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!

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Vietnam – Day 6 – Hoi An Eco Cooking Tour

Today I unfortunately woke up early again at 5:00am. I did some photo editing in the room until it was time to have breakfast. For breakfast I had Cao Lau Noodles at the villa restaurant.

I booked myself a cooking class tour with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class Tour company on a recommendation from Viktor and Sandrine. I was picked up at 8:15am and was taken for a tour of the Hoi An food market before venturing on a boat ride on a traditional basket boat. I went fishing and caught 3 purple crabs! After riding on the basket boat it was time to start my cooking class.

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During the cooking class I learned how to make pho, eggplant aubergine, Vietnamese pancakes, fish sauce, aubergine sauce, and shrimp salad rolls. The cost of the cooking class was 750000 Dong ($46.85 CDN). The class ended at 1:30pm and I was dropped back off at the villa.

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It was time to check out sadly… it was an absolutely amazing villa! I stayed here for four nights and actually had the whole place to myself. This family run villa has the most amazing friendly staff that are eager to make your experience in Hoi An as perfect as possible. The rooms are spacious, clean and bright. The rooms have a super cold minibar fridge with cold drinks that are very fairly priced. The pool is incredible, especially on a hot day. My favourite staff member was Lap; she works in the afternoons. She’s so sweet and makes sure you have everything you need; including if the weather is bad she wants to make sure you don’t get wet and gives out rain ponchos. You can rent motorcycles for fairly cheap (110,000 Dong ($6.85 CSN) for a newer Honda automatic with lots of power). The complementary breakfast is amazing with an option of 13 different choices with Vietnamese and traditional western foods as options. They also have amazing fresh fruit juices and authentic Vietnamese coffee. I would absolutely stay here again and would recommend it to anyone.

After checking out I had a private driver drive me to Da Nang Airport for roughly 130000 Dong ($8.15 CDN). I arrived at the airport at around 3:00pm.

My Vietnam Airlines flight to Hanoi was at 5:00pm on an Airbus A321 CEO (Current Engine Option). After arriving at Hanoi I took a fairy expensive GRAB ride to my hotel; O’Gallery Majestic Hotel & Spa, for 272000 Dong ($17 CDN). I received two nights for free at this $200 CDN/night hotel on Hotels.ca for free. If you don’t use hotels.com or hotels.ca you should; every 10th night is free with a blended average rate from your previous 9 stays. This hotel has everything you can possible imagine; a private pool, a massive room with a luxurious king size bed, free food, mini bar, a 3:1 staff to tenant ratio. I highly recommend this hotel to anyone who wishes to visit Hanoi.

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After checking in I walked to the famous Hanoi rail tracks where the train passes by every day in the evening at 7:30pm. After taking pictures of the train I went for some chicken broth pho at Bahn Cuon Gia Truyen Thanh Van. After eating dinner I walked back to the hotel and went to bed.

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Check back tomorrow when I explore the massive city of Hanoi.

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Canadian Classic Tour – Grizzly Bears

A while back I had the amazing opportunity to go on a trip of a lifetime with my mom to Khutzeymateen, British Columbia. The tour is operated by Classic Canadian Tours (http://www.classiccanadiantours.com/). The tour involves taking a private chartered Boeing 737-300 on Canadian North to Prince Rupert where we boarded a beautiful 72 person catamaran and cruised up the inside passage into the Khutzeymateen grizzly sanctuary. Renowned Canadian Brian Keating was on the trip as one of the tour guides. We saw 28 grizzlies on this day, a new record according to Brian. We also saw some whales, and many different species of brids. The day was long, having woke up at 4am and returning at around 7pm, but was so worth it. Here’s a glimpse of some of my favorite photos.

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August 17th 2016 – Outback Tour Day 8 of 10

Today I woke up at 5:00am and had some complimentary toast and coffee for breakfast from the hostel. I the. Packed my bags and got ready to be picked up for our scheduled 6:05am departure. 6:05am rolled by and there was still no sign of the bus. It wasn’t until 6:30 that a huge 4×4 rolled up. We got upgraded to a 4×4, better meal services, and better tents complimentary due to not enough bookings so no complaints on my end! Our tour guide Nat (Natalie) introduced herself and we got on our way! I’m down to only one person from my original tour, as well as three others from my previous tour. The new group of people are not as fun as my previous two groups, which we’ve become to know as “family” in the outback.

Our first stop, 1.5 hours away, was Stuart Well, which was a place where we could do optional camel rides, but nobody felt like doing any. We had a short break, and I took some photos or some kangaroos and camels. We learned that camels were introduced to Australia from India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan because they were in need of an animal that was heartier and stronger than the horse to help built to overland telegraph line in the 1870’s. Camels could carry almost twice as much (400kg) as a horse, and don’t need water for weeks at a time. After the telegraph line was completed they were no longer in need of the camels so they set them free into the land. This created a massive over population problem and eventually lead to culling of the camels. At their peak they had over one million camels, but they are now down to a much more reasonable 300,000 camels. Camels in Australia are about as purebred as they come and are sometimes sold overseas.

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The next stop was Mount Ebenezer Station about another 1.5 hours away. This stop has a restaurant and bar, as well as an aboriginal art centre. The aboriginals paint here and their art is sold. They’ve even been invited to paint in the Sydney Opera House. We stayed here about half an hour before continuing on.

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The next stop was Fooluru, or Mount Conner. From afar it looks like Uluru (Ayres Rock), but it isn’t. We climbed the sand dune to see a better view of Mount Conner on one side, and a salt water lake on the other side. The reason for this is that Australia was an inland sea about 400 million years ago.

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After our stop at Mount Conner we went to Curtain Springs cattle station for a quick stop before continuing on to our campsite. We stopped on the side of the road at noon to pickup firewood for tonight. We arrived at camp at 12:45pm, had some sandwiches for lunch, and dropped off our bags, before leaving towards Uluru.

It was 2:30pm when we arrived at Uluru. We went inside the cultural centre to learn about Uluru, the aboriginals, and the general history in the area. Uluru was originally owned by the aboriginals until 1958, when they were pushed out by white people. The area was eventually returned to the aboriginals on October 26th 1985, but tourism was still allowed with a special 99 year lease, which is overseen by a board of management. Uluru is a pretty special place because it has received two awards; in 1987 it was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and in 1994 it was recognized for its cultural landscape as well.

After visiting the cultural centre we did two walks; the Mutitjulu Walk, and the Mala walk. After completing our walks we drove to a lookout overlooking Uluru to have champagne and watch the sunset.

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After the sunset we drove back to camp to have dinner, which was rice and chicken stir fry. The dinner was already prepared for us upon our return, due to having an upgraded package. I was really tired so I went to bed at around 10:00pm.

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August 10th 2016 – Outback Tour Day 1 of 10

Today I was picked up for my tour at 6:40am by my guide named Alex. She’s been in the tourism industry for nearly a decade now. The day started with a 1.5 hour drive to our first stop in Corroboree where we get a ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast as well as a coffee, as well as some fuel.


The second stop, which was another 1.5 hours drive, was rockhole billabong along the Mary River. We went on a 1.5 hour river cruise, which was absolutely fantastic. Billabongs are similar to what we know as a swamp. They are only 3-4 meters deep on average, with a maximum depth of 8 metres. I saw a Darter bird, Lotus Lillies, Snowflake Lillies, Melaleuca trees, Jacanas (a small bird that can run on top of water lillies, rainbow bee eaters (a small beautiful colourful bird), whistling tree ducks, and a Jabiro (a large bird with a 1.5 metre wing span).


The third stop, a half hour away, was the south Alligator River where we had delicious burgers, and salad. I helped cook and clean dishes. There are a few areas that were not named correctly because they were named Alligator Instead of Crocodile. There are no alligators in Australia, and quite a few rivers and places have been named incorrectly.


On the way to our fourth stop we saw a bunch of old Citroen 2CV’s in a pack doing a road trip. It was interesting to see.

The fourth stop was another 40 minutes away. We stopped at the Ubirr art sites. This is an area belonging to the indigenous people. There was a ton of old paintings dating back as far as 4000 years ago and as early as 180 years ago, when the white man set foot in Australia. I learned a few neat things at this site. When an indigenous person dies they get wrapped in paper bark (Melaleuca tree bark) and taken somewhere high to decompose and then they take the bones and wrap it in more paper bark and bury. The famous paintings all have a story behind them such as sickness, or beware of the white man, beware of the dingos, beware of thieves, etc. There was on that was a health warning about moving the rocks because they will make you sick. Turns out the rocks were making them sick because they contained high amounts of uranium, and we have modern science to back that up, but they only knew something wasn’t right because they were getting sick. This prompted them to paint a painting on the rock to warn the others. All the paintings on the rocks are done with a paste made from a mixture of ochre and water. We also got a chance to overlook the beautiful area all around us, and all I can say is it was absolutely stunning. Take a look for yourself.


The fifth spot, 40 minutes away, was Jabiru where we refilled the truck again, and got some ice cream. We have to refuel the truck a lot because it only has a 100 litre tank and the truck is massive and heavy.

The sixth and final spot today was the camp. It took us about an hour to get to but along the way we saw a tragic accident involving one of the 2CV’s we saw earlier where the vehicle got ripped to shreds and the people died on impact. It shook us all up so Alex said we could all get some beers from the liquor store at the camp ground we were staying at.

I helped Alex unhook our trailer and park the truck, and then starter to cook dinner because she needed to setup camp for the others. Dinner was a delicious chicken stir fry. After dinner a few of us helped do the dishes. We then heard a loud bang, and went outside the kitchen tent to take a look. A family was trying to park their RV but was failing miserably because they hit a tree. I took over for them and successfully parked it and they thanked me. Alex told me her boyfriend, who is also a tour guide, was staying elsewhere in the camp, so I could have her posh tent because she was just going to bunk with him. My even more upgrades tent had a nice mattress, a fan, and a place to charge my phones. I gladly accepted it and couldn’t be any happier.

Tomorrow we’re off to The Jim Jim River. I may or may not have service to update my blog but check back later for the next step in my adventure!

These photos are just taken with my iPhone but I will upload a blog at the end of this tour with all of my good SLR photos.

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