Riding Motorbikes in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Meeting a friend from Israel in Vietnam? Time to take the bikes out for a proper ride in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam, is a top travel destination which draws tourists from all over the world to its lush limestone mountains which jut violently from the sea. What few realize is that a whole adventure waits for you just outside the city of Ha Long Bay itself.

For all my travel blog posts on Vietnam: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the motorbike ride around Halong Bay: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the cruise around Halong Bay: Click Here

Halong Bay, Vietnam
#squadgoals

Of all the travel destinations I’ve wanted to see most in Southeast Asia, Halong Bay, Vietnam, was top of my list. World renowned for its brilliant karst limestone mountains which seem to impossibly rise out from the surrounding bay, I was more than thrilled by the sites but less impressed by the weather. July is hit-or-miss in Asia in terms of weather as the monsoon can be unforgiving. I hit a one-for-one with one day wet and rainy and the next nice and cool albeit quite gray with clouds.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

I’ve gone in-depth before on the Halong Bay itself however in this post I’ll focus on the surrounding area.  I met a good mate of mine from Israel who had been studying abroad in Hong Kong and he joined me along with two of his classmates, one from Germany and the other from Singapore. Taken aback by the sheer number of tourists descending upon the bay, we spent our second day renting motorbikes for 200,000 Vietnamese Dong (about $10 USD each for the day, quite expensive in Vietnam but expected for a tourist area like this) and by using Google Maps traveling throughout the countryside in a makeshift loop.

Our makeshift loop around Halong Bay
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Google Maps works in Vietnam… a welcome luxury after suffering through Myanmar with my basic Burmese
Halong Bay, Vietnam
The city of Halong Bay doesn’t have much to offer… but the countryside is another world altogether
Halong Bay, Vietnam
The powerful water buffalos of Southeast Asia are nothing to mess about with

The loop we chose was a large elliptical surrounding the outskirts of the city – past farmland, karst limestone mountains (the very same that dot the famous bay, just formed on land) and massive quarries which deplete the area of its natural beauty and resources, not too mention they brew up a nasty dust storm which makes biking through the area quite unpleasant. My sunglasses where even chipped by stones being kicked up by massive trucks moving huge piles of the stuff through the area.

Halong Bay, Vietnam
Landscapes all day
Halong Bay, Vietnam
And the ‘progress’ which is destroying them
Halong Bay, Vietnam
The Bãi Cháy Bridge from the outer loop swampland

The landscapes surrounding the city are almost as stunning as the bay itself. Unfortunately they may not be around for long as economic exploitation of the region is shifting into high gear as Vietnam modernizes and raw materials are needed to build the massive buildings and structures already underway in places such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. But I digress… as we explored the countryside it slowly morphed into swampland but we were still able to visit a temple sat back behind the paved road via a sketchy dirt path.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam
Metal wires help mold the trees outside the temple into unique shapes

Beautiful lakes, well-paved roads (for the most part), pristine surroundings… if it weren’t for the development of these large-scale factories the areas around Halong Bay would be perfect for trekking and exploration. I will say that in the rainy season it would be quite difficult but well worth it. Anyways our loop took us from the southwest corner of the city all the way past bridges and towards Hanoi, then back up and around the northern tip of Halong Bay region and back along the coast south into the city.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam
Trying to chart our progress… OK I got us lost….
Halong Bay, Vietnam
And made it to the coast! The monsoon was setting in but with some lucky lighting I got in a few shots

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam
Doesn’t this look like a “Lord of the Rings” set?

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Well that more or less wraps up our motorbike ride around the Halong Bay, Vietnam. With clear weather we decided to take our bikes for a little drag race to see who’s was faster. Mine was an embarrassment and I came in last by a long shot. With that defeat in mind but a fun day overall, I highly recommend the outer loop of Halong Bay. Till next time in Hanoi.

For all my travel blog posts on Vietnam: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the motorbike ride around Halong Bay: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the cruise around Halong Bay: Click Here

Halong Bay, Vietnam
Ready, Set, Go!
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Nuu… faster!

Living “Large” ‘in Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos

There are few places as beautiful as Luang Prabang, Laos

The flight from Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Luang Prabang, Laos, is a short but sketchy one… and well worth the trip.

For High-Resolution Photos of my journey to Luang Prabang: Click Here

For High-Resolution Photos of my journey to Vang Vieng: Click Here

To check out my crazy trip to the Kuang Si Falls, click here. For the crazy part life of Vang Vieng, click here. For my photo essay on the Luang Prabang-Vang Vieng trip, click here.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang International Airport

So are you Chinese or Japanese? As a guy from Ohio that clip from “King of the Hill” was pretty much the only time I had every heard of Laos and you can bet after spending some time in Myanmar and Thailand I was pretty stoked to continue making my way East. Having just finished up a week in stunning Chiang Mai, Thailand, a quick 2-hour, super-choppy plane ride brought me over the jungles and mountains of Southeast Asia to the quaint Luang Prabang International Airport.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Headphones and view after view
Luang Prabang, Laos
The infamous Mekong River
Luang Prabang, Laos
Touchdown, Laos

 I had no idea what to expect upon arrival nor did I have any idea about what Laos would be like. Having been in Asia for some time, I assumed hot, jungle-y, but that really was it. On the plane, our route started trailing the Mekong River and when you notice the only signs of civilization are little fishing villages lining the wide-then-skinny-then-wide murky and muddy water of the Mekong, well, you realize pretty quickly that you’re about to be in the thick of it. Touchdown saw an unbelievable sight from the tarmac of rolling hills and mountains. A 20-minute or so wait for a visa-on-arrival and I was on my way via airport shuttle to a hostel in ‘downtown’ Luang Prabang. The 30-minute or so drive saw the sun set on me and at the last moment I got to catch the sunset just over the Mekong from the waterfront. Immediately my favorite shot of the trip so far.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Mekong River waterfront sunset
Luang Prabang, Laos
Utopia Bar off Aphay Street. Your experience will directly be affected by the people in town. The bar is super-chilled
Luang Prabang, Laos
Hostel found – time for Laotian street food
Luang Prabang, Laos
The crew
Luang Prabang, Laos
Post-drinks bowling
Luang Prabang, Laos
Our Laotian tuk tuk driver around 3am

The photos from this trip are a bit ‘below-par’ so to speak as I was shooting from my mobile – a Samsung Galaxy A8 – which turned out to be a good idea as my Canon would have been destroyed, like my watch, sunglasses and other affections that didn’t survive the trip. Laos is a helluva place! So hostel found, street food devoured (basically half a Euro for a chicken and avocado sandwich) and whiskey poured (1 Euro for 1 bottle!), we headed to a local pub popular with backpackers. Late-night bowling is all the rage in Luang Prabang so we ventured out there as well.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos
Not bad for $10/night for two people
Luang Prabang, Laos
The beautiful views of Luang Prabang, Laos

The next morning we woke up a bit late, hit up a breakfast and grabbed some motorbikes to head about 30km away to the Kaung Si Waterfall. I’ll cover that in the next post as this one will stick to just Luang Prabang. There’s so much to do in this little city up north in the jungle. The layout of the city is based on the side of the Mekong River with a large mountain in the middle of the city. Mount Phousi serves as a religious point in the heart of the city and has some of the best lookouts on offer.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos
Mount Phousi in the distance

Luang Prabang, Laos
Buddhas on Mount Phousi

Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos

The Luang Prabang night market was also a big hit and well worth a visit in the late hours of the evening. In any case, I’ll be back with a trip to Kaung Si Falls about 30km outside Luang Prabang, Laos.

For High-Resolution Photos of my journey to Luang Prabang: Click Here

For High-Resolution Photos of my journey to Vang Vieng: Click Here

To check out my crazy trip to the Kuang Si Falls, click here. For the crazy part life of Vang Vieng, click here. For my photo essay on the Luang Prabang-Vang Vieng trip, click here.

The Tremendous Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

The Reclining Buddha of Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple is a masterpiece of Burmese craftsmanship

Huge Buddha Images are not uncommon in the Golden Land and the Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple is a shining example of that.

For more information on the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda, visit the travel guide here: Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple

For all the high-resolution photos from Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda: Click Here

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

The giant Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple (Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda) located in Yangon is, in a word, breathtaking. Standing 30 meters tall and over 65 meters long, the gigantic Reclining Buddha image is one of Buddhism’s most revered religious symbols. Built in 1907, it was in severe disrepair until a group of devout monks restored it in 1966.

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

The monsoon season in Myanmar runs from May/June to early October and on this day it was already in peak form. A great metal structure was built to protect the Paya (Myanmar for Pagoda) from the elements along with many other smaller stupas and Buddha images.

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

At one end of the colossal Buddha you can take in the exquisite detail of the face and hands (not to mention bejeweled headpiece and sash) while at the base of the Buddha its feet tell the tales of his life in 108 different and highly-detailed segments. A pedestal at the base allows for some photo op session, however the real challenge is to fit the entire Reclining Buddha in one frame. After some time, I finally succeeded-ish.
Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Attached by rickety walkways and tin roofs is the local monastery Ashay Tawya, which houses both monks and the sick from all around the country seeking care at one of the local hospitals. I was given a tour by a monk I met on the site who was more than happy to share his knowledge and the history of the area with me.

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar
My guide and new friend studies in India and is on his way to becoming a full-fledged monk of 30+ years of learning.
Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar
Walking down into the Ashay Tawya Buddhist Monastery

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar
The view from the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda towards the gnarly Ngahtatgyi Pagoda

 

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar
Brand-new donated Gautama Buddha Images line the back of the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar
This stone tablet is a popular spot for male and female monks alike
Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar
A pair of female monks (Buddhist Nuns) capture the Buddha’s teachings on their phone

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

For more information on the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda, visit the travel guide here: Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple

For all the high-resolution photos from Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda: Click Here