Exploring a Floating Village in Cambodia (Kampong Pluk)

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The friendly villagers of Kampong Pluk offer rowboat tours to travelers.

During my 2nd day in Siem Reap, I decided to go on an adventure to a floating village way out in the countryside of Cambodia called Kampong Pluk (which means “Harbor of the Tusks”).  Earlier this year I visited a fishing village in northern Kyoto called Ine, and this village actually had some interesting similarities to it.  Like Ine, Kampong Pluk primarily relies on fishing as its main source of income and is quite remote from the main part of the city.  Though it’s a popular tourist destination, it has an extremely rural feel to it and a lot of ground to explore.

I booked an extremely cheap group tour from GetYourGuide and it was actually a very pleasant journey.  I was transported to Tonle Sap Lake by an air-conditioned bus where I later boarded a longboat to explore the stilted village.  It was really amazing to see all of the different buildings there!  I saw a floating church, hospital, and several temples in addition to many brightly painted houses.  You can even opt to stay at a floating guesthouse if you feel adventurous enough to do it.

The longboat will eventually pull up to a plot of land that you can walk around.  Here you can learn more about the culture of the village and see how exactly how people live here.  It was interesting acquainting myself with the way people live in the countryside of Cambodia, but it was also disheartening to learn that a lot of people live in poverty here and depend on fishing as their sole source of income without higher education or many other options.

I was also informed by my guide (who used to live here) that some families live off rice and develop alcohol and smoking issues, so while the trip was fun, I couldn’t help but feel a bit melancholy…  Another sad thing is not much of the money you pay for the tour goes to the village.  I think they should offer more volunteer programs for tourists here so the villagers can benefit in some way.  I donated a bit, and I’m not sure how much it will help, but all we can really do is continue to be grateful for the things we have in life.  The trip to this village really taught me to be thankful for my ability to travel, and also everything I have.

The tour ended on a very enjoyable note as we watched the sunset on Tonle Sap Lake.  There is literally nothing obstructing your view so you can see it perfectly.  You can also go swimming in the lake if you want to cool down because the boat stops here for quite some time.

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Cambodia is a great country to explore just because it has a lot of untouched nature and is safe for young backpackers.  Most of the people on this tour were in their 20s (around my age) and were all interested in learning more about this country’s culture, so it was easy to converse and make friends.  I listened to music a lot and reflected on life.  It was hard to believe that this was only my second day, because a lot more adventures were about to come!

The Most Colorful Temple in Kyoto: Yasaka Koshindo

Before heading to Nanoboro Festa, a famous underground music festival during my trip to Kyoto, I decided to rent a yukata (casual summer kimono) and do some sightseeing in the Gion district.  Historically, this area was one of the most famous for its tea houses and traditional sweets, upscale lodging for visitors, and the extremely aesthetic Yasaka Temple that attracts a lot of people with its brilliant colors.

Yasaka Temple is dedicated to the three wise monkeys and a guardian warrior known as Shomen Kongo.  The colorful cloth balls that are attached to it are called “kukurizaru” which are talismans that provide good luck by taking away greed and impure desires.  Like ema and other talismans in Japan, you are able to purchase one at the gate if you would like to make a wish or prayer, but there is no fee to enter the area where the temple is.

Back in the day, many geiko (who are similar to geisha, but are known more as “woman of art”) resided in this area.  Nowadays there are many bars and restaurants as well as hotels for travelers, but much of Gion’s history has been preserved and it is a very relaxing are to visit.  You can see beautiful parks, temples, a river, and bamboo growing around Gion Station, so it is definitely worth checking out.

For those who are interested in renting a kimono, I rented one for 4000 yen from Kyoto Kashin in Gion.  This is actually a very good price because it includes hairstyling, accessories, and shoes as well.  At first I was a bit nervous about wearing one because I am a foreigner in Japan and it is not native to my culture, but I realized they are very flattering and fun to dress up in when you are seeing temples in Japan.  I encourage everyone to try it at least once~

Ine: A Beautiful Fishing Village in Northern Kyoto

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A native Ine bird freeloads on my fishing boat.

When people think of Kyoto, they usually think of the historic temples, people clad in colorful kimonos, and the Arashiyama bamboo forest.  All of these are wonderful aspects of visiting the city, but there is actually a lot more places explore!  In the far north lies a beautiful fishing village called Ine which welcomes visitors.  Ine is extremely important to the history of Kyoto because it is where rice-growing was introduced from China, and it also shows how people traditionally lived by the sea.  This culture has been preserved since its establishment and is truly magnificent to see.

There are a number of boathouses called funaya that are available for visitors to stay in, but they require reservation at least 2 months in advance.  The advantage to staying in one is that you will have a meal plan and can relax while seeing and an amazing view of the ocean.  You can also rent fishing equipment quite easily.  I wanted to watch the weather to ensure it was a sunny day when I arrived, so I opted to just take a day trip here.

I’ve been to Kyoto numerous times, but this is the first time that I’ve ever gone this far north!  From Kyoto Station, you can take the JR Line to Miyazu, then reach Ine by bus in approximately 3 hours.  The trip is very long, but the scenery you see along the way is a great way to pass the time.

The reason I wanted to come to Ine is because it reminds me of Terazzi, a town in one of my favorite PS1 games called Tales of Destiny.  Tales of Destiny is an amazing game because it takes the player through forests, castles, harbors, and even to Utopian societies in outer space.  Namco utilized the Linear Motion Battle System in the game so you really feel compelled by the battles and the areas you travel through are quite memorable.  Though I first played it nearly 10 years ago, I still remember how the towns felt like real places.

Terazzi always stood out to me because it is this beautiful, Venetian-like city but has boat houses almost exactly like those in Ine.  Terazzi and Ine are both have a number of residents living in them, but also feel a bit isolated at times.  In the game, you must navigate through a maze of waterways to find the entrance to the castle, much like how walking around the boathouses is here (although sadly there is no castle).  I can see a clear resemblance of how many port towns in games are inspired by real places like Ine.  It feels surreal when you finally experience them in real life!

Going back to reality, when I arrived at Ine, I decided to take a few pictures by the harbor and walk alongside the ocean.  There are a few houses you can enter and see the boats up-close in.  I went to the tourism office, and they were able to arrange a boat tour for me and a few other people for only 1000 yen.  The boat trip was really fun because you get to learn about the history of Ine, and they also give you bird food so you can feed the local birds!  They really aren’t afraid of people and flew close to the boat.  I was able to capture some amazing photos:

Besides fishing and being on the ocean, you can also walk around and see a few local shrines.  There are restaurants and cafes open during certain times as well where you can try the local cuisine and a lot of seafood.  I stayed here for about 3 hours, and that was more than enough to see everything I wanted.

If you are an adventurous traveler who has already seen most of Kyoto and likes being near the ocean, I would recommend this trip to you!  Please note that this area is quite remote, but easy to navigate on foot.  Just be careful to watch the bus timetable when you get off, and you’ll be absolutely fine.

Sailor Neptune Nails from Nail Salon Glory (Tokyo)

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Since I decided to cosplay a swimsuit version of Michiru Kaioh/Sailor Neptune for a photoshoot, I wanted the most suitable nails for this character.  I looked at various nail catalogs online, but no design fit the one I had in mind so I decided to create my own.  Fortunately, most nail salons in Tokyo are able to create original nail designs using stencils, hand-drawn art, studs, and various gradients of polish.

I booked an appointment at Nail Salon Glory through Hot Pepper, and these were the amazing results I got:

My nails were absolutely gorgeous!  Since I have short nails, I requested the scalp nail course that will extend your tip to a custom length.  The nail artist used a combination of beige and turquoise glitter polish to create a gradient that looks like an ocean.  After painting a shiny coat over it, she added sea shells and pearl studs, as well as hand-drew the insignia on Neptune’s mirror that I requested.  I was almost speechless when our session ended because I was so impressed!

Most fancy nail courses start at 10,000 yen ($93), but they are worth the price for the amount of detail and effort that is put in.  There are various coupons that can be used to lower the price, like the ones featured on HotPepper.

Scalp nails last for typically 3 weeks and are perfect for every occasion.  Not only did I use them for my photoshoot, but they also matched the color of the ocean when I was swimming in Thailand.  I’m sure I’ll be back in the future once I think of more anime-based designs!

Exploring Koh Samui Island on New Year’s Day

On the first morning of 2019, I took the very first ferry that departed from from the Full Moon Party Island (Koh Phangan), and traveled to my neon pink hut on Koh Samui.  Koh Samui is my favorite island in Thailand because not only is it conveniently located, but it also has a myriad of activities and places to explore.  What better way to kick off the new year than on a beach!

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Sunset on Lamai Beach in Koh Samui, Thailand.

After doing some swimming and photography, I took a taxi to see the Hin Ta and Hin Yai, also known as the Grandmother and Granfather rocks.  They are extremely famous due to their uncanny resemblance to human genitalia, and are definitely worth checking out for the view of the beach as well.

Next I had my taxi driver take me to the Secret Buddha Garden on top of  Pom Mountain.  This is a relaxing outdoor sculpture park surrounded by lush jungle and waterfalls.  There are also some nearby temples and buildings you can walk to on foot.  It is one of the most relaxing places in Koh Samui due to it being away from the beaches and center of the city.

I had originally planned to see the pink dolphins on this trip, but due to a severe storm that hit Thailand, I had to come back and do this on my 2nd trip.  Instead, Koh Samui Tours rescheduled me to a Samui Aquarium & Tiger Zoo where I got to meet tigers, see birds race on bicycles, and get kissed on the cheek by an otter! 

Though I’ve been to more zoos than I can count in Asia, I had fun seeing the wildlife here that is unique to this island.  The double-beaked bird and the long-necked turtles were animals that I had never seen before.  The otters were some of the friendliest I had ever met and could do a lot of neat tricks!

You could easily spend a week on Koh Samui Island relaxing and enjoying the scenery, but I recommend staying for at least 3 days.  You can book ferries to other surrounding areas through 12go like Krabi, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao.  Each hotel usually has their own restaurant, and the island food is always fresh and delicious!  Be sure to try the mangos and any fruit that you can find.  My favorite dish was the glass noodles with shrimp.

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Delicious seafood glass noodles made at New Hut Bungalows.

Be sure to be outside during the sunset you so can look at the beautiful magenta sky!

I loved swimming under it every day!  Though the weather during this trip was a bit stormy, I fortunately was able to a lot of fun things.  Please come here if you get the chance.