A Trip Too Small: Fiji, New Zealand, and Some More

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  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 12, 2015
    Its time to get started on the awesome country that is Laos. We flew from Hanoi to Vientiane because the 30 hours of bus on crazy roads through a border crossing just didn’t sound like that much fun. The flight was painless as Hanoi has a really nice airport and we were in Laos before long. Vientiane is the capital of Laos and is surprisingly expensive. Rooms were about $20-30 and didn’t really give you much. We’re also not much into the city so we headed right off to Thakhek, our main destination that was supposed to be the climbing area. We got a crazy nice room at the Inthira Hotel, rented a motorbike, and headed right to the climbing area. There is usually a camping area in the valley itself but its closed because of the rainy season. We hoped that the climbing would still be possible.

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    It was intimidating quickly as many of the routes are greatly overhanging. This cave is full of routes. The nice thing about the really steep ones is that many of them have permanent draws. Its interesting to find here for sure.

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    We warmed up by bouldering around on a climb called Elephant Man, party just to show the super cool features of the area. This is the start of the climb.

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    The first day we climbed hard and took no pictures. This was day two, when I thought I’d give something steep a try. Its called Hanging Gardens and is a 5.11d. The wetness of the route mixed with the steepness and a bit of a bee attack helped me get about 4 draws from the finish. Here’s shasta and on attempt.

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    I mentioned it was steep right? Unfortunately we are the only two people here, in the entire climbing area. So I didn’t have the opportunity for more pictures but its pretty amazing here. Lots of climbs and even a decent guidebook.

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    After that day we decided to see some sights. I’d split my fingernail right down the middle lunging for a hold and didn’t feel like grabbing anymore rock for a few days. We talked around town and settled on the Thakhek loop. A popular motorbike trip through the countryside that usually takes 4-5 days. We took our bike from Mad Monkeys, packed our bags (which we left at the hotel), and headed off. The potential for new climbing in this country blows my mind. This cliff is along the way, its probably 400+ ft tall.

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    Our first day we rode for 2 1/2 hours to a place called Phosy Guesthouse. It is a nice guesthouse located on what is often a river or small lake. Currently its a really small pond due to the lack of water the country is having. We read books on the bridge.

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    The scenery around the lake was quite beautiful however.

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    Our room was the first one in the building on the left. Not bad for $6 per night.

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    Also the French had previously spent some time colonizing Laos and there are some lasting remnants such as this game, Boule. We played with some of the locals and the owner of Mad Monkey Motorbike shop in a 2 on 2 match. They are pretty darn good.

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    The next morning we had our breakfast and headed off to the next days destination, Konglor Cave which is the main destination of the trip. As we drove through what was supposed to be a lake we found the devastation that can be brought by a dam. It had filled the area and killed the trees. Now without water it was just a wasteland.

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    Another much needed rest stop on the trip was this watering hole. We turned off the main road and drove through cow pastures and the occasional village until it ended. This is where we found what the call a “cold water spring”. Its funny that most of their water is so warm they actually name the cold ones!

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    And it was really cold!

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    After going for a nice swim and having the area all to ourselves we were joined by a local family traveling through. They decided we were a bit of a spectacle and took out their iPhones to record us swimming, getting out of the water, walking, saying hi, pretty much everything. Its oddly common here. I looked over the shoulder of the lady and she was taking a picture of Shasta’s midsection…a little strange. We posed for pictures with the lady and her family, all while in our bathing suites and then took off fast. It was nice to have it to ourselves.

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    Thats it for now! More soon but now its time for lunch!
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 13, 2015
    Alright time to finish Laos. Yes its been way to short but its the last few weeks and its off to Myanmar! If there's anyone still out there looking at this then shout out. I'm wondering if I'm not just typing to myself! heh.

    We arrived in Konglor Village after only one flat tire. The town is small and if it wasn’t for the numerous guesthouses you wouldn’t even know that it was a tourist destination. While getting our tire fixed Shasta was shown how to weave by a local.

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    And after finally getting rain the rice season was on.

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    The limestone…oh the limestone was everywhere.

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    The people here in Laos are kind and friendly. We walked by the rice fields and they smiled and waived Shasta over. Soon she was pulling rice like the best of them.

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    Well, maybe like the newest ones of them.

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    The whole area, and indeed most of the country that we saw, is lined with beautiful scenery of sharp limestone towers and formations.

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    Grumpy livestock.

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    Locals.

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    Finally it was time to see what this cave was all about. We drove the 1km to the entrance and paid for the boat tour through the cave.

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    The cave is massive! The caverns were plenty and you can ride on a motorboat through the entire cave. It would be better if it wasn’t motorized, hopefully that’ll happen in the future.

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    But there were so many different incredible features.

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    Other boats going by deep inside the cave. This is probably around 1km from the entrance.

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    When you come out on the other side they take you on a quick trip up the river.

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    Then its back in for the return.

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    If you’re wondering how big the cave is, look for the people in the boat in this picture.

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    The entrance.

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    That was it for our time in the cave. It was an incredible experience which I highly recommend. We got back on the bike and did the long ride back to Thakhek, closing our loop.

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    Next post will probably be from Myanmar! So stay tuned.
  • ChrisJChrisJ Major grins Posts: 2,159Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 14, 2015
    Prezwoodz wrote: »
    If there's anyone still out there looking at this then shout out. I'm wondering if I'm not just typing to myself!

    Still here! Getting over jet lag from my trip to NZ. That cave looks absolutely incredible!
    Chris
  • denisegoldbergdenisegoldberg Major grins North Andover, MAPosts: 12,266Super Moderators moderator
    edited July 15, 2015
    Prezwoodz wrote: »
    ... I'm wondering if I'm not just typing to myself! heh.
    You're definitely not typing or talking to yourself!

    I'm enjoying watching over your shoulder; I am in awe of your travels and very glad you are sharing your trip with us.

    Thanks!

    --- Denise
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 19, 2015
    Thanks everyone for the comments and letting me know there’s someone out there willing to actually read all this! So now I’m going to start a post that I really didn’t think i’d be writing at the beginning of this trip report. We decided, way back in Alaska, that Myanmar is still dangerous and just not a good idea to visit. This is a common theme among Americans, be afraid of everything that doesn’t include a 5 star resort or a beach. Normally I like to think I’m beyond that but this time I was also caught up in the game. When we were in Thailand we talked with a few people who mentioned Myanmar and got a little excited. They really seemed to love the place and all we heard were good things. The basic statement about Myanmar was this, “GO NOW! Hurry before all the tourists find it!”

    We decided to listen to them and booked a ticket to Mandalay. When we arrived we first noticed how quiet the streets seemed. I’m not sure if this is common on a day to day basis but the highways are relatively uncrowded, which seemed strange for a country with 54 million people. The city was crowded but not Vietnam crowded so it still seemed not to bad. We made our way to Hotel A1, which is a pretty decent place to stay and headed out to the temples. Here’s a disclaimer. Does anyone remember all the temples from Thailand way back when in this thread? Hopefully not because Myanmar is the land of temples. By the time we get to Bagan you’ll probably be feeling like we do. Its a common thing called “temple fatigue”. You see so many temples you just sort of stop caring. Hopefully you won’t hit that point here, I’ll try to intersperse it with climbing, monkeys, and snakes. Well, off to adventure!

    The first place we went in Mandalay was the Golden Palace. It’s located inside a huge walled complex that is 8 miles in circumference and has a moat. It’s in the middle of the city too, which also gives it an interesting appeal. We are in Myanmar in the low season so it was quiet as well.

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    The temple was made of wood but ornately colored.

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    We like to break up our temples a bit so we headed back and had some shakes. Shasta’s is pineapple and mines dragonfruit.

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    In continuing with our climbing adventures, we’ve so far climbed in each country we visited this trip, we searched out the climbing near Mandalay. According to the interweb there was climbing nearby we just had to get in contact with the local climbing club. We facebooked them and heard back pretty quickly. Then as the time approached we couldn’t get a hold of them at all. It was starting to look grim for climbing as we were now in Myanmar and they just were not answering. There were some super basic directions on Mountain Project and we started to ask taxi’s how much it would cost to get to the monastery where the climbing was located. First taxi said it’d take 1 1/2 hours, 60-70$ should do it. We ran away to the next guy and he quoted us $20 for the ride out 3 hours of climbing and the ride back. That should do! The next morning we woke up early and hopped in the car to head out to a place called Waterfall Hill. Apparently it has the first route in Myanmar as well as plenty of others. The area is beautiful and definitely the best part about the climbing. You have to walk past monks and through the monastery and the climbing is right on the road. It had a Seward Highway kind of feel, complete with mediocre rock quality and falling debris. We roped up for a 5.10c and I pulled multiple blocks off on the ascent. Shasta climbs the now cleaner route.

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    The Mild 7.

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    We had an audience for most of the day.

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    Beyond the humans watching there were plenty of other occupants at the monastery.

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    The Fire Wall area.

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    Protective mothers.

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    Dang that’s an angry one armed monkey.

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    Gluttons.

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    We tired out of throwing rocks at each other, some of the blocks are big and scary and one of the decent sized rocks I knocked off hit Shasta’s camera and caused it not to work for a while. So we hopped back in the taxi and headed toward our hotel. On the way back we came to a crowd in the road where they’d found a large Burmese Python.

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    This one was at least 8 ft long and the villagers were quite scared of it. The taxi driver even declared it super poisonous before I told him otherwise.

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    Shasta getting a little pet on the snake.

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    After returning to our hotel we took a rest and headed back out for another temple. That ones next, but its different then the other temples so that’s cool….right?!
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 19, 2015
    After climbing we had lunch and then headed out to our next destination. The Golden Palace Monastery, which is not located inside the golden palace itself. The king that came after the one who lived in the building thought it haunted so he had it moved outside the palace. Then in WWII the palace was basically bombed to oblivion so this building was the only survivor. Pretty awesome considering its uniqueness. The whole building is intricate woodwork.

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    The carvings on the building are just awesome.

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    Beautiful ladies adorn the temple as well.

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    The inside is a sleeping chamber.

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    Shwenandaw Monastery (the Golden Palace Monastery) is one of the most unique I had seen, it was made almost entirely of teak wood. Across the street was another temple, this one was wide open inside and a different construction than any others we would see.

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    After that rather nice building we headed over to Kuthadow Pagoda and what they call the Worlds Largest Book. Its not really a book but some huge tablets. Sometimes when you’re going into these temples you get an ancient statue in a calm and peaceful pose. Other times you get something entirely different. This Buddha came with rotating lights and flashing colors.

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    Hows that temple fatigue going? Well heres a squirrel eating upside down to give you a little break.

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    That was the end of our trip to Mandalay for pictures, the next day it was off to Bagan. We knew that there plenty of other temples and what not to see in Mandalay but Bagan is land of the temples and we didn’t want to fully burn out before going there!

    So the next post, which I may start writing now is going to be about the city of Bagan. There’s a lot of temples but its different I swear! I’ll try and make it interesting, maybe use some wit, possibly some photo shenanigans. Who knows.
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 20, 2015
    Alright, now lets start with Bagan. Bagan temples have been in various states of building and repair for the last 900 years. Some of the temples are originals, others are new or rebuilt. We got a place in New Bagan, which isn’t a bad town and includes our new favorite place to eat. Plus the rooms are cheaper then they are in Old Bagan. It’s not cheap here but its definitely worth a few days visit. We rented e-bikes, which is basically the only way i’d want to visit these temples, and headed out at 5am the next morning. I’d seen a bunch of pictures when I was looking up the area to visit and they all were sunrise or sunset so we knew we had to try and get the shot.

    We are currently in the rainy season, I think, and so there were plenty of clouds to obscure the sunrise. We still hoped we could get some good shots as it slowly came up.

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    We were on the quiet sunrise temple, which was different then the one all the tour busses showed up for. Here you can see the tourists arriving for sunrise.

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    Getting better…

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    Then it got really good! Seriously, can you believe this place exists?

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    This is the biggest temple that they made or is remaining. It is so big that just after it was finished they had to close up the middle pathways and windows because it couldn’t support its own weight.

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    I know theres a lot of similar shots here…but I couldn’t help it.

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    Here’s a stylized version.

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    This is considered the most beautiful temple. It’s called Ananda temple.

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    What if we look the other way? More temples!

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    Temple ghosts.

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    And so the sun had risen.

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    We hopped on our e-bikes, you have to use electric bikes because it’s illegal for foreigners to rent anything here that doesn’t have pedals, and rode to the big temple - Dhamma-yan-gyi.

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    Kids play in the open passages asking, “You want postcard? Where you go? Where you from?” I don’t even care where I’m from anymore its been asked so much.

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    Steep passageways. These are actually stairs that more closely resemble ladders.

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    Don’t turn a corner to fast. Those are bees.

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    Steep.

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    We cruised over to the Ananda temple for another tour through the popular ones.

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    Many temples include artwork. Some of the artwork is from the 13th century!

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    Here is Shasta getting her photo taken in Ananda temple. This is something that we didn’t expect and has been a bit weird getting used too. We are tourist attractions here. We’re constantly being asked to have our pictures taken, often with each member of an entire family. They laugh and smile and use their cellphones to snap away. Did we come here for them or did they come for us?

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    Ok thats a good start and to be honest thats most of it. The next day we went back to the temples and when we get internet again I’ll upload those pictures to post but their won’t be so many, so don’t worry about that temple fatigue!
  • ChrisJChrisJ Major grins Posts: 2,159Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 21, 2015
    Beautiful...

    This is my favorite, I think:

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    Subtle hues with the peaks and hills intermixed. thumb.gif
    Chris
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Outside the Lines Posts: 1,169Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 21, 2015
    Sweet!
    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 22, 2015
    ChrisJ wrote: »
    Beautiful...

    This is my favorite, I think:

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    Subtle hues with the peaks and hills intermixed. thumb.gif

    I really like that one a lot too. We were hoping the sun would come up strong and make more mist but it was a mellow sunrise hidden in the clouds. Thankfully it kicked up some mist and let me get this shot.
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 23, 2015
    The next day we decided to head out in the middle of the day and ride our bikes through the uncovered countryside on our motorbikes. We burned a bit and had one small motorbike laydown but otherwise came out unscathed. You guessed it, here’s more temples. The temples are surrounded by farms which is kind of cool because they actually seem to care about the temples.

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    This is a completely normal mode of transportation in Bagan. Horse drawn carts are big there.

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    We dedcided to see if we could get a different view for sunset and went on a recon mission. This is from the other side of the complex than what I have posted before.

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    Temple features.

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    Despite all our looking the temple we found for sunset was under a heavy cloud of rain when it came time. So we drove around for a while and ended up back on the same one we were at before. But the colors were a bit different so here’s a few pictures.

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    Now that was wonderful to watch.

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    We headed back from the sunset in the rain and both got flat tires. We ended up walking about 2km pushing our bikes through sand and the dark, we had one headlamp and one headlight on the bikes. It was a bit of a mess of an end to the day but what can you expect from a developing country? Our next morning gave us just one mission. Go to a big gray temple we’d looked at the entire time we had been there but hadn’t yet visited. It was the one temple Shasta said she wanted to see just by looking at it and we hadn’t gone there yet! So off we went. We realized an interesting thing this day. We were pretty much done taking photos of temples…but we weren’t tired of going to them yet. We realized that each temple seemed to have its own unique quirks and they were still pleasant to visit. Hurrah for staving off temple fatigue!

    On the way to the temple we saw some wildlife.

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    This guy freaked me out when we pulled around the corner. I got closer and closer until I realized it wasn’t sunning itself but was actually dead. I’m not sure how but when I picked up by the neck it didn’t bite and try to kill me so all is good.

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    Temples and Rainbows!

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    We hadn’t purchased much even though I really liked much of the art being produced in the area. Walking around the temple there are art sellers at nearly every window. This guys eyes moved to watch me pass but was to wrapped up in painting to yell, “Hey you. Painting. Just look! Where you from?” So we looped around and came back to him. He spoke quietly and unhurriedly and never rushed me. I enjoyed my talk with him and ended up with a few of his items. Here he signs on for me, he doesn’t sign them because he says some tourists don’t like it.

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    During my art dealings Shasta, who’d contracted a bit of a bug, decided to go local and sleep in the doorway.

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    We headed back to New Bagan to get ready for a super long train ride which I’ll get into soon but first we wanted to visit our favorite restaurant, Shwe Ou. The owner was awesome and spoke english well. His food was amazing but what really kicked it off was his homemade ice cream! We’d been waiting the whole trip to eat his pride and joy, an ice cream fondue.

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    And I’ll tell you right now this thing was delicious! That’s Taro, coconut, strawberry, avacado, durian, cookies and cream, milk, and chocolate ice cream. He makes everything, including the chocolate dip. If you come to Bagan then don’t miss this place. He also makes the best gyoza I think I may have had anywhere.

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    We made our way to the train station and finally got to see what would be our transportation for the next night. A personal sleeper car. It was dirty, dusty, and somewhat smelly but it was ours and we were happy not to be cramped onto a bus. It had its own bathroom as well.

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    One of the great things about riding the train is that you pretty much get to do whatever you want. Here I am hanging off the side of the train by one arm as it speeds along the track. I looked the other way and the guy driving the train laughed and waved at me.

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    While the train may take longer then the bus I think its worth it. It really was amazing to get to see the countryside without having to see it through a glass window or from a busy road. We feel like we actually got to see what its like there. Some of you may know what they are doing here, we weren’t quite sure but guessed harvesting palm oil.

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    Dangerous job.

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    If you ride the train try and make sure to buy a big bag of candy before you get on. The local kids and adults run alongside the train for nearly the first 50 miles. All waiting for a gift from the train goers. We tossed out some dried banana and a lady nearly 70 years old took off running for it. Even the little monks got into it.

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    Ok I was going to save this next little bit for another post but its small so lets just finish off Myanmar shall we? The train took 17 hours. It was long and sleeping was a chore for those who don’t sleep heavily. The train rocks and bounces along the track all night long shouting its whistle nearly every 15 min. Shasta somehow still managed to sleep probably a good 8 hours. I got 3 or 4 unbroken hours and was up from 3am on. I’d still say its worth it and better than the bus. You get to walk around, make a table, the chairs are even pretty comfortable since you can angle them however you want and you get a bed. It’s worth it. When we arrived in Yangon the next morning we knew that if we wanted to see anything we’d better get on with it right away since we were going to fly out the next morning. Everything we’d talked to said the same thing about Yangon, go to Shewedagon Pagoda, so that what we told the taxi driver.

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    This is the tallest pagoda in Myanmar and the biggest of its kind in Southeast Asia. Its heavily revered. They say its over 2500 years old and contains actual hairs from Buddha.

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    Ravens and fire.

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    Just fire.

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    And so that ends it for Myanmar. I’ll leave it with this little world. Today we landed in Malaysian Borneo so there will be lots of pictures coming soon!

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  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 26, 2015
    The last few days in Malaysian Borneo have been amazing. Tons of wildlife and insects so there’s going to be a lot of photos about animals here in this section. If thats not your thing then you might want to skip through or check it out anyway!

    Arriving in Kuching we got our room at the Hero Hostel, we got the Ironman room, and headed off the next day to Semengoh Orangutan Sanctuary. It was supposed to be a good place to see Orangutans in the wild and we hoped to do so. It is “the wild” but at the same time it is not. They are enclosed in this 625 hectare park which doesn’t quite have enough food to support all the orangutans in it. So they have daily feedings where they put a bunch of food out and if the orangutans want to, they can come eat. Only one showed up this day, but it was a cool thing regardless! So here’s a bunch of photos of an orangutan and some other wildlife.

    Carniverous pitcher plants.

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    Dragons.

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    Probably the biggest ant I’ve ever seen.

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    Ah and here’s the Orangutan.

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    Peekaboo

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    I think my favorite shot from the day.

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    More carnivorous plants.

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    We really enjoyed our trip but wanted to try again and see if we could see more Orangutans. There were quite a few people around and it wasn’t feeling like the authentic experience we’d hoped for. So the next day we went back and there were even more people! We didn’t wait around till the feeding time was over and walked through the trails to see if we could find one on our own. We didn’t but found this guy. Creepy!

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    Thats it for our first trip into the jungle. We just finished our trip to Bako National Park and the wildlife was incredible. I have tons of pictures from that coming up soon!
  • denisegoldbergdenisegoldberg Major grins North Andover, MAPosts: 12,266Super Moderators moderator
    edited July 26, 2015
    I'm loving your words and your photos!
    Thanks so much for sharing your travels with us.

    --- Denise
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Outside the Lines Posts: 1,169Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 28, 2015
    Nice! We had a guy on our orangutan trek in Sumatra who had been to that sanctuary, and he much preferred the Sumatra one. Are you guys going there too? I'm also looking forward to seeing what you guys do in Bali, cause our experience there was pretty lame.
    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 28, 2015
    Actually it looks like we're not going to make it to Indonesia at all. Its a shame but we've just run out of time. We were going to Sumatra but they were having a bunch of problems from that volcana that erupted a bit ago. So we came this way instead.
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 30, 2015
    Ok so its time for an update and this ones going to be pretty huge. Unfortunately it won’t include any climbing. Sometimes it seems like the further we go and the closer it is to home the more we jump around just to try and see all that we can. Either way it was an awesome few days so I’m excited to show it.

    We decided to try and see the Proboscis Monkey (if you don’t know what that is you will soon!) and so we headed to a place called Bako National Park. Its somewhat easy to get to compared to some of the other parks, it took a 40 minute motorbike ride and then a 35 minute boat, but we were arrived at the park around 10am with high expectations.

    Getting out of the boat I looked down to see two snakes swimming through the water! I love snakes, when they’re at at least a bit of a distance, and so I was happy to see them right away.

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    Keeping the snakes company were these awesome little mudskippers. Pretty much the most convincing evidence Shasta’s ever seen for evolution.

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    A few feet further was this rather large lizard lying around.

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    And then about another 20ft down the trail we ran into our first Proboscis Monkey! The forest was alive in nearly every direction and we were really excited to see them so early. You are not guaranteed to get a good viewing of the monkeys, especially during a day trip. Proboscis monkeys have large noses that hang down over their face, I did call them penis monkeys more then once.

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    Grazing in the grass was one of the hairy wild boars.

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    And as with many other asian areas there were macaque monkeys everywhere. This guy was working his way toward nirvana.

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    What looked like an odd shaped lump on the tree turned out to be a flying lemur and it’s baby!

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    We started off down one of the many trails and our luck continued as we came to a creature I’d been wanting to see for years! I’d been looking in branches since 2007 when I went to Costa Rica just to try and see a green snake in the trees. I had failed for all these years until finally there it was, a pit viper!

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    With so many different dangerous creatures in the Bornean jungle you figure that is where the danger would come from but that is not always the case. Male proboscis monkeys are heavy fighters and constantly battling it out. We came around the corner and heard the noise of a proboscis in the trees, soon we learned that it was injured. We stayed around a bit and then left and came back. When we returned the rangers were looking for it and we pointed out where it had hidden. It didn’t look good as its spine and leg were badly injured. They guessed that it had been fighting and lost with a fall.

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    It was a very sad sight as he was still alive. He’d move his eyes and occasionally try to make his way back to the tree’s. It was futile as it was obvious that his legs weren’t moving. He looked at me and just seemed to stare down inside. I’m sorry, I can’t help you but I wish I could. The ranger told me that he would be taken to the vet but it didn’t look good. You can see the gash in his leg in the photo.

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    We stayed around for a bit but eventually we knew there was nothing we could help with. We walked on and admired the plant life with a bit of a somber feeling in our hearts but as the ranger said, “It was the jungle, it is good that it wasn’t humans who hurt it.”

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    I’ve always though of bamboo as a friendly fun looking material. It looks like something you want to climb or use to build with. That is until I came to Borneo bamboo, you do not want to fall into this stuff.

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    The trail we followed ended in a high point overlooking the jungle.

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    Always remember to look down when hiking in Borneo. This guy was just off the trail!

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    Ok, I’ll be honest, I’ve wanted for a long time to take a picture of one of these! He was gone too fast but I was happy to get a few photos. I was giddy with excitement from this awesome jungle.

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    More dangerous yet beautiful plant life.

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    I saw a sign that could hang in front of any frat house.

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    Insect life.

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    Bak National Park has some accommodations but they were full when we tried to book so we would have to leave the park by 4pm. Which is unfortunate because it turns out thats when everything comes out of the jungle to eat in the mangroves. We walked toward where the boat dock was but they were launching from the other side of the bay. We turned to head in the other direction but suddenly heard a monkey come from the jungle and it was a silver haired langur! The last animal on our list of things we wanted to see before we left.

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    The great things about these langurs is that their babies are orange and the adults are gray or black. Well we got another dose of the super cute.

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    I mean this just isn’t right! Its like they were put here as ultimate distraction devices to try and make us miss our boat.

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    Is this where Dr. Suess got the idea for the Grinch?

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    Ha! Caught.

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    I looked at the time and the langurs had done their job. We only had 5 minutes to catch the boat! We turned and started walking down the trail as I heard the last boat take off. When we got to the admin building they told us we were to late and they’d have to try and figure something out. We were a bit surprised that they really didn’t have a backup plan so we walked around a bit and waited. I looked through my Proboscis monkey shots and although they weren’t to bad, they just were not that good. It wasn’t the shot I was looking for but enough to convince me I’d be satisfied. Then all of a sudden the place came alive with the sound of their grunts. Within a few minutes they were everywhere! This one is not work safe heh.

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    As I stood on the ground and waited one of the larger males walked right by me and stared me down. It was amazing considering we’d only seen them from far away at the tops of the trees until that point.

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    We stayed and snapped pictures until we were told a boat had arrived to pick us up. We’d have to pay more but it was completely worth it! We got all the shot’s we wanted and felt like it had been a day full of life. I’d taken about 800 photos since that morning. We saw some rocks that apparently do have some climbing on them, there are some great looking boulders too. We had planned on climbing them but were surrounded in so much wildlife it was hard to put the camera down.

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    Our boat captain arrived and was the father of one of the guys working at the park. He charged us double what it would have normally cost but that was okay, and he was a really nice guy. As we headed back he decided to take it slow and give us a personal tour of the area. He told us about how much he loves the park and how he once saved a proboscis from drowning by bring it into his boat. He said he looked it in the eye and they communicated. It pulled into the boat and sat on the front until he pulled into the mangroves and it left. He said we could see some life on the way back like a crocodile but it was unlikely. Hey, who knows? Our day had been pretty amazing so far. And then just a few minutes later -

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    We were nearly exhausted with excitement from the day! We’d seen everything we wanted and figured we couldn’t possibly see anything else…then behind us…

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    Otters! He told us it was very rare.

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    We landed on the shore and thanked him profusely for the great trip on the return and made our moto trip back to our hostel. We smiled large enough I’m sure I ate some extra bugs on the way back. Our night was spent in the Hero Hostel.

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    We had the Ironman Room.

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    At this point I debated breaking up the post but what the heck. We’re this far, lets keep going!

    The next day we flew from Kuching to Miri. Our main goal was to go to Brunei as it looked interesting and I’ll admit that I love getting to new countries. We landed in Miri and got a rental car for the first time since New Zealand. It was great getting around by car again and our second day we drove to a park called Lambir National Park where there weren’t as many animals but lots of plant and insect life.

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    There were several waterfalls which you could swim in.

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    The amount of plant and insect life is incredible. There are roughly 1500 tree species located inside this national park. Perhaps even more amazing is that there have been almost 1200 insect species identified on each type of tree! Its a staggering number to think about.

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    We had no shortage of insects.

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    In looking up pictures of insects in Borneo I’d seen a lot about leeches and even read quite a bit. I still hadn’t released the idea of what a leech is however from my Alaskan memories. In Alaska the leeches are in the water, often you don’t see them until they are stuck to you and are big black ugly things that don’t move much. I looked for them in the water but still hadn’t seen any. It was a bit of a shame because for some reason I wanted a picture of one. Suddenly, Shasta said, “What is that!”

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    Judging from all the pictures I’d seen my reply was, “Thats a leech!”

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    I started taking pictures of it and Shasta hopped around uncomfortably, she really doesn’t like leeches and neither do I. She was wearing Chaco’s with no socks and said, “I’d better make sure I don’t have - AHHHHHH”

    When I turned she’d found one on her shoe, then two, and three… I looked to my shoes and they were all over my feet as well. We’d walked into a leech haven.

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    We pulled them from our shoes and took off for more docile and pleasant creatures.

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    Later we’d walk through a few more leech cities and eventually Shasta would get two on her skin. She handled it well as I sprayed them with bug spray and they fell off dead.

    Other insects were less gross and more enjoyable like this guy.

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    Even these carnivores pitcher plants were better than the leeches.

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    And for the end of this post I leave you with a giant beetle. He was really big. Next post will be Brunei! A country I didn’t even know existed before this trip and was pleasantly surprising.
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 31, 2015
    After a few days in Miri we decided to use our rental car to take a day trip into Brunei. It was more expensive to stay there so we just decided to head back after a long day and drive back to Miri. The border crossings are some of the easiest I had ever been through. Nobody asked any questions and they just waived us through after a quick stamping.

    The country is really small but oil reach so you know there’s going to be mosques! We drove to the first mosque on the list Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, which is the #1 attraction in the country according to most any reports. It really was an impressive mosque.

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    Shasta enjoying a walk along the bridge to the boat.

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    Impressive.

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    We were waved into the building but before we could enter there were a few rules to be followed. I had to wear a robe and Shasta had to wear a robe and a hijab.

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    We spent a little while at the mosque but I had seen pictures of the temples before and the one I really wanted was the night shot. So we drove around the country looking for interesting things to try and use up the day. I’d heard that the Empire Hotel was something worth seeing and I was surprised to hear that. It was just a normal hotel. We walked inside and suddenly, BAM! The biggest lobby of any hotel I had ever seen. Seriously, it is really impressive in there.

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    We continued along and found a few nice beaches with water from the Bay of Brunei. What was interesting is that I never saw any Bruneian put even their toes into the water. We had every beach we went to to ourselves.

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    The country is definitely on the more expensive side when you’ve just come from Malaysia so it was becoming a bit difficult finding food, and even harder finding local food. We ended up taking a boat across the Ulu River where they have a huge floating village. Boats took kids to and from school.

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    As with many other countries their cities were clean but they seemed to have no regard for the waters. Their beaches that weren’t for swimming were covered in garbage. Please try and stop using plastic. It’s getting out of hand.

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    If you don’t want to listen to me, listen to this cat.

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    We returned to the mosque as the sun was setting, just in time to take pictures.

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    Sometimes you take pictures over and over again as the light changes just hoping that something great will come out. Then you look at the screen and say, “Oh yeah. I got it!” This was one of those moments, it was the shot I’d seen in my mind.

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    The border from Brunei into Malaysia closes at 10pm so we started our way back but before leaving the country there was still one more mosque we wanted to see. It is one of the largest in Southeast Asia.

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    Ok this was an unexpected shot. I didn’t plan it at all but once we saw it, we couldn’t help but take it! There is no water in this picture.

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    And that was it, we waved goodbye and drove back to Miri, Malaysia for the night. We made it out of Brunei with about 10 minutes to spare. It was a really quiet country but pleasant.

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  • coldclimbcoldclimb Outside the Lines Posts: 1,169Registered Users Major grins
    edited August 1, 2015
    Haha that last jungle post was awesome!
    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited August 6, 2015
    After a bit of a delay its time to work through the last week of our trip. After Brunei we headed back to Malaysia for one last day before flying off to Singapore. We didn’t really have enough time to head to the really popular park because it takes a few days so instead we just stayed around the town of Miri and looked for cool things we hadn’t seen. During our drive around we came to a Taoist Temple. It is one of the largest Taoist temples in Southeast Asia. As a side note I’ve been studying Northern Shaolin Kung Fu for the last 12 or 13 years and our specific school is Taoist. We’ve spent some time on the philosophy but I’d never been to a temple so it was really interesting to see what it looked like and to experience some of what it was like there. This specific temple was currently in the renovation process so it was bright and colorful.

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    The inner temple area.

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    Really colorful dragons.

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    Taoist birds.

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    And puking fish.

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    Out of curiosity we decided to come back at night because we figured the temple would be really well lit and it could make for some interesting pictures. What we got instead was quite a surprise. There were a lot of people in the temple going through some type of ritual. The man seated is a monk who is acting as the 6th dragon emperor. We holds this large stamp on your hands and speaks quickly and with a super deep voice. Then he would blow some cigar smoke out and hold the stamp to your chest. We were told it was a blessing of good luck. Here is Shasta being blessed by the monk. Pretty interesting and a little bit awkward considering we could tell he hesitated then told a joke before stamping us.

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    Temple at night.

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    And thats it! my last picture for Malaysia. I’ve got to edit the Singapore pictures now but i’ll tell you, I really enjoyed taking some of them and have some great ones coming up!
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Posts: 1,147Registered Users Major grins
    edited August 16, 2015
    Alright guys, well its been fun but I think its time to finish off this adventure. So here goes...thanks to anyone who's kept along for this long, you impress me.

    We left from Malaysia on a quick flight to Singapore, which required a 4 hours stopover in Kuala Lumpur. We must have really wanted to get that extra country in because we were actually leaving from Kuala Lumpur so we had to fly there, leave, and bus back. Booking a hotel in Singapore gave us an idea of what it was going to be like to travel there, our room cost $77 a night for a single room with nothing but a bed in it. Yikes.It was located in an area called Boat Quay.

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    Our first day we walked around the town and then tried to watch a movie and go to a market. I can't even remember if we made it to the movie, big cities are exhuasting. The market was basically expensive booths of fruit and it was an overall letdown. There were a few interesting things along the way however like this street art complete with no talking and loud static from the speakers.

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    I feel like most cities are better at night.

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    We also stumbled on a sculpture by Dali.

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    The next day we slept in so that we had plenty of energy, we'd planned on spending the entire day checking out different sights that we'd looked up the previous night. We found that in big cities like this you sometimes need more of a plan. We walked along the waterfront for a view of the Marina Sands Hotel, a somewhat iconic building.

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    And the Merlion...its a cross between a mermaid and a lion and I don't know why.

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    Then things started to get intresting. We'd already realized that something big was going on because there were lots of areas that were blocked off. We still didn't know what it was when we saw these big military vehicles following a line of tanks down the street!

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    We continued our walk toward the National Art Science Center. Shasta really wanted to visit so we made it a point to go. It was rather expensive as far as everything we'd paid for so far but such is the life of a city. Inside there was an exhibit for Dreamworks and this rather awesome gallery of undersea creatures. Here Shasta looks at the male of this species which as attached itself forever to the larger female.

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    If you are someone who likes malls then this place is for you.

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    I dont...so we got away as fast as possible. We headed toward the Cloud Forest and Supertrees, a really neat outdoor exhibit, structure.

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    Inside the cloud forest.

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    It was pretty cool being inside this massive greenhouse that creates the atmosphere of a cloud forest.

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    Walking across the city had taken its toll on us but there was still something we really wanted to see. At 7:30 and 8:30 each night they do a light and music show in the supertrees so we headed in that direction. As far as I'm concerned the supertrees are the very best free thing to do in Singapore. We waited as the sun went down.

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    The light show was actually really cool with great music and a dazzling array of colors.

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    As we were taking pictures the National Day Parade started (you remember all those tanks right?) and the largest fireworks in National Day history started.

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    The Supertree show ended and we started our walk back toward the hotel but I still wanted to get a good photo of the Marina Sands Hotel since it seemed so different from many of the hotels we saw. I clicked the button for a long exposure and waited and then suddenly the fireworks started again giving me one of my favorite city shots of the trip.

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    And more toward the supertrees.

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    We quickly ran back toward our room, having walked over 10 miles through the city, so that we could pack up and catch our night bus to Kuala Lumpur. The first night in Singapore was a total bust but the second redeemed so quality points.

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    We took the night bus back into Malaysia and then the next morning we were on a flight to South Korea. What do you do when you have a 12 hour layover in South Korea? Well you meet up with a friend and spend the entire day trying to see everything you can. It's not really glorious but its a mission. The first place we went in Seoul was to a market for some food.

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    We ended up walking into a small restuarant in the market where nobody spoke english. She pointed to the menu and we said yes, to whatever she was saying, and soon we were eating a bowl of who knows what. Well it turns out it was the most expensive thing in the place (she must have seen the pharangs coming) it was $21 per bowl per person. Our best guess is that it was oxtail. After our expensive mission in the market we headed to one of the large city gates. This is the gate that burned down a few years ago, nicely restored.

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    Apparently there is also something going on in Korea and they've put giant flags up on several buildings.

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    On our trip to the palace we showed up right in time for the changing of the guard.

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    I'd rather mess with the guards in London...

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    Anyone else have to wear a fake beard to work?

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    The old and new.

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    Well while it may not have been the most dramatic or amazing ending to such a long incredible trip I want to thank anyone who's come along on this journey. I know that this thread became something of a beast and I'm surprised if anyone didn't go over their internet limit by looking at it.

    So thanks again...and see you on the next one.


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  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,301Administrators moderator
    edited August 16, 2015
    You guys always have the best adventures and although I may not always say it, I appreciate the detail and amazing photos-all the way to the end.

    Fantastic job and thank you all!
    Moderator Journeys/Sports/Big Picture :: Need some help with dgrin?
  • captnemocaptnemo Depth defying Posts: 166Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 10, 2015
    Wow, what an epic thread, I'd complain it was too long but since they're all such excellent pics I won't. Especially since so many of them are A. Caves or B. Ocean shots which I love. The Yosemite bit in the middle threw me but was still interesting. thanks for posting.
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