A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: RNRiggins

The Sagrada Familia of Thailand - White Temple

The White Temple is a contemporary, unconventional, privately-owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai Province; it is owned by Chalermchai Kositpipat, who designed, constructed, and opened it to visitors in 1997

The White Temple is a contemporary, unconventional, privately-owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai Province; it is owned by Chalermchai Kositpipat, who designed, constructed, and opened it to visitors in 1997

All the exteriors were covered in white plaster with glass inserts; the glass was used as a symbol of the wisdom of Buddha, and the white color represents the purity of the deity

All the exteriors were covered in white plaster with glass inserts; the glass was used as a symbol of the wisdom of Buddha, and the white color represents the purity of the deity

This wishing well is like a carnival game since visitors are told that their wish will only come true if their coin lands in the top tray; when a coin misses (which most do), they just toss in more coins

This wishing well is like a carnival game since visitors are told that their wish will only come true if their coin lands in the top tray; when a coin misses (which most do), they just toss in more coins

The temple, like all of the others I've visited, does a fantastic job of raising money; the ceiling of this walkway is made up of metal hearts each of which cost $1 and donors could write their name or a message on it

The temple, like all of the others I've visited, does a fantastic job of raising money; the ceiling of this walkway is made up of metal hearts each of which cost $1 and donors could write their name or a message on it

In front of the bridge to the main temple are hundreds of outreaching hands that symbolize unrestrained desire; the bridge proclaims that the way to happiness is by foregoing temptation, greed, and desire

In front of the bridge to the main temple are hundreds of outreaching hands that symbolize unrestrained desire; the bridge proclaims that the way to happiness is by foregoing temptation, greed, and desire

I didn't know who many of the modern characters were but there were plenty of superheroes; the temple is only 13 kms south of Chiang Rai

I didn't know who many of the modern characters were but there were plenty of superheroes; the temple is only 13 kms south of Chiang Rai

This particular temple houses a gift shop and a small museum showing works by the artist; most of our tour group thought the temple was sacrilegious but our tour guide said people just view it as art

This particular temple houses a gift shop and a small museum showing works by the artist; most of our tour group thought the temple was sacrilegious but our tour guide said people just view it as art

The golden building contains the restrooms and represents the body; the gold symbolizes how people focus on worldly desires and money

The golden building contains the restrooms and represents the body; the gold symbolizes how people focus on worldly desires and money

Admission to the temple is $1.50 for foreigners but is free to Thai residents; the area adjacent to the temple will be a center of learning and meditation for people to gain benefit from the Buddhist teachings

Admission to the temple is $1.50 for foreigners but is free to Thai residents; the area adjacent to the temple will be a center of learning and meditation for people to gain benefit from the Buddhist teachings

Inside the main temple, the decor shifts from pristine white to fiery and bewildering; murals depict swirling orange flames and demon faces, interspersed with Western idols such as Michael Jackson, Freddy Krueger, and a T-800 series Terminator

Inside the main temple, the decor shifts from pristine white to fiery and bewildering; murals depict swirling orange flames and demon faces, interspersed with Western idols such as Michael Jackson, Freddy Krueger, and a T-800 series Terminator

I just loved this traffic/construction cone!; our visit to the temple was brief but a much needed break on the long drive from Chiang Mai to the Laos border

I just loved this traffic/construction cone!; our visit to the temple was brief but a much needed break on the long drive from Chiang Mai to the Laos border

Another cool way to get people to make donations; this tree is made up of metal hearts which people have bought for $1 each

Another cool way to get people to make donations; this tree is made up of metal hearts which people have bought for $1 each

The temple was damaged by an earthquake on May 5, 2014; the buildings were found to be structurally unharmed but they required significant cosmetic work

The temple was damaged by an earthquake on May 5, 2014; the buildings were found to be structurally unharmed but they required significant cosmetic work

Every detail carries meaning; the bridge is the cycle of rebirth and the Gate of Heaven encourages visitors to reflect on Buddhist teachings that show the way to escape from the worldly temptations and focus on the mind instead

Every detail carries meaning; the bridge is the cycle of rebirth and the Gate of Heaven encourages visitors to reflect on Buddhist teachings that show the way to escape from the worldly temptations and focus on the mind instead

All of the trees had these creepy skulls hanging from them; they supposedly represent real people (living or dead) but the significance was never explained to us

All of the trees had these creepy skulls hanging from them; they supposedly represent real people (living or dead) but the significance was never explained to us

The artist considers the temple to be an offering to Lord Buddha and believes the project will give him immortal life; today the works are ongoing, but are not expected to be completed until 2070

The artist considers the temple to be an offering to Lord Buddha and believes the project will give him immortal life; today the works are ongoing, but are not expected to be completed until 2070

Posted by RNRiggins 14:01 Comments (0)

Kanazawa's Kenrokuen Garden showcases beauty of Japan

Most of our group at Kenrokuen Garden; our group has no smokers and those 65 years old and over got in free

Most of our group at Kenrokuen Garden; our group has no smokers and those 65 years old and over got in free

This fountain, built in 1861, is the oldest in Japan and uses water from Kasumigaike Pond; as the pond is located at a higher point compared to the fountain, it creates natural water pressure which causes the water to be sprayed upwards 3.5m

This fountain, built in 1861, is the oldest in Japan and uses water from Kasumigaike Pond; as the pond is located at a higher point compared to the fountain, it creates natural water pressure which causes the water to be sprayed upwards 3.5m

I just loved the Kenrokuen chrysanthemum cherry trees which bloom slightly later than traditional cherry trees; each blossom on these trees has 300  petals, just like a chrysanthemum

I just loved the Kenrokuen chrysanthemum cherry trees which bloom slightly later than traditional cherry trees; each blossom on these trees has 300+ petals, just like a chrysanthemum

The Kenrokuen Garden is considered one of the most beautiful, strolling  landscape gardens in Japan; Kanazawa was the second largest city in Japan (after Kyoto) to escape bombing in World War 2

The Kenrokuen Garden is considered one of the most beautiful, strolling landscape gardens in Japan; Kanazawa was the second largest city in Japan (after Kyoto) to escape bombing in World War 2

On November 1st, gardeners begin setting up the famous ropes that protect the pine branches from heavy snowfall; the beautiful circus tent-like structures are a famous sight in Kanazawa

On November 1st, gardeners begin setting up the famous ropes that protect the pine branches from heavy snowfall; the beautiful circus tent-like structures are a famous sight in Kanazawa

This 5 1/2 meter tall bronze statue of a legendary prince was built in the Meiji Era, 1880, and is said to be the first portrait bronze statue in Japan

This 5 1/2 meter tall bronze statue of a legendary prince was built in the Meiji Era, 1880, and is said to be the first portrait bronze statue in Japan

Kenrokuen has the 6 attributes required for a perfect Japanese garden - grandness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, waterways and lookout views; admission is a bargain at just $3

Kenrokuen has the 6 attributes required for a perfect Japanese garden - grandness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, waterways and lookout views; admission is a bargain at just $3

Throughout Japan, I saw gorgeous rhododendrons and azaleas blooming, with the color of this azalea being my favorite; there are 100  rhododendron species in Japan

Throughout Japan, I saw gorgeous rhododendrons and azaleas blooming, with the color of this azalea being my favorite; there are 100+ rhododendron species in Japan

The Neagarinomatsu Pine, planted in 1856, is famous for its raised roots; it's fascinating to see the level of care given to the old trees and every minute detail of the garden

The Neagarinomatsu Pine, planted in 1856, is famous for its raised roots; it's fascinating to see the level of care given to the old trees and every minute detail of the garden

Flying Wild Geese Bridge is made of 11 paving stones laid out to look like wild geese flying in formation; the garden covers only 25 acres and was founded in the 1620s

Flying Wild Geese Bridge is made of 11 paving stones laid out to look like wild geese flying in formation; the garden covers only 25 acres and was founded in the 1620s

Kanazawa is most famous for being home to Kenrokuen Garden, one of the three great gardens of Japan; Kenrokuen contains roughly 8,750 trees, and 183 species of plants in total

Kanazawa is most famous for being home to Kenrokuen Garden, one of the three great gardens of Japan; Kenrokuen contains roughly 8,750 trees, and 183 species of plants in total

The Kotoji Toro, a two-legged stone lantern that is one of the most well-known symbols of the Kenrokuen Gardens; the relatively small garden can be seen easily in an hour

The Kotoji Toro, a two-legged stone lantern that is one of the most well-known symbols of the Kenrokuen Gardens; the relatively small garden can be seen easily in an hour

Kenrokuen is located just outside the gates of Kanazawa Castle where it originally formed the outer garden; despite the crowds, this was my favorite garden in Japan

Kenrokuen is located just outside the gates of Kanazawa Castle where it originally formed the outer garden; despite the crowds, this was my favorite garden in Japan

Kenrokuen was planned masterfully and looks amazing no matter the season; the winter scenes I saw with heavy snow on the pine branches were spectacular

Kenrokuen was planned masterfully and looks amazing no matter the season; the winter scenes I saw with heavy snow on the pine branches were spectacular

Posted by RNRiggins 09:25 Comments (0)

Sun Island is the largest resort in the gorgeous Maldives

With lots of bureaucracy, I was able to take a couple of day trips to the Sun Island Resort for $45; it is the largest resort in the Maldives and captures everything you imagine the Maldives to be

With lots of bureaucracy, I was able to take a couple of day trips to the Sun Island Resort for $45; it is the largest resort in the Maldives and captures everything you imagine the Maldives to be

This hawksbill sea turtle was the only turtle I saw at Sun Island and lingered so long that eventually I left it alone; I saw several turtles, some significantly larger, off of Maamigili Island

This hawksbill sea turtle was the only turtle I saw at Sun Island and lingered so long that eventually I left it alone; I saw several turtles, some significantly larger, off of Maamigili Island

The overwater bungalows at Sun Island were not as attractive as some I've seen; these had 3 windowless walls with just a sliding glass door in back leading to a porch and steps down to the sea

The overwater bungalows at Sun Island were not as attractive as some I've seen; these had 3 windowless walls with just a sliding glass door in back leading to a porch and steps down to the sea

I saw quite a few reef sharks during my visit; I swam out beyond the reef into deep water and stayed a long time searching for a whale shark but with no success

I saw quite a few reef sharks during my visit; I swam out beyond the reef into deep water and stayed a long time searching for a whale shark but with no success

This small moray eel seemed confused and vulnerable out in the open; it was the only eel I saw during lots of swimming

This small moray eel seemed confused and vulnerable out in the open; it was the only eel I saw during lots of swimming

If I was travelling with someone with whom I could split room costs, then Sun Island would be a good option; room vary from garden bungalows with no view to the Presidential Suites overwater

If I was travelling with someone with whom I could split room costs, then Sun Island would be a good option; room vary from garden bungalows with no view to the Presidential Suites overwater

One of two lionfish I saw during my week in the Maldives; lionfish are very rare to spot in the Maldives, but they are deadly if you get bitten by its poisonous sting and medical care is not obtained fast

One of two lionfish I saw during my week in the Maldives; lionfish are very rare to spot in the Maldives, but they are deadly if you get bitten by its poisonous sting and medical care is not obtained fast

Orange-lined triggerfish; the Maldives is one of the world's most geographically dispersed sovereign states as well as the smallest Asian country by land area and population, with around 427,756 inhabitants

Orange-lined triggerfish; the Maldives is one of the world's most geographically dispersed sovereign states as well as the smallest Asian country by land area and population, with around 427,756 inhabitants

On days when the weather was stormy there was absolutely nothing to do on Maamigili; much of the land on the small island is dedicated to farming with eggplants, peppers and squash the most common crops

On days when the weather was stormy there was absolutely nothing to do on Maamigili; much of the land on the small island is dedicated to farming with eggplants, peppers and squash the most common crops

Snake sea cucumber; sometimes growing as long as 3 m (10 ft), it is one of the longest sea cucumber species in the world

Snake sea cucumber; sometimes growing as long as 3 m (10 ft), it is one of the longest sea cucumber species in the world

I saw a couple of large spotted eagle rays while swimming but didn't capture a decent photo of them; despite being a large resort there were plenty of places to have a beach all to yourself

I saw a couple of large spotted eagle rays while swimming but didn't capture a decent photo of them; despite being a large resort there were plenty of places to have a beach all to yourself

Picasso triggerfish; Sun Island Resort is on South Ari Atoll which is 1.6 km long by 400 m wide; I was surprised that there were very few Asians at the resort but guests were almost all European

Picasso triggerfish; Sun Island Resort is on South Ari Atoll which is 1.6 km long by 400 m wide; I was surprised that there were very few Asians at the resort but guests were almost all European

Threadfin butterflyfish; in 1998, sea-temperature warming of as much as <dfn title='41°F'>5 °C</dfn> (<dfn title='-13°C'>9.0 °F</dfn>) due to a single El Niño phenomenon event caused coral bleaching, killing two-thirds of the nation's coral reefs

Threadfin butterflyfish; in 1998, sea-temperature warming of as much as 5 °C (9.0 °F) due to a single El Niño phenomenon event caused coral bleaching, killing two-thirds of the nation's coral reefs

In 2016, the coral reefs of the Maldives experienced a severe bleaching incident; up to 95% o coral around some islands has died,. the surface water temperatures reached an all;ttme high in 2016, at 88 degrees

In 2016, the coral reefs of the Maldives experienced a severe bleaching incident; up to 95% of coral around some islands has died,. the surface water temperatures reached an all;ttme high in 2016, at 88 degrees

Shoal of convict surgeonfish; there is a dive shop on Sun Island but there was no info on dive options on their website and I saw only a few divers in the whale shark areas

Shoal of convict surgeonfish; there is a dive shop on Sun Island but there was no info on dive options on their website and I saw only a few divers in the whale shark areas

Blue-lined surgeonfish; with an average ground-level elevation of 4 ft 11 in above sea level, the Maldives is the world's lowest country, with even its highest natural point being the lowest in the world, at 17 ft

Blue-lined surgeonfish; with an average ground-level elevation of 4 ft 11 in above sea level, the Maldives is the world's lowest country, with even its highest natural point being the lowest in the world, at 17 ft

If you're interested in visiting the Maldives, Sun Island is a good option; it's relatively easy to reach, has lots of lodging options  and has picturesque beaches and a nice variety of activities

If you're interested in visiting the Maldives, Sun Island is a good option; it's relatively easy to reach, has lots of lodging options and has picturesque beaches and a nice variety of activities

There are more than 1000 employees at Sun Island with most in jobs keeping the island and facilities clean; most guests use bicycles to get around since the island is pretty big

There are more than 1000 employees at Sun Island with most in jobs keeping the island and facilities clean; most guests use bicycles to get around since the island is pretty big

Juvenile batfish; interesting transformation as this tall fish becomes more of a round fish as an adult; this was the only juvenile I saw despite seeing plenty of adults

Juvenile batfish; interesting transformation as this tall fish becomes more of a round fish as an adult; this was the only juvenile I saw despite seeing plenty of adults

Parrotfish; most of the staff are from India or Sri Lanka and I found the resort unusually inefficient and bureaucratic unlike the first resort I visited in the Maldives

Parrotfish; most of the staff are from India or Sri Lanka and I found the resort unusually inefficient and bureaucratic unlike the first resort I visited in the Maldives

With 2 people sharing a room, there are times when Sun Island could be a reasonable option for visiting the Maldives; however, food prices are quite steep and you are captive to eating at resort restaurants since they are the only options

With 2 people sharing a room, there are times when Sun Island could be a reasonable option for visiting the Maldives; however, food prices are quite steep and you are captive to eating at resort restaurants since they are the only options

Blackwedged butterflyfish; there were lots of tropical fish I saw but that were too deep and/or too fast to photograph well

Blackwedged butterflyfish; there were lots of tropical fish I saw but that were too deep and/or too fast to photograph well

School of batfish; the island was extremely clean and grounds well-tended with a large, outdoor pool area

School of batfish; the island was extremely clean and grounds well-tended with a large, outdoor pool area

Arrival at Sun Island is by speed boat at the end of this long pier; my last day had perfect weather although it was quite windy which caused underwater visibility to be diminished

Arrival at Sun Island is by speed boat at the end of this long pier; my last day had perfect weather although it was quite windy which caused underwater visibility to be diminished

Posted by RNRiggins 01:17 Comments (0)

Cu Chi Tunnels - Vietnamese ingenuity on display

Our guide showed us how the Vietnamese devised clever ways to hide access to the tunnel system; today, more than a million tourists visit the Cu Chi Tunnel System each year

Our guide showed us how the Vietnamese devised clever ways to hide access to the tunnel system; today, more than a million tourists visit the Cu Chi Tunnel System each year

We had just come through a stretch of the tunnel here; I had to crawl on all fours and was quite glad that the tunnels no longer had rats, venomous  centipedes or snakes

We had just come through a stretch of the tunnel here; I had to crawl on all fours and was quite glad that the tunnels no longer had rats, venomous centipedes or snakes

Most of the time, soldiers would spend the day in the tunnels working or resting and come out only at night to scavenge for supplies, tend their crops, or engage the enemy in battle

Most of the time, soldiers would spend the day in the tunnels working or resting and come out only at night to scavenge for supplies, tend their crops, or engage the enemy in battle

Located 60 kms NW of Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi tunnel network is an extensive labyrinth stretching to the Cambodian border; they were built over 25 years beginning in 1948 by the Viet Minh during the war against the French

Located 60 kms NW of Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi tunnel network is an extensive labyrinth stretching to the Cambodian border; they were built over 25 years beginning in 1948 by the Viet Minh during the war against the French

This woman is making traditional rice paper that was used to wrap around food much like a tortilla; there were numerous employees, like her, that demonstrated trades and skills used during the war

This woman is making traditional rice paper that was used to wrap around food much like a tortilla; there were numerous employees, like her, that demonstrated trades and skills used during the war

The tunnel site had a shooting range where tourists can fire AK 47s, M30 and M60 machine guns and M16s; the noise from the range was deafening as we walked by

The tunnel site had a shooting range where tourists can fire AK 47s, M30 and M60 machine guns and M16s; the noise from the range was deafening as we walked by

Not only were the tunnels home for thousands of Viet Cong guerrillas, but they were also a complicated network of trenches, bunkers, booby traps, bomb shelters and an amazing air ventilation system

Not only were the tunnels home for thousands of Viet Cong guerrillas, but they were also a complicated network of trenches, bunkers, booby traps, bomb shelters and an amazing air ventilation system

The tunnel complex was very well organized and effectively presented; given the size of most tourists these days the tunnels have been enlarged from their original size

The tunnel complex was very well organized and effectively presented; given the size of most tourists these days the tunnels have been enlarged from their original size

The Vietnamese used bamboo for many critical functions including building and for water; the Cu Chi Tunnels were the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968

The Vietnamese used bamboo for many critical functions including building and for water; the Cu Chi Tunnels were the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968

We watched a propaganda film which definitely showed a pro-Vietnamese bias but it was hard to defend what the Americans did here; the tunnel system is an amazing 250 km long!

We watched a propaganda film which definitely showed a pro-Vietnamese bias but it was hard to defend what the Americans did here; the tunnel system is an amazing 250 km long!

The shoes may look the same but the shoe on the bottom is designed to confuse the enemy; the wearer creates footprints going in the wrong direction!

The shoes may look the same but the shoe on the bottom is designed to confuse the enemy; the wearer creates footprints going in the wrong direction!

Posted by RNRiggins 05:15 Comments (0)

Varanasi-Holiest of Hindu cities was unbearable

Varanasi, a city of 1.5  million, lies on the Ganges River; Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here around 528 BCE when he gave his first sermon

Varanasi, a city of 1.5+ million, lies on the Ganges River; Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here around 528 BCE when he gave his first sermon

The group took sunset and sunrise boat trips on the Ganges without me since I was suffering from a severe and prolonged case of Delhi belly

The group took sunset and sunrise boat trips on the Ganges without me since I was suffering from a severe and prolonged case of Delhi belly

The Manikarnika Ghat, one of the oldest in Varanasi; according to Hinduism, it is believed that a dead human's soul finds salvation, when cremated here

The Manikarnika Ghat, one of the oldest in Varanasi; according to Hinduism, it is believed that a dead human's soul finds salvation, when cremated here

The trash and filth were indescribable in Varanasi; for such an important religious site you might expect the faithful to keep it clean but many are very poor and the infrastructure here is minimal

The trash and filth were indescribable in Varanasi; for such an important religious site you might expect the faithful to keep it clean but many are very poor and the infrastructure here is minimal

Hindus believe that death in Varanasi will bring salvation, making it a major center for pilgrimage; the city is known worldwide for its many ghats, embankments made in steps of stone slabs along the river bank where pilgrims perform ritual ablutions

Hindus believe that death in Varanasi will bring salvation, making it a major center for pilgrimage; the city is known worldwide for its many ghats, embankments made in steps of stone slabs along the river bank where pilgrims perform ritual ablutions

Indian Prime Minister Modi represents Varanasi; the old town features narrow alleys full of trash and excrement where you constantly had to keep your mouth closed due to flies

Indian Prime Minister Modi represents Varanasi; the old town features narrow alleys full of trash and excrement where you constantly had to keep your mouth closed due to flies

Varanasi has at least 84 ghats, most of which are used for bathing by pilgrims and for the spiritually significant Hindu puja ceremony; each ghat is associated with a particular temple (there are 23000 temples here)

Varanasi has at least 84 ghats, most of which are used for bathing by pilgrims and for the spiritually significant Hindu puja ceremony; each ghat is associated with a particular temple (there are 23000 temples here)

Locals feed the cows since there is nowhere for them to graze; of the 115 countries I've visited. I'd have to say India has been my least favorite

Locals feed the cows since there is nowhere for them to graze; of the 115 countries I've visited. I'd have to say India has been my least favorite

After a sunrise boat trip on the Ganges, everyone on the tour except me took a yoga class; Jonathan accomplished his first headstand

After a sunrise boat trip on the Ganges, everyone on the tour except me took a yoga class; Jonathan accomplished his first headstand

India has been much more third world than the countries on the SE Asia tour; silk weaving is the dominant industry in Varanasi with nearly half a million Muslims working as weavers, dyers, sari finishers, and salespersons

India has been much more third world than the countries on the SE Asia tour; silk weaving is the dominant industry in Varanasi with nearly half a million Muslims working as weavers, dyers, sari finishers, and salespersons

Bodies are being cremated at this ghat; like other large Indian cities, Varanasi is loud, crowded and chaotic; the locals seemed used to it but for me it was overwhelming

Bodies are being cremated at this ghat; like other large Indian cities, Varanasi is loud, crowded and chaotic; the locals seemed used to it but for me it was overwhelming

Posted by RNRiggins 02:36 Comments (1)

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