Erika and Bill Buckley whipped down a tiny, windy dirt road in the backseat of what she described as “not quite a scooter but not quite a car, either” in the Siem Reap area of Cambodia. It was only their first full day of their honeymoon and they quickly started to re-think booking a Cambodian hotel on the Internet. Wild dogs ran out of the way as they tore down the road, and they exchanged worried glances that translated to “Um, where the hell are we going?”
And then, suddenly – practically out of nowhere — they arrived at Bunwin Boutique Hotel. It was like a tropical oasis.
“It was the cutest place in the world,” Erika said. “They handed us drinks as soon as we arrived, and our room had a complimentary bottle of wine and lotus flowers floating in the tub when we walked in. It was a dream!”
And while it seems like the couple really splurged for the honeymoon package, the hotel cost them a mere $130 a night in November 2012. Bill and Erika decided to start their honeymoon in Cambodia with the main purpose of visiting Angkor Wat, an expansive temple complex and the biggest religious monument in the world.
“The ruins were amazing. You need at least two days to see them,” Erika said. “Every temple is different because they’ve been built over thousands of years, so it’s not like it’s the same old, same old with every temple.” And these ruins aren’t like in other countries where you aren’t allowed to climb them or get too close.
“It’s not like that at Angkor Wat. You can climb all over everything at your own discretion, so you really get to explore. If you fall to your death, that’s on you.”
After exploring Angkor Wat and drinking plenty of the delicious dragon fruit juices Cambodia had to offer, it was off to Bangkok, Thailand.
“The city is so populated, it felt pretty intense being there,” Erika said. “There’s vendor after vendor after vendor just lining the sidewalk and then hundreds of people walking the sidewalk. Bill and I were pretty overwhelmed at first.”
But before long they adjusted to feeling like packed sardines, and got into the swing of things in Bangkok. One of their favorite, can’t-miss experiences was getting a massage at The Asia Herb Association. The masseuse fills a thin towel with herbs, spices and oils that are soaked in hot water and wrap the towel up into a ball the size of a cantaloupe and then rub it over your body.
“It felt incredible. So relaxing,” Erika said.
After visiting the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (“It was like two school buses end-to-end! Incredible.”), they went to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Imagine a farmer’s market, but with each stand in fact a small boat.
“You can kind of feel that it’s gotten a little touristy after all these years,” Erika said. “But it was still worth it, because we had some of the best food of our trip there.”
They both loved the dumplings made by a woman who had been making them for more than 60 years. “She only makes one thing: dumplings. So you know it’s going to be good,” Erika said.
But by far the best food Erika and Bill had was sweet cornmeal waffles filled with shredded pork they got from a street vendor. “We went back later in the day for seconds,” she said.
And even though the floating market wasn’t the area best for authentic shopping, Bangkok still took top honors for the best shopping of their trip.
“I got a lot of great clothes and jewelry,” Erika said. Her favorite spot was The Jim Thompson House, which is known for its silks. “And the prices [in Bangkok] are amazing. One of the best things I got during our trip was a leather purse that I bartered down to $13.”