Where I’ve Been #7: Cambodia, Summer 2009

Welcome to Travel Month on 14 Shades of Grey! While I’m off to Europe, please enjoy these posts about travels I’ve done in the past.

After graduating from college in 2009, I went home for the summer and to prepare for grad school the coming fall. My mom had heard about a tour to Cambodia from some friends, and suggested we gave it a try. I’d never had any interest in going to Cambodia, but I’m always happy to travel to new countries, so of course I jumped at it.

We flew to Ho Chi Minh City to meet the tour bus, and were driven across the border, toward Siem Reap, where we visited Angkor Wat. Angkor is awesome, in every sense of the word. Even with all the tourists, the temple grounds are large enough that you can walk around pretty much alone, soaking it all in. And it’s not just the history or the architecture. You can actually feel the passage of time there, from the massive, moss-covered carvings to the trees growing over the temple walls.

A 12th century bridge outside of Siem Reap

The statues of good and evil outside the gate of Angkor

Tourists waiting for the sunset on Phnom Bakeng (my mom and I did climb on it but didn’t have time for the actual sunset)

The postcard shot

(And you can see that my travel photos have improved. I got my DLSR for Christmas 2008, and this was my first time taking it on a trip.)

From Angkor, we had a brief stop in Tonlé Sap, the Great Lake, before heading to Phnom Penh. One of the things that astounded me about Cambodia is how empty it is. Growing up in Vietnam, I’m used to towns and villages standing close to one another and close to the road, but here in Cambodia, you can drive for days without seeing more than two houses in a row. As our tour guide put it, “You can drive on whichever side of the road you want, because there’s nothing to crash into!”

Floating houses on Tonlé Sap

A lot of people there raise crocodiles, with these guys crawling around under the floating houses

Phnom Penh was treated mostly as a shopping destination for the tour (it’s an inevitable part of any Vietnamese tour), but we did get to visit the beautiful, serene Royal Palace. Phnom Penh is a little too crowded and noisy for me (though it’s nothing compared to Hanoi); still, it was a great experience.

The Royal Palace

Some sort of strange fruit, you think? Nope. Those are BATS!!!

SIA: Girls With The Pearl Earrings

Welcome to another round of SIA! I’m currently in Iceland (hurray!!!), but in the meantime, please enjoy these lovely sartorial interpretations of Vermeer’s iconic “Girl with the Pearl Earring“:

First up is Jen, who paired yellow with a denim skirt to mimic the painting’s colors. She even took photos in front of her new house’s archway to create a “frame” for her outfit:

Erin said she had some difficulties photographing this outfit, but I’m glad she managed to, because it’s lovely, don’t you think?

Finally, here’s me – like I said, I didn’t pack anything yellow, so this wasn’t an accurate imitation of the painting, more like a loose interpretation. Also, it was too crowded in the room and I was too shy to take my photo in there, so here’s some shots of the painting in person and one of me by the sign outside:

blue jeans trench coat head scarf by 14 shades of grey

See you guys next week for Jen’s inspiration! I hope she picks something simple and neutral (hint, hint, Jen :P) so I can actually participate – it’ll give me an excuse taking outfit photos against all the lovely backdrops here.

Where I’ve Been #6: Central Germany, Summer 2008

Welcome to Travel Month on 14 Shades of Grey! While I’m in Europe, please enjoy these posts about travels I’ve done in the past.

On our way back from Paris, my dad got the tour bus to drop us off at Gatersleben, a small village near central Germany, where he had a conference at a biotechnology institute. Gatersleben is tiny and is of no interest to anyone who doesn’t work in biology or agriculture. What is really interesting about it, though, is that it’s just a mere 15km away from Quedlinburg, the prettiest medieval town I’ve ever seen (you may recall in my Southern Germany post that this is the only town that can rival Ladenburg.)

To me it is even prettier than Ladenburg, because Ladenburg is a little too… technicolor, too bright and glossy, whereas Quedlinburg, with the same half-timbered houses, slanted roofs, and cobblestone alleys, feels more like a real place, where real people live, as they’ve always lived for the past 700 years. You can turn any corner and find a house built in 14th, 15th or 16th century, or touch the wall of a 10th century castle. We were there on a Sunday, and there were very few people around (not even tourists!), so it felt like we’d actually stepped back in time.


The oldest house in Quedlinburg, and one of the oldest in Germany, built in 14th century


I want to live there…

… and there…

quedlinburg… and work at that shop…

quedlinburg… and go to that cafe…

… and wake up to that view

And with that, we bid goodbye to Europe. On to Asia!

Where I’ve Been #5: Paris, Summer 2008

Welcome to Travel Month on 14 Shades of Grey! While I’m off to Europe, please enjoy these posts about travels I’ve done in the past.

“Ah, Paris.”
“Have you been to Paris, Moss?”
“No. I’ve heard of it.”
(The IT Crowd, episode 204 – “The Dinner Party“)

After our Poland trip, my dad still had some time left before his conference in Germany, so my sister booked us a tour to Paris (she took the same tour a couple of years before.) I know most travelers would scoff at the idea of an “organized tour”, but I honestly don’t mind. I’ve taken my fair share of tours, both in Europe and Vietnam, and they’re all pretty good. Somebody to drive me around and book accommodations for me and show me the sights? Yes, please. The only setback with organized tours is the time constrain, but that’s always the case with traveling.

It also helps that most tours I’ve taken were just that – they took you to your destination, showed you some places of interest, and then you got to explore it on your own. On our first day in Paris, we arrived by bus from Berlin, were driven to all the famous landmarks, and took a walking tour of Montmarte.

The Two Windmills Café, one of the sets of “Amélie”

After that we had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves, so we decided to tick the Louvre off of our list. And I’m telling you, one afternoon is no where near enough to see the Louvre. We pretty much walked non-stop, and only managed to see a corner of it. And yes, the Mona Lisa is super anti-climactic.

The next day the tour bus took us to the Palace of Fontainebleau. This was my first time seeing the interiors of a French palace, which, up until then, I’d only seen in movies. I think I almost burned out another camera battery😛 After seeing the palace, we hung out in the garden and hired a carriage (driven by a super cool driver with an epic mustache) to tour the grounds.

The Queen’s Bedchamber

My first time on a carriage

In the afternoon, we went back to Paris for a sunset boat ride on the Seine. It was touristy, but the views can’t be beat.

On our third and final days, we had a morning in Versailles. This was when the time constrain of an organized tours really annoyed me, because one morning is not enough for Versailles (we didn’t even get to see the gardens!) Alas, we had to make the best of the time we had.


The Hall of Mirrors… well, more like Hall of Tourists

When we went back to Paris, we had the rest of the day to ourselves before heading back to Germany. I wish we’d gone to Museé d’Orsay, but I think after the Louvre we were a bit burned out on museums, so my dad and I just spent the day in the Luxembourg Garden and wandering the Parisian streets.

Funny enough, Paris actually reminded me a lot of the Old Quarter of Hanoi, not just in the architecture (unsurprising, given that Vietnam used to be a French colony), but also in the crowds and the blatant disregard for traffic law. I know some people can be overwhelmed by Paris (there is an entire psychological disorder named after it), but as for me, I love the fact that it’s so similar to home.

SIA Inspiration: Johannes Vermeer 2.0

It was almost too easy to pick an inspiration for this week’s SIA. I’m visiting The Hague, home to the Mauritshuis museum, and out of its collection, the most famous painting is, all together now, “Girl with the Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer:

This one doesn’t need any introduction for background info, right? Besides, it’s been the face of SIA, so to speak, ever since the start, so I think it’s high time we featured it in an actual SIA challenge.

I foolishly didn’t pack my yellow scarf, so I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to do this one, but I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with! Just remember to send your outfits to me (14shadesofgreyblog@gmail.com) by next Sunday, July 24th. Deadline is earlier this week because I’m going to Iceland on Monday, so I want to have the round-up post ready by then. Enjoy!

Where I’ve Been #4: Poland, Summer 2008

Welcome to Travel Month on 14 Shades of Grey! While I’m off to Europe, please enjoy these posts about travels I’ve done in the past.

I didn’t have any travel plan for my summer vacation in 2008, but when my dad had some work traveling in Germany that August, we decided to take a spontaneous family Euro trip. Our “home base” was, naturally, Greifswald. We have relatives living in Warsaw, so one weekend, we took the train from Germany to Poland to visit them. I didn’t remember much about Warsaw since we only had one night and half a day there and most of that time was spent hanging out with our cousins, but we did get to walk around the old town at night and visit Wilanow Palace.

warsaw at night

warsaw at nightThe Market Square of Warsaw’s old town

warsaw palace

warsaw palaceWilanow Palace

The next day, we drove to Krakow to visit the famous Wieliczka salt mine. I wish I had taken photos of the drive, because it was gorgeous – all lush and green rolling hills, dotted with little towns or villages in the distance. We took a guided tour into the mine, which was fascinating (my crappy point-and-shoot photos didn’t do it justice). There were displays of old salt mining equipment, and carvings and statues and entire chapels made out of rock salt (I sneaked a taste!) Afterward, we had lunch in the cutest restaurant set up like a farmhouse, and dropped by Wawel Castle (we just walked around in the courtyard since we didn’t have time to visit the museum) before driving back to Warsaw and catching the night train back to Greifswald.

krakow salt mineThe entrance to the mine

krakow salt mine

krakow salt mine

krakow salt mineThese are all made out of rock salt – including the chandeliers

wawel castleWawel Castle

wawel castle performerThere was some sort of performance in the castle courtyard when we arrived

wawel castle

I didn’t see as much of Poland as I would’ve liked, but I definitely would like to go back one day.

Where I’ve Been #3: Southern Germany, Summer 2007

Welcome to Travel Month on 14 Shades of Grey! While I’m off to Europe, please enjoy these posts about travels I’ve done in the past.

After getting back from Italy, I still had a little time left in Germany before my flight back to the US, so I went on another short trip down south, to Heidelberg. One of my sister’s friends was doing her PhD at Heidelberg University (the oldest university in Germany) at the time, so I stayed with her.

Heidelberg is beautiful. It is certainly more cosmopolitan than Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, but it still has that “small town” feel that I love. I did the touristy thing like going to Heidelberg Castle and following the Philosophers’ Walk, which offers great views of the city and the river, though of course, I still liked best to just wander through the streets and alleys of the old town.

Heidelberg, viewed from the castle

Heidelberg Bridge, and the town at night

Corners of Heidelberg

On my second day there, I visited Ladenburg, a nearby medieval town. It is possibly the prettiest town I’ve ever seen – colorful half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets, swinging shop signs, cute displays or decorations on the windows. I took so many photos that my camera battery died, so I had to go back to Heidelberg to get the charger, and returned to Ladenburg in the afternoon. I just couldn’t get enough of it (there is only one other German town that can rival it, which I will get to in another post.)

I want to live here, in that little turret

The reflection of the Market Square in a bookstore’s window

And that was the end of my first Euro trip. But there will be plenty more to come, so stay tuned!