From Patagonia, we were driven across the border from Chile to Argentina and arrived at the town of El Calafate after about 5 hours. Most visitors base themselves in El Calafate and visit the Perito Moreno Glacier in the Los Glaciares National Park on a day trip. It is one of the few non-receding glaciers left in the world. There are marked walkways in front of the glacier for you to get different views as well as watch large chunks of ice break off and fall into the water.
Patagonia in the southern part of Chile was one of the more difficult places to get to, especially from Asia. I flew from the States to Santiago and connected to Punta Arenas and then it was another 5 hour drive into Torres del Paine national park where my hotel, Explora, is located. It is an all inclusive hotel taking you on 2 half-day or 1 full-day excursion each day. There are 50 guided explorations on foot and horseback to the remotest areas inside Torres del Paine to choose from.
Gardens by the Bay is built as a continuation of the goverment’s commitment to transform Singapore into a “Garden City” with lush greenery and outdoor spaces for the people. The total area of the park is 250 acres by the Marina in central Singapore. The most visited parts of the park are the two Conservatories, Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, and the Supertrees Grove. The architecture of these buildings aims at minimizing the environmental impact with a rainwater collection system from the surface of the greenhouses that is then sent to be circulated in the cooling system at the Supertrees where hot air is vented.
The Grand Palace and Wat Pho both sit on the Chao Phraya River in the heart of Bangkok. The Grand Palace is currently a museum open to the public but there are still royal offices handling official work here. The present King does not reside in the Grand Palace but it is still used for official ceremonies. The Grand Palace is made up numerous buildings and pavilions amongst several gardens. The layout of the Grand Palace resembles that of the Royal Palace at Ayutthaya.
Hua Hin is a seaside resort on the Gulf of Thailand. It is about 3 hours by car south of Bangkok. It became a popular beach retreat for wealthy Thais after King Rama VI and King Rama VII built summer residences here in the 1920s. We went in December and the temperature was very comfortable with a constant breeze from the sea. I can see why people come here to escape the stifling heat of Bangkok.
As mentioned in a previous post, Caracol and Lamanai are the two most important political centers in Maya Belize. Unfortunately, Caracol was closed during our trip because there was a shooting there killing a police officer only a couple of weeks before our arrival. With Caracol closed, we decided to go to Lamanai even though it is much farther away and the weather was very rainy.
Barton Creek Cave is a remote cave formerly used by the ancient Mayans as a burial and ceremonial site. It is a river cave about 7 km long with a single entrance. We paddle into the cave in a canoe, and on the day of our visit, we were the only ones in the cave. There are bones and ceremonial artifacts among the beautiful stalacites and stalagmites. Our guide decided to turn off the torch when we were deep inside the cave, the quiet lapping of the water against the canoe in complete darkness was a bit eery – gave us insight into how this place, their underworld, felt to the ancient Mayans.