Tokyo ~ Sights in the City

The crushing population, weird fashion, delicious fish, tasty beer, flashing lights, bowing politely, expensive taxis: it’s Tokyo. Although the culture shock wasn’t too much for me after living in Seoul for seven years, it’s still quite a place to see. There are lots of different neighborhoods, tiny alleys, broad boulevards, a plethora of small noodle shops, cute shopping districts and crazy nightlife. Continue reading “Tokyo ~ Sights in the City”

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An Amazing Eatable April

Spring arrived, bringing mild temperatures, chirping birds, Chinese “yellow dust” and the requisite two weeks of cherry blossoms. The entire country rushes from their winter doldrums and into their Hyundai’s or Kia’s to find sunny skies speckled with wispy clouds and the pleasant scent of blooming buds. Continue reading “An Amazing Eatable April”

A Photographic Journey Through Venice

Pictures of my day trip through one of the most photographed cities in the world.

Continue reading “A Photographic Journey Through Venice”

People Watching in Croatia

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Our group was out exploring.

Taking someone’s photograph overseas requires courage and perseverance through the language barrier. Sometimes I can manage it, but other times I take the cowardly route and just snap a shot of the life around me. These were taken in various cities in and around the Istrian Peninsula of western Croatia.

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It’s a beautiful land, green hills, blue water, fresh air and unpronounceable words.

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In case you need to find the Ispovijed, it’s near the WC.

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This dress lets you know where to look.

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Breaking Bad is cool everywhere.

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3 out of 4 women on cell phones.

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The Franciscans enjoying a moment of mirth.

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She tried to sell us that tablecloth for 10 euro.

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The faithful lighting candles.

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We got in two minutes before closing. Quiet, empty churches are just as interesting as the ones filled with worshipers.

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People love a pope.

Houses of Laos

Although there are many examples of French architecture abounding along the riverside cities of Pakse, Savannakhet, and Thakhek, I tried to find the ones with character, the ones with a personality, lived-in, lived-around, but some were brand new, as Laos inches toward the 21st century with better education and more tourist money. These cities along the Mekong were one to two big streets long and had little to do besides watch sunsets and drink BeerLao.

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Siem Reap ~ Roadside Houses and People Viewed from a Tuk-Tuk

I’ve spent a lot of time on the day buses here in Cambodia. I’ve seen the indescribably extensive amount of trash littering every single inch of dirt along the roads, in the cities and sometimes in the restaurants. Papers, wrappers, cans, bottles, tickets, plastic, socks, shoes, shirts, food garbage, leaf clippings, composting itself under the feet of the oblivious locals. I see them sweeping up the dust in front of their shops or houses more than I see them pick up the rubbish. It’s not like the ground has become trash, but it seems to be moving in that direction in certain places, especially markets, or roadside stops. Despite the trash situation, it isn’t completely without charm. Some of that trash gets burned in random fires, producing a not-unlikeable, but definitely polluting smell. The smell is comforting in an unpleasant way. Smoke surrounds the road in some places, not the seemingly edible smoke of BBQ’s, but a mixture of plastic, palm leaves and cardboard. The houses are all on stilts, giving an extra room, that is purely shade, usually with a few hammocks. Small shops wait with supplies of strange chips, and always Pringles, sugary or salty treats, squid jerky and selected beers. Trotting along in my Tuk-Tuk at about 30 mph, I caught pictures in a bouncy manner, so they are purely glimpses of the street.

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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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