Our experiences in 2014 have been rewarding beyond our dreams. Taking the time to look back over all of our blog posts, Facebook posts, and photos has made it all seem even more unbelievable. It’s been a Year of Nomadic Family Travel and it’s hard to believe all that we’ve done and the amazing places that we’ve visited. We are truly grateful to have spent the year exploring and learning together, living abroad, and making friends.
There was so much to cover in our year-end review, that we felt that our recollections needed to be broken up into two parts for easier reading. If you haven’t read Part 1, which covers January – June, then you can find it here. Otherwise, read on as we cover our adventures from July – December.
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”.
After our beautiful, early morning visit at Angkor Wat, we hopped into our tuk-tuk. Our driver, Mr. Sim, whisked us away to our next destination, Bayon Temple, before the bulk of tourists had emerged from their walk around Angkor Wat. We all had big grins on our faces as we drove through the Angkor forest, enjoying its coolness and the wind on our faces. Mr. Sim pulled over as we approached the south gate of Angkor Thom, allowing us to take a quick family picture.
Like so many other bleary-eyed early-risers, we find ourselves standing in the dark waiting for sunrise to reveal the iconic temple of Angkor Wat. The sounds of frogs, crickets, and insects surround us. The murmuring crowd and the music playing in the background, don’t take away from the magic and the anticipation.
When we were visiting Ho Chi Minh City, some of our local friends took us to visit the Thien Hau Pagoda in Chinatown.
Also known as Chua Ba, this beautiful and popular Saigon pagoda was built by the Chinese in the early 19th century and dedicated to Thien Hau, goddess of the sea and protector of sailors. It is believed that Thien Hau can travel over the oceans on a mat and ride the clouds to save people in trouble on the high seas.
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.
If you’ve traveled in Europe and toured several cathedrals, then you probably noticed that after a while they all start blending together and your bar for “being impressed” keeps getting higher. Well, the same thing can happen when you’ve visited several wats (Buddhist temples) in Thailand. After a while, you see and appreciate the beauty, but they can all start looking pretty similar. That’s what makes visiting Wat Sri Suphan such a wonderful and unexpected experience.
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.