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Impressive Anisakan Falls

We spent the morning relaxing outside at the guesthouse until Ryan got wet paint on his jeans, a nice bright green. We headed back to our room soon after. We debated whether to move on from Pyin Oo Lwin or stick around and check out the waterfall. It was supposed to be nice, but given our luck in Thailand, we weren't so sure dry season was waterfall friendly. In the end, we booked another night and went for it since we liked the city.

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Once it got a bit warmer, we shed our winter attire and went for a walk into town. We looked for circular road but never made it after forty minutes of walking. However, we found the Purcell clock tower, based on the on in Malaysia. There was also a nice building as well. Pyin Oo Lwin didn't really have a Burmese feel to it, not many temples, since it was formerly a British summer capital and much of the influence remained. We turned back to get lunch in before a tuktuk ride to the waterfall.

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The restaurant we found was called Sun Top and it attracted us with their fast food sign. Inside it was a bit like a diner with wifi and a ton of hamburger buns on the middle table. Their prices were decent too so we ordered an egg burger and a chicken burger. They were a generous size with tomato, cucumber, lettuce, mayo and tomato sauce that blended into a magical combination. Best burger in Myanmar and I didn't even have to invent or negotiate with them to create it as it was right on the menu.

When we got back to the guesthouse, we went out to wait for the tuktuk which wasn't there. We asked the guy painting the rest of the furniture (and maybe re-painting the one Ryan sat in) who also worked at the guesthouse and he called for us. A German guy, Sven, had just arrived and decided to join us. He'd just come to Myanmar five days earlier and had been studying in Singapore before that on an exchange. He'd also visited Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.

The bumpy ride was short enough, about twenty minutes, and we arrived at the top of Anisakan Falls. Sven picked up some bread and moon cake for the walk down. The views of the mountains in the back were quite stunning and the descent was fairly steep as well. It took a good forty minutes to get to the bottom past the pagoda under construction.

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Anisakan Falls were stunning and flowing quite freely. Trees grew in some of the uneven enclaves behind the falls. There was a vendor and some tables set up, but we passed them to get a closer look at the falls. The water crashed from 122 metres above into a large pool the flowed into successively smaller ones. Any pool would have been great to swim in if it were a touch warmer this winter.

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We explored the other side to take some photos, but mainly to climb the rocks and feel the mist. I explored one lower section that had a smaller tiered falls slowing away. It was beautiful with all the trees nearby.

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The walk back up took just under an hour. There was a small area at the top where we explored to see a small falls and a generator. The steps were made of old tires.

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Back in the city, we went to visit the reddish brown All Saints Anglican Church that we'd seen on the drive in. It was pretty deserted but the gates were open so we could go closer and get some pictures. The church was built in 1912 but had since been restored with beautiful stained glass windows. The tower, built in 1927, was quite impressive too. During British colonization, this was the church of government, but today they offer most services in English with a few in English ever other week.

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For supper, we walked back to SunTop for an egg burger, okanami (fake meat) Indian pancake and a chicken and egg burger for Ryan. The artificial meat was like a veggie patty. Our walk continued to find some sweet treats after supper. On a wide quiet street, we walked past a few stores selling tons of items. I found myself a soft-lined toque that was ironically made in China. The temperatures dropped the further North we went in the country, plus Nepal was on our list to visit. At one of the big shops selling everything but real groceries (those were at the market), we found some snickers bars a few months past fresh, but we could understand why. Who would buy a chocolate bar when they cost the same amount as a meal? Just us crazy foreigners.

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Posted by Sarah.M 04:17 Archived in Myanmar Tagged paint vegetarian burger lwin oo pyin anisakan_falls sun_top okanami all_saints_anglican_church purcell_tower Comments (0)

Temples of Nang Rong

Prasat Muang Tam and Phanom Rung Historical Park

semi-overcast 30 °C

In the morning, we managed to send off some laundry, book a tour of the ruins with Kris and visit the day market by the lake. We got a familiar breakfast from 7-11 plus market oranges and barbequed eggs. I'd had them last time in Laos, and even with a weird texture, I find them pretty good. Ryan wasn't a fan and let me finish them.

The drive to the ruins went past fields of harvested crops and grazing cows. The sky was incredibly blue. It was reminiscent of Cambodia, except these cows weren't chained up. Kris kept down the back roads to avoid the traffic congestion. We got stopped at a checkpoint once and we found out that Kris was a retired army sergeant with slightly expired insurance that the police didn't care too much about.

The first temple we visited was Prasat Muang Tam, a smaller Khmer temple. The Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia came from the same empire. This one was built for the god Shiva and was in a direct line from Angkor Wat. Historically, people would often visit between them and use this area as a place to stay.

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The exterior had a triangular peak with carvings in the light brown bricks. It was a long building with a couple side entrances. The lintel over the central entrance depicted Krishna fighting Naga (snake) Kaliya because it had poisoned the river used by Krishna's people. Between the three entrances were windows with carved vertical pillars.

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Inside the temple were four L-shaped ponds with pink lotus flowers. The outer walls had similar entryways in each direction and we explore the space left open in the wall, taking photos through the frames. We found the side of the main temple in the sun and waited our turn to take pictures in front of it.

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Inside the main temple were four towers and a fifth larger one that didn't quite stand the test of time. It represented Mount Meru. We could go inside the four towers, although there wasn't much more than a concrete pedestal and the dome ceiling. There were also remains of the libraries where people would have kept scrolls and religious manuscripts.

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We found Kris sitting nearby, strumming on a guitar. We took off to the top of a dormant volcano to visit Phanom Rung Historical Park. The name was from the Khmer word Vnan Rung which meant 'vast mountain'.

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We perused the museum first which had all the information we lacked at the first temple. It went through many different Khmer monuments across the country. Many in Thailand served as rest houses on the journey to Angkor Wat, the mother temple. Phanom Rung was actually build before Angkor Wat in the 10th and 13th centuries. There were other exhibits on its history and how one of the lintels went missing last century. 'Give us back our lintel, take back your Michael Jackson' an activist had said. There was also information on different religious practises: the deflowering of young teens particularly unsettling from a human rights point of view, but that was ages ago.

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We went through the museum backwards so the pertinent information came last. Prasat Phanom Rung, the one we were currently at, was a Hindu temple designed for the God Shiva to resemble Mount Kailasa, Shiva's pantheon. The whole complex had been restored but due to lack of settlement or battles around the area until recently, the temples had been quite well preserved.

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After a few snacks, we tackled the lower stairway that at one time would have had a wooden gateway. Once we climbed the stairs, we came to a one story structure with stone pillars. Since it wasn't the main attraction, there were no crowds so we could explore the narrow gallery and ante chamber. It had been known as White Elephant House, now as Changing Pavilion since the kings used it to purify and prepare before a ritual at the main temple.

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After the Changing Pavilion came the Processional Walkway not as long as I anticipated given the description I'd read, but still long enough to have seven sandstone posts with lotus bud tops. The view of the main tower up ahead had most people excited. We passed one Naga (snake) bridge and challenged another set of stairs. Once at the top, the views of the fields off to the South were beautiful and made us realize we were pretty high up.

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We crossed the court and outer gallery, past more ponds to reach the impressive main tower. Carved from pink sandstone, the temple had a VIhara as well as an inner sanctum that at one time had enshrined the linga phallic symbol of Shiva. Above nearly every entrance, and there were many, were lintels depicting different scenes from Hindu epics. Some doors had a second lintel as we went inside to explore.

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We also visited the outer galleries, similar to Prasat Munag Tam, but with false windows. The library or Bannalai here was still standing completely and was one of the last structures built on the site. In contrast, the oldest brick sanctuaries had become ruins.

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Kris called to tell us that 'something', obscured by misunderstanding, was empty. I thought phone, Ryan thought gas tank so we visited the final entrances quickly, got a picture of the two of us and headed back.

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For supper, we went the other way down the main street and found a bilingual menu and a lady who understood 'Mai gin...' (don't eat...) and my list of animals that followed. We had fried rice and shared a veggie dish. Success!

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Posted by Sarah.M 20:07 Archived in Thailand Tagged park temple historical khmer hindu tam vegetarian nang_rong muang prasat phanom rung lintel Comments (0)

The road to Jiuzhaigou

sunny 15 °C

A decent bus ride away from Chengdu was the picturesque Jiuzhaigou National Park that Ryan had seen on the documentary Wild China. When we realized how close it was to us, only ten hours by bus, we booked tickets and set off on our journey.

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It wasn't that easy though to get to the station that morning. The local bus to the metro took much longer than we anticipated. The washrooms at the metro used the worst cueing system for their co-ed washrooms and I got cut twice even though I was at the front of the line so I gave up and ran back to buy the tokens. The ride seemed to take forever as anything did when you cut it that close.

Once we got off at the metro, we conveniently used the wrong exit based on my intuition and ended up at the local bus terminal instead of the long distance. We ran down the road and across a parking lot to finally reach the right spot with seven or eight minutes to spare. There was finally a washroom as well with a much shorter line-up. I even managed to board the bus before it started to drive away this time.

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The drive itself was quite remarkable when we weren't going through tunnel after tunnel and I silently hoped there wouldn't be an earthquake. The architecture in the villages changed from the traditional Chinese mixed with modern that we had seen so far. Buildings in the mountains became more rectangular in nature and the roofs had right angle triangles at the corner, almost like a castle. Some homes were white and had a design in brown or red painted on near the roof.

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We neared Tibet and this was as close as we were going to get without needing a permit. It showed in the colourful flags that climbed the hillsides or descended from the tops of the white and gold stupas in town. There were dome structures as well as fluffy yaks tied up for tourist photos.
The towns closer to the park featured dark brick buildings with flat roofs that made us feel like we'd entered a town from the middle ages. There were even watchtowers. It would have been worth it to find a tour, bus or drive on our own so we could stop and visit a few more of the towns to explore.

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We did stop for lunch where I was blown away by the selection for vegetarians: crispy tofu, eggplant in tasty sauce, fries, garlic cucumber, bean sprouts with noodles and the only one I didn't care for was the vegetable with cilantro. Since it was buffet style, I tried them all. I had to eat quickly since I spent half the time taking pictures since I assumed they'd have little for me to consume. They had meat fare as well, but I enjoyed my veggie heaven. Ryan had a few bites but still wasn't feeling a hundred percent.

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The bus stopped at random places and tried to let us off early. We declined since we needed the bus station as our landmark to find our way. Our brains wouldn't be flexible. Another passenger helped us get off at the right place and after 20 minutes of walking uphill with our bags (perhaps getting off early wouldn't have been the worst thing) we found the Angeline Hotel.

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We had booked it online and judging by the prices they had posted in their lobby, serious bargaining was required to get from their posted 600 for a double room to the 160 we were paying for it. It seemed nice with a chandelier and Tibet-style flags coming down from the fourth floor. All the reviews had ranted about the chilly dorms on the roofs so we spent a little more reserving a double room inside the building which had heat, a hot shower and was reasonably nice. It even had a plug in the sink to get laundry done. We couldn't ask for much more, except maybe a more vegetarian supper. It wasn't not too fun picking the meat out of my noodle dish, especially when its tiny and shredded.

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Posted by Sarah.M 15:03 Archived in China Tagged food park village national highway long drive sichuan vegetarian jiuzhaigou medival Comments (0)

Lost, late and just plain lucky

Hangzhou, China

overcast 22 °C

Our first mission of the day was to go get hard sleeper train tickets to Guilin from the Train Ticketing Office. It was a nice 20 minute walk from the place we were staying. We passed a university with a large billboard of Yao Ming, a famous Chinese NBA player, on the front of it. It was easy to find the train booking office as the sign was in English. Unlike the sign, the lady working there didn’t speak a word of English. Luckily we came prepared with Sarah’s Mandarin book and a note written out by a helpful Chinese person. We booked two hard sleeper tickets from Hangzhou to Guilin for 6:53 p.m, thinking that that would give us plenty of time to explore for the day and get to the train station early.

We were feeling pretty good after we booked our tickets, so we decided to pick up some treats from a local convince store for our 18 hour train ride. We would later discover that they were all expired, as most of the junk food is in China. We made our way to the metro to spend one last day in West Lake.
We now set our focus on trying to find some bikes to rent. There was certainly no shortage, but we wanted to find bikes close to the lake. After we decided which bikes we wanted to ride for the day, we headed off to find the Tiger Springs.

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About an hour later we discovered we had went too far and made it to a pagoda we didn’t intend to see. We decided since we biked all the way here, we might as well climb it. The original pagoda had long since been burned down and many attempts at rebuilding it had met the same fate. The pagoda we climbed had been rebuilt from the ground up in the mid 1990s, and had about 8 levels. From the top we got a bird’s eye view of the polluted and smoggy Hangzhou.

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After climbing down we tried to grab some lunch. We found a restaurant that looked promising, armed with the mandarin book, we attempted to order. All seemed to go well until we received our food. They placed two meat dishes in front of us and a large bowl of rice. I only ordered small chicken plate and Sarah had ordered a vegetable dish, which never came. We tried to explain to them but after some arguing between the cooks and the waitress they just took away one plate and Sarah didn’t get to eat lunch that day aside from a bowl of rice. We did snack on some expired Oreos though. They were okay. We would need the energy for the bike ride.

We made it to Dreaming of the Tiger Spring Temple area shortly after leaving our disappointing lunch. We locked up the bikes and away we went to explore the springs and temples. As we entered, we were greeted by a very nice pond with some large Crane statues and decorations hanging from the trees. Again, there were some nice temples to view and large incense burners everywhere. The area was also the burial site of the monk Jigong. After some exploring we discovered the main attraction, a scene chiseled out of the stone of a man lying down dreaming of tigers across the spring. We checked the time and decided we should head back so we time to get to the train station. We finished taking our photos and hopped on our bikes to head back to the city.

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What should have took us only 15-20 minutes, ended up taking just over an hour. An hour we really didn’t have. We had little trouble navigating the city for the last few days, but today we just couldn’t figure which way was up today, even with our not so helpful English tourist map. After much frustration and feeling almost helpless, we were pointed in the right direction by a security guard when we asked where the metro was.
We finally made it to the bike rental place, only to find that the man that rented us the bikes was no longer there. We tried to return them to the man that was there, but after looking at our receipt he said it was from a shop 1 block over. Having been down that block only just minutes earlier, we knew there was nothing down there. Thinking we were getting scammed for our 200 RMB deposit, we walked up and down the street trying to spot the guy that rented us the bikes. Luckily, he ran up to us a few minutes later with our deposit. Running very short on time, we began sprinting to the metro to make it back to pick up our belongings.

We had become pros at using the metro systems in China, so we got to our hostel quite quickly. We loaded up and bolted to metro one last time to make it the train station. Time kept ticking by and as we went to leave the metro, for the first time, Sarah’s metro pass decided not to work and we had to find an agent to help us out. We made a mad dash to the train station once she was let through.

With less than 5 minutes to spare in a large and unfamiliar train station, we ran as hard as we could with 40 pounds of gear strapped to our tired bodies in what we hoped was the right direction. We got our passports and tickets checked – the woman waving us through without even checking mine after noticing the time on the ticket -- and made the final dash to the end of the terminal. Of course our gate was the very last one there. It was like someone had planned out just how to make us sweat one more time in Hangzhou down to the last detail.

They had already stopped boarding our train, and were preparing to board the next train. Fearing we had already missed it, we ran to the front of the line waving our tickets and asking “Guilin?”. I’m sure we looked comical to everyone who arrived well in advance for their train. Out of pure luck, our train had not left yet and the staff rushed us through. Within a couple minutes of boarding the train, it began moving. We threw our bags under the bottom bunk and collapsed from exhaustion. We both slept very well that night under nice soft comforters.

Posted by Sarah.M 03:20 Archived in China Tagged temple train metro china bike lost hangzhou vegetarian Comments (2)

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