Tag Archives: climbing

Cambodia Day 3 – Exploring Beng Mealea temple

2 May

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

Beng Mealea was an amazing temple and definitely worth the long road to get there.  As we looked around there were so many interesting views to absorb that in total we took several hundred photos.  It was difficult to choose which ones represented the temple most accurately.


Too many photos! How could I choose just a few?

I tried to choose photos that represent my idea of the temple, though they may not give you an exact idea of its size or it’s structure.  These shots remind me of that afternoon exploring.

Even more so than some of the temples we visited earlier – the carving popped out of nowhere – it was in the places you would expect – walls, arches, doorways – but also within the blocks heaped on the floor.  It would have been an enormous life-size jigsaw puzzle to put things back together again.

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Another unique things about the temple was that you really needed to climb to get to different places.  There were random blocks of stone piled on top of each other and it was a maze to figure out where to go next.  We “hired” a local guide to show us the way which was worth the $3 that we paid.

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And the guide then led us up, up, up to where we were walking on a catwalk over the temple.  We were Indiana Jones exploring in the jungle – nature closing in on all sides, looking for a hidden treasure.  It was a perfect release after the car ride there.

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Nature is so powerful – the trees and their roots continuing to pull apart the gigantic blocks that earlier kings constructed.  If we continue to believe we can control nature, I don’t want to be on that side of the bet!

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Making our way down again we were greeted by more locals asking us to buy drinks or maps or guides.  This child seemed like a young Tarzan, comfortable in the natural world.

Our own Tarzan?

Our own Tarzan?

And as a final memory I snapped this picture of Li by one of the enormous trees on the grounds.  It reminds me of the photos in the Sequoia forest in California where you had trees so large you could  drive a car through.  This tree isn’t quite that wide, but look how small a person looks beside it!

How many people could you fit inside?

How many people could you fit inside?

Looking back, I believe we could have spent an entire day there – happily exploring each room and watching the colors change as the sunlight went from east to west.  Instead though, we had one last place to go before that day was done, so we returned to our car and went to chase the sunset.

Have you ever been somewhere where you felt like Indiana Jones?  How and why were you there?


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!

More photos from Mt. Tai

17 Jul

My previous post about our trip up Mt. Tai only had photos up the first half of the mountain.  Here is a slide show of the rest of our trip up!

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Note how narrow the steps are.   I got a foot massage the second day after climbing the mountain and the masseuse asked me if my shoes were too small.  I said that no, they’re tennis shoes, really comfortable.  He said that the tips of my toes were bruised – I think it’s because I kept jamming them against the front of the steps as I climbed.  Take it as a warning if you have big feet and decide to climb Mt. Tai.

Which photo is your favorite?  Enjoy!

Exploring – Climbing Mt. Tai (泰山)

10 Jul

Our first view of the Gate to Heaven on Mt. Tai

We took advantage of the Dragon Boat Festival long weekend for a trip to Shandong province to climb Mt. Tai (Tai Shan 泰山) .  The new high speed train turns what was an 11 hour trip from Shanghai 15 years ago into 3.5 hours today – and only 1.5 hours from Beijing.  We chose Mt. Tai for a couple of reasons – we wanted to climb a mountain, it was pretty close and I had enough hotel points so that our three nights there only cost about $25 USD – total.

Mt. Tai is not known for its beauty like Yellow Mountain (黄山) or Flower Mountain(华山) but is instead a very historic mountain.  Given its location it was a common trek for the emperor to come from Beijing and climb the mountain asking for blessings – a place of pilgrimage.  It contains temples and ancient scripts and focuses on the Taoist beliefs that were commonplace in ancient China.

The temperatures in this area of Shandong were very warm so we decided to wake up early and get to the mountain before it got hot (in theory).  By 6:10 in the morning we had arrived and in the cool of the morning bought our tickets, starting the climb from the Red Gate at the bottom of the mountain to the temples at the top.  We came prepared with multiple bottles of water, almonds, crackers, dried fruit and even bought a couple of cans of Red Bull at a store at the bottom.  It was going to be a very long day.

I know now that we were preparing to walk 7.5 km pretty much vertically with over 6000 steps to the top of the mountain.  Looking back I’m glad that I didn’t know that when I started.

As we climbed we saw many people with walking sticks.  At the beginning though the stairs were not that steep and there were flat areas.  We decided that we didn’t need walking sticks – at least not yet.  There were a lot of locals who had climbed the mountain and cut branches from certain trees to celebrate Dragon Boat festival with, but they were walking down as we were walking up.  In general though, the paths were relatively uncrowded and the scenery was nice – very dry – the area is having a drought, but lots of names carved/painted in the rocks and monuments to long deceased individuals with carvings on black stone.

It took us three hours to reach the halfway point, with one detour to see an area where large sections of the Buddhist script had been painted on a hill side.  Looking at the script it was obvious that it had been repainted sometime recently.  It was very nice, but didn’t really feel old, which is a problem that I have in China.  Sometimes the restorations are so shiny new that you know this was not what the original pilgrims saw – whether it is a temple or building or tombstone.

Upon making it halfway – at the appropriately named middle door – we had to reevaluate.  The next section of walking was known as the 18 turns (18 盘) and it looked pretty intimidating from a distance.  At the top of that section was the gate to heaven – that looked precariously perched on the top.  We bought walking sticks.  At 5 RMB (80 cents) for the two, it was likely our best purchase all day.

The 18 turns were a grueling set of steps that just never seemed to end.  By the time we got to the start it was well past 10am and the sun was beating down on every step.  I think if it hadn’t been so hot it wouldn’t have been such a challenge, but it was and so we plodded on – each curve thinking we were “almost” there, but of course we weren’t.

Finally getting to the Gate to Heaven more than 5 hours after we started, I thought we were at the top.  Li, however, who had planned this part of the trip, then informed me we needed to hike another section to get to the top of the mountain – this was just the gate.  He also then mentioned that we could have taken the cable car to this point.  Really?  Cable car?  That may have made sense.

It was obvious that many people had decided to take the cable car up because the next section was packed with people.  The prices were also much more expensive for a bottle of water or popsicle than they had been during the previous part of the climb.  Luckily though, the terrain at the top wasn’t nearly as steep and we covered the last section in less than an hour, finally making it up to the temple.

Li then said that he thought we now needed to walk down.  What a joker.  We took the cable car to the mid-point, then took a bus to the city center.  At about 3:30 we got back to the hotel, showered and promptly fell asleep.

Would I do it again?  There are lots of other mountains that I would like to climb first.   But I would have to say that Mt. Tai was certainly a special type of trip.  The second day there we were too tired to climb another section of the mountain so instead went to Qufu, the hometown of Confucius which is a post for another day.

The slide show below has some photos that show our adventure until the first view of the gate to heaven.  I’ll post more photos of our trek to the top later.

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What’s the most physically demanding travel that you’ve done?  This definitely is close for me – with that many steps and the demanding heat.  How did you feel when you were at the end?  Was the accomplishment worth it?

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