Category Archives: Asia

Finally Komodo Dragons


Now I know what may look like the ancient times…. I’m talking about the ancient times of dinosaurs …. I think one of the places on earth to grasp a sense of those times is the island of Galapagos…. and the other place is Komodo Island…. Well, going to Komodo Island in search of the rarest creature of the earth is much more practical than having a special trip to Galapagos… And here it is….

But, on the way to Komodo Island, ask to the boatman to bring you first to Padar island. This is the most beautiful uninhabited island of the world which I had seen so far. You have to hike a little bit to see this wonder of the world, but it’s worth to every step and to every drop of sweat…

 

As for the Komodo Dragons, you should be lucky to find one in the middle of the island. We walked almost one hour and we were lucky…..

The guide told us that this was a teen dragon.  A huge body of almost 3 meters, but very agile… be careful not to be close to him…

And finally… the lunch of a baby dragon!

 

 

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Labuan Bajo is not in South America


img_2163img_2144Where’s Labuan Bajo? It’s not in South America! It’s a town in one of the thousands of islands of Indonesia. And for a traveller who departs from the west side of the world, it may take more than one day to reach there…

First take a flight to Jakarta, capital of Indonesia. You can stay a couple of days in this chaotic and surprising city where you’ll acclimatize your body to the tropical heat. When you’re ready you can hit the road for your final destination.

We took an early morning flight to Labuan Bajo; there’s not a direct flight, there is a stopover in Bali where you can have a delicious coffee before taking your next charter flight. From Bali, after almost two-hours flight you arrive to the island of Flores and Labuan Bajo is one of the main towns of this pretty island, located in the west side. The airport is newly constructed and I think this is the most modern building which you’ll see in this island. The center of the town is just 2 km. from the airport and on the way to your ferryboat, your driver would like to show you the bay of Labuan from one of the best spots.

We left the city (or should I say the town?) behind us and took a ferry for the Bidadari Island. ‘Bidadari’ means ‘angels’ in Indonesian. In fact this is one of the paradisiacal places on the earth hence its name embellishes it more.

We stayed five nights in an eco-lodge surrounded by verdant hibiscus garden a few meters away from reef corals. The Flores Sea was calm and warm, hiding a colorful world in its depths. The famous Komodo Archipelago was lying  in front of us like a wall bordering between the bustling world and our small Bidadari Island. The crickets were chanting the secrets of a life unknown to us.

As one of the TV ads says it’s ‘Wonderful Indonesia’!…

Coming Next: Dragons in escape!

Kunming, one of the best Chinese cities


Shi Lin Kunming is one of the best cities in China to live in. The major reason of that is its climate: Kunming has a temperate climate year-round. It’s also a central point for the tourists wishing to visit western regions of Yunnan and Tibet. In the foothills of the Himalayas, it’s called ‘Spring City’ .

Kunming Beauty

Kunming people are nice, unlike local people in the big cities, they’re more friendly towards foreigners. Although the city center has become a jungle of skyscrapers, like in every big city in China, about one hundred kilometers beyond the city center, I had a chance to visit one of the most astonishing natural beauties of the world: Stone Forest  (石林, Shi Lin)and Jiuxiang Karts Caves (九乡风景区; Jiu Xian Feng Jingo Qu).

Forest of Stone

Both places are around 80km. from Kunming center. There are some buses going there but I rented a car with a driver and I think that it was worth to do that. It’s a huge area, try to go there early in the morning. You would spend all your day in these two places.

Stone Forest

Stone Forest is like a Flintstone World….

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But beware, it’s very crowded….

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I like more Jiu Xiang Caves area , what you see above the earth, you witness them underground, you feel the surreal of the place…

Jiuxiang cavesWaterfalls in Jiu Xiang

Jiu Xiang Caves

 

When you return to Kunming, awe-inspiring feelings will probably preside you… you can finish your Kunming day with the specialty of this region; with a delicious mushroom plate…

Note:  Bangkok is a perfect hub to fly to Kunming, the flight is around 2 and a half hour, more comfortable to fly from any other big city in China…

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Lijiang: Venice of China


A canal with flowers

A canal with flowers

Lijiang is the old capital city of the Tea Road; for centuries it was the central bazaar where Tibetan and Han traders negotiated for their products. It’s at the bottom of Himalayas and Qinghai – Tibet plateau; you can feel the fresh air at an altitude of 2,000 meters. It’s surrounded with mountains, rivers and lakes. Besides of its amazing landscapes, it’s known also by its rich culture.

One of hundreds canals in Lijiang

One of hundreds canals in Lijiang

More than 20 different ethnic minorities live in Lijiang, amongst them are Naxi, Bai, Tibetan, Puma, Yi , Lisu, Miao people. Each of them have their own traditions and the different colors and styles of dresses fill the car-free cobblestone street of the old city.

Local people from Lijiang

Local people from Lijiang

 

 

 

 

In 1997, Lijiang was the first Chinese hill town listed in the World Cultural Heritage List of UNESCO.

Street view from old Lijiang

Street view from old Lijiang

 

 

Old women of Lijiang

Old women of Lijiang

Old way of transporting merchandise

Old way of transporting merchandise

Together with its picturesque landscapes, the arts and architecture of this town are fabulous. They are the masters of Dongba scripts, drawings depicting the Naxi culture. When I returned back home, my Chinese teacher asked me whether I listened to Naxi music. `Of course` I told her, almost everyday I witnessed live music performance of ethnic people on the border of the canals.

Old Naxi Scripts

Old Naxi Scripts

 

Famous Wall Scripts in Lijiang

Famous Wall Scripts in Lijiang

When you enter into the old city, the first thing that you notice is the numerous stone bridges embellishing the canals of Lijiang.  Another interesting thing: there are many shops where you can rent one of the beautiful Lijiang dresses, there you wear your costume and do your make-up and then a photographer takes your picture on one of the 350 bridges. Nice souvenir!

Pose For

Pose For

Another Pose

Another Pose

Thanks to its nature Lijiang kitchen uses lots of mushrooms or jun zi… really delicious in the hot pots!

Famous Mushrooms

Famous Mushrooms

Kublai Khan arrived to this city and drank water from this well…

Kublai Khan Well in Lijiang

Kublai Khan Well in Lijiang

You must absolutely visit Black Dragon Pool Park (hei long tan) , just 15-20 minutes of walk after you exit from the Old Town. It’s a relaxing place located at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. You can climb to Elephant Hill if you want to see an overview of old and new city. Or you can visit the Naxi Culture center to listen their songs.

Black dragon pool park

Black dragon pool park

This is not particular to Lijiang but my favorite toys, remembers me the Far East Asia 🙂

My favorite!

My favorite!

And don’t forget, life is full of surprises… you can not know when and where you can see a white camel. Sometimes you should switch your path from main streets to side streets 🙂

What is this?

What is this?

Aside

I arrived to Baku before the sunset; the big sun was shining like an egg yolk in front of me. The international airport of Baku is situated almost 20 km. away from the city center. The heat, the dust and … Continue reading

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Chinese Romantism in Li River

This gallery contains 10 photos.


Guilin is famous with its Karst hills and with the River Li. If you travel in the South of China, don’t miss this city, try to spend at least one night there and take a daily tour on the Li … Continue reading

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Best of Shanghai!


I haven’t written for a while on my blog because of work, everyday duties, etc. But meanwhile I started to learn Chinese and I dedicate most of my time to this new activity rather than writing. I really enjoy learning this language, it’s like “deciphering” the meanings. It also shows me how immense the Chinese culture. I was lucky because last month I was in Shanghai where I had the  opportunity to practice what I learned in my Chinese class and observe again closely the Chinese culture.

Here is my list of `Best of Shanghai….Happy travel!

1. MAGEV Magnetic Train:

High speed train. It can attain to 400 km/ hr. I witnessed to 300km./hour. Morning times, the train does 400 km as well. Besides being the most practical mean to Shanghai city center (it takes 45 km. in about 7 minutes), it was a different experience for me (after having travelled in the TGVs and local trains in France and Europe, which are doing 200 km/hr at max.). My friend told me that Japanese trains are much more comfortable (zero  vacillation). I didn’t really feel any swing during my travel in MAGEV either.

When you exit Pudong International Airport, you find easily the MAGEV train platforms. One way ticket is 50 Yuan per person and it’s more expensive than city buses or metro lines. But it’s worth to try it!

2. The Bund and the view of Pearl Tower

This is the most scenic and touristic place of Shanghai. If you have only one day in Shanghai, this is the place to visit….

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3 . Shanghai Urban Planning Museum:

This is the correct starting point to explore Shanghai. Located in the People’s Park (one of the central places of the city, at the end of the East Nanjing street) and between the Contemporary Art Museum and Shanghai Museum, it first appeared to me the least crowded museum (no queue at the entrance) and that’s why I chose it to visit. But once inside, I spent more than 1 hour to see all floors and to follow how Shanghai had changed within time and what its future will look like.

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4. Bund Sightseeing:

I took the funicular which goes under the River from Pearl Tower to the Bund. It takes about 5 minutes. During the short distance travel, sounds and lights effects accompany you.

The funicular at the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel

The funicular at the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel

5. French Concession:

It’s one of the districts of Shanghai where the French concession – together with English one, had been established at the beginning of 20th century. The district has chic boutiques and French style coffees. ‘Shanghai is the Paris of the East!’ what can I say more…!

A coffeehouse in French Concession, Shanghai

A coffeehouse in French Concession, Shanghai

6. Nanjing Street:

The east side of the Street is the pedestrian area and you will find lots of shops and department stores. Check in your guides  the construction dates of the department stores on the East Nanjing Street; most are built at the beginning or in the first half of 20th century.

The West Nanjing Street has a lot of luxury department stores and skyscrapers hosting the offices of multinational companies.

2014, the Horse Year

2014, the Horse Year

7. Old Shanghai

Old Shanghai is the district where you will sense the `real` China. In the narrow and crowded streets you will discover different types of attractions and all kinds of shops.

Old Shanghai District celebrates Horse Year!

Old Shanghai District celebrates Horse Year!

Old Shanghai, crowded

Old Shanghai, crowded

8. Yu Gardens:

Don’t miss this place if you visit the Old Shanghai. The gardens are situated inside the Old Shanghai district and it gives you an idea about the aesthetic taste of the Ming Dynasty.

Yu Gardens, Shanghai

Yu Gardens, Shanghai

Yu Gardens, Shanghai

Yu Gardens, Shanghai

9. Xujiahui – Electronic Markets

Shanghai is a heaven of malls and department stores in China, and if you’re interested in buying – after hard negotiations of course!, electronic devices go to Xujiahui (the metro line is Xujiahui); this is a paradise for electronic lovers….

Chinese Year Decorations inside a Mall in Shanghai

Chinese Year Decorations inside a Mall in Shanghai

10. Visit the water villages outside Shanghai:

This is recommended by all travel guides about Shanghai but unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to do this daily trip, it will be hopefully next time. Instead I’d been in a different place in China and explored the river and the country side…. I’ll write about it in my next post… Until then….`ZAI JIAN!’

 

Shanghai by Day!

Shanghai by Day!

 

My last post (but the least) from Beijing : Confucius Temple and The Imperial Academy


The day began with some clouds in the sky. I was targeting to see Lama Temple in the afternoon of that day but it started to rain which slowed my walking. Arrived to the Temple of Lama, it was already late, it was closed. But a few meters away from the Lama Temple, I discovered Confucius Temple still open to visit. It was wonderful – romantic hours waiting for me in the Confucius Temple!

Conficius welcomed us!

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Who is Confucius? I think that everybody knows about him. But I read some information about him to put here. He was born in 551 BC and his real name was Kong Qiu, Confucius is the name given to him by the West. In that era, Buddha was teaching in India and Socrates in Greece. Conficius was unlucky when compared to western or Indian philosophers, he had lived in a country where there were several separate states not unified yet by a ruler. He travelled and taught his wisdom to his disciples. His main focus was the relations between human beings not the search for the existence of God. Accordingly a human being should try to be good. Nobility is not determined by birth but by the attitude of mind and actions resulting from him. However most of the rulers didn’t like his teachings. The Communists too saw an ideological opponent in Confucianism. In the recent years, this attitude started to change.

Back to the Confucius Temple, what strikes me was the gates with names like Gate of First Teacher (the first gate at the entrance) and the Gate of Great Achievements. When you pass these gates followed by short halls and surrounded by very old trees and pavilions you arrive to the main temple where you can admire some ancient musical instruments, which are part of the Confucius teaching I believe.

Pavillions in the temple

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With the combination of silent drops of the rain, this is one of the perfect places in Beijing where you can listen to your inner rhythm.

Ritual in the garden of the Temple

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As old as Confucius times, isn’t it?

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The Imperial Academy is connected to the Temple by a side gate. It was a highest educational institution in China starting from 13th century (The Temple was also built in the same century). The importance if this institution when compared to the universities in the west is that even children of poor people might at end the school if they were good students. In other words, the school was open to all students who merit it and this is one of the major difference in the socio-cultural system in China. You enter to the Academy thru the Gate of Highest Learning. A rectangular place is surrounded with classes, nowadays this building is being used as a government library.

Imperial Academy….

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In the meantime, what Confucius was saying?

“Failure to cultivate virtue and review what I have learned , inability to practice what I have been told to be righteous and unwillingness to correct my mistakes – these are what worries me.”

My trip to Beijing- Summer Palace


This is the second magnificent park which I saw in Beijing. This is not a park actually, it’s the summer palace, was once the summer imperial palace of the Empress Cixi, which is also called Yiheyuan or the Garden of Cultivated Harmony. It was built in the second half of 19th century by the Empress Cixi, one of the powerful figures of the Chinese history. In the middle of the disputes of the heredity and right after the Opium War, she took the power and used the money which was intended to build the Chinese fleet this picturesque palace.

Lake Kunmig covers most part of the palace on the south. The north has a different architectural design with the canals and with the Hill of Longevity. It’s better to start the journey in the morning hours, from the north of the palace, thus you’ll see the old citizens doing their morning tai-chi sports and you will still have the energy to climb the rocks leading to the hill. At the north and around the hill you will see some giant buddhist temples – Temple of the Fragrance of Buddha is the most famous, and have a panorama of the lake and the palace from the top. Once you’ll be down, you’ll find yourself most probably walking under the roofs of the long corridor, a light and elegant wooden construction of 700 metres along the side of the lake where the ceilings and the rafters are decorated with colourful bird and flowers motifs. You may end your trip under these roofs at the point where you’ll admire the grandeur of the Marble Boat of the Empress (it was under renovation unfortunately while I was there).

And at the end of my short trip to there – because it may take a full day!- the calmness of the park had left its place to the tourist crowds and to the unbearable heat. It was time to leave but it’s one of the places in Beijing where I would definitely return one day!

Canals on the north of the palace…

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Morning Tai-Chi…

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Buddhist Temple

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View from the Longevity Hill

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Beautiful decoration on the Long Corridor

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Lake Kunmig

 

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Stone bridge on the south of the palace

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(Climbing to) the Great Wall


I was having two main targets in my trip to China. The first was to see the Terracotta Army, which I talked about in my previous post. The other was to see the Great Wall.

In fact, I think and I believe that the Great Wall should be on the top list of traveller and if I try to become a “true” traveller, I must see it. I did some researches before my trip and I discovered that there are several starting points to see the Wall from Beijing. Badaling part is the easiest and most touristic part. I heard that this part of the Wall was renovated in the 50s and may not be the original Wall. In addition to that, there are also many tourists in Badaling and if you read the comments in TripAdvisor, people are saying that they felt in Badaling like in a Disney world. Hence this option was eliminated at first.

Then I did a detailed search on the internet and I found a club called Beijinghikers. This seemed to me a professional tour which bring people to the “untouched” part of the Wall hence I registered myself to this organization.

There are of course many tours to the Wall, depending on your physical condition and time limitations. I must confess that I was expecting “not easy” but “manageable” hiking to the Wall with this tour. I was mistaken! But my experience of climbing to the Wall with them had been a “true story” for me which I will tell to everybody until the end of my life. The “simple” hiking which I assumed turned out to be unforgettable moments of my life.

The tour was targeting to hike to the Nine-Eyes Tower of the Great Wall, which is on the west side of Jiankou. After 2 hours of travel on a air conditioned bus, we arrived at the end of a road (900 metres above the sea) which immersed to the wild nature afterwards. The route which we supposed to do was 8 km. but our guides told us that we will feel as if it’s 20 km. Packed with lots of waters, we started to climb in a bushy area. That day it was one of the hottest days, but we were in the open air and within the nature. After having climbed almost half an hour, I felt that I was exhausted. I am not a very sportive person, and it was my first hiking experience! But with help of our guides I managed to climb to the top of the mountains, at the 1200 metres of altitude, we came to the Nine-Eyes Tower. At that moment, the whole chain of mountains decorated with the Great Walls and its towers were lying in front of us, a bundle of  feelings of solitude, peacefulness and history were accompanying us. No more words to say. Maybe some pictures will help you understand the beauty of what I’d seen and felt there!

Here are the pictures from the Wall to where we climbed!

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PS: thousands of thanks to the Beijinghikers group, especially to the team members, Jun, Tina and other staff who succeeded to bring me to the top of the mountains to live this fantastic world!