In 2014 we set off on a Year of Nomadic Family Travel and it has been one of the best experiences in our lives. It was all about change, risk, adventure, and discovery. We took, what some would consider, a crazy leap of faith, and although we can’t say what the future holds, we wouldn’t change a thing. The experiences that we’ve had in the last year are more than most could hope for in a lifetime. We are amazed and so grateful when we look back on it all.
Our third day in Angkor Archaeological Park, we are early to rise once again. Leaving the hotel with breakfast boxes in hand. We make the dusty, bumpy ride out to the park along back roads, entering the west gate, right next to Angkor Wat. Winding our way through the blissful, cool forest, the sun sprinkles us with its early morning glow. Ta Keo Temple, the sandstone temple-mountain, greets the morning sun as it’s done for almost 1100 years, since being started by Jayavarman V in 975.
After a magical visit to Banteay Srei, it’s difficult to write about Banteay Samre Temple. Not because it is any lesser, but because the earlier experience was so magical. We finally tore ourselves away from Banteay Srei as more people were showing up and the heat was steadily increasing. The tuk-tuk ride was welcome relief as we got to enjoy some more of the gorgeous countryside and some welcome early morning breeze. As we traversed the countryside, schoolyards were filling with playing children, while others walked or rode bikes along the road, all in their immaculate uniforms.
After an enjoyable day off from temple visits, we’re up early again – 4:30am – to visit Banteay Srei Temple, also known as the Lady Temple. After devouring the breakfast boxes that the hotel was kind enough to prepare for us, we are greeted by Mr. Sim’s big, bright smile in the early morning darkness. He’s been our tuk-tuk driver throughout our visit. It’s going to be a good day. We pull out of our quiet Siem Reap neighborhood and wind our way out of town, the dusty streets rolling out before us. Bleary-eyed as we bump along the potholed streets, we smile at each other. The morning coolness, the faintest hint of gray light on the Cambodian horizon, the smell of woodsmoke as breakfast kitchens awaken – it feels like a dream.
We only know we’ve arrived at Ta Prohm Temple, the next destination on our visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park, when we see the empty expanse of gravel out before us and realize that it is a parking lot – with no cars in it. Along one side are the usual vendor stalls with a few vendors milling about and a crowd of children playing. Mr. Sim, our tuk-tuk driver, points and tells us “go in through the east gate. I pick you up at the west”.
There are many beautiful Chinese temples in Penang. They tend to be a mix of both Taoist and Buddhist religions. As such it is not surprising to see images of Taoist deities alongside the Bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism, all within the same temple. Many temples were erected and are maintained by Chinese family clans that immigrated to Penang.
They are beautiful to look at and we love to slip in for a quick visit as we are passing by. Here are a few that we enjoyed.
Ipoh is the capital city of the state of Perak in Malaysia and the country’s third largest city. For us, the city’s true beauty lies in its natural surroundings. Just 5kms from the city you’ll find picturesque limestone mountains dotted with dramatic cave temples. We visited some of the most popular: Sam Poh Tong Temple, Ling Sen Tong Temple and Perak Tong Temple.
Wat Phra Singh is a beautiful example of classic Lanna architecture. Here you’ll find steeply pitched roofs with lavishly carved eaves, mural paintings, red lacquered columns decorated with gold leaf stenciled patterns, stucco decoration, white chedi with an octagonal base, you name it.
It was a bit overcast when we visited Wat Chedi Luang yesterday, but even with the cloudy skies, it was simply stunning. This was our second visit to this temple complex. The moment I saw it for the first time, I told myself that we’d need to return. Not only because the batteries on my camera had just died, but because it was the kind of place that overwhelms you with its grandeur and beauty.
Wualai Road (or Wua Lai Village) is known for its skilled silversmiths. Here you can find many delicate handmade items ranging from jewelry to bowls to various pieces of lustrous silver artwork. You can also find Wat Sri Suphan, also known as the “Silver Temple”. But, here you will find that there is more than just one silver temple off Wualai Road.
Commonly known as “Doi Suthep”, for the mountain it is located on, Wat Phra That is one of the most important temples in Chiang Mai, as well as one of the most revered in Thailand. This site has long been considered a holy place. The temple is a major pilgrimage destinations during the important Buddhist holidays of Makha Buja and Visak.
A couple of our Thai friends offered to take us on day trip. We visited the beautiful Wat Phrathat Haripunchai temple in Lamphun, just outside of Chiang Mai. This temple is one of the most famous temples in Northern Thailand. The chedi is said to be built on the site of Queen Chamadevi’s palace. Construction on the chedi probably began in the late ninth century, but it was enlarged at the beginning of the 12th century.
We arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand two weeks before the Songkran festival began. As traveling Farang (foreigners), we had heard about the soaking we were soon to receive. Songkran has become known in the contemporary world, especially to travelers and tourists, as a giant water fight or celebration where everyone is drenching everyone else with water guns, water cannons, hoses and buckets. We were certainly excited and curious to see what it would be in reality.
Being the curious travelers that we are, we wanted to learn more about what the tradition was behind Songkran. We wanted to know things like why it was celebrated? Where did it originally come from? Was it still celebrated in a traditional way? How did the traditional fit in with the contemporary images of a giant water-pocalypse?