Finding Vann Molyvann in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

As I’ve stated before, our trip to Southeast Asia was a rather serendipitous one.  I’ve been rather singularly focused in the past 18 months on making my way through the former Eastern Bloc and Soviet nations, and had been hoping to spend this Memorial Day in the Ukraine, but luck brought us to Southeast Asia instead.  While planning our time in Southeast Asia, I struggled to find the happy medium between a total relaxing hedonistic vacation and finding meaningful cultural activities relevant to my interests.

What primarily interested me about Southeast Asia.
What primarily interested me about Southeast Asia.
Enter Phnom Penh.  Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, was where we started our trip, and to say it impressed us would be an understatement. It’s safe to say that if I were to create a pie chart of subject matter on this blog, modernist architecture would make up the lion’s share of it.  And despite knowing that Phnom Penh had been a jewel of French Indochina, I was not expecting it to be replete with amazing, funky, and downright jaw-dropping modern architecture.

DSC_0487 DSC_0466 (2) DSC_0404 DSC_0454 (2)

Between World War 2 and the Cambodian Civil War,  a man named Vann Molyvann founded the New Khmer style of architecture, and created the preeminent architecture style of the new Kingdom of Cambodia (1953-1970).  His buildings blended Modernist style and materials with traditional Khmer architectural elements to create startlingly beautiful structures all over the nation.  For more info on the style and his work, visit the Vann Molyvann Project site. Read more

We Need to Talk about Yerevan, Armenia

I’ve put off writing this piece for quite a while now.  It’s been over a year (15 months, in fact) since we were in Yerevan, and part of me hoped the distance from the place would make my heart grow fonder of it.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t been quite the case.  And while I don’t actively dislike Yerevan – we actually had quite a good time there, all things considered – I have become sort of ambivalent about visiting again.  pak-shuka-covered-market-yerevan-armenia_16234624526_o marshrutka-yerevan_16397184971_o lada-yerevan_16398938915_o Read more

A Slow Burn for Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia is one of those places I was destined to fall in love with. Everything I knew about it spoke to me on an almost primal level.  It’s home to pristine examples of social realist and brutalist architecture.  Serbian food is amazing – including several types of cheesy carbs.  As the capital of the former Socialist Republic of Jugoslavija, it would be full of markets shilling communist shwag.  I’m in love with gypsy horn music (Brasslands is an amazing documentary everyone should watch).  And all of my favorite bloggers had written about the amazingness of the city – see Yomadic, Silvia at Heart my Backpack, The Bohemian Blog, and Waegook Tom have all sung its praises over the course of the past few years.  december-balkans-729jpg_24297985505_o december-balkans-743jpg_24002381850_o Read more

Road Tripping Kosovo: From Pristina to Pec to Prizren

As I’ve said before, the spontaneity of our Balkan adventure this October made me get out of my comfort zone while planning.  So, when I knew we’d have two nights in Kosovo – one in Pristina, and the next in Prizren – before heading to Macedonia, I wanted to make the day in between really count.  I had lofty goals of seeing the Patriarchy of Pec on that day, which would require either bussing between all three cities, or hiring a car.

My typical MO when planning trips to places with less developed tourist infrastructures is almost always to hop on Tripadvisor forums first to see what is possible.  This was especially useful this trip as my other main source of information, other travel blogs, are a bit scanty on information about Kosovo outside of Pristina and Prizren.  So off to the forums it was, and even then, information wasn’t readily available.  No problem, I just started my own thread, and waited for replies to arrive. Read more

In Defense of Fast Travel

I travel fast.  When I am on a trip, unless a more relaxed beach-type of vacation, I create itineraries to see as much as possible in the limited amount of time I have off.   In a perfect world, I’d have as much time as I wanted to travel, and be able to get to know the ins and outs of every street, town, city, and country I visit.  But the world’s not perfect, and as I don’t list “Travel Blogger” on my professional resume, I am only able to travel in the time my professional life allows.

Here’s an example of a single day in the life of one of our whirlwind trips:

Travel bloggers across the web are unanimous in their praise of slow travel – the act of taking time to truly get to know every place one visits.  And I agree.  I am not here to bash slow travel.  But I am of the majority of the population for whom slow travel is not a logistical possibility – I have a family to support, and a job that requires me to be in an office for around 50 hours a week.  The key here, also, is to understand that I wouldn’t change that.  I enjoy my work and the lifestyle it affords me and my family.  David and I wouldn’t be able to travel in the way I like to travel without it.  But it does make true slow travel a non-option for us.  And while we’d love to spend a week exploring a single place, our life’s travel ambitions (especially those for the short term) make a week getting to know the ins and outs of a single place impossible. Read more

How We Didn’t do Saaremaa Justice

We went to Saaremaa with the best intentions.  We had a list of things to see and a finite amount of time to see them.  We were also coming from a long day of driving, and sightseeing, on the Estonian mainland.  The day we left Saaremaa, we had a similiarly long day of driving ahead of us, and a similarly long day of sightseeing.  And somehow, amidst the general craziness of the two stacked days of traveling, Saaremaa got lost in the fold.honeymoon-jpegs-256_21287806198_o honeymoon-jpegs-266_20854531713_o honeymoon-jpegs-259_20854538053_o

I am not a slow traveler, and yet I am an advocate of slow travel.  My travel style is necessitated by the amount of time I am able to travel yearly (15-20 days, generally) while still keeping my corporate job.  And because I am generally an ambitious traveler, I try to pack as much into my vacation days as possible.  It’s an unfortunate circumstance that will be remedied whenever I get out of the corporate rat race.  I think I have about ten years left in me before I make that change. Read more

An Istanbul to Tbilisi to Kazbegi Odyssey – Christmas 2014, Part 1

There’s always time for postcard hunting.

I like to make travel difficult as possible.  While I wouldn’t typically openly admit to this, the behavioral patterns I engage in leading up to and while on trips says otherwise.  I like really involved, complicated travel plans that often leave me tired, hungry, whiny, or some combination of the three.  I wasn’t thinking about my propensity for tantrums when I made my plans to travel from Istanbul to Tbilisi during Christmas Eve night, followed by another trip leg to Kazbegi on the following Christmas day.

Read more

Breaking Up with Japan – My First Travel Love

I have the most vivid memories from my childhood of my great aunt, Jeanette, telling me and my sister stories of her travels after World War 2 around the world as a schoolteacher on U.S. military bases.  She traveled everywhere (as a single woman in the 50s and 60s) that I dream of going today.  As a young child, the stories that made the biggest impact on my life were those of her time in Japan.

It was always hard to not be impressed by Kyoto in the Fall - by
It was always hard to not be impressed by Kyoto in the Fall – by

Read more

Church and Monastery Fatigue in Armenia – The Debed Canyon

When I was planning our trip to Turkey and Georgia last year, I hadn’t originally thought to make a little jaunt into Armenia.  But after doing additional investigating into various places to see and things to do, I couldn’t help myself and booked a shoddy hotel in Yerevan – the Erebuni Hotel, if you’re wondering – for three nights in the middle of our 10 days in Georgia.

We had planned to spend 4 days and 3 nights in Armenia in total, one of which would be spent in Yerevan, one on a day trip, and two going to and from Tbilisi.  I arranged transport (with the help of lovely folks at Envoy Hostel in Yerevan) so that we could see different things coming to and from the border – an arrangement that basically meant we took two different routes when coming from the Sadakhlo-Bagratashen border to Yerevan and back.  Basically I was a total ninja in making sure we used our time in Armenia to see as many damn churches and monasteries as we could.

What could possibly go wrong??
What could possibly go wrong??

Read more