Cooking, Temples, & Monkeys – Ubud, Indonesia

Today we had to get up fairly early because we had an early pickup for a cooking class that we booked with Paon Bali Cooking Class, which only cost $35 each. We started off by walking over to the Westin Hotel for a $10 all you can eat buffet, which ended up being pretty good.

After breakfast we walked back, to where our driver was already waiting for us. He first stopped in a local nearby market so we could see where all the locals purchased groceries. After walking around the market he drove us to his house, where his wife taught us how to cook 7 traditional Balinese dishes over the next 3 hours. The food was absolutely incredible!

After our cooking class we were dropped back off at our hotel. We hopped on our scooter and went into Ubud to visit Ubud Palace, and the Sacred Monkey Temple, where there’s over 700 grey long-tailed Macaques. Most of them were minding their own business, but there were a few curious ones, including one that was particularly interested in Julie’s pink shoes. We also saw a few of them get into fights with each other. We even saw a bunch of really cute babies!

After visiting the Sacred Monkey Temple we went back to the hotel for a few hours to relax by the pool, before heading on a bit of an adventure to get dinner. We had to drop off our scooter at 6:30pm because our rental was up, and then we walked a few kilometre’s to a restaurant called Wild Air, however when we arrived we were told that we needed to have a reservation. Darn! We then walked up one of the main streets and settled on a place called Liap Liap, which was actually quite good. After dinner it was pouring rain, so we took a GRAB (think Uber) back to our hotel, which only cost about $3.

Temples! – Bali, Indonesia

Today we took another a custom tour with Bali Customized Tours to Eastern Bali. Our tour included “The Mother Temple” known as Besakih, a Bamboo Forest, Penglipuran Ancient Village, and Gunung Kawi Ancient Tomb. Our driver today was Ambara.

Before we were picked up we had a delicious breakfast prepared by the lovely staff at Hideout Bali. I had a traditional breakfast with eggs and delicious toast, and Julie had porridge and fruit.

First stop was the “Mother Temple”, also known as the Besakih Great Temple. It is a pura complex in the village of Besakih on the slopes of Mount Agung in Eastern Bali. It is the tallest, holiest, and most important temple in Bali, sometimes drawing as many as a million visitors on some of the holiest days of the year. In fact, this is considered one of the largest Hindu complex’s in the entire world. The extensive complex contains 23 separate but related temples, with the largest and most important being Pura Penataran Agung. The temple is built on six levels, terraced up the slope. The entrance is marked by a split gate. In the temple there are a plethora of pagoda’s with 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 roofs, which symbolize the different gods. This temple is undergoing an extensive $150 million upgrade to allow better parking, access, and more shop fronts. During our visit here we were blessed, and I still wear my red, black, and white bracelet that I was given after I was blessed.

Next stop was the Penglipuran Ancient Village, which was also next door the Bali’s largest Bamboo Forest, spanning over 20 hectares. Penglipuran Village is one of the few traditional Balinese villages remaining. The architecture of the buildings and land processing still follows the concept of Tri Hita Karana, the philosophy of Balinese society regarding the balance of relations between God, humans, and their environment.

The place we visited before grabbing lunch was Gunung Kawi, also known as Candi Tebing Gunung Kawi. Gunung Kawi is an 11th century temple and funeral complex in Tampaksiring, which is North East of Ubud. It is comprised of 10 rock-cut shrines (candi) that are carved into 7 metre (23 foot) high sheltered chines of the sheer cliff face. There are monuments dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana dynasty, as well as his favorite queens. On the Eastern side of the complex are five temples that are dedicated to King Udayana, his Queen Mahendradatta, and their three sons Airlangga, Anak Wunsu and Marakata. On the West side of the complex are temples dedicated to the King’s minor Queens.

After visiting the temple it was time to get some lunch. We ended up stopping at a local Warung. I had some duck, which honestly wasn’t very good, and was a rather small portion. After lunch we stopped at Oka Agriculture Bali to do some tea and coffee tasting, which included Kopi Luwak, which is a coffee that consists of partially digested coffee cherries that were eaten and defecated by an Asian Pal Civet. Honestly, which the coffee was quite smooth, I prefer regular coffee. We samples 16 different coffees and teas, and ended up purchasing some Ginger Tea and Mangosteen Tea.

After our coffee and tea tasting we drove a short distance to a local wood carving shop, and were able to see them creating their beautiful art work. It’s amazing how much effort goes into creating these carvings. We opted not to purchase anything due to limited space in our luggage.

It was then time to head back to our final night at Hideout Bali. We ordered some local Balinese dishes for dinner, and enjoyed watching some Netflix in bed, because the mosquitos were too bad to be out on our balcony.

Hideout – Bali, Indonesia

Today we took a custom tour with Bali Customized Tours to Northeast Bali. Our tour included visiting a traditional Balinese salt making village, Lempuyang Temple, and the Royal Water Palace (Tirta Gangga).

We were picked up for our tour at 8:00am. Our driver’s name was Dawa. The tour started with a 2 hour drive from Uluwatu to a traditional Balinese salt making village. Along the way I asked our driver to stop for more cash, as we were burning through it much faster than I thought we would. The cost of food and entry fee’s has increased significantly since I planned this trip pre-COVID. To make salt the traditional Balinese way, salt water is obtained from the sea in two large buckets, spread over black volcanic sand to filter out impurities, and then the water is placed in cored-out tree trunks that are split in half. This water then evaporates over several weeks, and you’re left with pure sea salt. This is tremendously hard physical labour, but I’m convinced the salt tastes better in Indonesia than it does back at home.

After visiting the salt making village we drove another 1.5 hours to Lempuyang Temple. Lempuyang Temple is a Balinese Hindu temple located on the slope of Mount Lempuyang. Mount Lempuyang is believed to predate the majority of Hindu temples on Bali. The history of the temple is somewhat vague unfortunately. The temple was fully restored in 2001. At the temple you need to park at the bottom, and take a bus up a very windy road to the top. This was supposed to cut down on the amount of traffic, and increase safety, but it was still complete chaos. At the temple I saw a guy proposing to his girlfriend at the temple gates. It was a really cute event to experience. Also, at the temple we got some cute photos taken at various Instagram spots, because why not?

Following the temple visit we stopped by a rice field to get some panoramic shots, before continuing on to lunch at Dewata Agung Tirtagangga, where I had some peanut satay chicken, and Julie had a bunch of massive shrimp. I invited our driver to have some lunch with us, although later on I found out that Balinese people typically don’t eat during the day because they are fasting due to their religion. I think he accepted just to be polite. Oops!

After lunch we drove just a few minutes away to Royal Water Palace (Tirta Gangga). Tirta Gangga is a former royal palace in Eastern Bali. It is named after the sacred river Ganges. The complex spans over 1 hectare and was built in 1946 by the late King of Karangsem, and was almost fully destroyed in 1963 when Mount Agung erupted. Mount Agung also erupted again in 2017, but didn’t cause any damage that time round.

It was now time to check-in to our accommodation for the evening. I booked an A-Frame bamboo house called Hideout Bali, located in Selat. This place isn’t cheap, at $250 USD/night, but its certainly worth it. The A-Frame is situated next to a river, which we ended up spending a few hours relaxing in. The accommodation also features an outdoor rainfall shower, but don’t worry it’s completely surrounded by a luscious forest of bamboo so you do have privacy. This was one of the most enjoyable experiences that I’ve ever had throughout all of my travels. During our stay we had access to staff who would cook us dinner. We ordered some traditional Balinese dishes for dinner, relaxed for a few hours, before calling it a night. All this adventuring certainly doesn’t allow for much downtime to relax, so we’ve been ready to go to bed before 9:00pm most evenings.

Singapore

Today we woke up at around 10am, got ready, and set out for the day. We first checked out what The Jewel looked like during the day. It’s an absolute gorgeous piece of architecture.

After admiring the waterfall for a while, we went in search of breakfast. We settled on Starbucks, as it was one of the first food places that we found. I had a breakfast sandwich, and Julie had a granola bar, as that was the only gluten-free item that she could find there.

After breakfast we took the MRT (Singapore Metro) into the city center. We ended up getting a two-day tourist pass for about $26. The journey takes about an hour, and requires you to switch about ¼ of the way into the journey. The metro line to the airport was added afterwards, so it was a bit of an afterthought, but there are plans to have a direct line later on.

When we arrived in the city center it was pouring rain. Before we dive into our adventure lets take a look at Singapore’s history.

Singapore’s History

Singapore, officially known as the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island country and city-state. Singapore’s territory consists of one main island, and 63 small satellite islands and islets, and one outlying islet. Singapore’s history dates back about 1000 years, having been a maritime hub of many empires. Singapore’s contemporary era began in 1819 when Singapore was established as a trading post of the British Empire. In 1867, the colonies in SE Asia were reorganized and Singapore came under the direct control of Britain as part of the Straits Settlements. Singapore was occupied by Japan during World War 2 from 1942 to 1945, before being returned to British control as a sperate crown colony following Japan’s surrender in 1945. Singapore gained self-governance in 1959 and in 1963 became part of the new federation of Malaysia. Singapore became an independent sovereign country in 1965. After years of struggling due to lack of natural resources the national rapidly developed to become one of the world’s most recognizable countries. It is ranked as the 11th best country to live in by the Human Development Index (HDI), which is defined by the United Nations.

Exploring Singapore

First stop was Raffles Hotel. The Raffles Hotel is a colonial-style luxury hotel that was built in 1887. It was established by Armenian hoteliers, the Sarkies Brothers, and was named after British statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who was the founder of modern Singapore. It is currently managed by the Accor group of hotels, and features 115 luxurious rooms.

After walking around the hotel in the rain we went and had a buffet lunch at Colony, which is located in the Ritz Carlton. For about $80 you have access to an immense selection of delicious foods from all over the world. While this is a fairly steep price back at home, this is somewhat normal pricing in Singapore. Singapore happens to be the most expensive place I’ve visited in SE Asia, and one of the more expensive places I’ve visited globally, only to be trumped by Switzerland, and eventually Norway when I visit there next year.

After stuffing our faces at the buffet we walked past the Singapore Flyer, which wasn’t operating, but was still neat to see. Singapore Flyer is a 165 metre (541 foot) tall Ferris wheel, and was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel until the 168 metre (550 foot) tall High Roller Ferris wheel opened in Las Vegas in 2014. The High Roller is now in second place, and the Singapore Flyer is now in third place stacked against the Ain Dubai Ferris wheel, which stands at 250 metres (820 feet) tall. The Ain Dubai Ferris wheel was constructed between 2015 and 2021, official opening in October 2021.

We then hopped on the MRT to see the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a Chinese Buddhist temple and museum complex that was completed in 2007. The beautiful temple is four-storey’s tall and contains a relic tooth of Buddha from a collapses stupa (temple). The tooth measures 7.5 cm, which far exceeds the size of a human tooth. The relic tooth is located on the fourth floor, however I was not allowed to take any photographs of it.

We were then going to see the Sri Mariamman Temple, however it was closed for renovations. We walked past it on our way back to the MRT. The Sri Mariamman Temple is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple. It’s an agamic temple, built in the Dravidian style. It was completed in 1827 by Naraina Pillai. Pillai was a government clerk from Penang who arrived in Singapore with Sir Stamford Raffles on his second visit to the island in May 1819. Pillai setup the island’s first construction company, and also took part in the textile trade business. He quickly became a leader of the Indian community. The original temple was a simple temple made of wood and attap (mangrove palm). The temple grounds were expanded in 1831 when private land was donated to the temple. This event is recognized on a stone tablet, which stand in the temple to this day. The temple underwent numerous modifications since then, with the majority of the current day temple being built between 1862 and 1863. While much of the original structure is no longer there, the oldest parts of the existing structure date back to 1843.

We walked through a traditional market on our way back to the MRT. It was really neat to see the local vendors selling their goods. The smell of warm durian was a bit overwhelming though.

We took the MRT to Marina Bay area. We exited the Marina Bay MRT station into the large mall adjacent to the Marina Bay Sands. There’s a small Venice style canal with gondolas inside the mall, surrounded by shops on both sides. It reminded me a bit of The Venetian in Las Vegas. We took two very long escalators up to the top floor, which connects to the Marina Bay Sands. Marina Bay Sands is a beautiful resort hotel fronting Marina Bay. The resort is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corporation and cost about $8 billion to build in 2010. The resort includes a 2561 room hotel, a 1.3 million square foot convention centre, a 800000 square foot shopping mall, a museum, a theatre, restaurants, two floating crystal pavilions, art-science exhibits, and the world’s largest casino, which includes 500 tables and 1600 slot machines. The hotel is comprised of three towers topped by a 340 metre long Sky Park and infinity swimming pool. A fourth tower is expected to be constructed by 2026.

After walking through the hotel we walked towards Gardens By The Bay. Inside Gardens By The Bay is Floral Fantasy, Supertree Grove, and two conservatories; the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. First stop was Floral Fantasy, which has four beautiful garden landscapes of floral artistry. It also has a 4D ride, however that was closed due to COVID.

Next door is Supertree Grove, which has 18 tree-like structures that tower over the Garden’s landscape with heights ranging from 25 to 50 metres (82-160 feet). The Supertree’s are vertical gardens that perform many functions including planting, shading, and mechanical functions for the gardens. They are covered in exotics ferns, vines, orchids, bromeliads, etc. They are even fitted with solar panels to harness solar energy to be used for lighting, collect rainwater, and serve as air intake and exhaust functions for the conservatories cooling systems. There is an elevated walkway called the OCBC Skyway, which links the two largest Supertree’s so that you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Gardens. Every evening at 745pm and 845pm the Supertree Grove comes alive with a coordinated light and music show, which is known as the Garden Rhapsody.

The Flower Dome is the largest greenhouse is the world at 3.0 acres, and replicates a cool-day Mediterranean climate. It features a changing display, flower field, and eight other gardens; including the Baobabs, Succulent Garden, Australian Garden, South African Garden, South American Garden, Olive Grove, California Garden, and the Mediterranean Garden. While we were they there was a special Hydrangeas display, with cute scenes with bunnies, sheep, a Dutch windmill, etc. The conservatory is designed by WilkinsonEyre and Grant Associates.

The Cloud Forest is slight smaller at 2.0 acres, although slightly higher, and replicates the cool moist conditions found in tropical mountain regions in SE Asia, Central America, and South America found between 1000-3000 metres (3300-9800 feet) above sea level. The Cloud Forest features a structure called the “Cloud Mountain”, which is completely clad in orchids, ferns, spike and clubmosses, bromeliads, and anthuriums. The conservatory is also designed by WilkinsonEyre and Grant Associates.

The sun was starting to set, and we were getting hungry, so we had some burgers at Shake Shack, which was located inside Gardens By The Bay. On our way out, we walked past the Garden Rhapsody at Supertree Grove to see the tree’s all lit up. It was pretty neat!

We then walked along Fullterton Road, which is located on the other side of Marina Bay. We saw the Fullerton Waterboat House, and Merlion.

The Fullerton Waterboat House is a historic water supply house that was formerly used to supply fresh water to incoming ships in Singapore. This beautiful three-storey Art Deco style building was built in 1919, and was used to supply fresh water to incoming vessels until 1990. In 2002 it was announced by the government that the building would be protected. In 2003 the building was renovated and opened up as a restaurant. While numerous restaurants have called the Fullerton Waterboat House home over the last 20 years, it still is used as a restaurant today. Basque Kitchen by Aitor, and European restaurant chain Picotin now call the building home as of 2021.

Merlion is the official mascot of Singapore. It is a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. It was first used in Singapore as a the logo for the tourism board as early as 1964, and is now widely used to represent both the city state and its people in sports teams, advertising, branding, tourism, and as national personification. The official Merlion Park was designated by the Singapore Tourism Board in 1964, and in 1972 officially opened the 8.6 metre tall Merlion Statue.

It was around 9pm, and we were fairly exhausted from only sleeping a few hours, so it was time to catch the MRT back to the hotel. It was about 1030pm by the time we settled in for bed.

Eastern Europe Trip – Day 7 – Last Day in Belgrade, Serbia

Today was my final day in Belgrade, Serbia. I slept in until 7:30 am, went downstairs, purchased a sandwich from a shop below, and was eating it when I ran into the receptionist arriving for work. We chatted for a bit before I went out on my adventures for the day, and I owed her money for the airport transfer because she forgot to charge me when I checked in.

It was raining cats and dogs today, and my shoes were starting to get some fairly large holes in them. I felt like a wet dog the majority of the day. The first stop was the Old Belgrade Railway Station. The railway station was opened in 1884 and remained open until just a few years ago in 2018. It was designed by architect Dragutin Milutinovic in academism style. Trains were relocated to a new railway station, and the current one was repurposed into a museum.

A very short walk away are two unique buildings; The Railway Museum, and the Ministry of Defence. The Railway Museum was founded in 1950. The first exhibition was held in 1953 and feature the History of Yugoslav Railways. The museum features over 40,000 objects, however, I didn’t go inside as it was closed today.

The Ministry of Defence building was constructed between 1957 and 1965 and was designed by Nikola Dobrović. The building was built in two parts; building A and building B. Each building was on either side of Nemanjina Steet. The building was destroyed fairly extensively during the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia. It was actually bombed twice, nine days apart. The building was not repaired for over a decade, however, since building B was much less damaged parts of it are still used by the Ministry of Defence of Serbia. In 2005 it was added to the list of protected buildings. In 2015 the first phase of reconstruction of Building A was started, for the purpose of structure collapse prevention. In 2017 the government decided to demolish most of building A, with the obligation to rebuild it to its original appearance once the country has funds. The reason for this decision was that the reconstruction costs were about 7.7 million Euros, whereas the demolition cost was only 1.5 million euros. Over the years there were talks about converting building A into a luxury hotel, building a monument, or building a museum.

It was starting to rain even harder, so I took the bus instead of walking to the Temple of Saint Sava. The Temple of Saint Sava, also known as the Church of Sant Sava is a Serbian Orthodox Church that was designed by architects Bogdan Nestorović, Aleksandar Deroko, and Branko Pešić. The building is built in a Serbo-Byzantine and Neo-Byzantine architecture style. The church took an extremely long time to be built due to a variety of factors. Construction started in 1935 and the building is still under construction, with work scheduled for completion sometime this year. When Yugoslavia was under occupation by the Germans in 1941 the church was only 10 metres (33 feet) high. The incomplete building was used as a depot by the German army. After the war, the church was unable to receive permission to complete the building until 1984. The church has a symmetrical layout and a 12,000 square metre (130,000 square foot) gold mosaic that should be complete sometime this year.

After visiting the temple I took a bus to see a quirky building called the Toblerone Building, which gets its name from it resembling that of a bunch of pieces of Toblerone chocolate pieces stacked on one another. The Toblerone Building is a Brutalism style building designed by architect Rista Šekerinski and was completed in 1963.

I took the bus back to my hotel, where I purchased a salad from the shop below. I chatted with the receptionist for a bit, ate my salad, and relaxed, before heading out to see the Nikola Tesla Museum. The Nikola Tesla Museum is dedicated to the life and work of Nikola Tesla. It has over 160,000 documents, 2000 books and journals, 1500 photographs, various objects and instruments, and over 1000 plans and drawings. The Nikola Tesla Archive is a UNESCO Memory of the World Programme register since 2003. The museum is housed in a residential villa that was built in 1927. It was used for various purposes until the museum open on December 5th, 1952.

The final stop for today was an automotive museum that I found close to my hotel. There were a few dozen fairly well-preserved cars in there, which were fun to look at. Sadly, the roof of the building is leaking, and some of the cars are getting water damage.

For dinner, I had a comically large slice of pizza from a pizza place around the corner, and it was only $2.45. It was basically 1/3 of a 14″ pizza!

Tomorrow I fly to Budapest, so be sure to stay tuned for the next part of my series.

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Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary 2020

Last weekend Julie, my Mom, and I visited the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. It was the second time that my mom and I have visited, and this time we brought along Julie. Mom and I last visited in 2018; you can view my post here.

Both of them thoroughly enjoyed visited the sanctuary. There were a few changes this times due to COVID-19; people had to sanitize their hands before entering the complex, and they also had to have their parties separated by 2 metres, which actually made for a better experience in my opinion.

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Their wolfhound pup named Finn, who was born in 2018, was all grown up now. It’s amazing to see how big he grew!

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Scott was our tour guide this time. First he took us to the Yamnuska Pack (high wolf content except Nikki), which included Kuna (3/4 White and Grey), Zeus (Black and Grey), Nova (Full White), and Nikki (white, grey, brown).

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Afterwards we were taken to the low content Cascade Pack, which included Rue, Loki, and Rocky.

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After the tour we explored the Rundle Pack (Nakita & Lark), Castle Pack (Kasha, Horton), Grotto Pack (Ruby & Enzo), Temple Pack (TK & Kaida), Norquay Pack (Kiba & Shadow), Galatea Pack (Freya & Odin), as well as their goats, and husky mascot.

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Cambodia – Day 3 – Even More Temples, Tonle Sap & Heading Home

Today was my last day in Cambodia before heading home back to Canada. I was picked up from my hotel at 8:30am. I skipped breakfast because the hotel breakfast was rather disappointing. After being picked up I was driven to the first stop of the day; Banteay Srei. Banteay Srei was built in 967 AD out of red sandstone, and brick. The temple complex is elaborately decorated in wall carvings, which are well preserved.

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Next stop was Banteay Samre. Banteay Samre is a Hindu Temple that was built in the early 12th century in the Angkor Wat style. It was named after the ancient people of Indochina.

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Lunch was at Khmer Angkor Kitchen. I had a traditional meat and vegetable stir-fry dish, which was pretty good. In the afternoon we visited Tonle Sap. Tonle Sap is a massive fresh water lake, which used to be part of the sea thousands of years ago. It was interesting to see where a lot of Cambodians went fishing, but sadly this lake is so badly polluted I can’t sit idly and not say something about it. We have a SERIOUS global pollution and garbage problem. It honestly sickens my stomach to think that I ate fish from this lake a few days ago. The whole lake is covered in a plume of algae and coolant / fuel from leaking boats. The shore is covered in garbage and plastic. As a society we consume way too much, use too many single-use plastics (in fact we shouldn’t use ANY single-use plastics), and we should be more thoughtful with our use and maintenance of transportation. Sadly, the Cambodians are just trying to survive and are not able to even consider any of these factors. This is a serious problem in the developing world, and I’ve mentioned this in the past in my travels to Thailand.

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After visiting Tonle Sap I was dropped off at Siem Reap airport, where I relaxed for a few hours at the Starbucks before boarding a Vietnam Airlines flight to Ho Chi Minh City, where I ended up staying the night. I stayed at The Airport Hotel, which was a 15 minute walk away and only cost me $35 CDN.

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I had to wake up the next day at 4:00am for a 7:00am flight to Tokyo, Japan and then onwards to San Francisco, USA and then finally home. The first flight was on an All Nippon Airways (ANA) Boeing 767-300ER, the second flight was on a United Airlines Boeing 777-300ER, and the last fight was on a United Airlines Express CRJ200. I must admit that United Airlines has severely disappointed over the last few years; the seats being quite uncomfortable, and the food being mostly inedible. I will go out of my way to avoid flying them in the future. You can see below what was supposed the be breakfast, but ended up resembling something that I wouldn’t even give to a dog. That’s an omlette, not a chicken breast…

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There will be a bit of a lull with new material for the next few weeks as I have some weddings I have to shoot, but do stay tuned for my weddings, hiking, and a quick trip to Belgium in October.

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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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Vietnam – Day 9 – Ninh Binh & Hanoi

Today I woke up at 3:30am when the power went out. The room became unbearably stuffy because there was no air-conditioning or air flow from the fan. I managed to finally get back to sleep before waking up again at 6:00am. I decided to go downstairs to get some breakfast and a coffee before getting ready to head out for the day. Oh by the way did I mention that my place has the cutest puppies I’ve ever seen!

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I started to ride my motorcycle into the town of Ninh Binh so that I could get more cash from the bank, as I was running low on cash. Sadly the motorcycle died and I had to do a walk of shame for about 1.5km before coming to a gas station. I filled the motorcycle up with gas, but sadly it still wasn’t working properly. I kept stalling out unless I gunned the throttle, but even then it would start to hesitate after a few seconds. I finally figured out a movement that seemed to work; hold the throttle full blast for 3 seconds, let off for a few seconds, and then repeat. I managed to get into town and pick up more cash.

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After picking up cash I rode the motorcycle to the Danh Thang Trang An boat tours, about 10km away. The motorcycle was really starting to act up now, and even dying for up to 10 minutes every few kilometers. Again, I figured out another trick; if I bounced on the bike up and down a lot, and then sloshed the fuel from side to side then it would eventually start if I help the throttle down half way. Eventually I got to the boat tours at about 10:00am. Along the way I did see this beautiful looking temple from the side of the road, as well as a very cool gateway.

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The boat tour lasted about 3 hours and cost 200000 Dong ($12.50 CDN). The tour took the group of four people through numerous caves and to a few temples. It was absolutely fascinating!

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After finishing the tour I rode the motorcycle back to the hotel, about 10km away. It took me over one hour to get back because the bike kept on breaking down. When I got back to the hotel I explained what was happening to the owner and she said that she would take a look at it. Unfortunately within 15 minutes she had already loaned it out to someone else, which I found to be quite dishonest.

I was feeling quite hungry at this point in time, as it was well past lunch time, so I decided to walk down the street and see if I could find something to eat. I came across this nice small restaurant called Sunflower Tam Coc and ordered some pho, salad rolls, and some fresh beer.

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After lunch I walked back to the hotel, checked out, and ordered a GRAB to the Ninh Binh train station. The fare for the ride was 80000 Dong ($5 CDN), but all I had was a 200000 Dong note for which he didn’t have change for. It wasn’t a big deal for me and I told him to keep the change, but he insisted on getting me the correct change. He ran around the six different stores asking for them to make change, all the while leaving me inside his car with the keys in the ignition and the engine running. I felt pretty bad for the guy. Remember, in Vietnam it is not customary to tip and many people will flat our refuse even if its a nice gesture. Oh and safety isn’t top priority in this country; take a look at his seatbelt reminder defeat with a plastic spoon!

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I was about 1.5 hours early for the train, but ended up talking with the nice young man from Chile that was backpacking around SE Asia. The train ride back to Hanoi took about 2.25 hours. After arriving in Hanoi I took a GRAB to the hotel I was staying at two nights ago so that I could pick up my passport before carrying onto my new hotel called Hotel Golden Art. Hotel Golden Art wasn’t the nicest, but it did the trick for the night.

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After checking  into the hotel I walked down the street to a fast food Bahn Mi place called Pho Bahn Mi. The food was absolutely delicious, in fact I ordered a second because it was so good. After having dinner I walked back to the hotel and went to bed.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when I take a brief pause from the Vietnam series to share a recent hike that I completed with my father to Plains of Six Glaciers, before continuing with my Vietnam series. The next part in my Vietnam series has me travelling to Ha Long Bay, so be sure to stay tuned!

If you like the content that I produce and want to donate money towards the upkeep of my site, my travel, or buy me a cup of coffee please feel free to contribute towards it. I really appreciate it.

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