Monthly Archives: September 2012

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap – are the temples made by humans

Angkor Wat

After a visit in Vietnam I went to a neighbor country, Cambodia, And in Cambodia we visited, of course, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. I really wanted to see the famous temples that are mystical, featured in several films, shown in many programs about history, culture, ancient worlds and even aliens and visitors from outer space.

Angkor Wat

Mystical, beautiful temples in Angkor Wat

Buddist monk

An young Buddhist monks contemplating in the special surroundings

Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world. The temple was built in early 12:th century. The name Angkor Wat means the city of temples. And that’s right, the whole big area is covered with different temples. The temples are full with sculptures and carvings. Many of the temples have huge faces carved out, facing the four sides of the world, there are scenes from every day life, Buddha statues and statues of Hindu gods.


Two other monks seeking peace


The walls are covered with beautiful carvings

Some of the carvings are more mystical, there are carvings that are said to picture dinosaurs. Were did they come from? Well, sometimes people see what they want to see, the human minds creates images that may not be there. We want to have a mystical explanation to a mystical place. And as for the mystical theories? Some people say that the temples must have been built by aliens, not humans. WHo knows?


There are many carved heads watching the temples

The whole area is spectacular. The different temples are different sizes and shapes. Some are well preserved, some are just ruins. Many have big holes in the walls, because of the jem stones that were placed there when the temples where in use. One day they were just abandoned and forgotten, many years later we found them again and now they tell us stories of ancient glorious days. Maybe the same destiny lies in front of our civilized world?


A lizzard waiting quirtly for a catch

Tah Prom

The mystical Tah Prom temple, where Lara Croft was in trouble

The first day in Siem Reap we visited thebiggest and best known temple, the Angkor Wat. We walked all over the place, fascinated by the place, we saw many people, Buddist monks, Catholic nuns, school children and normal tourists. Despite the heat of the day we walked, watched and were amazed by this place.


A scary spider, I saw a few of them around the temples


I actually saw a dinosaur by one of the temples, so don’t tell me it’s a lie!


Lizzard, a real-life dinosaur, size small

Among others we saw the Tah Prom temple, where Tomb Raider was recorded. In this place the trees are eating up the walls of the temple, creating a scary and majestic feeling. At some other temples the trees were cut down with a tragic result. The walls, destroyed buy the roots, fell down, when the trees and the roots where gone leaving just ruins.


Long corridor, what can be hiding here?


My driver was taking a rest, while I was exploring the temples

The second day we were in the area as well, exploring even more temples. We saw agigantic Buddah, lying down, made of many, many stones. We saw ruins of a temple on a hill with wonderful view of the area, we saw emperors swimming pool and the swimming pool of his concubines, by one of the temples. So many exciting things in one, not so big area. Why were they abandoned?

angkor Wat

A little bit of Angkor Wat temple

Angkor Wat

The Angkor Wat temple, wow!


Another monk thinking about life

The third day my travel buddies didn’t want to go anywhere, so I went by myself to explore even more of the area. I hired a bicycle-taxi for the day and visited even more temples. Maybe less known, some older, some more destroyed, many with less tourists, but all as magnificent. There were carvings of people and animals and gods and life. I also saw a dinosaur (plastic, but still) and a wasp hive. I wonder why the others didn’t want to go. I would love to spend a few more days in this great area.


Bees, cool and scary at the same time


An elephant statue watching one of the temples


Trees by the Angkor Wat temple was covered with yellow stringy plant

This place became a world heritage site in 1992. Link to the site: Angkor in Siem Reap.

My grade? Five of course:



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Hiking in Swedish Lapponia, among reindeer, cloudberries and sauna

lapplandIn 2009 I had a knee surgery in May and in August I went with a friend to hike in Swedish mountains for ten days of hiking. We packed backpacks, took my orange tent and took off. We took a night train from Stockholm, went to Kiruna and then a bus to Nikkaloukta, where the adventure began. And we started our hike on the Kings trail, Kungsleden, going to Abisko.


Even if the night arrives late in Sweden, even in the end of the summer, it was already dark when we put up the tent.

The first afternoon was nice and easy. We walked fron Nikkaloukta to a boat that took us across a lake that shortened our hiking by about 9 km.It was good, since it was getting late. And we had a very nice reindeer burger aswe were waiting for the boat. Pretty good statr, if you ask me.

After the boat trip there was still some hiking left and we got to Kebnekeise tourist cottage in the evening. We chose to pass it and seek a place for our tent a bit further. That’s because we wanted to shorten the next day’s trip as much as possible. It was already dark when we finally put up the tent.


View of the mountains the first morning, life is beautiful.


Fluffy flowers on the way

västra leden

The western trail to the top of Kebnekeise, highest mountain in Sweden, we chose the longer, but easier southern trail

The morning was beautiful and we woke up with a very nice view of the mountains. Time for an adventure. We decided to get to Krberkeise’s top this day. As the trail went on we passed beautiful flowers, nice views and another trail leading to the top passing over the glacier. The Western trail is more advanced then the southern. Even if it’s shorter they recomend to take it with a guide, so we chose the longer and easier southern trail

Getting to Kebnekeise we passed ice cold creek, another top and the Coffee Valley. It’s called so, because almost everyone chooses to stop there for coffee break. We even had our luch there. And finally we were on our way up. And the weather turned from very nice to very unnice. The rain started to fall and as we were getting closer to the top-cottage, a cottage quite near the top, we saw almost nothing. We continued few more minutes until er got to the snow and we decided to turn back. Sometimes you have to, and when you can’t see your own feet, it’s such a time.


Crossing an ice cold creek on the way to Kebnekaise


On the way to the top, the weather is turning, this doesn’t look good


Not far from the top, too bad we had to turn back, but the weather made us to

When we were half way down, the weather got better again. That’s typical. Should we turn? We still had a long way back to the camp, back to our tent. So we continued down. Back across the freezing creek, passing by the flower fields and other wanderers on their way. And when we fot to the tent it was getting late. Though luck.


On the way down from Kebnekaise, more than six hours hiking ahead of us

Next day

Next day, better weather


The lake is like a mirror

The next day was beautiful morning and we were tempted to make another try on Kebne. Tempted, but we skipped it. We had a train from Abisko to make and the plan was to go to Singi, Sälka, Nalo, and few other stops on the way and finally to Abisko just in time to catch the train. No delays were planned, so no Kebne this time. Too bad.

We started off early and we hiked for a while. Then the rain started and stopped just in time when we tokk out the rain gear. And started again. And stopped again. And so it would continue for the rest of the week. We saw several reindeer, some of them pretty close. The way was wide and pretty boring. Then we came to Singhi cottages and passed them. At that time the clouds were really dark and the rain was there as well.


We had reindeer as company

We stayed by a simple overnight cottage about half way between the Singhi and Sälkas cottages. Why not inside? Well, the shed was already taken by two spanish girls. And we had a great tent afterall. In the morning the sum came out, so we dried our stuff and continued to Sälkas cottages. This place was important for my friend, since it had sauna and she really wanted to get there on time. And we did. There were quite a few people and it was way too cold. It was not impressive, but quite nice to get warm and clean. A shower after the sauna is a nice thing, especially when you are out in wilderness.


The most beautiful place, Nalo, looks like a picture, look how small the cottages look like.


r Me at Nalo

The very next day was not as sunny, but quite ok as well. We trekked to Nalo resting point. We went passed a field with plenty of clodberries and we ate quite a few. It must have been funny to see us picking the cloudberries with huge backpacks on our backs. The way to Nalo was quite easy and very beautiful, but quite long. We made it by the evening and stayed in our orange tent by a creek.


Hiking on, it’s time to continue


Nalo from behind

In the morning we decided to choose a different way than planned. We picked some cloudberries on the way and we rouded the Nalo mountain from a different side. We passed an area where a glacier had fallen downfrom the mountain. The climate is changing, that’s for sure.

We went on and we came to a hostile place in a valley with cold mountains around, with rocks and wet area. We hardly could find a good place for the tent, but we did. We were thinking about going on, but the dark stopped us. Lucky us.


The cludberries are sweet, good, many and quite unique


The mountains are big, respect giving and magical

moon landscape

We chose to stay in a Valley, not knowing what is in front of us


Moon landscape by a long lake, a few hours on loose stones, though walking, but we made it

The very next day we continued. We went up a slope and came to a lake. It was a moonlike landscape, where the way went next to a lake. The side of the slope was leaning and was covered with small loose stones and a little bigger rocks. It was a hell to try to walk on the moving ground and it took aout four hours to pass a couple of kilometers. Welcome to hell. Very beautiful hell.

WHen we reached the end of the lake we rested just a short while and the we ran to the next cottage, Arvidsjaure. It had a sauna, so we wanted to make it on time. I didn’t care, but my Finnish friend thinks that sauna is very important.


Nice and cool flower

AT Arvidsjaure we picked some blueberries after the sauna. Very good blueberries. And after that it was just two more nights before we came to train in Abisko and went home. Higher up in the mountains we saw thr first snow. And it still was early in August.


Laponian lake, this picture is taken during another trip in May 2010


Lapporten, the Lapponian Gate, a great mountain in Lapponia, May 2010

Another time I was in the area wad in May/June in 2010 and it was still plenty of snow. Very beautiful, but cold. Summers up here can be warm, but are very short. And summertime there are plenty of mosquitos. And they are huge. Wintertime it’s dark 24/7 and you can see Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis. And summertime there are sunshine 24/7. This is a very special place, very beautiful and very different, quite hostile as well.

The Lapponian area became a world heritage site in 1996. Link to the site: Lapponian area.

My grade for this site is four out of five. I was going to give it five, but the dark wintertime and mosquitos in summer are minus.



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Wooden pieces of art, hiking in the Tatra mountains and snow in May

The year was 2008 and I was ready for new adventure. I didn’t have so much time and nobody to go with, so I chose one of my favourite places, Zakopane, where I feel almost like at home. Zakopane is a wonderful little town in southern Poland and it has it all. Skiing in winters, hiking in summers. It has culture, very special architecture and very special people. In a good way. And it has very many tourists, but that’s OK.


Little bird hiding from the rain


The forest is green, where the mountains start


One example of local architecture, maybe not so typical


More typical house

I’ve been to Zakopane many times, first time as a 4-yrar old learning how to ski, later many times skiing and hiking, celebrating Christmas, watching ski-jumping competitions and just exist. And you can find some of the world heritage sites near Zakopane, the wooden churches of southern Poland. The architecture in this region is very special. The roofs are very steep, since the winters are very snowy. That can be seen on churches as well. They are not huge and magnificent, but small, warm, wooden and very much like local folklore. And that makes them magnificent.


Another typical house with steep roof, preventing it from breaking because of the heavy snow wintertime

And one of these churches is in Zakopane. It lies next to central parts of town, near a top called Gubalowka and many people pass tit every day. Next to the church there is an old cemetery, where you can find graves of famous Polish people, like artists, doctors and other well known people from this region. As a small kid I was both fascinated and scared by this place. I liked to walk here and look at the very old dates and dreamt terrible nightmares during the nights. And come back few days later. It’s not so scary now, but the church is as beautiful, if not more.


A very small church on Gubalowka hill


A wooden church near main street in Zakopane

This time Zakopane welcomed me with beautiful sunny spring weather. I stayed here many times, so I knew where I could find a room in the town and I did this time as well. I always stay in town and make day-trips hiking. This way I don’t need any sleeping bags and other heavy stuff, only some snacks for the day, hiking shoes and rain gear. Perfect!


On the way to Giewont


On the top of Giewont. I did it! Again!

The first day was time for Giewont. It’s a mountain pretty close to the town, that looks like a sleeping person. Locals have built a steel cross on top of it in the beginning of 20:th century. It’s not a good place to be in a thunder storm. From top of Giewont there is a wonderful view of Zakopane ansd the surrounding mountains. Giewont is 1952 high and, besides the last part, is an easy mountain. And everyone climbs it: guys with small children and women in high heels. Not because it’s so easy, it’s not, but because it’s so close to the town. It’s still dangerous to be in the mountains and accidents do happen.


Running away from the rain

At the end of the trail, when you almost reach the top of Giewont, there are iron chains that you can hold on to, making the way up a little easier. The weather was nice when I got there, but suddenly dark clouds showed up, so it was time to leave the mountain behind and seek cover in town. I don’t remember if I got very wet this time. And it doesn’t really matter. It was a nice whole-day hike.Not too tiring, just good day walking. And water to drink? Well, you can fill your bottle from the creeks, the water is crystal clear.

way to Morskie Oko

Way to the lake Morskie Oko

Morskie Oko

Morskie Oko Lake, picture taken during another trip in June few years before

Morskie Oko

Morskie Oko lake from above, picture taken few years before

The second day of the adventure I decided to go yo Morskie Oko, The Eye of the Sea. It’s a beautiful lake situated in the Highest part of the Tatra mountains, the High Tatras. There is a nice mouintain cottage there, where you can eat a good meal, have some tea. And they have just the perfect apple cake. To get to the lake, you take a bus from Zakopane and go almost to the border with Slovakia, near the Lysa Polana. From the last bus stop it’s about 10 km easy walking to the lake. It’s easy, quite many tourists, but it’s totally worth it. The scenery is beautiful. The mountains are majestic. There is another wooden church in the woods in this area. I’ve been here a few times before and even if it’s a bit hard to reach, it’s really worth it. The place is called Jaszczurowka, the place of lizards.


A crow, that stole my sandwich, while I was photographing it. Nasty bird,


A sheep, they are many in the area

I skipped Jaszczurowka this time. In stead I went to Morskie Oko. In the crystal clear water it’s easy to sea trouts. It takes abot an hour to rond the lake. At the far end the trail continueas to Polish highest peak, Rysy. I thought about going there, but I got to the next lake, a bit above Morskie Oko, called Czarny Staw, the Black Pond. The view from there is magnificent. This time a year there was still a lot snow in the area, so I decided to head back.


Rest of a forest, trees broken by an avalanche

the way

On the way to the Valley of the Five Lakes

5 lakes

Cottage in the Valley of the Five Lakes

The day was still far from over. I now went to the Valley of five lakes. There was lots of broken trees on the way, a sign of avalanche. It’s quite common wintertime. I  got there and thought that maybe I should go back to Zakopane over the mountains, passing Zawrat, one of the more difficult passages, at least for a normal tourist. I headed for the passage but the weather changed. The thick fog came from nowhere and a guy I met on the way told me that he was heading for Zawrat, but turned back, since the visibility there was terrible and there was lots of snow. Well, I turned back as well. We went back to the bus at Lysa Polana. It’s been a long day, good day. As a lst perfect thing, soon after we took off, the bus driver hit the breakes. Why, A bear mother was crossing the road with her cubs. There are a lot of brown bears in the Tatras.


Still lots of snow in the Valley


Mountains are beautiful in the spring

I decided to take it easy the next day. After all, I did two long days already, so the third day was going to be short. I went to the Koscieliska Valley. It’s a very beautiful valley in the Western Tatras. I took a bus from the town to the start point of the trail and started trekking up towards the end of the valley. On the wayI went up to a cave in the Valley, and a nearby lake with a beautiful view, where water is like a mirror with images of the mountains. In the end of the valley there is a tourist cottage as well with great bigos, a beer or why not the apple cake.


The Koscieliska Valley


The Canyon Cracow


The small cave in the Valley

Not far from the Koscieliska Valley, I thought, there is another valley, Chocholowska, why not go there and go back that way instead. And so I startedto ascend up the passage to the other valley. The passage was through the woods and much longer than on the map. Much longer. And when I came down in the Chocholowska Valley it was starting to get dark. But I went by a wooden chapel (not church), that former Pope, John Paul II used to visit, and continued out of the valley. The valley is also much longer than I remembered. At the end I bought some local cheese, oscypek, and took the bus back to town. And was I tired.


Forest between the two Valleys with a creek


Finally in the Chocholowska Valley, it’s getting late


Cute cow in the Valley

Forget nice and easy, this last day of my visit to the mountains was going to be long, hard and even longer. I decided to go on a trail that I never tried before, but it looked long, even on the map.It went over the passage Krzyzne to the Valley of the Five Lakes, a long and esausting trekk, but very very beautiful. I started out from the town, no bus this time, and was up ion the trail pretty soon. I passed the cottage Murowaniec pretty early and continued on. The trail was quite empty. I didn’t meet a single person, which is quite unusual in the Tatras. The day was sunny and quite warm, winters snow could be seen at the shady places, but was melting fast.


Beautiful montains on the way


Going over the passage in Krzyzne


Mountains and the Valley of the Five Lakes far down

After a few hours I reached a passafe that I was heading for. The view of the Valley of Five Lakes was magnificent. I went down to the Valley. There is a cottage there as well, but I didn’t have time to stop here. It was almost evening. I continued to the bus at Lysa Polana ans was in town quite late, very tired, very happy, loving it.


Beautiful mountains


Horses on Gubalowka

The next day I went to Cracow and got sick. Fever and no energy. Maybe it was because of the hard four days in the montains? Well…

The woden churches of southern Polans became world heritage in 2003. The link to the site: Wooden churches of southern Little Poland.

My grade to this world heritage is four out of five. Maybe it should be three, but they are so beautifully situated and very special in their simplicity.


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In the Emperors domains in Hue

My trip in vietnam in 2009 started out in Hanoi, continued to Ha Long Bay and then to Hue by the Parfume River. Many world heritages in one trip. After Hue we went to Hoi An. I’ve described some of these places, some are still to come. But now it’s time for Hue. The trip in Vietnam was about culture, history, people and food.


Street life with real people, Hanoi

We stayed at pretty good places, but we also longed for the real life. for eating in the tiny street corner plces with small tables and even smaller cgairs, where people were sitting with knees by their ears. Our guide promised to take me and a girl on the trip to a real Vietnamese restaurant for the people. Well, he took us to a really good place, perfect for the tourists, where politicians were vommon visitors and were you would not be surprised if you saw a movie star. Oh, well. We had to find this tiny place on out own and we were not disappointed. Sitting in the tiny chair, way too small for our European butts, eating noodle soup that was perfectly flavored, we were in heaven. OK, white clothes on the table may be nice, but it’s even nicer to see real every day life.


Tiny chairs in a small Vietnamese place in Hanoi

It can be difficult to see people and everyday life and talk to people and get honest answers back. Sometimes it would br cool to have an invisible hat that makes the owner invisible, so you can walk around and observe without intervening. Now we talked to people but they want to show the good sides of life, make us happy. Some people opened a little and sometimes mentioned thengs that could get better, very secretly. But most people seemed happy, they wanted to please and please themselves at the same time.


Citadel in Hue, great monument, that they should be proud of, and they are


Another great view from the citadel area


Beautifil detail


An old man taking care of the are, or just watching tourists

We arrived in Hue after a few days in Vietnam. We started out the first day with visiting the Imperial Citadel. It was interesting. We saw a few school trips, kids playing around the area. The guide told us about this places history. We watched, we listened and we walked around the place. There were new parts and very old parts. The whole place was mysterios and impossible to see and understand in such a short time.

3 doors

Three doors, the middle one for the emperor


Beautiful eastern architecture

3 doors

The three doors again, many places had this solution

Then we moved on. Too much to see, too little time. Vietnam is a beautiful place and you need plenty of time to see just a little part of it. We went to another very old place and we visited the Thien Mu Pagoda, a buddist temple. The Pagoda was built in 1601 by the Parfume River and the name means Heavenly Lady. It’s a beautiful and peaceful place. We left it in the evening taking a boat on the river back to our hotel. It was a nice cruise.


Nice place


The Pagoda

Parfume River

Cruise on the Parfume River

The following day we visited two mausoleums, The first was the Tu Duc Mausoleum with beautiful gardens where a huge moth landed on my neck. The place was beautiful and peacefull. There were some people, but not many. You could walk around and imagine the ancuent times.


Littlr girl selling bananas


The huge moth


The huge moth on my neck


Beautiful place


One more passage to an unknown world

The second mausoleum was emperors Kai Dinhs mausoleum, where we witnessed a practice for a theatre play. I and my friend, another photographer, wandered off and almost got lost. The others were not happy, but who cares. We saw a beautiful world.

3 doors

Once again three doors


And again


Practice for the play


One part of the mausoleum


An elephant statue

Old lady

An old lady

The complex of Hue Monuments were added to the list in 1993. The link is here: Hue Monuments.

This place gets four globes. I was thinking of three, just because of the world-heritage-overload, but it was nicer than that.



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Birka – discovering old Viking village

There is not much left of Birka today, at least not visible for the eyes. But there is a lot, old Viking graves, fields, remainings of old houses and markets that archeologists find all the time. The latests discovery is that about 30% of old Birka is under water and there is so much more to discover. Fiest for marine archeologists as well.

city hall

Leaving Stockholm City Hall behind

But what is Birka? Birka was an old Viking town that was populated from 8:th to 10:th century. It is called the first city in Sweden, but there might be even older towns, but not as known as this one. I leave this question for historians to fight about. Back to Birka. We visited it in August this summer. It is situated on Mälaren lake not far from Adelsö. There is a tourist boat going there from outside the City Hall. That’s the best transport, unless you have your own boat, so we chose it.


The island of Kungshatt with a hat marking its highest point

The boat trip takes about two hours. Under the trip a guide was telling us about the different historical places that we passed and about Birkas history of course. We passed a Hat-island, Kungshatt, among others. There is a hat there on islands highest point. There is a story told that long time ago a legendary king visited the island and people put up a hat as a memory, but nobody knows how much truth is there in this story.


Another boat cuising on the lake

We passed many islands and finally arrived at Birka. We went for a guided tour and were told its history, about old rules, abot merchant point, abot missionaries that visited this place and about viking that were supposed to get the new religion without abandoning thier old one. The most important reason of Birka was its market and trading point.


Information point about Birka

We walked around the island and watched places that were old graves. We were told how the archeologist work and what kinds of things they were finding. Even if there were many people in the group it was good to hear someone tell us about this place. There is not much that a person that don’t know so much about this place could identify. There are green fields, some hills and not much that shows the islands former role and importance.


Here in these fields are old graves, remains of old houses and market places. Today there are field and grass anf trees. Your imagination is very needed.


Listening to the fuide


A girl trying to imagine old times

We went also to the hill where people have built a big cross to memory of and old German missionairy, Ansgar. He stayed here on the island during his lifetime and brought Christianity to these regions. Although old Viking jewlery are find in the old gravs, there are also Christian symols, like crosses, as well.


A cross to memory of old missionaries


The cross in the distance

There is a church on the island, but we didn’t have time to visit it. Maybe next time. Another thing that we didn’t see are the runic stones. They are saud to be here as well and are an old viking stones that were raised as memory of those who are not with us any more. They have beautiful carvings in old runic alphabet. The text is simple: “Eric raised this stone to memory of his father Thorvald, who was a merchant and…” Some of the text is usually missing.

runic stone

Example of runic stone. This one is from another part in Stockholm county, outside Ösmo

We walked to the reconstucted Viking village with tree houses. It seemed very cold for me. Don’t forget that our winters are cold and snowy. I imagine how cold these people must have been. Brrrr. There were also some boat in the harbor in the village showing that these people were good sailors. Well, the Vikings spread all aver Europe or even the world using their boats.


Reconstruction of old Birka house


Inside the house


Boats waiting in the harbor

We visited the museum on the island as well and saw a model of the town as it might have been once upon a time. There were some old jewlery there as well. It could have been interesting, but everything had too much kindergarden approach. I understand the importance of making the information easy for kids, but there should be more stuff for grown-ups (without being beurocratic, thanks).


Wandering on the island, trying to imagine how this place looked when there was a town here

unesco flag

Unesco flag marking this world heritage site

Birka was a nice and peacefull place nowdays, but it must have been very vivid and busy when it was still an active town. The guided tour gave us a bit of this world.


The Birka island

Birka became a world heritage in 1993. Link to the site: Birka and Hovgården.

My grade for this site is three out of five.


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