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.
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
I’m still buzzing from being just steps away from a couple of orangutans in the Sarawak region of Malaysia, western Borneo (semi-wild). Humans are close relatives, sharing more than 95% of DNA with humans, and you could tell. They’re rare and were fascinating to watch.
Orangutans are about four times stronger than humans, so this is the closest I’d want to be
I actually saw orang-utans twice earlier in my trip, but they were so far away that it just looked like shadowy ape-like figure in the tree with a slightly reddish/brown color. It was exciting at the time, but turned out to be just an appetizer for this experience.
Orangutan infants often cling to their mothers for the first 2-4 years
I went to Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, a temporary home for various endangered wildlife of Sarawak, especially orang-utans that were rescued from captivity. There’s no bars or cages – the orangutans come and go as they please, and they help train them with basic skills that they would have learned with the goal of re-initroducing them into the wild. Visitors can have a chance to see them at twice daily feeding times. Since I already saw that earlier in my trip, I’ll skip to the good part.
I was on my way out of the park when we spotted an orangutan right near us, and continuing to approach. Wow!
I get that hungry too!
Quick facts on Orangutans:
You might think their name comes from the color of their fur (appears orange at times), but that’s not correct. The word orangutan is derived from two malay words: ‘orang’ = ‘man’ (people), and ‘hutan’ meaning ‘forest’
Our closest relatives: The orangutan is a member of the Great Apes, which also includes humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas (chimps are not monkeys).
The major difference between Great Apes and monkeys: apes do not have tails.
There’s 2 species of Orangutans: Sumatran (found in northern Sumatra, island of Indonesia) and Bornean, aka Pongo Pigmaeus
Population – there are estimated to be just 30-50,000 orangutans in the wild
Orangutans are big, the largest tree dwelling mammals in the world. The females are 75-110 lbs, 3’9-4’2. The males are typically twice that weight, at 110-220 lbs, 4’6-4’7 feet.
They spend nearly their entire day in the trees, 20-100 feet off the ground.
Eat, sleep, play: Their typical day revolves around eating, resting, and moving between eating and resting sites. Outstanding! Day travel ranges from a few hundred feet, to as much as nearly two miles (half mile on average). They make a new nest every night.
Solitary Creatures: males primarily live alone and only come together with females for mating. Adult females live with their offspring when their young.
What have you been eating?? Their diet is 60% fruit. In addition they also eat some plants, flowers, bark, ants, caterpillars, fungi, spiders, termites, and more.
If you’ve been reading this blog, by now you’ve realized that I’m fascinated by wildlife. Outside of deers and raccoons in the woods behind my yard growing up, the only wild life I experienced was the Bronx Zoo (still one of the most impressive zoos I’ve been to!). This was memorable!
I thought that might be the only time I was that close to anything so human-like in the wild, but little did I know that the very next day I discovered Probiscus Monkeys in the Borneo wild!