Posts Tagged With: temple

June 5th -Day 17 – Angkor Wat

There’s no denying that Angkor Wat is the headline on the itinerary for this trip.  It’s the largest religious site in the world and our last major visit before the end of the itinerary.

The most popular way to visit Angkor Wat is at sunrise, so we scheduled to this – which meant meeting at 4:45am for our trip out to the temple. We had to meet so early because at 5am we had to buy our tickets, to get to the site before the run began rising at 5:30.  Since the hotel didn’t open breakfast until 6, I grabbed a quick protein bar in my room, a rather refreshing shower and met with the group at 4:45, just in time to be introduced to our local guide in Siem Reap.

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Our 4:45am bus 

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Queueing to get our tickets

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My 3 day ticket, with stunning photo printed on there

We took the bus out to the ticket centre, where we queued up and had our photo taken.  The tickets are quite expensive ($40 for a 3 day ticket) and have photos printed onto them, so each of us had to present ourself even though the ticket price was included in the itinerary.

After we got our tickets, the bus driver raced with the rest of the tourists to head to the border of Angkor Wat, where we had to present our tickets to be allowed through the checkpoint.

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As the bus dropped us off, the sun was just creeping up

Once we got off the bus, the photo opportunities didn’t stop.  Rather than give you a blow by blow account, i’m going to let the photos and comments on those do the talking.

It was so hot inside Angkor Wat, and we spent around 2 hours exploring the site before it was time to head back to the hotel for breakfast.  It was hard to believe how much we’d achieved in just a few hours of the day – and there was plenty more to come! Since the weather forecast is bad for tomorrow, we tried to cram as much as possible into today.

I had a quick shower back at the hotel and then joined the rest of the group for breakfast before chilling out and regrouping at 10am to head to Bayon, the second most famous temple in the Siem Reap area.  Bayon is located inside an area known as Angkor Thom. On the way into Angkor Thom, we passed over one of the entry bridges which has 57 statues lining the side of the road, and came across a patch of monkeys including a particularly cheeky one who jumped onto someones motorcycle! Just as we finished photographing the monkeys, a group of Elephants paraded past. I’m not even making this up!

So yes, it was 10am and i’d been to the biggest temple in the world, seen sun rise, seen monkeys, elephants and we hadn’t even got to Bayon yet.  Again, click the photos for details:

I have to say, Bayon blew me away. I’ve been to Machu Picchu, but it had nothing on this in terms of impression it left in my brain.  Bayon is insane. It’s from another world. The faces, the structure and the presence of the whole place was something else.

Shortly after our tour of Bayon, we stopped for a toilet break. I dared to go look at one of the nearby stalls, and bought some postcards and a t-shirt from one of the vendors there.  The vendors are borderline aggressive in their sales technique and once i’d bought, they followed me to the coach and tried to convince everyone else to buy from them as well. The amounts they’re asking are tiny ($5 for a t-shirt, $1 for 10 postcards!) but they persist until you agree!

After the toilet break we had time for one more stop – at a site known as the Elephant Lodge.  Again, it’s super famous and it was really cool to see all the intricate carvings and imagine how everything was constructed many thousands of years ago. The entire Angkor area must have been such a site back when everything was being constructed – almost all of the temples were constructed in a 100 year period.

After the Elephant Lodge, we headed to our lunch stop.  Lunch today was included thanks to G-adventures support of the New Hope foundation, a site which runs yet another training restaurant, but also a school, medical care facility and social agency for under privileged families in Cambodia.  We ate an amazing meal including Crickets (which I opted out of!) before getting a talk from the New Hope staff about the facility and the good work they’re doing.  They take volunteers so if you’re looking for something good to do with your life, you could do worse than look them up!

So, just to point this out – it’s now just after lunch time and i’ve visited 3 amazing historic sites, seen sun rise, eaten food prepared by underprivileged students being educated by a NGO foundation, and now we’re heading back to the hotel to avoid the heat. Today was definitely a sense of achievement day!

At 6pm we headed back into Pub Street for a few more cocktails and dinner – which ended up with me heading out to join a younger Gadventures group (on a YOLO tour) for a few more drinks after the rest of the group headed out. I had visions of staying out super late, but my energy level was pretty low by 11 and decided to head back to the hotel and be sensible – we had another pre-7am start tomorrow!

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May 26th – Day 7 – Ashes, Fishes and Frogs

We begin our tale with a joyful 4am wake up from a friendly mosquito, who decided to become acquainted with my base of my foot.  And my knee. And the side of my face.  Stupidly, I didn’t consider mosquito protection (hey, I’m in a hotel) before going to bed – but apparently there was a little mosquito repellent by the door which you’re meant to turn on before going to sleep.  Hey, you live and learn – at least I’m taking malarials and the bites aren’t particularly itchy, so I think I lucked out.

We had an 8am scheduled start, so I got up at 6:45 and took a shower… A cold one, since the hotel water system doesn’t seem to offer warm water unless you have the patience of a saint.  I promise the day gets better from here on in!

The view at breakfast

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast is served in the little hotel restaurant by the lily pond.  It was again buffet style, but really nice local dishes – coconut pancakes, papaya and dragon fruit, etc. I really enjoyed the watermelon juice.

At 8 we met to start our day tour, and meet our local guide for Luang Prabang. Our local guide is Yang – he works for a local agency which GAdventures use in Laos and he’ll be with us for the days in Laos. We got a quick briefing in the hotel then jumped on the minibus for our 2 minute ride to the first temple of the day – Wat Visoun Narath.  This is quite an old temple in Luang Prabang and definitely a change from the ones we visited in Thailand –  it was old and dusty rather than the bright shiny gold we saw in Thailand. There wasn’t much to see here, a few boats which are used for annual boat races (the monks don’t race, that’s a shame – I’d have loved to see monks racing!)

Wat Visoun or something like that

A view of Luang Prabangs famous hilltop temple

Yvonne checked out the ‘toilet’

The Watermelon Stupa

Inside the temple

Dark and Dusty Buddhas

More Buddhas

Bells for sale

My guide book says that this is the eldest working temple in Laos and was built in 1513.

At this temple were a few small local stalls and I bought myself some brass bells, which will go really well with my hanging boat I bought in the floating islands in Peru. These cost 100,000 kip – which sounds like a lot but it’s basically £10.

After the first temple visit, we jumped onto the minibus for a 3 minute ride to the next temple – Wat Xiengthongratsavoravihanh. Or at least that’s what the sign says.  The G adventures app calls it Wat Xien Thong, which was a Royal temple when Laos was a monarchy led country – it houses amongst other things the ashes of the ‘last king’ of Laos, and many other treasures.  There were a lot of reminders here of the shift from Monarchy to Communist rule and it was interesting to learn this background before our next stop.

Wat Xien Thong

Golden Temple

More dusty Buddhas

Reclining buddha lives in here

Beautiful glass inlays in the wall

More beauty

I loved the look of this little lotus

Shortly after Wat Xien Thong, we headed to the Royal Museum in Luang Prabang. No photos were allowed inside here, but it was fascinating to see how the history of the monarchy is documented until 1975, but after that point there is no mention whatsoever. A highlight for me was seeing two Laos flights combined with fragments of moon rock donated by Richard Nixon to the Laos royal family in 1969 and 1972 – the flags travelled to the moon on Apollo XII and XVII.  Our guides explained that at the time the US was supporting the Laos people as part of the Vietnam war (Laos had both civil and involvement with the Vietnam conflicts, plus was occupied for a long time by the French).

The temple at the Royal Palace Museum

Proof I was really there!

A close up on the building apex, showing the Laos symbol of 3 elephants to represent the 3 tribes which formed Laos

Yang, our Laos guide

After a busy cultural morning exploring these sites, we headed back to the hotel for a 2 hour lunch break at the hotel – nobody was particularly hungry so I grabbed a protein bar and cooled off.

At 13:00 we met to head to the Kungsi Waterfall Park, which was a 45 minute minibus ride along some fairly windy (and at times, bouncy) roads.  The park was interesting, since it had both the waterfalls but also a Bear rescue park.

Kuangsi Waterfall Park

The beautiful waterfalls

The waterfalls themselves were stunning – slightly green in colour due to the lime in the rock, but clear and flowing water led to some amazing photo opportunities.

Photo opportunities at the top

Fred swimming

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Classic waterfall shot

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The calm pool below

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Beautiful view

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Are you bored of waterfall photos yet?

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Portrait format works too

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Steve and Yvonne check out the pool

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Petra and Karl

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Fred and Carol

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Petra

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Another me at the pool shot

The top of the waterfall is reserved for photos, whilst the bottom is the swimming area. I brought my swim stuff and changed in the fairly simple changing rooms (where the lock didn’t work) – before stepping into the water. The water itself was great, but I found the fish quite unpleasant since they seemed to be the same type of fish as the Fish Massage place in Thailand – they really wanted to attack you if you stood still too long! I splashed around a bit in the water, but got out before the others which also gave me a chance to shoot some photos after I dried off.

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Fred and Carol

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Some people had a lot more fun

It was a nice refreshing break from the heat, and definitely a change of pace from our temple-heavy first half of the day.

We had a brief look at the bear park, but the only ones who were being photogenic were slightly artificial:

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This bear didn’t even acknowledge me

Little bit fake

Little bit fake

An unphotogenic real bear

An unphotogenic real bear


At the bottom of the hill, I treated myself to a Cornetto before we got onto the bus for our trip back to the hotel.

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Bottom of the waterfall cornetto

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Retail therapy again

Once back, we had another 2 hour break to chill before dinner – this time on the other side of the town.To get to our dinner location, we took a Tuk Tuk and managed to fit 8 people on there – costing 6,000 kip each (75p!)

A Tuk Tuk for 9 people

Dinner was in a restaurant called Tamarind and was traditional Laos style food. If anyone ever says traditional Laos food to you, the easiest way to imagine it is… Whatever they can find. Literally. The menu featured river weeds, frogs, all sorts of stuff. They’re extremely resourceful, but maybe not catering hugely to our western expectations. I decided to opt for a Laos Omelette together with a Lemongrass and Lime Granita (cocktail).

After dinner I decided to go check out a local bar alone, which was great fun – Luang Prabang is a pretty calm and low risk city, and I got chatting  to some locals and ended up taking a motorcycle ride back to the hotel after the bars closed.

Early start tomorrow, since we’re getting up to give alms to the monks at 5am… Time to sleep. Tick Tock.

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Angkor What??

Angkor.Wat.original.14365I have to admit, when I first started searching for a holiday in South East Asia, I had never heard of Angkor Wat.  You probably haven’t either, unless you’ve read up on the Bhuddist or Hindu religions – both of whom Angkor Wat is pivotal to. It’s actually the worlds largest religious complex, and started off as a Hindu religious temple before being converted to a Bhuddist site.  There is so much amazing fascinating history there, it’s going to be incredible to explore and learn about these religious which I don’t know much about.

Angkor-Wat-Gods-Murti-Temple

Angkor Wat is one of the ‘7 wonders of the world‘ so I can add it to the list of wonders i’ll have visited too!
I found a great blog which explains way more about Angkor Wat than I can… Take a read here 🙂 

Categories: Future Adventures, South East Asia, Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Quest of the Gods – Day 9, Inca Trail ·Day 4 (Machu Picchu!)

To say that I was excited about this day would be a huge understatement.  Machu Picchu is somewhere which has fascinated me for years, and especially since I booked the trip – deciding to fly half way around the world to visit a ruin isn’t something I do every week!

I woke in the tent around 3am, well ahead of a 3:30am wake up “call”… I was so excited, I really couldn’t sleep much but that didn’t matter – today we would see Machu Picchu!  I was dressed and packed by 3:15am, and as soon as I stepped out of my tent the porters set about dismantling it!  I guess they were eager not to miss their train!

I had an awkward (cold) wait around whilst the rest of the group were woken and got ready for breakfast at 4am.  Breakfast was quite quick – some brioche/cake and tea – since we needed to get out of there ASAP, and we were given snack packs with cheese sandwiches and a juice box to keep us going due to the early start.

By 4:15 we were on our way, but Israel announced we would be making a surprise visit, rather than joining the queue of other tours.  Normally at this point the tours all head down to queue at the checkpoint, waiting for the 5:30am opening time before making their way to Machu Picchu as quickly as possible in an attempt to see the haze rise above the mountains.  Instead, Israel planned to take us to Intipata – the ruin which we skipped yesterday due to the rain!  It was fantastic being there before sunrise and we got to see the day lighten up as the sun rose on the horizon and the ruin revealed itself to us.

The moon at Intipata

The moon at Intipata

Pre sunrise

Pre sunrise

Sunrise selfie

Sunrise selfie

More arty photos

More arty photos

Llama!

Llama!

Llama again!

Llama again!

After sunrise

After sunrise

More ruin

More ruin

Intipata

Intipata

Group shot at Intipata

Group shot at Intipata

It was amazing watching the llamas wake up and the cloud rise from below us to above us, and truly magical to be the only group there at that time of day.  Once day break happened we headed towards the checkpoint, which opened at 5:30, and were able to walk almost straight through – we hadn’t lost any time however, as we quickly caught up and overtook groups on the trail.

After the checkpoint it was just a short 1 1/2 hour hike to the “sun gate”, and our first view of Machu Picchu!

More stairs

More stairs

Arriving at the sun gate

Arriving at the sun gate

First view of Machu Picchu

First view of Machu Picchu

Me and Machu Picchu

Me and Machu Picchu

The horizon from the Sun Gate

The horizon from the Sun Gate

Close up of Machu Picchu

Close up of Machu Picchu

It was such an incredible feeling to see the view that i’d been lusting after since booking the trip, and I can’t put into words the feeling.  It was overwhelming and magical to see the site, and to know that we had made it.  We rested for 15 minutes at the Sun Gate before beginning our descent to Machu Picchu and on to the end of the Inca trail, which officially finishes on a large rock at the edge of Machu Picchu.  We were so lucky with the weather, which was almost a cloudless sky.  Perfect Machu Picchu weather – we had been warned along the trail that there is always a chance of a rainy day or cloud cover which can ruin the whole experience.

Along the descent we stopped at a couple of viewing points before finally reaching the “end of the inca trail” and posing for our obligatory photos from the typical spot!

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Me at Machu Picchu

Me at Machu Picchu

The photos took a while since we had to queue, but it was worth it to get that iconic shot (which inevitably will be a Facebook profile photo at some point!), and as soon as these were over we headed quickly down to the entrance gate and the promise of “real” toilets, which were definitely a welcome sight after 3 days on the trail!  Spending 1 sol on the toilet was possibly the best sol I spent whilst in Peru!

We had a reunion with Harold at a cafe outside the Machu Picchu gate, and were able to chill out before heading back into Machu Picchu.  This time is important because you’re not allowed to take walking poles around Machu Picchu (for fear of damaging the ruin), so Harold had to stay outside with our stuff!

Once we had all rejuvenated and consumed our packed snack, we headed into Machu Picchu for a guided tour by Israel.  It was fascinating to learn all about the discovery of MP and in particular Hiram Bingham, who is critical to the discovery story.

After the tour we were given free time to explore, and we went on a hunt for Llamas and photo opportunities.  The site really is incredible and below is a small selection of the huge number of photos I took.  I’ve tried to caption them appropriately, but the history is way larger than I can tell in a blog entry!

Machu Picchu from near the top

Machu Picchu from near the top

Steffi on the terraces

Steffi on the terraces

Recreated thatched roof

Recreated thatched roof

A view of Wainapicchu

A view of Wainapicchu

Inca stairs, and modern stairs

Inca stairs, and modern stairs

Israel showing us an important building

Israel showing us an important building

More stairs!

More stairs!

More of Wainapicchu

More of Wainapicchu

The Quarry area

The Quarry area

How the Incas split the rocks

How the Incas split the rocks

A pretty flower

A pretty flower

The main temple

The main temple

Israel showing his Inca Cross

Israel showing his Inca Cross

Amazing tessellation

Amazing tessellation

Al, boyband style

Al, boyband style

Israel, boyband style

Israel, boyband style

Asfia

Asfia

MP selfie

MP selfie

Llama!

Llama!

Llama!

Llama!

Llama, 3rd angle projection

Llama, 3rd angle projection

Me with a llama!

Me with a llama!

After we finished exploring, we headed out of the exit gate and were able to complete our passport page, with the final Machu Picchu stamp.  Once the stamp is in there, it means the hike is officially over!

Fourth stamp!

Fourth stamp!

What an amazing journey it had been!

We took a 30 minute windy bus ride down the hill to the town of Machu Picchu, which is clearly a tourist down and set up for us – full of markets selling trinkets, and we were able to meet with Harold and our duffle bags from the tents (which had magically been transported there!)

Machupicchu town

Machupicchu town

I bought a t-shirt (“I survived the Inca trail”) and some postcards, and then we regrouped for lunch in a restaurant.  It was a big group, with the original 7 of us together with 5 from another tour (which Mark, Katie and Simone were part of).  Steffi and I shared some Nachos and then I had Veggie Burritos, before we made a presentation to Israel and passed over our appreciation to him as well.  This was the last time we would see him, and it was really heartfelt to say goodbye after him guiding us through 4 amazing days of lives!

Once lunch was over we headed to the train station and caught a train back to Ollantaytambo.  We have to take the tourist train, since the local train is not available unless you have Peruvian IDs.  The train took an hour and a half and was really bumpy, but we were given drinks and snacks (Inca Cola, of course!).  Most people slept through the journey, whilst I just took selfies!

Train selfie

Train selfie

Asfia...zzz

Asfia…zzz

Steffi...zzz

Steffi…zzz

I spent a lot of the journey chatting with Mike and Kirsten about how they had enjoyed the Lares trek, which sounds incredible and very different to the Inca trail – much more cultural and they spent time in houses filled with Guineapigs, and met hundreds of local children.

After the bumpy train ride, we switched to a bus ride for a bumpy 90 minute ride around windy streets to get back to Cusco.  Our mini bus got pulled over in the main square in Cusco for driving there after dark – which apparently was a law which came into force just 3 days ago!  Hardly fair, and our driver protested but ended up paying a hefty fine!

Bus selfie

Bus selfie, Mike Photobombs!

Once we got to the hotel, we showered and met again for a traditional post-trail evening – Peruvian pizza and wine in the hotel and then out on the town to enjoy the celebratory feeling of completing the trail!

Harold had arranged honeymoon gifts in the rooms of Al & Asfia and Mike & Kirsten, and the feeling throughout the group was one of elation as we headed first to the “Museo del Pisco” – which isn’t actually a museum, just a bar that serves amazing Peruvian cocktails.

Museo del Pisco

Museo del Pisco

Needless to say the cocktails went down well after the trail and the night became gradually more blurry, as Steffi and I decided to meet up with Harold in a club he had recommended…

Club photo

Club photo

Blurry night

Blurry night

After lots of dancing and drinking, we finally managed to complete the 24 hour challenge – at 3:30am, we had officially been up for 24 hours (although Steffi slept on the train, so she cheated!).  An amazing feeling… Inca trail: done!

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