We are standing in the dark at the base of a giant golden Buddha at 4:30am. The Buddha is framed by mountains and a wooden pagoda. I’m wearing six layers of lightweight cotton, unprepared for the near-freezing temperatures we will endure for the coming hour. Shaking, I find myself trying not to wonder why I thought staying at a temple in the mountains was a good idea.
Kyoto is Japan’s cultural center and land of many temples. Kyoto has a long history and was once Japan’s capital. It feels relaxed compared to Tokyo but, like Tokyo, it is warm and polite, clean and safe, and attentive to some of the finer details. Everything here is so visual! Traditional Japanese style says a lot with a little. Drama is presented with simple beauty and attention to detail. The message is there if you are paying attention.
On Tuesday, I returned to Siem Reap, home of magnificent Angkor Wat about 200 miles northwest of Phnom Penh. I hopped a 40 minute flight after being advised to avoid the road from Phnom Penh, which is a hot mess in spite of the billions Cambodia has paid a Chinese company for improvements.
Between the 10th and 12th centuries, the kings of the Khmer Empire built some very spectacular stuff in this part of Cambodia, which was originally called “Angkor.” Iconic Angkor Wat is the most dramatic jewel in the crown but Angkor is a 150 square mile park full of temples, each one a world treasure.
We have been happy happy happy in Chiang Mai during the three days of Loi Krathong, Thailand’s festival of lights. Loi Krathong celebrates water spirits with thousands of candle-lit lanterns set off into the skies, candle lit boats of flowers sent down the river, parades, music and fire works.