Travel With Marilyn

New Book Celebrates Yellowstone

Marilyn JonesBefore the internet, I almost always bought books when I traveled so I'd have them to refer back to. Whether on a guided tour or exploring on my own, I wanted facts about what I learned and to better understand what I experienced. From twenty-page pamphlets to massive hardback books, I was always loaded down with reference material when I returned home.

As the internet gained strength and eventually provided the information I wanted and needed, I stopped buying this reference material. Until recently. Just like reading a print magazine over its digital cousin, I once again started collecting a few well-chosen travel books.

One book I was especially interested in was National Geographic’s recently released Yellowstone: A Journey through America’s Wild Heart. It seems a lifetime ago that I watched the Old Faithful geyser erupt and observed black bears and their cubs meandering through the woodlands. With all the publicity surrounding the National Park Service's centennial, I decided to research some of America’s western parks in hopes of returning to relive the pleasure of this nation’s wilderness.

yellowstone book

Author David Quammen’s narrative and the fantastic photography captured by eight National Geographic photographers over a two-year period make the book a treasure for travelers who have experienced the park, as well as anyone planning a visit.

There are mountains, forests, and lakes to explore, wildlife — including 67 species of mammals and nearly 300 species of birds — and the volcano’s hidden power rising up in colorful hot springs, mudpots, and geysers. There’s history to discover here; the park’s establishment led the way for a century of conservation “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

In 2015, four million sightseers visited the park. When you read the book and marvel at the exceptional photography, you’ll certainly know why America’s oldest national park is so popular.

Santa Fe Museums Showcase Art and History

When it comes to museums, Santa Fe has a lot to brag about. From art museums, including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, to the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, there are more than a dozen museums to tour in this city of just over 80,000.

On a recent visit, I chose to tour three; each with a different story to tell.

Museum of International Folk Art

Home to the world’s largest collection of folk art, the museum represents cultures from around the world. With a collection of more than 150,000 artifacts, the museum is a labyrinth of color, shape and beauty; carvings, paintings and creations on paper.



Museum of Spanish Colonial Art

The only museum in the country dedicated to exhibiting and interpreting the art of the Spanish colonial period with a focus on Hispanic New Mexico, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art houses a collection of more than 3,700 pieces.



Palace of the Governors

            Built by the Spanish as a government building in 1610, the Palace remains the country's oldest continuously occupied public building. Its exhibits chronicle the history of Santa Fe as well as New Mexico and the region. The National Historic Landmark was the original seat of New Mexico's territorial government since the time of Spanish colonization.



Santa Fe is a destination of history, culture and art. A visit here, anytime of year, is a treasure for the senses and a journey for the soul.

Vietnam War Horrors Revisited at Hanoi Hilton

Marilyn JonesIt was mid-afternoon when our Exodus Travels tour group entered Hỏa Lò Prison, also known as "Hanoi Hilton," where U.S. POWs were held during the Vietnam War.

What is left of Hỏa Lò Prison is the gatehouse, which now houses a museum focusing on both its use by the French and by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

prison 1

The first rooms are cavernous and show the deplorable conditions endured by Vietnamese political prisoners, who were held by the French during the 1950s. At the time, the Vietnamese were struggling for independence from France.


The rooms dedicated to the prison’s American POW detainment take on a totally different tone: the illusion of humane treatment with photos of POWs celebrating the holidays by decorating a Christmas tree and sitting down to a festive meal. When the POWs were released after being held for years, they told of being tortured and interrogated by the North Vietnam.


Toward the end of the tour is a courtyard with a wall of graphic art reflecting the horrible conditions prisoners here lived through while incarcerated.

For anyone wanting to better understand American history and the Vietnam War, this prison should be on their list of places to visit.

The Cambodian Temple, Banteay Srei, Honors Women

Marilyn JonesFrom Angkor Wat, it is about 45 minutes by bus to Banteay Srei, a beautiful, tenth century, Hindu temple complex. Banteay Srei — Citadel of Women — is made of red sandstone, and it takes on a deep pink glow in the afternoon sunlight. Its low walls, relatively small size, and the intricately carved scenes of Hindu tales are welcoming.

wall art

Completed in 967, Banteay Srei remained in use until at least the 14th century. It is the only major temple at Angkor not built for the king. It was actually constructed by one of king Rajendravarman's counselors, Yajnyavahara, and dedicated to Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu. The temple was rediscovered in 1914.

temple 2

When we arrived, the Exodus Travels group listened as our tour guide, Vanney, explained that the center doorway was reserved for the king, while the two much smaller ones were for everyone else. Because of the temple's small size, we all walked in more or less a square around the many peaked structures in the center of the square, photographing buildings, doorway arches, and carved reliefs. Decoration covers almost every available surface.

temple 3

Every temple has its own personality, built to honor different factions of the Buddhist and Hindu religions. Each is a three-dimensional window into the rich history of Cambodia.

Read about other Cambodian temples: Angkor WatAngkor Thom and Ta Prohm.

The Jungle Slowly Creeps into Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia

Marilyn JonesThe jungle has encroached on Ta Prohm, creating a beauty all its own.




I arrived with my fellow Exodus Travels explorers midday, although inside the temple — because of the massive trees shadowing it — it seems much later, almost dusk. Used in the filming of both Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones, the temple is Disney-like in its reflection of what I always imagined the Cambodian temples would be like.

temple 1

Tree roots snake along and into the Buddhist temple walls. Many artifacts were stolen, but a keen eye reveals the most intricate of carvings, doorways, and passageways. The temple is simply remarkable.

statue buddah

Weaving along narrow corridors and into nearly hidden courtyards, I found visitors less gregarious, more concentrated on the surrounding beauty of a temple slowly being overtaken by the jungle. This is a destination of contemplation and awe-inspiring beauty.



The 39 towers are connected by numerous galleries. Exploring the labyrinth is like entering another world, another dimension. Its intimacy is like no other Cambodian temple.

Read about other Cambodian temples; Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.

Exploring Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Marilyn JonesOur bus drops us off so we can walk along a causeway leading to an entry tower. On the right are 54 frowning demons, and on the left, 54 smiling gods guarding the city of Angkor Thom. Many of the heads, stolen over time, have been replaced with contemporary sculpture offering the illusion of another time — although motorcycles, tuk tuks, cars, and buses slowly cross the bridge, too.


Each of the temple’s five entry towers is equally impressive. Each tower stands 75 feet high and is adorned with four heads. These represent the rulers of the four cardinal points at the summit of Mount Meru in Hindu mythology.

Back on the bus with the other fifteen Exodus Travels tour members, we head deeper into the complex.

gate 2

The last capital of the Khmer Empire, Angkor Thom, was a fortified city of priests, officials of the palace and the military, as well as buildings for administering the kingdom. As amazing as the gates are, imagine several towers, each with four faces looking down from their lofty perch. For sure-footed visitors, there are stairs enabling them to climb to an equally high perch.


Another feature is the vast walls of intricate carvings; so deep they have stood the test of time. Scenes portrayed offer a glimpse into everyday life, as well as religious symbols and mythology.


Read about another Cambodian temple; Angkor Wat.

A Look at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Marilyn JonesSunrise is an hour away as I make my way along the wide pathway to Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, located just north of Siem Reap. I am joined by 15 other Exodus Travels tourists and our guide, Vanney. On the edge of a reflecting pool, hundreds of other visitors jockey for position to get the best photo of the sun rising over the temple.


Angkor Wat was built in the first half of the 12th century. Estimated construction time is 30 years. Built by King Suryavarman II and dedicated to Vishnu, a Hindu god, it later became a Buddhist temple.


Time passes quickly as I chat with other tour members, all from America and the UK, and all friendly, funny, and curious about the past and this spectacular, 900-year-old, religious destination.

Although it is cloudy, the sun offers a few streaks of tangerine, gold and crimson. As soon as the light transforms into bright yellow sunshine, we all follow our guide to the temple. 


Monkeys dart everywhere, stealing whatever food they can snatch from unsuspecting visitors. The beauty of the temple, its unbelievable intricacy and preservation, are awe inspiring. Through the first temple, we come out again to yet another and another.


The final temple is the most elaborate, with swimming pools on two floors. Buddhist monks bless visitors, tourists click off thousands of pictures, and everyone wonders at its very existence.