Tag Archives: Nightlife

From a Grand Palace to Grand Reptiles in Bangkok

The Grand Palace in Bangkok is the very definition of opulence. It has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782 and is only partially open to the public as a museum, since it still houses several royal offices. The large complex also features other buildings and pavilions, including Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). Everywhere you turn, you see some amazing building or detail, it’s almost overwhelming. Everywhere you turn, you also see droves of fellow tourists … and their parasols.

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Seriously,though, what an incredible place. Again, you have to cover up before going in. If you don’t have a wrap, they provide you an outfit.

IMG_4257 Continue reading From a Grand Palace to Grand Reptiles in Bangkok

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Our favorite Siem Reap temple & the Cambodian Circus

I mentioned in my previous post that Cambodia wasn’t what we expected. It’s a very poor country. At least in Siem Reap, we saw many dirt roads and wooden shacks on stilts. If you’re one of the tourists who stay in a hotel in the center of town, you may not really notice the level of poverty. The area by the Angkor Night Market and Pub Street is littered with restaurants, shops and hotels.

Our hotel, however, was quite removed from the center of town. We had to drive over many dirt roads, huge potholes, past dozens of stray dogs, past many bareboned homes where residents killed time outside watching a small TV set or lying in their hammocks, past many hole-in-the-wall local businesses — hair salons, barber shops, massage parlors, seamstresses, mechanics, laundromats — to get to our resort. It was one of those experiences that just puts life into perspective. Especially the night we were riding back in the tuk tuk and a roach flew smack dab onto my chest! Will came to my rescue. But seriously. Our hotel even had literature warning against giving money to child beggars (or buying things from them), as it encourages the cycle of begging and keeps them from seeking a proper education. We had to turn down many children during our visits to the temples.

So, on to our favorite day in Cambodia. To visit Banteay Srei, we had to take the tuk tuk about an hour outside of Siem Reap. This ride gave us the chance to see the Cambodian countryside. We drove past many rice paddies (dried up, as the dry season had just ended) and lots of farmland, skinny cows and chickens, past kids playing in the dirt pushing soda cans with sticks, past locals relaxing next to their cows outside. There was a curious sensation of being near the ocean and feeling the ocean breeze, even though we were nowhere near the ocean. Beautiful, lush, serene. Take a look:

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Banteay Srei is unique in that it’s built out of red sandstone and it’s of a much smaller scale than many of the other temples in the Angkor area. Continue reading Our favorite Siem Reap temple & the Cambodian Circus

Celebrating Buddha’s Birthday with the Lotus Lantern Festival

The Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul was quite the celebration. For more than one week leading up to Buddha’s Birthday, which is a national holiday in Korea, the city hosted numerous Buddhist events and decorated its sidewalks with bright, colorful lanterns. The traditional lanterns are made with hanji, a tough, Korean paper made out of the inner bark or fiber of mulberry trees.

First, we witnessed the massive gathering in Gwanghwamun Square for the Conference for World Peace and the Reunification of Korea. It was organized by the Great Equal Assembly of Ganhwa Seon — part of the Jogye Order, the country’s largest Buddhist sect, which practices Seon (aka Zen) buddhism. If you look closely in one of the photos, you can see the large group of monks sitting right in front of the stage.

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IMG_3046 Continue reading Celebrating Buddha’s Birthday with the Lotus Lantern Festival

Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain

I read about the Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain months ago, when we first got to Seoul. Just hadn’t made my way out there. The same day we returned from Busan, we headed out in the evening to go see it. It’s located at the Banpodaegyo (Banpo) Bridge over the Han River, and it’s pretty much what it sounds like. A large fountain shooting out the side of the bridge with different colored lights. At night, the fountain moves and sways to the music.

I was surprised to see several food trucks in the little park area there when we arrived (I think they’re the only food trucks I’ve seen in Seoul), and there’s a small promenade where you can sit on the steps and enjoy the water and light “show.” Other than that, there’s not much else to see and do here. You can cross under the bridge and check out the cool-looking glass buildings that appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron (remember the Korean scientist’s lab?), but there’s not much there, either, except for some cafes and shopping. Someone told us the buildings house event spaces? Not sure.

It was drizzling that night, but still enjoyable.

Food trucks!

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Feeling Youthful in Hongdae

My friend has been telling me about Hongdae for a while. It’s one of Seoul’s college areas, located right by Hongik University, and she’s told me all about how you can find many eateries and budget-friendly shops (aimed at broke college students). Lively nightlife, too. While I’m just now getting around to blogging about it, I actually first visited Hongdae back in January. It was freezing that day. So cold, I had to stop inside several stores to thaw off before continuing to walk around. It was a very brief jaunt.

Hongdae is supposed to be a pedestrian friendly area, but… you still have to watch out for cars and motorcycles or you’ll end up squashed on the road. During that first trip, I came across everything from cafes and bars, to body piercing shops, nightclubs, food stands, cat cafes, nail salons, clothes shops, even a Trick Eye Museum. There’s also a CGV movie theater right when you exit the Hongik University Station. Plenty of name-brand stores like H&M and New Balance, too.

Sculpture in Hongdae.

Cafes, shops & more. Continue reading Feeling Youthful in Hongdae

Tokyo Day 3: Shibuya/Shinjuku, okonomiyaki, Meiji Shrine & purikura photo booths

It’s fun to have friends in other countries. On our third day in Tokyo, Will’s friend Scott took the train up from Osaka to spend the day with us. Valentine’s Day, actually. 🙂 Aww.

First order of business? Find some okonomiyaki for lunch. We got off at Shibuya Station, and actually, first first, I had to pay tribute to Hachiko. You know, Hachiko, the Akita dog that would greet his owner daily at Shibuya Station when he returned from work, and continued to loyally wait there every day for nine years after his owner had died? (Sigh, so sad. Don’t watch the movie or you’ll cry your eyes out.) They have a statue of him there as soon as you exit the station via… the Hachiko exit. Then, we crossed the street — that is, the famous Shibuya crossing, one of the busiest intersections in the world! Many of you have seen it in movies, but here was our view of it:

Continue reading Tokyo Day 3: Shibuya/Shinjuku, okonomiyaki, Meiji Shrine & purikura photo booths

Tokyo Day 2: Sensoji Temple, Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Odaiba

On our second day in Tokyo, we took the train to Asakusa to visit the Sensoji Temple (Buddhist) and the Asakusa Shrine (Shinto). It was a beautiful, clear day, which made it nice to walk around. We pretty easily found our way to the Nakamise Shopping Street, a strip of shops/stands selling souvenirs, food, shoes, and more. It was pretty crowded! I saw a lot of trinkets and items that were cute and that I wanted to buy … but Will reasoned that we’ll find nicer stuff in Osaka (we’re planning a trip there later this Spring), so I resisted the urge. We also spotted various ladies just out and about in their kimonos, which I didn’t expect.

The Nakamise Shopping Street runs from the Kaminarimon Gate to the Hozomon Gate, the entrance to the Asakusa Shrine. Both gates had those large lanterns and the guardian deities on either side, as well as tons of people trying to take their photo in the same spot (naturally).

After visiting multiple temples on this trip, I observed there are similar rituals performed at each one. Continue reading Tokyo Day 2: Sensoji Temple, Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Odaiba