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.

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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.
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Temple of Literature-built in 1070, a temple dedicated to Confucius, also hosts the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s first university.
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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.
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The Welcoming Morning Sunlight Bridge leads to the Temple of Jade Mountain, a Taoist temple on the islet located in the Hoan Kiem Lake,
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The entrance to Welcoming Morning Sunlight Bridge.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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La Han Bay, where we board the cruise ship.
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Getting started at La Han Bay
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Along the way
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Trong Mai Islet-Fighting Cocks Islet
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Approaching Thien Cung Cave -Heavenly Palace Cave
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Thien Cung Cave.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Several crosses were erected for the many martyrdom that happened here.
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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.
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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.
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Arch of Titus was constructed by Emperor Domitian around 82 AD to commemorate his brother, Titus’s victories.
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Roman Forum-the ruins of ancient Rome’s city center. Remnants of important government buildings, temples, marketplace, and streets
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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.
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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.

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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

 

Rome, Italy I

Rome, the capital city of Italy.  It is the oldest continuous inhabited site in Europe even though history can only be traced back to the beginning of Rome around 753 BC.  It is the birthplace of western civilization and claims the be the “eternal city”.  This historic center is on the UNESCO list as the World Heritage Site.  Under the city of Rome has many layers of cities from pre-historic Roman times.  The city itself is a big archeology site. 

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The Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of Holy Angel) in Parco Adriano was first built by Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. Since it was the tallest building at that time, the Popes took over and made it a fortress/residence. Ashes of the emperors were scattered and the valuable materials and decorations were removed and brought over for the use of building St. Peter’s Basilica. The building was also used as a prison. Executions were done at the inner courtyard. On top is the statue of Archangel Michael for ending the plague of 590. Today it is a museum.
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Ponte Saint’Angelo bridge, a Roman bridge built in 134 AD. This pedestrian bridge crosses over the Tiber River and leads into the Castel Sant’Angelo on the right bank of Tiber River. In 1669, Pope Clement IX commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini for the sculptures of Angels symbolizing the stories of the crucifixion sufferings of Jesus Christ.
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The angels on the bridge were designed by Bernini but finished by his successor. He was able to finish two which is the angel with the Crown of Thorns and angel with the Superscription. These are the Angel with the Cross and Angel with the Superscription. This is a copy of the original by Bernini and his son Paolo. The original along with the Angel with the Crown of Thorns is in the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte.
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Via della Conciliazione heading away from St. Peter’s Basilica towards Ponte Sant’Angelo. This road is a major throughway ordered by Benita Mussolini to connect the Vatican to the heart of Rome.
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Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II bridge designed in 1886 by Ennio De Rossi. The bridge crosses the Tiber, the river known as the birthplace of Rome, to connect the historic city of Rome to the Vatican City.
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In Piazza Navona the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers-the four figures represent the Niles, Ganges, Danube, and Rio della Plata) with the Egyptian obelisk in the middle. On top is a dove, a symbol of Pamphili’s family. 1651 by Gia Lorenzo Bernini
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Fontana del Moro is a fountain located at the southern end of the Piazza Navona in Rome. The dolphin and the four Tritons were by Giacomo della Porta in 1575. The Moor or the Ethiopian out of the conch were added by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1653. 1874 during the restoration of the fountain, the original sculptures were removed to the Galleria Borghese. The building behind is Palazzo Pamphilj built in 1644 and 1650. In 1920 it was purchased by Brazil and became the Brazilian embassy in Italy.
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Sant’Agnese in Piazza Navona is a 17th-century Baroque church. This is where the early Christian Saint Agnese was martyred in the Roman Stadium Domitian upon which the Piazza Navona was built on.
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Trevi Fountain designed by Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini. It is the largest and most famous Baroque fountain found in Italy. The fountain was built at the end of the 19th-century, Aqua Virgo aqueduct to bring in water from the Salone Springs that is 14 miles away to supply the Roman Baths. The statue in the middle is Ocean on a chariot pulled by a docile horse and a restless horse indicating the ocean as sometimes peaceful and sometimes forceful. Guided by two Triton. One is young and the other elderly holding a horn announcing the arrival of Ocean. On Ocean’s left is the statue of Health and on his right is Abundance
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The Spanish steps, a set of steps built in the 17th century to connect from the lower Piazza di Spagna to the Piazza Trinità dei Monti, on the top where we see the Trinità dei Monti church. Because the 135 steps were irregular consists of straight and curve flights as well as terraces were unique and elegant inspired many artists, painters, and poets. Many beautiful women gathered here in hopes to model for artists. They, in turn, attracted many rich Romans and travelers here. Eventually, it became a preferred meeting place.
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Capitoline Museums, at Capitoline Hill. Designed by Michelangelo is the first museum in the world opened in 1734. The mounted rider in the front is Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
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Vittorio Emanuele II Monument or Altare della Patria. monument in honor of Vittorio Emauele II, the first king of a unified Italy. The statues on the rooftop are goddess Victoria on a chariot pulled by 4 horses.
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The Pantheon, a 2,000-year-old architectural wonder of the Romans. Was built to honor all Gods but later turned into a church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs. The 16 Corinthian columns supporting the portico weights 60 tons each and was from a quarry in Egypt. It was floated on wooden barges down the River Nile in spring when the water level was high and then shipped across the Mediterranean to Roman port of Ostia then pulled up the Tiber River on wooden barges to Rome.
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The dome of the Pantheon is the largest unsupported dome in the world for 1300 years. Its top has an opening, the “Oculus” which is the only opening to bring in natural light into the Pantheon. At mid-day on April 21st, the light will shine in and strike the metal grille above the door reflected light up the front courtyard. The tombs of many Italian kings and poets including the famous artist, Raphael is placed here.

 

 

 

Siem Reap and Angkor of Cambodia (II)(吴哥窟-柬埔寨)

Angkor Wat, one of the largest religious monuments in the world.  It occupies an area approximately 402 acres. This temple was built by King Suryavarman II of the Khmer Kingdom in the early 12th century dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu.  Later, during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, it was transformed into a Buddhist temple.  

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Approaching Angkor Wat Temple Area, one can feel the grandness of this place just like during the 12th century.

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Inside the main temple is even more spectacular. The four towers of each corner and the highest center tower (43 meters high) represents Mt. Meru which is believed to be the center of the universe by Buddhism and Hinduism. Cambodians are very proud of this temple building which even found a place on the Cambodian flag.

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Entrances to the temple grounds. The main entrance was for the royals and the side entrances were for the animals and entourages

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This used to be the library.

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This used to be the bathing area before entering the temple.

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Carvings of Aspara dancers on the walls and decorative roofs surround the temple buildings

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The walls of the corridor depicting battle stories

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The top of the towers was the actual place where the praying practice occurs. The King needs to climb all the way to the top on hands and knees. Only the one with the handrails and re-enforced steps were opened for tourist.

Another temple in the area of Angkor is Banteay Srei.  This temple was first built in the 10th century by not of the royals but by the king’s counselor a scholar and philanthropist.  The temple used to be in the center of a Khmer village.  Therefore it is of the same size and height as the other Khmer dwellings.  The temple was dedicated to the Hindu God, “Shiva”.20180216_143456

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The temple was mainly built of red sandstones with elaborate decorative cravings as well as many cravings of devatas. So its modern name became Banteay Srei, meaning “Citadel of Women or Beauty”.

The temple not just suffered from natural erosion but also from looting and pilfering for its beautiful pieces. Attempts were being made to restore with as many of the original pieces as possible and made replicas of many pieces of artworks so that the original may be put in the National Museum for safekeeping.

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close view of the temple and elaborate decorative cravings

Note:  In Cambodia, one can survive on fruits.  They are not just healthy and delicious.  They are also pleasing to the eyes.

Koblenz, Germany

Koblenz came from the Latin words which mean the convergence of two rivers, the Rhine and the Moselle.   Because of its strategic position on a major waterway, it was in a prime location to collect tolls and levy taxes on goods that were on the merchant ships passing by.  For this reason only, Koblenz had different occupants throughout its history.  With this, of course, came the largest fortress built between 1817 and 1828 and it is the best-preserved fortress in Europe on the Unesco World Heritage List of 2002. Ehrenbreitstein Fortress located on the hilltop east of the Rhine across from Koblenz.  It overlooks the old town of Koblenz and at the same time monitor the waterways of Rhine and Moselle.

The Fortress Ehrenbreitstein on the hilltop. and The Dikasterialgebaude at the foot of the hill, built in the mid 18th century in baroque castle style. Now it is used for offices.

The grounds of the fortress now houses several museums, exhibition halls, pubs, and a youth hostel.

View from the fort Ehrenbreitstein and the cable car ride.

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The German Corner (Deutsche Eck) at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle

This Statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I is a reconstruction of the old one which was destroyed during World War II.  This is his memorial in honor of his Unification of Germany after three years of war. The original one was erected in 1897 and this replacement was erected in 1993.  This has been a part of UNESCO world heritage “Upper Middle Rhine Valley” site since 2002

The Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) built-in the 5th century on the highest point in the town of Koblenz on a Roman foundation.  Since that time it had been rebuilt and expanded on its original foundation.  For a time from late middle age to the French Revolution, it served as the church of Koblenz.

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A walk around in the old town.

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Some other interesting tidbits about Koblenz.

Schangel a symbol of Koblenz. on a manhole cover. It is a child born in the period when Koblenz was in allegiance with France or the German-France child. Designed in 1940 dedicated to the poet, Josef Cornelius who wrote the lyrics to the anthem of Koblenz

The Schangelbrunn fountain stands in Willi-HorterPlatz. It will pit out water at odd intervals to spray at the passer-bys.

Old Kauf und Danzhaus stands in St. Florin’s Market. It housed the Middle Rhine Museum until 2012. The head below the clock will roll its eyes to the beat of the pendulum and sticks out its tongue every 1/2 hour. It is a reminder of robber baron Lutter von Kobern”s execution in 1536

The New Koblenzer beer brewery. Koblenzer was first brewed in 1689 in the Historic center of Koblenz. But it has become a part of a brewery conglomerate.

 

Heidelberg, Germany

Heildelberg Castle Ruins is the landmark of Heidelberg.  It is one of the most important Renaissance structure north of the Alps.  It was built as a castle in the twelve hundreds.  After several natural and man-made destructions, the rebuilding and expansion resulted in a three castle structure and through several changes of ownership it fell in ruins.  Its position on the hillside is one of the reasons why it’s beauty charmed the romantics of the time.

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The view from Heidelberg Castle terrace of the Old Town, the Old Bridge(Karl Theodor Bridge), and the Church of Holy Spirit.

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Heidelberg Castle Ruins from Old Stone Bridge

Some scenes from the castle ruins.

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Heidelberg Castle Ruin did not become a tourist attraction until the 19th century when the town is connected to the railroad system.  The American writer, Mark Twain got his inspiration for Huckleberry Finn here as well as “A Tramp Abroad”.The banks of Neckar River that inspired Mark Twain for his Huckleberry Finn

The banks of Neckar river

Heidelberg is a university town.  Heidelberg University founded in the 14th century, the oldest institution of higher education in Germany.  Students, from the university, make up a quarter of its population.  They bring in the vibrant vitality. innovation spirit, and idealistic vision which is unique to this town.  Heidelberg’s attraction is this unique blend of the old and the new.  Photos below show a variety of the old and the new.

 

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Food anyone?

 

Wurzburg, Germany

Würzburg,  a city in Germany’s Bavaria region.  It is the center of Franconian wine country.  Therefore is the home of many winery, wine cellars, and bars.  The Franconian wine stores in distinctive round flat bottles ( bocksbeutel).  Memorable wine tasting at the Staatlicher Hofkeler Würzburg, the former Prince Bishop’s Cellar.

Würzburg Residence was the palace of Prince Bishops.  Its construction was intended to be comparable to the Palace of Versailles or the Schonbrunn Palace.  It is one of the masterpieces of Baroque/Rococo style architecture.  Although most of it was destroyed or damaged by World War II, the grand staircase, the Imperial Hall, and the chapel still stand.  After much restoration and reconstruction work was done from 1945 to 1987 to its present form.  The Residence, and its Court Garden and Square are listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The front of the Würzburg Residence and the courtyard’s Franconian Fountain.

The Back of the Residence leading into the Court Garden

A view of the Court Garden

Among the busy shopping center is the Old Main Bridge (Alte Mainbrucke) built 1473-1543.  The pedestrian bridge is aligned with statues of saints.

The oldest stone bridge in the city and quite busy too.  Würzburg Cathedral in the back

St. Mary’s Chapel (the Marienkapelle )built 1377-1479 near the Marketplace

 

market square of Würzburg surrounded by beautiful buildings

And lastly the landmark of Würzburg, the Marienberg Fortress which stands on the west bank of the Main River.  It originally was a fort built in ancient times but became a fortress and home of the Prince-Bishop.  It was severally damaged in the Second World War and since rebuild in 1990.  Now it houses two museums.  From where it stands, one can see the whole city of Würzburg.

The Marienberg Fortress from the Old Main Bridge. Surrounding the fortress are the famous Franconian vineyards.