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Borobudur, Indonesia - the world's largest Buddhist Temple


Borobudur - July 2014

Central Java, Indonesia


at sunset...


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Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  What I found most amazing about this temple is that is has been standing longer than Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which most people are familiar, but very few people know of Borobudur. 



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Historians say Borobudur Temple was created in the 9th-century in Central Java, Indonesia.  There is no written record of what the purpose of the Temple was for or who built it.  Today, Borobudur is used for pilgrimages; once a year, Buddhists celebrate Vesak at the monument.



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The structure of the monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms.  There are 504 Buddha statues, 72 of these are seated inside their own perforated stupa.  They surround the main dome, located at the center of the top platform.  The Buddha below is missing his stupa.  Many of the Buddhas are badly damaged.



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They say you need to see the temple at sunrise, during the day, at sunset, and at night.  We did, but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate for the brief time we were there.  However, often when I see photos of this spectacular temple there are clouds. 


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... day view


Borobudur was hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth.  Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (also a key player in the history of Singapore) rediscovered the temple in 1814. The facts behind its abandonment remain a mystery.







The temple is built from two million stone blocks that were fitted together with no cement.  It is decorated with 2,672 relief panels. The stones were not meant to be seen, as the entire monument was originally coated with white plaster and painted.






Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction. 



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... sunrise


We were up at 4 am to meet at the front desk of our hotel at 4:30 for our "pilgrimage" to the temple.  Luckily, our hotel was on the temple grounds.  It was pitch black and created a very eerie feeling.    You can see twin volcanoes, Sundoro-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi in the background.




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Local legend says that if you climb this temple with one wish in your thoughts, reach your hand inside the bell-like stupa at the top of the temple, and successfully touch the Buddha's figure inside, your wish will come true.




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Sunrise was a calming and peaceful experience.






 Prambanan Temple


Built in the 10th century, this temple is the largest Hindu Temple in SE Asia.  It is dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities (Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma) with three temples dedicated to the animals that served them.



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You can walk around the first tier and enter each temple.   




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Prambanan Temple collapsed due to an earthquake in the early 11th century, and was rediscovered in the 17th century.  In its original form, the temple complex contained over 250 large and small temples. 






It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 




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Since 1918 they have been restoring the temples using both the traditional method of interlocking the stones and modern methods using concrete to strengthen the temple structure.



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Candi Sewu Temple (below) is a 9th century Buddhist temple complex very near Prambanan.  Historians say the proximity of the two temples tells us that in Java, Buddhism and Hinduism lived peacefully next to one another.  It is the second largest Buddhist temple in Indonesia after Borobudur.



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The temple was severely damaged during an earthquake (6.4) in Java in 2006.  They are slowly repairing the structure, but crumbling stones can be seen everywhere. 



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After watching the sunrise, we had a lovely breakfast ad then took a 2-hour horse buggy ride to a neighboring village.




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We stopped to play on this massive tree.




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The parasite plant that took over the main tree was amazing.




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D had to swing on the vines.



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There are many small temples sprinkled around the village.  I could not find the English names, so I can't provide any information.








Our driver took us to see little rice cakes being made.  It was actually quite interesting and the ladies were so friendly.  They had me sit and form one - they were all laughing at my technique (or lack of!).  It was all in fun. 


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They bake the rice cakes over an open fire and sell them.




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The final product - some savory and some sweet.



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We enjoyed our visit to Borobudur Temple.  We wished we would had stayed two nights instead of one.  Next stop - Yogyakarta, Indonesia.



A very short trip - Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Phnom Penh, Cambodia

June, 2014


D had two days of business, then we were going to sightsee over the weekend - but after his 2nd day of meetings, D was running a very high temperature.  So..... we flew back home immediately.

The city of Phnom Penh, the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia, is the largest city in Cambodia.  More than 2 million people live here.



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They really do not have taxi's in PP so D took a tuk tuk to work.  He was quite the character and spoke pretty decent English. He drove us around for the two days we were there, including taking me shopping and showing me some sights.  I could not understand his name so I told him I would call him sugar - he loved this! 




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I had a delicious salad at The Daughters of Cambodia, a restaurant that trains and employs underprivileged women.  There is a small shop downstairs selling handmade items and the cafe is on the second floor.  I highly recommend it for a nice lunch.  The cheese bread on the side was to die for!


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Our first night we went ot a local movie theater to see The Grand Budapest Hotel.  The theater was precious!  Notice the bamboo sofas?



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People of all ages exercise in the evening, in large groups, at the parks.



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If you want to see more of Phnom Penh, click here to view our trip in Mach 2013.



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We've been published again!


We are published in the local Singapore Expat Magazine!

It is a monthly publication, but once a year they publish a special Travel Guide for the Asia region & Beyond.  They selected three of my posts.  The editors printed a few photos from each trip, along with text.



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The first one is from our trip to Jakarta, Indonesia, which includes a photo of each of us!

You can read my full post here.



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Next, our trip to Georgetown, Malaysia.

Click here for the full post.




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And last, our visit to the Tiger Temple in Thailand.  Again, with photos of us.

Click here for the full post.



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Always exciting to get notoriety for the blog... especially since it is almost a fulltime job - unfortunately unpaid!



Chiang Mai Thailand - Karen Long Neck Tribe, Temples, and more


Chiang Mai,Thailand

May 2014


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These photos were taken at Baan Tong Luang, an eco-agricultural hill tribe village that opened in 2005.  Established by the Thai government, this village was created to help educate tourists, to help preserve the traditional ways of the people, and to provide an income for these groups.  It is more than just an attraction as people actually live and work here (farming is thier main staple).  There is even a school and a church.



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"Hill tribe" is used to describe a group of people, usually closely related and typically migrants of another country, that live in the hills or mountains.  There have been hill tribe people living in the northern border of Thailand for two hundred years with their origins going back two thousand years to Tibet.

The five main hill tribes in Thailand are: Karen, Akha, Lisu, Hmong, Lahu.  Each tribe is divided into clans or sub-groups, which have their own distinct customs, rituals, clothing and languages.



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We were a bit hesitant to visit the village, as it seemed contrived, but we actually had a lovely visit and were glad we did.  We arrived early in the morning with no other visitors for nearly an hour.  Most of residents were very open to us photographing them, never asking for money. 



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The Karen Tribe


In Thailand, the Karen are the largest "hill tribe" group with over 400 thousand.  The Padaung are a sub-group of the Karen tribe.  It is traditional for Padaung women to wear brass rings around their necks, starting when they are around five years old and adding to them each year placing up to twenty or more rings around their neck.  They are often referred to as the longneck women.



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This one was just so sassy, yet adorable -  I could have taken her home!  She was not making the face to be nasty - she was just being silly.



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A beautiful little girl.




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And her mom - happy and open to us photographing her and her children.  I purchased an elephant necklace from her.




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I purchased the scarf the woman is holding below.  She said it takes her three days to make one.  I love the colors in the scarf.  I paid around $7 USD - I did not negotiate like I normally do.  Actually seeing her make the scarf gave me a different perspective and respect.



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Her husband, preparing her yarn.



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Their daughter - isn't she pretty?



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She decided D needed a bracelet.  I did not think he did - I bought scarves instead :  )



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 The Akha Tribe


The Akha are from the mountains of Thailand, Burma, Laos, and Yunnan Province in China.  Civil war in Burma and Laos resulted in an increased flow of Akha immigrants into Thailand and there are now 80,000 living in the northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai (where we were).



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They were selling hats from their tribe.



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This woman is designing batik fabric - which she dyes at her home using natural plant extracts.  I bought the table runner she made, shown below. 



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 The Lahu Shi Bala Tribe



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In the Lahu Shi Bala tribe, women insert big metal earrings into their earlobes.  If you notice, neither the daughter (in the photo above) or the granddaughter (photo below with the cat) carried on this tradition.



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So many beautiful little girls.



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 I love the colorful costumes they wear.



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Anohter grandmother in the tribe.



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The Kayaw Tribe


The Kayaw are another subgroup of the Karen tribe. Like the long-necked Padaung subgroup, their legs are encircled with brass rings. However, their necks are adorned with loose necklaces instead of rings.






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Some additonal photos we took of the girls/ladies in the tribes.



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And the boys - they do not have work - they get to play.  Some things are the same no matter what culture!



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As I mentioned earlier, these tribes actually live here so they go about their daily routines like doing the laundry.



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Chiang Mai, over 700 years old, has many beautiful ancient temples.  The temples display a mixture of architectural styles that reflect a mix of Cambodian, Burmese, and Indian culture and style.


Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang is one of the most important temples in Chiang Mai.  The construction of the temple started in the 14th century but was not finished until the mid-15th century.  In 1545, Chiang Mai suffered a series of severe earthquakes and the top of the temple was badly damaged.




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Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

The temple was founded in 1383 when the first chedi (stupa) was built.  Legends says, that the buiding site was selected by sending an elephant to roam the mountainside.  When the elephant reached this spot, it trumpeted, circled three times, and knelt down indicating this was an auspicious site.




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Temple collage



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Chiang Mai has many monks living and working throughout the various temples.  Most Thai males serve as monks, even if it’s just for three months. Poorer families send their sons to the monastery at a young age for training, as it may be their only opportunity for an education.



Young monks




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Love this donation box - care to give to the oldsters?



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There was a festival taking place at one of the temples we visited.  I asked this young girl's mother if I could take her photo....



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And the mother asked to take one of me with her - sweet.



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Our Hotel

The shared area of our hotel was like a museum - absolutely stunning!





Hotel halls


the pool...



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A lovely breakfast on the porch including a perfectly set table with white linen and blue china. 






And the pool at night - so peaceful.



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Just for fun!



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Shopping - always fun... well, for one of us!






Safety first!  This may have been one of the youngest babies I have ever seen on the front of a motorcycle.  Usually they are held by mom in the back.



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We flew on a new airline (new to us) Nok Air, which translates to Bird Air.  I thought the plane was so fun.



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While we were there - Thailand was in the middle of a coop d'etat.  This is the first time we have been in a country during a coop.  All TV channels were taken off the air and this sign below was on the screen.  We did see military, but the environment was peaceful.  Unfortunately the weekend night market that Chiang Mai is known for was closed due to the coop.



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Chiang Mai is a great getaway for a long weekend... if you live in Asia that is!