Bagan temples burma myanmar

A Little Photoessay… The Ancient Temples of Bagan, Myanmar

When I left nearly four years ago to travel, I wasn’t sure what pieces of the travel experience would most pique my interest . . . would it be the varied landscapes, the new foods and flavors, or perhaps new friends? In the intervening years, I learned that I am most engaged in my travel experience when I look for stories from friendly people willing to share a meal. In some places, however, the fascination truly lies deep within the history—often the living history—of a place.

The living legacy left in Bagan, Myanmar (formerly Burma) was visible for miles when I entered the Bagan Archeological Zone, a region of the country with more than 2,200 temples and stupas remaining; the earliest of these structures date back to beginning of the 11th century. As Ana and I traveled through Myanmar, luck was with us that our visit aligned with our friends’ family travels in Myanmar as well. The mother is Burmese-American and has family still living in the country; when our visits coincided, she and her family offered us the chance to travel with them on their pilgrimage to Bagan’s holy temples.

Views of many temples in Bagan, Myanmar
Starting in about 1044, Bagan’s wealthy rulers spent 250 years building up this ancient city. At the height of Bagan’s place in history as a seat of power in Southeast Asia, the city had more than 10,000 temples and 1,000 stupas. Building temples is a way for wealthy citizens to build merit, and for this reason temples both large and small were built and donated over the past century.

We spent a whirlwind two days from sunup to sundown visiting the holiest temples, and learning about why these temples are still today used in modern worship.Though renting bicycles is the most popular way for tourists to see navigate the dusty roads and fields of temples, we all drove around in the cushioned bed of a truck so that we could visit many of the temples spread over the 40-square miles of land within the ancient city.

The thing I found fascinating about the temples in Bagan, in contrast to other temple complexes in Southeast Asia (namely Angkor Wat, which I took Ana to see two months after Bagan), is the fact that many of the temples were reconstructed for modern use. There were plenty of crumbling, pumpkin-colored stupas contrasting the fields of dull grass burnt dry from the strong sun, but a great many of the holiest temples were modern places of worship with re-gilded exteriors, Buddha statues, and Nats.

Below I’d like to share a photo journey and the story of our days visiting the monasteries and stupas of ancient Bagan that form the country’s living history. Bagan is incredibly photogenic, so I’ve shared the highlights (21 photos and mini-stories!)  from two full days below (sunrise to sunset), but there are more Bagan travel photos if you’re keen.

Monks line up for alms in Bagan, Myanmar
Our small group prepared for our first day at the ruins as dawn settled over the region; these monks passed our guesthouse in the early morning hours on their almsgiving walk through town. Giving alms is a daily ritual throughout most of Southeast Asia and the act of giving builds merit for the giver. Locals give rice and food into the bowls of the monks as they pass by homes and shops; in this way, they pay respect to the monks and connect to their spirituality.

Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar Burma
The beautiful, gilded complex of temples and stupas at Shwezigon Pagoda attracted a handful of tourists in the dawn hours. The quiet energy humming through the temple captivated us. Sunrise hot-air balloons would have no doubt been a magical way to experience the first hours of lift shining over the 40 miles of temples, stupas and monasteries dotting the plains around Bagan, but we opted to stay on the ground this time.

These twin images side-by-side are an uncommon representation of Buddha. I have seen the Buddha depicted in hundreds of positions and facial expressions over the years, but these beatific smiles at Dhammayangyi Pahto temple shine with peace and happiness.

Dhammayangyi Pahto temple in Burma Myanmar
 The stunning, cavernous hallways at Dhammayangyi Pahto temple. This is a highlight and a a beautiful temple.

Ananda Paya temple in Bagan
The quiet sunrise hours have given way to the tour buses by mid-morning, and locals and tourist alike mix and merge on the paths leading to Ananda Paya temple.  Of note, and particularly interesting to the children in the group, was that this temple’s gilded top looks like a corn cob. :)

free water at the temples for pilgrims
The Burmese are generous with water and basic necessities. There were many instances where they could have charged for water, but instead the active temples and monasteries offered up jugs, canisters, and containers filled and free so that no one should go thirsty on their pilgrimage–some temples had very steep hikes!

Thatbyinnyu Temple temple in Myanmar
Ana and I posed for a shot together with the photogenic Thatbyinnyu Temple temple in the background.

Thatbyinnyu Temple in Bagan, Myanmar
Two doorways from two beautiful temples. The left is looking out at Thatbyinnyu Temple. The second one is the ornate entrance to the Hgnet Pyit Taung temple.

Burmese zodiac animal
Different animals represent different days of the week in the Burmese zodiac. The week day of your birth dictates which station and animal you should visit at the temples. There are eight stations because Wednesday is split into two different animals. This creature is the tiger and represents Monday; it’s worth researching your day of birth before you travel through Myanmar so you can pay respect through their cultural beliefs to your zodiac animal.

Mt Popa to the Popa Taungkalat monastery
A vendor sells bouquets of flowers to pilgrims making their way up Mt Popa to the Popa Taungkalat monastery.

Sign about walking up Mt. Popa barefoot
You must have bare feet when entering any Buddhist temple. In this case, the sign is a reminder to the pilgrims hiking the stairs to the very top of the mountain that they must do so barefoot … while dodging monkeys!

777 steps that are carved into the side of  Mt. Popa filled with monkeys
The temple monkeys are aggressive and hungry; they pester the pilgrims slowly making their way up the 777 steps that are carved into the side of  Mt. Popa, all leading to the Popa Taungkalat monastery.

Htilominlo Temple details in Bagan
Intricate paintings inside of Htilominlo Temple have survived the centuries. This was just one of the many frescoes lining the walls. The most delicate and intricate of the paintings in some of the other temples are only lit by flashlights and prohibit photography as a way to ensure future generations can witness the beautiful artwork.

thanaka powder grinding block
The thanaka powder that the Burmese use on their faces actually comes from these sticks. They grind the thanaka on the stone, add water (or other creams in modern instances) and then apply to their skin for beauty, tradition, and skin protection.

sour plum candies in Bagan, Myanmar
On the side of the road a candy maker sells hand-rolled sour plum candies; although sweet candies from jaggery are popular all over the country, the sour plum flavor is unique to this region and it’s worth sampling some from many vendors as they come in varying levels of sour and sweet!

temples of bagan
This young and eager boy was our impromptu tour guide through one of the temple complexes.

Manuha temple buddha and Buddha in the Taung Kalat monastery on Mount Popa
Buddha on the left is from the Manuha temple, and the right one is unique. This Buddha sits in the Taung Kalat monastery on Mount Popa—the Buddha statue is adorned with hundreds of tiny Buddha images.

The Irrawaddy River runs along Bupaya pagoda and provided a welcome and cool breeze in the hot, late afternoon sun. Ana and I learned a lot before we left for Myanmar about the effect that major rivers have on trade and development within the countries in Southeast Asia, so it was interesting for us to watch the slow pace of life on this section of the river.

car full of people in Bagan, Burma
As the day started to wind down, the pickup trucks began to ferry all the locals back to their homes just as we (Ana, Aye, Em and I) rented a horse cart to take us to a sunset spot. Though tourists are common in Bagan, friendliness is an inherent part of Burmese culture and we got waves and smiles from every single passing truck.

Sunset at the Burmese temples in Bagan, Myanmar
Our second night in Bagan we picked a sunset spot that only had a handful of tourists sitting on the ledges. Because the trip back is in near darkness, tourists take the horse-drawn carts to and from the sunset spots.

Horse carts and sunset temples in Bagan, Myanmar
The horse-carts give a bit of perspective on the size of these temples. Though some of the ruins are small stupas, others are massive temples that date back to the kings and rulers in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Sunset temples in Bagan, Burma (Myanmar)
The hundreds of temples shift and change in the setting sun and allow for a different and beautiful sunset spot each night.

sunset bagan temples
We perched on the ledge of the temple and watched the sun sink across the sky.

The last fragments of daylight left the sky and silhouetted the iconic temples.

Bagan was such a special stop on our travels through Myanmar and an real highlight of our time traveling the region. The temples are incredible, and though they are not yet registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site (politics), this counts as a unique place in our cultural heritage.

Backpackers Guide to Southeast Asia

A download of everything I learned from years backpacking Southeast Asia, and a beginners guide of sorts for anyone traveling through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia!  

visiting petra jordan monastery

A Little Photo Essay… 6 Insta-Worthy Jumping Spots in Jordan

The wackiest ideas are often born from a single comment, an off-handed remark meant as a joke but then expanded into a full-fledged idea. This is precisely the case with my decision to make some Instagram-worthy photos and jump around Jordan. My very first day in the country, fellow travel blogger Jodi joked about my travels through China, where I nailed a truly Insta-worthy jumping shot on the Great Wall of China.

And thus was born the self-proclaimed mission to jump at iconic, historic spots and wide open desert spaces around Jordan . . . pretty silly but we made it into a fun mission as we traveled from place to place!

Most Instagrammable Spots in Jordan

Jump through Petra, Jordan

The the mysterious Nabataeans built the ancient city of Petra, Jordan and the huge city built right into the towering sandstone rocks fascinates me. I love the myth and mystery still surrounding the history of Petra—in short, the Nabataeans were industrious, creative (huge burial tombs, intricate carvings) and super smart (they landed a prime spot on the ancient trade routes).

The Monastery in Petra, Jordan.
Located at the top of a hill inside of Petra Jordan, the Monastery (Ad Deir) is 45 meters high and is still amazingly intact considering the ancient city was built sometime around the 6th Century BC.

The Street of Facades in Petra, Jordan.
The Street of Facades in Petra, Jordan leads from the iconic Treasury into the open city beyond, with vast open spaces and views of carved sandstone rock in every direction once you exit the narrow street.

Leap in Front of the Citadel in Amman

Jodi and I hatched the jumping plan together (along with Jordanian friends Reine and Halla), and our very first jumping pictures in the country took place on one of Amman’s seven hills. The Amman Citadel holds the Temple of Hercules and the crumbling marble towers stand like soldiers looking over the modern life filling the surrounding six hills, hills filled with the people and suburbia of Amman. In short, it’s the perfect spot to add some humans floating through the air!

Jodi from Legal Nomads jumps at the Amman Citadel in Jordan
Jodi from Legal is so happy in this shot I just had to include her jumping for joy over the Citadel ruins in Amman, Jordan. She injured her back pre-trip so it was a rare treat to convince her to jump!

Jumping at the Amman Citadel in Jordan's capital city.
These giant marble columns were 33 feet tall while the temple was in use during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, and though they fell over time, they were resurrected and make a perfect jumping spot!

Tower Over the Ruins of Jerash

The ancient city of Gerasa is located in Jerash and the ancient town holds some of the best preserved Greco-Roman ruins in the Near East (and yes, I copied that nearly word for word from Wikipedia). But it’s true, so I felt compelled to add that tidbit of history here. The Jerash ruins sprawled over a wide area of land covered in shrubs and crumbling marble. Many ruins within the city are still intact, with the city’s “streets” and carriageways still clearly visible as you look down from a nearby hill at the ruins below you.

In Jerash and jumping over the ancient Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, one of the best preserved Roman cities in the near-east.
In Jerash and jumping over the ancient Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, this spot remains one of the best preserved Roman cities in the near-east and the walking through the wide, columned streets give clear evidence of the city’s once enormous scope.

Jumping through the ancient city of Gerasa in Jerash, Jordan.
The well-preserved city of Gerasa in Jerash, Jordan proved an easy playground for the jump-inclined, as well as the traditional tourist too, of course!

Make Sand Shadows in Wadi Rum Desert

Harder than it looks, I attempted to create a really cool jumping shadow picture. Unfortunately, as magical as the deserts of Wadi Rum are, they do not allow me to unattach myself from my shadow Peter Pan style! However, that being said, spending a sunset and sunrise in Wadi Rum stands out as one of the top-ten experiences on my round-the-world travels.

Jumping in the red-orange sands of Wadi Rum desert in Jordan.
A shadow jump at sunset in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of my favorite places in the world.

Float Above the Dead Sea

No travel prose or wild tangents in my imagination prepared me for the surreal feeling of floating in the Dead Sea. The waters in the Dead Sea maintain about 34% salinity (compare that with a mere 3.5 % in the pleasantly salty Gulf of Mexico near my hometown). Because of the high salt and mineral content of the water it’s customary to coat yourself in brown Dead Sea mud from head to toe. Yes, I kid you not, head to toe in mud.

Jumping over the salt rocks at the Dead Sea in Jordan
The Dead Sea waters are so salty the salt builds up, creating a pretty white, rocky shoreline.

The pretty salt rocks lining Jordan's side of the Dead Sea.
My first sighting of the Dead Sea at a lookout point on the way to the shore.

Dead Sea Mud, Jordan
Covered in Dead Sea mud from head to toe and on the shores of Jordan’s side.

Find Gorgeous Vistas on Your Drives!

Though a small country to be sure, it takes several hours between the major historic sites in Jordan and days of stretching desert sands. Our driver and guide were oh-so tolerant to pull over at every view-point, and even joined in on the game once they knew the type of open landscapes we loved for the jumping shots. These last couple shots show the endless desert landscapes that lodged in my memory along with the intricate carvings at Petra and Jordan’s delicious pita and fresh mezze dishes.

An epic starfish jump over the deserts in Jordan, taken on our way out of the Wadi Rum desert.

Desert sands in Jordan
The cool blue skies and open deserts of Jordan stretch on for miles and call for some jumping!

A big hug of thanks to Jodi, without her photography talent there would have been no jumping through Jordan and without her shouts of caution when I jumped near a ledge, there may not have been a Shannon either!

I joke about this, but seriously—jump with caution. I visited Jordan before the steady stream of Instagrammers falling from cliffs in search of the perfect shot. All of these shots were taken on solid ground and without teetering on cliff ledges. It’s possible to be safe and fun, so do that. Be both safe and fun. And buy some travel insurance while you’re at it—I recommend World Nomads—just incase you do get a bit overzealous.

The Dead Sea from Jordan
My epic jumping photographer throughout Jordan :)

I worked with the Jordan Tourism Board to take this trip—the experiences, photos, and stories are my own. Also, conduct your own research and use good judgement when taking any photograph; A Little Adrift does not accept any responsibility for any potential consequences arising from the use of this information.

ad dayr monastery petra jordan

A Little History… Exploring the Myth & Fascinating Mystery of Petra, Jordan

A rose-red city half as old as time; though these words sound like the opening lyrics to a love song, they’re instead penned by a poet and speak of an ancient civilization that carved evidence of their history deep into the soft sandstone rocks jutting toward the soft blue Jordanian skies.

Wandering through the miles of sandy roads, the nubby domes of eroded mountains visible in every direction, I was overwhelmed the moment I stepped into this ancient civilization. How did they do it? Why did they carve such beautiful structures into the side of the towering rocks? And I wondered even more, since sandstone is so delicate, why is the evidence still here a full two thousand years later?

Angkor Wat Cambodia

A Little Exploring… The History and Fun of Visiting Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Traveling Southeast Asia these past months has been an incredible whirlwind. Seven weeks seemed like enough to make the backpacker loop through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, but that isn’t even remotely the case. I decided to adjust my itinerary and save Vietnam for another trip, which has allowed me to more deeply explore Laos. Once I finished ziplining at the Gibbon Experience in Laos, I didn’t have much time left. I only planned a few hard and fast days for these round the world trip, and meeting my cousin in India is one of them.

With that in mind, I hopped on a puddle-jumper flight out of Luang Prabang and landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia just an hour later. It would have been a gross oversight for me to leave Southeast Asia without a visit to one of the most recognizable UNESCO sites in the world: Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Taking it Slow My First Days in Cambodia

Landing in Cambodia was a shock to my senses. Laos is widely regarded as the most laid-back and quiet of the Southeast Asian countries, and after more than a month in Laos, I wasn’t prepared for the bustle and energy of a big tourist city. It’s not just the traffic—although there is a lot of it—and it’s not just that the city is hopping with activity—although it is. It’s the sum total of everything that just crawls up your skin and lodges in your brain as you walk the streets. Siem Reap has aggressive child begging issues. That’s largely the fault of the tourists for funding the beggars, and a systemic Cambodian issue that there is enough poverty that begging needs to happen.

The entire change of pace both Luang Prabang and the peaceful quiet of the Bokeo Nature Reserve had me off kilter. Instead of jumping right into Angkor Wat, the key reason I was in town, my friend Laura and I decided to hole up in guesthouse and adjust, calibrate, and recharge. After all, this is one of those “main events” of backpacking the region and I wanted to be prepared to explore and enjoy!

In the first days, I shopped the markets and powered up with delicious vegetarian restaurants. The choice of veggie restaurants in Southeast Asia’s bigger cities is definitely a reason to visit. Though I love the charming towns, it’s nice to have a selection of interesting options!

Piles of fresh fruit and veg at the markets in Siem Reap

dining out in siem reap tofu steak dinners in Siem Reap

The begging is hard not to avoid. Within a minute of leaving your hotel and guesthouse, you’ll likely discover the street kids and beggars in your area. Some approached and clasped my hand. Others followed with quiet pleas. I’ve been back to Siem Reap since, when traveling with my niece, and the vibe hadn’t much changed. One reason I find it overwhelming is because of the idea that it’s not always a good thing to pass money to the beggars—these children are sometimes run as a business and might not see much of the money.

Within walking distance of our guesthouse, Laura and I found a fabulous night-market and we were still quite close to the touristy areas of the city. I actually liked that we were in the thick of things after going off the grid and getting horribly ill in Laos.

Laura and I spent our first evening camped out at an exquisite gourmet vegetarian restaurant. The best part, it was affordable. The total price of dinner, drink, appetizer, and dessert: $7. And this restaurant had my favorite unique drink to-date, a cold and tasty Tamarind Ice Tea. It was bizarre and the first sip was face-scrunchingly tart, but after that it was wholly refreshing and just what I needed after a blisteringly hot day. And boy am I loving the warmth here! While others sweat profusely in the baking hot heat, my Florida-girl self is loving every second of it!

It didn’t take long to recharge. Tasty food, rampant free WiFi at nearly every restaurant, and I was in heaven. In fact, I managed to crank out some mad work while I was in Cambodia, which is topping up the travel fund nicely. I am not sure what I will face in India, so I wanted to log good hours for my client now, while I could.

Exploring Angkor Wat by Bike

The flight from Laos to Cambodia was very dear, but I came here to visit Angkor Wat. I’ve read National Geographic for most of my life, and this is one of the big items I’ve always wanted to explore in person. Laura and I woke up early and slathered ourselves in of sunscreen. I also rocked a large floppy hat, sunglasses, and a face mask to combat the dust and traffic pollution—I was the height of attractive let me assure you! Kitted out for an entire day out at the temples, she and I rented bicycles and headed out to the main temple complex at Angkor Wat.

We opted for the three-day pass to the temples and a wave of joy, excitement, and the thought finally rushed through me when I rounded the bend and first sighted the huge moat and iconic towers of Angkor Wat. The complex lies a bit outside Siem Reap, so we biked for a while, finally making a long shady stretch before we rounded a bend in the road. Then it was jus there. Huge, ancient, and humbling.

We secured our bikes in the large parking area, we flashed our passes, and then joined the heaps of other tourists with mouths shuffling across the long bridge. I admit, I gapped. I stopped and photographed it all. It was just impossible to take understand the magnitude of this beautiful ancient city.

I knew only a bit about Angkor Wat’s history before I arrived. King Suryavarman II built the temples in the 12th Century as a holy city by for his people. Even more though, is that Angkor Wat is just one of a dozen of pagodas in the area. Although the three spires of the main temple are most iconic and emblematic of this site, it’s spread across acres of land. This wasn’t just a temple, it was a thriving and active city.

Welcome to Angkor Wat sign as we biked into the temple complex.

Angkor Hall Buddha on display in the Angkor Wat main temple complex

Bas Relief Carving of a Horse at the Angkor Temples Lady Carvings on Angkor Temples Dancers carved into the temples of Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is a labyrinth of intricately carved walls, over-hangings, and statues. When Laura and I entered, we both noted that there was a strange energy in the temple complex. It’s hard not to sound new-agey, but there was an odd vibe when we entered and we both felt it enough to turn to each other and note it. It wasn’t negative or unwelcoming, just odd.

And who knows, perhaps we’re off our rockers, but our initial inauspicious comment about the energy lead to a thoroughly frustrating visit. Within a few minutes of arriving, we lost sight of each other in the twisting hallways. Then we each spent the next four hours looking for each other. How you can lose someone for four hours in just one single location I do not know, but we were both dehydrated and exhausted by the time we found one-another by the food-stalls. Without a cell phone, we had resorted to asking the local children and vendors to keep watch for one another. (In fact, Laura’s description was “a tall girl with an ugly brown floppy hat”—apparently they knew exactly what she meant as they helped bring me to her). It wouldn’t have been a huge deal, but our bikes were locked together (and yes we both checked at the bikes) and it was all a tad overwhelming.

Angkor Wat

monks in Cambodia Monks taking a rest at Angkor Wat

Anyhow, even in the mad hunt for my traveling companion, I managed to see a great deal of the complex. At times, I lost myself when I would pass the intricate carvings of dancing ladies carved into the walls. As I passed throughout the different areas, I would often pop into the back of groups guided in English or Spanish. Then, as they belabored a point I would drift off to find other fascinating parts of the complex.

The long wall of images are Bas Relief carvings that circle the perimeter of the temple and tell the story of various battles. I loved the description of the carvings dedicated to the story of the Ramayana. I’ll admit that I first dove into this story when I had a brief but heartfelt obsession with the movie The Little Princess. The guides nearby explained how some of the fading reliefs represented various aspects of Rama’s journey. So neat.

On my search for Laura, I sat down at one point for about an hour—I figured if I stopped moving she might pass by me. And in that decision to take it slow, I found myself in a long chat with a handful of Cambodian monks. They spoke basic English, and after the standard pleasantries of my age, marital status, and the number of siblings (everyone asks you these three questions), I was able to probe them about their education and life. It was interesting, strange, and fun. They laughed a lot when I said something, I was never sure how much of the laughter was from a lack of comprehension and how much was because they were talking alone with a Western woman.

Posing at the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Pinching the sun on the towers of Angkor Wat Circling the sun

tuk tuk in angkor wat

Hearts of Angkor Wat

Sunset together from a temple at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Once Laura and I reunited we bought some bracelets from the children who had found me and brought me to Laura. Then we took their advice and biked to a sunset spot just down the road. The sunset temples are set about 15 minutes into the hills, and we dodged slow-moving tourists who were clogging the hiking paths. And even after the long day, somehow we arrived at the spot—and it was perfect—just in time to watch the sun take its last bow.

We explored other areas too—from the Tomb Raider temple to far out and dusty temples. Angkor Wat delivered in terms of fascinating history and a lot to see and explore independently.

Quick Tips: Angkor Wat Travel Guide

A Little Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat CambodiaWhen: Seeing a perfect sunrise or sunset is coveted by Southeast Asian travelers, and even though the temples are crazy-busy, it can be a beautiful experience. Arrive to the temples by 5:30am for sunrise, and between 5:15pm and 6pm for sunset. For a general sightseeing day, plan on leaving around 8am, so you catch the cooler morning hours to start. Hot tip: Enter the Angkor complex after 5pm and you don’t need to use a day on your pass. If you time it right, you can watch sunset on your first night, and then use your following day to fully explore.

How: Rent a bike for $2/day if you like to ride and/or if you’re on a tight budget. Tuk-tuk drivers cost $20 to $25 for a full day and this is ideal if it’s too hot for bikes, or if you’re venturing to the further temples.  On my second trip through Angkor Wat, my niece and I booked a day tour with Urban Adventures for our first day exploring, and this was a fascinating and fun way to learn the history and ask all the questions from a local who knew the answers.

Temples I loved: Angkor Wat, Ta Prom, Banteay Srei, Bayon, Srah Srang, Preah Khan, and East Mebon (in that order).

Sleep: Agoda is the best booking website in Southeast Asia, bar none, so start your research there. I also always check Airbnb as there are often affordable boutique options that are ideal for multiple travelers or couples. My niece and I stayed at the Cashew Nut, and the pool is a real highlight—when it’s hot, you’ll be glad for it. Siem Reap is a well-traveled city, so you can find budget dorms for as little as $2/night, but spend in the $15-$25 range and you really get a lot more for your money.

Guidebook: Download a copy of Cambodia: The Temples of Angkor is perfect if you’re keen to know a deep history of the temple complex and you’d like a DIY. Cambodia Lonely Plant and Southeast Asia on a Shoestring Lonely Planet guides are also good resources.

Responsible travel: There are a lot of things you should know before you go to Cambodia to make sure you have a responsible, ethical trip. This free Guide to Responsible Travel in Cambodia outlines the best practices of travelers, including how to support Siem Reap’s thriving social enterprise scene, and how to give back and volunteer, too.

Update from the road: I arrived in India and have joined forces with my cousin. I was sad to say adieu to Laura, we had incredible adventures these past two months. Everything from our surprising, random meeting in Bangkok to tubing to rock climbing and ziplining. I will surely miss that lady. For now, it’s onward to the Indian adventures.