Ho Chi Ming City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Ming City (formerly Saigon) is the commercial center of Vietnam as Hanoi is the political center of Vietnam.  Ho Chi Ming City is in the southeast of Vietnam surrounding the Saigon River.  This metropolis city is the most visited in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Ming City Hall
Ho Chi Ming City Hall

 

 

Municipal Theater
The Municipal Theater of Ho Chi Ming City. It was constructed in 1900 by the French during its colonial rule. It is of a typical French architectural style. During the time of North and South Vietnam, it was where the Lower House assemble. Not until 1975 it was again an Opera House and restored in 1995.

 

 

 

IMAG0488
The Central Post Office of Ho Chi Ming City was constructed (1886-1891) during the French occupation in the French Colonial style.
IMAG0491-COLLAGE
The spectacular interior of the 19th century Central Post Office, with telephone booth and world time clocks. It is still functional at this time of e-mails and mobile phones!
20180218_082434-EFFECTS
In front of the cathedral are a flower garden and a statue of the Virgin Mary which had been reported seen tears in Oct. 2005.

 

Not too far from the Central Post Office is the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon.  Constructed in 1863-1880 and the Bell Towers were added in 1895 makes it 57.6 meters tall, with the addition of the crosses made it 60.5 meters tall.

IMAG0525
The famous delicious Vietnamese coffee is a culture acquired from the French.
IMAG0500-COLLAGE
South Vietnamese water puppet show.
IMAG0531
The Thien Hau Temple is a Chinese style temple worshiping MaZhu. First built in 1760 and continually made add-on and repairs.
20180218_102948-COLLAGE
Many worshipers inside during the Chinese New Year creating smoking mist with incense burning.
IMAG0538-COLLAGE
plaques on the wall depicting the original ties of the temple.
20180218_120921-COLLAGE
The beautiful Mekong Rest Stop where we had lunch
20180218_123647
Our delicious Vietnamese lunch
20180218_132231
Along the way to Mekong Delta, we come to Vinh Trang Temple. First, come to be in 1849, then partially destroy through various wars, finally rebuilt and restored in 1907. One of the major Buddhist temples in South Vietnam.
IMAG0568
Shakyamuni Buddha lying posture going into Nirvana is one of the statues in Vinh Trang Temple ground

20180218_133028

IMAG0563
Happy Buddha is also there. Greeting everyone there

Amitabha Buddha welcoming everyone. He is also on top of the two gates leading to the ground of Vinh Trang Temple.  One is named the convenient Dharma gate and the other is the gate of pureness.20180218_132024_001-COLLAGE (1)

20180218_135825
The bridge is where Mekong River goes out to sea
20180218_144719-COLLAGE
Boat ride in Mekong Delta
IMAG0592-COLLAGE
Our delicious meal made of various dishes of rice or rice flour.

 

Nanjing’s Qixia Mountain(棲霞山) Presidential Palace & 1912 Bar Street

Qixia Mountain has a variety of maple trees render it a spectacular place to visit in the autumn when the foliage becomes colorful.

20191112_102358
Entrance to Qixia Mountain Scenic Area where one can buy tickets for the bus to take you around the mountain to various scenic sites or buy tickets to Qixia Temple.

When we arrived at Qixia, the foliage was only starting to turn.  Therefore we just visit the Qixia Temple considered to be the birthplace of the “Three Treatise” school of East Asia Buddhism.  Built-in AD 489 contained a large collection of visual arts associated with Buddhism and continuously add on during different Dynasties.  It was destroyed by Taiping rebellion and restored by the Republic of China.  However, it was ransacked by the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution.

The way to Qixia Temple
gateway into the Qixia Temple
The Pagoda in the middle of the lake is connected to the bank by a Nine Bend Bridge which makes it look like a rainbow.

 

This place has very nice sou-venir shops.  The first site we came to is Mirror Lake. It was created during the Qing Dynasty during Emperor Qianlong’s reign.

Mirror Lake created in 1644-1911

 

 

 

 

 

Going up the slope of Qixia Mountain we come upon the “Thousand Buddha Caves”.  The grotto contains many Buddhist sculptures of art.

Thousand Buddha Cave
The largest is Buddha of immeasurable life is the exact depiction of Buddha of Immeasurable Life in the Southern Dynasty around the year 489 and his attendant Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta bodhisattvas.  This is the oldest statue here which is 1528 years old.

 

 

 

 

Here is a closer look at the  Buddha caves.

Sarira Pagoda is of octagonal shape, 5 stories total 18 meters high. Highly decorated with carvings. Built-in 601 re-built in 945, holds the relics of Buddhas. The pagoda is a little worn but its underground is still in pristine condition.
Pilu Hall (毗卢殿) house a statue of Vairocana Buddha- Primordial Buddha
The Shanmen, the official entrance into the Qixia temple. The three archway is a symbol of entering the three liberation door.

Qixia Temple took in refugees during the Nanking Massacre. Saving 23000 lives from the Japanese.

Presidential Palace

This was the center of government for the Republic of China before 1949

Bar Street of 1912 was where the center of entertainment.  Bring back the nostalgia.  German brewery was new and in fashion.

old German brewery equipment
Where Chinese beer was made and sold
The modern cafe moved in to keep this area viable still.
This restaurant was popular in 1912 and kept the place the same. Even the menu is the same with some new addition.
Our dinner from the Red Restaurant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zhongshan Mountain National Park ( 鐘山 “紫金山” 風景區: 美齡宮,明孝陵,灵谷景區,中山陵,音樂台)

Zhongshan Mountain located in the suburb of eastern Nanjing, also known as the Purple Mountain.  It is one of the small mountains that only consists of 31 square kilometers but contains 200 heritage and scenic sites to visit.  Basically, we can divide into five must-see sites which are the Ming Tombs ( Ming Xiaoling), Linggu Temple, Dr. Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Mei-ling Palace (actually a villa), Music Stage, Ocean World.  Although shuttle cars are available to take you to different areas because each of these areas covers a lot of grounds making much walking necessary.   Attempts to cover all in one day will be futile.  One must leave something for another day.

Ming Mausoleum construction started in 1381 and end in 1405.  First constructed as the tomb for the Ming emperors but then the capital was moved to Beijing and all the succeeding Ming emperors were buried in the Ming Tomb of Beijing. Moving toward the Ming Mausoleum is a sacred way (神道)guarded by 6 pairs of stone animal statues of the Ming period carvings,  both in standing and sitting position.

This path guarded by standing elephant

 

 

Path guarded by camels.

Samples of the stone statues of other animals below.

The path curved to avoid going through the tomb of Sun Quan of the kingdom of Wu during the period of three kingdoms and others.  The path continued turning onto Wengzhong Way guarded by four pairs of stone figures of ministers and generals.

a pair of stone statue of generals along the Wengzhong way
a stone statue of Ming minis

 

 

The first gate we come to into the Ming Tomb is the Civil and Military Gate. The Emperors enter through the center gate. The right gate is for the Prince and Princess. The left gate is for the Lords and Nobles.
Tablet was erected by Qing Emperor Kangxi extolling the Ming Dynasty.

Then we come to the Tablet Hall, which was renovated by
Qing Emperor Kangxi on his order to protect the Ming Tomb during his visit to pay homage, an action to pacify the rebels of the Ming Dynasty at the time.

Finally, the Ming Tower appears.  Built above a rectangular Citadel has the commanding post of the Ming Mausoleum.  The Southern side has three arch doorways and one each on the other three sides.

The inside is paved with square stone bricks
Inside the Ming Tower
Going up inside the stone Citadel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mei-ling Palace (美齡宮) was the villa built for Soong Mei-ling the first lady and wife of Chiang Kai-Shek, Chairman of the National Government.  The mansion was purposely built as a love nest for the couple and they spend much time there.  The roof has 1000 phoenixes carved on the tiles and there were 34 marble pillars with a phoenix carved on top of it for the 34 birthdays of Madam Soong Mei-Ling.

see these trees planted around the villa and along the ring road
A 2000 square meter mansion has separate offices for secretary of Chang Kai-Shek and Soong Mei-ling as well as live-in quarters for guards and servants.

An aerial view will show the trees form a necklace with the villa as the diamond of the necklace. The mansion was built with a mix of Chinese and Western styles and was also used as a relax official entertaining site.

There is an exhibition of Madame Soong Mei-ling’s paintings with President Chang Kai-Shek’s calligraphy.  Madame Soong Meiling had many accomplishments, mainly associated with seeing China through the most difficult times of early Republic and the time of Japanese aggression as well as World War II.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Mausoleum covers an area of 20 acres. This is the burial site of Dr. Sun Yat-Senn (1866-1925), the “Father of the Republic of China”.   He successfully led the Chinese revolution against the Qing Dynasty which ended the monarchy rules of the past to the modern democratic system for the people.  His doctrine of the “Three Principles of the People”  became the main philosophy guiding the Chinese government. The Mausoleum is closed on Mondays.  We will need revisit at another time.

The Arched gate preceding the Sun Yat-Sen’s Mausoleum inscribed his words “Universal Love”
On top of the stairs is the Mausoleum with inscription “World of Justice” advocated by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen
Seen from the closed gate is the stele inscribed “Here lies the Chairman of Kuomintang, Sun Yat-Sen

 

 

 

 

 

The open-air music stage is nearby the Sun Yat-Sen’s Mausoleum.  It is a stage for musical performances and speeches.

Xuanwu Lake(玄武湖) & Ji Ming Temple (雞鳴寺)of Nanjing, China

20191110_145857
XuanWu Gate, is the main entrance of XuanWu Park.   It is part of the old Nanjing’s city wall built in Ming Dynasty and the gate itself was reconstructed when XuanWu park opened to the public.

XuanWu Park used to be a royal park where emperors and his entourages hunt and have outings.  At other times it was a training ground for soldiers to enact fighting on the water.  Only after China became a republic that it was open to the public as a park.  It is the largest park with an enclosed lake on the ground in JianSu province.  XuanWu Lake comprises five islands connected by arch bridges.  The park always has many activities  and exhibitions going on and is a must visit attraction all year round.  20191110_150809-effects-collage

JiMing Temple borders the XuanWu Park on its southeastern side connected to the old Nanjing city wall. It is one of the oldest temple in Nanjing.  The original temple was build in 527 during the Liang Dynasty.  Since then, it was destroyed and reconstructed many times at different periods.  JiMing literal definition means the crowing rooster. Legend has it that there was once a poisonous centipede in the mountain of  JinHua,  embanking XuanWu Lake harming nearby people and animals. The Jade Emperor in heaven send the crowing rooster to control the devious centipede.  Even thou the crowing frightened the centipede, it did not impede its action.  The brave rooster sought to combat the centipede.  After a fierce fight, the centipede died but the rooster was badly poisoned by the centipede died too.  The people named the temple JiMing to commemorate the rooster.

20191110_161108
south-side of the Old Nanjing City Wall built in Ming Dynasty.
The temple for Kwan Yin Bodhisattva of Compassion _
Kwan Yin temple, Bodhisattva of Compassion

 

Nanjing, China “Confucius Temple & Qin Huai Area”

Nanjing, China, the ancient city, Jinling, situated at the Yangtze River Delta, and has historically served, on and off, as the governing center of China since the 3rd century to 1949.  It has been an important center of arts, cultures, and educational,  with  these continuous influences made Nanjing the nation’s most civilized city thus winning the 2008 U.N. Habitat Scroll of Honor Award.

 

20191110_170548
The Temple of Confucius, the first philosopher, and educator of China, showing here, his statue with his eight disciples on each side.
20191110_165943
Inside Confucius Temple is where people come to pray for good luck on exams as most scholars since 1034.  The present temple was build in 1984, o n the original site, after it was burned down by the Japanese in 1937.

Not far from here is the Museum of Imperial Exam and Imperial Academy.  Nearby is the Qin Hai River where scholars used to gather in tea houses on its water banks.

20191110_171206
The longest screen in China facing the Confucius Temple.  Where one can hire a boat to float along the Qin Huai River taking in the sight of this ancient marketplace.
20191110_171641-collage
Scenes of the Qin Huai River

Here are a glimpse of the things in the market place.

20191110_164106-collage

With in this area is the old residence of the famous Chinese statesman, philosopher, and poet, naming the “Black  Clothes Lane” whether it was named because during the Three Kingdom Period,  it was the barracks of soldiers who wore black uniform or the nobles at the time prefer to show dignity in black clothes.  During the Tang Dynasty, a poet named Liu Yuxi wrote a poem:  (It goes something like this:

Wild flowers flourish along the Zhuque Bridge                         The sun sets at the end of Wuyi Lane                                           The swallows that had swarm the place                                      Had all flown to normal homes

Another often visited place of the locals when they seek the leisure of times gone by is a walk through Old Gate East. 

Halong Bay, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam.  It is known that Vietnam features three slenderness.  They are slender women, slender houses, and slender shape of the country.  It occupies the whole east coast of the Indochina Peninsula along the South China Sea.

20180215_135027
Ba Dinh Square in front of the Ho Chi Ming Mausoleum–Ho Chi Ming is the father of Vietnam. He united Vietnam, fought against French colonialism and liberated Vietnam from foreigners as well as fought the Japanese during World War II.
20180215_131442
Temple of Literature-built in 1070, a temple dedicated to Confucius, also hosts the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s first university.
20180215_131414-collage
In the park across from the Temple of Literature was where calligraphists assemble before the Vietnamese New Year to write wishes in Hán characters. The artworks are given away as gifts or are used as home decorations for special occasions.
imag0184 (1)
The Welcoming Morning Sunlight Bridge leads to the Temple of Jade Mountain, a Taoist temple on the islet located in the Hoan Kiem Lake,
imag0187-collage
The entrance to Welcoming Morning Sunlight Bridge.
20180215_103312-collage
Tran Quoc Pagoda situated on the West Lake was once by the Red River built-in 15 hundred. The tallest pagoda was rebuilt in 2004 holding monk’s ashes. The Tran Quoc old temple where people go the pray is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi. The altar is to the Buddha, Sangha, and Buddha Dharma. There is a Bodhi tree that is propagated from the original Bodhi tree under which Buddha obtained enlightenment.
imag0213
St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a church on Nha Tho Street in the Hoàn Kiếm District of Hanoi, Vietnam. It’s a late 19th-century Gothic Revival church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese is still being used for the Catholics of Hanoi.
imag0196-collage
Hoan Kiem District -“Old Quarter” An old busy market place where one can find various vendors, and bicycles, streetcars, scooters zigzagging around. Crisscrossing between old colonial buildings and old town gate and some leftover standing walls.
20180215_135525-collage
One Pillar Temple built by Emperor Lý Thái Tông in 1040 in gratitude for granting him a son after being without an heir for twenty some years on the throne. It was designed to symbolize a Lotus flower rising from a muddy pond. Just as in the emperor’s dream how his son was brought to him in a lotus flower by Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. People come to pray for babies here. The original pillar was of wood but was blown up by the French as they were retreating. What one sees is a concrete replacement.
imag0241-collage
Follow the construction of One Pillar Temple, in gratitude of continue descendant, this temple was built next door. Like the first one, it was dedicated to Kwan Yin or Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.
imag0222
Vietnamese art in everyday use is very practical in bringing happiness to all. A little mankind’s creativity on the goodness of Mother Nature.

Ha Long Bay is about a three and a half hour bus ride from Hanoi.  This is a UNESCO Heritage Sit due to the extraordinary bay-scape.  The Bay covers a 1533 square kilometers but consist of around 2,000 islets of various size and shape.  The limestone of the bay shows 500 millions years of evolution.  There are many species of plants and animals on the karst that had gone through 20 million years of evolution in the tropical climate typical for this environment.

20180214_120345
La Han Bay, where we board the cruise ship.
20180214_120413 (1)
Getting started at La Han Bay
20180214_112451
Along the way
20180214_112638-collage (1)
Trong Mai Islet-Fighting Cocks Islet
20180214_123550 (1)
Approaching Thien Cung Cave -Heavenly Palace Cave
20180214_123705-ANIMATION
Thien Cung Cave.
20180214_143718-collage-collage
Tiptop island named after the Soviet Astronaut Ghermann Titov. The island has a crescent beach with white sand. One can swim and eat here 24 hours. Many tourist ships anchors nearby. On top of the island, one can see the whole Halong Bay.

Rome, Italy II

Colosseum, the iconic symbol of Imperial Rome, is on the New Seven Wonders of the World List and one of the popular tourist attractions of Italy.

20180921_122544
Built-in 70 AD and finished in 80 AD during the Flavian dynasty hence also known as the Flavian Amphitheater. This is the Largest amphitheater in the world, It is of oval shape with measurement of 189 meters long and 156 meters wide. The base area is 24,000 sq. feet, the perimeter is 545 meters and the height is 48 meters. It can hold 50,000 to 80,000 spectators.

During the Roman times, the Colosseum provides fights of gladiators and wild animals or executions by wild animals for entertainment.  The spectators my yell out whether they like to see the kill or show mercy to the fighters, but the emperor had the right to override the decision.  Usually, the gladiator fights were scheduled in the mornings and the animal fights were scheduled in the afternoons with the executions in between.  The blood of the dead gladiators and the animals were bottled for the witch doctors to give as health tonics for the sick.

20180921_103209-PANO
Inside the Colosseum, we can see the lower level where the animals and gladiators were kept while they waited for their turn to go on. The platform was where the base of the arena was and around on the top were tiers of seating for the spectators.

After the 7th century, the arena was converted to a cemetery, and the lower level was converted for housing and workshops.  During the 12th century, it was a castle for a while, until 1349 it was destroyed by the great earthquake.   Stones and other valuable building materials were carried away for other projects.

20180921_104219
Several crosses were erected for the many martyrdom that happened here.
20180921_095331
Arch of Constantine built to commemorate the Victory of Constantine I in the Battle of Milvian Bridge. This three-arches triumphal arch is 21 meters high and 25 meters wide, built-in the year 315.
20180921_122557
What’s left of the Temple of Roma and Venus once known as a grand building in Ancient Rome. Construction began in 121 and finished in 141. What follows is what happen to any grand buildings, that its valuables were gradually stripped for other building projects and the final major destruction was of an earthquake.
20180921_121741
Arch of Titus was constructed by Emperor Domitian around 82 AD to commemorate his brother, Titus’s victories.
20180921_130336-PANO
Roman Forum-the ruins of ancient Rome’s city center. Remnants of important government buildings, temples, marketplace, and streets
20180921_130735-COLLAGE (1)
Santa Francesca Romana used to be named Santa Maria Nova as the plaque says when it was built in the late 10th century. An 8th-century oratory excavated from the wing of the Temple of Venus and Roma was incorporated. Later when the bell tower was added in the 13th century, Pope Honorius III built the apse decorated with a mosaic of enthroned Madonna with Saints. In the 16th century, it was rededicated to Frances of Rome, canonized in 1608, whose relics were in the crypt. Saint Francesca Romana is the patron Saint of car drivers. On March 9, cars would line up to partake in the blessing at the feast.
20180921_143113-COLLAGE
A delicious lunch at Pasqualino al Colosseo.

Ballet:  La Belle au good Dormanti at the theater.

A traditional Italian restaurant who makes everything fresh.  Yes, including all kinds of pasta.mmexport1537421057128-COLLAGE

Quartiere Coppede is the smallest district of Rome.  The outstanding whimsical style is by Gino Coppede.  This district may be small but it is very exclusive.  It is finished in 1924 consist of 26 small apartments and 7 Villas.  The Beatles danced in the Fountain of Frogs (Fontana delle Rane) and it appeared in some scenes of the film ” The Bird with the Crystal Plumage” an Italian film released in 1970.  The average price of this smallest district is approximately 10,000 Euros per sq. meters.

mmexport1539259717267 (1)
Eur district’s Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro, or “square colosseum”. a white building with the same amount of arches as Mussolini’s first name and surname. It houses several museums.

Other beautiful buildings in Rome.20180919_100716-COLLAGE