Holy shit, look at all of these puppets.

In Bagan, Dhammayangyi Temple is the largest of the remaining four. However, I never even made it inside because this is what's at the entrance:

Puppets. Hundreds and hundreds of puppets hanging from a tree. We arrived right at sunset, and I was so enamored with the dangling puppets and the the amazing light and the cool shadows that I never even made it inside Bagan's largest and most famous temple. 

Up, up, and away

In Bagan, everybody seems to be trying to get the view from above. If they're not climbing to the tops of the pagodas and temples, they're taking a hot air balloon ride at dawn to look down at them. Even though rides here typically book up months out, we got lucky and scored a a last-minute spot with Oriental Ballooning, one of only two companies to offer ballooning in the area. It was not cheap: we paid $400 per person. However, from start to finish the experience was perfectly executed. They picked us up on time, we enjoyed coffee and pastries while the team readied the balloons, and our pilot was professional and experienced. They even gave us a champagne toast after landing — pretty swanky! 

Photo Diary: Bagan

Nyang U Market was one of our first stops in Bagan, and one of my favorite places to photograph. The colors, the food, the produce, the people — there are an endless interesting faces and things to capture. 

Next stop, the no less colorful Shwezigon Pagoda. Sadly, the top of the gilded gold-leaf stupa seemed to have been under renovation.

We ended the day scooting around Bagan on our e-bikes, hopping from one temple to the next. The Bagan Archaeological Zone has about 2,000 remaining temples and pagodas (down from 10,000 from its height in the 13th century), and it's easy to explore them on your own. Don't get me started on the light in Bagan — dusk here is truly magical and the best place to take it all in is on the top of a temple.

A lazy afternoon in Ubud

When I started planning my trip to Ubud, Bali, I got the feeling that my best bet would be making no plans at all. I was right. My best days there were spent visiting one or two places and leaving the hours in between open for wandering.

My afternoon walking the Campuhan Ridge was one such perfect lazily planned day. The trek begins at a blink-and-you'll-miss-it entrance next to Hotel Ibah near central Ubud. Keep walking, following the signs to Karsa Kafe, and eventually the view gives way to this:

Keep going and the hills turn into rice paddies and a smattering of tiny villages with roadside art galleries and warungs. After about an hour or so, you'll reach Karsa Kafe. The open-air, two-story space neighbors Karsa Spa, one of the most popular in Ubud, and offers a menu of healthy and organic dishes — think juices, fruit salads, satay, etc. . 

 

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Karsa Spa is popular for a reason. Its stunning setting made it one of my favorite Ubud experiences. From inside my treatment room (more like a treatment villa, actually, it was so huge) I could hear the trickling of the nearby lotus pond, and my traditional Balinese massage hit that elusive combination of effective yet relaxing (why does it always seem to be just one or the other?). Heavenly.

Do it: the Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier National Park

Our hike at Mount Rainier National Park didn't start off so promising. For the first 45 minutes or so, it looked liked this: 

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Stunning! But onward, upward. After huffing and puffing up the steepest part of the trail, the fog started to clear a bit and we finally got a glimpse of Mt. Rainier's snow-tinged peaks.

I love how dramatically the landscape of this trail changes — sheets of snow and glacier ice quickly turn into swaths of brush and rock, verdant firs give way to colorful fields of wildflowers. Around Glacier Vista, it all begins to feel very otherworldly, like you're hiking across Mars. 

The trail is renowned for its diversity of flora and fauna and it's definitely worth stopping along the way to get a closer look. 

In total, the 5.5-mile Skyline Trail takes about five hours, but that's with lots of breaks for snacks and snapshots. We followed directions laid out here and here. Happy trails!