Sunrise at Borobudur

One of the most popular things to see in Yogyakarta Indonesia is the Borobudur temple. This 9th century UNESCO temple is considered to be the largest Buddhist monument on Earth.

I am going to see it at sunrise.

Borobudur temple sunrise viewing is probably the best sunrise viewing I have ever witnessed.

I almost regretted this 3 am wake up call for sunrise but I am definitely glad I went to see it.

I tried to nap during the car ride to the temple. Everything is still pitch black when I arrive. I arrive at the main building to check in and retrieve a sticker to show I have paid admission. The plan is to head out to the temple to watch the sunrise then head back to the main building for a buffet breakfast.

It is off in the dark with a little flashlight to the temple.

I get up to the top of the temple and soon the sun starts sneaking up the horizon.

I find the dragonflies flying around the temple at sunrise charming. Someone tells me their life span is very short.

I actually had tears in my eyes watching the colors off in the distance against the shadow of the mountains. I have never cried at a sunrise before.

The sun puts light on the temple so gently.

After the sun rises I view the temple in full light.

It gets quiet in areas as the crowd dies down. It really is a peaceful experience.

I descend the temple to walk to the main building get my buffet breakfast. Not memorable but I enjoy the coffee (I am so addicted).

Temple from the bottom looks very different

Video of the experience….very sorry about it being vertical.

After breakfast we head out to another temple. I am definitely going to nap on the way!

Mekong River Delta

Today I head to the Mekong river delta. Today is just a short visit. A van picks me up at my hotel and we drive out to a launch area.

On the way we stop to see a bunch of Buddhas at Vinh Trang Pagoda.

We arrive at the boat launching site. We are shown a map to see the areas we plan to visit today.

First we stop at a honey bee farm. We learn about honey and royal jelly. We get the hard sell on the wonders of royal jelly. We get to enjoy a honey tea.

Honey Tea

We try some local fruits: Mango, Papaya, persimmon, dragonfruit, jackfruit.

While we sample fruits we experience a musical performance. Singers sing local songs and we hear instruments I have never seen before.

video

It is now time to catch a ride to where we leave for our boat rides.

Apparently it is too far to walk or I would have walked it if I could. The transportation to the boat is a horse drawn carriage. Most people probably think that is quaint but I have vowed to not use animals for transportation like that anymore. When asked if we would like alternative transportation I and one other ask for something else. The other mode is an electric golf cart. Apparently it is a big deal because the guide keeps trying to talk me out of it. I know I am sort of being “difficult” about it but I am going to trust my gut this time. If there is an alternative mode of transport then I am taking it. There is a long wait but the cart finally arrive for us difficult ones. The distance doesn’t seem too far. I probably could have walked it.

Launch area

It gets pretty crowded at the a launch site. Lots of boats are being filled with tourists such as ourselves. Eventually it settles down a bit.

We stop at a coconut candy factory. We get to see how the candies are produced. After sampling the candies I buy some to snack on during my travels. Unfortunately they don’t get too far since ants in my hotel room later in Siem Reap chow down on them instead 😦

We also get to sample some coconut liquor. I try a little bit, but not the type that is fermented with snakes, yuk.

We have another boat ride, this one motorized, to where we are to eat lunch. There are less boats in this area so besides the motors, it is very peaceful.

It is time for lunch. Look at those fried fish!

After eating I take advantage of one of the bikes they have to take a short ride around. There are fish, fruit and random animals around the property to look at.

We take the boat back to the van. We are given a refreshing coconut drink to finish out the day.

Cu Chi Tunnels

The second half of my day tour consisted of an optional visit to the Cu Chi tunnels. The tunnels were built as a network of hiding and war strategy by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. During the war they would live and hide in the tunnel system.

As part of our visit we are given a demonstration on how the various booby traps would work to deter the opposing soldiers from finding the hidden Viet Cong.

We are also given a demonstration of a smaller underground hideout.

Various other tunnel entrances.

More examples of traps used.

During a short break there is an optional shooting range. Not really my thing so I sat this activity out. The gun shots coming from the range are loud and consistent.

We get to try out one tunnel. This one isn’t so bad with only just hunching over a bit. There is another longer tunnel to try but it looks way too narrow. I am afraid I’ll be trapped in that one.

Our tour guide shows us different plants in the wild and their medicinal uses. Living in the tunnel system away from hospitals was quite dangerous for the soldiers so they had to learn how to use mother nature.

Tunnel diagram

After my tour I am dropped back off at my hotel.

I spend the evening wandering around Bui Vien street. It gets pretty lively.

I try Bún Bò Huế across the street from my hotel. It is pretty decent and it is a good end to a long day of sightseeing.

Arrived in Hanoi

Train street in Hanoi

I am in Hanoi Vietnam and things are going great. To be honest I am tired but I am still trekking along in my travels.

My original plans had me going to Sapa for a hike and a homestay but instead I break up my Hanoi visit with a Halong Bay crise (actually Bai Tu Long Bay )

My Hanoi visit begins at a Hilton hotel that I booked with some leftover points. It is nice to splurge and stay in a western style comfort hotel every once in a while .

I have only been in Hanoi for a short while and I am already a fan. I mean it is busy and the roads are super crowded with cars and motorbikes but something about it is magical. I am anxious to get to know the city better.

But first I need to take care of the sensor on my “fancy” camera. It has many spots on it. I watch sensor cleaning videos and it seems like there is no way I can safely clean it with what I have with me. I google camera repair shops in the area and find one a couple blocks from my hotel. I arrive at the small shop and there are two men working. They don’t speak much English but I get them to understand that my sensor has spots. One of the men cleans the spots for me. When I ask how much to pay for he says no charge for the service. I never get anything free anymore! This must be a good sign.

I spend the next day or so wandering aimlessly around town. I visit the Ngoc Son temple at Hoàn Kiem Lake. By the lake they have the walking streets (Pedestrian-only hours start from Friday 6 p.m until Sunday 12 p.m.). It is here I first experience school kids wanting to interview me to practice english. It is a common theme as I noticeably stand out in southeast asia with my light colored hair and bigger build. I guess look like a good person to practice with. I oblige as much as possible to be helpful but at one point in my travels it becomes quite frustrating (I’ll talk about that another time).

Ngoc Son temple

The turtle is significant. There is a story about a sword carrying turtle at the lake.

During the walking streets kids get to “drive” these amazing vehicles all over the streets. It is fun to watch the excitement.

Upcoming boxing match near the lake

More shots from around Hanoi

And as part of my series “Instagram ruins everything” I arrive to the famous Hanoi train street to find it blocked off for traffic. It has been closed just weeks prior to my arrival for safety reasons. Apparently people couldn’t stop doing dangerous poses and the government had enough. It would have been cool to see when it was full of life. A guard yells at me while I am trying to to take the photos below, although security is not consistent, a guard on one side of the street is strict and guard on other side doesn’t care how long you stand there to take pictures.

After wandering by train street I go back to my hotel to rest up a bit before my night food tour.

Pai

Breakfast grits with chosen toppings

First full day in Pai (Thailand) is started with amazing breakfast at my hotel.

Day 2 of Pai starts off ambitious. I want to head out to the canyon for a hike but it ends up raining most of the day. I wander around town a bit but I mostly stay in my room and watch movies (I am taking many days “off” of traveling lately).

My hotel looks pretty at night.

When I do hang out in the early evening I am not vibing with the other tourists; there are very few locals to be seen. Visitors are young and vagabond-like and some begging for money to travel. I need to find my tribe of older budget travelers – I guess it is difficult when I choose to stay in a nice villa for a couple nights. I try finding others to chat with but after a couple drinks I give up and go back to my room. I did make a doggie friend.

The next morning I think about renting and learning how to ride a motorbike and then ride to a waterfall. Travel forums say that Pai is one of the best places to learn how to ride a motorbike. A motorbike would be very handy for getting around in most south east asia.

But alas I arrive at the motorbike rental place and chicken out.

Instead I do the two mile walk up to the white Buddha statue.

Walking along the road. I change which shoulder I walk on based on car visibility.

Eventually I come across a set of stairs. I can keep walking up the windy road but it is probably safer as a pedestrian to use the stairs. There are lots of steps.

Once I finish this set of steps there is another set of steps. This set of steps leads to the temple complex.

I walk through the temple complex and arrive at the final set of steps. Here I stop to pay to rent a cover-up because I am dressed in shorts for the day.

Probably the only time I am able to get a photo of myself without other people in the photo.

After I climb up the million stairs up to the Buddha it is nice and relaxing. This is one of the few places I have visited that is not overcrowded with tourists (like me). I will have to remember Pai on my list for when I return to south east Asia.

I start my way down the stairs. I decide to skip one set of stairs and walk down the road since there is no traffic. I fail to notice the mud & moisture on the ground and slide down on my butt. Luckily my palm and butt are just a little sore. It could have been worse (and no one saw me!).

The rest of the walk to town is lovely. I look for the long neck Karen tribe that is nearby but I keep ending up down dead-ends roads. In addition I am hesitant to show up unplanned. Many of these tribes welcome visitors but I didn’t want to be that one tourist that shows up uninvited.

How motorbike fuel is sold on the side of the road.

Once arriving back in the main town I sit down for the best khao soi (Thai Coconut Curry Noodle Soup) at JUST EAT. It is my first time trying it. I am forever changed. It is the perfect comfort food – especially when it is made with fried chicken.

I spend my last evening wandering around town and find some very unique handmade jewelry Thadmala design. I am happy I buy some affordable pieces here and glad they have an etsy shop if I want more.

Back to Chiang Mai

They next day I am back to Chiang Mai overnight for my flight to Hanoi early morning.

I am not happy because I am once again assigned in the very back of the van for my ride to Chiang Mai. Luckily I made sure to purchase some extra motion sickness medicine this time (I mimed motion sickness at the pharmacy). Good traveler that I am I gave some to the guy in the seat next to me because the poor guy looked like he was ready to be miserable.

Some more credit card points are utilized to stay at the lovely Le Meridien Chiang Mai where I get a great view of town. I have a early flight the next morning so it is bed to early for me.

See you in Vietnam!