Flying High Above Angkor

The feeling of flying high above Angkor Wat and other temples is one that I will never forget as long as I live. I can imagine that so much of the landscape has not changed in 1,000 years.

If you come to Siem Riep, please, please do this. I did a 15-minute one with a wonderful pilot with a great name (Annie!), from Helicopters Cambodia.

It's an exhilarating high.

Another temple 

 

La Residence d'Angkor - Cambodia

I had only been married a couple of months when I stayed at this stunning hotel in Siem Riep, Cambodia and I was so sad my husband wasn't with me!

It is just an absolutely gorgeous place in every way - the rooms that cosset you after days of temple trekking and humid, hot air, the peaceful central pool, a relaxing spa, and a second-floor outdoor bar with warm air breezing through at night.

It's about a 15-minute tuk tuk ride to Angkor Wat - the only way to travel in style! And it's removed from the craziness of Siem Riep, which is the size of a small town but feels like a big city.

Still, you can wander along the Siem Riep river for ten minutes and be right on Pub Street (college backpacker heaven along with some hidden gems).

You can wander the other way for a lovely walk in the small Royal Gardens - I had an idea that I would go and read a book in the gardens. But of course I didn't need the book - I went and people-watched - even better.

Or...this might be the most tempting option of all - lay out by that pool, one of the most beautiful ones I've seen in all of the world, and think "I can't believe I'm in Cambodia!"

Side note: I will forever be grateful to this hotel and the general manager for taking care of me when I got super, super sick on my last night before I flew home. This bed looked slightly different after I checked out...and for that, I owe them big time.

My room service bill was something like $85 in apple juice because that's all I could get down! This is the glamorous side of traveling people - When all you want is a McDonald's milkshake, your own bed, and a DVR of shows to catch up on - this is not a bad second place to be.

And one day, I'm going back with Andy.

Beautiful rainbow

Angkor Wat - Was I Actually There?

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Looking back on these photos, I can't believe it was me at Angkor Wat - a place that I (and I'm sure all of us!) have dreamed of visiting since first obsessively reading history and geography books as a kid (was that just me?).

I wrote in much greater detail about my experiences on National Geographic - and the problems facing this temple and all of Siem Riep as its popularity increases every year - but I wanted to share some more personal photos.

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I first went at sunrise with a group and guide - and aside from how jawdropping it was to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat, it was a little disappointing.

There were hordes of people. We were on a schedule to get to other temples and so I didn't get enough time. But instead of the tempting nap (because of the crazy early wake-up call to watch sunrise), I returned on my own later that afternoon, taking a tuk-tuk from Siem Riep, and it was everything I wanted it to be.

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No matter what, visiting Siem Riep, Angkor Wat, and the other (even more incredible) temples is a fulfillment of a long held travel dream.

The term life-changing is often overused - was it life-changing? Yes and no. Whenever we see a place, we can't help but be altered. It is impossible to return home unchanged.

And, in the end, I just can't believe I was there. I can't believe this is my work.

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Angkor Wat at sunset

My Hotel in Luang Prabang, Laos

Infinity pool with a view of Mount Phou Si I woke up early every morning at my hotel, La Résidence Phou Vao, in the tiny former royal capital city of Luang Prabang, to watch the fog over the iconic Mount Phou Si. The entire stay was pretty much ridiculous. I woke up at 7 a.m. to do yoga by the spa with views of green mountains and a lotus pond. I imbibed in the hotel's signature drink, the Lao-tini (YUM) alongside copious amounts of sticky rice. And the best meal of my time in Laos was one I helped to cook during a class at the hotel.

You can take one of their bikes and zip off to town, which I highly recommend. It's a bit removed from the center of Luang Prabang which is so nice to relax but just a short bike ride away (or you can take their shuttle).

All of these things certainly help ease the awful jet lag you get when you go to Asia. It hits me so badly. Just when I think I've got a handle on it, it's time for me to go home. But yes, I know it's a small annoyance in exchange for a life-changing adventure. 

I wish you had been there with me - it was so dreamy in that wonderful, exotic "I can't believe I'm here" kind of way. If you're interested, I wrote a piece for my National Geographic column here, called "The Mystical Riches of Luang Prabang."

Here's a little tour of my hotel, starting with my room, the balcony, and the views you'll want to wake up for - or maybe you're a prisoner to jet lag like me, and already wide awake at 3 a.m. Either way, you'll want to be up early to just....stare.

My beautiful bed in Luang Prabang Cappuccino & a good book please! View from my room after the fog had lifted a bit I couldn't get enough of this view of Mount Phou Si Then there was this gorgeous little courtyard area outside my room - those stairs lead up to my door on the left. This was such a honeymoon hotel - in fact, my entire trip to Laos & Cambodia was. I had just gotten married, but sadly, my husband was at home.

At the entrance to the hotel At 6:50 a.m., this is the path I shuffled along to get to the Mekong Spa & my yoga class at 7 a.m. Pure bliss.

Yoga viewAnd how gorgeous is this doorway? Just off the main restaurant and infinity pool area, you'll find this which I thought was so cool.

Finally - if you go, order yourself a Lao-tini! It was addicting.