Exploring Siem Reap – The Crown Jewels and the Lotus Flowers of Cambodia

We are officially at the temples of Angkor. These are the crowning jewels of Cambodia. For several centuries Angkor, was the centre of the Khmer Kingdom. With impressive monuments, enormous temple complex just jutted out of the surrounding jungle, the site is a unique concentration of features testifying to an exceptional civilisation. We’re already blown away!

It’s overwhelming and it’s hard to take it all in ’cause there’s so much. It’s the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen in my whole entire life.


Awe-inspiring crown jewels of Cambodia, the Angkor Wat

As we are about to explore the temple complex, I noticed that two children is following us asking for money and food. We gladly hand them over our takeaway sandwiches from the local restaurant near the temple area where we had our breakfast. These Cambodian children which I considered metaphorically as lotus flowers which is one of the most plentiful flowers in Cambodia. The flower is not only beautiful, it has symbolic meaning in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Significant meaning of the lotus flower is that, since it grows in mud it represents the rise from hardships and struggles. It also represents the transformation to beauty, a powerful symbol of rebirth.

Lotus Flower

The lotus flower is one of the most plentiful flowers in Cambodia.

Lotus Flowers of Tonle Sap

We spent our second day traveling through the Cambodian countryside and visiting Tonle Sap lake. I would highly recommend this day excursion from Siem Reap, but you might enjoy it most if you hire a guide who knows how to avoid the problems including $35 rice scams.


Jhona parading the lotus fruit we just bought from the local vendor after our boat ride from the floating village in Tonle Sap. The seeds can be eaten, not quite delicious but they say it has medicinal value

My group of friends and I loved the chance to observe a world. We are a decent photographers, so we had a great time photographing the colourful homes on stilts, the women working around their homes, the children, the men fishing, and the lake itself.


Just read a rather bias travel advice on how to avoid worsening the plight of the children of Cambodia during your visit. To make a bold initial statement “Poverty is a big plague in this part of Asia” is a rather bias generalisation and an arrogant delusion “I wanted to save the world and solve the third-world problems (me coming from a first-world country)”. Poverty is ugly and it’s everywhere. A day spent in the floating village of many ethnic Vietnamese and numerous Cham people in the floating village of Tonle Sap or a three-day wandering aimlessly in the magical temples in Siem Reap doesn’t make you a local expert.

The next time you get an advice from someone that already visited Cambodia to not give anything even food or sweets to children who beg you and donate to charities instead, my advice is just to follow your instinct. Help especially if it benefits these children directly. Take note even a Cambodian charity supported by Hollywood stars and celebrated by the American media had been exposed for broad deception.

So cutoff the bullsh*t “As long as there are tourists giving money to children or buying their useless goods, there will be reason for their parents to keep them out of school and on the street…”. We should avoid the delusion of making ourselves as protagonist who saves the day particularly if we never experience to go to school regularly with empty stomach. As a traveller, we have to train ourselves to pause for a moment before judging something that is unfamiliar or that is bias.

Cambodia is still slowly recovering from years of civil war and poverty, and both are still very evident today. It is still emerging from its turbulent past, yet its citizens often embrace optimism and positivity. You are for sure likely to be met with a smile and a kind word from your typical Khmer. So who are we to tell them a different way, you know?






Angkor the Crown Jewel of Cambodia

Why such beauty in this place? It feels like one of those big accomplishments, you know? When you do a wonder of the world and have that under your belt, it feels big.

I would perhaps suggest getting up very early to watch Sunrise at Angkor Wat, in order to make the beautiful golden pictures of the temple with the morning sun.





You will notice the statuette of Vishnu going inside the temple, that’s how old this is, when there was still a Hindu influence and this stuff is kind of pre-dates Buddhism.


Make sure to take water with you, as this is the by far the mother of all temples. We explored Angkor Thom city, Bayon temple, the 49 towers and Buddha stone faces on the top, Bapoun temple, Phimeanakas temple, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King and Taprom temple known as Tomb Raider temple.




It’s crazy that the roots, the trees and how nature kind of slowly took back what man has created.




Cambodia has spent a lot of money on tourism to bring people in hoping to stimulate the economy and even alleviate poverty problem. Thus, I encourage you to hire a reputable local tour guide to help the economy and to avoid being scammed. We collaborated in advance prior to this trip with our tour guide Chantrea Chhuon regarding our itinerary.

Our tour guide Chantrea who picked us up& drops us off at the airport, and toured & shared his expertise to learn more about Khmer ancient heritage and their cultures

Our tour guide Chantrea who picked us up & drops us off at the airport, and toured & shared his expertise to learn more about Khmer ancient heritage and their cultures

One of the side comments that Chantrea had told me that it’s kinda sad for him not to see many Khmer but to see many Western tourists here. We thanked him for us to experience some of Khmer culture beyond just sightseeing which to me is the most important thing for travellers. It’s remarkable at the same time inspiring that they not only survived Cambodia’s turbulent past but that they have been able to achieve so much under such harsh circumstances.




Before you go: Remember you are on holy grounds when visiting a Buddhist temple and you really ought to pay attention to the Do’s and Don’ts. You should be covered down at least below your knees. Try to respect the culture and tradition of this place and don’t be a douchebag like this visitor who even strips down his shorts for his girlfriend to wear.


My friend Jhona is showing a good example even if she knew she’ll be jailed by fashion police.


The Happiness of Travelling Solo on Valentine’s Day Weekend in Belgium

Hans Zimmer‘s musical score playing in the background with Kate Winslet telling me things so freaking clearly “It was Shakespeare who also said “Love is blind”. Now that is something I know to be true. For some quite inexplicably, love fades; for others love is simply lost. But then of course love can also be found, even if just for the night. And then, there’s another kind of love: the cruelest kind…it’s called unrequited love. Of that I am an expert. Most love stories are about people who fall in love with each other. But what about the rest of us? What about our stories, those of us who fall in love alone?” (from The Holiday).

Brussels-Midi 06:57 now flashing in the LED screen signalling that I have to wake my half-sleep self to board on the train. I’m travelling from St. Pancras – one of the things I like most about living in London is the ease with which you can travel throughout Europe.

Most of my time I don’t engage in this kind of existential pondering about love, about being single but it’s Valentine’s day and I haven’t had my coffee fix yet. But travelling itself is romantic and it has been my love affair for 4 years now.  I’ve got to taste Brussels’ classic-contemporary chocolate dichotomy.

Young couple in Grote Markt, Bruges

Young couple in Grote Markt, Bruges

Couple lost in Bruges Square

Couple lost in Bruges Square

Hungry couples enjoying frites/friten on Grasmarkt, Brussels

Hungry couples enjoying frites/friten on Grasmarkt, Brussels

Good friends in Grand Place, Brussels

Good friends in Grand Place, Brussels

Day 1. Brussels

It was really early when I checked-in at Hotel Carrefour de l’Europe which is just a stone’s throw from the prestigious Grand Place. Some free chocolates at the reception desk which is from the nearby Chocopolis shop. I also tucked a free €5 voucher in my pocket which reduced my purchase of a box of truffles and pralines into €17 only.

I had my first taste of pralines at Chocopolis. Belgians classify Pralines as any chocolate shell filled with a soft fondant center. The lady shop assistant handed me a passion-fruit-infused praline which is exquisitely tasty.

View from Hotel Carrefor de L’Europe

View from Hotel Carrefor de L’Europe


Selecting truffles at Chocopolis


Couples in front of Chocopolis

I spent the afternoon circling the Grand Place (Grote Markt), sampling no fewer than five chocolatiers: Leonidas, Elizabeth, La Belgique Gourmand including the first Godiva’s shop established in 1926. Grand Place is surely one of the world’s most beautiful squares with its splendidly Gothic and architecturally stunning Hotel de Ville.

Super-panorama van de Grote Markt in Brussel

Credit: KhaledF Photography Super-panorama van de Grote Markt in Brussel

A few steps away from the square is the rickety 300-plus-years-old Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, in which I was just in time for the next demonstration. The big chocolate shops are great but seeing then tasting real handmade chocolate is something special.

After that I strolled down narrow streets lined with friteries and waffle stands. So the procession of chocolatiers continued in Les Galeries St-Hubert which was Europe’s first shopping arcade. The more I sampled nougats, truffles, bonbons and different exotic flavours of ganaches like wasabi, pepper, rum – the clearer the level of sophistication is evolving. I ended up around €100 lighter after more chocolate sampling in Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini and Mary’s.

Galeries Royales St. Hubert.

Galeries Royales St. Hubert.

Pierre Marcolini

Pierre Marcolini







At nighttime, I initially did plan to have dinner in Rue des Bouchers as I accidentally came upon this pedestrian while chocoblazing during the day. This pedestrianised thoroughfare is tag as “the belly of Brussels” because of the plethora of cafes and restaurants. This make it seem an interesting place for the tourists to go for a dinner but my advice is to stay away from this crowded street as you might feel harassed by people calling you in their establishment.


At Rue des Bouchers

Instead, I picked Falstaff restaurant opposite the Brussels Stock Exchange – you basically end up with the same price for your mussels bucket + fries + beer. On top of that, it seems to have bottled the atmosphere of 1903 with its authentic Art Noveau decor.

Falstaff restaurant with its Art Noveau decor

Falstaff restaurant with its Art Noveau decor

Day 2. Ghent

Talk to strangers when travelling as they usually have great firsthand experience travel tips. My original plan is to go to Bruges but I spontaneously ditched it and explored Ghent instead after hearing amazing stories from an Australian couple on the city centre’s maintained medieval look.

You see, travellers more that lovers generally get along so well because they understand each other. We are all away from home and they’re also looking for new friends and new adventures.

Ghent is only 1-hour train ride from Brussels Central station and only €10 roundtrip.


St. Nicholas’ Church is one of the oldest and most prominent landmarks in Ghent, Belgium

Second day is all about Belgium’s second national passion: beer. Khaled, a photographer based in Gent recommended to visit De Trollenkelder and Dulle Griet. I first checked Trollenkelder near the Grasmarkt and Sint Jakobs church but it was closed. My bad, I only checked Dulle Griet which is open during Sunday from 12 PM to 7:30 PM. Most shops are closed on a Sunday in Belgium.

Trollenkelder front window is full of Trolls

Trollenkelder front window is full of Trolls

Dulle Griet advertised that it has largest range of Belgian beers in Ghent. The bartender asked me what beer do I fancy whether Blond (a light and tangy pale ale) or Bruin (a classic brown ale with full body), see The Top Twenty Best Belgian Beers. I started with Delirium Tremens but my favourite so far is Kriek which has base beer with added cherries. The atmosphere is great. If you asked some kinds of beer that come in special glasses, you should give one of your shoes as a warranty that you will return the glass.


Dulle Griet bartender

Augustin, Delirium, Kriek‬ and Gentse Triple

Augustin, Delirium, Kriek‬ and Gentse Triple

shoes as a warranty that you will return the glass

Shoes as a warranty that you will return the glass

Day 3. Bruges

Bruges is pretty with all the nineteenth century gabled buildings, the famous Belfry, and the old bridges perfect as romantic backdraft. But it was just too touristy in the Gross Markt square, so I decided to take the chill pill and walked in the quiet, cobbled streets while trying to channel my inner Collin Farrell in the movie In Bruges.

Foggy day in Brugge

Foggy day in Brugge

House with red window near the Belfry

House with red window near the Belfry

At Driekroezenstraat

While walking in the narrow quiet street of Driekroezenstraat, an old man named Wiem invited me to his private house museum which is a bit creepy but turned out to be the best surprise of the day. He showed me his World War II collection and his Nat Geo magazines 1935 edition and even asked him to rock his punk 1970’s leather jacket while holding his Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK album.

Wiem in Driekroezenstraat

Wiem in Driekroezenstraat

This is one of the reasons why I love travelling to meet people like Wiem with interesting life stories to tell. It would have made for a much better anecdote if I also learn his love story.

Yes, I really am single on this travel in the unexpectedly beautiful country of Belgium. Yes, I know the wonderful feeling of being loved and in loved. But boringly happy single me who is brave to eat dinner in a restaurant by myself on Valentines day . There are such traveller and you never know I might surprise myself and fall in love with someone on the road in one of the travelling days.


Grand Place at night

Grand Place at night

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