Chaoyang Park blanketed under a thick layer of fluffy snow

Beijing, Saturday the 8th of February 2020


We have been given a rare treat this winter in Beijing – two consecutive days of snow have covered the city under a fluffy white blanket. In Chaoyang Park, where we usually have our picnics during summer, the lawns are hidden below more than 10cm of snow. Taking a walk in the park is a welcome relief after days of quarantined home office to prevent the corona virus from spreading. While it isn’t airborne it is still recommended to wear face masks when mingling in larger groups of people. Fortunately, the park is still fairly deserted and it wasn’t necessary to keep your face covered. The cold air felt nice and clean and gave a much needed release after days indoors.

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Missing the island life on Gili Air

February 5, 2019

Incredible beaches of Gili Air.

It has been already a year since we visited Gili Air and spend a few incredibly relaxed days on the island. Again and again I am shocked how time flies and truly cannot imagine that our Indonesia vacation was precisely one year ago. After spending a day in Jakarta and two days exploring Bali’s hipster area Ubud, we decided on a whim to buy boat tickets to shuttle over to the Gilis, a group of three tiny islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. As the least developed of the group Gili Air is less of a party island and more an oasis of calm, which is why we chose it above the others.

Island swing on Gili Air

On the boat we booked a few nights in the Ocean’s Five diving resort, about the only larger place to stay. We would also take a two day introductory course into scuba diving here, as their diving operation is PADI certified. Ocean’s Five is located right next to Gili Air’s only “harbor” where boats drop off and take on visitors two to three times a day. Walking along the water many beachfront bars with bean bags and lounge corners invite you in to have a cocktail or a fresh coconut.

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Indonesia is famous for it’s sunrises and sunsets. We are not necessarily morning people but still prefer to rise early in order to enjoy more hours in the day. This has the added benefit that we get to experience the lonely sunrises at Gili Air and take morning swims in the shallow waters close to shore.

Sunset.

Sunrise.

Visiting legendary UNESCO world heritage temple Angkor Wat

As the world’s largest religious monument Angkor Wat is an architectural masterpiece from the Khmer period.

Disputed Preah Vihear Ruins on the Thai-Cambodian Border

Cambodia, the 27th of January 2020

Inside the Preah Vihear temple ruins.

A three hour long road trip with our local guide Oeum Rida through the Cambodian „outback“ brought us all the way to the northernmost part of the country to the Preah Vihear temple. Located at the natural border of Thailand and Cambodia atop the Dangrek mountain range, these Khmer ruins are still highly disputed by both Thai and Cambodian government. While it is only accessible from the Cambodian side as of 2015, the original entry into the temple used to be in Thailand. Despite an official ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague that the temple is located on Cambodian territory both parties continue to lay claim to the temple. After many years of refusal to accept the ruling, the Thai soldiers finally retreated, but the national flag of Thailand that had been flying over the temple was never taken down. Instead, Thai solders rather dug up the whole pole with the Thai flag still raised and relocated it to the nearby Pha Mor E Daeng cliff where it can still be seen today. In the background of the picture above you can see the tiny Thai flag flying over the neighboring mountain. Furthermore, until today the province of Preah Vihear is among the most most heavily mined areas in all of Cambodia and still bears legacy to the Khmer Rouge regime which fell as late as 1998.


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There appeared to be unusually many soldiers stationed at and around the Preah Vihear site compared to the other temples we have seen. We never felt threatened by them personally but it was clear that this area was still under some kind of armed conflict. We had to book a jeep escort to drive us up the hill, for one because the road that was build after the original entrance from the Thai side was closed was VERY steep and only a heavy duty four-wheel drive type of car could climb up the road. For another it seemed that the military also had a hand in limiting and controlling the number of visitors coming to the temple and thus provided the vehicle to go up the mountain.

Since 2008 the temple of Preah Vihear is listed as a world heritage site by the UNESCO. Among all the Khmer temples we visited during our four day tour of the Siem Riep area, Preah Vihear in the far north is still the most spectacular one. While all the ancient temple ruins are quite unique and showcase their own piece of history, the location of the Preah Vihear temple alone is a stand alone feature that makes it an unforgettable place to have visited.

One of the gopura courtyards blocking the view through the temple complex. There is no one place in this temple that allows visitors to see through the whole building.

The architecture of the 800m long Preah Vihear temple is modeled after the home of the gods, the Mount Meru and is dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva. Construction started at around the 9th or 10th century and continued throughout the reign of various Khmer kings. Five pavilions, called gopuras, each of them reached by a flight of stairs to increase their impact lead up to the final sanctuary at the southern most end of the temple complex. Different from temples we visited in Thailand, where windows have been strategically arranged to allow the sun to shine through the whole temple, the courtyards of the five gopuras have been build to obstruct the view of the next part of the Preah Vihear.

Lichen covered many of the walls and floor of the ancient temple ruins and while some parts of the structure remained in a fairly good condition, other areas where reduced to little more than a pile of rubble. Slowly strolling through the different areas of the temple I felt quite humbled by these Ancient remnants of Khmer culture. When we reached the central sanctuary and got an unobstructed view of Cambodia‘s northern plains it was already late in the afternoon. The sun had not yet set but the clouds were already illuminated by the low light and glowed above the barren land. If you have the chance and the time to come and visit this place I can only highly recommend it! Except to pay around 150-180 US dollars for a round trip by car with a local driver, plus 10 US dollar each for entrance fees and an additional 25 US dollars for the shuttle Jeep up the mountain. It is definitely worth it.

 

Ximen Rainbow Crosswalk in Taipei

Taipei, 05.10.2019


It’s been already a few month since we traveled to Taiwan but I still think back on this trip often. There were so many moments where we simply got lucky – like with this photo of the popular Ximen rainbow crosswalk which usually attracts way too many other tourists to get a good picture of. We accidentally walked past it on our way to another sight and found it almost deserted. The taxi that is turning right in the background parked on the crosswalk only moments before and drove off as we wanted to take a photo.

Hamarikyu Gardens Tokio

Tokyo, 11th May, 2019


We truly experienced the seamless blend of nature and city in Tokyo when visiting the Hamarikyu Garden. Located close to the Tokyo bay and in walking distance from the Tsujki Fish Market this urban park is a peaceful oasis for a short walk in nature. The artfully designed park has a pond and tea house at the center and a pleasant garden with landscaped trees and bushes. Small pine trees line the subtly fenced path, small bridges cross the little streams running through the park and all roads seam to lead to the pond in the middle where a tea house invites guests to have a cup of matcha and a traditional Japanese rice flour pastry.