Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie Ice Caves Hike 

A beautiful hike through the forest to view the Big Four Mountain and caves beneath the snow. 

Location: North Cascades – Mountain Loop Highway 

Lengh: 2.2 miles, round-trip

Difficulty: Easy

Driving directions :

From 1-5 in Everett, take exit 194 for Snohomish /Wenatchee, then take exit 204 for Lake Stevens. Turn left after 2 miles onto highway 9/9N Granite Falls, then onto Quarry Road. At the stop sign turn left onto the Mountain Loop Highway. Continue until you get to a signpost for the Ice Caves Trailhead. Here you will find a parking lot and toilets, as well as a self service pay station for a Northwest Forest Pass, which is required for the trail. 

Start at the parking lot and follow the the pathway through the woods.

  There is a aluminium bridge over the Stillaguamish River. The bridge was built to withstand flooding.

 In a few steps you will cross Ice Creek, just before it flows into the Stillaguamish. 

The path continues on a gentle upward grade through the forest. 

Continuing on, the trail breaks out into an open meadow. Here you have a good view of the Big Four Mountain, ice caves  and waterfalls.

The trail ends in a circle of rocks perfect for admiring the caves, mountain and waterfalls. 

Beautiful flowers to admire along the way 🌻🌼🌸

Don’t go near the caves, it is very dangerous. People have been killed here. 

Seattle – Pike Place Market 

Pike Place Market opened in 1907, and is one of the oldest continuesly operated markets in the USA. 

The Pike Place Starbucks, commonly called the Original Starbucks. 

Beecher’s Cheese is an artisan cheesemaker and retail shop. The location includes a small glass-walled factory and café. 

Rachel the market pig receives about $9000 annually. The money is used to fund social services. 

The Gum Wall is a brick wall in Post Alley and is covered in used chewing gum. It was cleaned in November 2015 for the first time in 20 years. It did not stay clean for long. 

Post Alley

Coffee at Storyville

Peonies for the kitchen table 

 Colorful fruit and vegetables 🍆🌶️

Salmon for dinner 

To the Waterfront

The Waterfront overlooking Elliot Bay. 

Harbor Steps

Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve

Hiking in a scenic environment with unique rock formations.

Paarl is named after its 3 unusual  granite rocks – Paarl, Bretagne and Gordon Rocks – which date back more than 500 million years – the second largest granite outcrop in the world.

In 1657 Abraham Gabemma set out inland from Cape Town to search for new meat resources. It was after a rainstorm when he saw a mountain in the distance, with a giant granite rock which glistened like a wet pearl in the sun. He named the mountain “Peerleberg” (Pearl Mountain), which later became Paarl Mountain and the town that evolved at its base was named Paarl.

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The town of Paarl is about 60 km from central Cape Town along the N1 Highway. Take the Paarl Main Road turnoff from the N1 (exit 55 for R45), continue for about 1,5 km and turn left onto Jan Phillips Mountain Drive, a gravel road. The road was opened in 1928 and was built by Jan Philips, a well-known wagon builder. Follow the road up the mountain until a T-junction, where one turns right towards the Millwater (Meulwater) Wild Flower Garden and picnic site. You can park your car here and start exploring. No entrance fee from here.20170513_095645.jpg

There is a number of trails criss crossing the reserve, ranging from 2.5 up to 10km. The most impressive is the hike up Bretagne rock, with chains to help you along. You can  start your hike up the hill from the toilets in the braai area and follow the white painted foot prints. It should take you about 2 hours out and back, depending on how much exploring you do. Do wear shoes with a good grip and a warm jacket. It could be very windy on top of the granite outcrops. Bring water and snacks when entering from Meulwater as there is no shop.

We started our hike through the magical wild flower garden. The garden was established just before World War II, by the Paarl Beautifying Society.20170513_101601.jpg

After a rather steep walk we came to a gate and Jeep track which we followed for about 4 km, with proteas and fynbos to admire.20170513_103613.jpg

At the Paarl Rock view point, we headed towards Bretagne and Gordon Rocks. Bretagne Rock looked very intimidating, but I made it to the top with the help of chains. Impressive 360 degree views from here. We even saw Table Mountain. And 2 of the 3 dams, Nantes and Bethel, which form part of a historic water purification system, supplying water to the town of Paarl since the 1800’s. And it was picnic time!!20170513_113221

Gordon’s Rock is for the serious rock climbers!20170513_120946.jpg

After a slow decent we went to Paarl Rock.20170514_191503

Here the old cannon which was used to signal the arrival of ships in Table Bay harbour, can still be seen. This particular cannon was stationed on a lookout point on the western side of Paarl Mountain. Some time after the Battle of Blaauwberg (1806) the cannon was removed, and dragged with a team of oxen to its present position on Paarl Rock.20170513_123015.jpg

Interesting and scary rock formations!20170513_124439.jpg

And to end the day off on a high note, a coffee and a chat..20170513_133233.jpg

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Walking Phnom Penh

I prefer to walk while exploring  a new city. And this is what I did when I visited Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, in November 2016. But it was hot, very hot. And the traffic was hectic. If I had to do it again I would most probably hire a tuk-tuk.

Here are a few sights of the city:

    • The Independence Museum: This 20 meter Angkorian style tower, shaped in the form of a lotus, was built in 1958 to celebrate Cambodia’s independence from France.20161110_141213.jpg
    • Statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk: He was the King of Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and again from 1993 to 2004, and was known as The King-Father of Cambodia. The same man that is featured on the Riel notes.20161110_140628.jpg
    • The Park in front of the Royal Palace.20161110_122707
    • A Mojito at The Foreign Correspondence Club overlooking the Tonle Sap River. Pulitzer Prize winner, Sydney Schanberg and Khmer Rouge survivor, Dith Pran both stayed at this Colonial Styled building, along with many other  journalists, politicians and movie stars throughout the years. 20161110_124531
    • A cow statue at Wat Ounalom. This Watt (temple) is the headquarters of Cambodian Buddhism and was founded in 1443. It is located along the Sisowath Quay on the riverfront.20161116_140135
    • Monks – Buddhism is the official religion in Cambodia which is practiced by 95 percent of the population. Throughout Cambodia, Buddhist monks are held in high regard, not only as religious leaders but for their traditional role of helping those most in need. Cambodia is a poor country. Choosing the life of a monk brings with it access to safe accommodation, food and education. Every Buddhist male is expected to become a “monk” for a short period in his life. This is seen as a rite of passage to adulthood. A small proportion of them will take forever vows and will become ordained monks. IMG_20170130_181957_141
    • Street Vendors – These are the seed pods from the lotus flower. The seeds can be eaten raw, dried or cooked. In the raw form it is delicious as a snack.20161116_134640
    • The Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument –   It was built in the late 1970s by the communist regime that took power after the Cambodian-Vietnamese War, which overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime. The monument is located at the Botum Park not far from the Royal Palace. It features statues of Vietnamese and Cambodian soldiers, together with images of a woman and baby representing Cambodian civilians.Cambodian- Vietnam friendahip museum.jpg
    • Wat Langka – situated on the busy Sihanouk Boulevard. It is reputedly one of Phnom Penh’s five original Watts (1422). First established as a sanctuary for the Holy Writings and a meeting place for Cambodian and Sri Lankan monks, the Watt was named in honour of these meetings.Wat Langka (3)
    • In the streets

Bus travel in Cambodia

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I decided to travel by bus in Cambodia because:

  1. Passenger train service was non-existed when I travelled, but there are now passenger trains running only on weekends and public holidays.  Although plans are in the works for a country-wide network, the train service is currently limited to four destinations, running from Phnom Penh via Takeo and Kampot, terminating in Sihanoukville.
  2. The bus was way cheaper than flying.
  3. Interesting country scenery along the way.
  4. Hassel-free border crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam.

After some research I decided on Giant Ibis Bus Service. They offer rest room and restaurant stops along the way, free Wi-Fi, electrical outlets to charge your phone, air-con, complimentary pastries and water and a complimentary pickup service  to passengers staying at one of their partner hotels. 20161109_220537

Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

Traveling time: about 5 hours, 30 min, price: $15. Departing 7H45, 8H45 and 12H30 pm. Night buses at 10H30, 11H00 and 11H30 pm.  The bus will make its first stop about 160 km south of Siem Reap at Banyan Tree Restaurant, the exact half way point of the journey.  The second stop is about 60 km north of Phnom Penh. Plenty tuk-tuk drivers at the bus stop in Phnom Penh to take you to your accommodation.

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Phnom Penh to and from Kampot

Travelling time: 2 hours, 30 min, price $9. Departing 08H00 and 14H45.  Plenty tuk-tuk drivers at the bus stop to take you to your accommodation.20161109_215248.jpg

Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City

Travelling time: 6 hours, 30min, depending on the border crossing. Price $18.

Vietnam does not offer Visa on Arrival. You must have your Vietnamese entry visa in your passport or you will not be allowed to board the bus. I arranged my Vietnam visa through Mad Monkey Hostel in Phnom Penh. I handed in my passport before 17H00 at the hostel and received it the next day after 17H00, $50.

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The crew attendant will collect your passport once your on the bus. When the bus arrives as the border you will be required to get off the bus and get an exit stamp in your passport. The Crew Attendant will return your passport to you as you get off the bus and collect it from you again when you get back on.20161117_13134120161117_131717

After you’ve cleared Cambodian immigration, you will get on the bus again. The bus will drop you off at a restaurant in the duty free zone. While you enjoy lunch, the Crew Attendant will take your passports ahead to the Vietnamese immigration check point to start the process while you eat. When your Vietnamese visa has been processed, the bus will take you to the immigration check point. Here you will be required to retrieve your luggage for a scan by Vietnamese customs. Follow the Crew Attendant, pick up your passport from the immigration officer, scan your luggage, and return to the bus.20161117_162702.jpg There will be taxi’s at the bus stop in Ho Chi Minh City to take you to your accommodation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

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Angkor Wat is a temple in Cambodia and the largest religious structure in the world with the site measuring 162.6 hectares. It is about 6 km from the town of Siem Reap. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple and then gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. 20161107_140535.jpg

Angkor Wat is the reason most travellers visit Cambodia. Angkor means “city” and Wat means “temple”. It is an architectural masterpiece and  one of the most spectacular monuments in the world. It is featured on the national flag of Cambodia.

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Construction of Angkor Wat took nearly 40 years. It was built between 1113 and 1150 by King Suryavarman II in honour of the Hindu god Vishnu. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, within a 200 meter wide moat and an outer wall of 3.6 kilometres. There are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands 5 towers, shaped like lotus buds, symbolising the 5 peaks of Mount Meru, the walls and moat representing the surrounding mountains and ocean. One of the most prominent features of  Angkor Wat is its bas reliefs of feminine figures.20161107_135357

The monument was made out of 5  to 10 million sandstone blocks. The entire city used up far greater amounts of stone than all the Egyptian pyramids combined. Moreover, unlike the Egyptian pyramids which use limestone quarried  0.5 km  away, the entire city of Angkor was built with sandstone quarried 40 km away. 20161109_224820.jpg

A Portuguese monk visited Angkor Wat in the 16th century. He said that it is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it by pen. Global awareness of the temple started  in the mid 19th century. The site was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1992 .20161107_133858.jpg

I visited the Angkor Wat temple as part of the small circle tour of Angkor Wat Archaeological Park. 20161107_141356.jpg

 

Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat Archaeological Park

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Angkor Thom is huge, 9 square km huge. Inside it’s walls you will find The  Bayon, The Terrace of the Elephants, The Baphuon,  Preah Ngcoc and many more. It was the 4th site I visited  on the small circuit of Angkor. We entered through Victory Gate, drove passed The Terrace of the Elephants, parked near Preah Ngcoc and left through the South Gate. For me this ancient city was the most impressive and most beautiful of all the Angkor sites. The South Gate.jpg

Angkor Thom, meaning Great City, was the last capital of the Khmer Empire. It was built in a square, and was surrounded by a square wall, 8m high and 12km in length and further protected by a 100m-wide moat (now dry), said to have contained ferocious crocodiles. A gate opens exactly in the middle of each wall, from which a bridge extends over the moat to the area outside the city.The south Gate (7).jpg

Terrace of the Elephants is a two and a half-meter tall, 300 meter long terrace wall adorned with carved elephants. Legend had it that the King used this  platform to view his victorious returning army. It was also used as a giant reviewing stand for public ceremonies and served as a base for the king’s grand audience hall. terrace-of-the-elephants-1Terrace of the Elephants (2).jpg

The Bayon Temple is situated in the  centre of the walled city, it represents the intersection of heaven and earth. It is known for its smiling faces. Originally there were 49 towers, decorated with large carved faces looking into each of the four cardinal directions. Close to 200 faces, the largest ones being almost 2½ meters high, decorate the 37 remaining towers. This is one of the most famous buildings of Angkor.the-bayon-12

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The Baphuon, a temple built in 1066.The Baphuon (8).jpg

This three-tiered mountain temple was build in the mid eleventh century as a state temple to the king and dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. A Chinese Ambassador in the 13th century described it as a copper tower. This suggests that the temple may have been sheathed in bronze plates and must have been a truly  impressive sight.

There is an interesting, 200 meter, elevated stone pathway from the front gate to the temple.the-baphuon-10

It is a very steep  climb to the top of the temple, but you are rewarded with  panoramic views. Not so many people here.the-baphuon-1

Preah Ngoc

It is a small temple with a large seated Buddha under a pavilion. The pavilion is of recent times but the Buddha is from the 12 to 13 th century. Preah Ngoc (2).jpg

Angkor Thom is truly an impressive and astonishing site!!South Gate

I passed this group 0f disabled musicians with traditional instruments as I exit the park. They were all the victims 0f landmines.The Bayon (25)