Tag Archives: Asia

Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu – Quốc Tử Giám, 文廟) Hanoi, Vietnam

Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu – Quốc Tử Giám, 文廟) was established in Hanoi, Vietnam in 1070. The temple is located in old town Hanoi along with many other items of interest within easy walking distance (see Curious Cat Hanoi Tourist map). The temple grounds are enjoyable and provide a respite from chaotic Hanoi, and the history is interesting.

Temple of Literature courtyard

In 1076, Vietnam’s first university, the “Quốc Tử Giám” or Imperial Academy, was established within the temple to educate Vietnam’s bureaucrats, nobles, royalty and other members of the elite. The university remained open from 1076 to 1779. In 1802, the Nguyễn dynasty’s monarchs founded the Huế capital where they established a new imperial academy.

bee on orange flower with yellow flower in background

Bee on flower in the temple grounds.

The temple layout is similar to that of the temple at Qufu, Shandong, Confucius’ birthplace. It covers an area of over 54000 square meters.

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Chomphet Hike, Luang Prabang, Laos

The Chomphet Hike is nice hike across the river from Luang Prabang, Laos. I used this wonderful map for the hike. My hike probably was about 8 km and I went in a circle around the whole hike on the map. The hike would be very difficult (next to impossible) to follow in several places if you didn’t have the map.

Vat Nong Sakeo, on pond (covered in plants - so it is green)

Vat Nong Sakeo on a pond.

Ladder over the fence

Much of the hike is through rice fields. I like this ladder over the fence (to keep out goats and other animals I imagine. This part of the trail was a bit difficult for me to follow on the map, I wasn’t at all sure I took the right path but I got where I need to eventually.

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Circumhorizontal Arc (Fire Rainbow) in Hoi An, Vietnam

I saw my first Circumhorizontal Arcs (Fire Rainbows) display in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. A couple days ago I experienced them again in Hoi An, Vietnam.

photo of palm trees and fire rainbow

The scene looked much more spectacular than this.

All I had with me at the time, was my iPad mini and this is the best photo I could get. Zooming in on the fire rainbow provided very poor photos. The iPad mini and iPhone (and other smart phones) have remarkably good cameras for many shots. But for a few types of shots they are very poor. Getting a good shot of this rainbow was one such case.

I biked home and got my Canon PowerShot SX60 HS and took this photo.

close up of a fire rainbow

Close up of circumhorizontal arc (fire rainbow) in Hoi An, Vietnam with Canon

I had actually posted about the phenomenon of circumhorizontal arcs on my science blog in 2006 before I had seen them for myself.

A circumhorizontal arc (also known by the exciting name, fire rainbow) is an optical phenomenon – an ice-halo formed by plate-shaped ice crystals in high level cirrus clouds. If the cloud is at the right angle to the sun, the crystals will refract the sunlight just as when rainbow is created.

Fire rainbows can only occur when the sun is 58 degrees or higher above the horizon and when the clouds or haze contain plate-shaped ice crystals. The arc has a considerable angular extent and thus, rarely is complete. When only fragments of a cirrus cloud are in the appropriate sky and sun position, they may appear to shine with spectral colors.

Related: Curious Cat nature photosMagical Day at Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park (USA and Canada), which also ended with a rainbowWater Buffaloes in a field in CambodiaPhotos of clouds

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Mosaic Art at Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos

I really like the mosaic artwork on the walls of buildings at Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang, Laos.

close up view of mosaic wall of Wat Xieng Thong temple building

Luang Prabang is full of interesting temples and is a great place to walk around. The old city has been designated a World Heritage Site by the UN and I highly enjoyed staying in Luang Prabang.

buddha statues in front of a mosaic wall inside Wat Xieng Thong temple building

Buddha statues in front of a mosaic wall inside a Wat Xieng Thong temple building.

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Curious Cat as a Celebrity in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

As I visited site in and around Yogyakarta, Indonesia I was frequently asked to be in photos. As a non-celebrity this was an odd experience. One of the things I enjoy about travel is the odd experiences or just seeing things that are a little different. These are usually small things many people wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t care about but I find it a fun addition to seeing amazing sites.

School kids photo with curious cat

Now I suppose some people may try to explain that Curious Cat isn’t a celebrity in Yogyakarta, but I think they are just jealous. Sure lots of other people seemed to be asked to be in photos during my visit. I determined they must just be celebrities I didn’t notice (how many people would recognize me after all?).

I just imagine the Indonesian tourists in the Yogyakarta area are very observant and appreciate internet celebrities (even super minor ones).

I suppose an alternative explanation might be they just liked having foreigners in their photos to show friends. That might seem a bit odd but most things we do seem a bit odd if you have to explain it to someone. Why do we take photos with even more famous celebrities than me? Why do we share photos of our cats sitting in boxes? Why do we post photos of our lunch on Instagram? Why do we like to get together with our friends while each of us texts with other friends using our smart phones?

I enjoyed being able to do people a favor just by being in their photo. I like to help people especially when it doesn’t require I suffer much. I don’t know why the girls in this photo wanted a photo. They didn’t speak English so I could get answers from them. But they were at a very minor temple, Candi Sambisara. During the time I was there only one other couple that showed up, who were also celebrities (based on the girls getting photos with them too) – they were too far away for me to recognize them.

I suppose in this instance it might be some sort of exercise to get kids to practice interacting with people. They spoke a few words of English. If so, it seems kind of silly, but lots of what I was put through in school was pretty silly. Or maybe they just thought it was a fun way to hang out with their friends and occasionally go get photos with whoever came to this minor temple.

The other asking to have me in photos were usually from people I think were tourists from other parts of Indonesia. It was definitely a concentration of such request that I don’t normally see. I do occasionally get such requests, as I travel. Usually I think just people having a bit of fun interacting with other people. But they are rare, in my trip to China it happened once.

The more remote your destination and the fewer tourist the more likely for people to be interested in just you as a stand in for something but not anything significant (so basically a stand in for a celebrity), I find. Which is one thing I find out about it being common in Yogyakarta, there are tons of tourists for the amazing Borobudur and so much more.

My other experience with drawing crowds just to see me and be around me was in the Sahel (Niger and Burkino Faso). My brother and I were distinctly rare – white kids. White adults were rare there, but kids extremely so; I would imagine rare enough we easily could have been the first ones any of the kids saw and even maybe even so for the adults in many of the places we went.

Related: Jianshui Market in Yunnan, ChinaPrambanan Temple, YogyakartaPura Dalem Desa Pakraman, Ubud, Bali

Grand Mosque of Shadian, Yunnan, China

Grand Mosque of Shadian in Gejiu City, Yunnan, China is one of the largest mosques in China. The mosque can hold 10,000 people for prayers. It is patterned after the Nabawi Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Grand Mosque of Shadian, Yunnan, China

One of the things I enjoy about traveling is the exploring local areas and finding interesting sites that were not what drew you to an area. All the photos are by me during my visit in 2013 (see more photos by John Hunter).

The Mosque of Shadian was established here during the Ming Dynasty (1488-1505). According to the plaque it has remained in service since, though with several destructions of the buildings. The version of the mosque seen in the photos was completed in 2010.

view of the prayer room on the Grand Mosque of Shadian

Grand Hall, prayer room

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Sunday Market, Chiang Mai Thailand

I see the Sunday Market in Chiang Mai, Thailand as a well done attraction created for tourists. The stalls are selling mainly items of interest to tourists and food.

artist drawing a customer

I really like that photo. Here is a similar photo my dad took of an artist drawing my brother (when he was a kid) and we were visiting Rome, Italy. There are a group of about 5 artists drawing portraits in the center of the street.

street crowd

The street was quite packed. Starting just before sunset seems wise (based on my reading) and it worked for me. Others say it gets more crowded later – and it was plenty crowded while I was there. The Sunday market (also called the Walking Street Market) covers from Tha Pae gate to Wat Phra Singh on Ratchadamnoen Road.

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Multi-city Airline Reservations

I have made multi-city reservations in the past and doing so was significantly or marginally cheaper than individual tickets for each leg of the journey.

For my next trip I plan to stop over in Bangkok for several days and then fly up to Chiang Mai, Thailand. The prices of airplane tickets in South East Asia are pretty good in my opinion. And these were fine too.

But I found a multi-city ticket was double what the same sites quote for buying the tickets separately. That seems pretty bizarre to me. I am not really sure what is driving that. I mean I could imagine they get tied up with what airlines will cooperate on the multi-city venture but I figured if none would they would just create an itinerary piecing together unrelated tickets. But that appears not to be true, or something weird is going on. Is this a common thing with multi-city trips in SE Asia?

It is also a joy to fly in South East Asia compared the horrendous mess the USA has made out of air travel. Flying in the USA just keeps getting more and more atrocious. It isn’t like travel in SE Asia is really so wonderful, but in comparison it is.

I prefer Hipmunk. I’ll also try airlines directly. I have read people suggesting Google travel search so I tried that. It did provide one cheaper (10%) flight that Hipmunk missed, otherwise they seem to find identical flights. It does seem like Google’s one is much faster, but I still really like Hipmunk (I would like it even more if I could just register with them and have all my pay, details etc. stored with them and they deal with the airline but even as it is it is decent).

Do people have suggestions about plane reservations in SE Asia? Now that I am going nomad I’ll travel much more. Are you wise to lock things in a month in advance, or what? Any special need to lock things in for the December period in Thailand this year?

Related: Finding Places to Stay to Stay with Decent wifiKhao Lak, ThailandDigital Nomad Guide to Chiang Mai

Going Nomad in SE Asia

I am planning on trying out the nomad lifestyle for awhile in SE Asia (and maybe a bit further afield – Japan, Australia…).

I need to work while I am traveling and for me that requires a reliable “broadband” connection. Even just 1 Mbps is acceptable as long as it is reliable, though 5 Mbps is better. I need to use a out 1 Gb a day. I work from my condo now and plan to work from my room as I travel (working from a coffee shop or shared location won’t work for me).

I plan to visit places for 1 to 3 months such as: Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand (Chiang Mai maybe elsewhere), Bali (Ubud probably), Japan… I’ll do tourist stuff and travel around in countries while visiting.

Internet options, wifi at hotel or serviced apartment good?
Cambodia
city (Siem Reap?, Phnom Penh?):

Indonesia
Bali (Ubud probably):

Malaysia
Kuching:
(maybe Langkawi, Penang)

Thailand
Chiang Mai: Curious Cat Digital Nomad Guide to Chiang Mai (as I am planing on going their next I am collecting and sharing what I find here)
maybe elsewhere:

Vietnam
city (Hoi An?):

Japan

Questions (if you have any ideas, please leave a comment):
What kind of wifi can I expect in the various countries and cities in a budget hotel or serviced apartment? For good wifi/internet are there specific lodgings suggested?
Would a mobile cell phone plan be best for certain countries cities? Reliable, good bandwidth, not very expensive for 1-2 Gb of data a day? I am assuming tethering from an iPad mini to my laptop won’t be an issue, right?
Will I have trouble traveling to any country with just a plane ticket in, but without purchasing the next plan ticket?
Which countries offer visa on arrival (for USA)? Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand do. Vietnam seems to require something in advance, I am looking into the details.
What will cost of budget (but not super cheap) hotel or service apartment be? $1,000 to $1,500 is fine for a nice place. Tips on looking for options in each location?
How do people deal with the limited amount of physical mail (and things like businesses that require an address and occasionally mail something that might be needed)?
Co-working spaces, hacker spaces, startup meetups etc. for each location (to meet others, I prefer to work in my room)?
Blogs and websites for each location?
Good times of year, or times to avoid for each location?