A Travellerspoint blog

The Temples of Angkor

Great once you get there...

-17 °C

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For more pictures CLICK HERE

At 8 am, when no one had shown up for our 7 am bus departure, we began to think we had been scammed. Why did we buy tickets from a random lady in a shop under construction to save 20 Baht!! (50 cents) Around 7:45 we met another girl with similar looking tickets who had also booked through the same lady, and her bus too was late. She was lucky, as within 5 minutes, someone came to get her, and told us to still wait, our bus was coming. So we waited (something traveling on the cheap will make you good at) We were very relieved, when around 8:05 a little Thai man came and told us to walk to the end of the street to get the bus. Apparently a family of four was an hour late, delaying our departure. Seriously? Come on; let’s get this show on the road.

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Holding umbrellas for money

Once on the bus, the actual ride turned out to be not so bad. It was a bit hot, but the bus was mostly empty, so we were able to spread out a lot. Getting through to Cambodia turned out to be another story however. Getting out of Thailand was no problem, but the bus we came on wouldn't let Brooke and I go ahead of the group and forced us to go with them, turning out to be the beginning of the scam. Once we reached the Cambodian border, the scamming officials would only accept 1000 Thai Baht instead of the listed 20 USD fee. Determined to not pay 30 USD to get into Cambodia when it is listed at 20 USD we tried, (in vain) to argue with the officials. It turns out the Cambodian mob (who knows who they are really, but I will call them the mob...) wouldn't let any white person through with using USD and would only take 100 Baht. After trying other ways for about 45 min we broke down, paid the 1000 Baht charge, vowed to hate the Cambodian mob, and entered, hot and slightly irritated into Cambodia.

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Mafia run Cambodian border

Being smart (er, crazy) travelers, Brooke and I had only booked the bus to the border, with the plan to find 2 people to share a cab to Siem Reap once across the border. As luck would have it, we met 2 American girls from Seattle while in the Cambodia Visa line and we shared a taxi for the rest of the trip through Cambodia to Siem Reap for 48 USD (8 USD over the actual fare; again corrupt Govt mob). The taxi was definitely worth it, as a govt mob bus (read in, probably a scam, and would get you into Siem Reap super late...) would have been awful, as the roads were absolutely horrendous: words do not adequately describe the bumps, detours, and general disarray. This area would definitely be an off-roading boys dream, personally, the 7 hour bumpy ride was less than enjoyable... but that's just me...

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I wish you could see all of the pot holes in this picture

Another bonus with the cab was that we did not have to stop at random, unscheduled stops and could go much faster, we actually passed the bus we would have been on had we booked tickets straight from Bangkok to Siem Reap, which made us dislike Cambodia a little less, though our backs were getting a beating from the roads so it may have been a toss up. When we finally arrived in Siem Reap, we easily got a hostel and a driver and friend to join us for an early morning exploration of the temples.

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DAY 1:

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5 am Sunrise on Angkor Wat

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Angor Wat... with no tourists... some kind of miracle truly

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Gate at Angkor Thom

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All of the stairs we climbed all day long

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Bayon

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Ta Prom: the temple from Tomb Raider with Jolie

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More trees growing out of temples

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A monk looking on at Pre Rup

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Looking down from one of the smaller temples in the 'grand tour'

Our tour ended with watching the sunset at Baphun and then returning to Siem Reap, exhausted, around 7:30 pm. Starving, we found cheap street food for dinner, then returned to our hostel, took cold showers (no hot water in our budget accommodation) and collapsed into bed.

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DAY 2:
Because the previous day had been so exhausting, we chose to start around 9 am the second day, to give us a bit of a sleep in hopes it would rejuvenate us and make us excited once again to see the temples.

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Day 2 had us begin with the smaller temples of the Rolous group, and then finished with the far out temple of Bataray Sarie. It started raining when we were at the last temple of the day, but because I had already seen loads of temples, it was more of a welcome relief to the beating heat than anything else.

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After another long day of temples, we finished evening with dinner and some shopping at the night market.

Conclusion: Siem Reap is a must see for trips to SE Asia. Even with the crappy roads and corrupt officials, it was amazing. As far as time lines, it is doable to see all the major temples of Angor in one day (from 5 am to 6:30 pm). It is however not advisable as we were absolutely exhausted and worn out of temples by the time the day was through... My recommendation? Buy a 3 day pass; see the Rolous group and the Batary Sarie temple on the first day. Day 2 do the grand tour with sunset at Bayon. Day 3 finish with Sunrise at Angor Wat and finish the rest of the small loop. You will definitely appreciate it all more, and you won't be to tired to take it all in.

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A Cambodian woman patching my cheapo Bangkok bag.

From Siem Reap we booked bus tickets to Phnom Penh. While the roads were much better, the bus ride was awful: our 2nd to last row gems of seats yielded a 7 hour, smelly, hot, overcrowded (a few people on the bus actually stood the whole time), and extremely loud bad Cambodian bubble gum pop karaoke ride... What irritated me the most was the girl in the next row up opened her window, killing what little amount of A/C was trickling out of the vents and making the back of the bus even hotter... not so fun. We will definitely be sure to book near the front of the bus in the future. As a side note, on our ride into Phnom Pehn we stopped for the usual food and WC break, what found us here however was not the usual foods for sale. Crickets, spiders and frogs were just a few of the delicacies to be had at our rest stop. Of course, people were also sporting pineapples and mangos, but after seeing all of the fried bugs, I couldn't get myself to eat a thing.

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Fried frogs, can you see their eyes and legs?

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This woman was picking through her wares and would occasionally grab one and eat it. She was selling crickets, roaches and spiders. Praise veg.

Having arrived in Phnom Penh around 2 pm, we had already scoped out a hotel in my guide book that was close enough to walk from the bus station. A quick orientation and we were able to avoid the moto touts and head off in the right direction on foot and made it to the Royale Guesthouse within 10 minutes. Because they didn't have any budget rooms available (sometimes I wonder if they are lying, just to fill up the expensive ones first... most likely), we took a grand room with 2 double beds, A/C, TV, fridge, private bath and it was only up ONE flight of stairs. After a much needed shower, we set off to see some of the city before it got dark. We walked up to Wat Phnom, the highest point in the city, don't get to excited though, it's only up like 50 steps or something, not all that impressive as it is the highest point. The ride there was more impressive, as we experienced our first motor bike ride, with me riding side saddle in a skirt. The visit to Wat Phnom wasn't a complete bust however though, as walking up the steps however, I did see my first monkey up close. It was just chilling on the steps, eating a cucumber, minding its own business.

One unfortunate thing about SE Asia is everywhere you go you are constantly hounded by people begging for money, or trying to sell you some photo copied book or ripped off sunglasses. It gets quite annoying when people won't leave you alone. The kids are cute, but eventually it all gets old.

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This guy wasn't begging, just enjoying his cucumber at Wat Phnom

After Wat Phnom, we head out on foot to find the post office. A confusing twisting journey had us eventually to the post office, but not before it had started to rain. Since we were traveling light, neither of us had packed rain jackets and we opted for the cheap 50 cent ponchos instead. Dashing fashion aside, they were a cheap alternative to getting soaked.

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A less than appetizing meal of spring rolls later, which involved mystery innards (hopefully it was veg, but after the bus stops with all of the fried bugs and frogs for sale to eat, you can never really know), along with seeing a rat in the restaurant that was as big as a cat (no lie, seriously, I wanted to see a rat like that the whole time I was in NYC, but instead, got it at a meal in Cambodia... be careful what you wish for) finished my first day in PP. So far, not my favorite city, but ok...

Day 2 in PP started with a trip to the Nat'l Museum to see the Silver Pagoda, which we passed on, because we didn't want to pay the 6+ USD entrance fee. Instead, we made our way to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21). During the Khmer Rouge, the school was converted into a prison. The school/prison consisted of 4 buildings, used for cells and to torture more than 14,000 people before taking them to the Killing Fields south of Phnom Penh, where they were killed.

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The museum was very disturbing, with pictures of many of the tortured people. What was most interesting t me about the whole thing was the amount of young people in the KR. Over 50% of the members were 15 years or younger. They would take small children and indoctrinate them with the KR mind set, raising monsters with no remorse or common decency towards other people.

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They were planning to empty all of the cities and create an agrarian society. They worked to completely empty the cities and forced everyone to work in the rice fields all day in hopes to triple the countries rice production. They focused most on killing people with education, anyone with skills. They only wanted citizens who would not think, but would be willing to work and not complain. Obviously, the plan did not work, but in the 10 years or so that they were in power, 1/3 of the countries population was killed.

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The most disturbing part of the museum was the skulls stacked in cabinets, showing how the KR killed many of their victims by beating them with the blunt end of the gun, to save 'precious bullets'. It is awful how war can make you so evil. Even freakier is that if over 50% of the KR was under 15 while they were in power, which would put the surviving members at around 50 years old... just old enough to start coming in power again... something to think about anyway.

We had planned to see the Killing Fields following the museum, however, we were both so disturbed with the museum that we felt we had seen enough and instead opted for the Russian Market. Window shopping and a delicious and very cheap meal later found us on another moto, this time headed for the main shopping mall of PP. Brooke had to get her nails filled, and I planned to get a pedicure. Our hostel had said this would be the best bet for finding a decent nail place so we tried it out. 3 hours later, we each had a mani/pedi (Brooke with a fill as well) and for 2 USD (Brooke paid more...) I was quite satisfied. For dinner, we ate at a restaurant on top of the mall. The circular shaped restaurant looked out over PP and was a neat atmosphere (I unfortunately could eat nothing on the menu and instead had rice... ah well, the life). During dinner, the rain had returned, this time being more of a downpour however. When we got down to the street, we found that it had been raining for a long time and the streets were beginning to flood. Not to be outdone, we donned our rain jackets and set out to trudge through the nearly knee deep water.

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Do not misunderstand, this was possibly the grossest thing I have done so far in SE Asia. As we were walking through the nasty water, all I could think of was all of the garbage and putrid mud that had lined the streets that morning. All of it was now washing away, and all around my legs. I finally broke down and paid for a Tuk Tuk, only to find that within 1/2 a block the water had mostly cleared and that we were only 4 blocks from our place. All the same, the shower I took that evening scrubbing my legs was much needed.

As for pictures, I have still yet to post since Turkey... because I haven't been able to upload the pics. Maybe soon? But definitely not until I can find a decent internet connection, as uploading over dial-up is crazy slow.

Posted by court_7 02:50 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

One day in Bangkok...

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For more pictures CLICK HERE

Arrived from Macau, ahead of schedule and met the McPhie's at the airport after a quick and painless stop through customs and immigration. 20 minutes later we were at the Hotel de McPhie, which, while they insisted was meager, was absolutely amazing compared to where we had been staying. A big bed, clean bath WITH hot water, A/C, great company, what more could you want? I dare to say not much.

Since Brooke and I had not eaten much (if anything) solid all day (we had no more HK dollars, and did not want to get out Macau money as you cannot change it into anything), we immediately set out to feed ourselves. One amazing Thai dinner and a discussion on how Thai's eat (fork in left eat with spoon right: Elder McPhie, eat with fork in right use spoon left: Sister McPhie), we were full and happy. A showing of Vantage Point ended the evening nicely.

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A meal the following day... Pad Thai from a street vendor for 25 cents...

The next morning we set out to see the sights of Bangkok. With help from some people the McPhie's work with, we were able to conjur a cab into the city, headed for the Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace was marvelous, with beautifully ornate carvings and decorations adorning every inch of wall space.

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A shrubbery! On the Grand Palace grounds.

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Offerings at the Grand Palace.

After the Grand Palace we walked to KhaoSan street, say it with me AUGH... but we had to book bus tickets to get to Cambodia the next day and felt like this was our best bet. ANYWAY, while here we were shuffled through a miriad of shops and made a Napali man very happy when we decided to buy suits (at 98 USD for a jacket, skirt and shirt, its not to bad!).

With our suits initially purchased, we shared a 50 Baht lunch of Watermelon and papaya salad and set out to explore more of the city. A scamming Tuk Tuk driver took us to 2 sights, the Golden Buddha and the black Buddha (not really a Buddha, but a black statue of a Rama), along with 2 tailor shops, which we didn't buy anything from, since we had already got our suits (and for like 1/4 of what these shops wanted). Needless to say it was slightly annoying, but for 5 Baht (about 15 cents) and the crazy game of Tuk Tuk frogger our driver played across intersections, it was worth it.

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After being abandoned at the Rama statue (not a big deal as we had a map, and it was near where we wanted to go next), we walked to the Golden Mount. A big yellow Mountain Fortress in the middle of Bangkok, we climbed around the structure to get to the top and see around Bangkok, which was interesting, but mostly just a big crowded mess of buildings, with the occasional Wat.

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Following our golden trek, we set out to see the Victory monument, our attempts were thwarted however, as we were sidetracked by groceries and finding a ATM for cash to purchase bus tickets to Cambodia. We got all but 1 block away, when we had to grab a Tuk Tuk back to Khaosan and buy the tickets and have our first suit fittings. Alas.

With all of the crazy drivers in these countries it is a wonder there are not more accidents. As we were driving back to buy the tickets, a woman on a scooter was cut off behind us and crashed. Luckily she escaped with a still working bike and some pretty nasty road rash. Crazy happenings in this city though...

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Our day ended with a slightly chaotic cab ride back to the McPhie's, as neither we, nor our driver, could understand where they lived. Eventually we made our way however, ending a fabulous first day in Bangkok.... tomorrow Cambodia.

Posted by court_7 18:36 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Hong Kong...

...and a brief stopover in Macau

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For more pictures click: HERE for Hong Kong and HERE for Macau

After the long and drawn out process of traveling to Hong Kong from Turkey (which included, much to my mothers dismay, a brief stopover in Qatar, which translated into a very smelly 8 hour plane ride to Hong Kong, there is just something about that region that does not bode well with my nose... anyways) I arrived, an hour early to Hong Kong. I was exhausted, for some reason, I still cannot sleep on planes, and by the time I made it through the horrendous customs line to be admitted into the country.

Interesting side story: I almost didn't get let on my plane in Turkey, because I don't have a return ticket from Hong Kong. Luckily for me, I was able to persuade the ticket lady to let me through, because I had a return out of Bangkok within 90 days of my arrival in Hong Kong. Another traveller I met in the airport in Hong Kong was not as fortunate however, as she made him buy a return ticket in Istanbul from Hong Kong before she would let him check in through security. Of course, once I got to Hong Kong, they did not care, or even check if I had a return ticket, the wonderful world of customs...

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Haha welcome to Asia...

Anyways, back to Hong Kong. Having arrived early than I had expected (because my plane from Qatar left 1 hour early... I guess they just leave once everyone is there as opposed to the scheduled time), I easily maneuvered myself from the airport, to the express train, to the correct station, to a very soft oversized chair at the Starbucks I was set to meet Brooke and our host at 5 pm. Having planted myself, I dozed for about 2 hours, probably looking homeless, and smelling that way too, I managed to find Brooke and Carrie, our couchsurfer. One shower and a fabulous spinach lasagna later, and I was happy in Hong Kong.

Since we only have 2 days in Hong Kong, they would be crazy busy, but afterwards, we will pretty much be traveling to Hanoi and can sleep on the trains/busses/rick shaws or however we end up getting to Vietnam. That having been said, our days were cram packed to say the least. Brooke and here father had been in Hong Kong for 2 days already when I got there and had seen most of the sights, but she went around with me again... how thoughtful eh?

Sights: our first day began with shopping at Stanley Market, a market near the shore line in HK. I was on a mission to find jeans so we set out... unfortunately no jeans were to be had, however, there was some sort of religious festival going on, as multiple people went by, pounding drums and dancing with Chinese dragons on there way to a temple by the shore. Along with the Dragon, each small parade of people also had offerings, including a plate of fruits, plates of wafers and, of course, an entire dried pig, complete with knife in its neck, pushed through the streets to the temple on little cart/wheel barrows. One parade group actually dropped their pig on the ground, I can imagine that is very offensive to the spirits as they were all in a tizzy trying to get the full pig back on the wheelbarrow.

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While at Stanely market Brooke and I tasted a very interesting fruit. A little bigger than a strawberry, with green pokies, the fruit smelled awful, but was so intriguing we had to taste. When the fruit is peeled, a white, jel-like inner fruit is shown. The fruit has a pit, and though has a somewhat amiable taste, the weird hard jelly texture was gross, and I was good with one bite...

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Kowloon Park

Still not having found jeans, we headed up to the Ladies Market in Kowloon (another district in HK, not on HK island, but attached to mainland China). Here we found myriads of people touting there wares and I was able to find 2 pairs of jeans for the trip for only $37 USD total. After a quick stop at the Man's Market for Brooke to buy a notebook (FYI: you can buy both men's and ladies clothing at both markets, the names are a bit decieving, you may be able to find more ladies things at the ladies market and visa versa, but I think it is debatable) we headed to the riverfront to watch HK's evening light show.

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HK's light show is the longest constantly running light show in the world (15 min), is free, and definitly a must see if you are in HK. The show is best watched from the Kowloon bank of HK as the major buildings on HK island all light up and shine lights coreagraphed to music towards this side.

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After the light show, we stopped briefly to see an Olympic display and then caught the ferry back to HK island to catch a bus back to our couchsurfers. Fortunately for our us, Carrie had a bus map of HK island that she let us use, for, while the free tourist maps are great for knowing physical locations of the tourist sites, they usually don't include info on local bus routes, making taking the buses very difficult. That having been said, Brooke and I were able to manuever through the various bus stations, and after asking mutliple bus employees and drivers, found a bus that would take us to near Carrie's building. Even more phenomenal was that we actually recognized and got off on the right stop. Not to shabby in my opinion.

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Day 2 in HK started with a walk through HK park (not before we found/stumbled upon a Subway sandwich shop and splurged on footlongs to take with us to the Peak later in the day). The park is very nice, with a conservatory, aviary **which I was slightly freaked about... all the birds** and lovely sitting areas.

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This was a cool tree we found, it had 2 different colored flowers growing on it... I don't know how that works but its cool huh?

After the park we rode the tram up to the peak, the highest mountain on the island, boasting beautiful city views and a slightly intense accent, which feels like you are going up 45 degrees. Really cool though. Atop the peak we enjoyed the 2nd half of our sandwhiches (we were to hungry to wait) along with the views of the city. We had wanted to go up the tram in the evening, as it is supposedly the best time, but both days we were in HK were quite foggy/smoggy and we were worried we wouldn't be able to see very well.

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We decided to go full out and ride the tram both up and back (even though the bus was cheaper) and it turned out being great since we got on a tram down the hill that was quite full and got to stand in the very front, and were able to watch everything on the way down.

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After the Peak we headed to Kowloon to see Wong Tau Sin Temple. A Toaist temple, the decoration and artwork is very beautiful. The most interesting thing I found were people, kneeling, as though in prayer, with cups full of sticks, shaking the sticks and hitting them on the ground in a regular motion until a stick would fall out. At that point, they would grab the stick, write something on a piece of paper and then either get up and leave, or repeat the process. Apparently, these are fortune sticks, each corresponding to a piece of paper with the same number with a fortune.

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Not the temple, Brooke and I kickin' it with Jet Li

After the temple, we headed to Kowloon park, where we explored for a bit and then took a nap. Next up the floating restaurant. Brooke had seen the pictures in the tourist maps and was intrigued so we set out to find the supposed free shuttle boat to the floating restaurant. Because easily finding things is not our strong suit, this involved a bit of aimless wandering down the mostly deserted pier, complete with a very intergetic old woman who I think wanted to give us a boat ride around the harbor in what looked to be her house/touring vessle/workplace. Needless to say, she did not speak any English, and we did not get in her boat, though it would have made for an interesting story.

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We finally found the correct dock, and sure enough it was a free shuttle. Free because the restaurant was over 50 USD a meal. We happily took our shuttle, took some pictures, and then turned around and took another shuttle back, we are much to cheap/poor to indulge in such ridiculousness and instead enjoyed a meal of bok choy and ramen for around 1 USD.

Another exciting game of finding our way back to Carrie's ensued, this time resulting us getting on a minibus that dropped us directly in front of her place and another day in HK was complete. Originally, our plan had been to take trains/busses from HK to Hanoi Vietnam, some researching however showed that the trip would cost around 100 USD and take 2+ days minimum, because of this, we changed our plans, booked tickets out of Macau for the following day to Bangkok and found ourselves on the ferry boat to Macau the next morning without to much trouble.

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We found out that Macau, though different than HK, accepts HKD so we decided not to get any more money out and decided to try to make it with the little we had left. This wasn't going to be too difficult as we only had 5 hours before we had to be at the airport anyway.

After clearing immigration, we set out to find a bus to take us to the ficcade of St. John's. Without too much trouble we were able to get on the corrrect bus, and even get off on the right stop. (I know, we are good) From there we proceeded to walk through the streets of Macau to the ficade of St. John's. The back of the cathedral was destroyed in a fire, but the front is beautifully carved and was restored and still remains today.

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Following St. Paul's, we hiked to the top of some mountain/fortress thing (with all of our stuff mind you), played on a cannon and then explored the casino strip in Macau.... not before however we sampled 3 of Macau's delicacies: an egg tart, dry almond cookies and this dried, pressed beef stuff (all three pretty gross in my opinion).

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The casino strip of Macau is similar to Vegas, only with lots of developments going up. The Wynn Macau has a fountain show to music, similar to the Bellagio in Vegas, while the lobby of the Lisboa was definitely the most ornate and my favorite by far.

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Other than that, they were just Casino's, not to exciting if you have ever been to Vegas (I didn't however go to the Casino's on the lower island, so who knows, maybe they were marvelous...).

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Wynn

After having taken in our fair share of Macau sites, we set off to find a bus to the airport. 45 minutes later, hot, tired from packing all our stuff and frustrated (we had received multiple, different directions to an apparently invisible bus station) we broke down and hired a cab to the airport and caught our flight to Bangkok... next up Thailand!

Posted by court_7 15:41 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Smyra, and the ruıns of Ephesus

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For more pictures CLICK HERE.

Because the maın purpose of my stay ın Turkey was a conference ın Izmır, I traveled by plane from Istanbul. Izmır ıs the 3rd largest cıty ın Turkey and beıng a coastal cıty ıs quıte beautıful as well. The conference was held ın the Crowne Plaza hotel ın front of the sea, not to shabby eh? Lıke Istanbul I quıte easıly found my way to the hotel (agaın, after lookıng stupıd, and talkıng to multıple Informatıon people). The Izmır aırport ıs kınd of ın the mıddle of nowhere so I had to take a 20 mınute taxı to my hotel, but all ın all no major hıccups.

As far as the week went, maınly conference stuff. The hotel was nıce (whıch translates ınto everythıng, ıncludıng ınternet) beıng overprıced. The conference went well, ıncludıng my stellar presentatıon on collaboratıon technıques... blah blah blah, no one really cares. The ınterestıng part of thıs conference was the large amount of cultural actıvıtıes ıncluded ın the agenda. Every nıght somethıng was planned, and wıth the promıse of free food and a good tıme, I partıcıpated fully. Included ın the festıvıtıes were dınner ın the cıty of Izmır's museum, a tradıtıonal Turkısh dınner wıth Turkısh food, and of course, Turksıh dancıng and belly dancers (more on the phenomenon of drunk engıneers and belly dancers later), an overly extravegant Gala dınner and fınally a vısıt to Ephesus and surroundıng areas.

All were very enjoyable, wıth good food, and entertaınıng company. The company generally got more entertaınıng as the evenıngs progressed, as all of the events had open bars, whıch goes wıthout sayıng makıng the dıfferent experıences much more amusing. My personal favorıte was when the conference coordınator was forced to dance wıth the belly dancers, all dressed up ın supposedly local garb (I never saw anyone wearıng thıngs lıke that to say the least...).

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What happens in Izmir...

Ephesus was truly fabulous however. An ancıent cıty of marvelous ruıns, the cıty claıms to be where the gospel of John was wrıtten, as well as the locatıon where Paul taught a large portıon of hıs mınıstry to the Ephesıans. The ruıns date back to the 3rd century and earlıer AD (or so my guıde saıd), though much was destroyed from earthquakes and dıfferent ınvaders over the years. Only 15% or so of the city has been excavated, giving only a brief glimpse to its former grandeur.

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My personal favorite tidbit picked up on our tour was about the library and the conveniently located brothel across the street. During excavations of the city, archeologists found an tunnel underground, secretly (well, secret to the women of the city anyway) connecting the library with the brothel, giving men of the city the excuse to go to the library to receive personal enlightenment. Oh what lengths people will go to show forth a supposed image.

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Library

That aside, the remainder of Ephesus was equally entertaining. Following the library and the brothel, we saw the large city theatre, used once for the governing bodies and entertaining from gladiators and what not. With around 25,000 seats, it is one of, if not the, largest outdoor theatres in the world, and impressive to say the least.

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It is because of the theatre that they think the city of Ephesus had around 250,000 people, because the government would have represented 1/10 of the population and would have needed to all fit in the building for the senate. Now the theatre is used for modern concerts, apparently in recent years all sorts of people, including Sir Elton have performed here... go to the Sir...

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The theatre used to lead to the harbor, which is now more than 6 km away from the silting off the harbor, explaining why the city was eventually abandoned, and the large city walk in front of the theatre is where Marc Antony and Cleopatra walked. According to our guide, apparently the street was covered in red wine for there honor, as they visited Ephesus on their travels.

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Following Ephesus, we visited two shops, mainly trying to scam us into buying leather jackets and hand woven rugs. The rugs were beautiful, but with prices ranging from 1,000 - 10,000+ Euro, it was a little more of an investment I was willing to make. (On a side note, the really expensive rugs, silk on silk, take a woman 7+ years to create, and sadly, I doubt the woman get much of the profits from this cottage industry in Turkey).

After the scamming (many people on my bus bought leather jackets, so I guess it worked, I was not tempted, I felt very hypocritical even being in the shop, how can I not eat it, but drape it about my body... just my thoughts), we went to a small village for dinner (not before however a long and windy bus ride up a very narrow road, complete with a minor bus breakdown, the driver fixed the problem, or so the guide assured us... right...). The food was good, I was scammed into paying for a 5 YTL (almost 5 USD) soda, I saw some fabulous motorbikes, and the evening was complete.

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Ephesus was a great end to my stay in Turkey, as I travelled to Hong Kong the following day. It would take me over 24 hours of sleepless travel time to make it from Izmir to Hong Kong, which resulted in a very tired me, but that is an entry for later.

As a side note, I do have pictures of all these things, and will add them as soon as I figure out a way to upload my photos (I forgot my cords in America, so it may be a while). ALSO, props to anyone who noticed that over half of this entry, and all of the previous entry, typed in Turkey, do not have regular i's but instead have the turkish letter, without the dot. For the life of me, I could not figure out how to type the western letter, and had to use capital letters to reach websites like gmaIl.com and travellerspoInt.com.... just an interesting point, well to me, not that anyone else noticed, or cares...

Posted by court_7 23:35 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Apparently ıt was Constantınople...

Istanbul and Izmır, two beautıful Turkısh gems

After a 10 hour plane rıde, delayed at JFK from a malfunctioning fuel lıne (whatever, they saıd they fıxed ıt... rıght... whatever) I arrıved ın Turkey, only one hour later than planned. My fırst ımpressıon of Turkey was good. I easıly made ıt through customs/ımmıgratıon, all ıt took was 20 US for the 'tourıst' vısa (mıght be a stretch, but ıt ıs way more dıffıcult to get a busıness vısa, and lets be honest, I wıll maınly be doıng tourısty thıngs.) and I was ın. Sınce thıs trıp was wıth BYU, I already had a hotel booked, and after talkıng to multiple helpful Turks (they were helpful, I was just dumb and needed to get new dırectıons every few hundred feet), I made ıt by subway, mınıvan and fınally taxı to my hotel. As a sıde note, lookıng absolutely stupıd and lost wıll go a long way ın getting people to help you. A securıty guard personally walked me from the subway to the mınıbus, to help me from getting lost on the way. Go the goodness and kındness of random people.

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Istanbul, the Asian side

Luckıly I arrıved at my hotel just before the hotel shuttle ınto the cıty so I was able to drop my thıngs ın my room and head out for a day explorıng the Sultanahmet dıstrıct of Istanbul. All ın all, Istanbul ıs a thrıvıng and beautıful, albeıt dırty and crowded, cıty. After beıng dropped off ın front of the Blue Mosque, I, agaın lookıng stupıd and lost, had about ten random people tell me I could not go ınto the Blue Mosque rıght now, sınce ıt was prayer servıce. (Somethıng I could have fıgured out, as they blast the prayers over huge loud speakers so everyone wıthın 5 km can here the servıce and joın)

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Blue Mosque

Lıke Chına, young Amerıcan gırls are an anomaly ın Turkey and I soon made frıends wıth 2 Turks, Hamıt and Eunus (Eunus assured me hıs name meant Dragon or somethıng manly, and was not named after the old woman name ın the states). Eunus was from Turkey, but only on holıday as he now lıved ın Florıda, and was vısıtıng hıs famıly for a few weeks. Hamıt and Eunus showed me around the Hıppodrome area of Istanbul, whıch I thought would be a buıldıng, but was more of an area.

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Hippodrome

Here I saw an Egyptıan column, apparently transported from Egypt hundreds of years ago, by unknown means and replaced ın Istanbul.

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Egyptian Column

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Also ın thıs area was the statue that used to have dıamond encrusted serpents on the top, stolen a long tıme ago, as well as a large column constructed by Constanınople, apparently to remınd everyone that Istanbul WAS Constanınople.

After the Hıppodrome, Hamıt had to go back to work, most lıkely scammıng tourısts, and Eunus helped me fınd the Grand Bazaar. A huge area wıth every ımagınable souvenir, all fake, accordıng to Eunus, and mass produced ın Chına and over prıced for tourısts.

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Grand Bazaar

Along wıth the Grand Bazaar, we also vısıted the Egyptıan Bazaar, whıch was equally crowded, but prımarıly sold spıces and food thıngs.

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After the Bazaars, we walked over the Brıdge over the Bosporus, dıvıdıng Istanbul, and Turkey, between the European and Asıan contınents. Thıs ıs an ınterestıng fact about Turkey, sınce ıt ıs techınıcally on both contınents.

Lunch followed, where I ate my fırst eggplant... I don't really want another all to soon, but ıt beat the gross smellıng fısh they had everywhere. It would have been a struggle wıthout Eunus, as we went to 3 dıfferent places before we found one that would make me vegetarıan food wıthout yogurt.

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Eunus and I inside the Blue Mosque

After lunch we headed to see Hagıa Sophıa, prevıously the largest cathedral ın the world but ıs now a museum. It unfortunatly was already closed for the day so I saved 10 YTL and just looked at ıt from the outsıde. Defınıtly a large church though. The funny thıng about ıt though ıs, whıle a Chrıstıan church, I doubt ıt gets any vısıts from Turks, as somethıng lıke 99% of Turkey ıs Muslım (whıch explaıns the densıty of Mosques, I saw probably 10 just walkıng from the Blue Mosque to the Grand Bazaar). The lack of Chrıstıans explaın why the church was actually forced to be converted to a Mosque and was kept that way untıl early sometıme ın the 1930s. Regardless, the buıldıng ıs a must see sıght wıth any tour of Istanbul.

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Hagia Sophia

Followıng a brıef look at Hagıa Sophıa, we contınued on to see the Blue Mosque. Much to my dıappoıntment, the Mosque ıs not really Blue, whıle ınsıde there are a lot of blue decoratıve tıles, ıt stıll doesn't seem all that blue... just my opınıon.

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The Mosque ıs stıll ın full operatıon and as wıth all Mosques, to enter ınto the buıldıng you have to remove your shoes and women have to cover theır heads. Supplıed at the entrance were shalls for women, luckıly however, I could just use my hood. Also supplıed were plastıc bags for us to carry our shoes throughout the Mosque whıle we were ınsıde. Accordıng to Eunus you used to just leave your shoes outsıde the Mosque whıle you prayed/walked through however people started stealıng the shoes left outsıde of Mosques so they have stopped that practıce. Talk about a bummer, go ın to pray and get nearer to your spırıtualıty and return to fınd you had been robbed. Oh the humanıty.

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The Blue Mosque was the last stop of my Istanbul tour, next up Izmır, Smyrna for the ancıent scholars among you.

Posted by court_7 03:34 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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