Island Hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama

5 days of Island Hopping in Bocas

Bocas del Toro might be the best part of Panama, especially for backpackers and travelers. Bocas is an archipelago (group of islands) with beautiful beaches, wildlife, adventure, good food, and a great  party scene that attracts backpackers from around the world.

Most people have only heard of Bocas del Toro from the TV series Survivor (17 countries filmed there) – it’s a real place and worth a visit. While many people visiting Panama only get to Panama City, Bocas is a hidden gem.

Every day we chose an activity or an island to go to – then hopped in a boat to go check it out. Here’s a 31-photo tour, with some highlights from our five days of island hopping in Bocas del Toro:

Playa La Estrella – Starfish Beach

While it doesn’t get nearly as much acclaim as the other beaches, Playa La Estrella has easily the most beautiful water next to their nearly private beaches. The name literally translates to Starfish Beach, and you can see why – they’re everywhere!

Starfish everywhere! - Playa La Estrella, Bocas del Toro is a must visit when island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
Starfish everywhere! – Playa La Estrella, Bocas del Toro

Playa La Estrella, the most beautiful beach in Bocas

Starfish beach in Bocas del Toro. Playa La Estrella. A must visit when island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
Have you ever seen this many starfish?

Tip: please do NOT touch the starfish or take them out of water – it actually kills them.

Sign says: "Star Beach - please don't touch the stars!". Still it's a must visit when island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
“Star Beach – please don’t touch the stars!”
The water at Playa Estrella is as clear as any Caribbean beach. If you're island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama, visit Star Beach!
The water at Playa Estrella is as clear as any Caribbean beach
Crystal clear water at Playa Estrella, the most beautiful beach in Bocas. I highly recommend a visit while Island Hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
With water up my neck, you can still see the starfish – and my feet. It was THAT clear.

Sunsets in Bocas del Toro

amazing colors after sunset at Pukalani Hostel, our home base while Island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
this was actually part of our hostel, Pukalani Hostel

The views are amazing all over the Bocas del Toro archipelago  – it’s even more beautiful after the sun goes down.

Beautiful colors while island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
Photo from ecocircuitospanama
roundhouse kick! This was our martial arts afternoon workout at Pukalani Hostel. It was our jumping off point while island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
Roundhouse kick! This was our afternoon workout.

Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos

Red Frog Beach is the most famous of the Bocas del Toro beaches. It includes the combination of hiking and rare Red Frogs in the forests right near the beach. I liked this beach, but found La Estrella to be more of my idea of relaxation.

Photo from Chris Goldberg
Photo from Chris Goldberg

closeup of a Red Frog from Red Frog Beach in Bocas del Toro

Red Frogs are  fascinating but tiny – most were an inch long (about the size of my pinky finger)

surfing at Red Frog Beach Bocas del Toro
Lots of people were learning to surf at Red Frog Beach. You can see the lush green forest jet out on the right.
Jumping pic on Red Frog Beach, one of the most popular beaches while Island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
Jumping pic on Red Frog Beach! I take jumping photos in nearly every country I visit
Tiny Red Frog from Red Frog Beach, one of the most popular stops while Island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
Tiny Red Frog from Red Frog Beach – they’re all this small

Dolphins!

There’s dolphins all around the archipelago. You can book a dolphin tour, but we saw lots of dolphins just on our various boat trips to snorkeling while island hopping in Bocas del Toro.

You can take a dolphin tour, but we saw dolphins on our way to snorkeling and other boat excursions while island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
Photo Credit: dasoaz on Flickr

Delicious food in Bocas!

Nearly every meal comes with a beautiful view. We couldn’t get enough of the seafood, which was super fresh, being a busy archipelago. Most of the restaurants are on Isla Colon, but a few others are just a short boat ride away. Dress at most restaurants, even the fancier restaurants, are “beach town casual” (as we call it).

Most of the restaurants have seating either overlooking the water or on a deck in Bocas del Toro
Most of the restaurants have seating either overlooking the water or on a deck
The seafood was delicious - one of the benefits of being on islands. Yum! Seafood might be the best part of the experience island hopping in Bocas del Toro!
The seafood was delicious – one of the benefits of being on islands. This was fresh tuna, caught that morning. Yum!
Barracuda restaurant in Bocas del Toro -
Tasty dinner at Barracuda, which ironically is an italian restaurant with few seafood options. Still it was delicious!
Meals are right on the water in Bocas del Toro. Yes! Delicious food while while island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
Meals are right on the water. Yes! Dress is beach town casual, even at the nicer places.
Delicious meals in Bocas Del Toro Panama. Eat your way around the archipelago while island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
While there’s plenty of inexpensive backpacker options, there’s plenty of of delicious moderately priced seafood. That top photo is a “surf-n-turf” – lobster tail and steak. The bottom included a mix of seafood (calamari, shrimp) in marinara sauce.
Hmm...do I want Chicken in a Hole or Porridge?
Hmm…do I want “Chicken in a Hole” or Porridge? Like many countries that don’t natively speak english, there’s a few curious english descriptions. Another example is directly below…
Begging for a caption - see sign above us
Begging for a caption – see sign above us. “Killin me man sauce”
The Bocas waterfront is this colorful. Loved it! Island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama was so much fun!
The waterfront is this colorful. Loved it!

Surfing!

There’s a bunch of spots for surfing, and each surf company seemed to have their secret spots, depending on what level you are, and what time of day we’re going out. We were complete novices (I learned how to surf in Bali but apparently you don’t become an expert of going just once). There’s apparently really good surfing in Bocas, as the one of the top surfers in Panama is actually from Bocas del Toro.

Surfing in Bocas del Toro - there's plenty of places to surf while island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama. This photo was unfortunately not taken in one of them...
We snapped this photo after we got back from a morning of surfing. There’s no waves in the photo but there were plenty when we were out on the water.

Tip: Our surf lessons were at a secluded area right off the beach. Do NOT leave anything of any value on the beach. Don’t leave your wallet, phone or camera – it will disappear. While Bocas is generally very safe, it’s not the richest of areas, so leaving anything by the beach is just begging them to walk with your stuff. Bring your rented board and that’s it – we were warned that even t-shirts get disappear. Bocas isn’t dangerous, but your belongings are valuable to others.

surfing in Bocas del Toro, Panama.
Time to find some waves! There’s plenty of places to surf while island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama. Unfortunately this was not one of them (just a posed photo after our morning of surfing).

Snorkeling & kayaking

Take a boat trip to go snorkeling – ours was relaxing and came with a delicious lunch. Rent a kayak and enjoy the waters.

Kayak around the islands! If you're island Hopping in Bocas, take a kayak as a new way to experience the area
Photo from Energy

The Bocas archipelago has 9 main islands, 52 cays, and thousands of islets with coral reefs and mangroves. Kayaks and boats aren’t the only ways to get around –

Transportation in Bocas

Isla Colon is the main island where the vast majority of restaurants and bars are located. There’s guys on the docks just waiting for your business – it was never difficult to find someone to take us on boat to the other islands. We also took taxis, bikes, kayaks, and more.

The taxi actually drives onto the beach - there's no road for them to drive on. I assumed I'd have a long walk to the get home. Surprising!
The taxi actually drives onto the beach – there’s no road for them to drive on. I assumed I’d have a long walk to the get home. Surprising!

Check out the quality the bicycles before you rent them. We rented bikes for just $5 for the day - as it turns out they were appropriately priced. My didn't even have handles and had a slow leaking flat.

Check out the quality the bicycles before you rent them. We rented bikes for just $5 for the day – as it turns out they were appropriately priced. My didn’t even have handles and had a slow leaking flat.

Getting to Bocas - your only option might be a quick flight on  a prop plane from Air Panama from Panama City. Upon arrive, it's time to go island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama!
Getting to Bocas – your only option might be a quick flight on a prop plane from Air Panama from Panama City.

Pukalani Hostel

We stayed at the oceanfront Pukalani Hostel, located right on the water and even includes a pool! It’s located away from the craziness (and noise) of Bocas Town, but close enough to take a quick cheap taxi to and from the party.  It was perfect for us, although it’s a bit far from the action.

Pukalani has a swimming pool, pool table, punching bag, BBQ, and decent free WiFi. The family that runs it are super friendly and welcoming. They have a kitchen too – the food was adequate for when you can’t make it into town.

Pukalani "hostel" - photo taken from outside my room. Can you believe this is a hostel?  It was our home base while island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama
Pukalani “hostel” – photo taken from outside my room. Can you believe this is a hostel?

Location: It’s a short taxi ride, and while it’s walkable during the day, after dark there’s no street lights so you might consider the taxi. At times you might wish you were closer to the restaurants and bars staying in Bocas town, but this location gives you a chance to recharge and actually sleep when some bars are still raging. And did I mention it’s right on the water with a pool?!? It was our home base while island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama.

This is a hostel? It was our home base while island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama

15 more things to do in Bocas from the CrazySexyFunTraveler blog here.

A dose of reality –

Keep in mind that it rains quite a bit in Bocas; I was lucky to have a dry week, but I’ve heard that’s not typical. Also, not all beaches are as beautiful as Playa Estrella. We were a little disappointed with the quality of the beaches until we stumbled upon Star Beach. The best part of Bocas was the backpacker community.

Bocas nighlife!

The best part of Bocas may be the Bocas nightlife, where travelers from around the world all go out and meet each other over a few libations. Check out my post on Bocas after dark.

Want more perspectives?

15 more things to do in Bocas here.

If you’re craving more photos, info, and perspective on Bocas, check out these featured posts from Girl About the Globe, Globe Trottica, Barefoot Blogger, This American Girl, Alex in Wanderland, aroundtheworldinktdays,Choosing Figs.

Note that everyone doesn’t fall in love with Bocas – Cruising Couple felt it was too touristy. Avoid the tours and focus on the great vibes.

Check out my other posts from Panama, including the Bocas nightlife.

500 Camels in Bahrain

Photo tour: Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain

I’d seen camels before, but never this many, and never like this.

Business tourists visit Bahrain ask, are there camels in Bahrain? There’s lots of of camels in Bahrain, but the reason might surprise you. Here’s the quick story he shared:

My guide told me that the King of Bahrain (actually Sheikh Mohammed) wanted camels, and thus 500 camels were brought to what became the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain. He decided to open up this Royal Camel Farm to the public. I’d never seen so many camels!

Camels in Bahrain at sunset

Bahrain consists of mostly desert, making it the ideal habitat for camels.

Feeding a camel at the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain
Feeding a camel in Bahrain

Despite being called a camel farm, the camels here are not for eating. Sheikh Mohammed set up the farm to preserve the presence of the camel in Bahrain which, before the advent of the motor vehicle was the Bahraini’s foremost mode of transport. Indeed, the Arabian Peninsula has a huge cultural connection with the camel, and for the Bedouins of the past, the camel was revered as a sacred symbol of life amid the inhospitable desert. –Time Out Bahrain

posing with a camel in Bahrain at the Royal Camel Farm
posing with a camel in Bahrain
meeting the camels in Bahrain
this photo reminds me of the creature in Star Wars that they ride

I mostly just observed and took photos, but camel rides around the farm can be arranged.  You can also play with them, feed them, watch them, or take photos with them. If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s also the occasional sale of camel milk.

cute camels in Bahrain

Note, the post is called “500 Camels” because that’s what my guide/driver called it, but it looked more like 150 or 200. Either way it’s a lot of camels, and waaaaay more than I had ever seen.

so many camels in Bahrain! Royal Camel Farm

my guide shows some love to the camel in Bahrain
my guide shows some love to the camel in Bahrain

Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain

Visit Bahrain Royal Camel Farm info

Where is the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain?

Junaibiya Highway in Al Janabiya (near Manama), Bahrain

Hours: open to the public every day.

Sunset at the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain
Sunset at the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain
Besides the spitting, the camels in Bahrain were very friendly!
Besides the spitting, the camels were very friendly!

Camel in Bahrain

This destination wasn’t even on my list of things to visit in Bahrain, but ended up being a highlight!  I trusted my driver a bit more to improvise from my prepared list, but that trust was short-lived. The next place he showed me was… the Bahrain King’s Parking Lot. I’m serious. I tell the quick story here.

Do camels really store water in their humps?

For some reason people learn that camels store water in their large humps, to allow them to live in desert climates. That’s not actually literally true; they store fat in their humps, but it is a crucial part of how camels bodies allow them to live in hot deserts. This video on how Camels store water explains it in just 2 minutes. Enjoy!

 

Bocas del Toro Nightlife

Bocas del Toro is beautiful, but what kind of entertainment do they have for when the sun goes down?  Where do people go to party in Bocas?Monica from Globe Trottica tells us about her favorite bars and hotspots in Bocas del Toro, combined with photos from my recent Bocas adventure. 

Bocas del Toro nightlife

I held my breath as I jumped into the warm Caribbean Sea. My cloth pants immediately absorbed a ton of water, making it that much harder for me to stay afloat.

I grabbed onto the side of the dock, wiping away my soaking wet hair that stuck to the side of my face. The beats from the music vibrated the water, causing miniature waves to crash against me.

The sounds of clinking beer bottles and the cheerful hoopla of partygoers carried over to the swimming area and, softened and dulled by distance, created a sublime atmosphere. The soft beats coming from the DJ booth mixed with the ambience seamlessly.

La Iguana Surf Club immediately became my favorite party spot in Bocas del Toro.

Bocas del Toro is known for its rowdy nightlife and offers a range of bars and clubs that satisfy the needs of any type of partygoer. It’s a small town in one of the few small islands in northern Panama.

Here are the top bars and clubs in Bocas del Toro, to help you get a taste of what it’s like to spend a few nights in a beach town that never sleeps.

New friends from around the world - met at the bars in Bocas del Toro nightlife in Panama
New friends from around the world – all first met in Bocas

La Iguana Surf Club Bar

This bar in particular has funky beats, two pools in back, and even ladies night on Wednesdays, where ladies get free drinks.

There is a large area for dancing and an open deck in the back, where the crowds tend to congregate when the weather is nice.

There are two bars; one inside and one outside, which offer drink specials and beer throughout the night. There is available seating outside alongside the water, which is the perfect place to take a break from dancing and relax in the cool air.

La Iguana Bar is located on Calle 3 between Avenida A and Avenida B, Bocas del Toro, Panama

La Iguana Bar drink specials - $1 tequila shots on Nasty Mondays. We had a few too many $1 Tequila shots... Bocas del Toro nightlife in Panama
We had a few too many $1 Tequila shots at La Iguana Bar…

Aqua Lounge Bar

Have you ever ridden in a water taxi at 3 in the morning? In order to get to this bar, you have to take a water taxi from the main island, Isla Colon. Try not to fall out!

I felt like I walked into a waterpark when I visited this bar. There are swings to jump off of and into the water in the back of the bar, and there is even a water trampoline.

Aqua Lounge is also known for its themed parties, so get ready in your favorite costume for the chance to win free drinks all night. This bar has a lot of open space outside where a lot of people like to relax and look at Bocas del Toro from a different perspective.

There are seating areas inside as well, where you can relax with a drink and take a break from dancing.

Aqua Lounge is located on Isla Carenero, a $1-1.50 taxi ride from Bocas Town, Bocas del Toro, Panama

photo from Foursquare - Aqua Lounge pools - Bocas del Toro nightlife Panama
Aqua lounge has a narrow deck surrounding these pools; at night these pools are part of the bar.

Mondo Taitu

Bring the coins! This bar offers Happy Hour from 8-9 p.m., which includes $.50- $.75 beers.

They also take pride in their music, where they play anything from funky beats to classics to progressive music.

Mondo Taitu is located on Calle 5ta con Avenida G, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Barco Hundido

Barco Hundido is known as the “Wreck Deck,” and has a sunken banana boat which is lit up at night, offering a unique view unlike any other bar in Bocas del Toro.

This is also a popular spot for locals and tourists on the weekends. They open up multiple dance floors when it gets busy, which is perfect for those who don’t like cramped bars or clubs.

You’ll find yourself shaking your hips and rocking out to anything from reggae, to hip-hop, to classics, all of which are played sporadically at this bar.

Barco Hundido is located on Calle 1 between Avenida E and Avenida Central, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Bocas del Toro nightlife schedule - every night in Bocas seems to have a different featured bar
Where’s the party tonight? Every night in Bocas seems to have a different featured bar – here’s the schedule from the week I visited

Tunga Bar

This is the perfect place to start your night, meet up with friends, and enjoy a few drinks before heading to the crazier clubs. Tunga Bar is right in the middle of everything, which is why it’s quite convenient as a central meet up location.

The DJ’s playlist includes dance and electronic music and the place has plenty of seating areas to accommodate the large nighttime crowd. They also offer free Wifi.

Live like a local and party it up when you visit Bocas del Toro. It’s a great way to get an authentic feel for this great little island town.

Tunga bar is located on Main Street, Across Municipality Building, Bocas del Toro, Panama

This guest post on Bocas del Toro nightlife was from Monica, who writes the awesome travel blog Globe Trottica. Check out the rest of her Panama trip and her other adventures around the world. 

Check out the rest of my Panama adventures, including a photo tour of Island Hopping in  Bocas del Toro Panama – so much fun! 

 

50 Most Popular Tourist Destinations

50 Most Popular Tourist Destinations

What are the most popular tourist attractions in the world?  This infographic shows all kinds of interesting numbers.

  • Times Square is easily the most popular tourist destination in the world, according to this travel infographic.
  • More people visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, than visit the Vatican or the Coliseum in Rome
  • Disneyland Tokyo is more popular than the Great Wall of China, and Disney World in Florida is far more popular than both.Travel Infographic - 50 Most Popular Tourist Destinations

Infographic by Forbes Traveler.  (Click on image to enlarge)

  • Niagara Falls is the most visited natural tourist destination in the world, by far, according to this chart. But – there’s no way it’s more highly visited than Central Park in NYC.
  • Theme parks are incredibly popular – Disney, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, etc.

Most Popular does NOT = Best!

Keep in mind that lists and graphics like this aren’t showing the best places to go, but rather the ones that are most visited. The amount of visits is often influenced by how many people are nearby to visit (and can afford to).  For example, local New Yorkers do not get excited by Times Square. If you visit me in NYC, my tour will focus on areas that didn’t make this list.

This 50 Most Popular Tourist Destinations Infographic was created by Forbes Traveler. Thanks to the excellent travel magazine Wild Junket for inspiring this post.  (Click on image to enlarge)

Angkor Wat video tours

Angkor Wat – a 5 video aerial view tour

Angkor Wat is breath-taking; every traveler should visit. If you can’t get there, check out this impressive video of “Angkor Wat from the Air” from Matador Network: 

https://matadornetwork.com/videos/angkor-wat-from-the-air/

Angkor Wat is at the top of the list of places to visit for Cambodia, and possibly all of Southeast Asia!  I’ve posted a photo tour, but this Angkor Wat video provides a different view – an aerial view of one of the 7 wonders of the world.

I love this photo! Angkor Wat video tour and this photo are via Matador Network
I love this photo! Photo is via Matador Network

Angkor Wat Video and photo is courtesy of Matador Network. Video is by awesome photographer/videographer Max Seigal.

The videos fly over and through my favorite temples –  Angkor WatBayon, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm, all in Siem Reap Cambodia. For a photo tour of each, click the linked names.

Pro Tip — Plan for big crowds; it was packed both times I visited. Decide if you’re going to try to catch Angkor Wat at sunrise – if not, choose a different order to explore the temples to avoid the largest crowds. Even if that’s your plan, visit Angkor Wat to capture your sunrise photo, and then leave that temple to start at Angkor Thom, since most of the crowd just stays at Angkor Wat. Then come back for sunset. This Angkor Wat video, “Angkor Wat from the Air,”  will give you a sense of what the rest of the complex looks like.

The below videos provide a bit of the history:

Here’s Nat Geo‘s 1 hour documentary on Angkor Wat:

Nat Geo: Lost City of Angkor Wat

Ancient Megastructures – Angkor Wat:

Have you been to Angkor Wat in Cambodia? What’d you think of it?

9 Amazing underwater photographs of sharks and dolphins

Amazing underwater shark photographs, plus photos of mantas, whales, and dolphins Bull shark closeup, in Fiji. I'm terrified just looking at it! Photo by Alexander Safonov

Bull shark closeup, in Fiji. I’m terrified just looking at it! Photo by Alexander Safonov

Mantis shrimp, in West Papua
Mantis shrimp, in West Papua. This might be my favorite of the group.
Gigantic Manta ray and photographers in Raja Ampat, West Papua
Gigantic Manta ray and photographers in Raja Ampat, West Papua. Photo by Alexander Safonov
Ragged tooth shark in Aliwal Shoal, South Africa
Ragged tooth shark in Aliwal Shoal, South Africa. Photo by Alexander Safonov

Underwater photographer Alexander Safonov took some amazing photos – close-up shots of sharks, dolphins, gigantic manta rays, sperm whales, and more. Buy these photos here

Dolphins prepare for lunch
Dolphins prepare for lunch. Photo by Alexander Safonov

Check out the full slideshow of Alexander Safonov’s impressive underwater photography.

Hammerheads everywhere!
Hammerheads everywhere! Photo by Alexander Safonov
Sailfish
Sailfish – Photo by Alexander Safonov
Hammerhead shark closeup
Hammerhead shark closeup. Photo by Alexander Safonov
Sperm whale in Ogasawara Islands, Japan
Sperm whale in Ogasawara Islands, Japan. Photo by Alexander Safonov

Photographer Alexander Safonov is originally from Voronezh, Russia. He’s lived in eastern Asia since 1998, spending a decade in Japan first and currently residing in Hong Kong, according to a profile in the Telegraph. Buy a copy of his photographs here.

Source: Amazing underwater photographs of sharks and dolphins by Alexander Safonov – Telegraph

How Deep is the Ocean?

Ever wonder, how deep is the ocean?

The ocean is mind-numbingly deep – the ocean is 14,000 feet deep.  Here’s a great info-graphic 131 second video, with some highlights below.

Click the below image:

40m is the maximum depth for recreational SCUBA Divers
maximum depth for recreational SCUBA Divers
How deep is the ocean? The average depth of the ocean is 4267 meters
How deep is the ocean? The average depth of the ocean is 4267 meters
How deep can Blue Whales Dive?  Blue Whales can dive down to 500 meters deep.
Blue Whales can dive down to 500 meters deep.
Mount Everest is 8850 meters, and the ocean goes even deeper
Mount Everest is 8850 meters, and the ocean goes even deeper
How deep is the ocean?  11,034 meters deep. That's the bottom of the Mariana Trench
The ocean goes11,034 meters deep. That’s the bottom of the Mariana Trench
 James Cameron visited the top of the Mariana Trench, an amazing 7 miles underwater that  broke a record! In the Bloomberg article they mentioned he risked implosion. wow.

He spent several million dollars on the sub, called Deepsea Challenger, which needed to withstand pressures of at least eight tons per square inch.

The feat equaled the 1960 record set by Don Walsh and the late Jacques Piccard, and the movie director became the first to solo to the earth’s deepest point.

Video of the experience can be found at Nat Geo.

The Marianas Trench is located just northeast of Indonesia.

The world’s deepest point in the oceans is the Challenger Deep which is found within the Marianas Trench. The Marianas Trench is a depression (deep cracks) in the floor of the western Pacific Ocean. Marianas Trench is formed (as other ocean trenches) as a result of the oceanic plate being pushed against a continental plate whereby causing the oceanic plate to pushed downward making deep fissure. Its location is east of the Mariana Islands and is 1,554 miles long and averages 44 miles wide (see diagrams below). The Marianas Trench depth is 36,200 feet (11,033 m or 11.03 km).

 

 

Bayon Temples Cambodia -216 smiling faces

Bayon temples – 216 gigantic faces

Welcome to the Bayon temples, built end of the 12th Century. The Bayon temples feature 216 faces, a nearly surreal masterpiece unlike any I’d ever seen. Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman’s capital, Angkor Thom, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Bayon temples, along with Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, are easily the best 1-2 day trip you can take in southeast Asia. Here’s a 29 photo tour:

Reflections of Bayon in Angkor Thom
Reflections of Bayon in Angkor Thom. Brilliant photo by Mike Behnken
Bayon temples in the Angkor Thom area of Siem Reap, Cambodia near Angkor Wat
it’s 90-degrees fahrenheit, but I kept reading about killer mosquitos. They said it’s crucial to get vaccinated, and cover yourself from head to toe.

Who are the faces of?  They Bayon faces are said represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions, or even the king himself. Here’s the explanation:

Initially the faces were believed to represent Brahma, the Hindu God of creation depicted with four heads. When it was later established that the Bayon was not a Hindu temple but a Buddhist one, archeologists believed the faces to be of Lokeshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. The similarity of statues of Jayavarman VII and the face towers had led some to believe that it is the King himself whose face is depicted on the towers.

Bayon Cambodia -003

History:  Bayon was the state temple of Jayavarman VII, a powerful ruler in the late 13th century (Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII). The temple sat at the center of Angkor Thom, a walled city that served as the capital of the Khmer Empire.

There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers, in the Angkor Thom area of Siem Reap, Cambodia near Angkor Wat
There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers

There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers, measuring as tall as 7 feet just for the face, across 37 towers.

The white and green spots on the face are lichen (fungus, green alga).
The white and green spots on the face sculptures are lichen (fungus, green alga).
Photo by Tartarin2009

The Bayon temple was “intended to evoke the form of Mt. Meru—the cosmic mountain at the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. In keeping with this cosmic symbolism, the plan of the temple is based on a ‘yantra’, a symbol used by Tantric Buddhists as the basis of mandala diagrams that represent the layout of the universe. The temple honored not just one deity, but a host of gods found throughout the Khmer empire. Its central shrine held an image of Jayavarman VII, who perhaps imagined himself as a god-King ruling in the name of the Buddha” [source]

Bayon temples, built end of the 12th Century, capital of the Khmer Empire , Cambodia
Welcome to Bayon, built at the end of the 12th Century, capital of the Khmer Empire
our guide explains how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war
our guide explains how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war

our guide explains how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war

Facing in four directions on each Bayon tower, the faces are thought to represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions.. Cambodia
Facing in four directions on each tower, the faces are thought to represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions.
Bayon In the Golden Hour Bayon temples in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
photo by Lee Phelps Photography
Aspara dancers at the Bayon temples Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Aspara dancers
great photos of the Bayon temples in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
so many great photos of the Bayon temples in Angkor Thom
photo from from the vantage point of the Bayon temple's the upper terrace, Cambodia
photo from from the vantage point of the Bayon temple’s the upper terrace
Bayon temples at Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia, near Angkor Wat
photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Smiling face of Avalokiteshvara at the Bayon temples at Angkor Thom, Cambodia
Smiling face of Avalokiteshvara
nearly every wall of the Bayon temples were sculpted. Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
nearly every wall of the Bayon temples are sculpted
Central structure tower of Bayon, in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Central structure tower of Bayon
A scene from the eastern gallery shows a Khmer army on the march in the Cambodia ruins
A scene from the eastern gallery shows a Khmer army on the march
scene from the outer gallery at the Bayon temples. Our guide said it shows Chinese expats negotiating with Khmer merchants at an Angkorean market.
This scene is from the outer gallery at the Bayon temples. Our guide said it shows Chinese expats negotiating with Khmer merchants at an Angkorean market.

walls of Angkor Thom in Cambodia walls of Bayon in Angkor Thom in Cambodia

face to face at the Bayon temples
face to face at the Bayon temples of Angkor Thom near Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

faces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodiafaces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodia -014

my face between the faces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodia

wide shot of the Bayon temples in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
photo from Tushar Dayal

faces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodiafaces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in CambodiaBayon temples in Angkor Thom are an impressive display of Khmer architecture

entrance to Bayon temples, in the Bayon complex - Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodia
entrance to Bayon temples area

I’ve included links to learn more of the history of the Bayon temples at the center of Angkor Thom, in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

How to get there: it’s a short flight from Bangkok, Thailand. Do it!

Impressive Petra!

Petra, one of the 7 Wonders of the World

Petra in Jordan is impressive – established sometime in the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans – they carved the entire city out of the rock. They didn’t build columns – they kept carving the rock until they had columns. Given the back-story, it’s some of the most impressive architecture I’ve seen.  I highly recommend visiting Petra.

The Monastery at Petra, The Monastery of Petra, (aka Ad-Dayr or Ad-Deir in Arabic), in Jordan
The Monastery of Petra, (aka Ad-Dayr or Ad-Deir in Arabic)

Petra was named one of the new seven wonders of the world in 2007; it was  declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.

The Monastery is massive - Petra, Jordan
The Monastery is massive! Petra, Jordan
at the Siq, the narrow passageway to Al Khazneh ("The Treasury") at the ruins in Jordan
at the Siq, the narrow passageway to Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”)

You may recognize this spot (above photo) in Petra from the film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The movie’s fictional “Canyon of the Crescent Moon” was modeled on this 250-foot-high (76-meter-high) sandstone slot canyon known as the Siq, which that leads directly to Al Khazneh (the Treasury). Siq pictured above.

in front of Al Khazneh ("The Treasury") in Petra, Jordan
in front of Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”) in Jordan

Established possibly as early as 312 BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, the site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”.

camel at the ruins in Jordan

Indiana Jones and the  Last Crusade – where was Petra featured?

At the film’s climactic final scenes, Harrison Ford and Sean Connery burst forth from the Siq and walk deep into the labyrinths of the Treasury in their quest to find the Holy Grail. But, as usual, archaeological fact bowed to Hollywood fiction when Indy came to Petra.

In reality, the Treasury is nothing more than a facade with a relatively small hall once used as a royal tomb.-Nat Geo

petra by photo by seetheholyland.net
photo by seetheholyland.net

There are dozens of tombs and other carved or constructed structures and sites within Petra.

photo by Maureen

Petra!

Petra’s located in Jordan, in the Middle East. Other highlights of my trip to Jordan included the Dead Sea and the Wadi Rum desert.

England vs UK vs Great Britain

England vs UK vs Great Britain – are these the same?

Do England, the United Kingdom, and Great Britain, all refer to the same place?  What’s the difference between England vs UK vs Great Britain, and what’s included in each? Is Scotland a country?  Here’s the answer in a 5-minute video that breaks these down. I’ve also highlighted some quick answers below that. You’ll understand your initial question in the first 30-seconds, but this clip does a great job with the natural follow-up questions.

For example, why is the Queen is on Canadian currency? Where do Belize and the Cayman Islands fit in?  Enjoy!

what's the difference between england vs uk vs great britain
image from below CGPGrey video

England vs UK vs Great Britain

Here’s a quick breakdown:

England contains about 80% of the population of the UK.

Great Britain includes England, Wales and Scotland. Great Britain is a geographical term referring to the island on which the greater parts of England, Wales and Scotland are situated. GB is also a legal one referring to those three territories considered together. Great Britain is the largest island of the British Isles, which is most of the UK but not all.

Where does the name Great Britain come from? The name GB originates from the Latin ‘Britannia’, the ‘Great’ being introduced to distinguish it from Little Britain, which was the French province later called Bretagne, or Brittany.

United Kingdom includes Great Britain (England, Scotland, & Wales), plus Northern Ireland. The full name of the UK is actually “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” It defines the area represented in the UK Parliament and for which that Parliament normally makes laws. Northern Ireland and multiple small islands from each country in the region are part of the UK but not part of GB.

So you now you know the difference between England vs UK vs Great Britain, but that still leaves some unanswered questions.

Why is the Queen on Canadian money?

The Commonwealth realm are countries who were formerly British colonies. This term includes the United Kingdom, as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, in addition to Belize, Bahamas, Barbados, St Lucia, St Vincent. They’re independent sovereign nations, but recognize the monarchy as head of state.  The official name is the Commonwealth Realm.

British territories are different than those above in that they’re not independent (formerly known as “Crown Colonies”). These territories are not part of the UK but they’re under the UK’s jurisdiction. These include Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and more. The full name is British Overseas Territories.

British” doesn’t mean you’re from Great Britain; all of the above countries are British, even though they have different nationalities, and the vast majority aren’t in Great Britain. Technically, British are citizens or natives of the United KingdomCrown Dependencies (Gibraltar, Jersey, Isle of Man), British Overseas Territories, and their descendants.

Here’s a helpful diagram:

The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained
The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained

 

England vs UK vs Great Britain

Sources –  CGPGrey‘s informative video clip (above), various Wiki links.

CGPGrey‘s youtube page and blog have a wealth of tremendous video explainers on other topics as well – I strongly recommend!

Visit 50 Countries & 50 States by Age 50