Sunday Special – Siem Reap, Cambodia


If there was ever a town built around one tourist attraction it would be…Orlando, Florida. Because Disney World is huge. Things are built around it and cater to it. That is what I hear. And with that, what I say next may be considered sacrilege by many. Here goes:  I have no desire to visit Disney World. None whatsoever! There I said it (whew! that wasn’t so painful).  BUT…what does this have to do with today’s Sunday Special? Well Siem Reap in Cambodia is similar to Orlando in that it has one main draw – the grand Angkor Wat (Angkor Archaeological Site) And that IS a place I want to visit. Stretching out 400 square km / 155 sq miles it encompasses temples, old remains, and forested areas. I understand it takes several days to meander through it. I’m getting excited just knowing I’ll see it in the future! But I know nothing else of what there is to see and do in Siem Reap. Kinda like Orlando.

So let’s find out what else this northwestern Cambodian city has to offer.

  • Food: One of my favourite topics. Food tours and bountiful restaurants are plentiful. There are even some places where the adventurous foodies can taste  bugs, such as deep fried tarantulas.
  • Get Around: Rent a bicycle, moped, or e-bike (electric scooter) to see the area at your own pace. Alternately,  you can also rent tuk-tuks to get you from one place to another.
  • Markets: Siem Reap has a healthy selection of markets to peruse. Some of the popular ones are the Old Market, Angkor Night Market, and Central Market. If you would like to learn about buying ethical handicrafts, check out Angkor Handicraft Association.
  • Floating Villages: There are a few floating villages in the area that you can visit. Do your research as some are more authentic than others from what I have read online.
  • Angkor National Museum: Visit this museum to learn not only about the temples in the area but the history of the Khmer Empire and the relics and artifacts of Angkor.
  • Pub Street: A good place for restaurants and eateries during the day and the go-to place for pubs, street entertainment and bars at night. In fact after 5:00pm it is closed off to motorized vehicles. 
  • Cooking Classes: You’ve tried some of the food, why not learn how to recreate it at home. There are several cooking classes you can join up for in the area
  • Other Temples: Although Angkor Wat is the largest temple in Siem Reap it is by not means the only. There are plenty of others to see. Mainly Buddhist temples but there are a few Hindu ones as well.

Well, I am fairly certain I will enjoy Siem Reap once I make my way there in the future. I hope you do to should you decide to visit.

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Puok Market in Siem Reap, Cambodia – Photo credit: FREDPuok.MarketCC BY-SA 3.0

 

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Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia – Photo credit: Ziegler175ICAngkorWatH01CC BY-SA 3.0

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Sunday Special – Réunion Island


A small island that is blessed with natural beauty is tucked away in the Indian Ocean in the shadows of Madagascar and Mauritius. This isle, known as Réunion Island, is located approximately 700 km / 434 miles east and 200 km / 124 miles southwest of Madagascar and Mauritius, respectively. As a French overseas island it is part of the European Union (E.U.) though it remains outside of the Schengen zone thus retaining its own immigration code.

Regarded mainly for its abundance of hiking trails for all levels (over 900 km / 559 miles) its mountainous and volcanic terrain draws outdoor lovers into its fold. With trails for all experience levels one can take in lush rain forests, peer into the crater of an still active volcano (Piton de la Fournaise), gaze at fields of cane sugar, and even learn about the flora, fauna and geology of the area with a discovery trail. In fact, the island has such incredible topography that 40% of it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Though there is more to Réunion than the volcanoes, cirques and calderas.  Stunning beaches, natural marine reserves, flowing rivers and more. Even though it is a French territory there is a mixture of cultures that add a vibrant element to the islands culture. Peoples from Madagascar, Africa, Europe, and Asia all flavour the culture, music, and the food. This place strikes me as a wonderful place to explore and unwind at the same time. 

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Langevin Falls (also known as Grand Galet Falls) in Reunion National Park – Photo credit: No machine-readable author provided. JoKerozen assumed (based on copyright claims)., Cascade LangevinCC BY-SA 2.5

 

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Crater of Piton de la Fournaise, Reunion Island – Photo credit: User: Bbb at wikivoyage shared, ReU PtFournaise KraterDolomieuCC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday Special – Mykonos, Greece


Jutting into the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, south of Albania, Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria, and the mainland of Greece are the striking Greek Isles. They number into the thousands though only 227 are inhabited. The Cycladean island of Mykonos is one of Greece’s most popular. Recognized as having a cosmopolitan vibe, it is renown for its widely popular nightlife and amazing beaches. High season  (July – August) brings in a bountiful number of tourists who enjoy the multitudinous clubs, restaurants, and shops. Low season (late October – April) is less crowded though some shops and attractions may be closed, weather is much cooler, and there are less frequent ferry rides. Shoulder season (May, June, September, & early October) is a blend of the other two seasons with less crowds and pleasant weather.

Although recognized as a “party” island, Mykonos does have more to offer. It has retained its Cycladic architecture of the past, something very prominent in Chóra (Mykonos Town) due to stringent regulations. I imagine the whitewashed buildings and narrow maze-like streets add a charm to Mykonos Town just as I found charm in Oia, Santorini.  The white windmills are a common sight on Mykonos, a throwback to early days when the strong winds of isle were used to power them.  Wander outside of the main town to a quaint town of Alefkántra, often referred to as Little Venice. This seaside village is lined with colourful houses and they boast an incredible sunset (a wonderful reason for me to consider visiting). As mentioned, beaches abound on Mykonos (Paradise Beach being one of the best known). And the winds make the island a great spot for water sport enthusiasts. Perhaps, if you’re lucky, you may spot the island’s adopted mascot too, Petros the Pelican (second generation).

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Streets of Mykonos, Greece – Photo credit: Bernard GagnonHouses in MykonosCC BY-SA 4.0

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Petros the Pelican, mascot of Mykonos – Photo is Public Domain

 

Sunday Special – Iceland


One of the hottest countries to visit these days is actually rather cool. Iceland is possibly one of the most popular European destinations right about now. It certainly is on my list. After seeing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller I was awed by the scenery the film showcased about this small northern European island nation. Then seeing photos several friends had posted on social media it has quickly moved up my bucket list.

The landscape has been described as rough, rugged and barren yet holds a beauty all its own. Mountainous volcanoes, sheets of glacial ice, lava fields and geothermal waters can all be found here. And it is said the warmest of all are Iceland’s people, which I suspect is true. Along with nature one can expect great food, amazing music (Of Monsters and Men hail from Iceland!), art,  and literature. When I go here I hope to see much of the country, perhaps even by car so that I can wander about at my leisure.  Here are some ideas.

  • Route 1 – Ring Road – The main highway that links the country together spans 1,330km / 830 miles. A road trip of epic scenery. Do prepare for any road trips and plan accordingly.
  • Northern Lights – Iceland’s location on the planet makes it a fitting place to see the night skies dance with colour. September to April are the best times for viewing.
  • Geothermal Waters – Naturally heated spring waters are plentiful. Many places have created pools and spas where you can enjoy the hot waters in the crisp air. The Blue Lagoon; Myvatn Natural Baths; and Laugarvatn Fontana are a few.
  • Festivals – Every season brings festivals and events to celebrate music, art, sport, and food.
  • Creatures Big and Small – Iceland may be a small country yet there is bountiful wildlife. Arctic Foxes, Icelandic Horses (don’t call them ponies!), varied and beautiful bird populations, and of course whales swimming in the North Atlantic waters.
  • Natural Beauty – a land of volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, caves, natural springs and geysers, and a rugged coastline I suspect this is how this island country wows most everyone.
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Iceland’s southern Ring Road – Photo via rheins, Southern Ring Road of Iceland – 2013.08 – panoramio (4)CC BY 3.0

 

Islenskir_hestar Icelandic horse

Icelandic Horses – Photo is Public Domain