Angkor Wat is one of the most impressive sites in the world, and was immediately a highlight of my southeast Asia trip. The temples are breathtaking! While you need to visit them in Cambodia to appreciate it, below is a photo tour of the experience.
Angkor Wat is located in Siem Reap, in Cambodia. Along with Angkor Thom, Bayon, and Ta Prohm, Angkor might be the best two-day trip you can take in all of Asia.
Angkor Wat was built by the vanished Khmer empire. It was constructed during the reign of King Suryavarman II, who ruled from 1113 to at least 1145.
Scholars say the temples of Angkor Wat were built for funerary purposes, since its bas-reliefs are meant to be viewed anti-clockwise, a direction that was associated with death in the Khmer empire. This is Angkor’s only temple with tombs, despite the “Tomb Raider” movie being shot at nearby Ta Prohm, where there’s no tombs.
“Angkor Wat” translates to “The city that is a temple.”
Angkor is located in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap literally translates to ‘defeat of Siam,’ which is today’s Thailand. It’s a conflict that goes back centuries, between the Siamese and Khmer people.
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.
Petra was named one of the new seven wonders of the world in 2007; it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.
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.
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”.
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
There are dozens of tombs and other carved or constructed structures and sites within 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.
Asian Elephants are incredible. So primitive, so old, and the baby elephants are so cute! We were on a river safari in Borneo when we saw a whole family of Asian Elephants (aka Asiatic Elephants or Elephas maximus). After seeing them in the wild, I was really curious and learned some interesting Asian elephant facts. My photography is below, also with Asian Elephant facts that I found interesting are below:
Elephants are the largest land animals living today. They’re massive!
If you thought human pregnancy was challenging – check this out. Asian Elephant pregnancies last 22 months, baby elephants can weight 260 pounds at birth.
At full size, male Asian Elephants can weigh up to 12,000 pounds (5400 kg)! Females weigh up to 9000 pounds.
Elephants typically live for 60 years in the wild (80 years in captivity).
Asian Elephants can be up to 10 feet tall at the shoulder. They’re much smaller than African Elephants in mass, but are taller.
They have up to 20 pairs of ribs and 34 caudal vertebrae (bones that make up their tails).
Trunks are the single most important feature of an elephant, with 100,000 muscles in their trunk. It’s used for feeding, watering, smelling, breathing, drinking, touching, sound/communication, washing, and also for grabbing things.
Asian elephants have a fingerlike feature on the end of their trunk that they can use to grab small items (African elephants have two).
I noticed they don’t have the same number of nails on each foot so I looked it up. Asian Elephants have five nail-like structures on each forefoot, and four on each hind foot.
Super smart! Elephants have incredible memories and, like many primates, have very large neocortexes and are thought to be very intelligent.
Hungry Hungry Elephants? Elephants eat roots, grasses, fruit, and bark. An adult elephant can consume up to 300 pounds (136 kg) of food in a single day!
Endangered: Since 1986, Elephas maximus (scientific name for Asian Elephants) has been listed as endangered as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations. In 2003, the wild population was estimated at between 41,410 and 52,345.
Top predator: humans. That’s right, they’d be doing fine if not for poaching and deforestation.
Did you know? Elephants can be a “righty” or a “lefty”
Ivory tusks are used to dig for water and rocks, to debark trees, as levers for maneuvering fallen trees and branches, for marking trees, as weapon for offense and defense, and as protection for the trunk.
Asian elephants are known to be right or left tusked. [this surprised me]
I photographed the Asian Elephants on this page on The Kinabatangan River, located in Sabah, eastern Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. It is the second longest river in Malaysia.
If you’re visiting, and are interested in the same adventure – I booked mine through Nature Lodge Kinabatangan. Note, they said seeing elephants is rare and unexpected. They typically spot crocodiles, monkeys, lots of rare birds, and occasionally an orangutan (but all the way up in the trees).
Halong Bay’s limestone islands in the Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam
HaLong Bay was visually one of the highlights of my Vietnam trip. Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring 1500-2000 islands and islets in various shapes and sizes, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars.
Hạ Long Bay (also written as Halong Bay or Ha Long Bay) is located in the Gulf of Tonkin, in Quáng Ninh province, in northeastern Vietnam.
Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves, other support floating villages of fishermen, who ply the shallow waters for 200 species of fish.
It’s often compared favorably to Guilin in China (photos coming soon!) and Krabi in Thailand – Lonely Planet called Ha Long Bay in Vietnam even more spectacular. While Halong Bay can be a bit of a “tourist trap,” it’s so beautiful that it’s worth the tradeoff.
Where is Halong Bay? In Vietnam, 105 miles east of Hanoi, Vietnam’s largest city, and takes about 3 hours from Hanoi via bus.
Getting to Halong Bay: Fly to Hanoi, Vietnam, and book a tour. This will be easily the best way to do it and comparatively it’ll be hassle free. There’s a huge range in pricing and service – agents will promise the world and offer terrible service. Choosing a tour company.
Flying to Hanoi: The closest airport is Noi Bai International Airport, 25 miles (40km) north of Hanoi. If you can’t get a direct flight, head to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, and then catch a connecting flight.
this photo gives you a sense of the scale of the limestone pillars – by Ms Saigon