Shannon Did What / Travel + Lifestyle Blog

6 Tips for Visiting Angkor Wat, Cambodia

TravelShannon GuerreroComment

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Cambodia is one of my favorite countries I've ever visited.  As of now I've been fortunate to visit 30 countries, so I think that's saying a lot!  It's been a dream of mine to see Angkor Wat and experience the beautiful Cambodia culture.

I've compiled a list of tips to help make your Cambodian trip that much more memorable.  Nobody likes those little hassles that pop up during your trip.  Hopefully telling you about some of these tips will help alleviate any of the extra stresses that travel can cause.

Buy your visa ahead of time online.

When planning your trip to Cambodia, be sure to check what the Visa restrictions are for your country of origin.  If you’re an American, you definitely need to have a visa to enter the country.

Be sure to apply for this online before your trip.  It’s a super easy process.  You just have submit a passport photo (no smiling!) and $36.  My visa got approved same day.  Just have to print it out to have on hand when you land.

You can only buy your ticket from 5am to 5:30pm.

You’ll probably want to purchase your ticket at the Angkor Ticket Center which is only from 5am to 5:30pm - essentially only during day light hours.  There are 3 ticket options - 1 day, 3 days or 7 days.  These don’t need to be consecutive either! Just within a certain time frame.

If you’re looking to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat be sure to purchase you tickets the day before.  You don’t want to be stuck having to buy a ticket and then going to Angor Wat.  You won’t get a great view of the sunrise if you get there too late.  Read all my tips on how to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat

They take your picture that is printed directly onto your ticket.  Also, they recently changed the process so that they now accept credit cards in addition to cash.

Hire a car/guide, not a tuk tuk.

Your experience and visit will be that much better if you hire a car to take you to each temple.  I wouldn’t hire a tuk tuk for this because most days are extremely hot in Cambodia.  In a car, you’ll have access to air conditioning.  Second, a car will be much faster between temples especially if you’re intending on seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat, trust me, take a car.  We bypassed so many tuk tuks on the way.

If you haven’t experienced a tuk tuk ride, definitely try one out in town! They are a fun way to get around in all other instances.  

I think it’s also worth hiring a guide along with your hired car.  They are extremely knowledgable and really help you get the most out of your visit.  Best part is they are super affordable!  I believe we had a private car and guide for 2 for just $30/each for the day.

Think your wardrobe through before your trip.

If you’re a woman, for basically every single temple you visit in Angkor Wat, you have to have both your knees and shoulders covered as a sign of respect.  It’s not the most pleasant experience if you don’t prepare ahead of time.  You could find yourself wrapped in multiple scarfs, struggling to keep them wrapped just right and struggling in the heat with multiple layers.  Pack for these restrictions! 

I made sure to bring skirts and dresses that covered my knees and tops that covered my shoulders.  Off the shoulder tops proved to be extremely helpful here.  You can just lift them up so they actually cover your shoulders while visiting temples.

Don’t exchange your money. 

Trust me, this is one country it is completely unnecessary to exchange your currency.  Cambodians accept USD everywhere and in a lot of cases, you may not be able to exchange back to USD after your trip. 

IT can get really hot - bring a fan, don’t forget water.

Make sure you adequately prepare when heading out to the temples.  The heat and humidity can get really intense in Siem Reap.  Be sure to stay hydrated and bring a fan to help stay cool.

 

TIP RECAP:
1. Buy your visa before visiting.
2. Buy your entrance ticket to Angkor Wat before a sunrise visit.
3. Hire a car, not a tuk, tuk.
4. Think about your wardrobe before.
5. Don't exchange your money.
6. Stay hydrated and cool.

Moral of the story: A visit to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia should take a bit of planning.  Not much, just a few things to think about before visiting that will make your experience that much better!

 

Yours Truly // Shannon

How to Spend a Layover in Kyoto

TravelShannon GuerreroComment

If you were to ask me where my favorite place to visit of all time is, I would pretty immediately say that Japan was hands down one of the best places I’ve travelled.  It doesn’t come down to one thing I saw or a specific location I went to, it really is about the people and the culture of Japan that makes it so incredible.

I’ve gone through in detail what it was like to visit both Hong Kong and Taiwan on long layovers, here and here, respectively.  My third and final long layover on my Southeast Asia trip was in Osaka, Japan.  I was a little hesitant about a 12-hour layover to Japan only because its one of my favorite countries and this just didn’t feel like it would my need to see more of this beautiful place.  I quickly concluded that I was all about any amount of time in Japan because it’s just that amazing.  

On my previous trip to Japan, I only visited Tokyo and Kyoto so Osaka sounded like a good idea - then I learned it would be only a 75 minute bullet train ride to Kyoto.  I was sold.  Kyoto is such a beautiful juxtaposition of the old, traditional Japan and the bustling technologically-advanced country it is now.  I knew I wanted to see Kyoto again rather than visit Osaka.  One day I'll get back to visit Osaka.

If you have the option of visiting Kyoto for only a day, I’ve come up with the quintessentials Kyoto places and experiences you should fit in.  I'll walk you through the steps to ensure you can fit everything in your time frame.

one.
TRAINS + LOCKERS

When you fly into the Osaka International Airport (Kansai), you’ll have to find your way to the train station just outside of the terminal.  It will be connected by a foot bridge.  It is covered, but still slightly outside.  I only bring this up because this was the first I realized how freezing it was during January in Japan.  I had come from Malaysia that got to the 80’s and I hadn’t properly packed for cold weather.  If you go during winter, be prepared, trust me!

If you have extra bags with you, don’t fret.  We attempted to use the lockers in the airport just outside of the train station but couldn’t figure out if they would be locked for enough time.  So, we decided to take our backpacks with us which ended up being a great decision.  There are coin lockers of every size and tons of them at the Kyoto Train Station.  Kid you not, they are everywhere.

Buy tickets on the Limited Express Haruka line from Kansai Airport to Kyoto.  As long as you buy a HARUKA ticket, you’ll be golden.  Once you get your ticket, the train departs from platform 4. For more information on traveling to Kyoto, I read this article. For time tables and prices, check out the Japan Rail site, here

two.
ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO GROVE

If you’re doing a full day in Kyoto like I did, hopefully it’ll still be early when you arrive in Kyoto.  We headed straight to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove to get there as early as possible for two reasons.  It is a very popular tourists spot and I wanted to get some pictures in before the crowds.  It also is the furthest away from the Kyoto Station in the places I chose to visit.  Rule of thumb, go furthest first and work your way back.

We took a taxi straight about of Kyoto Station to the Bamboo Grove.  There is public transportation to get around Japan, but for the purposes of time, my friend and I decided to go the Taxi route.  Heads up, as of January 2018, uber and lyft did not exist, yet, in Kyoto.  This hopefully will change.  Taxi’s will definitely be a little pricey, but totally worth it for the sake of seeing as much as you can in a short period of time.

The grove itself was much smaller than I thought it would be.  At 8am, it was already pretty packed with sightseers.  Tip for pictures: Wait at a curve to get some solo photos.  Just as people turn the corner, snap your photo.  It’s much easier than the straight away parts that are scattered with people.  All in all, a very cool sight and quite calming despite the crowd.

three.
KINKAKU-JI

Hop in a cab to get to the Kinkaku-ji.  By the way, this could prove to be a slightly difficult task if it is still early in the morning.  There didn’t seem to be taxi line anywhere, but luckily for us, one drove by after dropping someone else off.

The Kinkaku-ji, otherwise known as the Golden Pavilion, is a buddhist temple that is probably one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Japan.  This is one place that you should not miss.  It is gorgeous and the grounds around it are equally as gorgeous.

I think the Kinkaku-ji is pretty self-explanatory.  If you scrapbook or like to save pieces of travels, the ticket you buy here is beautiful and very unique.

four.
FUSHIMI INARI-TAISHA

The third and final landmark you should visit during your short stay in Kyoto should absolutely be Fushimi Inari-Taisha.  It is one of my favorite places in the world.  Fushimi Inari is probably one of the most different types of temples you’ll ever visit.  It’s famous for its thousands of vermillion red torii gates trailing up a mountain to many small shrines.

The first time I visited this temple over 5 years ago, I was in awe.  It was incredibly peaceful to walk through the torii gates.  I almost half expected a geisha to pop around the corner at any moment like a scene from Memoirs of a Geisha.  This time around, I’m not sure if it’s the insane attention this site has gotten through social media posts or that it was mid-day.  This time around, I felt like I was cattle being herded through the maze of gates.  I often get annoyed of the crowds, but try to remember these people are getting out there and often being encouraged to travel more from social media inspiration.  Just that they want to get out and see more gives me some kind of joy.

If you want to grab a picture under these beautiful gates, head further up the mountain through the twisting maze.  You’ll encounter less people.  Also, patience and the age ol’ game of waiting is the way to go.  There are often breaks in the crowd, so don’t get discouraged.  My friend and I waited, taking pictures every few minutes for 10-15 minutes and ended up getting some great shots.

After you visit the temple and torii walk around the streets of Fushimi Prefecture.  You’ll find a lot of great souvenir shopping and amazing street food.  We had some grilled mochi with some kind of soy-based sauce that was to die for.

five.
ORDER FOOD FROM A VENDING MACHINE

This is one experience you shouldn’t miss out when in Japan.  Who doesn’t like the novelty of getting food from a vending machine?

By this time, after seeing all the sights, you’ll probably only have time to get back to the train station and grab some food there.  There are a ton of options, and I mean a ton!  The giant Kyoto Station features stores and restaurants in a 15-story building and even has a hotel, an art museum and a theater.

I think the best part about ordering food from a vending machine in Japan is that it is in Japanese and the only way to choose is to look at the pictures.  You really can’t make that knowledgeable of a decision unless you can read Japanese.  I think that’s the fun part, hoping you ordered something you’ll like.  But really, don’t fret because you can’t go wrong with the food in Japan.  Everything is delicious.

A Layover in Hong Kong

TravelShannon Guerrero4 Comments

It’s a tough choice to make between seeing as many places you can see and really getting to see enough of a place.  On my most recent trip to Southeast Asia, I ended up having 3 stops where they were just short layovers.  A 10-hour layover.  A 12-hour layover. A 24-hour layover.

I just went through how much I was able to see during my 24-hour stop in Taiwan.  Read about it here.  24-hours seems long compared to 10-hours, though.  It’s over twice the amount of time actually.  

So, how much can you do and see on a 10-hour layover?  I think it really depends on where you have your layover.  I think Hong Kong really is a perfect place to venture out and explore during a layover.  Partially because Hong Kong’s transportation is extremely easy and also for an American, you don’t need to attain a visa to leave the airport.

After you make it through immigration, head to the train, which is conveniently located inside the airport.  No need to purchase a ticket before hopping on.  You purchase your fare when you get to your destination.  It is about a 30-minute train ride into the city.

one.
MONTANE MANSION

Hong Kong is full of such cool, scenic spots and I knew I wanted to make it to one of the major Instagrammable spots while there.  Montane Mansion won because of it’s location and proximity to the other stops I picked.  I think the draw of Montane Mansion is how unique it is.  The amount of apartments that fill this one area is astonishing.  You literally can’t comprehend how close of quarters this must be.  

Do take note that these are actual homes for these locals.  It easy to forget that people are going about their regular lives when you stop by for a photoshoot.

two.
VICTORIA PEAK + TRAM

I don’t think I realized how beautiful Hong Kong was until getting to see the view of it from above on Victoria Peak.  You’ll be able to see how Hong Kong’s skyline of tall skyscrapers are  encompassed by vast tree groves.  It may just be one of the best views of the city.

The best way to get up to the peak is by the Victoria Peak Tram funicular.  By the way, up until last year I didn’t realize that a funicular was just a tram.  This tram is over 100 years old and often feels like you’re going up the hill at a 90 degree angle, but is a fun experience.  Get here early as the lines can get insanely long.

There are a ton of great restaurant options at the top with, of course, incredible views of the city.  One fun thing I loved doing at the top at the observation deck was to lean slightly over the railing.  It’ll be so windy once you reach over the side just slightly.  It’s quite the rush.  Obviously, be careful if you try this.

three.
FERRY

We had plans to try to stop by the Ritz Carlton hotel for more views of the city or even experience the cable cars at Ngong Ping 360 and stop by to see the Tian Tan Buddha.  Instead, we opted for walking around the city aimlessly.  

From the Victoria Peak tram, we headed toward the bay and spontaneously decided to hop on the Ferry to cross the river.  We had no idea where the Ferry would drop us off.  It turned out great, for just a few dollars, and we had some great views of the skyline from the water.  The ferry ends up in the Kowloon area.  After walking around, you can head to the nearest train station and hop back on to head back to the airport.

The great thing about Hong Kong is that it is pretty small.  You can see a good amount of the city even with just a short amount of time.  I would love to head back and do this city right.  I know I just scratched the surface of this amazing city.

Yours Truly // Shannon