Around Katarina Church in Stockholm

Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

While I like seeing the main sights of any city I visit, I also enjoy walking around aimlessly and seeing what I discover.  Katarina Church (Katarina Kyrka) in Stockholm (Södermalm) was one of those discoveries.  Perhaps if I had done my research ahead of time, the church and its neighborhood would have ended on a ‘must-see’ list.  But it was a lot neater to run into this neighborhood by sheer luck and wanderlust!

Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Church as seen from Gamla Stan

Katarina Church

The church grounds were pretty in the fall colors and in the gray weather I experienced pretty much the entire weekend I was in Stockholm.Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

The church was undergoing renovations

Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Cornelisparken – good views of Stockholm

I then walked off a side sidestreet on the opposite side of the square from where I had entered it, Mäster Mikaels gata, with quaint homes that ended with a park, Cornelisparken, that offered a great viewpoint that overlooked Gamla Stan and other parts of Stockholm.  I seemed to be on a roll discovering great spots with great views in Stockholm (another was from City Hall)!Mäster Mikaels gata, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7, Gamla Stan, Cornelisparken

View towards Gamla Stan

This part of my longer walk was probably my favorite of the whole weekend and I think yielded some of my favorite photos from the trip!

 

Angkor Wat: Finally!

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, sunrise, sky, Samsung Galaxy, library

It is pretty daunting to write a post about Angkor Wat.  Not only how to do the place justice but there are probably a million write-ups out there about it.  All I can do is share (words and photos) how I saw it and perhaps it will help those who have not been there visualize it, and those who have been there remember their visit…

We were told by a few people to not miss sunrise at Angkor Wat.  Considering all the travels away from home at that point (ATL to Chicago, Chicago to Bali (via ATL!), and then Bali to Bangkok to Siem Reap), waking up at an absurd time in the morning did not seem as absurd as it would at any other point in my life.  So, arrangements were made for a 4:45 AM pick-up at the hotel to go to see our local star rise behind Angkor Wat…

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, sunrise, sky, Samsung Galaxy

Yea, looking a little rough after the 4AM wake-up (thanks, Phil, for capturing this winner!) – but happy to be there!

First stop:  Get the darn ticket.  One can get a day pass or a multi-day pass.  I was sorta scratching my head as to why the people taking us had not gotten the tickets ahead of time.  I found out why soon enough:  they take your photo and print it on your permit to enter the temple ‘zone.’  Since we were packing it all in into one day, the pass cost us $20US.  Not bad really, especially considering the scale of the area ‘littered’ with temple complexes.  All that has got to be kept up, etc.

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My pass to enter Angkor Wat; skillfully photo bombed by my friend Phil

After getting our ticket, our  guide took us to the main vantage point from which one can ooh-and-aah one’s way through sunrise.  There were clouds in the distance so we did not see a beautiful orange-yellow disk rise from the horizon.  But seeing the temple with the sky around it changing colors from dark blues, to mid-blues, to purples, to orange-ish, etc. was pretty neat.

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, sunrise, sky, Samsung Galaxy

Sunrise

I decided to take a fast-pace video over a 15-minute stretch to see what that would look like.  No, it did not result in a magical show but it still was worth the effort to hold the smartphone as still as possible in my hands for that long.  Since I was half asleep anyway, I barely noticed the 15 minutes had elapsed.  (The 15 minutes are compressed into a one minute video below. Let me know if you think it was worth my 15 minutes!)

After snapping a couple of pix of each other, my friend and I moved on from that spot to get to the causeway that would lead us to the main temple we all know as Angkor Wat.  It still was not full light so the pictures were either brilliant or so-so, depending on how demanding a viewer of photos you may be – I will let you reach your own conclusions 🙂  We were also advised to not go back to the hotel after sunrise, as many do to nap and have breakfast, but -instead- to have the hotel pack us a breakfast and just eat it on-site so we could then explore the complex before it got crowded later in the  morning (it was also a good idea since it only gets hotter as the day goes by so the earlier the visit, the less suffering!).

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About to enter the causeway

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STILL looking rough but with a great backdrop! (thanks again, Phil!)

On the way to the main temple, I especially liked ‘the library’ ruins on the left-hand side of the causeway – mainly because it gave me a good way to frame the main temple!  (Always looking -not always successfully- for a good photo spot!)

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, sunrise, sky, Samsung Galaxy, library

Here the library…

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, sunrise, sky, Samsung Galaxy, library

… and what I did with the library! I kinda like this shot!

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, sunrise, sky, Samsung Galaxy

Getting closer to the main temple – this is a great photo spot

We entered the main temple area from a side entrance by climbing some stairs and our guide explained some of the carvings as we headed to the inner courtyard.  From there we walked along the side of the central ‘structure’ (I struggle with what to call the different parts of the complex), and observed a couple of places where the stuff under the exterior stone was exposed.

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Amazing carvings – could spend hours there!

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Our entry point into Angkor Wat

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A look at what’s under the outer stones… more stones! (though different looking)

After turning the corner, we saw the staircase that would lead us up to the top terrace of the main temple.  The staircase to be used was not the original steps; rather, a staircase was built on top so that our visitor feet would not destroy the ancient stonework – and probably to keep us safe too.  It was a very steep climb but going up was not as scary as going down.  I am not scared of a steep climb or descent, but I also do not want to suffer a bad fall!

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After getting up

Once we got upstairs, it was REALLY cool.  From up there you see above the tree tops and can easily see how the jungle took over complexes like Angkor War once abandoned.

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, Samsung Galaxy

View down to the upper terrace and the jungle beyond

There were four inner courtyards atop the temple and it was neat walking the outer hallway looking out in every direction in the compass while then turning inward and seeing the various temples or altars with Buddhas.  I do not recall how much time we spent up there but I enjoyed admiring it all.

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One of the inner courtyards

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Looking upwards from the terrace level

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First, a standing Buddha…

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, Buddha, Samsung Galaxy

… and then sitting Buddhas…

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, Buddha, Samsung Galaxy

… and finally, a reclining Buddha!

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, Buddha, Samsung Galaxy

Father and son (I assume) in prayer – nice to see it is an active faith site

So, Angkor Wat delivered on my expectation on seeing something quite unique in my experience and, clearly, from the experience of many as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (not one of the token ones, mind you, but a real one!).  Seeing the father and son praying made it even better as it is not just an archaeology site, but a site of living faith – very cool to see.

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo,  Samsung Galaxy

I am dumb as doorknob when it comes to selfies – I could not get out of the way of the tower much as I was being instructed to do!

Angkor Wat had been on my ‘hope-to-see-someday’ list and definitely the top spot for me to see in Southeast Asia.  I am grateful for the opportunity to see it in person and explore it – photo bomb on my credential or not 🙂  Now I need to decide what will go in its former spot in my ‘hope-to-see-someday’ list…  nice problem to have!

Stockholm’s City Hall – Great Vantage Point

Stockholm, Sweden, City Hall, views, vistas, Gamla Stan, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7, travel, tourism, Stadshuset

Before my recent trip to Southeast Asia, I took advantage of a cheap airfare to spend a long weekend in Stockholm. I had been there a while back on a day stop from a cruise with my family. It was summer time and it allowed us to get a flavor of this city by walking around Old Town, visiting the Vasa Museum, and enjoying a nice lunch. Of course, Stockholm was charming and I hoped for a return visit someday. And that materialized when a college friend found the special fare and asked if I’d be game for a slightly mad short trip there. Having not used vacation time in the year, I thought “why the heck not!”

The plan for the trip was to just go with the flow. I had already seen key sights so that was good with me. Serendipity can yield interesting experiences!

One place I discovered on this trip was Stockholm’s City Hall. My hotel was maybe 2.5 kms / 30 mins’ walk away and we were making our way from our hotel in Kungsholmen towards Old Town. We ran into the the City Hall and wondered what it was. It faces the water with great views of Gamla Stan (Old Town) and Sodermalm across the water – excellent photo opp spot!

Here are some of the images of the building and the views from its unique spot in the city.  If you find yourself in Stockholm, go the extra distance outside of Gamla Stan to get to this spot!  (Click on the images to enlarge.)

Angkor Thom’s Main Temple: Bayon

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While Angkor Wat is the better known of all the temple complexes in Cambodia, there are others that are a must.  Bayon is one of those.  It is imposing and a veritable maze, making it fun to explore.  Bayon (built in the 12th-13th century period) sits in the middle of Angkor Thom which was the capital of the Khmer Empire back when (it is said between 80-150K people lived there at its peak back then).  Bayon was at the center of that capital city as its most important temple.  If you look at a map, the moat around Angkor Thom is much larger than the one around Angkor Wat.  (All these sites got “lost” in the early 1600s for a few centuries.)  Movies like Lara Croft:  Tomb Raider have had scenes shot at Angkor Thom.

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Bayon (Angkor Thom is the larger square around it) in relation to Angkor Wat

We approached Angkor Thom and had a great view of the wall around Angkor Thom and a bridge (or causeway) decorated on either side with sitting statues.  One drives through a gate that towers at the end of the bridge with each side of the tower carved with the face of a divinity.  I believe we went through the south gate.

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Causeway entering Angkor Thom from the south

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7, moat

View across the causeway of the south gate

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

Statues on the causeway

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7, gate

The south gate

In any case, one approaches the main temple at Angkor Thom, Bayon, among a green field with palm trees.  Having first seen Angkor Wat with its dramatic towers and monumentality, Bayon felt a little less imposing yet so different it looked magnificent.

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

Approaching Bayon – majestic!

From then we walked around different former hallways and around many towers and carvings.   It is said Bayon is more baroque while Angkor Wat is more classical Khmer style.  I am not an expert but certainly can tell that Bayon was much more loaded with carvings and more elaborate.  Bayon is certainly striking due to the many towers carved on four sides with faces of deities or other figures but it lacked the big open spaces within it that Angkor Wat had.

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

Imposing

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

The explorers look diminutive as our guide tried to capture it all

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7 Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7, carving Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7, Buddha

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

Interesting things no matter where you look

As in many places, it is fun to watch other tourists engage with the site – and take their photo while they do so 🙂

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

Strike a pose!

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7, ilivetotravel

One of the many tourists 🙂 (thanks, Phil I. for snapping this winner!)

While Angkor Wat is overall more imposing, Bayon is definitely different enough to warrant the time to explore it – hope you get to do so!

Sunset over Tonlé Sap Lake in Cambodia

Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

As I mentioned in an earlier post about arriving in and exploring Siem Reap, we had asked the hotel to organize a drive that took us out of the town and into the countryside.  The hotel arranged for a car to take us to see the the sun set over the Tonlé Sap lake.  That was a great suggestion.

I don’t know how long it took us to drive out far enough to the part of the lake that looked west.  Was it 45 minutes?  Can’t recall.  In any case, there were small boats on the lake, I assume for tourists but not sure.  However, we had a private car take us around because we just felt like taking it very easy.

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Driving past the local market intown

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, sunset, Tonle Sap, drive, countryside, Samsung Galaxy, S7, photo, travel, Asia, explore

Beginning to leave the town

Having our own transport allowed us to go into areas that I would guess tourists do not visit – our driver did really well (I thought he had said his name was Seagull – we found out a little too late it was Sygold – lol).  Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7, tuk tuk

A real tuk tuk: cart attached to motorcycle

Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

We got to walk around the humble homes of folks who live by the lake which not only afforded us great opportunities for sunset photos but also to see more of local life, even if for too short an experience.Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7, kids, soccer Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

And the combination of the setting sun with the lake, the vegetation, and the local homes certainly made for a beautiful sunset.

Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

My poor attempt at a subtle photo of a family picnicking…

Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7
Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

It was a great first day in Cambodia to see the sunset and a different reality than ours at home and even folks in the town of Siem Reap – if you have the chance to do this while visiting Angkor Wat, I recommend it!

What to Know

  • Going to the lake is pretty easy and does not take too long.
  • As it is sunset, when mosquitoes get more active, put on some bug spray; I have to say I did not feel mosquitoes and I forgot to put on bug spray but Cambodia has malaria risk so I was glad I was on anti-malarial.
  • Bring water.  And there were no nearby facilities that I could see – but plenty of bushes!
  • Be ready to kick a football/soccer ball if the opportunity arises!

 

2016 – A Year in Review

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, independence monument, plaza, travel, explore, Asia, photo, Samsung Galaxy

To say 2016 was a strange year is understating it.  It started right off the bat with a scary family health issue (which, mercifully, is much much better by now) that took us all quite by surprise.  The year also had other small ‘hiccups,’ which is just life on any given year.  Nevertheless, and as is often the case, God certainly brings good out of the bad, and provides other great things to keep us balanced (or, sane!).

I want to share some of those great things, at least the ones that related to travel, exploring, hiking, relaxing, or enjoying food/wine to wrap up this year.  While I did not get to write as much this year as I normally do, I certainly never stopped dreaming of travel or of sharing the experiences.  Here is to a great 2017 for all!

Elton, Sir Elton

A work trip in early January resulted in getting invited to a private concert with Sir Elton John.  I got to stand close to the stage and enjoyed his music and showmanship (and the complimentary drinks with two great co-workers)!  While the year started with Elton John’s music, I can say that the song of the year (in my head, anyway) is “One Night in Bangkok,” if nothing else because I heard it too many times in anticipation of a trip that happened much later in the year.

Elton John, concert, CES, music, icon, travel, Las Vegas, photo, red piano

Brunswick in coastal Georgia

A brief work trip in February took me to coastal Georgia, to the sleepy-ish town of Brunswick.  I took some time to drive around the old part of town and caught a great sunset as I hunted for a place to sit down and eat.  Not bad!Brunswick, Georgia, sunset, sun, cloud, silhouette, golden, sky, photo

Oldest church in Atlanta

The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Atlanta is the oldest church in Atlanta.  I got to work at the homeless shelter in the basement overnight a night in winter.  I loved the reflection of the church on the modern building across from it…

Shrine, Immaculate Conception, downtown, Atlanta, reflection, glass, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – or its reflection

Hiking in north Georgia

Spring brought many opportunities to go hiking around and north of Atlanta.  Whether with my regular hiking buddy, Phil; or with my friend Troy and his two oldest children, Rehm and Caitlyn; or with a group from church that included my friends Chris and Wendy, springtime was full of hiking.  Here are photos from my hikes around Vickery Creek, up Pine Mountain, up to the top of Stone Mountain, or to and back from the awesome Hike Inn in north Georgia!

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Around the Vickery Creek trails

Vickery Creek, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Around the Vickery Creek trails – the dam

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Trails around Pine Mountain

Pine Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Trails around Pine Mountain

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View of sunrise from the Hike Inn

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The group at the starting point to get to the Hike Inn

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No kids were harmed in this photo on the rail line in Stone Mountain

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Around Stone Mountain

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Again, no kids were harmed… really…

Colorado spring!

In June, I got to visit my friends Annette, Kent and Austin to celebrate two great events in their lives.  It also gave me the opportunity to tour the Stanley Hotel which inspired Stephen King, and to finally hike around the table mountain right west of Arvada.  Oh, and I got to see a few other friends that I had not seen in a few years!

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park,  flower, Stephen King, Colorado, table mountain, explore, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The Stanley Hotel

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Celebrating with my Mom and sister

In July, my Mom, sister and I made a long weekend getaway to the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota.  We got to relax, laugh, and -of course- eat a lot of delicious food!

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With my Mom and sister!

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Great colors as the sun sets west of Sarasota

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Mmm!!!!

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Creme brulee

Wine in California

I was fortunate to be able to go to California for work which allowed me to visit ex-Atlanta residents Jenny, Jason, Phoebe and Zoe.  While the kids were in school, my hostess and I escaped for a wine tasting at Testarossa – great locale and great wine!  Among the best things to do in Cali – wine tasting!

Testarossa, California, winery, wine tasting, fun

Entrance to the tasting room

Testarossa, California, winery, wine tasting, fun

Awesome setting for a winery!

Cheap fare to Stockholm

John, a college friend who knows how to find a good airfare, suggested a long weekend ‘jump’ to Stockholm.  A little bit mad, perhaps, but I could not say no to have another opportunity to explore this great city.  And then we drove away from the city to see what we’d run into.  Good stuff for another post!

Stamla Gan, Stockholm, Sweden, travel, explore, tourism, Samsung Galaxy

Great view of the heart of Stockholm

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Sweden’s countryside

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A great dinner on the first night in Stockholm

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Beautiful Stockholm!

My travel capstone in 2016 – Asia

Great stuff up to this point but my trip to Southeast Asia certainly took the cake – not just for the long distance to get there (37 hours!).  I got to explore and sample Bali, Singapore, Bangkok and the countryside near it, and amazing Cambodia.  Wish I had had two more weeks to include Laos and Vietnam – and/or just for more time in these places.  Leaving something unseen for a future trip hopefully and grateful for the opportunity to see what I saw!

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The view from my room included a great view of the pool area

Our Lady Help, Mae Klong, church, Catholic ,Bangkok, Thailand

Cycling around the countryside outside of Bangkok

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Tuk tuk adventures…

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Standing Buddha with the reclining Buddha

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Sunset in Cambodia

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Looking haggard after an early early wake-up to see Angkor Wat at sunrise

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Ta Phrom and its banyan trees!

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Atop the Marina Bay Sands! (Thanks Phil I. for the photo!)

 Have a happy and blessed 2017, everyone!!!

Siem Reap – Cool Place in the Tropics

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The plans for my visit to Cambodia were anchored, as you may well imagine, in seeing world-famous Angkor Wat.  For that, we planned to spend 1.5 days and 2 nights in the town of Siem Reap which is just less than a few handful of miles from the historical sites.  There are many many more temples to go explore and one can certainly spend 2-3 days just focused on that.  I felt I was more on a sampler visit due to the overall travel plans (anchored on a wedding in Bali) and the limited time off work.

Paradise in Siem Reap

We arrived right in Siem Reap (very nice and modern small airport) from Bangkok after noon and headed to our hotel, the Borei Angkor Resort right in the town.

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, landing, flight

Final approach (thanks to my bud Phil I. for the photo – he had the window seat!)

The hotel was a phenomenal spot as may be others.  The spaces were very open.  The pool was big enough and had a section with jets which were great after a lot of walking around the next day.  And it helped that I stayed at the Privilege Floor 🙂  (Disclosure:  No freebies, discounts, etc. were given to me for me to write about the place – I paid for it all myself and I write about it because I really enjoyed it.)

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Welcome!

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

The main lobby

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Looking up from the pool

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

The pool…

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, pool, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Not the fanciest of photos but it sure takes me back there!

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Looking out from the front lobby to the hotel entrance

The staff was super eager to help and no one more so than our hostess, Judy, who ensured all the logistics of our sightseeing and the hotel stay were in order (everything was perfect!).  We also enjoyed a server at the lounge who had a peculiar way of laughing and who called everyone “fabulous” though I could swear he called me “father” instead…  He definitely made the place very lively!

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

With Judy, the hostess, and Chicago Phil

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

View of the town from the room at sunset

In any case, we had decided not to hit the temples that first afternoon for a couple of reasons:  one, it would be peak heat and ‘suffering’ wasn’t high on the list of priorities…; two, people had said it was best to hit the sites at sunrise and then stay on-site through the morning, when some or many tourists would return to their hotels for breakfasts and/or extra sleep.  (More on the visit to the temples in a future post.)  We quickly dropped our bags, changed and headed to lounge by the pool for some nice R&R with some Angkor Wat beer 🙂  I think I ordered a sandwich or a pizza poolside for lunch – scary that I can’t fully recall! (Phil, ayúdame!)

The local market in Siem Reap

We had planned to do a drive in the countryside later that first day – more about that in another post – but after that drive, as we were passing the local market, we decided to jump out and do a quick walk-around of the market and that area of the town.  I have to say it was definitely a chill place.  While there were certainly tourist-oriented market stands and eateries (goodness, there was even a Hard Rock Café – yikes…), the market also served locals and it was neat to just meander through it.

local market, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Not the type of ‘meat market’ I’d hoped for 🙂

local market, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

“Vienna Calling”, perhaps?

local market, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

All sorts of goods from food & spices to textiles

Colorful town

The town felt lively and the colorful lighting on the bridges certainly contributed.  Overall, I felt very safe and maybe I should have explored more and sat down somewhere to watch life go by.  But I don’t always enjoy full clarity every moment of every trip – in hindsight!  No worries, I still can say it was a neat place.

local market, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Around town – market on the left

local market, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Around town –  maybe I should do that to the bridge in my backyard…

local market, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Around town – the fast lane!

What to Know

  • The town is very walkable and felt safe.
  • There are good eateries around the market – get a good recommendation from a trusted source, be it your hotel or an online review!
  • If you are looking for souvenirs, what you find in the market will be the same touristy stuff you will find elsewhere in the country – and at a slightly higher price since it is, after all, a very tourist-centric town.

 

Visiting Temples in Bangkok – Wat Pho?

Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia

One of the neatest things for me about visiting Bangkok was seeing Buddhist temples everywhere.  I am no student of their faith and much less of all the specifics of the architecture of these temples but they are impressive and that’s why I am glad I made the time for a stop -however brief- in Bangkok as I traveled between Bali  and Cambodia.  Time was short so we had to keep it only to the main temples in Bangkok (plus the one we visited during our bike tour of the countryside).

Once we finished our bike ride outside of Bangkok after lunch that day, we headed into the heart of Bangkok to visit Wat Arun and Wat Pho. (Be careful with this latter one as asking about it may lead your fellow traveler to think you are messing with him and almost earn you a fist to your face!  Remember “Who is on first?“, etc.  Yea, that.)

I will not try to tell you the story of these two places as there are plenty of resources out there for that. These temples are very colorful thanks to what seem to be porcelain tiles and mosaics everywhere.  It is great to admire from a distance but getting up close allows one to see the details of the decorated exteriors.  Also, know that these are the very abbreviated names for these temples (which are really each a temple complex on its own) – names there can be quite long!

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Ferry on the Chao Phraya River

Wat Arun – Temple of the Dawn

Wat Arun dates from the 17th century but the main towers one sees are much more recent.  We started our temple visits by arriving here but crossing it quickly to get to the ferry to first visit Wat Pho on the other side of the river.  Once we finished with Wat Pho, where we spent most of our time, we crossed the river back to check out Wat Arun.

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Wat Arun temple complex

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Greeted at the entrance by some warrior

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy, Buddha

Sitting Buddhas

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy, mosaic

Mosaic details

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Around Wat Arun

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Around Wat Arun

The highlight for me happened rather unexpectedly.  We walked into one of the temples.  There was a monk sitting near a box where one could drop a coin and he would pray over you.  Not certain how this all worked, I walked away to a donation box not close to him.  As I walked back to the back of the temple, the monk called me over to him and signaled for me to sit on the floor.  He proceeded to give me a blessing.  Unbeknownst to me, my friend Phil started video’ing the whole thing and I ended up with a neat ‘souvenir’ from this random event!

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

The main temple

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy, blessing, Buddha,

Being blessed by a monk

Wat Pho – Where the Reclining Buddha is

The Reclining Buddha may be what makes this temple complex most famous but it is quite an impressive site.  But first, the Reclining Buddha is not just napping – he has reached the ideal state and the posture signifies that (vs. a sitting Buddha or a standing Buddha).  The Reclining Buddha is very long (46 m; 150 ft) and based on how it is housed within a building, one can’t just stand in front of it and capture it head to toes in a nice, clean photo.  Which is kind of cool, come to think of it.  This unique piece was built close to 200 years ago and it impresses.

Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia

No easy way to photograph

Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia

Rather large feet

Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia

Good angle from the headrest down

But Wat Pho is much more than its famous resident statue.  Pagodas (towers) built by different kings which house their own Buddhas and other parts related to the monastic complex are worth exploring (there are well laid out signs to explain to the visitor the complex and its contents).  The ceramic tile-work on the roofs are different depending on the king or period in which the structures were built.

Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, AsiaWat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia

What to know

  • You can go way more off-the-beaten path than what we got to see.  But these two are a must!
  • You can use ferries/boats up and down the river in Bangkok to move between the temples.  No need to just suffer city traffic.  Plus, at some point or another, you WILL need to cross the river!
  • Temples do close earlier than a tourist may expect.  Know the times or use a local guide.  We went for the latter as we didn’t have to think about anything plus he knew a few other things (like best photo spot at a given temple, etc.).
  • Temples are about someone’s faith.  They ask that you do not wear shorts or sleeveless shirts.  It was sad to see how many people showed either ignorance or disrespect.  One doesn’t have to subscribe to the beliefs of the locals, but one should respect them.  Yes, it is hot and humid.  Wear a wicking t-shirt and some hiking pants that convert to shorts and one will be alright in that weather!

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A Quick Bike Tour of the Thai Countryside

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

One of my friends mentioned how in her time in Bangkok, she enjoyed bike rides in the countryside.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, she also recommended visiting the unique railroad market by the Mae Klong rail station, about 1.5 hrs. outside of Bangkok.  My friend and fellow traveler Phil and I agreed that it sounded like a great idea so I contacted the individual that had taken her to both places and arranged for the bike tour as well.  We did not have a full day to spare so, unfortunately, the bike ride would only be about 2 hours.  Nevertheless, it would allow us to see something much different than the city so we felt it was still going to be worth it.

After visiting the railroad market to see the 9AM train go by (we almost missed it!), we headed towards the Amphawa Floating Market (which, unfortunately, was closed that day) to begin our bike ride.  Amphawa, floating market, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure, photoAmphawa, floating market, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure, photo

It had been a couple of years since my last bike ride (a bike tour in Buenos Aires that went flawlessly) so it took me some pedaling to re-learn balance and I had a couple of mishaps early on due to that (one of those more painful than the other…).  I found my biking groove and, combined with fairly easy terrain, went forward with the bike tour for the next 1.5 hrs or so with no further issue.

Bangkok, Thailand, river, Mae Klong, bike tour, travel, adventure

Awaiting the river crossing with our guide (photo courtesy of fellow traveler Phil I.)

Bangkok, Thailand, river, Mae Klong, bike tour, travel, adventure

About to cross the river on this beauty

Riding by farms and plantations

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

Our guide in the lead, followed by me (photo courtesy of Phil I.)

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

Passing a bunch of empty coconut shells at one of the farms  (photo courtesy of Phil I.)

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

Beautiful water (topped by some algae?) at one of the banana plantations

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

Love the shadow of a banana plant on the surface of the water

Bang Kung Camp

We made a stop at the Bang Kung camp which is a former navy camp from wars past (with Burma, I believe) dating from the late 1700s.  The camp has statues depicting the fight training the soldiers went through.  The camp also had a temple that was overcome with vegetation as the camp was abandoned for a couple of hundred of years (but is now open for the faithful – and bike-tourists!).

Bangkok, Mae Klong, railroad market, Bang Kung, Amphawa, bike tour, thailand, travel, adventure

Map showing the market, the floating market and the camp

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Outside of the temple; and our guide Andy and I taking a break (photo courtesy of Phil I.)

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

In front of the temple

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

In front of the temple

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Inside the temple

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Training for a fight!

Bang Kung camp, Bangkok, Thailand, bike tour

I had to blow up one of the photos because one of the fighters looked life-like…

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Statue honoring an important leader of the war with Burma

Along the way, a church

We pedaled mainly either on well-paved roads or minor side roads along coconut farms and banana plantations.  It was all very serene and it was a very enjoyable, pleasant bike ride.  Along the way we passed a Catholic church, not quite labeled that way, it was called Our Lady of Help Christion (sic) Church.  It looked closed so we did not go in.  I have to say it felt out of place but it was also cool to see!Our Lady Help, Mae Klong, church, Catholic ,Bangkok, Thailand

Our Lady Help, Mae Klong, church, Catholic ,Bangkok, Thailand

In front of the church with my fellow adventurer and much better cyclist

Lunch time!

The ride ended with a late lunch in a small restaurant perched on the river bank of the Mae Klong River, upstream from where we had started.  And just as we got there, it started to pour!  It was perfect timing, great food, and a cool setting to rest from the busy morning while enjoying more of the delicious Thai food (see my post on food in Bangkok!)

Mae Klong, river, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, bike tour

View of the Mae Klong River from the restaurant

Mae Klong, river, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, bike tour

View of the Mae Klong River from the restaurant

food, foodie, Thai, cuisine, travel, explore, eat, Bangkok, bike tour

Shrimp tempura and chicken curry – delicious

The bike tour was a phenomenal idea and a good change of tempo, especially as it got us out of the hustling, bustling city to see a beautiful countryside and breathe some fresh air – I need to be sure I always look for options like this in future travels!

What to Know

  • We hired Grasshopper Adventures for the bike tour (fully paid by us, no freebies given for me to mention them).
  • Wear your helmet.  You are in the developing world and, should an accident happen (like it happened to me!), it is better to be safe than sorry when you may or may not get access to the medical care you are used to.
  • While it is hot and humid, it was very pleasant while on the bike.
  • You can do a short bike ride like we did or a day-long one.

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Bangkok – A City of Amazing Food!

Bangkok, Thailand, food, pad thai, travel, foodie, explore, photo

Thailand is well-known for its diverse cuisine and great flavors.  One does not have to have been to Thailand to know this or to experience the greatness of the cuisine.  Enjoying the food was certainly one of the things I planned to do in my short visit to Thailand a few weeks ago.  With guidance from a local we found two neat spots in Bangkok where we greatly enjoyed the food as well as just going to places where the locals also dined.

Tuk tuk fun

Of course, getting there is half the fun so we took our first tuk tuk that night.  It was a crammed space (there were three of us).  Since the driver wove in and out of traffic (fairly safely), the time to get to places was not as much as if we had taken a cab.  A tuk tuk is definitely the way to go unless a little exhaust from cars around you bother you (in which case, you need a car so you can close the windows…).

Bangkok, tuk tuk, Thailand, exploring, travel, adventure, photo

Fun and colorful rides

Bangkok, tuk tuk, Thailand, exploring, travel, adventure, photo

Of course, a selfie was required

Phenomenal seafood in Chinatown

The first spot was a seafood place in Bangkok’s Chinatown, named Lek and Rut Seafood.  We liked it so much we went back to it the next night! Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo

Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo

Corner in which Lek & Rut is located

The menu was quite extensive, the food was served quickly AND it was superb.  That and a big bottle of beer (or two) (or three) and we were in business.

Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo

Getting pad Thai’d !

Our second stop that first night was a place known for its pad Thai – Thipsamai on Maha Chai Rd..  Basically, one moves in line past the cooking station set out on the sidewalk itself until one gets to the front of the line when a table opens up.  Until 7PM, the only tables available are inside (a small space) and in front of the restaurant on the sidewalk.  We got there right before 7PM and the line was long!  I figured we’d be there forever.  All of a sudden, the line sorts of clears and we are being walked to a table!  Basically, at 7PM they can set out tables in front of neighboring storefronts, greatly expanding seating capacity.

Bangkok, Thailand, food, pad thai, travel, foodie, explore, photo

The extra seating area

Bangkok, Thailand, food, pad thai, travel, foodie, explore, photo

One of the food prep areas

Bangkok, Thailand, food, pad thai, travel, foodie, explore, photo

Waiting for the pad Thai (thanks, Phil I. for the photo!)

It is fascinating to watch the guys cook the pad Thai right there.  They are masters!  (Check out the video to see them in motion.)

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An army of cooks!

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Video courtesy of my fellow traveler Phil I. who wanted credit 🙂  Gracias!

Bangkok, Thailand, food, pad thai, travel, foodie, explore, photo

Pad Thai – the final product!

What to Know

  • Street food is said to be very safe in Bangkok.  We did not hold back and we were OK.  Not promising you will have the same outcome but I felt comfortable.
  • Chinatown is worth exploring and sitting down somewhere.  But there are likely many places in town to explore.  We barely scratched the surface as our stay was too short.
  • Tuk tuks are a cheap and probably faster way to move around town.  As long as you are OK with some exhaust around you (it wasn’t horrible but it may make a difference).  I found the tuk tuk more fun than a regular taxi (though taxis with A/C are not a bad thing!).
  • Thai food goes very well with a nice cold beer!

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A Unique Railroad Market in Thailand

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7,

As I was researching all that there was to do in Bangkok so I could narrow down the options to fit our time there, a friend who had spent a few weeks in Bangkok recently gave me an excellent pair of recommendations on what to do off-the-beaten path.  Liz, my friend, suggested that she put me in touch with a local guide that had taken her outside of Bangkok for a day trip exploring the countryside and a peculiar market.  We did not have a whole day to spare so I asked the local guide, Al, if it were possible to shrink the trip to half a day.  Thankfully, it was doable despite the 1.5 hr ride each from and to the city.  My fellow traveler, Phil, also thought it would be cool to get out of the city so I confirmed with Al that it was a go.

Both of Liz’ recommendations would take us to the Samut Songkhram province, just about southwest of Bangkok towards the sea.  And the first of the two items on the agenda was to see the unique railroad market there by the Maeklong train station.  We had to be there by a certain time to catch the train passing through the market but it looked like we were going to miss it by like 5-10 minutes; I was bummed but was accepting that it was just going to have to be this way.  But, we got lucky!  The train actually passed through like 5-10 minutes AFTER we arrived at the market.

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, vegetables

The Maeklong train station at the end of the market

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, vegetables

The railroad tracks

Space is at a premium in this market and, as you can see in the pictures, the goods spill over just about to the railroad tracks.  Shoppers -and tourists- walk within the railroad tracks to cross the market.  The market in this part is a food market:  vegetables, fruit, chicken, fish, crabs, etc. abound – and all look pretty darn fresh.

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, vegetables

Keep at eye out on the baskets on the right when you watch the video below

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, chicken

Lots of chicken

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, crab, seafood

Fresh crab

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, squid, seafood

Fresh squid

Announcements are made over loudspeakers (in Thai) to warn folks ahead of time that the train is approaching.  I was wondering how these folks would clear out quickly; they barely seemed to be moving or noticing that the train was coming except for the folks closing the canopies that provide shade to the market.  A couple of items on the ground were moved but most stayed put.  I was unclear how well the train would clear the goods, especially the two baskets left between the tracks (you can see what happened in the video clip).

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7,

Clearing the way for the train!

Then the train came.  It was crawling as it crossed the market which made sense given the tight quarters around it (also, unbeknownst to me, the train station was at the far end of the market).

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7,

The train goes through the market

The slow speed allowed us to enjoy the moment.  As soon as the train passed, canopies were opened again and things returned to normal!   It was fascinating to see this place – here is a very amateur video showing the scene:

Bangkok, railroad market, Thailand, Mae Klong, travel, photo, train, market

Yep, it came that close! (Photo courtesy of my fellow traveler Phil I. – I crouched low taking video, he stayed standing for photos!)

What to Know

  • The train does not come through all the time.  We aimed for the 9AM passing of the train; the next train that day was to be sometime around 11AM.  I did not have to look up the timetable as we were being taken to see it but be sure you know that day when it will come through.
  • I would have, with more time, walked around more outside of the part of the market on the tracks.  The area looked interesting.
  • If you plan well, combine doing the railroad market with visiting the Amphawa floating market which only opens certain days of the week.  It is one of the more famous floating markets near Bangkok and, from everything I heard, well worth the visit.  Unfortunately, we only had a full day to go see the railroad market and it happened to be on a day when the floating market was closed.

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Bali – Getting There Is (or Isn’t) Half the Fun

Bali, Indonesia, Asia, Seminyak, pool, W Resort, W hotel, awesome, Samsung Galaxy S7

I arrived in Bali after a long journey that started in the U.S. (about 37 hours, to be more precise).  The airfare to Asia was a steal at $750 from Chicago to Singapore round-trip with Delta, my main airline (so all the points counted towards status!), so after getting to Chicago and spending a couple of nights there with great friends, the journey began.

Chicago->Atlanta->Tokyo->Singapore was the outbound part of the trip.  Yes, Atlanta was my first connection airport – for those of you who do not know, that is where I live!  Oh, the irony:   Had I started the itinerary from Atlanta, skipping the Chicago bit, my airfare would have been DOUBLE at $1,500!  So it made good sense to save all that money and spend it DURING the trip 🙂  At least Delta upgraded me from Chicago to Atlanta…

The flight to Tokyo was just plain long and it seemed daunting as I looked at my itinerary.  At 14 hrs., I think it is (and will likely remain) the longest flight I have taken.  But between wine and, later, an Ambien, the flight did not feel as long.  I did not sleep fitfully or for a long time but perhaps 5-6 hrs. of sleep was enough to break up the flight.  That and a couple of movies and it really was not as bad as I expected.

The flight to Singapore was another eight hours.  Mercifully, the connection time in Tokyo was short and with access to a Delta lounge (where, of course, we had to sample and cheer with sake!), it was no biggie.

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Sake time!

I don’t remember much about the flight to Singapore.  I believe I slept an hour here or there.  It is a bit of a blur.  I may have watched a movie.  Or two.  Or none.  <blur…>.  We landed in Singapore at midnight local time (12 hrs. difference or so from my body’s time).  We had to retrieve our luggage as the final leg to Bali was not part of the ticket to and from North America so the baggage was not checked through.

Gladly, at that time of the night, the airport is pretty empty and the counters of our next airline (JetStar, a low cost regional airline) were open through the night.  So, we were able to quickly go through customs and turn in our luggage.  We had 5.5 hours total in transit in Singapore but we were coming back at the end of the trip so no pressure to hire a cab to drive us around and show us the city (I was so tired that I likely would not have done that anyway…).  So, we went off to find a lounge where we could shower and, hopefully, feel a little less worn from the journey.  We also discovered the free leg/foot massage machines that dot the Singapore airport.  I imagine that the massage was helpful in getting the blood circulating after so much time in the air!

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Singapore’s Changi was empty in the middle of the night

We were scheduled to land in Bali around 7:30AM.   Hotel rooms are normally not available that early in the day for check-in.  But my friend and I are ‘smurt’ (sic) so we were prepared for that.  We had our pool gear (trunks, sunglasses, etc.) in our carry-on so we could leave our luggage with the bellhop upon arrival at the hotel (the W Resort in Seminyak) and head to the pool after grabbing breakfast!

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Approaching Denpasar (Bali)

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Final approach to Bali’s airport

Well, the hotel did deliver a super early check-in but the plan of record remained.  We grabbed breakfast at the plentiful buffet and then proceeded to go enjoy the pool and several Bintang beers for the next few hours (mind you, as we watched U.S. election results stream in into our smartphones!).  It was a great way to decompress from the journey, from work, etc. and connect with vacation mode!

Bali, Indonesia, Asia, Seminyak, pool, W Resort, W hotel, awesome, Samsung Galaxy S7

The view from my room included a great view of the pool area

Bintang, beer, Indonesia, Bali, beach, pool, refreshing

Refreshing!!

While the journey to Bali was long and tiring, thank God, there were zero hiccups (delays, lost luggage, etc.), and few or no bumps during the flights.  But the best part was the arrival and how it could not have been better set up for entering the R&R zone!  And had I known how great the two weeks would be, I most certainly would NOT have regretted a single hour of the 37 it took to get there!

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