You know another epic adventure looms when you take notes about the trip you’re about to take before you even leave the house. Case in point last week when John gave me a check from the Turner family to even out the Taroko hotel miscalculations when we suddenly realized that our dear travel friends do not know our name. I mean, how does one move on from that?
After we were done rolling in laughter and calling the from now to be called “Tucker family” out, us, the McConnell’s (I promise no association whatever to another person by that name whom you might be reading about in the news) took it in high stride and decided that yes, we could still remain friends.
The following day, early, early, as in crack before dawn early (hello traveling on Chinese New Year), we Uber’ed to the Taipei airport to meet up with “uncle” “Larry Tucker” and family (lovely wife Crystal and daughter Sofie) to fly to Cambodia. Yeah. Cambodia.
You see those travel plans had a mind of their own when our original flights got canceled less than 2 weeks ago and left us scrambling to find flights that would actually get us there for only 90% more of the initial price and on a school day – what a bargain!
John and I had been to Cambodia before back in 2003 (ironically near the end of the SARS epidemic) and we were eager to go back to see what had changed and show ancient temples to the kids and the Tucker’s. After we finally made it to Phnom Penh and were fortunate to cheer on the 4th “victory lap” of the Tucker family suitcase on conveyer belt #1, we were finally ready to leave the madness of the airport and explore Cambodia.
Traffic in Phnom Penh ….well …. seems less than ideal so once we finally, finally made it to the hotel and had lunch, Krystsyna and I decided a Mom Spa break was in order. And let me just say – it was heavenly…. …until we were reunited with the Dads and kids to learn that once again, Dads in charge resulted in chaos, this time including a bloody and cut eye. Good thing we had that first aid kit with us.
Fortunately, this trip (FINALLY!) came with improved food so that our newly created “Chef Peter’s Taroko Gorge Food Index” flew significantly off the charts with each yummy course devoured.
A day after we made it to Cambodia, we headed to Siem Reap where we were met with a beautiful, new but chaotic and highly disorganized hotel that put us all into one family suite rather than the two we had booked (imagine snuggles in tight tiny beds with lovely children) and the front desk staff apparently had a hard time telling us White people apart. Oh well, the Tuckers and the McConnell’s are known to roll with the punches so we went on to have pretty much the most awesome tour ever around the fabulous Angkor Wat.
When we were there in 2003, we saw perhaps a dozen other travelers as Cambodia was still so off the beaten path (also there were still plenty of landmines and cobras keeping visitors at bay) but now, almost 20 years later, we were certainly not alone. However, our excellent tour guide Samath (if you find yourself looking to explore Siem Reap, please hire Samath and his driver Lin) took us to not only where there were few tourists to be seen but also, very importantly, to where you could take the best pictures. He may have taught us a trick or two on iPhone photo and most importantly for uncle Larry, he kept the Dad jokes coming. Oh, and the cold towels and iced drinks he served at just the perfect time as we were all melting in the heat and humidity? Priceless!
We spent the evenings enjoying delicious food, tasting rum and fruit juices, shopping,
racing riding tuk tuks, and contemplating the “Korean Death Index” as apparently many things John and I had done at the temples decades ago were now off limits because a number of Koreans decided to race down steep steps, and well, let’s just say that often didn’t end well.
On our second day exploring Angkor Wat, we rose at 4am to stumble around old rocks in the pitch black dark. Our fabulous guide arranged that we would not only have front row seats to wait for the sun to rise behind the magical temples but he also brought a big tarp for the kids to hang out seated on the dirt path while we waited with a few of our favorite 1,000 friends from around the world.
Now, for many waking that early would be a deal breaker but for the Tucker-McConnell families, it was merely another occasion to share a few laughs (“can someone talk to Karen in management to turn the lights on at the temples?” “Karen?” “Come on!” “Where are the temples, I only see the rough sketches of trees” “no, uncle Larry, those are the temples. We were here all day yesterday – you don’t remember?” “Cambodia’s northern lights exhibit is off to a good start” “geez, why is is so dark here?”) and entertain the crowds around us (seriously, we should have had a tip jar; well, it was so dark people would have missed it). No, seriously, we lovingly entertained the masses – that’s how we roll; we share our humor – well, perhaps not with that French tourist who was bugging uncle Larry and got a talking to in Chinese. Qui Qui. Stop elbowing me oh la la.
But that sunrise, it was so worth waiting for. Simply amazing. Also, let’s just take a moment to appreciate our amazing photo skills:
After sunrise, we walked to a local restaurant in deep contemplation and some of us might have had deeply insightful conversations “so why do you think no one ever really built a Wally World?”.
We enjoyed our hotel breakfast boxes that came with hardboiled eggs for everyone except for uncle Ian who managed to spill his soft-boiled egg all over himself while the rest of us well, fell out of chairs laughing. In perhaps a small feat of coincidence, Krystsyna’s shoes broke at just that time and the only vendor we could find to buy flip-flops from had these:
It was a sign!
At the “late” time of 8am, we headed back to the tour bus to continue our explorations of Siem Reap…. stay tuned. Now excuse me while I boil some eggs.