A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand, Lao, and China Feb. 2012

From the South to the North, Bangkok to Chiang Rai. We decided to rent a van and drive north through the ancient cities of Ayutthaya, and Sukhothai for our first week

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The tourist van we rented. They actually let us drive it away ourselves....even though we drive on the wrong side of the road!
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Elephant ranglin' in Ayutthaya
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He was goin' for my wallet!
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Ayutthaya has its own style...even the tuk-tuk's were different
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Ruins at Ayutthaya Historical City. Built around 1350, destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. It's estimated that Ayutthaya, by the year 1600, had a population of about 300,000, with the population perhaps reaching 1,000,000 around 1700. Making it one of the world's largest cities at that time
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Wonder how long that's been there?
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He didn't look happy having his lunch interupted
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After checking out the ruins we went for a boat ride on the river. The city is basically an island surrounded by the river. In the old days it was used as a defense system. The food was great, cooked on the boat, with a few cold Chang beers large_IMG_2233.jpg
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We had a great time...especially after it got dark and our lovely captain ran out of diesel. We had to tie to a piling in the pitch black night, refuel with the spare can she had on board, and then bleed the system. She was worried. We told her she had three guys, all who had had boats, all with diesels, and all have run outta fuel in the dark! We just laughed and thought it was funny! Made her feel a lot better. Good thing I had a flashlight handy.
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Giant Monk statue on the way to Sukhothai
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Real live pig butt! A bunch of em, all numbered and ready for market
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Now there's somethin' ya don't see everyday!
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We stopped here for lunch. Chicken wings and beer!
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Giant Golden Buddha on the way to Sukhothai
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Had to maneuver our van down some pretty small roads to get to some of the temple cities
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The ruins at Sukhothai and surrounding cities were just as impressive. A little older than Ayutthaya, around 1238, and spread out over a much larger area.
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I climbed to the top of one temple for pics. I asked first
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The town was all decked out for a festival. Perfect time to be there!
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Bring on the Festival!
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Lots of fun, music, dance, food, and fireworks!
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Headed out the next morning for Chiang Mai. Mostly superhighway, nice Morning Glorylarge_IMG_2761.jpg
Back in Chiang Mai. Spent the night, and then headed for Chiang Rai, and Ban Lao, where Nattaya's family lives
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Breakfast at our guesthouse
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Cute little car
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Chiang mai is full of beautiful temples
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Orchid nursery, Chiang Rai
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Wat Tham Pla, the Fish and Monkey cave near the Myanmar border. They don't tell ya about the crocodiles!
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Apparently the monkeys and crocodiles are pals
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The 'fish' part of Fish and Monkey cave
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The cave temple was wonderful, and quite the hike up the mountain.
400 of these.....
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Which leads to this....
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And gets you here. to the entrance
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Buddha image in the cave
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Buffet in Chiang Rai near my guesthouse. There's a new idea, pay by the minute!
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Yum, live crickets, you could get them live, or have them deep fried.
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I opted for the squid! Deeeeeelicious!
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The roaches were next on the menu
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The scenery on the way to Ban Lao
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Thai Scarecrow
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Back at my favorite restaurant, Haad Chiang Rai (Chiang Rai Beach)
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Just tryin' to relax!
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Great temple tucked away from the beach on a hill overlooking the river
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Posted by ikombazana 08:16 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Motorbike Trip, Kok River

Going where no Farang on a motorbike has ever gone before!

While in Chiang Rai the last time, we did a Longtail boat trip down the Kok river from Thaton to Chiang Rai. About a 6 hour trip. This time we decided to tackle it by motorbike. Even though the map showed no roads.....
Some beautiful temples on the road to Thaton
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Not sure....sculpture at the Hot Springs we came across. Also Monk approved massage.
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Villages dotted the hillsides
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Our vehicles of choice. Mine was the speedy lookin' blue Honda
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Don't really approve of this, but Mom was teaching her daughter how to be a waitress, and she even counted our change.
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Thaton. This is where we turned left and headed down the river
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Teak tree trunk stools, very cool...and heavy!
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Literally, tons of garlic
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Love the hand pumps at the gas station. And the amount in Baht was written on the side of the glass
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Found this along the river
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Mostly farm land
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Tom loaded for bear!
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The trail down the Kok river
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Great little villages
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And villagers!
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Cute kids followed us through their village
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Turned out to be a water buffalo/goat trail most of the way. Had a few mishaps, almost lost a bike or two down a cliff and into the river...no pictures, couldn't really let go of the bike for about an hour and a half! The trail was so small you couldn't get off the bike. Mountain straight up on your left, 60-80 foot drop to the river on your right! Turned out to be one of the best parts of the trip!
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Posted by ikombazana 07:32 Comments (0)

North to South, Chiang Rai to Pattaya

Garlic fields outside Thaton, on the way to Fang
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Hotel in Fang. Very nice, $15.00 a night!
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Beautiful temple at Chiang Dao caves
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Herb vendor outside Chiang Dao
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Catfish pond, Chiang Dao caves
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Entrance to Wat Tham Chiang Dao
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The cave was great. 453 meters, many temples, bridges over streams, and stalactites
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Back in Chiang Mai, temples everywhere!
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Monkmobile
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Beautifully carved and polished teak Buddha image
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Kunan, or jackfruit. The tree is well suited to tropical lowlands, and its fruit is the largest tree-borne fruit, reaching as much as 80 pounds in weight, and up to 36 inches long and 20 inches in diameter.
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And then it was on to Pattaya to wait for Ted to get his replacement Passport. Not exactly why I go to Thailand, but had never been and everybody said I should see it at least once. That was enough
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Some cool cars
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I asked for a half dozen oysters on the half shell. They were fresh, delicious, probably two dozen of them, and $3.00!
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The duck was delicious too. Ate where the locals did, instead of the big seafood places where the clientele was mostly Russian! And the food rediculously overpriced
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The beach was nice, but very touristy. And the umbrellas cost ya.
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Went to the harbor. Lots of boat building
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The yacht club and harbor were nice
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Ouch!
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Yacht club apartments at Ocean Marina Yacht Club
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My Gucci motorbike to tool around on
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There were a couple of nice temples up on the hill overlooking the city
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The Chinese temple and gardens were truly beautiful.
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As you can see, Pattaya is a large tourist beach town, lots of nightclubs, bars, and, well, rooms rented by the hour, if you know what I mean....and I think you do! Not really my 'cup of tea'. Onward to meet Ted and Nattaya in Ubon, and head to Lao
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Posted by ikombazana 22:48 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Paksong Lao, and the Bolaven Plateau

Waterfalls, French coffee and Lao tea!

The border on the way to Pakse and Paksong. A little confusion?
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Not only the locals!
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ATM's sprouting up everywhere
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Local coffee vendor
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Backpackers 'customized' motorbike
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WIFI in the middle of nowhere
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Ariving at the falls
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The restaurant
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Waiting for lunch
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Delicous traditional Lao food
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And a couple of Beer Lao......
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Make for some happy travellers!
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First view of the falls
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My bungalow overlooking the river valley the falls dumps into
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Kickin' back on Ted and Nattaya's deck, listening to the waterfall, after a long day's travel to Paksong
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The next morning Ted and I got up early and headed for sunrise at the falls. Stairs down to the swimming holes at the base of the waterfall
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Couldn't go any farther
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Sunrise at E Tu waterfall
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Orchids growing wild everywhere
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Tourist
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Monk at the falls
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Giant teak roots
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Cicadas went off until sunset
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Our bungalows at the top of the falls
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All set on a coffee plantation, on a hillside above the falls
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Nattaya and our hostess
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Posted by ikombazana 22:11 Comments (0)

The 4000 Islands of Southern Lao

Mekong Delta near the Cambodian border

Boat dock for the trip to the islands
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On our way, lots of traffic on the river
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Our first view of Don Det
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Found out it was more for the twenty something crowd with 'Space Cookies, and 'Mushroom Shakes' And the local beach loving water buffalo. Not that there's anything wrong with that.....
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So we headed out....
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Over the old railroad bridge....
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To some quiet bungalows...
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On a beautiful private beach on Don Khon, the next island.....
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Where the restaurants were empty.....
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And beautiful Temples, and waterfalls filled the landscape
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Where the monks lived
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Friendly local kids
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The road to Liphi Waterfall
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Locals selling their crafts
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Sunset from my deck
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Breakfast!
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Our taxi for the trip to Khon Pha Peng waterfall
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Our restaurant from the water
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Farm life along the Mekong
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Local critters
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Khon Pha Peng waterfall, the largest in South East Asia
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Restaurant along the way
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Our ride awaits for the trip back to Don Khon
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We picked up the owners kids for the trip back
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Nice houseboats for rent
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Under the bridge and back to our beach
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The beach on the south end of Don Khon
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With amazing swimming holes
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And boats to take you to find the Irrawaddy Dolphin. One of the only species of freshwater dolphin still in existence
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Looking over to Cambodia
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The hoist the French built to overcome the falls
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And take goods by train to the shipping dock they built. If you wanted something shipped up the Mekong, you had to do it through the French.
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The old loading dock
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The landscape was absolutely amazing!
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The motorbike ride to Don Det for dinner and entertainment
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My trusty steed
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Little naked boy driving his boat along the river
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Sums up life on Don Det
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A beautiful little village
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Traffic on the bridge
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The first bungalow was mine, the third Ted and Nattaya's
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The staff having a spirited game of Badminton
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Sunset, day 2. just like day one, Amazing!
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Hammocks on every porch
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Hand woven walls, not very soundproof, but nice
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More happy travellers we met. Ed and Sue who owned a resort in Nepal
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Oh yeah...they were Aussies!
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Posted by ikombazana 19:45 Comments (1)

Pakse, Southern Lao

Gateway to the South

Hotel in Pakse, we splurged!
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The first elevator I had seen in weeks!
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Comfy $30.00 hotel room
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The view from my window
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Across the street
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Downtown Pakse
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Temple near the hotel
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The Nagas guarding the temple are very different in Lao
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Lots of old temples
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Wonderful hand carved wood doors
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How do you say that?
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I just liked the paint job
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The view from the restaurant on the roof of the hotel
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Posted by ikombazana 19:19 Comments (0)

Ubon Ratchatani, Thailand

From Pakse, on the way to Beijing

On our way back into Thailand
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Lots of Bananas!
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The water heater store, just like the one in iKombazana
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Al Pacino gets around
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The Golden Buddha inside the main temple in Ubon
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Balls of gold leaf to adorn the Buddha
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Miami Vice colored Naga
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The amazing golden statue in the Town Centre in Ubon Ratchatani
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Beautiful Plumeria were everywhere...just like Hawaii!
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Posted by ikombazana 18:58 Comments (0)

China Feb 2012

Good Night Beijing! Crashed in the airport for a few hours before heading to the wall
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Mmmmm...woke up to Chinese Mickey D's coffee
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Beijing Skyline
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My Buddy. He actually saluted me on the way out
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Many Chinese tourists on this section of the wall
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'Cindy' our guide
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It basically says 'Be a man, Climb the Wall!'
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Village at the wall
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Example of weaponry of the time
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Happy Travellers. Ted, Nattaya, and I at Juyong Pass
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Steep section
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Many beautiful Temples and buildings at this section
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Not a bad gig, Great Wall cop!
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Entrance to the Ming Tombs
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The 'Soul Tower' where the Emperor is burried
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The 'Yin and Yang' gate at the tomb
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Original headstone at the tomb of Emperor Muzong of the Ming Dynasty
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View from the tomb
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No tourists. The Chinese people believe the tomb is full of ghosts and won't go there
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Jade market
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Some amazing pieces
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Some, as big as me!
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What everyone needs, solid jade patio furniture. About $80.000.00
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The base is wood, but the carving is Yellow Jade
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It was an incredible trip! From temples in the north, to almost crashing into the river on a motorbike, to seeing wonderful new places I have never been, and spending days on the river, hiking, boating, and just relaxing!. But mostly just interacting with the local people and learning about new food, meeting new friends, and realizing what truly matters in life! Can't wait till next time!

Posted by ikombazana 17:46 Comments (0)

Lao, Dec 2011

Vientiane, Proud to be Lao. On my last trip, I had only been to the north of Lao. Many small villages and life along the river. Vientiane, the capitol, is a large city with lots of tourist facilities, and many foreigners. Nice, but nothing like the peace and tranquility of Luang Prabang and the surrounding area.
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This was cool, but if ya look, it's got parts from several years
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Phra That Luang, The Lao National Symbol. Doesn't look that big until you see the motorbikes in the lower right hand corner. Pha That Luang according to the Lao people was originally built as an Indic temple in the 3rd century. Buddhist missionaries from the Mauryan Empire are believed to have been sent by the Emperor Ashoka, including Bury Chan or Praya Chanthabury Pasithisak and five Arahata monks who brought a holy relic (believed to be the breast bone) of Lord Buddha to the stupa. It was rebuilt in the 13th century as a Khmer temple which fell into ruin.
In the mid-16th century, King Setthathirat relocated his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and ordered construction of Pha That Luang in 1566. It was rebuilt about 4 km from the centre of Vientiane at the end of That Luang Road and named Pha That Luang. The bases have a length of 69 metres each and is 45 metres high, and is surrounded by 30 small Stupas. It is covered in several thousand pounds of gold leaf.
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Amazing murals, Temple on the grounds of Phra That Luang
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Patuxai, the Victory Monument
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Ceiling inside
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Funny story.....The monument was built using American funds. In the 1960s, cement originally intended to build an airfield during the Vietnam War was used to build the monument. The United States had given Lao money, and cement, to build a new airfield, however, the Lao government of the day used the money to build the monument instead. It is sometimes referred to as the "vertical runway"
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View from the top
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Guard shack in front of the UN Building in Vientiane. Looks upside down to me....large_9IMG_1723.jpg
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Downtown Vientiane
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Mekong Sunset Looking towards Thailand, from Lao
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The Lao temples are everywhere, and beautiful.
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Posted by ikombazana 20:58 Comments (0)

Koh Chang and Nong Khai Thailand, Dec 2011

On my way to Bangkok, 4 hour delay in Beijing!
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Ferry to Koh Chang
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Fishing pier on the mainland
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Uhhhh...those lifevests don't look up to date!
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Car ferry to the island
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Northeast side of Koh Chong
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Where I stayed the first night on the island, White Sands Beach
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View from my bungalow
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Nice to see some sailing!
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Restaurants lining the beach
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I ate wayyy tooo much squid!
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Very relaxing beakfast on the deck
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Until this guy jumped out of the tree and landed on the table in front of me!
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Daily walk down the beach to find new places to paddle and swim
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My bungalow on Lonley Beach, 500 baht a night. About 16 bucks...I splurged!
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In a beautiful, peaceful garden
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A stones throw from this
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Next stop, Bang Bao on the eastern coast of the island. Bang Bao pier
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Bungalows on the pier, very nice.
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Tower at the end of Bang Bao pier. All the piers on the island had them, all very decorative, and different
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Little resorts and bugalows dot the island
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The Grand Lagoona Resort. The Galaxy, a huge boat, moored in a lagoon, used as a hotel. Too expensive for me, and not really that nice. Lotsa Skeeters!
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Koh Chang sunset
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The neighbors
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Breakfast next to the tatoo parlor
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Local Critters
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Hospital on the pier, Health Promoting!
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Cruising boat leaving Bang Bao
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My Dinner!
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Where I stayed in Bang Bao, very relaxing, right on the water, kayaks, and boats to borrow. And with our own pier
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All ya really need
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There was no one there, so I set my camera on the grass, hit the 10 second timer, and ran for the deck! large_5IMG_0865.jpg
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Bang Bao sunset
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Lionfish sculpture
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Bang Bao pier from the top of the tower
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My front yard
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I like the added on outhouse on the stern
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Leaving Bang Bao on a rented Longtail boat. It took me two days to find someone that would take me the rest of the way around the island. The road doesn't go all the way through, so the only way is by boat. Every time I asked someone that gave tours they said 'Nobody does that!'. So I finally found a fisherman that would take me the rest of the way around....as long as he could fish on the way. I said 'Let's Go!'
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"Perhaps catch a few fish!"
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There's a total of 53 islands in Koh Chang National Park
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The water was beautiful, and warm!
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Arriving in Salak Phet by boat
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Saying goodbye to my ride
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Tower on Salak Phet pier
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The Finnish guy, who had a guesthouse, tooled around on this with Heavy Metal music blaring from the attached boombox!
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Little guesthouses out along the tiny cement pier, Fantastic!
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Where I stayed in Salak Phet. I got off the boat at the pier and there was no one around. I found a few local kids and asked where the town was, and they said 'this is it!' So I got a ride to the ATM, which was in the middle of nowhere, and a little German woman comes up behind me and says 'is it working? because usually it's not', I say yes and she asks where I came from, and I said a boat from Bang Bao, and she says 'Nobody does that' and I say I know, and she asks me where I'm staying. As usual, I say I don't know, and she says to find her friend Uli's guesthouse, and proceeds to give me directions, 'Go down this path, past the temple, turn right and look for the German flag'. The kindness of strangers....
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Urai's Place, Thai/German guesthouse. Cheap, friendly and wonderfull! The beer was ice cold, and the Schnitzel was delicious!
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The view.......
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Uli's wife, our hostess and chef! Let me borrow the motorbike, and did my laundry for free!
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New temple at Salak Phet
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Painting the inside
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The gate to someone's home in the mountains on my way to the waterfalls
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Rubber plantation
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Spirit house on Koh Chang
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More beaches, more kayaks, absolutely wonderful!
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Eclipse from Bangkok on my way to the north.
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The north is very different. Mostly farms and small towns. Nong Khai along the river, my friend's farm in Rattanawapi, and temples in Phon Phisai, and Wat Phu Tok
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My trusty steed!
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Kids came running out screaming "FARANG.... FARANG!".....it means foreigner
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Rattanawapi. Along the little road that follows the Mekhong, every 1500 yards or so was another beautiful temple. Many used as schools
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Lao temple in Phon Phisai
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Built around huge boulders
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Dinner at my friend Nok's farm with her family. Every night we BBQ'd fresh fish, eaten with rice and fresh vegetables, and ate outside in the cool northern air. Her whole family would come for dinner to meet the 'Farang' and want to talk and drink homemade ....'medicine'.
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The entrance to Wat Phu Tok, amazing teak furniture.
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'Yeah...I know....'
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Wat phu Tok was incredible. Built by monks on an outcropping of rock in an otherwise flat landscape. Seven levels of stairs to get to the top 'Enlightenment'. I was the only one that went all the way. The walkway and stairs were pounded into the rocks, only wood, and a little frightening! Several hundred feet straight down!
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View from the third level
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The Monks had their own radio station
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The temple was built among the caves and rocks.
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Wat Kaew Kou sculpture park, built by a Buddhist/Hindu mystic, who's body still lies in state there. He built the same thing in Vientiane, Lao many years earlier but when the government changed hands they kicked him out because he was not a pure Buddhist. He then went across the river to Nong Khai and built an even bigger one!
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Some of the statues were 60 meters high
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Large catfish in the pond
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The Mystic enshrined in his temple
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Wat Pho Chai in downtown Nong Khai, a very special place for Isaan Buddhists
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It is the home of Luang Pho Phra Sai. Commissioned by the three daughters of the King of the Lao Lan Chang Empire, it is one of three identical Lao Buddha images, one of which fell into the Maekong during a storm 200 years ago. Its head is said to be made of solid gold!
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Monkmobile
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The lake outside beautiful Rattanawapi
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Chinese temple along the Rimkhong in Nong Khai
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Drying sugarcane sticks by the river
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The temple that slid into the Mekhong many years ago. When the water levels are low, the top of the temple sticks out and they decorate it until the river rises, and then the following year when the level goes down, they do it again
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OK...turned on the tube one night......'Oh Brother" with Chinese subtitles!
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Sunset over the Friendship Bridge crossing to Lao
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Nice little apartments..around a hundred bucks a month!
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Local bike shop
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Many floating restaurants on the river.
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Tourist Photo at the temple in Nong Khai
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Blessing the new Toyota!
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Basically a Buddhist cemetery
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Merry Christmas!
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Making Pastries on the street
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Large Buddha looking across the river to Lao
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My friend Wanyana helped me find my way to the airport in Udon Thani, I didn't want to leave!
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Posted by ikombazana 19:24 Comments (0)

China Dec 2011

Wacky hotel room
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Yummy street food
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My first glimpse of the Forbidden City
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Beijing at night
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Ice fishing the Palace Moat
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Forbidden City Sunrise
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I was not prepared for snow!
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All the Chinese students wanted to practice their English, and get a photo
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The Frozen Forbidden City
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Hall of Supreme Harmony
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Beautiful bronze sculptures
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Hall of Heavenly Peace
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Hall of Preserving Harmony
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Hall of Treasures
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Jingshan Hill. Where the Emperors went to pray. The hill was created with all the dirt that was excavated for the moat. Amazing when you consider it was done by man, and animal power 700 years ago.
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I had no idea of the enormity of the Forbidden City
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Bronze Buddha on top of Jingshan Hill
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Where the last Emperor of the Ming Dynasty hanged himself
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Hacky Sackers
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The frozen moat
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Beijing street scene
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Music Store
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Frozen Moat
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Mao
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Soldiers marchng through Tiananmen Square
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The One Western Tourist!
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Tiananmen Square
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Breakfast on the way to The Great Wall
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Basically a chairlift...only old, creaky, and a little too rusty. This thing was scary!
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16 degrees F. on the Wall. Even colder on the chair lift up! I was Freezing!!
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Sunrise on The Great Wall of China
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The surrounding ladscape was incredible! Giant mountains on every side. Amazing! large_IMG_2042.jpg
Squirrel on the Wall
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The bird that flew me home!
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Posted by ikombazana 18:38 Comments (0)

Circle Train Around Yangon Nov 2010

How the Locals Move Their Goods

Posted by ikombazana 16:53 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Morning in Bagan Myanmar Dec 2010

Posted by ikombazana 16:53 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Loy Krathong Festival

Lanna Meditation Centre, Chiang Mai, Thailand Nov. 21 2010

Posted by ikombazana 14:59 Archived in Thailand Tagged meditation chiang mai center lantern lanna krathong loy Comments (0)

Myanmar Nov/Dec 2010

'This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about' Rudyard Kipling

Rangoon Sunrise, the first thing I saw when I woke up
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Botataung Paya, on the bank of the Yangon River
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Mosque on my way to the river
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Botataung Paya
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1000 year old bronze bell
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Most stupas are solid, Botataung is hollow with passages around the base to where the Buddha's hair is. The inside of the temple was covered in gold. The golden walls, up to about 8', were covered in plexiglass, so you wouldn't touch them
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Baskets of cash where the Buddha's hair was enshrined
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Jade rocks at Bogyoke Zai market. In the next room they were cutting, carving, and polishing little Buddha statues, half the size of your fist, that sold for $500.00. I asked him about the jade, and he showed me this. Probably a half million dollars worth of jade, and this wasn't the only pile
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The old British prison is now the 2000 stall market
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Yangon train station
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Fresh food on the train
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Plumbing
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Local Transportation
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This is in the middle of beautiful golden temples, and 20 story modern high rises. Very surreal
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Yangon Harbor Lightships
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The Circle Train around Yangon, how the locals transport their goods
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Not much room for passengers
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Karaweik Hall, floating mythical birds covered in gold.
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Bamboo scaffolding for the reguilding of Sule Paya
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19th century British Colonial Architecture
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The only modern thing left I could find that still said 'Rangoon' on it.
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Posted by ikombazana 16:44 Archived in Myanmar Tagged myanmar Comments (0)

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