Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bangkok to Japan

3 Monkeys + 1
This vacation has been absolutely amazing. I've loved the places we've visited and the incredible beauty I got to see. While there's a sobering side to the vacation ebullience in the form of recognizing the poverty, sanitation issues and recent historical horrors (especially in Cambodia), I feel really lucky to have seen this part of the world and share the experience with my amazing husband. It means a lot to me to have experiences like this and create our own shared history.  While our day-to-day life and mini-trips are also treasures, this trip was spectacular and removed from the ordinary that it really means the world to me that we shared it.

Crossing the River
Main tower under construction
On our last morning, we went to Wat Arun. We took a boat ride across the river (for 3 baht!) and wandered the temple. Most of the iconic spires are undergoing renovations, including the main centerpoint. It was still beautiful but I'm glad we didn't get up for the sunrise!
So pretty!  I want to be gilded in gold for my naps!
We took a tuk tuk back to the hotel and then bought our tickets for a shared van to the airport. I did a little bit of last minute shopping and then it was off to the airport. The airport share van under- delivered on its promise of timeliness but we made it with enough time to make our flight without too much stress. We had noodle soups for lunch and our last iced Thai drinks (coffee for me, tea for SMS). In Hong Kong, we split a little dim sum and then took our flight to Haneda. We were on time and customs is very fast here so we were able to make the Keikyu train home.  Hooray!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Railay Beach to Bangkok

On our third day in Railay, it was time to go. I am so happy that we got to spend that little bit of magical time together there. It was an absolutely perfect place and my favorite part of the vacation. As I type this, it's funny because I know not everyone would agree with this and I can even see why. The area has a fairly major trash management problem and it can be a little stinky in parts of Railay East during low tide but even with these drawbacks, I still loved it there.

We had booked our airport transfer the day before and it was smooth. We took a longtail to Ao Nammao where we were met by a taxi. The airport security line was short. Bangkok airlines had a great lounge in Krabi that any of their passengers can use. We had coffee, snacks and WiFi. Pretty sweet!

We had an uneventful flight to Bangkok and caught a cab into the city. I had to very firmly ask the cabbie to use the meter, which was covered up when we first got in. This ended up being just over half the price of his initial flat rate quote.  He also tried to be a little shady with the tolls and didn't have exact change when we got to our destination. It worked out though and I feel a little badly since the cabbie is just trying to earn money but it's not going to be by ripping me off and thinking I'm stupid. So, I guess my mild guilt is outweighed by my indignation. 
Grand Palace
We checked in and rested for a quick minute before heading out to the Grand Palace. My main objective was to see the  Temple of the Emerald Buddha. We walked over and got there at 3. The gates close at 3:30 so I felt a little rushed but we made it!  We had to wait in line to obtain loaned for SMS since he was indecent in his shorts. There's a little stand of clothes where for a deposit, you can get loose fitting pants or shirts to go whatever offensive articles of clothing you're wearing. Or you can just show up in pants (elephant pants are ok!) and a shortsleeve, non-see through shirt.  Yes, the rules are that specific!

The grounds and building exteriors were very impressive. The Emerald Buddha was on an amazingly elaborate alter. It was a little smaller (I think) than the one in Cambodia. 
Wat Pho
After the palace, we walked over to Wat Pho. A tuk tuk driver tried to tell us it was closed but I trusted the always reliable internet (ha ha) and SMS trusted me. Wat Pho was open when we got there and SMS and I filed in to take in the immensity of the Reclining Buddha, which is more than 60 m long and 15 m high. It's huge!  It was something different and even SMS, who can get a little templed-out, thought it was really cool. 

Next, it was off to S.J. International jewelers where I had ordered a ring to replace the one I lost a long time ago on the Kitty Hawk. It's a double ring that's an infinity loop with rubies on the underband. It's a little thicker than I had imagined so it took me a bit to warm up to it but now I love it!  I'm so happy I got it!  I've thought about replacing that ring for a really long time and now I did it!  Hooray!

After the jeweler, we went to the hotel for a quick change and then dinner at Gaggan. It was an exquisite, incredible dining experience that I'm going to write about elsewhere since I took lots of pictures. 
Bangkok at night
After dinner, we headed to a skybar. Although not on the river, it was still a pretty cool sight to look over the city. Then we walked through Khao San St which was pretty insane. Tons of loud music, drinking, food stands, outdoor bars- it looked like a lot of fun but not for us! We went to the hotel where we checked out the scene from above at the 6th storey pool, which was surprisingly nice. Then it was time for bed. I was so tired. I had a little trouble sleeping because of the vibrations of the music going through the entire building but eventually, sleep won. It always does!
Khao San Road with mass foot massages and lots of crowds!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Railay Beach

Morning walk pictures
SMS asked for a lazy morning on Railay and that sounded pretty awesome to me!  I still woke up pretty early so I went on a walk to Railay West and marveled at how gorgeous the place was. I headed back to the room where SMS was still in bed but getting close to being ready for breakfast. We ate breakfast at the outdoor restaurant. We thought it was just toast and fruit but then a waiter offered to make us eggs. Yes please!  We each had a very tasty, fluffy omelet, which was an unexpected treat. Then it was time for the beach!
SMS and I headed over to the West side to relax on the beach and play in the water. It was super low tide and we walked out quite a ways and explored the rocky cliffs lining the little inlet (and stepped on some of the rocks lining the bottom-ouch!). It was beautiful and also so hot. In order to cool off a bit, we decided to go for a swim in our hotel's pool which we could access just by opening our balcony door. It was completely lovely and felt very luxurious.  I think we had the best room since it was at the opposite end of the pool from the main entrance. In addition, the last four rooms down the hall and no rooms directly opposite so it was a little more private. 

The pool was so refreshing since it was a lot cooler than the ocean. We lounged in floating chairs and swam about. By that point, we had had our relaxing morning and we decided to go charter a long tail boat to the deep water solo site. We grabbed a couple of roti ("Thai Pancakes"), which were completely delicious. They were basically the same as the pratha I enjoyed in Singapore. Over the course of the day, we had an egg, cashew nut, banana & peanut butter and a cheese/onion/tomato. The last one was my favorite although the savory sweetness of the cashew was also delicious. 

Climbing food, fresh off the grill and our longtail boat out!
We went back to the beach where we paid for the boat to take us out. While I'm sure we paid double the fair price (this seemed to be common for transportation in Thailand), it was still less expensive than the tour option would have been and we had more flexibility with the timing. 
SMS shows how it's done
When we initially got to the site, it was just the two of us. It was awesome!  I was a little bit of a chicken at first but I became braver over time and even climbed to the top of the horizontally featured route with about an 8 meter jump (I think)!  

It's a rough life- hydrate!
After a few hours, we returned back to the beach and hurried to the room to grab SMS' camera gear. I watched the sunset while he took lots of photos. It was a perfect end to our tropical day. I even had a coconut while watching the sun go down. Dinner was our second round of roti and an order of cashew nuts and sticky rice. It was a grazing sort of day, meal-wise. 

Everyone looks sexy at sunset!
We ended the day with a swim in the pool, which was beautifully lit at night. Bon nuit!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Railay Beach

SMS and I got up to head over to Railay, my new favorite place.  Seriously, this part of the trip has been absolute perfection and I am in love with the area.

We checked out and caught the boat from Ao Nammao pier.  We arrived in Railay East and checked into the Avatar Railay Resort, a boutique hotel that is currently in the middle of a soft test opening while they finish up construction before opening.  Actually, the construction seems to be done but they are still working on wiring, hot water, etc.  Our room seems pretty done but the other side of the building is still being assembled.  It's an absolutely lovely hotel and I'm so happy SMS saw the sign advertising the test opening.  The price will likely more than double once it opens but it's amazing to stay in right now.  It seems to be several backpackers/flashpackers currently.  I imagine their clientele will change once it opens.

We went to Hot Rocks to rent gear for the morning, aside from shoes.  There was no posted list price and they started rattling off numbers which sounded completely insane to me so instead of the 900 baht, we got the equipment for 500.  Later, I saw a listed price of 1100 at another shop so we scored!
We went climbing at the 1-2-3 Wall, full of 5c-6b climbs.  A lot of the climbing schools go there but since it's the low season, it wasn't too crowded.  We got several routes in, including one where I climbed out onto a stalactite!  I was really proud of myself because I had almost talked myself out of it but then I mustered up the courage and went for it!
More climbing, our long tail back to where we came from (oops) and the view as we motored away
The kids look so happy!
Cliff-jumping.  See how high the guy is in the middle?  So brave!
Crowded snorkel spot with some boat jumping!
Tup Island, where we snorkeled and had dinner.  SMS is king of the sandbar!
Then, we grabbed some lunch before heading over to Tonsai to catch a longtail boat right back to Railay, oops.  There, we met up with the 7 Islands Snorkel Sunset green boat.  It was an incredible tour!  We motored around the islands.  First, we stopped at Toda island for swimming, then went to a beautiful snorkel spot.  Next up was deep water free solo, where we were at a pretty advanced spot and I chickened out.  I was so mad at myself!  But, I got over it quickly and we went to Tup Island.  There was a beautiful beach, sand bar and an adjacent island with amazing snorkeling.  We had a light dinner and watched the most amateur fireshow ever although everyone has to get their start somewhere and it was way more impressive than my firestick twirling skills!
Sunset and fire show
After the fireshow, we made a brief stop at Phra Nang Cave, where there was phosphorescence plankton that lit up as I swam.  I couldn't see it from the boat but it was so cool in the water.  There was some lightening in the distance, which was a little disconcerting but it seemed far away!  We headed back to the hotel after getting dropped off at Railay.  It was an incredible tour and we were so happy.  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ao Nammao, Railay, Ton Sai

Liana, our treehouse for the second night
SMS and I left Our Jungle House after another excellent breakfast with what I think has been the best coffee of the trip.  After inquiring about a shared van, we ended up booking a private taxi to Ao Nannao since we could leave when we wanted.  In addition, we're travelling in the low season and the van may not have even gone if there weren't enough people.
Longtail boats

We drove to Ao Nannao to Thip Boutique Residence Hotel.  It was a very nice hotel across from the pier to Railay.  We dropped our stuff off and took the longboat over to Railay East.  We walked to Railay West with its much more beautiful beach and ate lunch.  Next, we scrambled over a rocky trail (with fixed rope handrails!) to Tonsai.  The area is gorgeous and we spent the rest of the afternoon beaching it out!  We also met two Japanese climbers so we spoke a mix of English/Nihongo with them.
Oh, it's just a 5.13.  No big deal...
At this point, it was nearing 6 and we had to get back to the longtail boats.  We stopped for some mango sticky rice and a talk with the guys at Hot Rock climbing outfit.  When we got to the dock, it was 6:20 and we split the cost of the boat with another couple, so our trip back was 200B/person rather than 100 B.  For future reference, the regular boats stop running at 6 and they probably up the price as the deadline approaches!

For dinner, we ate at a soup stand on the side of the road with delicious beef broth, rice noodles, beef, basil and bamboo shoots.  It was delicious!  I was still a little hungry so we went to Ao Nannao Seafood restaurant across the street, right next to the Family Mart.  We got a delicious stirfry and better than the food was the owner/chef/waitress who was one of the sweetest ladies I've met on the trip.  She noticed things and helped us out, like rounding up the stray cats that were making me nervous (I know, I'm such a chicken) and lighting a mosquito coil.  It sounds small but she was just so friendly and awesome.

Then, it was time for bed.  Since SMS and I are basing all of our activities in Railay, we decided to move hotels since airport transfers were a lot easier to arrange than I thought.  The info on the internet was slightly sparse for this part of the trip and Railay is accessible only by boat due to the surrounding cliffs, even though it's a peninsula and not an island.  Thip was fine, but it was a bummer to miss the sunset and worry about the boat schedules.    So, since we could move, we decided to check out the next day.  We had big plans for rock climbing in the morning and a 7 island cruise in the afternoon/evening!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cheow Lan Lake, Thailand

SMS and I woke up fairly early a few minutes before our alarm.  I know, I know, an alarm on vacation?  But it's been so worth it to do some of the mini-trips and tours that we're ok with it!

We had a delicious breakfast at Our Jungle House.  The highlight was French Press coffee- so delicious!  I had an omelet with Thai pork in it and it was also tasty.  At 8:30, we headed to the open-air lobby down the trail from our treehouse.  The layout of the hotel was awesome  There are several houses around the garden and main building area and the rest are down a small paved trail.  Many of the rooms are along the river and so peaceful.  There's a lot of space between hotels- not so many that you could look both ways and not see neighbors, but it's enough to feel relaxed and spacious.

In the lobby were three other people, a British pair of friends(m/f) and an American who spends his Northern hemisphere Winters in New Zealand guiding wilderness and wildlife tours.  The British couple were on a 2 week tour similar to ours except they were staying in Thailand only.  The American was in Thailand for several days, then off to Borneo, Singapore, Japan and home to California.  We had all originally booked the overnight trip and were disappointed since it seemed so cool, but no one stayed down about it and we were off for a great day.

Scenes from the market
We hopped into a pickup cab and drove about 10-15 minutes to the local market.  There we wandered the stalls while our guide bought some snacks for later.  After 15 minutes, we went to the lake where we caught a longtail boat and went for about an hour across the lake.  It was an absolutely gorgeous place.  The lake is actually manmade, created by the Ratchaprapa Dam in 1982, two years after the area was declared a national park.  There are huge granite spires and cliffs emerging from the water that before the lake was created, would have been even 60 m higher.  As it was, they were still quite tall and imposing- and completely awe-inspiring.

We pulled into a small cove to hear some background on the lake.  When the motor was going, it was too loud.  The American had a decibel meter and said it was 95 dB, not ideal for hearing preservation but fortunately I had earplugs for SMS and I.
Tarantula Cave, yikes!  They were everywhere!
We took the boat to the lunch place where the guide shouted our order before heading over to a landing where a small trailhead existed for our trek to the Pakarang cave (coral cave).  We hiked one kilometer on a well-developed, unpaved trail to a small boat landing where we took a motorized bamboo raft over to the cave.  There, we walked up the hill to the cave entrance and it was spectacular.  The guide pointed out several beautiful formations.  Stalactites are actively growing in the cave and it's really important not to touch the rock and disturb the process.  There are so many fantastical shapes and several of them "look" like animals, ice cream cones, shells, etc.  The stone is amazing with my favorite being the sparkles and "glitter" in some of the formations.  I tried to take some photos but really, it was a sight best experienced without a camera since it was impossible (for me) to take worthy photos.
L-R, clock-wise: broken stalactite, overhead shot of bamboo rafts, playing in the lake
After the cave hike, we retraced our video game-like journey (walk, hike, take a bamboo raft, hop in a boat- it felt like Zelda!), we went back to the floating bungalows for lunch and a swim.  It was so relaxing and beautiful!  Lunch consisted of fried fish, curry, vegetables, rice and fruit.  SMS and I swam out a ways to take in a full view of the lake and spent the rest of the time relaxing on semi-submerged, tethered logs.
L-R: Fruit snack before heading back, cloudier on the lake, happy couple!

We took a longtail boat back, followed by the pickup ride back.  The sky was beautiful in the golden hour/sunset.  We ate dinner at the resort and enjoyed our new treehouse, Liana.  The hotel comp'd our room since the overnight had been cancelled and even though it would have been cool to see sunrise and sunset at the lake, other night at Our Jungle House was a fine consolation prize!  The lake was absolutely gorgeous and I highly recommend a visit.
After sunset from our balcony

Friday, April 24, 2015

Khao Sok,Thailand

Thailand is amazing!  I told SMS today that I'm so happy that we visited Cambodia but it's Thailand that I would want to come back to.  It is so beautiful here and we have already had the most amazing mini-trips within this trip.

On Friday, we had a long but manageable travel day from Phnom Pehn to Khao Sok, Thailand.  First, we had a slightly more exciting time crunch getting to the airport than I would have liked.  The cabbie was 20 minutes late and then it took about 40 minutes to travel the 6 miles to the airport.  I did not think it would take that long and I was kind of worried.  The cabbie found the situation more and more funny as the minutes ticked by: "Sometimes, the other direction?  The flyover?  Cars don't move. HAHAHAHAHA!!!!"  I did not find this very funny, but distracted myself by telling him how hilarious he was.  Sarcasm didn't translate very well but he did drive like a banshee and we got to the airport an hour before our flight.  The Phnom Penh Airport is small and we got through passport control quickly.  So, despite the time stress, we still had time to browse the "Dufry Shop," aka the Duty Free!

We took the plane to Bangkok, ate lunch at the airport between the A&B terminals and took our connector down to Krabi.  We waited 20 minutes for our driver to find us since he went to the wrong terminal (domestic connections instead of international- even though our flight was from Bangkok, we went to the international terminal because of our origination airport).  During that time, we tried to buy a SIM card but our phones were locked.  One of the guys selling the cards was really nice and offered his personal hotspot to SMS.  We called the hotel at about the same moment the driver came rushing up with the sign.  Hooray!!!

We then spent 2.5 terrifying hours passing many, many cars along the road to the hotel.  Our driver was a maniac. We got to Our Jungle House, which I highly, highly recommend.  We stayed in the Romance tree house, which was delightful.  The nearby river burbled over a small waterfall and the water noise was so soothing.  We had a balcony right by the cliffs and it was absolutely awesome.  We ate dinner at the restaurant and had some minor bad news given to us by a guy named Chris.  SMS and I called Chris the "Cruise Ship Director" since his main job appeared to be chit-chatting with guests and drinking coffee in the morning.  Anyway, once we established that no one had called trying to give us an urgent family emergency message, Chris told us that we were not going to be able to go on the 2 day, 1 night trip to Cheow Lan Lake since the National Park-run cabins were suddenly unavailable according to the authorities.  Boo!  I had looked forward to the trip.  But, the fact that the hotel was so lovely made staying there an extra day an easy burden to bear plus we were still going to go on the day trip.  SMS and I soon turned in, excited for our cave-exploring lake adventure the next day!

Khao Sok

Hello fans!  Just letting you know that SMS and I are in the rainforest/jungle of Thailand. We're the most off-the-grid we'll be this trip but updates should be coming back at you in 48 hours. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Phnom(enal) Penh

Today was a pretty epic tour of Phnom Penh. Although we saw a little bit yesterday with our walk around the Independence Monument park (complete with watching large group dance practice in the middle of a park across the street) and eating at Sovanna, I really wanted to see a lot more of the city that everyone seemed to recommend but that we were only able to stay in a short time, based on our other wish list destinations this vacation.

One of my favorite things from yesterday was figuring out how to cross the street. It is completely insane and fun at the same time.  Lane markers are but a suggestion and bikes/mopeds/tuk tuks will routinely go against the flow of traffic. So, in order to cross a busy street, a person has to have a little bit of timing, luck and courage to make it work. The good thing is that drivers expect craziness so they seem pretty vigilant. Another nice thing is that a pedestrian is almost part of the traffic pattern to so there is some accommodation. For example, unlike some countries I've been in (say, Italy, although in fairness, I haven't been to Italy in 20 years), the drivers aren't gunning for you. So, in video game terms, I'd say it's more like Frogger rather than Duck Hunt.
The Killing Fields
 Ok, moving on from that aside, SMS and I decided to take the Essential Tuk Tuk tour through our hotel. In the morning, we were going to the Killing Fields and S-21 Toul Sleng followed by the National Museum and the Royal Palace in the afternoon. Although it was strange to eat lunch after the morning visits, we ate at Friends restaurant, which is a training restaurant in its 10th year of existence and helps families earn money, send their kids to school, keep kids off the streets and in general, improve a lot of people's condition.  While a lunch isn't going to save the world, it was a great place to go and see a place where real, meaningful change is happening on a day-to-day basis.

The National Museum had amazing artifacts and works from the entire history of the modern Cambodia with a heavy emphasis on the Angkor period. I missed the Leper King but I saw some incredible bas-relief works in addition to a lot of Buddha heads.

The Royal Palace was very impressive with gorgeous architecture, tons of gilding and gold leaf and the royal treasury in the Silver Pavilion. The Silver Pavilion was my favorite with the gold Buddhas adorned with diamonds and the incredible emerald sitting Buddha in the middle of the room.  How it survived looting and destruction during the Khmer Rouge is something I'll have to read more about because I would have thought it would have been an easy target.

We hired a guide at the beginning named Parmar and he was very knowledgeable.  He told us about the grounds, royal residence, coronation hall, huge murals of the story of Rama, the building presented by Napoleon, the private museum of gifts from heads of States and diplomats and the former royal elephant stables.  The king only rode white elephants, for good luck.
Lively streets outside of the Palace
We went back to the hotel for a bit and then headed for the Riverside walk in Sisowath Quay along the Bassac River, which runs back up to fill Tonle Sap, the huge lake in Cambodia.  It was a cool walk with lots going on- men playing hacks-sac, families picnicking, offerings at a local temple, people walking. We stopped at a rooftop bar to overlook the street and the action.  We left as lightning started to approach and went to dinner at Sher-e-Punjab. We made it with 5 minutes to spare before a huge downpour started. The dinner was delicious. SMS had a craving for Indian food and I felt we had done due diligence in trying Khmer cuisine. My favorite dish was the gobi tandoori (cauliflower) but we also had roti, paneer naan, daul and veggie pakora.
Sisowath Quay after sunset
We took a tuk tuk back to the hotel and called it a night. Tomorrow, we leave Cambodia and head to Thailand for jungle adventures in Khao Sok followed by rock climbing in Railay and Ton Sai. Can't wait!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cambodian Road Trip: Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

Bayon in the morning 
Today was awesome!!!  We had the most amazing road trip from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh with lots of great stops and touring along the way.

This picture is not possible during the day- too many other people!

Before I get into those details, I have to talk about how my morning started: early.  I set my alarm to meet the tuk tuk driver at 530 to see the Bayon temple one more time before leaving.  It isn't a temple famed for its sunrise, but I thought the faces were so cool and I wanted to see it one more time before leaving. The tuk tuk ride itself was worth the early wake-up.  It felt so vibrant early in the morning with the other tourists in tuk tuks, lots of mopeds and seeing the early stirrings as shopkeepers got ready for the day.  We drove by Angkor Wat in the early light and through the South gate of Angkor Thom.  Then we arrive at Bayon.  For awhile, I was the only person in the temple and it was so cool.  To walk among the rooms and columns in the shadows with no one else around was a spooky, spectacular experience.  I walked up to the outside level and admired the stone faces and was in a funny juxtaposed state of borderline sensory overload and a feeling of sublime serenity.  After about 45 minutes, I started to head out but got sidetracked at the "library" and climbed to the top to get an overview vantage point on the temple.  It was a great end to the temple visit and then it was truly time to go in order to get back for breakfast with my rested husband SMS.
The inn has a French influence.  I highly approve!
Breakfast was delicious and the smoothie of the day was banana, which was an auspicious start!  We checked out of the hotel and got into the van with Mr. Mony and his wife, Mrs. Mony.  Our first stop was the stone quarry near Bang Mealea.  The quarry was were sandstone was cut during the dry season and transported during the rainy season in the canals.  There were clear areas where the stone had been cut with certain proportions in mind- sections of wall stones vs. columns, etc.  It was interesting but we were soon off to our next stop of interest, Beng Mealea. I was very excited to go to this temple because a nurse at work had recommended it and she had loved Cambodia so much, she had been five times during her three year tour.

Beng Melea was incredible.  It was more overgrown than Ta Prohm and so incredible to walk through.  We climbed over fallen rocks, saw trees enveloping walls and climbed along the wooden elevated path through much of the temple.  I loved it!  It was so cool to see a non-restored temple and marvel at how well the construction was preserved even without help from conservationists.  I want to say it was my favorite site and maybe it was but at the very least, it was an incredible capstone temple to visit after all of the incredible architecture and monuments we had seen over the last two and a half days.

Mrs. Mony, Mr. Mony and SMS exploring the temple
Mr. Mony said it was fine to scramble up, until a guard got mad!
After the incredible tour, we rode in the car for a bit until we reached Spean Brab Teus (Kampong Kdei Bridge).  It is an 80 meter long bridge, over a thousand years old and still in use today for pedestrians and mopeds.  It is an incredible feat of architecture and we admired the several arches with their perfectly placed keystones and several layers of rock slabs on top that created the surface of the bridge.  It was very hot but highly worth the brief stop.
Spean Brab Teus (Kampong Kdei Bridge), over 1000 years old and still used!
Then we had lunch in a "less-touristy" restaurant, which was my request.  I was getting a little fatigued of the tourist trap restaurants we had been going to around Siem Reap.  We had a delicious sour fish soup (the seasoning paste was sour, not the fish itself), chicken with ginger and a fish omelet.  My favorite was the soup- it was amazing with delicious sour sauce, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, white fish and pineapple. Yum!  The chicken was good but there are a lot of bones and SMS and I were having trouble figuring out how to cut the chicken and eat it.  The trade-off for a less touristy restaurant is  downgrade in toilet quality and no AC, which we had never sat in anyway.  I think it was worth it!

Don't worry, no need to smoosh the bugs, they're already dead!
We piled back in the car and made a big push to our next destination, Spider City!  It's a market at a bus rest stop where there are several vendors selling snacks, including bulk trays of fried bugs.  I tried a spider and a cricket.  I felt very adventurous but that was enough for me, mostly because there were a fair amount of flies and I was worried about my weak, "First World" stomach.  We also tried boiled quail egg, palm heart, candied lotus, candied melon and "Khmer donuts," made of rice flour and sesame seeds.  It was an awesome foodie tour and I was so happy that Mr. Mony took us around.
We took a walk in Neak Banh Teak Park to counteract all the sitting!
Finally, we arrived at Phnom Penh.  By this point, the allure of sitting in the car had worn off but the road trip had been completely awesome and we were so happy we did it. We checked into the Willow Hotel.  We took a walk around the Independence Monument and ate at Sovanna, a famous Khmer BBQ restaurant.  We had grilled pork, beef/sour paste/water vegetable/ant larvae, and lemongrass chicken.  All of the dishes were tasty and it was fun to try more Khmer food.  We headed back to the hotel and went to bed.  Sitting in a car all day can be tiring!