No rain. I guess the afternoon squall has finally decided to halt. I just got out of Wat Pho and noticed I still have enough time to explore another temple that afternoon. The Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun is just across Chao Phraya river. Just a short walk from Wat Pho is the ferry terminal to cross the river. Only 3.50 baht and I’m across the river in less than 10 minutes.
I realized I was already encircling around the perimeter walls of Bangkok’s Grand Palace. I was walking under heavy rain and squeezing my way through the crowd of black-garbed Thai mourners of the recently passed King at the roadsides. Thai people adore King Bhumibol Adulyadej and it shows. As I got into the Grand Palace, I saw bus loads of tourist waiting to get in. I only have less than two hours left and paying 500 THB along with this crowd didn’t appeal to me. So I left. Then there’s Wat Pho I remember passing by earlier. I retraced my route to the back of the palace. Drenched and tired, I just wanted a nice place to sit. I was thrilled that there were less people here at Wat Pho. I paid my 50 THB entrance fee which comes with a free bottle of mineral water and went on to explore the temple grounds.
I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Six years is quite a long time to return to a place. Hanoi was such a favorite destination of mine back then. Yes I’ve treaded the streets of the Old Quarter before, went to an overnight cruise at Ha Long Bay and even enjoyed the misty coolness of Sapa Valley during my first visit in Northern Vietnam. But I don’t mind going back to see what has changed that’s why I didn’t think twice when an invite for a familiarization tour of Hanoi, organized by Cebu Pacific Air and Stratworks came in the email. There’s the certain comfort of stepping back into the familiar and also a certain anxiety to see how things have transitioned from now to then.
Our eyes were drawn to this bright orange complex amidst a vast field of agricultural land. For a nonsecular destination like Tomohon in North Sulawesi, whose majority of population flocks to their Cristian Churches, seeing a pagoda, a stupa and a distinct Buddhist temple in this area was almost an oddity in itself. The Vihara Buddhayana Tomohon is one of the rare place of worship for the Buddhist minority in North Sulawesi that has become an attraction by the roadside in Desa Kakaskasen III in Tomohon.
North Sulawesi, found at the tip of the K-shaped island of Sulawesi, may not be as popular to the “eat-pray-love” crowd of Bali or the enlightenment-seekers meditating on the multi-tiered levels of Borobudur in Yogyakarta, but explorers and adventurers seeking a refreshing side of Indonesia will find something to like in this region. There’s an interesting mix of culture, islets teeming with diverse marine life, imposing volcanoes, enchanting lakes and a slew of activities that can keep people under the sun longer than intended.
I felt a tap on my right shoulder. It was the bus driver signaling me we’re near the last stop. I didn’t know I already dozed off in front of this mini-bus on my way back to Yogyakarta. I had an early start that day visiting Candi Borobudur before sunrise and now I head back that afternoon to Yogyakarta this time for Candi Prambanan. One of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in Central Java, often times shadowed by the nearby Candi Borobudur.
It’s a 9km ride to out next destination coming from Sukuh Temple and Jumog Falls. We go higher up the slopes of the sacred Gunung Lawu and the views just keeps getting better. The afternoon light illuminates the vast tea plantation hills and we pass by a few tea harvesters going up and down the slopes. We are now 1400 meters above sea level and I see the gates to the Cetho Temple (Candi Cetho) bathed in warm light with stone guardians to welcome us.