Twilight for Travelers

Hello jet lag!  Sometimes I beat you, and sometimes I really, really don’t.

This morning I watched the sun rise over the Bosphorus Strait.  Negatives: delirium, confused circadian rhythm.  Positives: INTENSE BEAUTY and the inspiration for my first blog post in a long time.  This one goes out to the hamsters and all their crepuscular buddies.  Let’s start with two very different Mongolian sunsets.

I took the top picture on my first night in Ulaan Baatar, the happening capital of Mongolia.  The bottom picture is from a twilight camel ride in the Gobi.

Next we have a special pairing: California wine country and the Himalayas in Nepal.

And, finally, Istanbul this morning, followed by Siem Reap after a long day of touring.

Rice Paddies and Seasonal Fruits

Here are some things I did in Siem Reap when I was not taking one million temple photos:

Eat passion fruit and lychee.  Fruit juices and smoothies are too good in Siem Reap (and Thailand), especially if you’re new to 1. hot weather or 2. fruit with spikes on the outside.

Find great restaurants.  The dollar is still good for delicious meals and fun dining experiences in Cambodia.  We had the most fun at Nest, a large tented restaurant where you can eat in bed.

Visit the Angkor National Museum.  I think it’s better to go to the museum after the temples.  They have a great collection of religious statues that you can imagine in their original context.  The room of 1,000 Buddhas offers a look at the changing face of Buddha in Cambodia.

Ride quad bikes through the rice paddies.  I enjoyed getting a close look at the countryside, including cow road blocks and giant potholes.  It was also incredibly fun – just ask my Dad!  Travel can’t always be museums and walking tours.

In my next post, I’ll finally be moving on to New Zealand (where I’ve been travelling for two weeks).  Thank you for sticking with me!

The Many Faces of Angkor Thom

After Angkor Wat, I thought I had completed the full temple experience.  Wrong again.  Angkor Thom, the vast old city next to Angkor Wat, contains even more temples with unique and stunning features.

The most notable feature might be the faces.  Giant figures line the road to the city gate.  The main temple inside does not have the complex architecture of Angkor Wat (it’s made from smaller stones), but it does have dozens of larger-than-life Buddha faces.

Just a few minutes away by car, the Butterfly Temple is a must see.  Yes, it was made famous by Angelina Jolie and attracts buses of tourists.  But this temple is too cool.  When the French cleared the jungle out of the temples of Angkor Thom, they decided to leave one temple as all of them had been found – covered in twisting trees and roots.

Angkor Wat

I thought I had seen everything a wat could offer, but I was wrong.  Ladies and gentleman, put your hands together for Angkor Wat.

It turns out that wonders of the world receive their titles for a very good reason.  Everything about Angkor Wat is spectacular: the size of the temple, the grounds, the remarkably intact carvings.  Even the monkeys feasting on bananas seem more adorable than usual.

Next time, I want to get a seven day pass and explore every corner.  But I don’t think I can repeat the thrill I felt when I first crossed the moat and caught sight of the temple gate through the trees.