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A Whirlwind Trip Around SE Asia: Bangkok, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia

A Whirlwind Trip Around SE Asia: Bangkok, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia

Old Sep 26, 2019, 7:56 pm
  #1  
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A Whirlwind Trip Around SE Asia: Bangkok, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia

Well, it's been quite a while since I've posted a trip report and I'm quite behind. It's likely been due to a recent job promotion and laziness, but none the less, I'm back at it. I'm still three in the hole after this and soon to be four, but we'll get there.

Anyway, follow me along on my February trip to SE Asia. A friend and I spent a short half-day in Bangkok before moving on to Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, all within a ten-day time frame. I also flew Hong Kong Airlines mistake J fare on this trip.

Previous reports:
Two Days in Guatemala

A Weekend in Austin, Texas

Exploring Ukraine - Kiev, Chernobyl Nuclear Powerplant and Pripyat

A Short Trip to Panama City, Panama

A Week in the Caucasus: Georgia, Azerbaijan
and
Armenia

A Landscape Photography Trip to Oregon

A Trip to Nigeria

A Trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona

A Trip to the Azores.

One Week in India: Mumbai, Amritsar, Agra/Taj Mahal, Jaipur and Delhi CX and EY J

A Snowstorm in Tokyo and Volcanoes in the Philippines

New Years in Seoul, South Korea Delta A350 Suite

Keeping it Domestic: Grand Teton National Park

9 Days in Asia: Taipei, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Shanghai

Two Weeks in South Africa and Namibia: Joburg, Cape Town, Sossusvlei and Kruger

Bienvenido a Cuba!
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Old Sep 26, 2019, 7:58 pm
  #2  
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A trip to SE Asia had been long in the making, especially one involving a visit to Myanmar. Due to the Hong Kong Airlines mistake fare last year (sub $700 for business class roundtrip LAX-BKK), I found myself in that part of the world for about a week; a perfect time to see some of these countries. Follow me along on a trip to Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia (with a splash of Bangkok).


Started with some Southwest flights (not pictured) to LAX.











Day 1



The Hong Kong Airlines A350 taking me to HKG. At check in I was advised I was being involuntarily downgraded to Economy due to my seat being broken. I wasn't exactly happy with that but with $500 in hand (and no choice since I needed to be in BKK for other flights), I took it. Luckily, the gate agent approached me before boarding and told me they fixed the seat, so business it was.












Seat 12A.












I found the finishings pretty nice, accompanied with a large PTV.












Warm nuts to start.












Chilled lobster starter.












The main was pork, rice and veggies. The presentation was lacking, but the dish was decently flavorful.












Cheese plate.












Dim sum mid-flight meal.












Pre arrival meal.












Welcome to Hong Kong












My friend got me access to the CX Pier First Class lounge, so grabbed some dinner.












HKG Airport.









Day 2



The Hong Kong Airlines A330-300 taking me to Bangkok.












The older business class for the flight to Bangkok.












After a quick nap, it was time to head out into Bangkok for a quick tour. I've visited before, but was showing a friend around this time.

View from the Red Planet Hotel.












In a tuk-tuk for the ride around Bangkok.












We decided to take the water taxi up to the Grand Palace.












We started our sightseeing tour at Wat Arun.












Wat Arun.












Wat Arun.












Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha)












Wat Pho Reclining Buddha.












Walking around near Wat Pho.












Time for lunch. Tom Yum soup.












Thai Green Curry.












The next stop was the Grand Palace.












Grand Palace.












Grand Palace.












Grand Palace.












Chakri Maha Prasat in the Grand Palace, completed in 1882












Chakri Maha Prasat in the Grand Palace












We headed up to BKK for the flight to Mandalay, Myanmar.












We flew Bangkok Airways on this segment, which was rather pleasant. Somehow I lost the pictures from the flight, so here is a picture from descent into Mandalay.












Not bad for $25/night. It's a short night as the alarm is set for 4AM tomorrow...












Local restaurant for dinner. Not bad for just under $2.












Dinner.








Day 3




After getting up at an ungodly hour, we set off on the drive to U Bein Bridge. The bridge is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world.












U Bein Bridge












The sun slowly started making its way up.












Construction on the bridge started in 1849 and lasted until 1851.












Crossing












Good morning












Commuting.












Our visit was during Myanmar's tourist offseason, so the area was virtually void of tourists.












Getting low.












Fishing.












One of my favorite photographs from the trip.





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Old Sep 26, 2019, 7:58 pm
  #3  
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Heading back to the hotel from a great sunrise experience at U Bein Bridge.












Breakfast at the hotel.












After breakfast, we took a taxi over to our first sight in the city for the day; Mandalay Palace. This was taken on the walk in.












The Mandalay Royal Palace.












Mandalay Palace.












Walking around the grounds.












Red building.












Some of the structures weren't in the best condition, but still interesting none the less.












Next up was Kuthodaw Pagoda. There are 729 of these marble stupas on the grounds.












No shoes allowed in the area.












Each stupa contains one of these slabs. It's said that when put together, these inscriptions make up the world's largest book.












Kuthodaw Pagoda.












Shwenandaw Monastery, built in 1880.












The monastery is known for its teak carvings.












Inside Shwenandaw Monastery.












Quick walk over to Sandamuni Pagoda.












Similar to Kuthodaw, there are countless stupas on the grounds, albeit larger.












As Mr. Bald from Youtube 'Bald and Bankrupt' would say, the language of squiggles.












Stupas.












One could easily get lost in here.












We also headed up to the top of the hill for an overview of the city on this hot February afternoon.












A massive lunch for less than a McDonald's meal in the US.












After the late lunch, we took about an hour to rest at the hotel before heading back to the airport for the short hop to Bagan.












The Myanmar National Airlines ATR-72 that took us to Bagan.












Our hotel was a short 10 minute drive to the airport.












Butter chicken masala and chili chicken for dinner.









Day 4



We secured some escooters from the hotel early in the morning and headed out for sunrise at the famous Bagan temples. The government has recently closed most of them, but there are still a few hidden ones that are still easily accessible.












Sunrise in Bagan.












Balloons rising.












If you're able to splurge on the hot air balloon ride, I'd venture a guess that the view is quite incredible.












Balloons.












The remainder of the day was spent riding the scooters around to the thousands of different temples.












Buddhas of varying sizes were inside each temple.












Ananda Temple, a standout due to the white color.












The scooter for the day.












Bagan is rather arid, but every once in a while you'd come across these colorful trees.












Shwesandaw Pagoda with the dreaded scaffolding.












Welcoming and colorful shade.












Some curry for lunch.












Overlooking the dried river basin.












A confined buddha.












Varying sizes, remember?












One of the few remaining climbable temples.












I wonder how long it would take to visit every single one...












This one seemed off the beaten path as there was no one here when I arrived.















Prayer.












Cruising along.












Some of the temples were more commercialized than others.



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Old Sep 26, 2019, 7:59 pm
  #4  
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This one was notable due to its Chinese inspired design.












I rode over to that same temple from earlier that I thought was secluded and off the beaten path for sunset. It was absolutely packed. I was able to squeeze in and get a spot before it completely filled in.












Sunset.












A hazy Burmese sunset.












Dinner to end the long day.









Day 5




After a great day in Bagan, we were back at the airport around 8AM for the flight to Yangon via Heho.












XY-AJZ, the same plane that flew us into Bagan two days prior, will be flying us down to Yangon.












Deplaning in Yangon about two hours later.












Checking into the hotel after a pretty lengthy drive into the city.












The Merchant Art Hotel, our place for the night.












Time to explore Yangon! First stop, lunch.












A hot bowl of soup.












Street.












We spent an hour or so just walking around.












Yangon.












Apartments.












Street food.












The Sula Pagoda served as meeting point during the 1988 and 2007 uprisings in Burma.












Lovely traffic.












Yangon is in need of a robust public transportation system.












Sule Pagoda.












Prayer - Sule Pagoda.












Yangon City Hall.












Yangon.












Drying.












The next stop was Bogyoke Market, one of the largest in Yangon.












Bogyoke Market.












We also headed over to walk around Kandawgyi Lake to see Karaweik.












We headed over to Yangon's biggest attraction, Shwedagon Pagoda, for sunset.












Scaffolding strikes again!












Around Shwedagon Pagoda. I had been wearing shorts (around knee length), the entire time in Myanmar, but this was the first time they decided they weren't long enough... Luckily they offer something to cover you up for a deposit.












Around the Pagoda.












Burning.












Beef and chicken for dinner.












Walking back to the hotel after dinner.












View of the Shwedagon Pagoda complex from our hotel roof.












Goodnight Yangon, it was a fun short day. I'll have to return one day for the circle train.







Day 6




Back at the airport early for our 5AM flight to Bangkok.












Flying Bangkok Airways this time all the way to Laos.












See ya Bangkok.












Welcome to Luang Prabang, Laos!












Checking into our hotel for the next two nights, ~$40/night.












Luang Prabang is certainly more established than Myanmar for tourists, but it was still a very pleasant city to walk around.












Lunch












Bamboo bridge.












Riverbank.












Park.












Luang Prabang.



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Old Sep 26, 2019, 8:00 pm
  #5  
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Wat Xieng Thong.












Temple.












Inside Wat Xieng Thong.












On the grounds of Wat Xieng Thong.












Lemonade with a view.












Phra Bang, quite a beautiful structure in the city.












Phra Bang.












Starting the hike up the stairs to the top of Mount Phousi.












View from the top of Mount Phousi.











View from the top of Mount Phousi.












View from the top of Mount Phousi.












Yes, it was busy up here.












After sunset, it was time for dinner. Bambook chips to start.












A delicious iced coffee.












Starter.












Lemongrass chicken for the main.












Walking the streets.












The main street in Luang Prabang is shut each night for the night market.












I'll take the scorpion please.







Day 7




The street outside of our hotel the next morning was small market.












Chili.












We hired a driver to take us out to the Kuang Si Waterfalls, about an hour drive from Luang Prabang.












Kuang Si Waterfalls.












Kuang Si Waterfalls.












Tree.












There's also a small Black Bear sanctuary near the falls.












Countryside view on the way back to the town.












Soup for lunch once we got back (we'll revisit this later).












Taking a boat to the otherside of the river in Luang Prabang.












We had this side of the city to ourselves, but it was blistering hot.












Luang Prabang.












Wat Chomphet.












The boat arriving to take us back to the city.












We rested for an hour or so before heading out for dinner at sunset.












A hazy February evening.












We went to a Laotian BBQ restaurant across this bamboo bridge. This is when it hit me... I started feeling a bit dizzy and hot (I thought I was just dehydrated).









I spent the remainder of the meal in the restaurant bathroom after taking this picture. Nearly 60 countries later and I finally came down with food poisoning. My best guess is the soup from lunch as it was the only thing I had that my friend traveling with me didn't. Needless to say, I slept very little that night and became acquaintances with the bathroom floor.

I hear dinner was good though.











Day 8








Ok, so a week was just a rough estimate. Anyway, I had grand plans for the first half of this day, but that was spent catching up on sleep from the previous 12+ hours of illness. I was at the airport around noon for my flight down to Siem Reap, Cambodia.












The Vietnam A321 taking me to Siem Reap, with a questionable nosecone.












I was still exhausted (and admittedly, still a bit sick) after arriving in Siem Reap, so I took a nap for a few hours. The hotel I stayed at was quite a good value at about $45/night.












Heading out for dinner a few hours later.












The first bit of food I touched in over 24 hours. The steak was excellent and presentation was on point.











Day 9



I was picked up at the hotel at 3:30AM. I got a bit unlucky with a rather underwhelming sunrise at Angkor Wat, but still quite the experience.












Angkor Wat had been on my list for quite a while, but I left feeling a bit disappointed. The crazy amount of group tours and busses made the experience feel busy and commercialized. Maybe it was just because I spent the last several days in Myanmar and Laos, but Siem Reap felt like a tourist trap to me.












Angkor Wat.












Carvings.












Angkor Wat.





















Angkor Wat.



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Old Sep 26, 2019, 8:00 pm
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Gate.












River.












We stopped on a bridge for a quick look at these before heading to the next temple.












Monkey.












Monkey.












Angkor Thom was the next temple, which was much more raw-looking than Angkor Wat. I enjoyed it quite a bit more.












Angkor Thom.












Angkor Thom.












Angkor Thom.












The unfortunate thing about writing a trip report 6 months later is you forget the names of things...












Ground level.












The final stop was Ta Phrom, the famous temple from Lara Croft Tomb Raider. It's famous for the trees which have grown around the structure.












Ta Phrom.












Ta Phrom.












The famous tree.












Ta Phrom.












Ta Phrom.












Getting down low.












Late lunch before heading to the airport to start the long trek home.












Siem Reap > Bangkok > Hong Kong > Los Angeles > Orlando (dammit) > drive rental to Tampa












One final flight on Bangkok Air. Not a bad little airline...












BKK that night.












Flying Hong Kong Airline's older J product on the A330.












A350 service, HKG>LAX. Thanks, Hong Kong Airlines for the great mistake fare












My window seat was broken so I was moved to an aisle for the flight.












Starter.












Beef main.












Dessert.












A poor attempt at French Toast for breakfast.












Good morning LA.






This was quite a whirlwind trip, but we saw quite a bit, so I'm pleased with how it turned out (minus the food poisoning). I have even more places to add to my 'return to' list including Cambodia and some more time in Myanmar.

Up next: Qatar, Southern Africa and a short stop in Singapore.

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Old Sep 28, 2019, 9:44 am
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Angkor Wat had been on my list for quite a while, but I left feeling a bit disappointed. The crazy amount of group tours and busses made the experience feel busy and commercialized. Maybe it was just because I spent the last several days in Myanmar and Laos, but Siem Reap felt like a tourist trap to me.
I found trying to take photos, people just walked in front of you, even though they could see my camera. We lasted from early morning until lunchtime when I called "time out". I do not deal with crowds.

Great TR and photos, and congratulations on the work promotion.
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Old Sep 29, 2019, 9:11 am
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Originally Posted by roadwarrier
I found trying to take photos, people just walked in front of you, even though they could see my camera. We lasted from early morning until lunchtime when I called "time out". I do not deal with crowds.

Great TR and photos, and congratulations on the work promotion.
Thanks! Takes up a bit more time but lets me fund a little more travel

I agree, crowds are just not my thing anymore. I used to have more patience but after traveling recently to places with fewer and fewer tourists, big attractions like Siem Reap are just overwhelming now.
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Old Sep 29, 2019, 9:26 am
  #9  
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Looks like an amazing trip. Sorry to hear about getting sick while traveling, never a fun thing. Looks like a great experience in so many different locations!
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Old Oct 1, 2019, 12:52 pm
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Originally Posted by 757
Looks like an amazing trip. Sorry to hear about getting sick while traveling, never a fun thing. Looks like a great experience in so many different locations!
Fantastic trip!

Getting sick sure isn't ideal but at least it was less than 24 hours.
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Old Feb 22, 2020, 3:24 pm
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Apparently, avoid the weekends at REP, as that's when the weekenders from China ( used to prior Virus ) would do the tours .... when we were there Sept 2019, there were a lot of Chinese tourists at the weekends ... not so many during the week. And yes, the tourist do not move out of the way of a camera.
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Old Feb 22, 2020, 4:55 pm
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Been twice to Myanmar, and Bagan is definitely my favorite place in South-East Asia for sight-seeing. I rented a bike both times, good workout.

However, I thought that Luan Prabang was quite underwhelming and too touristy.

Siem Reap: I was disappointed by the sunrise at Angkor Wat just like you, too many tourists kill 'the magic' of the moment. However there are many smaller temples within 1 hour drive if you want to avoid the crowds, but you need a private driver.

Fantastic pictures as usual.
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