6 WEEKS IN ASIA: CAMBODIA, INDIA, JAPAN





Last year, I took a 6 week trip between Thanksgiving and New Years. I was able to combine working remotely with visiting our company's office in India in order to approve my long trip. It was an adventure.


​From losing my ATM card to having my phone stolen, from cancelled flights to almost not being let back into Cambodia, it wouldn't be traveling without the mishaps. I was able to reconnect with old friends, family, old coworkers and students, meet new coworkers, make new friends, eat incredible food, and learn about three very different places.


Follow through a photo journey of my time in Cambodia, India and Japan. The greatest advice I can give someone thinking about taking an extended trip is: book your flight and the rest has to follow.




NOVEMBER 21-NOVEMBER 29:
Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong Sanloem, and losing my debit card



Week 1 was spent on pure holiday in Cambodia. I lived and worked in Siem Reap for 11 months in 2011-2012 at a school called The Global Child. I made incredible friends there, some Khmer and some expats from Europe. I'd been back to Cambodia for a month in 2013, and was looking forward to going back to a place I once called home.


I surprised my old students, coworkers and caught up with friends still in town. It was the water festival holiday that week too, so we spent a few days in Siem Reap and then escaped down to the islands for a couple of days. I did in fact lose my credit card the night before I left for India, the ATM ate it. Good times.





Arrived in Siem Reap after 20 ish hours of travel. Slept most of the way thanks to Cathay Pacific's comfortable seats and some magical pill. I pushed through the confusion of jet lag to attend an awesome Khmer wedding!





The Siem Reap river runs through town, coming from Tonle Sap (giant lake in the middle of Cambodia) and merging with the Mekong River in the eastern part of the country. I was in town during the water festival, many floats and decorations lined the banks.





Biking is the main mode of transport in Siem Reap. Though car traffic is increasing year over year. We are so incredibly decked out in make up because....





We spent $25 to get dressed in traditional Khmer garb, complete with ridiculous props and green screen backdrops. By the way, that's Elaine - she has lived in Siem Reap on and off for the last 5 years as a teacher.





These are some of my old students from The Global Child. I came back to surprise the kids in 2013 and then again in 2015. Win!



Easy flights to Sihanoukville, and breathtaking Koh Rong Sanloem



With the water festival holiday in full celebration, we flew down from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville (45 min flights). In all the months I'd spent traveling around Cambodia prior to this trip, I'd only gone by bus. This felt like luxury. We had one night in Sihanoukville, which isn't a place I'd recommend for more than a stopover, because we then went to the incredibly gorgeous and untouched, Koh Rong Sanloem island.


To get there, we took a ferry - which was fine on the way there - but incredibly rough and everyone got seasick on the way back. Reminder! Keep all important belongings on your body. Elaine had some money stolen that she'd hid in her bag, which then went under the boat. Koh Rong Sanloem is so untouched that there is no market, no general store, and only one ATM. But, the beauty is undeniable.





Full moonrise in Koh Rong Sanloem.





Sunrise.





Cool shrine.





Chilling on Thanksgiving Day. We basically ran, swam, read books, ate good food, played cards, and slept.





Being in Koh Rong Sanloem felt very serene and wild. There was no wi-fi, no build up, no town - just various guest houses and bungalows lining the beach. It was truly a getaway.



NOVEMBER 30-DECEMBER 10:
New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur



I departed Cambodia and flew to New Delhi with a layover in Bangkok. The flights were fine, and I was graciously picked up in New Delhi by an old family friend who I'd never met in person. We went for dinner and talked about the booming economy of India.


Checked into a hotel, went to bed, and at around 3am, my brother, Justin arrived from NYC. We were in New Delhi for the week to work out of our India office and meet our team there.


After the week in New Delhi, our parents came through to meet us and the Bhushan family (incredibly old family friends of my parents). I didn't stay much longer as I had flights to Japan booked, but I was able to see the Taj Mahal in Agra, sites in Jaipur such as the Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal, and did a day trip to Bagru to see the textile production.


My thoughts on India were that, I didn't see enough or spend enough time to make any real conclusions. As a woman, I did feel very happy to have my brother with me the entire time, but I never felt threatened. The food was great! I was apprehensive about not liking the food, while it took a few days to adjust, I looked forward to the meals by the end.





We Ubered everywhere in Delhi. It took us an hour each way to get from our hotel to our office, which was only about a 12 mile ride. The traffic issue is real, though we read that at the time they were taking measures to cut down on traffic (i.e.: license plates ending in odd or even numbers could only drive every other day).





Enjoyed this site at the Taj Mahal.





It is way bigger than pictures can do justice.





Kids on a school trip to see the Taj Mahal.





It's in amazing shape. And the whole building is covered in incredible inlayed stone. The stones are agate, turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral, onyx, cat's eye, jane and blood stone.







Views of the elephants in Amer Fort, Jaipur.



Another great sunset.





Fun fact: my parents hadn't seen their friends in 35 years! It was an epic reunion, and the Bhushan family was out of this word hospitable and generous to us.



DECEMBER 11-DECEMBER 25:
Kyoto, Tokyo, the bullet train, and 30 hours of air travel patience



One of the greatest things travel can teach you is how to be patient. Especially during times where everything is out of your control. What should have been a 12 or so hour travel day from New Delhi to Osaka, with a 1 hour train ride to Kyoto turned into 30 hours... I learned how to exert as little energy as possible, and I learned to love the Hong Kong airport. But the trip was worth it because Japan was an incredible experience.


I spent the first 11 days in Kyoto, staying at Simon and Voni's house. Simon and I work together, so we were able to work for that time together, while still being able to eat all the katsu, ramen, and dumplings in Kyoto. I then rode the bullet train (AMAZING) to Tokyo. Tokyo is hands down the coolest, craziest, weirdest, most fun city I've ever explored.


To me, Kyoto and Tokyo represented 2 very different Japans: Kyoto being the respectful, quiet, beautiful Japan and Tokyo being the hi-tech, animated, efficient Japan. Both were fantastic. What I appreciated endlessly was the food culture -- every restaurant (unless Izakaya, which is like pub style aka small plates) only serves one type of food. So if you want ramen, you go to a ramen place, and all they serve is ramen. And it's going to be good every time because that's all the serve.


Another thing I loved were the convenient stores. If you live in Japan, you can file your taxes there, pick up your mail or packages... it is... for convenience.





I first heard about the crazy cool Japanese toilets in 2005. They are amazing.





The Kamo River runs through Kyoto. It was a great place to run and a very active spot for people to exercise.





This is Simon and that is ramen.





Voni is a teacher at an international school in Kyoto. She is the best!





I shared my time in Kyoto with the rambunctious Brian Lam. The neighborhood where Simon and Voni live is quaint and full of small, windy streets.





Fish markets for days.





Sushi conveyer belt awesomeness.





We did a bit of a food tour one night...starting with all the dumplings.





Ending with incredible unagi (eel). A good eel place in Japan is based on the sauce. Eel sauce is made by boiling the eel heads with spices (ginger, garlic, etc) and the best places are those that have been adding to the same sauce for hundreds of years, so that the initial broth is never finished and always reboiled and added to. Crazy!





Kyoto really is beautiful.



Tokyo: The coolest city ever



So after 11 days of eating and working in Kyoto, it was back to holidays in Tokyo. I took the bullet train, which was quiet and efficient, got super lost trying to find my hotel, and spent 5 days in the company of 3 American men who were down to explore the city by foot and get into some ruckus as well.


I had the greatest Omakase dinner of my life (Sushi chef's choice). The sake and Japanese whisky were delicious. And the department store food courts were out of this world.


A few recommendations:

-Maisen Katsu: They have multiple locations, so good. So good. Go every day.

-Hashigo Ramen: In Ginza, recommended by a local.

-Kyubey Sushi in Keoi Plaza Hotel: See shrimp picture for more detail.

-Bar High Five: In Ginza, rated best bartender in the world.

-New York Bar: The famous Lost in Translation Bar, located in Park Hyatt. It was expensive but cool, great views, and you can go early and waive the cover charge.

-Harataka: For great sushi, not super fancy.

-Robot Restaurant: See robot playing flute for more detail.





Day 1: You can see Dave and I in the screen if you look closely. We spent the day in Harajuku, walking around, eating ramen, dumplings and walking through buildings into random storefronts in Shinjuku.





Day 2: Dance Dance Evolution (Dave won). We spent the day in Shimokitazawa, very cool hood full of vintage shops and quirky stores with a bit of grunge. Arcades rule.





Kyubey Sushi in Keoi Plaza Hotel: best meal of my life. $150 per person for 12 piece sushi meal plus sake and beers. It was the coolest experience ever. The sushi chef would watch us eat each piece (have to eat it in one bite). This shrimp was alive in the photo, then the chef killed him and served it to us 30 seconds later.





Golden Gai/Shinjuku was a blast to go out in. There are tons of bars and restaurants, and bars are big enough for about 12 people maximum. Every place we went to made us feel well taken care of.





The Tokyo crew and our new friend, Seito. No comment.





Day 3: Robot Restaurant is a must. It is so weird, you just have to do it.





We were too late (hungover) to get to Tsukiji fish market to see any fish, but we did have some sick sushi so.... good luck.



DECEMBER 25-JANUARY 1:
Siem Reap, the holidays, temples, and having my phone stolen



I booked roundtrip out of Siem Reap, so I spent my last week back in Cambodia. I almost didn't get there because my passport was out of blank pages (you need a full page for a Cambodia visa). Luckily, I was able to use my EU passport instead. If you're going on a long trip with multiple visas, make sure you have plenty of pages and check visa requirements!


It was a more relaxing week than the previous days in Tokyo, and I was able to chill, do yoga, have better face time with my old students and coworkers, and read books. I even went to the Angkor Thom temple complex twice! Finally catching a sunrise at Angkor Wat. Funny enough, two groups of friends were traveling and came through Siem Reap during the same time, so I was able to play tour guide for them. And of course, no travel is complete without a final mishap - which was getting my phone stolen out of my bag on New Years Eve (when I had to fly back to NYC at 8am on the 1st).


Pro Tip: If you need to wake up for a flight and the hotel concierge forgets to call you, you can set up an alarm clock on your computer and set computer to be awake all night.





The very small pool at the guest house.





I did yoga on Christmas Day on the roof of the Red Tomato Hostel, looking out over the town of Siem Reap.





The Global Child has a very fun Christmas party each year, with tons of games and treats.





The view of sunrise at Angkor Wat.





JK, here it is. These temples never get old. I've been about 15 times in a total of 13 months over the course of 5 years, and they are astonishing through and through.





These guys came to Cambodia for a brief 32 hours and it was full of giggles.





Bayon Temple is my favorite.





A monk.





These Banyan trees exist all around, and most famously grow around Ta Prohm.



The six week trip came and went in a blink. I'd bought my flights 6 months in advance and planned on doing a lot of it solo. But it worked out that my family joined me in India, and random groups of friends from America were traveling to the same places I was. The time spent alone was in transit and a few days in Siem Reap.


Traveling is exhausting. But the entire trip was a good mix of relaxing, exploring, walking, resting, eating, drinking, and connecting with new and old friends. If you need a break during a trip, take it, it's important to listen to your body (and wallet) on extended travel, because it's a different than just a week holiday.


Thanks for traveling through with me!