A Cambodian Style Birthday

The most important holiday was upon us this week: my birthday! Since it was my birth-week, I made my friends celebrate a little bit each day. We went out to dinners, indulged in desserts (they were all so good that I was okay with the fact that they were probably 5,000 calories each!), and travelled to Cambodia (south of Thailand, west of Vietnam).

1My friends wouldn’t light me 20 candles, so I guess this was okay.

For my birthday celebration on Thursday, I got a honey toast and a brownie sundae and went on a shopping extravaganza at the market. On Friday, I got up way too early (3:30 a.m. should never be an alarm set on my phone again!) to catch an early morning flight to Siem Reap, widely renowned as the gateway to Angkor Wat, the millennium-old temple ruins of the Khmer Empire, in northwestern Cambodia. The flight was only about 30 minutes long, so I was a little bummed that I didn’t get more than a 15-minute nap. Audrey and I arrived in Cambodia without any hassle, unlike Val and Paige who came via bus. Birthday miracle! I explored a temple, went shopping, and drank a milkshake before having a pampering afternoon.

2.jpgAs a Wisconsin girl, I needed my picture next to the cow statues at the temple.

I got a foot massage for an hour and then a pedicure, which together cost me only $4! It was so relaxing that I was ready to get another one that night after dinner. When Val and Paige arrived, we went to Pub Street and I got free birthday drinks—always a treat!

3Pub Street is the apparently the Khao San of Cambodia. We liked Khao San better.

Saturday was another early day… 3:30 a.m. wake up time again… why?! We rented a tuk tuk for the day to explore the ruins of Angkor Wat, Bayon, Preah Ngoc, Baphuon, Victory Gate, and Ta Prohm.

4.jpgA tuk tuk is a little cart attached to a motorcycle.

We saw the sunrise at Angkor Wat, an iconic site. Then we spent the rest of the day climbing ruins and sweating in the beating sun. I was thankful I brought my fan—as it was being waved constantly. The ruins were incredible! It was hard to believe that something so massive and intricate was in the middle of Cambodia.

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I was exhausted after we visited eight temples. I thought it would be later, but we were all drained by 1 p.m.! The tuk tuk took us back to the hotel. Our driver was so sweet and luckily drove fast so the breeze was glorious as we went from temple to temple. After a quick power nap and half a burger, we all went to get massages and our nails done. While Paige and I got foot massages, Val and Audrey got pedicures. After the second massage, I knew that on Sunday, I was going to go back for a foot massage and a back massage! While feeling relaxed, Val and I got Henna tattoos on our feet. I could wear my shoes without rubbing the ink off, but Val wasn’t as lucky. She had to walk around and eat dinner without shoes.

6I tricked my mom into thinking it was a real tattoo!!!

We got margaritas and pizza for dinner (very Cambodian, ha ha!), then went for fried ice cream and drinks at a bar that had a live band. The band was very entertaining and played everything from The Rolling Stones to Taylor Swift.

Finally, I got to sleep in on Sunday (I guess 8 a.m. is now sleeping in for me), then went for breakfast and got another massage. Getting all my massages and pedicures this weekend only cost me $15! My hour-long back and head massage was so relaxing that I fell asleep. I was ready to spend an extra dollar to get another half hour, but unfortunately, we had to head to the airport to return to Bangkok. Without our knowledge, our flight was delayed, so I would have had time for that massage! Good thing the airport lounge had free popcorn—so it was all good.

Cambodia was a very interesting place—very different from Thailand and Laos—and I loved it. Ruins, massages, and pizza. What more could one need? I enjoyed dropping that it was my birthday to see what types of discounts I could get, and I also loved talking with the natives here. They all spoke excellent English and were funny.

7.jpgMy legs look long in this pose—which never happens!

Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles, but I think Cambodia may give them a run for their money. Everywhere I went, someone was smiling at me. Shop owners loved talking, and little girls at the restaurant were in awe as Val and I sang Taylor Swift lyrics. It is great that a smile is the same in every language.

8.jpgWe got matching bracelets from these monks and they chanted something that I’m pretty sure was a curse.

I’m glad I was able to spend my birthday in Cambodia. Now my friends and family will have to step up their birthday game because simply eating some cake isn’t going to cut it anymore after getting to celebrate here!

9.jpgShocker… I’m eating more ice cream.

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