Monday, September 15, 2014

Angkor Wat - The gem in Cambodia

As one of the most corrupt developing nations in Asia, engulfed in a turbulent war until 1991, Siem Reap in Cambodia does seem like an odd choice for a vacation destination. But the gems it holds beneath the rough exterior is just too precious to miss.

  Siem Reap, Cambodia houses the largest religious monument in the world. The Ankor Wat Temple. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and then later became a Buddhist Temple. Though i had read the dimensions , imagined it quite a lot, nothing ever prepares you for the size and grandeur of the building. The moat itself threw me off with its 109m width which took me quite sometime to cross in the hot sun. The water in the moat plays an important role in holding the Temple in place. If the moat water recedes, the Temple will collapse. They had some clever architecture in the older times!

Angkorwat moat
The Temple is surrounded by moats on all four sides
Back Entrance to the Angkorwat Temple.
Back Entrance to the massive structure
Upper galleries of the AngkorWat Temple
Upper galleries of the Temple. There is a law prohibiting any other structure to be more taller than the 65m which is the height of the Temple.
Open grounds at the Angkor Wat Temple
Open grounds at the Angkor Wat Temple
Walk, walk and more walk - mantra at the Angkor Wat!

It was a very interesting experience to try and catch the sunrise from the temple. It was 4:20 AM when we reached the moat. We were welcomed to officials holding torches and checking our ID. Later, when we crossed the moat and reached the Temple itself, we were greeted to candles glowing in selected places. UNESCO has not made electricity available in the Temple to protect it. Because of this, the Temple is closed every day around 5:30PM. I wish i had read about this somewhere before searching frantically to catch a night time/ariel view of the temple from the flight at about 2AM Korean time :( Anyway, i missed getting the special sunrise shot because it was cloudy that one day i made up mind to breathe in the 4 AM air.

On the way to see a cloudy sunrise
On the way to see a cloudy sunrise 

Making the best use of a cloudy morn
Making the best use of a cloudy 4 AM
The gallery in the Angkor Wat
The gallery in the Angkor Wat
There are pools in the Temple for cleansing the body after the meditation
The Temples are grand but the pillars are bare
Sanskrit on the walls.
Sanskrit on the walls of the Temple

The Temple is built with sandstone cut and brought here from Kulen mountains that is a good 55kms from this place. They used bamboo and elephants to build it. The carvings are done are superficial and not so deep and even unfinished in a lot of places. Is it because they had to do a lot of carvings that they did not give in their 100%? "I am sure his mom was not around when he was building this one" quips my son rolling his eyes!

carvings in Angkor Wat
Unfinished and superficial but elegant carvings in the Angkor Wat Temple

Carved lotus on the ceilings of the Angkor Wat Temple
Carved lotus on the ceilings of the Angkor Wat Temple
 The carvings on the Temple were from the epics of India- Ramayana and Mahabharata including the battle between Vali and Sugreeva, the Kurukshetra war and also many Indian deities. There was a huge relief from the churning of the ocean for the nectar. This seemed to be a popular legend among the Khmer people as this legend is depicted in a lot of other places in Siem Reap. Then there were also carvings from the war campaigns of the then king Suryavarman II and also the daily life of the people.

God of Death, Yama on the walls of the Angkor Wat
God of Death, Yama on the walls of the Angkor Wat

Beautiful carvings of lotus on the walls of the Temple
Beautiful carvings of lotus on the walls of the Temple
Superficial and unfinished carvings
Unfinished carvings

Window carvings
Beautiful carvings on the window

Ramayana on the wall- King Rama
Ramayana on the wall- King Rama

Suryavarman II the king of Angkor Wat
Suryavarman II - The king who built this largest religious monument in the world. 

The Temple was built in the 12 century is not in great shape and has been protected by the UNESCO World Heritage and has been under the renovation by the Archaeological Survey of India. The Temple structure still holds but there were many places where we could see ruins.

Ruins near the temple
Ruins near the temple

Sandstone and volcanic rock in ruins near the temple
Sandstone and volcanic rock in ruins near the temple 

More ruins close to the Temple
More ruins close to the Temple

Prayer stones
Prayer stones

Lots of lotus and lilies in the lake close to the Temple
Lots of lotus and lilies in the lake close to the Temple

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Scents of Seoul

Spring just transforms the city and people alike.With the heavy coats off, the sun beginning to caress the skin with warmth, and the stark, bare trees beginning to sprout their little green shoots again, there is then the fragrance of enthusiasm and vigor in the city. Cherry blossoms, azaleas and forsythias emanate sweetness in scents and people come from far and near to rejoice in the longer, warmer days.

Cheery cherry blossoms
Cheery cherry blossoms bloom only for a week in spring

cactus budding
cactus budding

pink buds
Summertime, though, is scorching hot and humid, interlaced with thunderstorms which do not bring any respite from the hot temperatures. But the people are so cool about it and beat the heat at public parks along the Han river, sniffing the scent of rain soaked grass, ordering anything from chicken to pizza which is handed to them within the next 20 minutes! The place just revels in laziness along with the whiff of smoke from the diligent delivery guys, the energy of the people coaxing you to try their secret recipe chicken, and sweaty kids frolicking around along with the deep sense of serenity. 

ice cream in korea- big on binggsu
Binggsu- Beans on shaved ice with marshmallows and fruits. Unique combination to cool it off in Korea.
summer fun at Banpo
Summer time fun at Banpo park
Evening at Banpo
Long summer evenings

Fall, in all its color and splendor along with Chuseok~ the most important festival of honoring the ancestors in Korea~ adds in the aroma of family, friendship and camaraderie. This is also when people travel in droves through the length and breadth of the country and savor a totally different essence of the very same places, incensed with the smell of the sweet persimmon fruit.

Fall colors

fall colors in Seoul.

Sweet persimmons
Sweet Persimmons

Cold, dull winter adds yet another dimension to Seoul, transforming it into a white, icy wonderland. It is easy during this time to succumb into the toasty smell of chestnuts baked on beds of coal or the roasted sweet potato in makeshift stalls that seem to appear in every street corner. But the most satisfying smell comes from ice fishing in Seoul and immediately getting your catch on your plate, roasted, grilled or baked in spices in any of the restaurants nearby.

Early winter

Bare trees in winter

And then, there are some smell that just leaves one shell shocked. 

Fermenting soybean in huge pots
Doenjang is made from fermenting soy bean in huge pots and has a bad smell

The Doenjang (된장) or the fermented soya bean paste might have all the anti-carcinogenic properties, flavinoids, vitamins and minerals but it still smells disgusting. 

Drying fish
Drying fish

Dried Fish: Fish smell funny cooked or uncooked. But dried fish which is used as both toppings and side dish and of course, as the main course of a meal, smells really bad.

Kimbap preparation
Kim is the green, papery seaweed, used here for making kimbap. 

The See Weeds: Laver and Kim (김.) The green wonders, packed with nutrition and properties to get rid of cholesterol still smells really peculiar and the taste for it has to be cultivated ...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Smartphone accessories~ latest from Seoul

Anyone could go to COEX mall, the largest underground shopping mall in Asia, at anytime and still end up doing something fun! Visitors get to shop around in the mall, see the famous Kimchi museum, check out the huge aquarium; whereas Seoulites tend to hang around in the game area where the computer game tournaments are held or go to the movies, take a look at the latest trends in exhibition halls. People might get a bit confused as to what to eat or drink as there are so many variety of cuisines in every price range to cater to the cravings.

Last week, anyway, being gadget geeks, we naturally wanted to check out the Smart gadgets and accessories exhibition at the COEX mall.

Smart gadgets exhibition
Image from

To bypass the long lines and evade the entrance fee, it is essential to pre-register for these shows by checking out the webpages and filling out the form. Thereby, we were able to get the badges by just telling (read spelling and later writing :) our registered name. I would take a screenshot of the pre-registration form on my cellphone the next time though, to avoid spelling my name and confusion with the email addresses!

The exhibition did not have anything state of the art, but it was a good place to check out the upcoming product ideas and really cute gadgets. There were some pretty weird stuff along with some quirky ones too.

Cute thing to stuff into the ear
We started off at the ear phones booth. Cute little things to stuff into the ear!
Things that  you stuff into your ear!
Yeah, i would probably feel more comfortable knowing what i am stuffing into my ear!
shoe colored earphones
Do you match your earphones with your shoe?
Earphones at exhibition
Earphones~ To match your personality and profession.
Alien ear phones
How about the UFO flavored earphones? It is all in the box!
curvy caterpillar headphones
With earphones done, curvy caterpillar headphones can't be far behind!
Cute emoting characters on the headphone jack
Don't forget to flaunt down to your head phone jack. Cute characters that emote according to your moods
 (when you tap on the emoticon app)
Any way you want cell phone covers
Dream it? you can have it~ cellphone covers!

Lego cellphone covers
Build your own cellphone covers

Cellphone covers were jazzy but I like the variety and designs at Express bus terminal or Gmarket.
cellphone covers with a stand
Cellphone covers that make a stand!
On-the-go cellphone holders
Cellphone holders~ Recording on the go!
cellphone covers for the athlete
Cellphone holders for the athlete. Notice the cover for a sweat free usage and lights that shimmer according to the music!
Underwater cellphone covers
Just in case you want to take the call under water or browse while taking a swim, look no further...

Butterfingers cellphone holder
Holders for the butterfingers
Extra lens for the cellphone
Extra lens for the cellphone. Wide angle, macro etc
self balancing two wheel electric scooter
One thing that i would have loved to take home from the exhibition
two wheeled scooter
Self balancing two wheeled scooter
Charge transferrer
The only thing i got to buy was this cable. It transfers the charge from one cellphone to another...

Textured printer
This printer was able to print pictures with some texture.

black and white laser printer
This laser printer was able to print black and white pictures at extremely high resolution

Fit Bit-like watches that constantly track your health.

blue tooth connected weighing machines
Bluetooth connected weighing machine, as useful  add on to the health monitoring 

More cool stuff...
More cute stuff.

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