A Travellerspoint blog

The wonderous Temples of Angkor

Siem Riep, Cambodia

sunny 98 °F
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Angkor What? (thats a name of a restaurant here, which we thought was funny). Then of course I began to say "Angkor Vat?" as my mom would say (she's Russian and usually says VAT instead of "what?").

In the same caliber as the Pyramids (check! Been there done that), Machu Piccu (Hmm... maybe next year) and the Taj Mahal (in a couple of weeks!!) is the world famous Temple of Angkor - the single largest religous site in the world! Located in Siem Riep, the temples of Angkor are spread over more than 40 miles and were built between the 8th and 13th centuries. Its HUGE and you can see everything from single tower's made of bricks to amazing stone temple complexes. The main Khmer temple is the infamous Angkor Wat (literally translated as "sacred" or "capital city.)" You know when you hear soooo much about something and you get there and are like "hmmm.... its okay." Well, here it was everything we heard about, and more! After 2 days of visiting temples, Angkor Wat, with its lotus shaped towers is by far the most impressive and the most beautiful temple. Pictures don't do it justice, but here it is:

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Like I said, its huge and this is just 1 pict of 29034820394823094823094823094 that I took that depicts it more. Its about 4 miles long and has many bas-relief carvings that depicts stories and characters from Hindu mythology and the historical wars of Suryavarman II. Suryavaran II constructed it in early to mid 12th century in a form of a massive 'temple-mountain' dedicated to the Hindu God, Vishnu. Sooo... to say again, it is amazing, even more amazing is the water that surrounds the comples, moat, which was purposely built to represent the edge of the universe (or something like that). Its hard to keep track of all these beliefs and significance of things. I won't bore you (or I'll try not to!!) with details about all the Temples, but they are all very unique and different. Besides Angkor Wat, the next most amazing temple is Angkor Thom ("thom"means 'big'). Its a huge complex (trust me, it was seriously 90+ degrees out and we were baking as we were walking around. Seriously, baking and melting) and is a 3KM walled royal city and was the last capital of the Angkorian empire. Enclosed in the city is Bayon, the state-temple that is called one of the greatest of Angkor's temples (I believe it!). It has 5 entrances (gates) to the city, one for each cardinal point and each gate has 4 giant faces. There is this cool elephant terrace (protecting the temple) on the south gate. The Bayon was built by Jayavarman VII between 1181 and 1220. The Buddha faces are the best part - they are all smiling down on you!! Every detail of the face supposed to mean something, but eh, who can keep track of that? :)

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Sooo.... once again, to try and not bore you with details, the other temples we saw were Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, East Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Pean, Preah Khan (known as sacred sword with some amazing carvings), Ta Prohm (also known as jungle temple with these cool trees that are inter-mingled with the temple):

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with which we saw the most amazing sunsets at Prasat Kravan and Pre-Rup (this is Pre-Rup):

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The restoration process is huge and there are still a lot of temples in ruins, but overall it is sooooo incredibly amazing.

So what do you do in Cambodia, or Siem Riep, besides go to Temples? Well, we went to Tonle Sap Lake, one of Earth's most interesting natural phenomena because each year during Cambodia's rainy seaon, the Mekong River actually backflows into the "Great Lake"" via the Tonle Sap River. So from the dry season to the rain season, the surface area of the lake expands 4X!! Crazy! So the cool thing about the lake is that you get to see the floating villages of Chong Kneas to see the life and homes of Cambodians:

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Its kinda sad because they are sooo super poor. Not just in this village, but everywhere in Cambodia. Here is some other facts about Cambodia besides because one of the poorest Asian countries). The Communist regime of Khmer rouge years lasted for many years and were super brutal with radical programs like isolating the country from foreign influences, closing schools, hospitals, and factories, abolishing banking, financing and currency, outlawing religions (FYI, now its officially Buddhism), and relocating people for forced labor = labor camps (12 hours of non-stop work with hardly any rest or food). During this time there were massive deaths, executions, work exhaustion, illness and starvation. Many still refer to it as "darkness" years. Then in the mid-70's, the Khmer rouge takes over again and basically orders hundreds of thousands of educated and middle-classes to be tortured and executed. Others starved to death or died from disease or exhaustion. During this time the death toll, mind you, this is within 3 years, is estimated to be almost 2 million.):

-Almost 50% of Cambodia's population is under 18 years of age
-Avg life expectancy is 57 years old
-About 90% of Cambodia's people are ethnic Khmers practicing Buddhism, with the remaining being Vietnamese and Chinese and very remote tribes.
-Its estimated that 1/3 of Cambodia's population lives on less than $1 dollar per day.
-Unlike the other SE Asia countries we have been to, Cambodia does not have a booming economy.
-The unoffical currency is the dollar, but I would say its the official currency because we have hardly seen the riel. We even went to the ATM and got US dollars! Its kinda weird!!
-In the mid-1960's, Cambodia allowed Northern Vietnamese guerrillas to set up bases in Cambodia to continue their attack against the US-backed government in South Vietnam. So in turn, the US began a secret bombing campaign against North Vietnam on Cambodian soil. Then later in the 70's the Vietnamese invade Cambodia, and their war-torn years continue. How many years of guerrilla warfare can one country endure? I read it somewhere (can't remember where now, but it stands out in my head) that there are still thousands of landmines that are still out there from the war and close to a hundred people die each month by accidently coming across it. Its crazy. So we were heavily warned to not go off the beaten path because it is a serious and grave danger.

Cambodia has been really eye-opening. One, to the sad poverty of the people (it always sad to see such young children begging), but also to learn about their (unfortunate) history and more about Buddhism philosophy, such as "live in moderation in all facets of life; material objects stand in the way of greater happiness." Hmm.... once again, as I have realized from traveling, do we really need all those pairs of shoes that we have, or the other countless material things we have?

Remind me, I'll probably need it when we get to Thailand and clothes are less than $5! :)

Oh, here is a beautiful sunset we saw of Angkor wat and then another temple:

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Posted by travellen 22:53 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

War, what is it good for?

Ho Chi Minh City, aka. Saigon

sunny 0 °F
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Darn it, now I can't get that song out of my head.

Anyway, I guess I can't be in Vietnam without mentioning war. Vietnam is the most bombed country in the world. In the world! Its hard to believe, but after re-learning about the Chinese 1000+ year invasions, the French 80+ years, and US 10+ years, we thought it was necessary to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of tunnels that was used by the Vietcong during the American War. This system has been used by the Vietnam for centuries (I guess you learn after awhile) and were a key part of guerilla warfare during the Vietnam war and played a major role in defeating American soldiers. It stretches for hundreds of miles and the tunnels were dug from clay by local people. Its pretty complex and the maps look crazy. The cool thing is that it had living spaces, kitchens, clinics, even a 'honeymoon'' room (one night only). So for the Vietcong, it was good escape from bombings, hiding from the enemy, and to do surprise attacks. Everything was pretty unbiased, until we saw this really old school video that talked about the "ruthless Americans"" attacking the "gentle Vietnamese." It was almost amusing, the propoganda of the video.

But part of the tour was to actually go through the tunnels, and mind you, it was pretty clever for the Vietnamese to use the one thing that most Americans don't have - their super small physique and frame. I don't think I could have fit in there:

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They made the tunnels so tight and narrow, that most americans couldn't squeeze through them. But you ask, how could they survive in their, and what about flooding the tunnels or throwing gas/fire down there? Well, they designed air holes for fresh air and also for smoke to get out and also a pseudo underwater system that if attempted to be flooded, the water would go directly to the river (there was also a river entrance). And of course clay doesn't burn or melt or dissolve or anything, so that solved that problem. Hence, covered all bases. And it worked! We walked through it, well, half bent over and waddling more like it,

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it was sooo hot and muggy!! When I surfaced, I was practically gasping for air. Okay, thats an exaggeration, but I can ONLY imagine how people lived there for months at a time! Crazy! So besides the tunnels, we learned about the ingenious booby traps and other clever designs (tunnel entrances) to deter the "ruthless Americans." Óverall, some of it was cheesy with mannequins writing letters to their moms and polishing their shoes, but I thought they did a pretty good job of re-creating it. It was also good to learn about it from their perspective - nostly unbiased, except the video.

On a side note, there is absolutely NO friction towards us being Americans (which some random people warned us about). Since Vietnam opened itself to tourism in the early 90's and President Clinton visited it in 1996, they like Americans because Americans ='s $$, and tourism is becoming a thriving industry here and helping their economy. I asked our guide about the opinions Vietnamese have towards Americans and he said that they have really tried hard to put their war torn history behind them and have moved on. I can see that. When we went out to dinner with Char's friends 2nd cousins friends (phew!) they said they were a new generation and want to nove on from the past. The guide also said, and I heard this from someone else, that there is more friction between Northern Vietnam (the "communist republic") and Southern Vietnam, the anti-communist and Catholic region (2nd largest Catholic population second to Phillipines) then towards any other country. Interesting. That was the whole trigger of the war, and as the guide reiterated that there will always be problems but but are looking in the future. And once again, that Vietnam is a nation, not a war. Then our tour guide from today, when we said we were Americans, shook my hand and grinned and went on to talk about how he was an English translator during the war. So as always, there will always be harsh feelings somewhere, but its a friendly nation trying to get back on its feet. And tourism is helping that tremendously, so everyone is everyone's friend. Woo hoo!

Ho Chi Minh City is mostly referred to as Saigon, and it is a pretty busy city with lots to see and do (but not as chaotic and congested as Hanoi, the capital). Once again, the influence of the French is here with colonial style buildings and baguettes. We did a pow wow and pretty much saw all the sites in one day: the general post office that is one of the most attractive buildings in the city because it really resembles a train station is ornately designed (designed by a french architect), the Notre Dame Cathedral - always interesting to see a basilica-style cathedral in Asia, Reunification Hall, City Hall, Municipal Theater, and lots of 5 star hotels. Oh, and this amazing Jade Emperor Pagoda with the traditional roof green stacked ceramic tiles and cool sanctuaries.

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Today we went along the river Mekong Delta. The famous Mekong River is the 3rd (4th?) largest river in the world and runs all the way from India, through China, and all throughout SE Asia. Its mega, as I like to say and we took a nice river boat cruise through it and saw some traditional floating houses, markets, and fishing boats bobbing along. It was super murky (probably because of the most recent floods), so no swimming. Hhaha! But it was a nice sunny day so we were happy. We went to some homemade coconut candy shops (delish!) and road bikes through the villages, which was cool. The Mekong Delta is definitely famous for its ethnic diversity and I can see that. Here is me with the traditional Vietnamese cone hat on the Mekong Delta:

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So now I can check off yet another "1,000 Things to See Before you Die." Yea!

Bye Vietnam! Cambodia, here we come!!

Posted by travellen 04:22 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Shop 'till you drop, then frolick in mud

Hoi'an and Nha Trang

overcast 80 °F
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Okay ladies, time to shop till you drop!

Hoi'an, in the central part of Vietnam is known for shopping. Not just any kind of shopping, but tailored shopping. You can get anything personally made - suits, blouses, skirts, dresses, you name it. We even met someone that lost a swimsuit and had himself a tailored swimsuit made. Nice. So yes, Char and I went a little crazy. We came into Hoi'an knowing about the tailored clothes and decided we wanted a suit for interviews to come, and maybe a dress pant for work. For me, 3 coats, a suit with skirt, pants, a dress, and 3 blouses later, I was still itching for more. But Char held me back (I had to hold her back also) and we stopped. Yes, these are bargain prices and its all handmade and tailored to you, but it adds up. I gotta say, its hard to walk away sometimes because you keep finding things that you like. But alas, we survived :)

What to do besides shop and getting fitted? Hoi'an happens to be another UNESCO World Heritage Site (which seems like every town we go to these days). Its definitely historic and because of the location by the Thu Bon River, it served as a trading port to traders from Europe, China, and Japan. So you get everything from Japanese style bridges,

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to Chinese pagoda's (I think I've shown enough of those), to unique long, narrow tube houses. It definitely has a historic feel to it and is a lot smaller and more chill than Hanoi. You can actually cross the street and not almost get killed. There is also the Central market, a hectic and frantic market that sells all kind of food and clothes (of course):

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Unfortunately, right before we came here, there was massive rain in the central region and flooding. We were worried before coming here and were in fact greeted with drenching rain, but it has since cleared up. Unforunately, here is what we say when we went by the riverfront to grab something to eat:

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Which is too bad because I hear the riverfront has some great restaurants. But all things considered, the flooding has definitely caused some destruction and lost buisiness :(

Soo... not much else to report from our end! Just lots of shopping! Shopping! And more shopping!

Oh, and obviously we weren't going to carry all this stuff home, so as I was packaging up stuff to ship, I decided to send this also. He'll arrive in 3-4 months by seamail:

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.......................................................

So after Hoian we took an overnight bus to Nha Trang, this beach town that we had been looking forward to seeing since we entered Vietnam. We arrived to a beautiful sunny day. Happily, yet still groggy from not sleeping from the 12 hour bus ride, we took a nice walk by the beach and soaked in the fresh air and listened to the waves crash. It was soooooooooooooooooooooo nice and we were super excited that it was sunny. And of course happy to be by the beach. I don't know what it is, just being by the water makes me feel sooo relaxed and happy. Being that we don't have beach towels, we decided to lounge around and read on the rooftop of our hotel instead. It was soo relaxing and chill. Finally! Then, we had heard about the Thap Ba Hot Springs where there are tubs of warm mud and mineral baths. How could we not go to that after our stressful time in Hoi'an having clothes tailored and being re-fitted a thousand times over? :) We tend to find lots of excuses to treat ourselves and do the "well, we deserve it." ha ha!

It was everything we thought it was going to be and more! In an organized fashion, we showered in hot mineral water and then went to these mud tubs, which are full of sodium silicate chloride, which is supposed to help the good 'ol joints and stuff. We hung out there, rubbed mud over our bodies, and enjoyed the nice sunny day. Its kinda cool hanging out in the mud, I tell ya! Then we shuttled to a shower to clean ourselves from the mud (and umm... the mud was kind of hard to get all out!), then another shower to get to these hot spring little tubs. We soaked in there for awhile and just relaxed. It was soo nice!! Finally, we were shuttled in a large hot pool area to finish off our afternoon of beauty treatment.

Here's me maxin' and relaxin' in the mud:

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We were sooo relaxed after that that we had a quick bite to eat, and then napped and watched a movie ("the Rock" was on. It was pretty good!). And finished off the evening with a delicious seafood dinner by the beach. It was perfect weather, comfortable in tank tops and a slight breeze from the sea. Ahhh... we told ourselves, "this is the life!"

But then of course today woke up to cloudiness and showers. Hmm... I knew we spoke to soon! So besides beach there is not much else in Nha Trang so we literally lounged around today going from cafe's to restaurants, checking the internet, and are about to take another overnight but to Ho Chi Minh City, otherwise known as Saigon. At least I can say we are rested!!!!

Posted by travellen 02:09 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Welcome to 'Nam

Hanoi

overcast 66 °F
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It hasn't exactly been a nice welcome, but its a new country, so welcome!

We arrived to Vietnam from sunny and hot weather to chilly, rainy, and muggy weather. Blah! Then we had some difficulties finding accomodations and had to settle for someplace more expensive than what we wanted to pay for a night before we moved... again and again. Finally, it was bound to happen - I thought it would be China, but less than 24 hours of being in Vietnam I got some kind of food poisoning. Boo! It was horrible and I still can't think of what it could be, so now I'm just scared to eat anything. As many travellers can attest to, being ill in a foreign country really makes you miss the comforts of your own home (and bathroom!). Alas, I'm in slooow recovery but am feeling better. Good 'ol ibuprofen!

So besides those little mishaps, we still managed to squeeze a lot in. We just happen to arrive the night of Halloween. We totally almost forgot about it until a hostel that we couldn't even get into invited us to a Halloween party, which was nice. And it was fun! Seeing English, Irish, Aussies dress up and have some good 'ol Halloween fun with games and everything. Might have well been in Chicago!!

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(The girl on the left was a mushroom, the guy in the midde... ???, and the guy on the right was a snowman. He won the costume contest).

We spent the next day sightseeing, everything from the Ho Chi Minh Mauosoleum (which, by the way, he was in Russia being 'cleaned' so we didn't see him. I later learned that he didn't even want to be embalmed. He strongly persisted that he be cremated and ashes thrown over the north, central, and south of Vietnam. But then as soon as he died, these officials just 'deleted' that request and embalmed him anyway. Oh well.) to the Presidential Palace to his Stilt house to the flag tower. We also saw this cool One Pillar Pagoda:

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Story has it that Emperor Ly Thai Tong in 1049AD had no son and had a dream that he was visited by Quan Am, Goddess of Mercy. The dream was that she was sitting on a lotus flower and presented him with a baby boy. Of course later Ly Thai Tong married a new young queen who bore him a son. So he built this one pillar pagoda to represent a lotus flower and is in a small pond. AHh... how nice.

From there we also saw the famous Temple of Literature, the oldest architectural complex in Hanoi. It was established during the Ly Dynasty as well as founded in honor of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. It served as a center for higher learning and educating future madarins for centuries to come. I didn't get the whole story, but there is some kind of series of exams and one person passes and becomes the next instructor? Something like that. Its really beautiful:

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The thing to do in Hanoi is to go to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a contender to be a Wonder of the World in 2008. Everyone has to go on a boat tour where you are shuttled 3-hours in a bus to the bay to take a boat to the bay. We opted to spend the night there because it would be too much to cram in one day. The weather blah, but we still managed to enjoy it as it is really pretty. The bay is spread across 580 sq.mile and has more than 2,000 limestone and dolomite outcrops. According to legend (yes, I know, everything seems to come from some kind of legend!), the bay was formed when a gigantic dragon (ha long means descending dragon), plunged into the Gulf of Tonkin and created this myraid of islets by lashing its tail. Although geologists say the outcrops are formed by selective erosion, most people still believe the dragon story and all the boats have a dragon in the front. Dragons represent royalty and good luck in Vietnam. Anyhoo, besides looking at the amazing and bizarrely shaped outcrops, there are a lot of caves with all sorts of stories. We went to the Hang Sung Sot cave, which is known as the Cave of Awe. It has 3 enormous caverns and is pretty impressive (although we hear most of it is restored and we don't know whats real and whats fake). Our guide kept on pointing out things that looked like .... umm... rocks, and was like "thats a turtle!" We all looked at each other and were like "ummm.... okay. Sure." Then "Thats a dragon!" Yea, sure. Then he pointed to this and was like "What do you think this is?"

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Uhh.... no comment on that one! :)

Here is a pict of Halong Bay with all the boats:

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We also had the opportunity to kayak around the bay, which was pretty cool (although it was kind of rushed, but what can you do?). The rest of the evening was spent on the boat playing cards and hanging out with other backpackerrs.

So back to Hanoi. Have I mentioned yet what a change of pace it is from sleepy Lao? The city is sooooo congested and soooooooooooooooooo crazy with the motorbike traffic. It seriously takes 23904823094823 hours to cross the street (okay, like 5-10 minutes) because everyone is just driving like madmen (and women!). There isn't a real direction they follow... its just drive like mad, whether on the opposite side of the street or on the sidewalk, it doesn't matter. I think I faced death about a hundred times already:

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Always an adventure!

Actually, besides being known for the traffic congestion (and noise! Soooooo much honking!!!!!!!), they are also known for the conical hats, which are pretty cute and ethnic looking:

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(I guess I was kinda obvious taking a picture of her. Look at that smile! She probably wanted to sell me something). Most of them are vendors and are carrying the long wooden sticks on their backs and have something balanced on both sides. Amazing on how much weight they can carry!

After a walk around the Hoan Kiem Lake and a visit to the Museum of Ethnology, we feel we hit most of the hot spots in Hanoi. The Museum of Ethnology is pretty cool - they recreated a lot of the 54 ethnic groups that represent Vietnam. Here is a Central Highland ethnic home... the figures are all representative of things:

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A lot to see and do in Vietnam!

Here is a quote from Confucius to finish up:

"I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand"

Posted by travellen 01:26 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Same, same... but different

Laos: Vientiane, VanVieng, Luang Prabang

sunny 89 °F
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Laos is seriously known as "Sleepy Laos," and when I first heard this, I thought "oh.. thats cute!" But really, it is such a sleepy and sloooooow country. Most of the time we have to wake up vendors to ask them about prices and what not:

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TOTALLY relaxed, chill and you really have to be patient. All and all, the slow pace of life is good training for the inpatient (which, I admit, is me sometimes!). Since coming here, we quickly learned how to greet people (put your hands together in a prayer position and slightly bow your head):

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To say Hello is "Sabaidee" (said like Sa Bye Di) and thank you, "Kop chai," and to take off your shoes before entering a place. I really really enjoyed my time here and have gotten accustomed to just relax about things! Its a TOTAL change of pace from China, and I just can't get over how nice and friendly the people are! Even things like bargaining is actually fun and nice! The people genuinely laugh and smile, and even though you know you are getting ripped off, you just feel different about it... in a good way. In China you really had to start at least 80% of what they were asking, and maybe settle at 60%. Here is the happy median, which is a lot less stressful and exhausting. The other thing is that things here are sooooooooooooooooooooo cheap. Even "getting ripped off" literally means by cents and $1-$2. Which after a little while, you begin to haggle over pennies practically, and then just cave in, because you think "no really, its 5 cents. I will survive."

In New Zealand I saw many shirts that said "Same same" on the front and "... but different" on the back. At first I thought it was a new fashion statement that I didn't know about, but then being here, I see its the Lao thing. They don't say "same as" they say "same same." Its soooo cute. For example, our Lao waiter one night was trying to figure out if Char was Lao (for some reason, Char, being Philipina, in every Asian country we go to, they think she is a local. Especially in China) or not. So she said that she was in fact Philipina. So he says, "oh, same same us!" And just started laughing. We laughed too, but were thinking, "umm... no, not really, but whatever!"

So this morning we got up at 5:30am (gasp!) to see the monks process through this line of locals giving away local Lao food to monks in training, such as sticky rice (rice that is steamed for 4+ hours than regular rice, and really is sticky and supposed to make you fuller faster. Its sticky enough that you grab it with your hands and roll it in a ball), baby bananas, and some little cookies:

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Its supposed to be this old spiritual tradition and we thought we were special that we woke up all early to see this. But of course we get there just as these hoards of Japanese tourists are getting off a bus to get situated to hand out food. D'oh! Then more and more Westerns emerged out of nowhere to take pictures and stuff. Yes... I know, we were one of them, but it was kinda sad. I felt almost bad for the monks because tourists were all up in their faces taking pictures of them like they were aliens or something. The feeling that this is some authentic tradition was waaaay gone. Yes, I know, once again, I was taking pictures too - but not all up in their face! It was an experience and definitely made up for it that we had some good coffee afterwards.

Oh, we had a funny experience the other day (or we thought it was, but actually, I think it was one of those "you had to be there" things). We were in VanVieng having some our favorite muesli with fresh fruilt at one of those loungy sofa things watching ... I think Season 4 of Friends?, when all of a sudden we hear this crackle, pop! closeby and the power went out. Then all of a sudden all the locals started yelling and were running around like madmen. Not knowing what to do, I looked around and saw that in a blink of an eye, Char had seriously already lept over the side of this little rail thing, and was crouched with her hands on her head. Me being with my gimp foot (refer to previous blog), was a little more slow-mo, not that graceful, and lept over the rail... and practically landed on Char's foot. She yelped and yelled "my foot!" Ohhhh myyy gawd. NOT good to have 2 travelers with gimp foots. In the meantime, we realized we were the only ones that were crouched and in hiding and got up to see find out that it was an electrical circuit outtage (which I guess can lead to a circuit explosion? I don't know!). It was soooooooooooooooooooooooo funny! But really, we were just reading how Laos can be dangerous and there have been bombings to tourist places, so it wasn't too far-fetched that we were scared and thought it was a bomb. Char's foot ended up being okay, and so was mine. Phew, we survived!

Besides just chilling out, Laos (actually prounced "Lao") has a lot of wats, or Temples. But as pagoda's in China, sometimes after you see a dozen, they start to look the same. However, they are still cool. There is this big one called Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang, also known as the Temple of the Golden City. Its known as the "magnum opus" of Lao religious architecture because of the golden reliefs and this big o mosaic Tree of Life. It was built in the 1600th century by King Setthatriat. We also went to "Mount" Phousi, and the reason I " " mount is because its just 329 steps to get to the top and its translated to "Marvelous Mountain," but really, its not a mountain but a little hill. All things considered, it has one of the best views of the sunset over the Mekong River and here is a pict of it with the Mekong river in the background:

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We also went to Khoung Sy waterfall, one of the biggest waterfalls in Laos.

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It was amazingly beautiful and has cool swimming areas to take a dip in. There was also a small trek to take to get to the top of the waterfall, but after about 5 minutes in flip-flops (again) and walking through slippery and muddy ground, I backed out because of the flashback to the cave and trek from the day before. Ha ha!! It was super relaxing to hang out at the waterfall and that night we treated ourselves to an hour $5 massage for all our hard work (hah!). But really, who can turn down an excellent massage for ONE hour for $5!!! My back has been in knots even from the beginning of my travels and I definitely felt loosened up afterwards and will definitely do it again!!

So besides wats, walking around the small "cities" (usually 3 blocks by 3 blocks), the markets are awesome here and sooooo super cheap. T-shirts for $1-$2, scarves for about the same, and many many other things. If I wasn't to lug around all these things, I would go crazy with the shopping! Its actually kinda cool how underdeveloped Laos is and that it is known as being "untouched" and underdeveloped - there is NO McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken (everywhere in Asia) and gasp! Even NO Starbucks! Luang Prebang (where we are now, but soon to leave) used to be the capital but since it moved to Vientiane centuries ago, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Village. Although that means that it should really be "untouched," in general Laos is trying to take after Thailand with tourism. So there are many Western-style restaurants here as well as internet cafe's. I REALLY REALLY hope that Laos DOES NOT become another Thailand, which is ALL about the tourism. It would spoil the gem that this country is.

As much as I enjoyed Laos, its time to leave. Its funny because both Char and I really feel like we have become sooo lazy... just from the week we were here. Everything is so slow and relaxed that it takes an effort to even move. We are leaving for Hanoi, Vietnam today and will be back to the grind! I think it will be same, same... but different!

Posted by travellen 18:02 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

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