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The Magnificent Angkor Temples


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This is probably one of the moments I was expecting the most in South-East Asia, the visit of the temples of Angkor, in Cambodia...

My first surprise was to realise that there was actually more than the famous Angkor Wat, as indeed in those times, every king of the Khmer empire (9th to 15th centuries) wanted to build (well not him personally I presume but his slaves) his own temple to "his" glory. So instead of building a big temple and increasing its size year after year, Cambodia is now left with about a thousand temples close to each other, some now not bigger than a pile of stones but others being able to contain up to a million of people back in those times, the most famous being indeed Angkor Wat as it is one of the only one which has never been abandoned to the nature (but which is also not the biggest of all temples, by far).

When deciding what and when to visit, the most interesting entry pass is the 3 days one for about 40$. And I can guaranty you, by the end of the third day, you will definitely have enough of seeing stones everywhere, no matter if those are nice stones belonging to nice temples, by the end of the third day, a stone is a stone! And the other inconvenient is when trying to take pictures, it is very very hard not to have another tourist on it. If one wants to take amazing pictures of Angkor, one must learn patience... :-)

And I could write a lot about the temples of Angkor but the best is probably to show you this selection of pictures I took, with a bit of explanation underneath. If you want to have more information about Angkor, I could refer you to the wikipedia article (in English) or this one (in French).

Map of the main Angkor temples

Map of the main Angkor temples


The first thing that each tourist does is to witness the sun rising behind Angkor Wat, which was first a Hindu, then subsequently a Buddhist, temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world

The first thing that each tourist does is to witness the sun rising behind Angkor Wat, which was first a Hindu, then subsequently a Buddhist, temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world


Unfortunately it can become quite crowded.... <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_sad.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':(' title='' />

Unfortunately it can become quite crowded.... :(


Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat


A little prayer to Buddha inside Angkor Wat

A little prayer to Buddha inside Angkor Wat


Angkor Wat is also decorated with thousands of "Devatas" which have now been nicely restored

Angkor Wat is also decorated with thousands of "Devatas" which have now been nicely restored


Angkor Wat surrounded by the dense forest

Angkor Wat surrounded by the dense forest


the pathway leading to Angkor Wat

the pathway leading to Angkor Wat


Angkor Wat with the sunset light

Angkor Wat with the sunset light


Monks visiting Angkor Wat

Monks visiting Angkor Wat


No idea who is this woman but the picture looks nice, inside the corridors of Angkor Wat

No idea who is this woman but the picture looks nice, inside the corridors of Angkor Wat


A lion and myself... <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

A lion and myself... :)


The Bayon is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia. Built in the late 12th or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, the Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman's capital, Angkor Thom.

The Bayon is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia. Built in the late 12th or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, the Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman's capital, Angkor Thom.


That temple has also been decorated with at least 216 faces of the former king himself...

That temple has also been decorated with at least 216 faces of the former king himself...


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East Mebon temple

East Mebon temple


The Ta Prohm temple, among the trees, like most of the other temples were found before being restored

The Ta Prohm temple, among the trees, like most of the other temples were found before being restored


Still Ta Prohm and you can actually see how the trees are so tightly integrated to the structures now

Still Ta Prohm and you can actually see how the trees are so tightly integrated to the structures now


Ta Prohm was also used in the movie Tomb Raider and unlike some scenes taken from other temples, the scenes of Ta Prohm were quite faithful to the temple's actual appearance

Ta Prohm was also used in the movie Tomb Raider and unlike some scenes taken from other temples, the scenes of Ta Prohm were quite faithful to the temple's actual appearance


large_Ta_Prohm__41_.jpgThe Ta Som temple

The Ta Som temple


The third eastern gopura, with strangler fig, still in Ta Som

The third eastern gopura, with strangler fig, still in Ta Som

Posted by manolo84 10:42 Archived in Cambodia Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises temples english Comments (0)

Greetings from the smiling Cambodia


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Following Laos and the 4000 islands, I decided to carry down south into Cambodia and its capital Phnom Penh. The bus journey was actually one of the worse I have experienced during my travelling year. First there is the matter of crossing the border and getting your visa. Whilst a Cambodian visa usually costs 20$, you also "must" pay 5$ for the guy who is going to bring your passport into the immigration office and 5$ for the police chief who is going to stamp it. Everyone seems to get a little bit in their pocket or so it seems. Unfortunately there is not much you can do about it if you don't want to take the risk of being left behind by the bus, in the middle of nowhere...

After this then it is a long 14 hours journey through bumpy and dusty roads, in a 40 degrees bus where the A/C doesn't work, not the most pleasant experience ever. But then the bus finally made it to Phnom Penh and I could get some well deserved sleep in a hostel near the tourist area.

The next days were spent visiting the noisy capital with the royal temple, the killing fields and the famous S21 prison where Pol Pot and his subordinates killed around 3 millions Cambodian people during the 70's (almost 1/4th of the total Cambodian population!). To be honest I knew very little about this dark period of Cambodia, the Red Khmer period, and the more I got to know, the more I was losing faith in humanity. Where were all our western countries during this period? Maybe then spreading the "democracy" wasn't that important in those troubled times or maybe was it because Cambodia doesn't have as many natural resources as other countries in the Middle East? But I am probably becoming now too cynical, I'm sure they had a very good reason not to intervene... And the worst thing is when Vietnam decided to invade Cambodia to put an end to this madness, Pol Pot and a good number of his friends migrated to Thailand, where they lived happily until the age of almost 90 years old... For sure this world is definitely not fair and I doubt will ever be.

But what stroke me the most is the ever lasting smile on all the Cambodian faces, these people have faced really dark times and yet they are probably the most vibrant and nicest people I have met during my trip. Always ready to help and joke, this definitely forces my respect...

So after a few days in the capital, I headed down south to the small Cambodia coast and the towns of Kep and Sihanoukville and its island, Koh Rong. Not much to say about those places other than it was nice to chill out on the beach or do a bit of sea kayaking after my time in the noisy capital. But one could get bored quickly about those places as there is not much else to do and I decided to go back up towards Thailand, making first a stop in Battambang, an old French colonial town, the second largest town of the country but also very quiet compared to the capital. But I didn't really get any time really to spend there so after some visits to some old temples nearby, I carried on to Siem Reap, in the west of Cambodia, also known for its close location to the Angkor temples... but this will be the object of another post, especially since I don't want to flood you with tons of pictures...

So here is a first selection of my Cambodian pictures, just for your pleasure... :-)

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace


Memorial of the Killing Fields

Memorial of the Killing Fields


Sign in the Killing Fields

Sign in the Killing Fields


Bracelets in memory of the people who died in this grave

Bracelets in memory of the people who died in this grave


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Memorial monument gathering all skulls found in the killing fields, Phnom Penh

Memorial monument gathering all skulls found in the killing fields, Phnom Penh


A bed used for torturing prisonners in the S21 prison - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

A bed used for torturing prisonners in the S21 prison - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum


Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - S21 Prison

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - S21 Prison


Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - S21 Prison

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - S21 Prison


Relaxing in Koh Rong island

Relaxing in Koh Rong island


Stairs leading to an old temple, near Battambang

Stairs leading to an old temple, near Battambang


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Monkey near Battambang

Monkey near Battambang


Buddhist temple near Battambang

Buddhist temple near Battambang


Around 5pm each day, millions of bats fly out of their cave to feed

Around 5pm each day, millions of bats fly out of their cave to feed


A crazy sight of bats

A crazy sight of bats


Fisherman in Kampong Phluk aka the flooded forest

Fisherman in Kampong Phluk aka the flooded forest

Posted by manolo84 09:04 Archived in Cambodia Tagged towns english Comments (0)

Chilling out in Laos

sunny 35 °C
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I know I haven't given news for a while and my trip now approaches to an end so prepare yourself for a bunch of articles in the next days! :)

After the hectic months I had just spent in New Zealand, Korea and Hong Kong, I really felt like I needed to take a break and to slow down the pace of my journey. Indeed people back home keep telling me that "you are on holiday, how can you be exhausted?" but the truth is that when you pack and unpack your bag every few days to go to another destination, visit another museum or another "amazing" waterfall, you start feeling a bit less impressed and more and more tired. When at the beginning I was finding myself craving for new adventures, I now enjoy a lot spending days relaxing and not doing much.

So in that perspective, Laos was quite a breather for me. After an overnight stay in Bangkok airport because of the cheap flight I had booked from Hong Kong, I arrived in a really hot day in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The temperature change after a freezing Korea and a sometimes chilly Hong Kong, was quite a shock. But in a way I adapted myself quickly to that environment by incorporating the local motto "hum... it's really too hot to do anything today, let's chill out..." ! :)

And here are how my days in Laos were mostly spent...

  • Vientiane

The capital of Laos is actually quite small compared to the ones of the countries around. But it has still a definite atmosphere of South East Asia, with tuktuks, markets and street food stalls all around. I was also surprised to see a lot of signs (like for the official buildings) written both in Lao and French, but as Laos was a former French colony (used to be part of the Indochina with Vietnam and Cambodia) it all made sense. However nowadays French is only being spoken by older people, the younger generation learning English, which is more useful for tourism purposes.
One of the only sites I visited in Vientiane was Buddha Park, a statues park where 60 years ago, a monk who integrated Buddhism and Hinduism, tried to gather and build statues to revere the Buddha. Here are a few pics:

Buddha Park

Buddha Park


Patuxay, the War monument in Vientiane

Patuxay, the War monument in Vientiane


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  • Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng has been known for a long time has a party place, where the main attraction was to go down the river in a tube, and to stop every 100 metres or so at the several bars along it. No need to say that everyone was ending up really drunk and of course with time accidents happened (even deaths). So the whole thing has now been downsized a lot and out of the 50 bars or so, only 4 remains. And where maybe in the beginning it was really about tubing and going down the river, now the first and last bars are only at a mere 500 metres from each other so most of the people stop at the last bar and get a ride back in a tuktuk instead of carrying on for 2 to 3 hours on a perfectly still river (that was just before the rainy season so the river was at its driest level). Anyway the whole experience was quite fun, we met nice and funny people, but I could definitely see how it could go wrong if you keep drinking and don't pay attention to the time (it gets dark right after 6pm). Being drunk and on the river in the dark for a few hours was probably not a good idea... :)

Anyway Vang Vieng is not just about tubing but also has stunning landscapes to offer with limestones mountains covered by vegetation, caves to explore, lagoons to jump in, etc...

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The Blue lagoon

The Blue lagoon


Renting a motorbike is a lot of fun but can be a bit risky...

Renting a motorbike is a lot of fun but can be a bit risky...

  • Luang Prabang

The journey continued in Luang Prabang, a small city classified as an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995 and located between the Nam Khan and Mekong River. Here tons of tuktuk drivers will approach you in the main street, asking you if you want to go to the waterfalls, elephant villages or some temples... then later in the evening the same people will change their offers for the bowling alley (the only place opened late at night) or to sell you all type of drugs or again to take you to the "ladies boom boom"... Hum.....
Anyway I had a good time there, and we even managed to find a place completely randomly where to play pétanque (french balls game) while enjoying some cold beers with the locals, great fun!

One of the main temples in Luang Prabang

One of the main temples in Luang Prabang


Every morning around 6am, monks go down the main street for the Alms giving ceremony, where locals give them food for the day

Every morning around 6am, monks go down the main street for the Alms giving ceremony, where locals give them food for the day


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Jonathan with new friends <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Jonathan with new friends :)


Pétanque time!

Pétanque time!


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The Kuang Si Waterfall

The Kuang Si Waterfall


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Too hot is not good for the mind... <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Too hot is not good for the mind... ;)

  • Phonsavan

Another painful bus journey in a packed bus through the dusty roads of Laos and my friend Jonathan and I found ourselves in Phonsavan, in the middle of northern Laos. This region faced a tragic history some decades ago during the second Indochina war with American fighter planes dropping tons of bombs in the area, either when on their way to Vietnam or at their return, to avoid bringing them back to their base. As a result Phonsavan and its region Xieng Khouang were devastated by mass bombing (it is the most heavily bombarded area in the world with at least 262 millions cluster bombs dropped on Laos between 64 and 73, more than during the entire World War II!) but the sad story is that around 30% of those bombs didn't explode right away, leaving inhabitants at risk of stepping on them by mistake and dying horribly. The children especially are concerned because they don't always recognise it is a bomb before it is too late. And it took the U.S a long time to recognise all their mischief here, as this was meant to be a Secret War, meaning that even the U.S Congress didn't know what was going on at that time. Nowadays the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) work with the locals to try to find out as many bombs as they can and to neutralise them before anyone can get hurt. But the task is huge and still around 10-20 people die each year as a result of those left over bombs...

But the main reason to visit Phonsavan is to get a glimpse of the famous Plain of Jars. The Plain of Jars is dated to the Iron Age (500 BC to AD 500) but very little is known about the jars signification. There are about 50 different sites filled in with megalithic jars, where in some burials human remains were found but no one knows exactly if this was the main purpose of these jars or if there was another meaning...
Another problem also when visiting those sites, is the presence of unexploded bombs as I mentioned above. As a result, visiting can only be done on the clearly marked paths and this also slow down the restoration process of the jars and new discoveries.

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  • The 4000 Islands (Si Phan Don)

Finally, my last stop in Laos was at its most southern point, in an area called the 4000 islands, an archipelago located in the Mekong river. As its name suggests, there are several islands here, most of them being submerged by the Mekong during the monsoon season. There is not much to do there except chilling out and relaxing, going on a kayak or tubing tour, visiting huge waterfalls nearby or trying to spot the rare Irrawaddy dolphins (an endangered specie due to the Mekong river's pollution).

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On a kayak tour

On a kayak tour


Waiting for the dolphins to appear

Waiting for the dolphins to appear


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Massive waterfalls on the Mekong

Massive waterfalls on the Mekong


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Nice sunset..

Nice sunset..

Posted by manolo84 22:43 Archived in Laos Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises temples rivers kayaking monks english Comments (0)

Hong Kong, Pearl of the Orient

semi-overcast 15 °C
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Next on my list was therefore Hong Kong, after having had an unsuccessful attempt to visit it before my trip to Korea, because of the Chinese New Year's celebrations. Indeed at that time (around February 1st), the Chinese New Year occurring at the same time meant that all cheap accommodations were already fully booked and the prices were rocketing high. But two weeks later, it seemed that everything was back to normal and I had no problems finding a hostel to stay in.

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The first thing which strikes any visitor coming to Hong Kong for the first time is the multitude of skyscrapers. It seems that every company wants to have a higher and bigger building than their neighbours, and more shining as well with lightning effects. Inhabitants face also a space issue, because there are too many people for the space the Hong Kong island has to offer, then people usually live in tiny flats in 15 or more storeys buildings. Unless you make a lot of money I think it must be very hard to find a decent sized accommodation not too far from the centre. And my hostel was no exception to the rule: in what probably used to be a normal flat on the 14th floor of a building in the Tsim Sha Tsui busy district, there was now a hostel with dorms rooms, with at least 12 beds in a 12 square metre room... you see the picture... But I was not coming to HK for its quality of life but more to catch a glimpse and understand why people nicknamed long time ago this lively city Pearl of the Orient.

Actually from the beginning of the 90s, people also started to refer for Hong Kong as the "Golden Egg" because anybody could come, start up a business and make a good fortune, a bit like the American Dream.

And I actually quite enjoyed my days there, it was not as hot as it could be with temperatures averaging the 15 degrees, and humidity was not an issue either (I have been told that during other months the humidity levels can reach 100%!). As usual, staying in a hostel meant that I could meet a lot of people who were like me willing to explore the city and its surroundings (an hour away from the centre, there are actually very nice hikes to do and beaches to relax on), and even managed to fit a day trip to Macau, one of the two "Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China" with Hong Kong. Macau was actually quite interesting with its mixed Portuguese/Chinese heritage and its new massive Casinos which makes it Las Vegas' little brother.

But one week was enough (at least for this world trip) as Hong Kong is far from being cheap and after a week I realised it was time to move on to South East Asia if I wanted to make my bank account happier... Overall I had a great time there, met nice people and I would definitely recommend to spend at least a few days in Hong Kong if you are in the area!

  • Hong Kong

Hong Kong "by night" is quite impressive and photogenic!

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  • Dragon's Back hike

One of the nice hikes available only at a short distance from Hong Kong island.
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  • Lantau Island

Lantau Island is the largest island in Hong Kong, where is located the 85-foot (26 m)-high bronze Tian Tan Buddha (or "Giant Buddha") statue, once the world's largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha statue. Walkers can ascend from Tung Chung to the monastery in two hours. Visitors can also take a 25 minute ride on a Ngong Ping 360 from Tung Chung to the Ngong Ping Plateau via a 5.7 km cable car journey with a cultural themed village and easy access to the Tian Tan Buddha Statue.

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  • Macau

The streets, old fort and casinos of Macau.

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Posted by manolo84 19:30 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged cities english treks Comments (0)

Instant musique à Séoul

Musical interlude in Seoul...


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A few months ago, a friend of mine made me discover a amazing musician called Yiruma, a famous Korean pianist. His music is, how I would say? inspiring, and the perfect companion to my long bus journeys through South America and beyond.

And by pure coincidence, when walking in a subway station with the same friend, we spotted a few people setting up a piano and a banner announcing a musician playing a few minutes later. Turned out it was Yiruma! Hope you will enjoy it too! (I will try to get the end of the video translated soon).

Posted by manolo84 09:52 Archived in South Korea Tagged music english Comments (0)

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