8.11.11: I needed today. Along with $100 worth of saffron for $2.

After a four-and-a-half-hour BUMPY bus ride from Phnom Penh and maybe two hours of sleep, we arrived in Siem Reap around 4:30 a.m. I had a bathroom experience that made me think I might be part of the new “Hostel” movie on the way to Siem Reap, which I’ll tell whoever wants to know about later. I’ll just say…It. Was. CREEPY. Anyhoo…once our bus arrived, there was a tuk tuk driver waiting for us to bring us to our hotel, which was such a relief. After about 10 minutes, we got to our hotel (actually, a B&B). The guy at reception was just what we needed. The first thing he said to us, “I can see you’re very tired. We can handle check-in in the morning.” (With a great big smile, mind you.) Nate and I were pretty much shocked, given our last 18 hours in Cambodia. The man at reception then carried our bags up three flights of stairs and led us into our already air-conditioned room. The room was great. The shower felt fantastic. And the bed was WONDERFUL. After washing Phnom Penh off ourselves, we passed out cold around 5:00 a.m. We woke up to the sound of roosters (and our alarm) around 8:30 so we could catch breakfast. Was the first morning I woke up without a backache.

We were both tired after breakfast. Nate fell asleep for a bit, but I couldn’t, so I dinked around while he slept. Once Nate woke up, we decided to take a walk around Siem Reap. Siem Reap is definitely more developed than Phnom Penh, likely due to Angkor Wat tourism. It’s a small city, and incredibly “Asian” quaint. (If you ever come here, you’ll know what I mean.) We went to the Old Town market and spent our whole day there. I took a number of pictures. There were some fantastic spices. I’m not kidding when I say I bought about $200 worth of spices for $15. I bought a HUGE packet of saffron, along with various curries, teas, etc. Even some soup mix for Tom Yum, which I’ve fallen in love with. I got a Pashmina and cool scarf, too. Nate went on a spice and scarf binge as well.

After a couple hours, we headed back to our hotel. We were both dragging ass and in need of sleep, so while Nate slept some more, I got a massage, hoping it’d help me pass out. (For $6 for an hour, I mean, why not???) I still couldn’t sleep. Nate woke up when I got back to the room, and we were both pretty hungry at this point, so we headed back to the Old Town market for lunch. Afterward, I was on the hunt for jewelry. My plan was to wait until I got to Chiang Mai to do my shopping, but given the wind Siem Reap has put back into my sales here in Cambodia, I felt the need to do my usual “jewelry thing” to capture the great experiences of this day. For those of you who don’t know, I have two traditions in how I remember my traveling: I collect magnets of the places I go to, and I buy myself jewelry when I’m in various places. (Both collections are getting more eclectic as the years go by.) After a lot of searching and PROFUSE sweating, I found a pair of earrings and two rings that I’m very happy with. While at the market, I kept saying to Nate that I was sweating like a whore in church. If you saw me, you’d have agreed…

The shopping gods then came in to tell us it was time to leave, which means it started raining. So we headed back to our hotel, hardly using our umbrellas. The cool(er) rain felt great. We also stopped to grab some water and beer on the way.

If there’s one thing I have to say about Cambodia (at least, here in the north), Khymer hospitality is phenomenal. Both times we’ve gone back to our hotel, there’s been a person there to greet us, hand us a cold, mentholated towel. I can’t even describe how wonderfully refreshing it is after a hot, humid day.

We enjoyed Siem Reap so much, we haven’t even made it to Angkor Wat yet. But that’s next on our adventure. Early tomorrow morning. The plan is to make a really long day of it. Via tuk tuk. Capped off with a pre-going-to-bed massage, of course. (I’ve already scheduled it. So it’s on. Like Donkey Kong.)

Thanks to my current beer buzz, induced from a couple “Angkors,” I’m happily/hopefully on my way to passing out and getting rid of this ass-dragging. It seems perfect that the tag-line for Angkor beer is, “My Beer. My Country.” I mean, how hilariously “Budweiser” is that?

Finally, as much I’d love to have my phone, mainly for a manner of entertainment and convenience, I’m pretty much over what happened. (I do, however, keep squeezing my left hand, wishing there was a way I could have held on to it.) I figure, I’ve been doing this traveling thing for 10 years now and haven’t had something like this happen yet. So I guess it was just my time. It’s definitely made me smarter. So…thanks, Siem Reap. You more than made up for a poo-poo start to Cambodia. From what I’ve heard, tomorrow’s gonna be great. I can’t wait!

8.10.11: Where flip-flops and mo-peds come to die. And iPhones get stolen…

These past 30 hours have been emotional…

First off, I now understand why Angelina Jolie came to Cambodia to film a movie and “just happened” to adopt a kid while she was here. While Cambodians are overall VERY poor, they are a beautiful culture. The children have these big brown eyes and immensely brilliant smiles, yelling “HELLO!” every time you go by. They’re easy to fall in love with, to say the least.

Phnom Penh is a TRIP. Organized chaos is the only way I can describe it. There are mo-peds/scooters EVERYWHERE. We saw a family of five on one. Son was driving, his mother was on the back, and in between them were two children, no more than six years old, and another, maybe two years old, in his lap. There are few traffic lights, let alone road lanes. Like I said, organized chaos. Unfortunately, today, I became victim to that chaos.

Nate and I started the day by walking over to the Royal Palace to see the Silver Pagodas. Very beautiful. Buddhist were monks all over. Their saffron-colored robes are so pretty. On our way back, we were making our way through that insane traffic (only crossing streets), and I thought it’d be great to get the crazy experience of crossing the street on video. Up to this point, I’ve been very careful about bringing my phone out in public. Regardless, I took it out, and started taking video of us crossing traffic. I had my arm in Nate’s arm to make sure I didn’t get hit. In less than a minute, a guy, on the back of a mo-ped, literally snatched my phone out of my hand. And just kept driving. Away. With my phone. I was PISSED. Felt REALLY stupid. I still am a bit pissed. I yelled. I (characteristically) swore. I cried. I even stomped my feet like a five-year old. I already suspended service, so all should be fine. But it’s my iPhone. It has my music, a couple books I planned to read, my watch, my alarm clock, my phone numbers (so please EMAIL me your phone numbers), all my travel details…basically everything. Oh well. It could have been my purse, which would have been WAY worse. Definitely has made Nate and I quite a bit more gun-shy. And eager to get the hell out of Phnom Penh. We leave on a midnight bus up to Siem Reap in a couple hours.

Once we got back to the hotel, I figured shit out with my phone while Nate checked us out of our hotel. There we waited for our tuk tuk to pick us up and bring us to our four-wheeling tour. Talk about an incredible way to see the area. It started out with us going to the Killing Fields Genocide Museum. From 1975-1979, the Pol Pot communist regime ruled in Cambodia. In two years, more than 1 million people were brutally murdered/executed and buried in mass graves throughout Cambodia. At the Killing Fields site, some 50,000+ bodies have been exhumed. It was incredibly sad — reminded me quite a bit of the concentration camps in Germany. After that, we went on a five-hour, four-wheeling tour on the trails of outer Phnom Penh. Two Italian guys joined us on our voyage, and they were very fun companions. The tour took us past a lot of rice paddies — but was mainly a long, in-depth look into the lives of Cambodians. Was a very memorable experience that I’m really glad we did. I got some really great pictures I can’t wait to share.

More on Phnom Penh…immediately it’s visibly very poor. I’d say about 75% of the roads are unpaved, and the people live in conditions we Americans would absolutely consider sub-standard. But they seem to be so happy. And are very curious. It’s almost shocking how quickly and dramatically it goes from very, very poor to very, very gentrified.

So at this point, doing fine. Still a bit irritated about my phone, but I’m getting over it. I’m absolutely FILTHY from our four-wheeling tour, but I’m going to have to deal with it for a few hours. And I’m tired. But I did take some time to just reflect on what happened, what I have to be appreciative for, and keep trucking away. I’m not going to let this reflect badly on my trip, especially Cambodia. I mean, it’s a fucking PHONE. So, we’re off to our next stop: Siem Reap — the gateway to Angkor Wat. Can’t wait!

Oh, and remember to email me your phone number (ceciliahmische@gmail.com). I’m not sure what gets recovered once I get a replacement phone when I get home, so email me rather than text.

8.8.11: Hot times in Bangkok. And off to Cambodia…

Yesterday was an exhausting day. Thanks to the too many beers and white russians the night prior, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. with a bad hangover. Nate was up, too, jetlagging. We chatted for a bit before forcing ourselves to sleep until 7 or so. Some water and veggie fried rice was just what my stomach needed.

We saw a pretty amazing side to Bangkok. After getting our daily massage (I’m off to get mine once I push “Post” on this blog), we rented a longboat and took a canal tour for an hour. It was really, REALLY cool. Took us through the canals of Bangkok, which gives you a lot of insight to how Thai people live, both the wealthy and the poor. I took a lot of pictures.

Once the boat tour was over, we decided to walk, and headed to the Royal (Grand) Palace. Nate had shorts on, and I had a tank top and leggings on, and we were told as we were walking in that our clothes weren’t acceptable to enter the palace/temples. We were among a good 100+ people who didn’t get the memo before getting dressed for the day, either. I had a shawl, so I was able to tie it around my waist as a makeshift skirt. I had to rent a shirt, which was all wet with sweat once I put it on. (SOOOOO gross!) Nate had to rent some pants, circa MC Hammer. I think I had about five layers on at this point, making an already sweltering atmosphere all the more unbearable. Anyhoo…

The Grand Palace was unbelievable. Mosaic tiles, gilded paint — an impressive religious monument to say the least. Took A LOT of pictures, which I’m sad to say, won’t do the beauty of what we saw much justice. But it was very, VERY beautiful. One of its main draws is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It was made of jade and gold and was very beautiful. Both Nate and I were surprised at how small it is, given the dramatic history of it. People-watching inside the temple was pretty cool, too.

After the Grand Palace, we went to another temple, which on the map looked like a short walk, but definitely wasn’t. We went there to see the “Reclining Buddha.” When we finally got there to see it, we were surprised at how GIANT this Buddha was. Was completely gold, and was about a football field long, and a good 50 feet tall. The entire time, you could hear this clinking, which was people making payments into these metal bowls. Sounded pretty cool.

We then headed to Wat Arun via ferry, which was just across the river. Very different from the other temples, but it was just as beautiful. The temples are completely massive, and I’m blown away at all the mosaic tiles on these things. I can only imagine how much time it took to build, let alone preserve the things! You could climb up this temple, and it was a near vertical climb. Despite his fear of heights, Nate made it up to the second level. I went up to the third level, and definitely felt a lump in my throat. It was windy and I started getting vertigo, so I just headed down right away. Buddhist monks were praying and chanting over a loudspeaker, which was very soothing. An overall beautiful experience.

At this point, we were completely wiped out and in dire need of sustenance and air conditioning, so we decided to take a tuk tuk back to our neighborhood. Our dogs were barking, so we got foot massages and then grabbed some dinner — pad thai and a daiquiri for me, pad thai and a margarita for him. The only thing I’ve found disappointing about the food is it isn’t very spicy. I love me some spicy food, so I’ve been surprised. I can add chili oil and other things to kick up the heat, but I was excited to have my taste buds ignited on fire. Oh well…

On our way back to our hotel, we grabbed a couple beers and water at 7-11 (they’re EVERYWHERE here) and then went back to our hotel. I passed out for a good hour and a half and then realized it was our last night in Bangkok, so I woke up Nate and pretty much demanded we go walking around for a little bit. He reluctantly agreed. 😉 As we walked around, the the tuk tuk drivers were funny. Each one we passed said “Ping Pong,” which of course made us chuckle. They get paid a commission to bring us to the red light district and watch a ping pong show. (Your own reasoning should get to to know what this means. I will not elaborate more.) We politely declined and eventually made our way back to our hotel and passed out in our very cold room.

I’m on my way to get a massage and then will head back to the hotel. Will give just enough time to get our things together before our ride picks us up and brings us to the airport. We’ll be in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in just a few hours. The next few days are going to be A LOT of fun.

More to share soon! Other than the heat, I’m absolutely enjoying myself. It’s quite an experience.

8.7.11: A cock fight, a STRONG Thai woman, and a Tuk-Tuk ride to remember…

After about 30 hours of traveling, I finally (and by finally, I mean FINALLY) made it to my hotel in Bangkok at about 1:00 a.m.

Quick story on my flight. For the most part, an easy flight until we were over Manila (Phillappines). We hit some tubulence. I (luckily), was able to sleep for a big part of my trip, but I felt the turbulence and woke up to see the flight attendant. She had this LOOK on her face and quickly buckled her seatbeat and started praying. I. Shit. You. Not. Knowing my already-freaked-out-aversion to flying, this was not exactly what I needed to see. Yes, a lump in my throat ensued, but clearly (since you’re reading my blog), all ended up being fine.

Anyway, onto why you clicked on this link…the cock fight…

First, Nate and I started our day in a SUPER awesome area of Bangkok, Banglamphu. We walked for about five minutes and stopped at this place where you dip your feet into a pool of fish. They eat whatever they feel appetizing off your feet for 15 minutes for 150 Thai baht ($5). It TICKLED. But my feet have never been softer. (Yes, I have pictures.) After that, we headed off to get a Thai massage. This woman, who was maybe 100 pounds, gave me the most amazing massage. We opted for the neck, shoulder, and back option for a half hour for another 150 baht. She did this move with her legs and knees that picked me (and Nate) off the floor and stretched out our entire backs. Holy. Friggin. Amazing. We both felt stoned for a good hour afterward. We’ll be doing this every day going forward. At least, I sure will.

After that, per the recommendation of the praying flight attendant and the guy sitting next to me (a Bangkok enthusiast), we headed to Chatuchak market today, also known as the Sunday/Weekend market. EVERYTHING imaginable was there for sale — giant goldfish, squirrels (yes, squirrels), food, food, and FOOD, furniture, fabric, art, etc. It’s one of the largest markets in the world. We probably spent about five hours there. They even had dogs for sale. Pits, Rottweilers, Goldens, Pomeranians, etc. I miss my Dewey now more than ever. But a lot of the animals were all in rough shape. Nate realized he had to get me away from the animals. Stat. Regardless, the market was cool. Gives a lot of insight to the Thai culture — what floats their boat and such, from a consumer perspective. Anyhoo…as we were walking through the market, we saw a group of guys huddling around in where the animals (birds, precisely) were being sold. Nate, looked at me and said,”I bet it’s a cock fight.” Sure enough, it was. They had razors attached to their talons. I felt weird because we were not only the only Westerners there, but I was the only woman watching. Nate knew I was a bit weirded out, so we only lasted a few minutes. But now I can say I’ve seen a legit cock fight.

We then headed back to our ‘hood to the Banglamphu area — a backpackers’ haven. Via tuk tuk. If you don’t know what it is, Google it. Nate is a good 6-3, and you all know I’m no petite thing, so get a good visual. We definitely had to do some ducking to get into it. Our driver was AWESOME. For any of you who’ve driven with me and say I could drive better. One drive with our tuk tuk guy would make my driving look tame. Traffic lights were mere reccomendations to him. Neither of us could stop giggling at what he was taking us through.

The weather…

Um…it’s hot. And humid. I haven’t really stopped sweating, but it’s oddly pleasant. It’s raining now, which feels pretty refreshing. I’m quite a few “Tigers” (a FABULOUS Thai beer) in at this point. But I don’t think it’s more appropriate than to be so.

So, the summary…

Thailiand is busy. I understand The Hangover 2 now, about “being Bangkok’s.” But it’s very cool. A lot more to share about the culture (skin lightening cream with the women, especially), but in general, cool. Nate and I keep bumping knuckes of disbelief that we’re on this trip together. I realize how much I’ve missed our in-person bullshitting.

Love you all. So far, I can say without doubt, make Thailaind a “bucket list” item. Really. Really, really. Cheers for now.

Oh, and I might be getting another tattoo…

7.26.11: Really? The “most interesting”?

Welcome to my blog, The Most Interesting Woman In the World.

I wouldn’t blame you if your thought was, “Seriously? The ‘most interesting’? Is she an egomaniac?” No, I don’t think THAT highly of myself. I mean, I guess I’m probably somewhat interesting, but until I’ve met every woman in the world, I can’t legitimately make the claim of being the most interesting. So this blog was created to offer proof of my high degree of interesting-ness.

Now, if you took any of that seriously, you should stop reading. At least the part about this blog being proof of my awesomeness. Or interesting-ness. Whatever. You get the idea.

Actually, I started this blog because, as many of you know, I travel a lot. I actually LOVE to travel. More and more friends ask me to send updates while I’m away. I figure blogging is the easiest way to go about it.

You all know I can talk, and I love to tell a good story. But out of respect for your time, I will make every honest attempt possible to keep my updates “meaningfully brief.” (This is a Cecilia-ism you can all feel free to use.) My dad tells me I’m not funny, but I beg to differ because people seem to always laugh when they’re around me. Yes, they could be laughing at me. But I know better. So hopefully you’ll find some humor in my shenanigans. I can’t guarantee I’ll only be writing about my travels, so…consider this your warning.

For those of you wondering how I came up with the name of this blog, I credit this to my friend, Stephen. But first, you should know I definitely respect a good cocktail. If I’ve enjoyed a couple/few of them, I tend to get into storytelling mode. I can’t remember what I was talking about one night, but I know it was something inappropriate. (Whaaaa?? Me??). At the end of it, Stephen told me that I should start a blog and share my crazy stories. And if I do, I should follow suit of “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” The Dos Equis Guy, and call mine “The Most Interesting Woman In the World.” So if you don’t like the name of it, too bad, it’s here to stay. (And blame Stephen.)

Hope you like what you read!