to this is to chew as much as possible. I don’t understand the appeal, but it’s still quite a popular dish.