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Trip Report Hong Kong and Angkor Wat

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So we took a first trip to Asia. We spent three days in Hong Kong; three days at Angkor Wat; and a day and a half in Hong Kong. Let me give a few overall comments and then provide some specifics to help other neophytes.

First, Hong Kong is easy. Everything is in English; the transportation on the MTR and from the airport is a breeze; and taxis are plentiful. Still, we ate in a local noodle shop in Kowloon and my daughter got sick afterwards. Moreover, I have asthma and I did feel the air on some days.

On the first day, we took the MTR up to Chi LIn Monastery and Nan Lian Gardens. This was unbelievably well cared for monastery and gardens. Beautiful. We then walked to the Wong Tai Sin Temple with many people worshipping. My favorite temple of the dozen or so we visited. Highly recommended. After lunch with Dim Sum, we took the MTR to 10,000 Budhas with views over Sha Tin. Again, very different than the West. Following this, we walked to the Hong Kong Discovery Center. I found this to be a little disappointing. Huge space with not great exhibitions.

On the second day, we left Hotel Stage in Kowloon (nice, clean but odd lobby with nowhere to sit) and walked down to the Star Ferry, a must In Hong Kong. After exploring Wan Chai market we went to the Central Plaza to get the view from the Sky Lobby. Frankly, I liked this free view better than Victoria Peak. We then walked over to the Hopewell Center where we took an outside elevator that also had great views of Hong Kong. I recommend this, as well. Then a fascinating walk through Hong Kong Park, through an aviary to Victoria Peak. Hint: with an Oyster Card, you can go to the front of the long line at Victoria Peak tram. I thought the view at the top was nice, and I guess you have to do it for a first time visitor, but, again, I preferred the views from Central Plaza and Hopewell Center. Maybe it was the crowds and the kitsch.

On the third day, we did a series of Hong Kong markets, along with some shopping. The bird market was hard to see -- how can you not be impacted by seeing Amazonia on sale? While I liked the various markets, I found that a few markets satiated my interest. We also saw a number of temples, but Wong Tai Sin was the tops. A fun splurge was lunch at Nobu with an unbelievable view of Hong Kong.

We then flew to Siem Rea, Cambodia on Hong Kong Express. It only goes a few days a week. Siem Reap was much busier than I expected. Much more of small city, and the number of hotels being built was astounding. I have to say that Siem Reap airport is the nicest, cleanest airport I've ever seen. We stayed at the Central Suites which was nice, and given the name, centrally located. However, location within Siem Reap is not all that important. A quick tuk-tuk ride will take you anywhere you want to go for a dollar or two. By the way, we took over a lot of American dollars thinking you couldn't get more, but you can get dollars out of cash machines. Also, if you are bringing over American money you should bring clean, fresh money. Money that is old or written on is not desired.

Angkor Wat is everything you've heard it is. It is busy, but I was simply blown away. It helps to have read some of the history beforehand. We hired a great tour guide, Praim Hear, who runs Angkor Visitor at www.angkorvisitor.com. I appreciated his great photography, knowledge of the ruins, and knowledge of when to visit what temple to avoid the crowds which are substantial. He was extremely knowledgeable and willing to talk about anything about Cambodia. He also gave us some time alone so that we could have a little down time. There is only so much one can absorb in a day.

Each of the Angkor Wat temples is unique, but my favorite were Bayon (going at dusk an listening to the parrots was unique), Preah Khan, and East Mabon. We did Pre Rub at sunset, but I think that it might be better to look at Pre Rub as opposed to being on top of the temple and squinting into the sun. Also, seeing Angkor Wat at dawn is a memory for a lifetime. There is a reason why so many people get up at 430 am. Amazing.

We also really enjoyed our visit of Kampong Phleuk, the floating village. I have never seen anything like it. Very different from anything I have ever seen. I was a bit disappointed by Being Melea, probably because it was so overrun with tourists coming off of tour buses who are just rude to other visitors. Very neat to see a local market and the rice fields outside of Siem Reap which is all geared to tourists.

A real splurge was having drinks at the Elephant Bar at Raffles. It was overpriced but French colonial elegance.

We then returned to Hong Kong and did some exploring around Noho. We stayed in the Ovolo Noho which had the smallest room I can imagine with a bed on the floor. It made packing up a challenge. at least the hotel was clean and had a nice common area with drinks.

We very much enjoyed a day trip to Macau. But don't forget your passport. Macau is a combination of glitzy huge casinos and bits of old China. The old Portuguese churches and squares were lovely and the egg tarts delicious. Loved Blessed restaurant for yuppie sandwiches in St. Augustine Square. The Mandarin House and A-Ma Temple were special places and well worth the walk. One word of the warning the free shuttles from the hotels only take you into town, not back to the ferry.

Finally, don't forget to get your money back on the Oyster Card at the Hong Kong airport. Happy travels.

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