Jul 052012
 

After walking around Shibuya, we headed north to Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine.  Yoyogi Park is supposed to be the place to be on Sundays, but unfortunately we didn’t get in to Japan until Sunday night.  On a Monday afternoon it’s pretty peaceful with moms and their babies sitting around and random kids practicing martial arts.  The dog run was pretty cute though, reminded us of New York with all the little dogs in this city.  No one has enough space to have big dogs!

Next to Yoyogi Park on the northeast side is Meiji Shrine.  There’s a huge pathway leading to the shrine and large signs telling the story of the Meiji Restoration and the last real emperor of Japan.  Good thing Mike had seen the Last Samurai on our hotel TV the night before ha!  It was beautiful grounds.  Since we had walked around a ton already that day though, we didn’t do the entire circuit of the gardens and visited just the shrine.

Gate at Meiji Shrine

 

99 Barrels of Sake on the Wall…

Before you go pray at the shrine, you can wash your hands and mouth at a small water fountain station.  I snapped this hilarious pic of Mike looking serious and a young girl excited to be in the photo.

Serious Mike and a Smiley Little Girl

Once you get up the shrine, you throw in a few coins and go through the Japanese prayer ritual.  This involves putting your hands together in prayer position, clapping twice, saying a silent prayer and then bowing.  I liked the clapping twice and adding sound the usual silence of prayer.  You can also buy wooden placards and write your prayer on it.  Tons of these placards were hanging up around a tree in all different languages.  It was cool to see the juxtaposition of Japanese, Thai, Arabic, English, and Chinese.

Say A Little Prayer

 July 5, 2012  Posted by at 6:48 pm Attractions, Japan, Tokyo Tagged with: , , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 262012
 

We did some sightseeing around Ubud today and visited the Puri Lakisan museum and Monkey Forest Sanctuary.  The museum was a good primer on the evolution of Balinese art and there were some really nice pieces in there.  Then we walked down to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary and temple, which was built around the 13th century.  Most of Bali is Hindu (with some Buddhist element) so a lot of the artwork have Hindu themes and the temples are of course Hindu.  But the real tourist attraction are the monkeys here.  They are all over the place!  It’s really sad that the tourists feed the monkeys—they sell bananas right outside the entrance.  It’s made the monkeys quite aggressive and if you go near them, they will often try to take things from you.  We saw one woman sit down next to one and then it grabbed her arm and bit her!

This Guy Made the Mistake of Wearing a Hat and the Monkeys Went After Them

 

Mom and Baby Monkey

Funny Looking Baby Monkey

The banyan trees are really impressive and you can go down some stairs into a narrow gorge where the sides are covered in tree roots.  It’s very much a rainforest and makes you wonder how the rest of Ubud looked before there were so many rice paddies.

Crazy Banyan Tree

The temple itself was quite nice, but we didn’t go in since you had to rent proper attire to go in.  We’ve seen a lot of temples on our trip. =)  Overall, a beautiful sanctuary—we just wish the tourists would stop feeding the monkeys.

 June 26, 2012  Posted by at 3:32 am Attractions, Bali, Indonesia, Ubud Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 082012
 

After the main circuit, there are many other temple groups to see that are outside of the main Angkor Wat/Angkor Thom complexes.  On our second day, we went to Banteay Srei, which is a 45 minute tuk tuk ride northeast of Siem Reap.  Banteay Srei is the oldest temple we visited, built in the 10th century.  It’s unique because it was built using red sandstone, most of the other temples were built using neutral sandstone, laterite, or brick.  It’s a small temple, but it makes up for it in the intricacy and detail of the Hindu carvings (this is pre-Buddhism era).  Since this temple is further and we went first thing in the morning, we had the temple to ourselves for most of the time.

Rose Colored Sandstone

Detailed Carvings

Archway

This shot is from East Mebon temple on the way back from Banteay Srei, north of Angkor Thom.  It was hard to keep track of all the temple names, there are so many and some of the smaller ones don’t even have signs out front.

East Mebon

East Mebon

On the third day, we felt like we had done mostly everything, so we went to Ruolos group, which are really two temples about 10 minutes east of Siem Reap.  The structures are mostly brick since they were built earlier.  I would say if you’re short on time, you can skip the Ruolos group, but the weather was great, so we got some great shots out there.  The other benefit is that there are very few tourists there.

We Had the Temple To Ourselves

We saw all these tiny frogs in the grass and they’re really easy to catch!  This one was super tiny, the size of the tip of my pinky finger.

Tiniest Frog Ever

Of course, Mike went back to his teasing animal ways, so I had to include this shot.  Poor guy was so calm, didn’t even flinch or struggle.  I don’t think he gets picked up often…

Mr. Frog

Jun 082012
 

Ta Prohm was probably our favorite temple!  It’s famous for being the temple featured in Tomb Raider, where Angelina Jolie weaves through the temple overgrown with huge trees.  Ta Prohm was one of the few temples where they left the trees alone during restoration.  The trees have grown so large over the centuries that some of them look as if they just came and sat on top of a tower or doorway.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Gigantic Tree Roots Over a Covered Passageway

Gigantic Tree Roots Over a Covered Passageway

Other smaller temples nearby, Ta Som and Preah Khan, also had a great tree growing over a doorway so I’m going to lump into this tree-and-temple themed post. =)

Web of Roots Over a Doorway

Finger-like Trunk

May 282012
 

Our last day in Chiang Mai, we decided to go up in the mountains to visit Doi Suthep and Bhubing Palace.  It’s a bit out of the city, so you have to first get to the zoo west of the city, then transfer to get up the mountain (although many tourists take a private car for 2-3x the price).  I think we were pretty much the only tourists who took the public transport system.

Doi Suthep is a temple on top of a mountain, and it’s about a 20 minute ride up steep winding roads to get there.  You sit in the back of a pick up truck, so I was feeling pretty car sick by the time we got to the top.  It was nice and cool up in the mountains, so that was a nice relief from the heat down below.  We never once got hot up there!

Naga Staircase

The temple is beautiful (despite obnoxious tourists in inappropriate temple clothing) and Mike even got blessed by a monk.  He was sitting in a temple when all of a sudden a monk comes up to him to sprinkles him with blessed water.

Doi Suthep Temple

Buddha with Gold Leaf

Afterwards, we took another pick up truck up to Bhubing Palace, which is the King and Queen’s winter palace.  They’re known for the their roses, which are considered “exotic” in Thailand since it’s usually too hot on valley floors to grow them.  The gardens were immaculately organized and beautiful.  We got caught in a torrential downpour for a moment, but it stopped after only 15 minutes.  We only saw 3 other people while we were there, guess it’s not a popular destination.  Very pretty though, and a good change of scenery from temples.

Rose After the Rain

Bhubing Palace Gardens

Amazing Color Gradient Flower

This One's for My Mom: Fuschia, Her Favorite Flower

A nice cool day in the mountains of Chiang Mai!  Well worth it, and a good place to get away from the touristy old city.

May 282012
 

Wat U Mong deserves a special mention out of the temples we visited since it was pretty unique.  We took a tuk tuk to go visit it since it’s southwest of the old city.  It’s a forest wat, so it’s set in more of a natural setting versus the other temples.  There’s a large chedi on top of some old tunnels and to the right of the chedi, there is a peculiar Buddha image.  It’s unlike any Buddha image we’ve ever seen; this one is carved out of black marble and so emaciated it looks near-death.  A little bit disturbing and very powerful.

Emaciated Buddha

On the other side of the complex, there’s a small lake where you can buy fish food and feed the catfish.  There are a TON of pigeons here that stalk you because I’m guessing visitors usually feed the birds also.

They're Watching You

These pigeons were fiercer than NYC pigeons!  They will fly and land on you if you don’t keep shooing them away.  Which is what happened to this girl:

Attack of the Pigeons!

When you drop the pellets into the lake, all the catfish come chomping and fight over the fish food.

Feeding the Catfish

Gleeful and silly fun for a couple cents!  We didn’t see any other Western tourists while we were here, just Thais.  Great off the beaten track temple.

May 252012
 

There are a lot of temples/wats within old city in Chiang Mai.  The main two temples are Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang.  We had walked to some of the temples the first day but we forgot to bring appropriate temple clothing, so we couldn’t go inside.  No shorts allowed and shoulders need to be covered (although I saw many tourists in violation!).

Wat Phra Singh is known for their stone Lion Buddha image and Buddhist relics.  It’s very beautiful inside and filled with Thais who make the pilgrimage here for blessings.

Lion Buddha

In a smaller side building, we got a peak into another ceremony that was going on.  Three young novice monks were getting initiated and their families were there while they read prayers in front of the older monks.

Novice Monk Initiation

In this temple, there were 6 really old monks on either side of the shrine, motionless in their meditation.  Mike tried to see if they ever blinked, and we couldn’t catch a single blink!  We swear!  I was almost convinced they were wax replicas (which there are sitting in other temples).

Unblinking and Unmoving

I can’t even imagine sitting that still for so long.  We were wondering if perhaps they were experiencing nirvana right there in their meditation while all these people were around them.  Mike and I are curious now if we could do a long-term mediation practice.  We keep thinking of fellow traveler Magnus from Nepal, who says you have to commit to a week of silent meditation for it to really break you down.  What do you think?  Could you do it?

Red and Blue

Wat Chedi Luang is the biggest temple complex within Chiang Mai.  There’s one main building and a lot of smaller temples surrounding the square.  There was a ceremony going on in the big temple where a lot of people dressed in all white were sitting around the shrine and the monks were chanting.  A long table with a series of small bowls was set up near the entrance and people went clockwise around the temple, dropping coins into each of the small bowls.

Offering Bowls

Within the square, there’s a ruined chedi that’s partially restored (not well, you can really tell which parts are the restored sections).

Ruined Chedi

All over Thai temples are nagas, or water serpents.  Mike was convinced they were dragons, but I knew they were nagas. =)  They are usually seen behind Buddha images or on stairways and rooftops since they are seen to be protect the images and buildings.

Gilded Naga

It was a hot day of temple viewing, but well worth it!  There are still a lot of Thais in the temples, so you don’t feel like you’re at a “Western” tourist attraction.

Mar 162012
 

Today we visited Feilai Feng which translates to Peak Flying from Afar.  It’s this whole complex a couple minutes bus ride from the lake.  The coolest thing about Feilai Feng are the Buddhist sculptures that are carved into the side of the mountain.  There are over 340 sculptures that line the mountains and caves that date back to the Song and Yuan dynasties (from 960 AD).

Feilaifeng Carvings

Feilaifeng Buddhist Sculptures

Feilaifeng Carvings

Buddhas Carved into Mountain

 

Lingyin temple is a working Buddhist monastery and huge temple complex.  We were really lucky and got to see a Buddhist ceremony while we were there.  About 60+ monks came into the temple to chant and it was such a beautiful sound.

 

Lingyin Temple Buddhist Monks

Buddhist Ceremony at Lingyin Temple

Buddha in Lingyin Temple

 

 

 

 March 16, 2012  Posted by at 2:20 pm Attractions, China, Hangzhou Tagged with: , , , ,  1 Response »