Category Archives: Asia

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.

monks

Two other monks seeking peace

wall

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?

Head

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?

Lizzard

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.

Spider

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

dinosaur

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

Lizzard

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.

corridor

Long corridor, what can be hiding here?

resting

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!

monk

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

Bees, cool and scary at the same time

Elephant

An elephant statue watching one of the temples

tree

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:

GlobeGlobeGlobeGlobeGlobe

//Monika

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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

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.

meal

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

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

Monument

Another great view from the citadel area

drtail

Beautifil detail

man

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

gate

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.

architecture

Nice place

pagoda

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.

girl

Littlr girl selling bananas

moth

The huge moth

monika

The huge moth on my neck

mausoleum

Beautiful place

passage

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

doors

And again

play

Practice for the play

mausoleu,

One part of the mausoleum

statue

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.

GlobeGlobeGlobeGlobe

//Monika

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Hoi An – an ancient town by the river

hoi an

My trip in Vietnam 2009 started in Hanoi (separate blog post here), went on to Ha Long Bay (separate blog post here) and then continued south in Vietnam. We passed very nice places, met some very nice people. The country is not rich, but people seem happy and smiling. We felt welcome. The food was good and there was a lot to see. We passed Hue (I will write about it later), Danang, the border between north and south Vietnam and we finally arrived in Hoi An.

boat

Boat in Hoi An

bug

Beautiful bug on the river

We arrived in Hoi An in the afternoon and took a walk in the town entering it throught an ancient bridge. We walked around and explored the town. It’s small and very pitoresque and there is a lot to see. When we came to the town people were preparing a celebration and parade of some kind, so everything was shining, there were pictures of Ho Chi Mingh everywhere and you could feel excitement and preparations.

star

Preoaring for parade

kid

A school kid in a town preparing for celebration

The town of Hoi An is next to the river and every year in October-November the water of the river raise and had filled streets of the town several times. People are used to this and just continue with their lifes. It’s fascinating how easy it is to go on. In one of the houses that we visited there are markings on the walls how high the water was different years. Strange.

houses

Hoi An houses

houses

City by a river

We walked at the market, we walked by the river, we watched people, boats and life. We met also a restaurant owner who got really excited when he heard that we came from Sweden. He ran into his restaurant and came out with Swedish poster from early 20-th century, from prohibition time with pro-alcohol campaign.

kräftor

Restaurant owner with Swedish poster

woman
Woman on the market

There is a silk-factory in this town, some of us visited it. Others visited one of the large number tailors, and ordered custom made clothes. I did too. One shirt and skirt were pretty cool and one linnen dress that I never used. But they were fast, the clothes fit well and some were really pretty. There were also shops with pretty lamps everywhere. Cute town.

Lamps

Pretty lamps

One morning I woke up with the sun and went to the local market. When I got there I met our other photographer. We are strange people. The market was totally different early in the morning. There were only local there and very few tourists (all with large, nice cameras). There was a lot of trading, fish boats comming in, motorbikes with pigs, geese and chicken, still alive, fresh fruit and vegitables. The tourist stuff like souvenirs, fabric and pearls were not there yet and it was very different, very interesting, very nice. The real market.

market

In the market, there is a lot happening

woman

Pretty woman in the market, the hats are not only for tourists

fish market

Selling fish

selling ducks

Selling ducks

My fellow photographer-friend and I took also a walk to the railroad tracks to take some pictures. The train was just comming, so the traffic was stopped. While waiting my friend passed to the other side of the street. When traffic started he couldn’t get back and was helped by an old happy lady to cross the street. Westerners need lots of help sometimes. We saw also an old temple with dragons and sculptures and beautiful surroundings.

temple

An ancient temple

wishes

Sending wishes for the gods and spirits

statue

Budda statue

dragon

Dragon watching the temple

We stayed in Hoi An for three days. One of the days we visited the nearby beach. The day at the beach was nice and relaxing. We drank lemonade and ate fish and were laying under an umbrella reading. The wind was strong, so we didn’t swim. And guess if I got burned. That’s typical.

coast

On the beach

One of the evenings in Hoi An was also the Earth Hour. I went down to the river and watched the town put out all the lamps and turn black. Ot actually no. There were lanterns everywhere. Hundreds small lights were sent out on the river and it was beautiful.

preparing for earth hour

Preparing for earth hour

We left Hoi An happy and continued south to Ho Chi Mingh city, or Saigon, as it was called before.

Bridge

The famous bridge

The Ancient Town of Hoi An is a world heritage since 1999. Link to the site: Hoi An

My grade for this site is four out of five:

GlobeGlobeGlobeGlobe

//Monika

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Ha Long Bay in the mist

Ha long bay

On my Vietnam trip in early 2009 we started out in Hanoi, which I decribed in an earlier post and continued north to Ha Long Bay. It is not so far, but due to traffic and several stops for photos it took some time. Fortunately, I was not the only photographer onboard. There was also a man, Christer Löfgren, who is a photographer from Stockholm.

vietnam woman

Vietnamese woman

I will stop using Spring, Summer, Autum and Winter to describe a period of time. We are so used to it, but on the other side of the earth it’s just the oposite. When I talk about Summer, it’s about to become Winter in Southern Africa or Australia. I case I use these to describe time I will try to be more specific and also write were.

propaganda poster

Vietnamese propaganda poster

transport

Everything can be transported on a small motorbike

Back to Vietnam. We passed by rice field, wjere people worked from early morning with harvesting rice in the water. It must be a hard life. Rice is a quite central thing there. It’s important to survive and many people depend on it, in this life and in the next one. They even burrie their dead in the rice fields. So they protect the rice field and have enough food for the after-life travel. Why not?

rice field

Working in a rice field

happy people

Happy people

sand

Working in the sand

After a while we came to Ha Long Bay. The weather was dizzy and cloudy. It would be nice with sunshine, but I think the clouds and fog made the bay look even more magical and mystical.

ha long bay

Entering the Ha Long Bay

A little boat

A little boat next to the big one

We travelled on a touristuc boat, where we had a wonderful seafood luch. I don’t think that many local people eat this good. Very often I want to be a part of the real and genuine life when I visit a place, but this time it was OK to be served the tourist stuff.

Sea food

Wonderful plate with sea food

Ha Long Bay in the fog

Ha long bay

Beautiful Ha Long Bay

The Ha Long Bay was magical. The stone formations varved by water were everywhere and told us a story of nature’s force and that with small means and a lot of will it’s possible to change the world.

Ha Long Bay

Beautiful lime stone formations in Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay

Mysterious Ha Long Bay in the fog

After few hours on the water we stopped by a cave in the bay and visited it as well. The cave, Dong Thien Cung,   is also a part of this world heritage site. It was beautifully light up. The stone formations told storries of dragons and beasts and Romeo and Juliet. The cave was magical and time flew very fast. Soon the day was over and it was time for the next adventure.

Cave

Very nice cave in Ha Long Bay

Beautiful formations of the cave

bridge

A little bridge outside the cave in Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay was chosen as world heritage site in 1994.Link to the site: Ha Long Bay.

My grade to this site is four out of five:

GlobeGlobeGlobeGlobe

//Monika

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Going east – Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel Thang Long, Hanoi

In my post about Notre-Dame in Paris I happened to mention Hanoi in Vietnam. Quite fast we move to Asia. It’s another world, another culture and other customs. And still not really. Vietnam was French for many years and has a lot of influences from France as well. Food, for instance is a mix between French and Thai kitchen, which makes it exciting, a little bit spicy and a little bit French at the same time. In Hanoi, there is the Notre-Dame Cathedral, similar to the one in Paris. The country is socialist and liberty, equality and brotherhood are important. But let’s compare that to France and its revolution: Liberté, égalité, fraternité, does that sound familiar? The religion is not absent either. The majority are Buddists and there are also some catholic. Also that thanks to the French.

The Notre-Dame Cathedral, looks similar to the one in Paris.

I visited Vietnam in spring of 2009. Did I like Vietnam? Yes I did. People are nice, the food is good, there is a lot to see and experience, it’s easy to travel, it’s cheap and genuine. And there are not so many tourists yet. I decided to go there by myself. A little bit scary, but it worked fine. I joined a Swedish group for most of the trip and we travelled by bus from Hanoi, north and then back south. But more about that later. Now we’re staying in Hanoi.

Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam. It’s not as large as Ho Chi Minh city, but it’s large. Large and small at the same time. There are a lot of people and almost everyone has a motorbike. And they are everywhere. Just imagine that chaos. First time I was trying to cross a street was terrifying. Just see this movie and you’ll understand why. I survived. I got a good advice and I survived. The advice was: “Whatever you do, don’t run, look right, look left, look at as many motorbikers you can, take a step, look right, look left, take another step, nice and easy.” And one step at a time, I was on the other side. Going back was as sweaty. The people there are happy and seem to think that it’s possible to transport everything at the same time on a small motorbike, like a family of seven, or waterpipes for a small town or ten pigs or just a few bottles of beer. The only thing that can stop them is lack of creativity and their own minds and that doesn’t happen.

Simple transport can be seen everywhere

Tired and sleepy, we went to a Water Puppet Theatre on the first night in Hanoi. It was nice and very different. The music was special, Vietnameese, the story was about love and life and dragons. I didn’t understand as much as I would like to, but I liked it.

On the next day we went to see Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. There was a lot of people outside, which was fascinating to see. I didn’t go inside, but went to a nearby market. Others who went inside said that you were not allowed to bring in cameras, bags, water bottles or hats, just walk in, look and walk out. Two minutes. I think that choosing the market was good. What I find fascinating is that people looked up to this leader so much and still do, that the line to see him lying dead is three hours long, that newly weds are coming to take a picture in front of the mausoleum, that the people are poor but still very proud of that leader. We saw also his palace nearby and it was huge and magnificent. Why?

The long line to see the dead leader

The time to visit the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long was on the afternoon the second day of my visit to Vietnam. It’s been a world heritage site since 2002. Why not longer, I don’t know, it should have been. It’s still good that it is. It is the place of the old capital city, dated back in 1010, it’s more than thousand years ago. I don’t like dates very much, but this one is still pretty cool. It was of course damaged in our modern times, in 19-th century. What can you say, we are modern and civilized and think that the culture and our heritage is important. At our own place, not at someone else’s. I’m happy that some of it still remains and can be seen.

The red bridge leading to the island with Imperial Citadel Thang Long

As we arrived nearby we saw a small island, a red bridge and a bunch of people on the bridge. The citadel is situated in central Hanoi on that small island. There are old structures and the Vietnamese flag waves proudly from its tower situated in the middle of the island. The place had lots of tourists, but was still genuine and felt quiet, as the time stood still. I liked it a lot, the small island, the red bridge leading to it, the architecture by the entrance.

The magnificent entrance to the citadel

The little island with old remains of Hanoi and the modern city in the background

Hanoi is a city of contrasts. Poor people next to luxury buildings and five-star hotels, a little island with a world’s heritage site next to intense traffic, small streets of the old town with every street with it’s own speciality (shoe salesmen, art shops, clothes’ shops). Even if this is not a rich country and wealthy people, they are rich in culture and history.

And my grade to Vietnam as whole five, and this citadel four out of five.

GlobeGlobeGlobeGlobe

Link to the site: Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Hanoi.

//Monika

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