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In the old quarters of Hanoi, a shop with old, used things.
Visit my gallery for the full set of my pictures from Vietnam.

In the old quarters of Hanoi, a shop with old, used things.

Visit my gallery for the full set of my pictures from Vietnam.

Sugar Blowing

While wandering around Nanluoguxiang, this guy asked me what my zodiac sign was and proceeded to blow me an oxen and a dog from sugar. Was rather amazing…and edible too. ;) 

WEIFEI ZHENG PHOTOGRAPHY: Scenes from a Hutong &emdash; Sugar Blowing 1

WEIFEI ZHENG PHOTOGRAPHY: Scenes from a Hutong &emdash; Sugar Blowing

WEIFEI ZHENG PHOTOGRAPHY: Scenes from a Hutong &emdash; Sugar Blowing

Whoa, #mountains. #northwestisbest #upperleftusa #intheair #airplane

Whoa, #mountains. #northwestisbest #upperleftusa #intheair #airplane

Jungle Temple: Beng Melea

Click here to check out the Beng Melea gallery!

I am a huge fan of rubbles and ruins.  Want to explore an abandoned coal factory? Sign me up. There’s an abandoned, creepy hospital I can access? I’m there.  The results produced by nature reclaiming what mankind has built are fascinating to me.  So when I read on TripAdvisor and some blogs that Beng Melea, a ruin 40 km outside of Siem Reap, is THE place to see a temple in its unpreserved state, I thought that I must go.  I was also lured there by a thought that surely crosses every Siem Reap visitor’s mind, what was it like to be the first people to uncover these majestic ruins? 

WEIFEI ZHENG PHOTOGRAPHY: The Jungle Temple: Beng Melea &emdash; Beng Melea 2014032247 First sight of Beng Melea.

Barely awake, I left for Beng Melea at 6 a.m. and arrived at 7 a.m. My driver parked, pointed down a path where a cow was crossing, and said, “That way.”  As I made my way down the path, passing a lotus pond, the ruin came into sight. I was gloriously alone, but only for a moment. As I expected from reading some blogs, a young boy who spoke good English soon approached me to be my “guide.” I followed him as he expertly scrambled up ruins like a mountain goat in a pair of flip flops. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you view education ;)) my “guide” had to attend English class after half an hour and I waved him off with a few dollars.  Children offering guide services is a common sight at Beng Melea, as later many other children hollered “hello” to beckon my attention. 

WEIFEI ZHENG PHOTOGRAPHY: The Jungle Temple: Beng Melea &emdash; Beng Melea 2014032227
Some children at Beng Melea. They literally run up these ruins.

WEIFEI ZHENG PHOTOGRAPHY: The Jungle Temple: Beng Melea &emdash; Beng Melea 2014032240Enveloping.

Beng Melea had not been easily accessible until after the mines were cleared in 2003 and roads were built in recent years. It is the opposite of most temples you see in Siem Reap: unlabeled, in disarray, unpreserved.  While it is an adventure, without a guide worth his salt and unless you really enjoy just climbing on ruins, Beng Melea could end up just being a pile of ruins that was kinda cool.  

WEIFEI ZHENG PHOTOGRAPHY: The Jungle Temple: Beng Melea &emdash; Beng Melea 2014032254 Lit up. 

WEIFEI ZHENG PHOTOGRAPHY: The Jungle Temple: Beng Melea &emdash; Beng Melea 2014032256 In disarray.

Luckily for me, a lovely Cambodian couple with another friendly tourist called out to me and I joined them in learning about the temple. This lucky encounter made the day for me. It turned out that Mr. Chan Makarawas about to become a tour guide!  If you are ever in Siem Reap, please reach out to him  at makara_map at yahoo .com as a guide! He speaks excellent English and is a superbly nice guy. In his life, he has been an English teacher at a NGO, a tuk tuk driver, and he just passed his guide exams so he will be a professional tour guide! And if he had a camera, he would surely be a professional photographer. ;) 

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Pretty pretty. #k5spring #Seattle #fremont #northwestisbest #sunset  (at Fremont Bridge)

Pretty pretty. #k5spring #Seattle #fremont #northwestisbest #sunset (at Fremont Bridge)

Food in Vietnam

I am not a picky eater and I’m willing to try most things. But I have to admit that I was intimidated by street food the first few hours into my travel. Maybe it was because I hadn’t traveled in a while.  Thankfully, I overcame my initial fear of dying from unsanitary food because street food is awesome. And for the record, I didn’t get sick during my entire trip.  

My first meal in Vietnam was pho at a street stall. Settling into the small child’s chair, I pointed at what I want and stooped over my soup like everyone else.  After that, I went on a campaign of street food, from bun bo nam bo, to freshly made guava juice, to sugarcane juice with lime…I feel like food is an inherent part of travel. That unknown object wrapped in banana leaves could be the next greatest thing that I have tasted. image

I had a che (dessert dish) that contained pretty much everything in this picture.

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oh delicious crab.

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bun bo nam bo.

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Guava juice! :)

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Endless selection of things to bbq.

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These things were everywhere. The meat is put into baguettes.

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Dried eel salad.

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Rice with some sort of flavoring.

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My god, bbq things are delicious.

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I went to a Korean restaurant in a Hanoi mall…

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Preparation of bun bo nam bo.

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Meat on a stick, nom.

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Can’t see very well in this picture, but there is a large pile of dried eel.

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Bowl of pho

Hanoi

Visit my gallery for the full set of my pictures from Vietnam.

Hanoi, in a word, is loud. In a few words, it’s loud, dusty, and charmless. I didn’t find charm at first glance nor after many glances.  In so many cities that I have traveled to, I feel like it has been easy to find beauty and art. Yet, it seemed difficult to do in Hanoi.  Maybe Hanoi is beautiful in an atypical way, such as the rare moment when there is only one motorbike on the street, before the typical traffic flow rushes in. Maybe there is beauty in chaos, such as when you pick out beautiful lanterns amongst a street full of ugly things you do not want.

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a moment of peace

Roaming the Hanoi streets, I feel like one cannot help but feel that the Vietnamese are industrious. Motorbikes fly by incessantly, honking as they go.  People on motorbikes act as though they have missions to accomplish and places to be. Peace only falls between 10 pm and lasts till 5 a.m, when it starts all over again. image

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motorbike mentality

The streets of Hanoi, aside from the motorbikes, are lined with shops and food stalls. People squat as they work, whether it is to wash dishes on the side of the street, flipping bun xeo, or melting two pieces of metal together.  How it is that people have the patience to bend all day, everyday?  What percentage of the people’s lives are spent stooping over on the side of the street? In Southeast Asia, I feel like people’s lives are happening right in front of your eyes, rather than behind walls and closed doors. 

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woman making banh xeo

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street vendors

The first of many bike pictures to come. Check out the full gallery here and my related blog post.
I think this bike was intentionally flipped upside down. Gotta say that it’s quite artful.

The first of many bike pictures to come. Check out the full gallery here and my related blog post.

I think this bike was intentionally flipped upside down. Gotta say that it’s quite artful.