Siem Reap Travel Tips [Angkor Wat]

Posted on: February 23, 2017

















We spent most of our time in Siem Reap at Angkor Wat wandering through the ruins. It’s the largest religious site in the world covering over 402 acres. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of the God Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century. Our tuk tuk driver, Mr Vung, drove us around the entire complex for two days and I still don’t think we saw all of it! Ta Prohm, one of the more popular ruins, was actually where Tomb Raider was filmed! Kinda cool! Here is what we learned and some tips for Siem Reap!

  • I would recommend spending two days at Angkor Wat. We planned for three but we really didn’t need it!
  • Hire a tuk tuk driver for your time at Angkor Wat. You will need it to get around the huge area! A tour guide isn’t necessary (we didn’t use one) but is helpful for more information about the history.
  • Stay in an Airbnb! We stayed in this one and LOVED it! It included an airport pick up as well as breakfast and complimentary water!
  • Get a massage! Carson and I splurged at Mudita Spa for a day and it was super affordable for a couples package!
  • We spent a few hours our last day at the Silk Factory  and that is a great place for kids too!
  • Another fun spot we LOVED for dinner was Pub Street and the night markets!

Our time in Cambodia taught me two things. One, it takes very little to be happy. The people of Cambodia are living on basically nothing and yet happy. We had some conversations with Mr Vung about Cambodia’s history and it really but things in perspective. The genocide and continuous struggle seemed so far away in my history books, but being there made it real. Secondly, I learned it’s our responsibility to do our part to take care of the world. Once we have the means to support ourselves, look outside and find ways to support others!

Thank you Cambodia for opening your culture to us! We will never forget our time there!



Siem Reap [Silk Factory]

Posted on: February 20, 2017














After we left the gorgeous beaches of Thailand, (I was tempted to stay forever), we traveled to Cambodia to tour Siem Reap. We spent a few days at Angkor Wat, which I will share soon, but one of my favorite stops was the silk factory. The factory employs locals and teaches them craftsmanship that will eventually become their full time work. It’s helpful for the community because most don’t have the education to find a decent job. The factory provides security for these people and their families! I was amazed at the detail and the amount of time it takes just to make one piece! These women have so much pride in their work and I am grateful we got to spend a few hour to witness it!



Rantong Elephant Save & Rescue

Posted on: February 1, 2017


YouTube Preview Image

I have been dying to share this with all of you! We shared the MOST INCREDIBLE day with the good people at Rantong Elephant Save & Rescue in Chiang Mai. We’d heard that most of the elephant “sanctuaries” weren’t sanctuaries at all and actually mistreated the animals. We came across Rantong by a recommendation from a friend and we were so happy to see such a great place with ethical practices. There are actually two camps at Rantong. One is for new moms and their little babies and the other is for the adult elephants and visitors. We didn’t get to see the “nursery”  since its pretty special and they try to avoid any disturbances for the new mamas. You’ll see one little guy and his mom in the video above and she actually has an interesting story. She was separated from her other babies while working with a performing circus so she has a large fear of separation. So… even though her little guy is basically a teenager, they keep them together to help her heal! They moved them to the “older” camp to help her regain her social skills with other elephants.

We got to spend the day with Wanwiza and her Mahoot. (I have no idea how to spell that…) The Mahoot is specific to one elephant and they will spend their entire lives together. The Mahoot builds trust and does EVERYTHING with their elephant. It’s their whole life and they become like family. To witness their day to day tasks with the elephants seems like a pretty amazing job. They live on site so their elephant is like a child they are responsible for. We learned a great deal about the rescue effort and what practices are safe/unsafe for an elephant. We got to feed, bathe, and ride Wanwiza and I was ready to take her home with us. I don’t know what it is about an elephant, but we felt this special bond with her all day. There were moments when she was taking us up a steep hill and I could feel her grip my legs with the back of her ears to make sure I was safe. I could be totally dreaming that up, but I will say there was something magnificent and magical being that close with one of gods amazing creatures.  What I really loved is their were no metal hooks to push and prod them, we went at their pace where they wanted to go. If you are making the trip to Chiang Mai, I highly recommend this place. Do your research and make sure you aren’t supporting a tourist trap that doesn’t end up benefiting the animals at all! I hope this gives you just a small taste of the best day of our lives (so far)!





Railay Beach

Posted on: January 25, 2017














My most favorite stop on our Asia adventure! Railay Beach is just a short boat ride from Krabi and I was tempted to cancel the rest of our trip and stay on the beach! Railay is the MOST beautiful beach we have been to (yet) and I would go back in a heartbeat. The water was warm, clear, and the richest color of turquoise. Delicious Thai food coupled with world wide influenced “street food” made for an authentic experience. We enjoyed our Christmas day on the beach and I think we may make that a new tradition. Although it’s tough to be away from family, we “gifted” each other our trip and it was more about experiences than it was material things. Living abroad is really teaching me how valuable experiences are versus what we have. #perspecitve.  We spent most of our days at the beach or in the infinity pool and stumbled across a monkey or two! These photos are making me wish winter was over and that I could go back tomorrow. Whose ready to ditch the coats and go?!



p.s. my dress is from Piper and Scoot!


Wat Rong Khun [The White Temple]

Posted on: January 18, 2017









Taking you back to Asia today with another travel post! Are you sick of them yet? I hope not! We decided we wanted to take a day trip to see Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai but we didn’t want to sit on a crowded tour bus for an entire day to do it. So we decided to rent a car. In Thailand, they drive on the other side of the road so it was a little strange to say the least. Thankfully, Carson is a good driver and we didn’t run into any problems! It was a little too easy to rent the car and my heart jumped to my throat every time we passed a police checkpoint in fear they would arrest us as foreigners. I’m happy to report I was overreacting and all was well. I’m so happy we made the day trip because Wat Rong Khun is not to be missed!



The Newest Member of The James Gang

Posted on: January 15, 2017





Taking a little break from our travel posts today to share some fun news! Carson and I mustered up the courage to buy our very own Moto after renting for a few months. We are real Europeans now and speaking of courage, Carson let me take her out for a spin this week around the city. Usually he takes the moto to school and I take public transit, but I wanted to give it a shot. I almost hit a parked car going off the curb (thank goodness I didn’t) and after a few thousand prayers I made it to class safely and confidently. Friends, I feel straight out of a movie zipping around in my pink helmet and I thank my lucky stars the Spaniards are patient with me! So…if this isn’t a good reason to come visit us, I don’t know what it is! I’ll happily take you around the city on this little beauty.



Chiang Mai

Posted on: January 13, 2017











Hello friends! I hope this finds you well! Today I’m sharing some of my favorite photos from our stop in Chiang Mai! If you visit Thailand, please put Chiang Mai on your list of stops! It’s a charming little city. :)

Chiang Mai suprised us with her charm and “hipster” feel and I loved capturing the small details. Coming from Bangkok, we marveled at the Grand Palace and its enormity, so it was a nice contrast to focus on the little things! I can’t wait to share our day with the elephants at Raantong Elephant Sanctuary so stay tuned. :)




Posted on: January 10, 2017




















We are home from our amazing trip to Southeast Asia! We traveled light so I’m back to my laptop and able to blog some of the million photos I took! I’m not joking when I say a million photos you guys, I just couldn’t resist! We flew into Bangkok to start off our adventure so that’s where I’ll start today.

We spent three days in Bangkok and it was the perfect amount of time. The Grand Palace and surrounding temples were breath-taking. Carson’s favorite was Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and I loved Wat Phra Kaew in the main Grand Palace complex. I could’ve done a single post for each temple we visited, but who has time for that?! :) Just kidding! I’ll happily email you the photos if you’re that curious! :)

We rode in our first “Tuk Tuk”, fell in love with mango sticky rice, battled jet lag, ate our fair share of pad thai, and mastered the art of bargaining. It was a good start to say the least.

I hope you enjoy a small taste of our adventure!



i lost my identity

Posted on: January 6, 2017


I recently stumbled upon a Ted Talk while browsing facebook and it spoke to me in volumes. I’m not going to discuss it too much but if you would like to check it out you can do so here! Basically she spelled out everything I have been feeling lately and helped me feel valid in what I was experiencing. I also came across an article stating that our “online world” is a little too perfect, so I will let you behind the curtain a little bit today. With that being said, you’ve been warned and are free to read on or pass by. But I hope you’ll stay because real talk is important!

I’ve been tied to my title as a “dancer” for as long as I can remember and I find myself a little lost without it. My success, failures, struggles, and triumphs all existed in that realm and I’m not sure I ever had to find myself outside of that. Anyone seen the Disney movie Inside Out? If you have, you could say I have two really large islands. One is labeled “family” (self explanatory) and the other labeled “dancer” which contains everything else. So when Dancer island falters, so does the rest of my world.


I would assume most of us go through this at some point but basically it’s a crisis of identity. Am I important without “I’m Jessie and I’m a Dancer”? Can it just be “I’m Jessie”? Is “I’m Jessie” enough? I’m not asking if it’s enough for you. I’m asking if it is enough for me. Can I feel accomplished, special, and proud of myself without that title?

You may be asking yourself, “why is she freaking out? she’s not done forever, and she freakin lives in spain! What a dream!” Your right. Spain is dreamy! I will agree with you there, but this is no vacation. Vacation is when you get to forget about your life and come back to it a week or two later refreshed. This is life my now. This is my everyday! This is where I want, no need, to find myself. Redefine what my day to day purpose is and what fills my cup. I strongly believe we have to fill our own cup before others can help us fill the last few drops.


So begins the research. What are my interests and can I expand them here? Of course I can. What have I been itching to achieve that I know how the time and space to do so?  In what ways can I fill the need to create? It may be a good start to learn Spanish so I can easily grocery shop, or maybe I’ll take a course on our new fancy camera. The moral of the story is this….I’m a little lost and that is A-Okay. We have to be a little lost to be found right? What a chance I have before me to discover so many new ideas, hobbies, and skills i’ve never tapped into.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love and my new favorite Big Magic, quoted Jack Gilbert and his advice to his students saying: “He asked his students to be brave. Without bravery, he instructed, they would never be able to realize the vaulting scope of their own capacities. Without bravery, they would never know the world as richly as it longs to be know. Without bravery, their lives would remain small-far smaller than they probably wanted their lives to be.”

So bravery may be my word for life, not just last year. And brave I shall (try) to be!



10 ways to fake it as a European

Posted on: December 15, 2016


The Spanish know how to live. I guess I could say Europeans in general have got it all figured out. Two hour lunches and long dinners with friends, weekend trips to the country, and a sense of calm that radiates from everyone. There is no hurried “lunch on the go”, streams of business men chatting frantically on the phone, or massive plates of wasteful food. I think they would giggle at us Americans and how addicted to work we are, the fact we take lunch at our desks, or eat plates of food the size of our heads. I’m also IN LOVE with European street style and how classy and bold everyone dresses. If I’m not careful, I’ll shop us dry 😉

so here’s a few tips if your going to pretend to fit in 😉

1. Wear dark colors and let your hair air dry (wham bam thank you sam).

2. Rock a pair of thick platform boots.

3. Eat a baguette like its your favorite piece of candy.

4. Show up late. #spanishstandardtime. (jk don’t be late but everyone here is!)

5. Drive a moto like you’ve done it since birth.

6. Bread, cheese, and chocolate are now your primary food groups.

7. Learn to exhale while walking past someone who smokes. And that’s everyone here.

8. Hold onto your valuables tight. You’re not in Kansas anymore.

9. Drink your beverages out of teeny tiny cups. #watershots

10. Live care free. No one cares how tall, short, fat, skinny, or purple you are. I can’t speak for all of Europe, but in Barcelona all is welcome.



All rights reserved © Jessie Ann James · Theme by Blogmilk + Coded by Brandi Bernoskie