MGZ Visits, Part 2: Siem Reap

After Miranda and I spent a few days trying to get our tan on, we recovered with a quick workout at Primal Ape, then hopped on a plane to Siem Reap.  Mark joined for this trip and we met Miranda’s friend from med-school at the airport in Siem Reap.

Our hotel sent a tuk tuk to pick us up and opened the door to a huge room complete with a sitting area, queen bed, double sink, shower, full bath, and balcony.  Unfortunately, the A/C didn’t do a great job cooling the large room.  We went to sleep early so we could be ready for a full day exploring temples.

Day 1: Angkor Wat

We paid for an air conditioned car and set off to Angkor Wat, the most famous temple.  On our way in we met a guide who we decided to pay to tell us about the history.  He was helpful at the time, spoke English very well, but there were still a number of things that were unclear – I still have to look them up for clarification.  I think I’ll do that after this.

We had to wear pants past our knees and a shirt that covered our shoulders to climb to the top, so we put on the layers and headed up.  The stairs had been rebuilt for safety, but they were still steep.  It was close to 100 degrees, but the view from the top was worth it.  We got to look down on the ruins surrounded by a jungle.
After a quick lunch, we went to the Tomb Raider Temple, better known as Ta Prohm.  It was here that we learned you can take a vertical panoramic picture.  The ruins were engulfed in the roots of trees. We were able to get closer to the stone and felt more inside of the temple here.  It was pretty cool to look at, definitely one to stop by.

Visiting two temples in one session/day was plenty, so we headed back and took a nap.  We walked over to Pub Street for dinner.  It’s definitely a tourist trap, but we were able to get a good meal, cheap drinks, and good people watching.  I wish we had been a little less tired so we could stay out and see the party scene later in the night.

Day 2: Bayon

Miranda and her friend from med-school, Michelle, woke up early to catch the infamous sunrise over Siem Reap.  Mark and I opted to skip the 4:30am wake up call and crowds and slept in.  The sunrise that morning wasn’t as impressive as some of the pictures online, so, no regrets.

Since I qualified to regional, I needed to get a workout in.  We asked a tuk tuk driver to take us to a gym.  We were dropped off at Angkor Muscle Gym – the Angkor Body Building Association gym.  Needless to say, there were lots of guys flexing in the mirror right after sit ups to see if they magically got abs after that one exercise.  It was stinky, there was no real squat rack, only a smith machine, which I don’t even know how to use.  I was able to get pretty much everything done, though I felt very out of place wearing shoes and being a female.

We left the gym and found at tuk tuk driver to take us to Bayon.  I, personally, preferred this temple over Angkor Wat.  It felt more like ruins and we could walk through more of it than Angkor.  The stone was not as clean, so it felt more like we had just found it.  Something about it seemed cooler to me, I can’t explain why exactly.  Anyway, if you go to Siem Reap, make the time for Bayon.

That night, we got on a late plane and headed back to Manila. Two days was enough to see Temples and not get burnt out by it, any more than three and I think you’d have to leave the city and explore to find stuff to do.

I would post pictures, but I accidentally deleted all of the photos on my phone.

Mt. Balagbag

I’ve been trying to come up with more adventures for the weekends.  I decided to hike Mt. Balagbag because it’s not too far from Manila. The top of the peak overlooks Manila and there’s a waterfall.  Plus, it’s ranked a 3/9 on the difficulty scale, so it seemed like a nice active recovery day.

We were surprised the day before the hike with a dog.  A friend’s friend shows dogs and one of the huskies was not show eligible, so he was up for adoption.  We brought Xena over to meet him, there was lots of tail wagging, and he came home with us that day.  The next day, we decided to continue with our plan to hike and bring both the pups.

Meet Conan! Our 2.5yr old Husky

Waze stopped working so we switched over to google maps, which led us onto a dirt road.  This made the hour and a half trip to the trail head about a 2 hour trip.  We hopped out and began trekking the mountain.  Although the trail was not challenging, the heat and sun beaming down made it a little strenuous.  Within five minutes we were sweating and the dogs needed water.

We came to a fork in the road and were told one way led to the waterfall and one led to the summit.  We hadn’t gone all that way to NOT go to the summit, so we decided to head up and then go to the waterfall.  We arrived at the summit and were told there was a path to one waterfall from the top, but it was steep.  We figured we would be ok and went for it.  Better to go that way than back down to the fork in the road.

Tired pups at the top of the summit.

Now, normally when someone in the Philippines says something is a far walk it’s not actually that far, it’s just that people are used to driving.  So, we assumed that when he said it was steep, it was an exaggeration.  This was no exaggeration.  It was steep, and slippery.  We were walking in a muddy creek bed, straight down hill.  The dogs were pulling us down full speed, I think nervous about the path and falling.  Conan is a husky, so he had some fur to cover his paws and stomach down the rocks, but poor Xena got beat up.  Whenever there was shade, she would lay down and refuse to get up.

The downhill trek to the waterfall took over an hour, probably closer to two.  We arrived, shocked to see a huge crowd of people.  Within seconds, we learned that Conan swims.  He walked right down to the water and got in, we’re fairly sure it was his first swim.  We enjoyed the cool water on our (my) sunburned skin.  We discussed the fact that the trek was harder than expected and so we were low on water – our 2 hour hike was already at a 4 hour hike and we had to get back.  We asked how to get to the easier path and were told there wasn’t one, we would have to go back the way we came.  But what about the easy path leading to that fork in the road?  That’s another waterfall.  Oh.  Shit.


Finally, some cool water!

We began heading back up the mountain, thankfully it was easier to go up than down, but we were VERY low on water.  After an hour we arrived at a house with a little store in it.  We bought ALL of their Gatorade, including the display bottle and guzzled it down.  It was the best damn Gatorade I’ve ever had.  Then we were happy to continue walking.  We took a path that didn’t go back up to the summit, but rather around the side, so it wasn’t too hard.


The hiking crew at the top of the mountain and the river at the end of the trek.

We arrived back at the trailhead six and a half hours after we started.  Hungry and ready to eat.  All in all though, it was worth the adventure.  The dogs did great, the company was fantastic, and it’s a good story.  We later found out we had hiked two summits, Mt. Balagbag and Mt. Maranat where the Maranat Falls are, instead of the Kaytitinga Falls.

Mount PinatuNoGo

Seven of us planned for a little over a week to hike Mount Pinatubo.  We booked a tour because it’s a pretty involved process getting up to the top of the volcano.  On Saturdays and Sunday’s the departure time from Metro Manila is 2:30 am, you then take about a 1.5 hour 4×4 ride, and finish with either a short (45min) or long (2-3 hour) trek up to the top of the volcano.

All but one of us arrived on time to our pickup location, the last one arrived 20 minutes late and was sent to the back of the van.  Neck pillows on, feet up, and seats reclined, the seven of us and Xena headed out full speed ahead, until we came to a dead stop in traffic.  We didn’t check the religious events going on and learned the hard way that an expected 1 million people would be celebrating the Iglesia ni Cristo 100th anniversary at a huge venue next to the road we were on.  This added over two hours to our journey, causing us to arrive after the allowed 4×4 departure time of 7:00am.  Our driver tried to convince them to take us up, but they had already started sending earlier arrivals back down the mountain due to expected harsh weather conditions at the top.  After over 5 hours in the car, we mentally prepared to drive right back to Manila (the tour company did offer to fully refund our payment), until one person had a brilliant idea – go to the beach in Subic.  We spoke with the driver, tour company, and got the go ahead and price for a beach trip, so off we went.

There are two beaches in Subic that are well known, All Hands and Camayan. We decided to check out All Hands since it was closest.  We drove up excited to head to the beach and saw a “No Pets Allowed” sign.  Which meant Xena would have to stay in the car with our driver and miss out on her first beach experience, I DON’T THINK SO!  After some quick googling we found that Camayan allowed dogs, so we decided to go with plan C for the day.  

We got to Camayan, rented a Cabana, and headed to the water. The beach was beautiful and had an amazing view.  Xena loved playing in the sand, but wasn’t too sure about the whole swimming thing.  After some sun bathing we grabbed a cheap, but good, meal at Meat Plus Cafe and checked out a friend’s box, CrossFit Subic Bay.  The box was awesome with a complete open air setup and covered outdoor area as well.


Beautiful day at the beach and an awesome open air CrossFit box in Subic Bay.

After the failed hike, failed beach attempt 1, and the long drive down, we came to a few conclusions:

  1. We enjoy the company. Despite being stuck in a car together for so long, we still had a lot of fun, made some jokes, and made the best of the situation.
  2. We still want to try and hike Mount Pinatubo.
  3. Next time we want to hike Mount Pinatubo we should drive down on Friday or Saturday, spend a day relaxing at the beach in Subic, then take a one hour drive to the 4×4 pickup location.
  4. Always check to see if there is a huge religious event going on.