Singapore and Cambodia

After my trek on Kilimanjaro I had to attend the MobiSys conference in Singapore, so I sent my trekking gear westward with Ken while I headed east.  While planning the trip I realized that Cambodia and the famous ruins of Angkor Wat were a short hop away, so I extended the trip with a quick visit there.  What a contrast with Kilimanjaro and Tanzania – but what a great opportunity!

Marina Bay Sands hotel, with Helix bridge in foreground.

Marina Bay Sands hotel, with Helix bridge in foreground.

Singapore is one of the most impressive cities I have ever visited.  Organized, efficient, attractive, and clean.  I spent most of my time near the conference site in the center of town, around the Marina Bay area, which seems to be one extended shopping mall with a few offices and hotels intermixed.  Still, I had a chance to visit the zoo, Little India, East Coast Park, and the aromatic food festival along Geylang Road after sunset during Ramadan.  The only catch – the weather was incredibly hot and humid.  [See the photo gallery.]

Cambodia is a challenging place to grasp in just two days, and I’m sure I only scratched the surface.  We flew directly to Siem Reap, a small but booming city now focused on tourists who drop in to view the incredible number of ancient temples close by.  Cambodia’s rich history includes many painful memories from the 20th century, but Siem Reap proudly shows off the impressive Khmer temples of the 10th through 13th centuries.  There are, I’m told, 1,080 temples scattered across Cambodia with perhaps a hundred located near here. We spent two days visiting a sample of the best-known temples:

  • David at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

    David at Angkor Wat

    Angkor Wat [photos]
    Angkor Wat may be the largest and most famous of the many temples in the Siem Reap area of Cambodia – but the others were equally if not more interesting. Originally a Hindu temple early in the 12th century, and later transformed into a Buddhist temple. It is purportedly the largest religious monument in the world.

  • Angkor Thom, 13th century Buddhist temple.Angkor Thom [photos]
    An incredible temple complex from the late 12th century. Nearly 3km on a side, this is the largest complex we visited.  Indeed, I think Angkor Thom was far more interesting than Angkor Wat, though it is not as grand or famous as its cousin.
  • Entrance gate and causeway - Preah Khan - 12c Angkor-area Buddhist temple.Preah Khan [photos]
    The “royal sword” temple was built by the same king who built Angkor Thom, in this case to honor his father. It was built in the 12th century.
  • These trees support the temple, and destroy it too - Ta Prohm - 11c Buddhist Angkor-area templeTa Prohm [photos]
    One of the more impressive temples in the Siem Reap area, if only because of the huge “Spung” trees that have woven their roots and trunks in among the blocks of the temple. These trees support the temple, and destroy it too! Originally built in the late 12th and early 13th century.
  • Prasat Kravan - small Angkor-area Hindu temple from 10th century. Five towers, made of brick and sandstone.Prasat Kravan [photos]
    A small 10th-century Hindu temple, predating the better-known temples of the Siem Reap area, Prasat Kravan is worth a visit. The main door includes extensive Sanskrit carvings.
A bar in the Floating Village near Siem Reap, Cambodia.

A bar in the Floating Village near Siem Reap, Cambodia.

In addition, we visited one of the floating villages on Tonle Sap, a huge lake that dominates central Cambodia. The residents of this village construct homes on boats and barges, which they tow out onto the lake during the dry season and anchor in the shelter of the shore’s wetlands during the rainy season.  This small village seemed to have a complete set of services, including two schools, a church, a restaurant, a bar, and a convenience store.

We also drove into the center of Siem Reap, one evening, to visit the Night Market and the famous Pub Street.  The nightlife is certainly hopping, where backpacking twenty-something tourists hang out after dark and enjoy $1 cocktails sold by street vendors and wander among the competing rock music blasted from the cafes and bars along the streets.  The heat has diminished somewhat, but the humidity is still at maximum.  (Indeed, Cambodia makes Singapore seem cool and dry.😉.

A great place, certainly deserving a more extensive visit someday.

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Kilimanjaro

Climbers are backlit by the sunrise.

Climbers are backlit by the sunrise.

With the rising of the equatorial sun, the undercast clouds climbed the slopes of Kilimanjaro and slowly enveloped us in an eery mist. We had begun our summit push about an hour before dawn, a line of bobbing headlamps weaving through the sleeping camp at Barafu, 15,200′ above sea level.  Now, as we ascended past 17,000′, pole pole (slowly, slowly), I was beginning to really feel the altitude. Despite six days of acclimatization and hiking along the Lemosho Route, all five of us were quietly focused on each slow step along the steep and winding switchbacks up toward the rim of Kilimanjaro’s volcanic crater; step, breathe, step, breathe.  A few trekkers were already descending – those who rose at midnight to make their entire summit push during the moonlit night, jubilant from reaching the summit – and those who looked quite pale and were gingerly being led down by a guide holding each elbow.  The altitude affects everyone differently, and the sick have to descend quickly.  We pushed on, hoping for clear skies at the summit and for weather good enough to stay overnight in the crater as planned.

But I get ahead of myself. This 11-day trip, including 9 days on the mountain, is a long story. As you read the trip description below, be sure to check out the photo galleries of the trek, of our two days pre-trek, of the flora and fauna, and of night skies on the mountain.

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Cape Cod getaway

Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, Cape Cod.

Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, Cape Cod.

We spent our 25th wedding anniversary on Cape Cod, mostly in Provincetown. Beautiful weather, a nice bike ride, and a chance to explore the town. Plus a stop at the historic Marconi wireless telegraph station; see the photo gallery.

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Franconia Ridge traverse

Franconia mapOn a warm day in early June, I joined Aarathi and Shrirang for a traverse of Franconia Ridge from Lincoln Woods to Lafayette Place, summiting Flume, Liberty, Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette. Total 14.5 miles, 5325′ of vertical gain, 10.5 hours, 258 photos. A beautiful day!  The alpine flowers were blooming, the sun was shining, and the wind was cool. The only downside is that several hundred other hikers also realized it was a great day to hike Franconia Ridge!

Check out the photo gallery on SmugMug.

Pebble Time, Fitbit Flex, and Apple Watch.

Pebble Time, Fitbit Flex, and Apple Watch.

I also decided to test four activity trackers on this hike: iPhone 5s (i.e., Apple Health app), Fitbit Flex, Pebble Time, and Apple Watch 42mm.

Test conditions:

  • I left all four devices in their charger overnight.
  • As I left the house, I put all three trackers on my left arm.
  • I did almost no walking until reaching the trailhead.
  • At the trailhead, I put the iPhone in Airplane mode, enabled Bluetooth, and stored it in a shoulder-pad holster (thus attached to torso).
  • All three trackers had Bluetooth enabled.
  • At the end of the hike, I checked status of each device.

Results:

  • Fitbit Flex: 30,572 steps, 14.04 miles, 3394 cals, 5h5m active; battery 100%.
  • Pebble Time: 22,073 steps, 12.4 miles, 2233 cals, 3h35m active; battery 90%.
  • Apple Watch 42mm: 32,449 steps, 14.30 miles, 1156 active cals, battery 7%.
  • Apple Health (iPhone 5s): 32,354 steps, 14.71 miles, battery < 20%.

Summary:
Apple Health (via Watch? I’m not sure) counted more steps, but close to the Fitbit. Watch and Fitbit had the best distance estimate. Fitbit had best battery life, followed by Pebble.

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Spring hiking

Trillium on Mount Moosilauke.

Trillium on Mount Moosilauke.

David took a series of springtime hikes – many with Ken and Karen – to train for a summer trek. He climbed Mount Cube, Mount Ascutney, Black Mountain, Moose Mountain, and Mount Moosilauke. Springtime flowers brought color to the otherwise drab forest at this time of year – check out the photo gallery.

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Mount Carr

Ice skims the surface of trailside puddles after a cold March night.

Ice skims the surface of trailside puddles after a cold March night.

A lovely day for a hike up Mount Carr, an unassuming 3,400′ bump to the southeast of Mount Moosilauke. I had never visited this peak, so when a friend suggested we try it out I was ready to hit the trail.  The lower slopes were bare of snow but it is, after all, still “winter” so none of the trees or undergrowth have started to leaf out.  The overnight cold formed a skim of ice across all the puddles and many of the smaller streams, their fascinating patterns glinting in today’s bright sunshine. (See photos!) The upper slopes held a crusty but shallow snowpack, and rippled ice floes.

The Presidentials, with a fresh coat of white snow, dominate the view from Mount Carr.

The Presidentials, with a fresh coat of white snow, dominate the view from Mount Carr.

At the rocky summit we could climb on the footings of the long-since-removed fire tower and see the white-capped Mount Moosilauke, Franconia Range, and Presidential Range.  I hope to return to the neighborhood and explore the other peaks in the Wentworth-Rumney area!

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Mount Mansfield

Jen, Lelia, and Lars at a Lunch stop at Taft Lodge on Mount Mansfield.

Jen, Lelia, and Lars at a Lunch stop at Taft Lodge on Mount Mansfield.

Over the past week I was beginning to think that winter was a bust – with just a handful of great winter outings to show for it.  Today proved me wrong.  With Mount Mansfield as our goal, Lelia and I set out for Stowe, Vermont and soon met up with Jen and Lars. The parking lot was nearly full of hikers, backcountry skiers, ice climbers, and others eyeing the pure-blue sky and crisp views of the snowy peaks.  Heading south on the Long Trail, we climbed steeply up a well-packed treadway smoothed by several groups of skiers skinning their way up ahead of us, and criss-crossed by the carved turns of skiers and snowboarders who left the groomed trails of Stowe for the hardwood glades of the Long Trail. The snow was fairly fresh, with perhaps six inches of powder on top of a firm but not  icy base.  We reached Taft Lodge for lunch, basking in the startlingly warm March sunshine with a group of three younger skiers, another group of four older Quebecois, all sharing the happiness that comes from bright sunshine, blue skies, soft powder, and fresh air.  More below the break.

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