Yangyang Beach ~ A Snowy Start to 2017

Yangyang is smack in the middle of the two larger and more famous coastal cities of Sokcho and Gangneung. It’s tiny and cute and frozen in the winter. We went there because the Pine Beach Condotel was pet friendly, beachside and turned out to be a nice, clean place. The snow fell the day before and the highway from Seoul was plowed and safe when we arrived at midnight to check in and take a dog walk. Continue reading “Yangyang Beach ~ A Snowy Start to 2017”

Hiking Bukhansan Amid the MERS Scare

A few weeks ago, South Korea accidentally ran headfirst, like a drunken idiot toward an unseen sign post, into MERS. Schools closed, hospitals prepped for the worst, residents freaked out; however, the three people who actually HAD the disease decided to take a flight to Hong Kong, go drinking at a pub or hit the golf course! Continue reading “Hiking Bukhansan Amid the MERS Scare”

One Week in Chiang Mai: Temples and Nightmar(e)ket

It’s a splendid little big town. There is a brand new mall, Maya, where I wasted some of the scorching daylight hours in virtually empty air cooled movie theaters and intermittently playing video games. At night, the air fills with jasmine, and the city moat sparkles from the headlights of speeding cars. Tourists pedal around on their cruisers, locals hide in the shade. The temple count felt as high as that temple saturated village of Luang Prabang. I like to visit them and look around, enjoying the calm gaze of Buddha and the gentle jingling of wind chimes.

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The temples elicit a certain lonesome euphoria, a knowledge of impermanence in this world, to crave less and give more.

The walking night market creates agoraphobic nightmares. It wasn’t even that crowded, it just wasn’t my scene. So much for sale, so much unnecessary goods, so many things I wanted to buy! That’s how I knew it was wrong. Nothing I saw was anything beyond a simple, silly luxury that would be fun to have or to give as a gift. Backpacking ensures you carry only “what you need to survive.” The bag has limits and trinkets don’t fall into the backpack’s purview. However, I suppose it’s a nice place to buy stuff that will eventually become junk.

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This girl was a highlight, she sang with confidence and used her arms to exaggerate emotion.

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Buddha ~ Luang Prabang’s Ornate Temples

There are over 30 temples in the quaint UNESCO heritage city of Luang Prabang, Laos. Many are small courtyards, some are hidden from plain sight beyond trees or houses, others on distant hillsides, but most are within the city center. I took a walk on a dreary, rainy day and snapped some photos of the many seated Buddhas.

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I know lots of people find themselves on “temple overload” whereby they feel that: “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” As you can see, beyond the golden tint, and enlightened eyes, they don’t really look all that similar. Perhaps I just enjoy the search and the joy of finding a place with good energy. The only problem with Luang Prabang’s temples is that almost all of them cost money. I spent about 100,000kip (>12$US) going to all these temples.

Sunset peak is found on the local hill giving expansive vistas of the countryside.

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Top 3 Temples at Angkor Wat Complex

1) Banteay Srei:

This 10th century temple dedicated to Shiva and called the “temple of woman” because the carvings are so delicate and intricate, that supposedly only a woman could do it. The rock was a special pink sandstone and looked beautiful. It was very well preserved and smaller allowing a better chance to see everything. It was such a great place to end, after seeing the big ones, this was a nice change. Recommended for the carvings and the amazing 40 minute tuk-tuk ride through Cambodian countryside.

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2) Baphuon:

Approaching this ancient pyramid also dedicated to Shiva, moving down the pillared walkway, a thought struck me. People’s faces would have been right at my feet if I were the king going home. I walked taller and felt regal after noticing this. There are three steep levels of stairs here finally culminating in a dazzling view of the dense jungle around. It was fully renovated in 2011. This place was BIG, and the original capital of Angkor Thom. Recommended for pictures under the stone walkway among the pillars, and for a hard climb to the top!

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3) Bayon:

This was for me the biggest highlight of the three days’ tour. Bayon was the central post of the immense Angkor Thom area. It has 56 towers with four faces on each, adding up to 216 faces, some better preserved than others. They all look peacefully stoked on life while presenting the calm features of the Buddha, for whom it was dedicated. It is the youngest temple as well, having been built almost 100 years after Angkor Wat. Recommended for silly face pictures contrasted with the solemnity of the stone visages.

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Honorable Mention: Angkor Wat at Sunrise–because being present in such a simple moment in such incomprehensible beauty makes for a powerful memory.

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Ta Prohm: Tomb Raider was filmed here, trees overtook the rocks, surreal atmosphere and cool to see nature will always win.

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Do not do less than 3 days at the temples. Some of the people bail because of the heat, or hangovers, or repetition. But, the repetition is the point. They cared so much they even carved the stones they walked on. I’ll bet the toilets were carved from only the softest sandstone and adorned with the satisfied faces of those with functional bowels.

For me, it was a never-ending buzz of temples appearing out of nowhere, touching rocks from a different millennium, imagination, exercise in the sun, eavesdropping on tour groups, and plenty of photo opportunities! A big check on my list of must-visit places. Awesome!

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