Of the 23 countries I’ve traveled to, Japan is one of my favorites. I traveled all over Japan with a JR Pass that allowed for unlimited travel on local trains and Shinkansen bullet trains. The first half of my trip was based out of Kyoto, which means I spent a lot of time going in and out of the beautiful Kyoto Station.
On our final day in Ho Chi Minh City, we spent the morning exploring Chinatown and started at the Thien Hau Temple. This temple is dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu who is known for saving her family from danger during a typhoon by using her spiritual powers. The main courtyard of this temple is awash with the pleasant smell of incense burning on joss sticks. The smoke filled courtyard illuminates the three bronze faces of Mazu on the main alter. To the side of the main alter, I saw a much smaller shrine and a lady wearing floral pants that nicely complimented the tile floor.
Our first stop in Cambodia was at Tonlé Sap, a freshwater lake just outside of Siem Reap. We enjoyed a boat ride along Tonlé Sap while learning about the diverse ecology and history of the area. Our guide took us to a floating tourist trap replete with caged alligators and and an abundance of Cambodian kitch. As we walked around perusing the items on offer, a few long-tail rowboats docked alongside ours. The boats were filled with toothless old women, and joyless children begging for money. One child had a snake around her neck and offered a photo-op in exchange for cash. Our guide told me not to take her up on the offer, as it would only chum the waters. I smiled, took a photo, and handed the girl some $5 USD, only to have her grandma snatch it from my fingers.