Archive | April, 2013

Cambodia Day 3 – The road to Beng Mealea temple

30 Apr

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia, for other posts on our trip, please click here.

After a quick lunch (at the least impressive restaurant of our trip and one of the more expensive), we headed to Beng Mealea temple.  It was way off the beaten path – normally represented with a small arrow to the right side of the map, indicating that it was not close by.  Our driver seemed to know his way though and we settled in for a drive and Li fell asleep.

Unfortunately – the road was under construction.

It was one of tensest car rides that I have taken.  The road was quite literally dug up with large piles of sand and rocks.  Large pieces of machinery appeared at random, punctuated by motorbikes and farm machinery.  The sand tracks were slippery and deep ridges threatened to stall the car.  To make things more complicated traffic was moving in both directions and the road for much of the way was one way.  It meant that we had to wait in small turn-offs and also were never sure when another vehicle would appear over a ridge.

There was one point where our driver started to drive along a newly plowed path, then wound up getting off the road, stuck in the dirt – turned around and the backing up for several football fields in length.  We finally maneuvered our way around after about two hours of nail biting (on my part, Li stayed asleep through most of it) and towards the end of the day arrived at Beng Mealea temple.  Nearby the temple grounds was the sign below.

This only started 10 years ago.

This only started 10 years ago.

Signs about restoration are all over Siem Reap – different governments have played an important part in restoring this part of the country.  In this instance it was the German government that started clearing the land mines, but they just started doing it in 2003, 10 years ago.  It is difficult to understand or appreciate.  Our driver told us that both of his parents had been killed in the conflict and I don’t think he was much older than I am.  The horrors that this land has seen are so recent that it is almost impossible to understand.  The long drive and this sign emphasized it even more.

Beng Mealea has not been fully restored and it was a different type of exploration – climbing over and under blocks and different pillars.  Below are some of the views as we arrived.

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I wonder if Ta Prohm had been that way ten years ago.  Later that evening at our hotel we saw pictures of Khmer Rouge fighters taking an outing to explore the same grounds.  It was eerie to think we had been at the same place just a few hours before.

Beng Mealea was an amazing temple – one that called for photos and I’ll share more of them shortly.

How do you connect a history of a place with its monuments?  When does the history over shadow the place itself and what risk do we take if we forget?

An aside – I have been having a difficult time putting pen to paper (or rather hands to keyboard) recently.  It seems that there is so much to write about that I am getting stuck in the details.  Please stay patient with me as I work through it.

The seventh quarter review

21 Apr

Hard to believe that in a few months I will hit the two year mark with Zhongguo Jumble.  The time continues to speed by, days blurring together.  I feel very lucky that I have the blog to look back at to remind myself what I was doing and where I have been.  For some reason my following has tailed off over the last month – so if you’re out there, please give me a shout out!

The seventh quarter has been a busy one – lots of travel and visitors which has meant that finding the time to blog has been a bit of a challenge.  Even with that pressure though, I remained fairly consistent and had some great comments on my posts from the last three months.

Here are three of my favorites.

  • Chinese Voicemail – Weixin – this post about this app on my phone sparked a lot of comments as well as plenty of views.  Weixin has been in the news lately as the largest mobile phone company (China Mobile) is contemplating banning it because it is free.  They claim to have lost money from text messages, especially over the Chinese New Year season.  I’m not sure how it will turn out – but for the moment I am enjoying the photo sharing.  At a training I went to recently we even made our own Weixin group where we are doing follow-up actions.

Weixin logo

  • Musk cat coffee – this post got lots of interesting reactions to the fact that this restaurant was in my office.  Musk cat coffee is coffee that has gone through the digestive track of an animal that is based in Indonesia.  A couple of months after the store has opened, it seems to be doing a brisk business, but I don’t know of anyone who has tried their specialty.
And what exactly is a musk cat?

And what exactly is a musk cat?

  • My adventures in Cambodia – I have posted on the first three days of our adventures in Cambodia and all of these posts have gotten great feedback.  Continue to be patient with me as I go through the last two days of photos.  More great shots to come!  The entry that received the most feedback was the one I did on Angkor Wat – the most famous temple in Siem Reap.
View from the very top of Angkor Wat - think 1000 years ago how high this was - even taller than the tallest trees

View from the very top of Angkor Wat – think 1000 years ago how high this was – even taller than the tallest trees

I’ve got more travel and some great adventures coming up in the next quarter, so keep tuned.  Your comments inspire me to keep sharing about my daily adventures and occasional travels.

Did I miss one of your favorite posts?  If so – let me know which should have been at the top of my list.

Cambodia Day 3 – Kbal Spean

18 Apr

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia.  For more posts from our trip, click here.

After our trip to the ladies temple we headed back to our car and went to the next site.  This site was different from the rest as there was no temple – instead it was a mountain hike to the source of the rivers which flow throughout the entire country of Cambodia.  Kbal Spean is a place full of stories and it would have been helpful to have purchased the book at the previous temple to hear them all, but we decided to move forward.

Ready to explore

Ready to explore

Because Banteay Srei had been so crowded, Kbal Spean felt out and out deserted.  This was a place off the beaten tourist path.  After the first 15 minutes of the hike we found out why – the hike was a hike – in some places so steep you needed a hand hold and in others very slippery as you descended.  I can’t imagine trying to climb that hill in the rainy season – even in the dry, dry weather we lost our footing several times.

Looking up

Looking up

After getting to the top (eventually), we saw some carvings and esoteric statues, but in general – it felt deserted – like some place you stumbled on in a dream.  We rested a long time at the top, taking in the calm water and laughing at a baby that a French couple next to us had carried all the way up.

The carving at the top of the mountain - Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma

The carving at the top of the mountain – Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma

More carvings - likely over 700 years old

More carvings – likely over 700 years old

On the way down we followed one of the local “guides” who showed us a beautiful water fall and other pathways where there were butterflies and more carvings in the river.  It was a direct contrast to the previous temple and I could understand why they believed these waters were powerful – to grant fertility and life and good health to those who worshipped at the river.

Climbing back down - via the waterfall route!

Climbing back down – via the waterfall route!

A final look

A final look

Enjoy the photos and the calm natural feel that I can sense when looking back through them.

In that vein I would like to send a birthday wishes to my sister and hope that those good things will follow her not only on her birthday, but always!  Happy Birthday!

Cambodia Day 3 – Banteay Srei

16 Apr

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia.  For other posts in the series please click here.

After two days of tuk tuk travel, we had booked a car for day 3.  Li had an ambitious schedule that he negotiated with the driver that had us going from the north east to the south east side of the temple area.  Looking at the distance and the dust on the road, we wanted windows that closed to attack such an itinerary.

Our start times were consistently earlier and this morning was no exception.  We had no time for a leisurely breakfast to make sure we got on the road.  The car was air conditioned and very comfortable and we headed out ready to explore.

Our first stop was the “ladies temple,” so called because of the delicate carving there.  Unfortunately about 30 buses of Chinese tourists had the same idea to see it as well.  Of all the temples we saw over the week it was the smallest and we hit at peak time.  The carving was nice, but in general not up to the hype.  My advice is to go in the afternoon if possible to make sure that you can truly appreciate the details.

Going back through our photos (now almost two months later) I am struck by the lack of other tourists in our photos.  Li has a knack for making it seem like we are the only people in the area.  Rest assured though – this temple was packed to the gills!

Have you gone to a place which has been a bit of a let- down?  From the photos, you can see that it is still very beautiful – but just not what I expected.  This was also the temple where we got “scammed” by one of the local touts.  They were selling books about the history of all of the temples which they offer to sell for $1 USD.  I finally decided I would buy and then all of the sudden the price jumped up to $11!  When we started to pay attention, it seemed like this scam repeated itself over and over again.

We didn’t buy the book – and now I’m letting our photos speak for themselves.  Would you visit?

Spring day in Shanghai

14 Apr
Jin Mao, Global Financial Center and the Shanghai Tower (under construction)

Jin Mao, Global Financial Center and the Shanghai Tower (under construction)

We finally have had a couple of days of great weather.  Recently we went over to the Pudong side and met friends at Super Brand Mall.  On the way back we stopped on the elevated cross walk and really looked around.  These three buildings are among the tallest in the world and we were right there.

Sometimes it’s worth taking a moment to take a photo.

Have you done that recently?

Translating training

11 Apr

I was lucky enough to attend a leadership training course recently which was conducted in English but the majority of participants  were Chinese.  We were talking about different concepts like engagement and accountability. After about 15 minutes the only mandarin speaking facilitator asked the group to define those two terms in Chinese.

The room was silent for a few moments and then people started shouting out possible translations which were all different.  It was an interesting lesson for me, those terms are used all the time, but obviously never clearly explained, never really translated.

I wonder how many other concepts that I use have a different meaning or multiple meanings in Chinese.  Or, to flip it around, when I speak chinese can I truly “translate” what I want to say?  Some concepts just don’t translate, they require a shared cultural experience.

The training may have been about leadership, but I took away a different lesson.

Have you had a similar experience?

The bird flu and staying healthy

9 Apr

Shanghai has been in the news again recently – this time as the center of a new type of avian flu.  My sister sent me an article asking how I was feeling (knowing that I had been sick) and luckily I am feeling much better now.  However, things are a little strange here with the notice of the flu.  My colleagues are certain that the government is not telling everything – that there are really hundreds if not thousands of cases – and have started limiting their behavior in public.  It doesn’t help that we deal with insurance on a daily basis – so health is always top of mind.

The ubiquitous face masks are back – not against the pollution, but against the flu virus.   They are popping up on the subway – and even in my nail salon.  I figure washing my hands frequently is my best defense, but maybe I will get another one eventually.

Last week we had a holiday – Tomb Sweeping Day – and so had a couple of days off.  I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen for a while and we decided to eat at a new organic restaurant.  There are so many things that you shouldn’t eat now in China including chicken and duck and they even recommend not eating eggs at restaurants because you can’t guarantee the temperature was high enough.  Plus, at the beginning of March there were thousands of dead pigs found in the city’s water supply so many folks aren’t eating pork either.  We figured organic food – especially vegetables – was probably as safe as we could be.

Lots of fresh veggies - to lure you into the restaurant

Lots of fresh veggies – to lure you into the restaurant

Cabbage - the great green veggie

Cabbage – the great green veggie

Tomato plants being grown in a shopping mall.  Wonder how they taste?

Tomato plants being grown in a shopping mall. Wonder how they taste?

Staying healthy in Shanghai requires perseverance and luck.  I consistently practice my yoga, take a multivitamin, try to eat as healthy as possible and get regular sleep and exercise but sometimes I feel that’s just not enough.  Do you have any tips for increasing my own ability to battle viruses?

Cambodia – Dining Downtown

7 Apr

This is part of our adventures in Cambodia, to see more about the trip, please click here.

After spending our first evening in the hotel (and our delivery dinner), the second night we headed into downtown Siem Reap to see what we could find.  The bar street was hopping as we started to find a restaurant where we could sample other specialties including the special Cambodian curry and more spring rolls as well as the beef lok lak.  Eventually after wandering around a little we found the place we were looking for and ordered.

That evening we were treated to our most flavorful curry of the trip.  We ordered a vegetable curry with tofu and ate every single bite.  It was luscious – less spicy than Indian and Thai curry, but just as flavorful with a good selection of vegetables and the tofu.

The best curry of the trip - vegetables and tofu

The best curry of the trip – vegetables and tofu

In addition we sampled the spring rolls again.  This restaurant was known for its spring rolls.  They weren’t as pretty as the spring rolls the night before, but the dipping sauce was especially luscious.

Spring rolls - with a special dipping sauce

Spring rolls – with a special dipping sauce

Finally we tried a dish called beef lok lak.  That one was not my favorite – it looked pretty with the egg on top, but the meat was a little tough.  We tried it again several nights later and I’m still not a fan.  My recommendation is to order the curry!

Not my favorite - but still very photogenic!

Not my favorite – but still very photogenic!

The nights were cool and beautiful and so we also walked around the bar street after we had finished eating.  We found a restaurant recognized in all the travel magazines called “The Red Piano.”  It was made famous because Angelina Jolie had eaten there when filming Tomb Raider.  We didn’t eat there the first night, but the second night we decided to give it a try.  I even ordered the special Tomb Raider cocktail.  When in Rome…

We just stumbled upon it - and it was in pretty much every travel guide we looked at.

We just stumbled upon it – and it was in pretty much every travel guide we looked at.

The "Tomb Raider" cocktail - of course I had to try (though mine wasn't free)

The “Tomb Raider” cocktail – of course I had to try (though mine wasn’t free)

There were all types of food and shopping and massages – a great area, but once we finished dinner and walking around we headed back to the hotel.  Our start time the next morning was evening earlier – we were heading off the beaten path to some of the farther away temples and looking forward to traveling via car instead of tuk tuk.  Little did we know what the next day would bring!

Do you try food at the restaurants that “everyone talks about” when you travel – or do you try to find things off the beaten path?  We’ve done both and had success (and failures) both ways.  Which do you prefer?

My Shanghai – Mr. & Mrs. Bund

4 Apr

With visitors in town for much of March, things were very crazy, but the last night in Shanghai – instead of taking them for a final Chinese banquet, we went for western food at Mr. & Mrs. Bund.

Mr. & Mrs. Bund has received honors from multiple places including being on the top 50 restaurants in Asia.  The cuisine can be described as whimsical – all the classics are present, but with a twist just enough to make you think twice about your dinner.  It seems to me a place that Anthony Bourdain may discover on No Reservations, or something that would show up on the Travel Channel.  Exploring a city through its food – something I continue to enjoy.

This was the second time that I had been there as the first time was for a client event and I thought it would be a perfect way to cap a visit to China.  The food itself is amazing, but the view – a full panorama of the bright lights of Lujiazui, seems almost surreal as night falls.

The amuse - a "tuna fish mousse" - and beautiful fresh bread

The amuse – a “tuna fish mousse” – and beautiful fresh bread

Toasting the night with the lights of Lujiazui behind me

Toasting the night with the lights of Lujiazui behind me

Our side dishes to share with my steak in the back with a luscious sauce

Our side dishes to share with my steak in the back with a luscious sauce

The signature lemon tart dessert - it fools the eye, you can eat the entire thing!

The signature lemon tart dessert – it fools the eye, you can eat the entire thing!

View from the terrace after our dinner with the lights sparkling in the evening

View from the terrace after our dinner with the lights sparkling in the evening

Mr. & Mrs. Bund is an expensive restaurant and not something that I’d have every month, but it too is part of my Shanghai.

Have you treated yourself recently?  Where did you go?  For readers in Shanghai – any recommendations?

Cambodia Day 2 – Preah Khan

2 Apr

This is part of my adventures in Cambodia, if you would like to see other entries in this series, please click here.

Preah Khan was huge – not as big as Angkor Wat, but still a large blob on the map that we were carrying around.  Li had done his research and requested that the tuk tuk driver meet us at the other side of the complex and so as the afternoon light started to fade, we entered down the long walkway.  Once again we were lucky with our timing and the number of tourists was few – we were able to ramble at will.

Preah Khan seemed more like a city than a single temple – the walkways were wide and many different buildings (and fewer steps) were in the complex.  Parts of the complex had been restored and other parts were wild and because of that contrast it seemed as if we may see an ancient priest come from around the corner or workers building and repairing around another one.

One of the special things about this complex was there was one building that looked like a Greek temple, rounded columns instead of the square ones found in other places we visited.

I have hundreds of photos from that afternoon.  These are some of my favorite shots.


To see the photos up close you can click on one which will bring up a slide show.  Which is your favorite?

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