It has taken a year but we have finally gone through our photographs from Prague and are ready to share them with everyone. The delay has everything to do with how busy we were and is not a reflection of the trip it self. In fact we both loved Prague and hope to return soon.

January 30th to February 4th:

The two week trip was planned to take advantage of the fact that Chris was in Prague for work. He flew over on January 30th, spent a day sick in the hotel, and checked out a few of the sights close to the office before I few over on February 4th.

Staromestska metro station interior.

February 4th to the 5th:

On February 4th, I left Seattle, flew to Washington D.C., then Munich, before arriving in Prague on the 5th. It was mid-morning when I arrived so I was able to rest up for our evening out. When Chris got off work we took the Metro, then a tram out of the city center to see the local hockey team HC Sparta Praha play at the O2 Arena.

February 6:

To celebrate Chris’ birthday we got out and explored some of the more famous areas of the city. We took the Metro to the Old Town Square (Staré Město) where the Old Town Hall with Astronomical Clock is located. There were tons of vendors set up selling “traditional” foods so Chris sampled their version of Halušky. I decided to have a Chimney Strudel filled with apples and walnuts before we crossed over the Charles Bridge. On the other side of the Vltava river we visited St. Nicholas Church then walked the narrow streets toward the Castle. Here we watched a protest then stopped at Starbucks with an awesome view, before back to the hotel for a rest.

Interior of St. Nicholas Church

View of Prague from the castle Starbucks

February 7:

At noon we met up with Chris’ coworker, Lucas, and his family. They took us to lunch and showed us around the city including; Wenceslas Square, the Jubilee Synagogue, and the Czech Republic Main Post Office to see the interior decoration. Unfortunately, since it is also a bank, they do not allow any photography. Then we walked to the train station to see the old building interior and took the tram to Namesti Republiky (Republic Square) were we met up with  Adela, another of Chris’ coworkers, for some coffee and cake at the Municipal House. Afterwards we walked past the Dancing house, then along the river bank to the National Theater before splitting up for the evening.

Book store in Wenceslas Square

The exterior of Jubilee Synagogue

Exterior of the Municipal House.

Vltava river from the Jirásek Bridge

February 8:

Chris returned to work on Monday so I had a day to explore the city on my own. I took the metro to the Prague Castle, walking past a house where Alphonse Mucha lived for a while on my way to the Castle entrance. I toured the Picture Gallery, the St. Vitus Cathedral Treasury, and walked into the Cathedral to see Mucha’s stained glass window. Jet lag and pregnancy was not a fun combination, so I decided to get some lunch and then return to the hotel to nap. I was still not feeling up for much when Chris got done at work so we had dinner at the Japanese restaurant in the hotel.

Exterior of St. Vitus Cathedral

February 9:

Feeling a bit better, I returned to the Castle area the next morning to get my art fix at the Lobkowiczky Palace while Chris was a work. From there I took a tram to the Municipal House where I checked out the Art Nouveau exhibit and took the guided tour of the building. There each room is decorated by different Art Nouveau artists, but the highlight of the tour for me was the room designed by Mucha. When the tour was over I had lunch at Cacao, then checked out a grocery store before returning to hotel. After work we took the Metro back to the Kampa area of the city to U Modre Kachnicky – The Blue Duck – for dinner. It was a super cozy restaurant with slightly fancy feeling, and really tasty roast duck.

Buildings along Old Town Square

The Mayor’s Hall in the Municipal House. Everything in the room was designed by Mucha.

Ceiling mural, The Slavic Concord, of the Mayor’s Hall painted by Mucha.

The Confectionery, one of the “ladies parlous” in the Municipal House.

February 10:

Chris had taken the rest of the week off so that we could continue to explore the city together. In the morning we took the metro and then a tram outside the city center to the National Gallery / Trade Fair Palace. We ate at Potrefena Husa before going to the museum; Chris had Beer  and Chili Goulash and I had a baked goat cheese salad and Coke… a Coke has never tasted so awesome in my life. I am pretty sure all the pregnancy food cravings were in full swing. Chris also managed to fall while crossing the street and banged his leg and arm up a bit. One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Prague to see the Slav Epic painted by Alphonse Mucha. The series of 20 painting was incredible; I had no idea of the scale or detail before going. Given the chance I would go see them again. After walking through the museum we returned to the Old Town Square, checked out a few shops and went to the Sex Machines Museum. For dinner we explored a new area of the city. The restaurant we wanted did not have any availability so we ended up eating at  Olive Point. I was happy that there was salad on the menu because the whole trip I was craving fresh vegetables and having a hard time finding any.

Viewing two paintings from the Slav Epic

Namesti Miru metro station

February 11:

On the way to the Mucha museum, we stopped into a vintage jewelry shop where Chris bought a pocket watch from the 1920s. Then we continued our tradition of eating at McDonald’s in other countries. The menu was pretty much the same as in the U.S. – Chris had the Grand Big Mac and I ordered the fried cheese with my chicken sandwich. I almost ordered the McFlurry with Toblerone. The Mucha museum was fairly small, but they had an interesting mix of his work and a few pieces of his furniture. From the museum we walked through the Jewish Quarter, then back to the Old Town Square. Since the day was clear we decided to go up into the clock tower for a view of the city before returning to the hotel.  In the evening we went back out to Cathedral of St. Clement for a Vivaldi concert. It was an incredibily beautiful experience.  After we walked around for a bit to find somewhere to eat, we finally found a “tapas” restaurant called Monarch. The food was interesting; a potato dish that was just five potatoes with a spicy red sauce in/on them, mushroom croquettes, bread with a olive oil tomato spread and a potato salad that unfortunately had carrots in it.

View of Church of Our Lady before Týn

February 12:

We had nothing specific we wanted to do on our last day exploring Prague, so we slept in before heading to lunch at Café Imperial. The food was good and service was very attentive; unfortunately I felt very underdressed in the heavily decorated and very fancy restaurant. When we were done eating we walked around for a while and wandered through the Palladium (shopping mall). I bought some chocolates and Chris talked himself out of purchasing a large Apocalypse statue that would have needed its own seat on the plane ride home. After resting up for a bit in the hotel, we tried to go to Mucha’s granddaughter’s jewelry shop before dinner. Sadly it was closed for the month, so I had to look for my Prague souvenir at another shop. From there we walked back to the Old Town Square for dinner at Mincovna.

Waiting for the tram.

February 13:

Our last day in the Czech Republic we explored beyond Prague. After a quick breakfast at the hotel we took a train to Plzen, the birthplace of Pilsner beer. In Plzen we walked around the city, had some lunch, then went on an underground tour. The guide led us around under the streets into areas used in the 14th century, told us about the history of the city, and gave us beer vouchers. At the end of the tour we went to a local bar to watch some hockey while Chris enjoyed our free beers. Then we went on the Pilsner Urquell brewery tour. This was the best brewery tour we have been on – far better than the Guinness tour in Dublin. It was mesmerizing to watch the bottles line up to be filled and we even got to sample the beer directly from a cask in the cellar. It was pretty late when the tour was over, and we had only a short amount of time until our train back to Prague so dinner was just a bunch of snacks from Tesco for the train ride.


February 14:

After a wonderful time in Prague we returned home through Frankfurt, Germany.  The trip back was long but fortunately there were plenty of open seats on the flight so we both were able to spread out.

There is so much more I can say about the trip, beyond what we did, but unfortunately mommy brain is in full force. We hope to take Dom to Prague in the near future, maybe then I can put into words how remarkable the city is.


Little Si Hike

Truth be told, Melissa and I wasted our first several years here. I mean, we made a good use of the music and nightlife, but we flat out wasted the outdoors here. You know, that thing we said was one of the reasons we wanted to live here? Come to find out, exploring nightlife does not play well with waking up early to play in the woods. So, yeah… Melissa and I have made a concerted effort this year to enjoy it.

The pictures and map here are from our Thanksgiving weekend hike. It weather had been relatively clear for at least a week and, although chilly, we had to make use of it. We’d never really hiked close to home and only wanted to get out for a few hours, so a quick 45 minute drive got us to the trail headed up Little Si. About 90 minutes later, we were at the top and enjoying the view. My GPS battery died (rookie) at the top, but you get the point. The hike itself was quite approachable and I’d do it again if out of town guests wanted a short day hike. In all, a good way to work off the gluttony of Thanksgiving Day.

On the way home, we made a quick stop at Snoqualmie Falls. This is a local landmark that you always see on TV, but another we had yet to see. There’s no matching the waterfalls of Iceland, but it’s cool to have something like that so close to home.


Siem Reap, Cambodia

Vietnam & Cambodia Trip – Stop Nine – Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor WatOn the 17th we had our last early morning flight of the trip. Unfortunately, once we were on the plane there was a delay. We sat for two hours on the plane with no air circulation waiting to fly to Siem Reap. It was completely unpleasant to say the least, especially since the flight itself was less than an hour.

We drove from the airport to the hotel along very dusty, red dirt roads. We appeared to be traveling away from any sort of modern hotel but our car finally pulled up to a gated resort. Since this was our last stop on the trip, we picked a higher end hotel. Once inside the gated area, it was as if we had stepped into another lush green world. We went from the open air lobby to a open air restaurant near the lap pool while waiting for our room to be ready.

After lunch and a shower, our guide took us to get our Angkor Pass; the entry ticket we would need to enter all the temples. We then passed by Angkor Wat and started exploring at the larger Angkor Thom. We entered the complex at the South gate and drove through the jungle to Bayon, the main temple, at the center. Built in the 12th or 13th century, the temple is known for its face-towers and long narrative bas-reliefs. Currently there are 37 towers, each with faces pointing in the cardinal directions. Looking at the photographs now, often the faced disappear into the stone whereas in person they felt more defined.

Walking around, our guide pointed out all sorts of interesting images in the bas-relief. Many of the segments show battles or armies marching, but other segments illustrate a range of daily activities. It is hard to imagine what these looked like when they were first carved given that much of it is still very clear and readable. Exiting Bayon, we walked  further into Angkor Thom to the Terrace of the Elephants.

The Terrace of the Elephants is a platform built for King Jayavarman VII to review his army. It is named for the carved Elephants which decorate it. There were other structures and gates at one point in time, however most are now in ruins. Unfortunately for us, it was not always easy to understand everything the tour guide was telling us. He had a lot of information, but we found that he did not seem to use punctuation so all the sentences ran together. I felt that it took a lot of concentration to understand when he was explaining the historical elements, so sadly I don’t remember much of the interesting details he shared.

On our way out of Angkor Thom we stopped to see the monkeys. I honestly was a little scared of them and almost elected not to stop. The once in a lifetime element of it took over and we were able to get very close. I, in fact, got a little too close for one of the mama monkeys who was not pleased with my proximity and chased me away.

Our final stop of the evening was Angkor Wat as the sun was setting. The temple complex was crowded with tourists like us in search of a beautiful sunset over the temple. We stood by a pond as the sun set, watching the reflection of the temple in the water. The colors were not too impressive that evening, so before it really got dark we returned to the hotel for the evening.

Chris’ Comments: Of all the things in the Angor Wat complex, I was most interested in seeing the place where the trees had grown for hundreds of years in the ruins. I have to admit that I was surprised when I realized that, what was called, Angkor Thom wasn’t part of the same main complex that we’ve all seen on TV and travel magazines. I was also surprised at the sheer number of tourists we dealt with at all the sights. I’m not sure what I expected, but there were A LOT of people. I absolutely recommend going because the sheer scale and *detail* of it all is something you will never get in pictures, just understand you will have to really search for that moment of quiet reflection you may be looking for. I’ll be back when I’m a movie star that can clear it for a set or am rich enough to rent some private time from the Cambodian government. Random fun fact: The Cambodian Royal Family liked one of my photos on Instagram. I’m well on my way!

Angkor Thom

Elephant Terrace


Angkor Thom South Gate and Bridge

Angkor Wat at Sunset

The next morning we returned to Angkor Wat, entering the complex through the East. We had been given the option to arrive for sunrise, but elected to skip another early morning. Unlike the West entrance, the East entrance is only a dirt embankment. According to our guide, this entrance was built for access to the temple during the restoration effort. After looking at the bas-reliefs in the outer galleries, we made our way into the center of the temple. There was a line to climb some unbelievably steep stairs to the base of the main tower and I had to make sure that my shoulders were covered before we could go up, but I was glad that the area had been reopened to visitors.

Going up the stairs was scary, but going down was worse. I was so glad that there were handrails and temporary stairs installed to make it easier. At this point we exited out of the complex through the West Gate and went to have lunch. All over the sites were young children selling books and postcards. They have worked out responses to every reason why a person would not buy from them. When Chris told one girl that he did not want to carry the book she responded that she would carry it for him. She offered to carry it all the way back to Seattle if he got her a VISA.

After lunch we drove out to Tonle Sap, a large fresh water river/lake. February is the end of the dry season, meaning the river was pretty low and muddy when we went. A boat took us out past men fishing on the banks to a larger floating village. Unlike in the Mekong Delta, it was not possible to see land while moving through the village. We stopped at one tourist market on the lake. They had a cage with crocodiles and a young girl walking around with a large snake. We climbed up to the roof and looked out over the village. In total it was kind of depressing.

After the tour we returned to the hotel and cooled of by the pool before taking a Tuk Tuk to dinner at George’s.

We had one day left on our Angkor pass so we took a Tuk Tuk from the hotel out to Ta Prohm temple. The temple is located East of the Angkor Thom and is much smaller. Unlike the other two temples we visited, the preservationists have not removed most of the trees and plants which have grown up through the structures. They have put walkways and closed off areas to tourists, but the jungle has started to take the area back. Since we did not have a guide we turned down whichever path or hall had the least amount of tourists. It was remarkable to see what nature can do and to think about what the other sites would look like if they had been left alone.

After about an hour of walking around in the heat and crowds we had our Tuk Tuk driver take us to get something to eat, then back to the hotel. In the evening we had our second Vespa tour. The tour in HCMC had been so much fun that we signed up with the same company to tour Siem Reap at night.

The tour was only eight of us: an English couple that were uncomfortable with riding on Vespas who took a Tuk Tuk, an American family of four that were now living in Hong Kong, and us. It was one of those small world moments when they said that they had lived in Seattle; in fact they still owned their house southeast of the city. After meeting at a bar in the tourist area of the city, Pub Street, we walked to where stalls selling spices are normally set up. Unfortunately due to the holiday, many stalls were closed.

From there we rode around the city on the Vespas, stopping at the Shrine to Preah Ang Chek and  Preah Ang Chorm. The shrine was busy with people worshiping and it was a nice change to see a site busy with non-tourists. From there the tour group went to the night street market along the highway. We walked in the crowds of locals buying food and sitting on blankets eating. The first stall we stopped at was selling bugs. There were large trays piled with different kinds of prepared insects. I have always said that I would try crickets or other insects if they were cooked and here was my chance. I tried one type of cricket, which was very crunchy and not really remarkable. Chris sampled all the different offerings including water beetles and a larva of some sort.

The next stall we stopped at had jackfruit; next to it was a stall with sour sugar fruit, which was very interesting. It was a bunch of large trays of cut fruit covered in a sour sugar. Sort of like eating sour patch kids candy but also slightly spicy. Further down the road we stopped at a fruit stall and the tour guide named all the different type of fruit. Most of the fruit I had seen before, like tamarind, but never had it so fresh. After getting grilled corn at one cart we all sat down on blankets on the river bank. The stall in front sold grilled meat and we sampled fish, chicken and pork stuffed frog. It was all great to experience something authentic and simple.

When we had eaten way too much, the tour continued to a restaurant with live music and few other Cambodian dishes to try. Then on the way back to the hotel we stopped at an infusion “store” to sample the spirits and have some Cambodian sweets. We did not sample the infusions but were given small bottles to bring home.

Angkor Wat

Tonle Sap

Evening Adventures

Ta Prohm

Vespa Tour

For our last day in Cambodia, the plan was to sleep in and relax until our late flight home. Unfortunately, someone in the neighborhood was celebrating the new year by playing chanting over loud speakers very early in the morning. The music and chanting did not stop until three in the afternoon. Meanwhile there was no where at the hotel you could escape the sound. We both had massages and when it was finally quiet, took a nap before checking out of the hotel in the evening.

Our flight to South Korea was uneventful but it was about six in the morning when we arrived. We had a 12 hour layover and wanted to explore the city, but were too exhausted to think straight… much less travel around a new city. Instead to slept. We rented a hotel room in the airport for six hours, the maximum the hotel allows, and were asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow. It was great because we were able to sleep and shower before wandering around the airport. While in search of Korean food, we ended up in the wrong area of the airport and were unable to get back on our own. We had to be escorted by security back to the correct area. I felt better that at least one other English speaking visitor (a young Canadian woman) had done the same thing and was being lead back with us. After some more napping in the terminal, we were on our last flight and heading home to Seattle.


Note to our readers:
If you are interested many of the photographs are captioned, just select the individual images to open them in a new window. Also, we were surprised how large the country was for a small country. I have put together a Travel Map with the places we visited to give an idea of how we managed to cover a good portion of the country during our trip.