Namyangju ~ Sujongsa Temple at Ungilsan

We were off to hike Ungilsan (운길산) to see Sujongsa Temple. It was late on a Saturday afternoon, and the tables at the base weren’t yet filled with thirsty hikers. Continue reading “Namyangju ~ Sujongsa Temple at Ungilsan”

Kyoto Close-Up

I really enjoyed my five days in the Land of the Rising Sun. And that name really is appropriate due to the fact of the sun appearing in my window at around 3:30 a.m. Kyoto was my favorite visit and these are the visuals from a close proximity.

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Kyoto Walkabout

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After visiting the Kinkaku-ji golden temple, which was surprisingly underwhelming, we took to the streets to explore and found an awesome Zen garden. Kyoto, like the rest of Japan is immaculately clean making for a pleasant stroll. The Zen garden was full of functional beauty. It was a peaceful place with an enchanting pine aroma and the sound of running water surrounds.

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The walk continues…

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I found these amazing temples and a cute street with a cute family where a cute girl was walking a cute dog. Walking remains my favorite way to explore a new city.

These were some of the stones we walked on, and a bad English sign making me wonder if they just mean “Don’t pee on the seat.”

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Kuala Lumpur ~ Hindu Temple

Wandering through the “Buy this!” “You like?” “Good price.” “Take a look.” (salesmanship at its finest) of Petaling Street in downtown Kuala Lumpur, it was nice to find this little bit of Indian culture among the craziness. There were two men: one playing a cool drum with his fingers and another playing some harsh wind instrument. Together with the incense and drizzle they created a wonderful environment for exploration of a strange and beautiful religious shrine.

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A detailed story seems to be depicted in these carvings.

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I’m sure there are some magical tales of talking animals and mustachioed men saving the world herein.

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This was a cool 3-D vision of, presumably, the many Hindu Gods.

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Ganesh, the many limbed elephant God who helps remove the obstacles of life.

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The temple men performing water rites.

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This has nothing to do with the temple. He was just spotted outside, and I’d be remiss not to include his extraordinary mullet.

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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Chiang Mai Cute

I didn’t actually learn the origin story, but these smiling faces set into chubby cheeks are everywhere. Temples, restaurants, massage parlors, hotels, crosswalks, markets and bathrooms all have some cute face staring at you. It’s kinda cute I guess.

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And finally, not to be filed under cute, but rather uncomfortably realistic is this:

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In most of the Chiang Mai temples, they have these pious (presumably wax, hopefully not stuffed) replicas of former holy men. It must be hard to be a monk and constantly feel watched by these simultaneously dead yet judging eyes.

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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Vang Vieng ~ Ha Long Bay on Land: Full of Natural Beauty: and Tubing!

Deep amid Northwestern Laos, within the old growth forests and the Nam Song river, nestled in a valley of grandiose limestone hills, a tourist hot spot has arisen: Vang Vieng. It gained notoriety a few years ago when, within a 3 km tube session, it was possible to consume at a minimum, if you stopped at all 12 bars, all with free shots upon entry, you can see how an afternoon could just slip away. Not shots of that irascible tequila, or the maddening whiskey, or the swashbuckling rum, but the home made LaoLao. It’s a highly potent rice wine. Those shots were on top of any Beerlao that you consumed during the hours floating the river. Somehow, amid all the drunken buffoonery mixed with an unpredictable river, dozens of people managed to die every year. There were rope swings, zip lines, deck jumps, mushroom cocktails, uppers, downers, Fear and Loathing in Laos Vegas. But, that binging paradise couldn’t last, and now the memories exist only in the rotting, empty bars on the slopes of the river. Although the drug and liquor fueled haze can be seen in some of the tubing patrons’ eyes, the town seems to be moving into the realm of respectable town with the possibility to party. Outdoor activities abound and are sure to please. I had an amazing rock climb and a slow kayak ride (it’s the dry season). Food comes in a few varieties, fried meat, fried rice, fried noodles or Pad Thai. I ate some great Indian as well as a nice schnitzel with sauce, but it’s not made for the gourmand tourist.

The surroundings are surreal. Its setting is a miracle in green. The mountains are between 500-1500 meters high, and almost every morning you could expect to rise and see this make-out session of cloud and rock.

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This was the view from my 4th floor balcony.

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This was the view from my tiny hostel balcony.

There were a few temples and I had some fish-eye fun with the paintings.

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I got to do my first real rock-climbing up ancient limestone cliffs.

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Bob was working on prepositions and he approached me for help. I think he knows the difference of “in” and “on” now.

This place was way more than I expected. The landscape was so irrepressibly intriguing and benignly beautiful. The villagers apparently willing to tolerate our behavior for going shirtless and watching Friends and Family Guy all day. For some reason, a few bars have all ten seasons of Ross, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Rachel’s hi-jinks and innuendos. It was such a comfort being so far away from anything familiar and having those 6 perfectly cast goofballs on the tube set ’em up and knock ’em down. “How you doin’?”

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Leaving on the bus, winding through the mountains, heading toward Luang Prabang, I found these misty mountains in a quiet drizzle.

Vientiane ~ A Walkabout Town

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A quick fried chicken snack for about a dime.

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Severin and Tiare, a cool Swiss couple and I had a beer at the Belgian Beer Bar. It’s so refreshing to be around positive people with enthusiasm for life. After, I went for some Italian food and had a delicious lasagna at the pricey and authentic Ai Capone.

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