Most of the time, I don’t pay much attention to sports. Sure, I love going out to watch a Toronto Blue Jays game, but rarely watch a game on T.V. But every two years, I become completely obsessed with sports, most of which I know very little about, when the Olympic Games start. This year has been no different. Most mornings, you can find me streaming whatever events happened overnight and then watching the live events in the evenings. While I will happily watch whatever is on, figure skating will always be my favourite. As much fun as it is to cheer the athletes on from my couch, seeing an event live is even better. I was lucky enough to watch the women’s Canada vs USA soccer game at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, England. What an incredible experience!
I’ve never been to PyeongChang, but I have been to South Korea twice while my youngest sister was living there and quite enjoyed my time. Korean food is amazing, but I think my favourite part was wandering around the beautiful temples, like the colourful Beomeosa Temple below.
One day, I’d love to cheer on the athletes from the stands again, but for now, it’s back to my couch!
Go Canada Go!!
When you think of Macau, it’s likely the dazzling casinos and grand hotels that come to mind. I mean, it’s not known as the ‘Vegas of the East’ for nothing. But if you head past all the hustle and bustle and ‘Ka-Ching’ of the slot machines, you’ll find yourself in Coloane, the leafy green part of Macau filled with hiking trails, beaches, temples and the giant pandas!
For more info on the A-Ma statue and cultural village click here
I’ve always enjoyed seeking out ‘Crystals’ in my travels around the world.
From the beautiful Crystal shops in Hungary and the Cristal beer in Cuba to swimming with manatees in Crystal River, Florida to these shining Crystals at the Galaxy in Macau.
So when I heard there was a Crystal Pagoda in the small village of Ban Thaton, where we were staying, near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, I just had to go see it for myself.
Wat Thaton is a large temple complex located at the top of a hill overlooking the Mae Kok River. It turned out to be quite a hike up into the hills surrounding Ban Thaton, near the border of Myanmar. The view on the hike up was incredible.
The temple complex is built on several levels, hosting statues, temple buildings and a Buddhist school on the way up to the top.
While the hike itself was beautiful and all the statues and buildings on the way up were great, none were as striking as the Chedi Kaew or Crystal Pagoda.
Sitting at the top of the hill, this colourful building can be seen from miles way. The structure is covered with intricate designs depicting the Buddha’s teachings.Wandering inside, we found a large number of Buddha statues coming from many different countries. In the centre of the Chedi Kaew is a spiral platform that leads to the top level of the building, with more artifacts found along the way.
The Wat Thaton organizes several programs to benefit the local community. A project for local children and hill tribe children aims to bring several communities living in the area closer together.
Within the complex , there is a Buddhist school for monks and novices and a Vipassana meditation center. You can also find a herbal medicine center, a restaurant, a large meeting hall and several other buildings.
So, if you’re headed to Northern Thailand, pack your hiking shoes and visit the beautiful Crystal Pagoda. The Wat Thaton is open from 8 am until 5 pm. Admission is free and the view is incredible!
While in Northern Thailand, what better way to travel from one place to another than by traditional long boat?
After flying into Chiang Rai, we spent the night at The Legend Boutique River Resort & Spa in Chiang Rai, a gorgeous, peaceful spot a short tuk tuk ride from Chiang Rai’s bustling night bazaar.
After a delicious breakfast in the morning, we made our way down to the dock, where a long boat was waiting to take us along the Mae Kok River to our next spot.
It was a long 6 hour journey, but it was peaceful out on the river with hardly anyone else in sight most of the journey and the landscape we stunning.
Our long boat captain knew the river like the back of his hand, easily maneuvering through the sometimes very shallow, sometimes very rough water, knowing exactly where any dangers like rocks or sandbars were hiding.
Along the way, we stopped at the Ruammit Elephant Camp in Karen Village. While you could ride them here, we decided against that and instead spent our time feeding and petting these incredible animals, before heading across the street for a delicious Thai lunch.
Continuing along, we made it to our final destination, the Maekok River Village Resort, another incredible resort on the banks of the Mae Kok.
The grounds here were lush and filled with flowers and you could wake up and have breakfast each morning with a view looking out over the Mae Kok River.
While it may take longer, if you are travelling around Northern Thailand, consider taking a long boat. You won’t regret it!
Wat Rong Khun, better known as the “White Temple,” is one of the most recognizable temples in Thailand. This unique temple, located just outside the city of Chiang Rai, is one of the most visited attractions in the area. It’s not hard to see why.
The temple looks like something out of a fairy tale. The entire structure is a brilliant white colour with pieces of glass in the plaster, sparkling in the sun. It almost doesn’t look real. It’s more like a mirage you’ve stumbled upon – a beautiful mirage with a glistening pool of water below, filled with Koi swimming around.
Last year, we made our way to Wat Rong Khun just before Halloween. With all the demons and villains that met us as we entered, coming out of the ground and hanging from trees, it was the perfect time of year to visit.
Wat Rong Khun was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a famous Thai visual artist. He chose white to signify the purity of the Buddha. The pieces of glass throughout it symbolizes the Buddha’s wisdom and Buddhist teachings. The temple is filled with Buddhist symbolism.
To enter the main chapel (ubosot), you cross a narrow bridge over a pool of hands and faces reaching up, trying to claw their way back to the surface, representing suffering souls in Hell.
The pathway symbolizes the way to happiness by overcoming worldly things like temptation, greed and desire.
After crossing the bridge you arrive at the “Gate of Heaven,” guarded by two creatures representing Death and Rahu, who decide over men’s fate. At the end of the bridge, you reach the ubosot where there are several Buddha images in meditation.
Once you make your way out of the main temple and leave the fenced in grounds, you come to an ornately decorated golden building. This one represents the body while the ubosot represents the mind. The building was created in a gold colour to symbolize the focus on worldly desires and money.
Around the temple grounds are several concrete “trees.” Hanging from each of them are thousands of ornaments or ‘Lucky Leaves.’ For 30 Baht, you can add one with your name and a message written on it for luck.
You can also make a wish by throwing a few coins into the wishing well.
Most of Thailand’s Buddhist temples have centuries of history. By comparison, Wat Rong Khun is very young as construction on it only began in 1997.
Then, on May 5, 2014, a strong earthquake hit Chiang Rai and Wat Rong Khun was damaged. The designer, Chalermchai Kositpipat, decided to restore and further expand the temple.
At this point, the temple is not finished. It’s stated that eventually there will be nine buildings on site.
If you find yourself in Northern Thailand, Wat Rong Khun is a must-see. Just get there early to avoid the crowds.
- The temple is located about 13km south of Chiang Rai
- The temple opens daily from 8 am until 6 pm.
- The temple gets very busy with both tourists and locals, so plan to arrive early.
- Admission is 50 Thai Baht per person.
- Dress respectfully. No revealing clothes. Shoes must be removed before entering a temple building.
- Taking photos is not allowed in the main building.
- Souvenirs, coffee and snacks are available on the grounds.
Macau Tower first opened in December 2001 and since then has become one of Macau’s best known sights and a focus of its skyline. The tower stands at 338m and has something for everyone, from shopping and cinema to dining with an incredible view and extreme thrills.
The Observation Deck is up 223m and offers a 360 degree view of the area. From here, you can see all of Macau Peninsula, Taipa, Coloane and across the Pearl River to mainland China. It’s a great deck for snapping photos, and for the milder thrill seeker, you can walk along the glass floor, looking WAY down to the ground below.
For the more adventurous thrill seeker, head up to the Adventure Deck at 233m. Here you can walk around the edge with Skywalk. Plunge towards the earth with SkyJump or try the Guinness World Record holder for highest Bungy Jump. For the truly extreme, there is Tower Climb, where you can ascend to the very top of the tower.
If you prefer to leave the thrills to someone else, head to the 60th floor for a buffet with an incredible view at the 360 Cafe. Here, you can watch the bungy jumpers go sailing by as you enjoy your dinner!
A few years ago, my sister moved to Macau, a Special Administrative Region of China near Hong Kong, to teach. Knowing I now had a free place to stay, Macau quickly made its way to the top of my “Must Visit” travel list. I arrived not knowing a whole lot about the country besides that it’s full of casinos and was a Portuguese colony for years.
Wandering around, it was very interesting to see the meeting of Chinese and Portuguese cultures, languages and food, mixed in with big, elaborate casinos. Definitely an interesting place to visit.
Here, I highlight a few of the not- to-be-missed sites found in Macau.
The world’s tallest statue of the goddess A-Ma (also known as Tin Hau) stands on the peak of a mountaintop on Macau’s Coloane Island, where the nearby A-Ma cultural village celebrates the beloved goddess.
A-Ma has long been revered in Macau as the protector of people who make their living at sea. The plaque by the statue tells the legend of A-Ma saving sailors during a fierce storm and ascending afterward into heaven near the site of the historic A-Ma temple.
To get to the village you can take a bus or hike the Coloane Trail beginning in Seac Pai Van Park.
We opted for the hiking option and after stopping by to see the panda, we headed up the trail and the many, many stairs through a leafy forested area coming to a opening with an incredible view looking back across at Macau. Then, the trail continued up to the top of the mountain to the A-Ma statue before heading over to the nearby Cultural Village. The detail in the paintings and carvings on the buildings and gateways here are so incredibly ornate you could spend hours just taking in all the detail.
If you are in Macau, be sure to check this place out, you won’t be disappointed!
Opening hours of Tin Hau Palace: 08:00 to 18:00 daily. Free Admission
Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan is located on a hillside in Saha-gu, that was first settled in the early 1900’s by followers of the Taegeukdo religion. Over the years, the village continued to deteriorate until 2010 when the community was brought back to life as an arts and culture village, with several abandoned homes being converted into exhibition spaces, art shops and cultural facilities.