Cambodia – Day 2 – Angkor Wat Sunrise & More Temples

Today I woke up very early at 4:30am for a 5:00am pickup to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. The sunrise wasn’t too spectacular because it was a bit cloudy, but it was still nice to see and get a reflection of Angkor Wat against the water in front of me.

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After watching the sunrise I went and got blessed by a Buddhist Monk, who put a fabric bracelet around my right arm, which symbolizes good like. After being blessed it was time to get some breakfast. I ate a small booth that was setup on the northern perimeter of Angkor Wat; delicious scrambled eggs and some coffee. The mosquitos were brutal here and I didn’t have any anti-malarial pills, but I ended up being okay.

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After breakfast it was time to visit more temples. First stop was Banteay Kdei, also known as the Citadel of Chambers. Banteay Kdei was completed between the 12th and 13th centuries. The complex is in very rough shape due to the poor quality of construction and poor quality of sandstone that was used in the building of the temples.

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Next up was Taprom. Taprom was completed in 1186 AD. When it was found it was found to be in excellent condition due to the trees growing out of the ruins and jungle surroundings protecting it. Taprom was used for the filming of the 2001 Tomb Raider movie. I absolutely enjoyed my time at this temple and liked it even more than Angkor Wat!

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After Taprom we walked through the forest to Ta Nei, a temple dedicated to Buddha, which was built in the late 12th century. It was in fairly rough shape and quite overgrown with trees.

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It was time to get some lunch. We stopped at a place called Ta Keo Khmer Food. I had some local soup and a coke zero. The soup was absolutely delicious. I ended up abandoning the coke zero because a swarm of wasps had surrounded my can.

After having lunch I walked across the road to the Ta Keo Hindu Temple. Built in 1000 AD, Ta Keo Hindu Temple was the first temple to be built entirely of sandstone by the Khmers.

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Next stop was Tonle Om Gate (South Gate), a beautiful gate with a head sculpture sitting inside the sandstone gate structure.

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After passing through the Tonle Om Gate we made a quick stop at the Terrace of the Elephants. The terrace was used by Angkor’s king Jayavarman VII as a platform to view his victorious returning army. The 350 metre long terrace is covered in intricate carvings of elephants on its eastern face.

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Next stop was Baphoun Temple, which was built in the mid-11th century. The temple is three-tiered and also adjoins the southern enclosure of the royal palace that houses a swimming pool. My tour guide told me that when he was a child he would go swimming with his dog inside the pools. The temple was built on land filled with sand, and due to its immense size and site instability it collapsed. By the 20th century much of the temple had collapsed. Restoration was started, but then abandoned in 1970, when civil unrest broke out. Over 300,000 pieces, which were carefully labelled, were abandoned. In 1996 restoration began again under the guidance of French architect Pascal Royere from EFEO. The restoration took 16 years to complete.

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I also noticed some monkey’s playing around on my walk from Baphoun Temple to Bayon Temple. I got some great shots before one of the monkeys started getting aggressive with me and coming after me. The tour guide dropped a water bottle to distract the monkey so we could escape.

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Bayon Temple is an intricately detailed temple built at the end of the 12th century. The Buddhist temple had 49 (now 37) towers with faces on all four sides. This was my favorite temple of the day.

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It was getting late in the afternoon now, so it was time to head back to the hotel. I relaxed for a while by the pool until it was dinner time. I decided to try a vegetarian restaurant called Yuan Sheng Vegetable Restaurant. It was fairly good food, but I don’t think I could be a vegetarian as I like my meat way too much.

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Check back tomorrow when I continue on my Cambodia adventure and explore even more temples! Tomorrow is my last day of my Vietnam / Cambodia adventure. The remainder of this summer will include hikes I have completed, as well as weddings / family portraits I have been hired for.

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Cambodia – Day 1 – Angkor Wat & Other Temples

Today I woke up at 6:00am. I had some breakfast downstairs, which was a mediocre omelette and some coffee. After breakfast I waited in the lobby for my private tour guide. I chose to use Cambodia Tour Services because my father had used them in the past and had great things to say about the owner named Phanith. I was supposed to get Phanith myself, but he broke his leg playing soccer the day before the tour, so he gave me a guide that had even more experience than him. Sadly I forget his name, but he was a really nice guy! I was picked up at 730am. The first stop was Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat, also known as the City of Temples, was constructed in the 12th century as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire. It was eventually transformed to a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. The temple is surrounded by water on a site that is 163 hectares in size. The temple was built in an east-west orientation, suggesting that there was a celestial significance, which you’ll find out tomorrow morning as I travel very early to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Interestingly unlike most Khmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west, rather than the east. The site is surrounded by 4.5 metre (15 foot) high walls and has 5 towers, with the central tower being the tallest at 65 metres (213 feet) tall, which I even climbed to the top of.

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Throughout the complex there is intricately detailed walls with all sorts of carvings that show the 32 hells and 37 heavens of Hinduism. You can see from the pictures below the struggle between heaven and hell.

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After visiting Angkor Wat it was time to grab some lunch. We stopped by a very nice restaurant, which I forgot to get the name of. I had a Cambodian dish called Amok, which is a thick soup cooked with fish, vegetables, eggs, and coconut milk. It was absolutely delicious.

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After lunch we visited three temples; Lolei, Preah Ko, and Bakong Temple. Lolei is a Hindu temple built entirely of brick in the 9th century, before Angkor Wat in the centre of a man-made lake called Indratadak.

Preah Ko is another Hindu temple that has a lot of carvings. It was built in 879 AD to honour members of the kings family. There are six towers arranged in two rows of three, each on top of a sandstone platform.

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Bakong Temple is the first temple mountain made of sandstone that was constructed under the Khmer Empire. It was built in 881 AD. The main structure is a sandstone pyramid, with surrounding brick satellite temples.

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I was dropped off at my hotel at around 3:00pm and relaxed by the pool until it was dinner time. For dinner I decided to head to Jungle Burger Bar. I had never rode in a Tuk Tuk before so I ordered one on GRAB. Jungle Burger Bar is owned by Clayton, a 45 year old gentleman from New Zealand. He left New Zealand when he was 20 years old and was a builder up until about 9 years ago when he decided to open this burger bar. Words can not describe how amazing the burgers are here; if you end up travelling to Siem Reap you must visit this place! This was easily the best hamburger I’ve ever had!

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Check back tomorrow when I continue on my Cambodia adventure and explore even more temples!

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Iguazu Falls

We spent our second last day of our South American trip exploring Iguazu Falls. In my personal opinion the Argentinian side is much better than the Brazilian side. About 80% of Iguazu Falls is on the Argentinian side and I feel the views are much better.

We woke up early so we could get a good head start on the day, but the weather had a different idea for us. There was torrential downpour that delayed our departure until approximately 10:00am. There was so much rain coming down that the pool overflowed and the restaurant where we eat our breakfast was starting to flood.

Eventually at 10:00am we set off and took a local bus for 130 Argentinian Pesos per person ($4.25 CDN) to Iguazu Falls. The bus ride took about 30 minutes. Expect to pay the same amount on your return trip.

The entrance cost to the Argentinian side is 700 Argentinian Pesos ($23 CDN). There are 3 routes on the Argentinian side (Lower Loop, Upper Loop, and The Devil’s Throat), as well as a boat trip to San Martin Island, but the boat trip was not operating today as the water levels were too low. We completed the routes in the following order: Upper Loop, The Devil’s Throat, and then finally the Lower Loop). Looking back at it I think we completed it in the right order because it was still raining when we arrived and I found the Upper Loop had the least exciting views of the three.

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After completing the Upper Loop we were hungry so we decided to grab some food from the fast food restaurant near the middle of the park. We both ordered some cheeseburgers. The cheeseburgers caught the interest of the local Capuchin monkeys and coati’s. Coati’s are similar to raccoons and are equally as annoying despite being cute.

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The sun was starting to come out and the rain had dried up by the time we started to walk to the Devil’s Throat. The experience and views are out of this world. You can hear the roar of the falls and the amount of mist coming from the falls is incredible. We became completely drenched in water from the mist, as well as my camera!

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After completing the Devil’s Throat we walked the Lower Loop, which in my opinion provided the most impressive views of Iguazu Falls. On this loop you really get to experience how large and impressive these falls are.

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The Brazilian side just has the one route and takes about an hour to complete. You can almost walk right into the Devil’s Throat on the Brazilian side so you’ll be sure to get soaked. The Brazilian side keeps you mostly further away but you can get some pretty decent panoramic shots. The entrance cost on the Brazilian side is 63 reals ($21.50 CDN).

After exploring Iguazu Falls we went back to our hotel to pack for our return flight home the next day. I tried to check in to the flight and had difficulty as it said the flight couldn’t be found. I had to phone Avianca and Air Canada and spent numerous hours on the phone and was up quite late trying to figure it out. Avianca is in financial hardship and had to return about 30 percent of its fleet the previous week and because of this they cancelled our Iguazu Falls to Sao Paulo flight and didn’t notify me. Air Canada (Avianca’s partner) told me to just show up at the airport tomorrow and see what they can do for us.

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2018-08-21 – Samburu National Reserve

Today I woke up at 3:00am. Apparently I’m a bit jetlagged! I caught up on social media, went down for the breakfast buffet and waited to be picked up on my Safari tour. I was picked up at 7:30am and made a quick stop at another nearby hotel to pick up the remainder of my group. I chose to stay at a different hotel to save a bit of money. There are 8 other people in my group distributed between 2 vehicles. I have four other people in my vehicle; Kelly and Brian from near Toronto, and Nick and Courtney also from near Toronto.

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The day started off with a three hour drive to Trout Tree Restaurant where we had lunch. At Trout Tree they have their own hatchery right there so you’re guaranteed the freshest fish you’ll ever feast your eyes on. I’m not a fish person so I had a delicious steak with potatoes and a small salad, but everyone who had the fish said it was amazing. We continued on another three hours until we got to Samburu National Reserve where we did two hours of game drives until we ran out of sun.

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The Samburu National Reserve is a game reserve on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river in Kenya. On the other side of the river is the Buffalo Springs National Reserve. The park is quite large; 165 km² in size and is situated about 350 kilometers from Nairobi. The altitude in the park ranged from 800 to 1200 metres above sea level.

We checked into Samburu Intrepid’s Camp. The rooms are in permanent tents and are quite well appointed. We had dinner straight away; a delicious five course meal. The main course was an option between pasta, chicken or steak; I opted for the steak again.

After dinner it was around 10:00pm and I was exhausted so I went to bed right away

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Japan – Mt. Fuji & Jigokudani Monkey Park!!!

Welcome back! In this installment of my trip to Japan you’ll get to explore my side trip to Mt. Fuji and the wonderful place I visited called Jigokudani Monkey Park! Before leaving Tokyo I took a day trip to the town surrounding Mt. Fuji called Lake Kawaguchi. I rented a battery powered bicycle and toured the small town. Mt. Fuji was playing shy this day so I wasn’t able to see much of it.

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After leaving Tokyo I took a high speed Shinkansen train (only 320kph… no big deal right?) to Nagano, where I transferred to a lower speed local train to the small town of Shibu. Shibu was a bustling resort town back in its days, but has seen better days. It’s a ghost town these days, but is home to the Jigokudani Monkey Park! After a one hour trek from the train station to the monkey park I spent a few hours literally hanging out with the Japanese macaque! They would come right up to me, including the babies, which were only a few months old. This was the most memorable day of my trip by far. Take a look for yourself! Stay tuned for the next installment of my Japan trip; Nagano, and Matsumoto!!!

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