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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Vermilion Lakes

Last weekend I went to Vermilion Lakes with my friend Hadrian to photograph Mount Rundle at sunrise. Hadrian met me at my house at 5:30am and we drove together in my car. We arrived at Vermilion Lakes shortly after 7:00am and setup our equipment. Our initial thoughts were that it was going to be a spectacular sunrise due to the clear sky with moderate higher clouds. We definitely were in for quite the treat this morning.

The key to getting great shots of Mount Rundle from Vermilion Lakes is to situate your gear really low to the water. Hadrian uses something called a Platty Pod, which is a massive aluminum plate that has a shoe mount that you can screw into your camera. This is as low as it gets essentially. I had to improvise with some rocks and ice chunks since I don’t own a Platty Pod. I also took some photographs on the tripod with it at it’s lowest settings, but the shots were not quite as dramatic as I was hoping for, hence moving to the rocks and ice chunks.

After watching the spectacular sunrise we drove to Lake Louise, where we didn’t get very far due to an unfortunate slip and fall, so we returned to Calgary.

Be sure to check back in just over a weeks time when C and I depart on our trip to Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. This is a trip you won’t want to miss!

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August 18th 2016 – Outback Tour Day 9 of 10

Today we woke up at 5:30am. Breakfast was raisin toast and good coffee made from a French press. This was the best coffee I’ve had on this trip so far, because all the other days have been instant coffee. After breakfast I loaded my bag into the truck and climbed a large sand dune to watch the sun rise at Uluru. The sunrise occurred around 7:00am. After watching the absolutely stunning sunrise we all went back to the truck and left camp at around 7:50am.
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We drove the the Valley of the Winds (Katja Tjuta) for a walk. We did a complete loop around the valley, which took a few hours going at a fairly slow pace so that everyone could keep up. In the Valley of the Winds there are 36 domes, which were created when the inland sea from 450 million years ago disappeared. There was a large earth movement, the plates collided, and then the sandstone formation hardened.
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We learned about quite a few unique things about the vegetation in the area along our walk. We learned that Mulga Trees are used to make boomerangs. Boomerangs differ in shape and design depending where you live in Australia. On the coast boomerangs are designed to come back to you, so you don’t have to swim to get your boomerang once you’ve thrown it. In the centre of Australia boomerangs were typically used to take out kangaroos and wallabies so they didn’t need the boomerang to come back. We also learned that Kangaroo’s can’t walk backwards. One more thing we learned was that Mulla Mulla, a purple flower was used by the indigenous people to lay down their babies in because it was so soft; specifically the bulbs of the royal Mulla Mulla, which is about three or four times the standard Mulla Mulla. There is also a bush called a last chance bush that has medicine in it that can be used to get rid of a wart among other things.
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We finished our walk at around noon, then drove about two hours to Curtain Springs cattle station where we had hamburgers and beef sausages for lunch. I also purchased a few cans of beer for tonight’s dinner. The cattle station is owned by a gentleman named ash, and is comprised of over a million acres. When the property was first purchased they went through 9 years of drought. Underneath the property lies a huge artesian basin with water depths ranging from 30 to 260 metres. Water is pumped to the top where it can be used for agriculture as well as drinking water. Something unique we learned about cows is that they are willing to travel a fairly significant distance to obtain water. Out in the outback they use water to control cows. If a cow is needed in a certain area water is pumped to a watering station or watering hole, while all the others are turned off. At this particular cattle station they used to process all their own meat, but in the 1980’s the government changed the laws so they sent their meat down Adelaide for processing. There were lots of birds at this cattle station.
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After lunch we had a very long drive to Kings Canyon cattle station, where we were staying for the night. This cattle station was smaller, about half the size. We arrived at about 5:30pm. After we arrived we picked tents. The one I originally picked had a bunk bed with a queen bed on the bottom. I asked a French couple from New Caledonia if they wanted to switch tents with me so they could be together because I didn’t need a queen bed. His English was really bad so somehow he mistook me as wanting to sleep with his wife and he got upset. We all tried to explain to him and he eventually got it and we switched tents. We couldn’t stop laughing afterwards.
We prepared food for dinner and put it in the campfire. We climbed up a sand dune to watch the sunset at 7:30pm. We even flew a drone owned by one of the people in my group over the site to check the site out. I looks very beautiful from a birds eye perspective.
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We had dinner at 8:00pm. Dinner was Kangaroo, cooked vegetables, and pesto pasta served with red and white wine. I had a glass of red wine, and some of the beer I purchased earlier today.
We stayed around the campfire talking until about 9:30pm, when i decided I was too tired, so I went back to my tent to go to bed.

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