ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “ruins

HIERAPOLIS, Pamukkale, Turkey

2006.05.06

Communal baths and gymnasiums were essential components in the ancient Roman society.  Records show that 952 baths of different sizes could be found in Rome in 354 AD.  Apart from building up the body and engaging on social gossip, a bath and gymnasium complex might also house a library, a theatre, food shops and reading rooms. Erected right at the hot spring of Pamukkale, Hierapolis was a prominent Roman spa resort.  Other than the usual bathing rituals, bathing in Hierapolis was also a form of medical treatment.  Founded in the 2nd century BC as a thermal spa town, where doctors used the hot springs to treat patients.  In its heyday, Hierapolis had bath houses, gymnasiums, temples, fountains, theatre.  Thousands would come to visit the hot spring, including the Roman emperors.  The city of 100,000 became a wealthy city prominent for art, philosophy and trade.  Outside the city wall, the enormous necropolis suggests that many ancient Romans who came to Hierapolis for medical treatment actually died in the spa city.  The recently discovered Tomb of Philip the Apostle and a number of historical sites in Hierapolis suggest Christianity had taken a strong hold in the city from Late Antiquity to the Byzantine era.

06ME15-09Many tourists come to Hierapolis to take a dip in a pool among ruined marble columns.  The pool is, in fact, doing a disservice to the archaeological conservation.  We just spent time wandering around the ruins leisurely and aimlessly.

necropolis 1Red poppy and yellow wild flowers covered large parts of the ground among the ruins of Hierapolis.

06ME15-25Built in 2nd century AD under Emperor Hadrian, the theatre at Hierapolis has 45 rows of seats that could accommodate about 15,000 spectators.

necropolis 2Tombs and sarcophagus of different sizes could be found in the necropolis.  Some sarcophagus were elevated by a post and beam structure.

06ME15-15The extensive necropolis stretches kilometers and contains thousands of tombs from different era.

06ME15-29We once again passed by the travertine terraces of Pamukkale as we left Hierapolis.

narrow pathInstead of walking down the travertine terraces in barefoot once again, we opted for another winding path to descend.  The path is not for people who scares of height.

 


RUINS OF EPHESUS, Selcuk, Turkey

2006.05.05

After breakfast, a staff of Homeros Pension drove us to a bank for money exchange before dropping us at the world renowned archaeological ruins of Ephesus (Efes).  Ephesus is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Turkey, thanks to its close proximity to the cruise port and airport in the resort town of Kusadasi.  The magnificent facade of Ephesus’ Library of Celsus is the signature image of Classical ruins in Turkey.  Two thousand years ago, Ephesus was one of the greatest Greek and Roman cities in Asia Minor.  Founded in the 10th century BC by Attic and Ionian Greeks, Ephesus reached its peak after the Roman takeover in 129 BC.  From 52-54 AD, Paul the Apostle stayed in Ephesus and probably wrote his Gospel in the city.  Ephesus was named as one of the seven churches of Asia in the Book Revelation, indicating Christianity was quite popular back then.  In the Byzantine era, major earthquakes, shifting of trade routes, and sacking by the Arabs all contributed to the downfall of Ephesus.  Its glorious past was eventually forgotten, and Ephesus was eventually abandoned in the 15th century.  Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the magnificent Library of Celsus and the 25,000 seat theatre exemplify the former grandeur of the city.  Already in ruins since 401 AD, the Temple of Artemis has little remained except a restored column.  The restored facade of Library of Celsus remains as the biggest draw for visitors.

06ME12-10Seats for up to 24,000 spectators, the splendid great theatre of Ephesus was the first impressive building that we encountered in the site.

ephesus 1It was the time in the year where poppies flourished.

06ME12-21Right by Celsus Library, the Gate of Mazeus and Mithridates was a arch of triumph built in 40 AD during the reign of Augustus, the first Roman emperor and the great nephew of Julius Caesar.

06ME12-24Popular with tourist advertisements, the facade of the Library of Celsus is the most famous image of Ephesus.  Named after Celsus, a Roman consul in Rome and later the provincial governor of Asia, the library was built by Celsus’ son Aquila and filled with over 12,000 scrolls of reading materials acquired by the money of Celsus left behind.

ephesus 3From 117 to 262 AD, the Library of Celsus served as an important public space in Ephesus for 145 years, where people came to read the rare scrolls under natural light at the main floor.  In 262 AD, the library was destroyed by fire caused by earthquake or Gothic invasion.

ephesus 2The statues at the library facade symbolize wisdom, knowledge, intelligence and valor.

ephesus 5Episteme, the Greek philosophical term of “knowledge”, was depicted as one of the statues at Library of Celsus.

06ME13-11The imposing Library of Celsus is the most popular photo spot in Ephesus.

06ME13-07After the destruction in 262 AD, the facade survived for another 800 years or so until the tenth or eleventh century.  Lying in ruins for about a thousand years, the facade of Library of Celsus was restored in the 1970s.

06ME13-10As an important Roman city, Latin inscriptions can be found all over Ephesus.

06ME13-04Beyond Mazeus & Mithridates Gate, a Corinthian colonnade marks the Agora, the former commercial heart of the ancient city.

06ME13-20Paved with marble stone and flanked by colonnade, Curetes Street was one of the main treets in Ephesus.

06ME13-30Along the street, there are lots of interesting architectural details for all visitors to discover.

06ME13-25The Odeon was used for political meetings, concerts and theatrical performances.

06ME13-26Roman relief of the Memmius Monument

06ME13-28Nike, the goddess of victory, was depicted on a marble relief.

06ME13-16Arch with relief sculpture at the Temple of Hadrian.

06ME13-18Headless Roman statue at Curetes Street.

06ME13-22The Hercules Gate at Curetes Street marked the separation between uptown and downtown.

06ME13-32Beautiful frieze at Hadrian Temple revealed the high craftsmanship of the Roman  builders.

 

 


ACROPOLIS OF PERGAMON, Bergama, Turkey

2006.05.04

At 19:00 we bid farewell to the hostel staff and left Sultan Hostel of Istanbul.  We took the T4 bus from Hagia Sophia to the Taksim Square.  We headed over to the office of Kamil Koc and waited for the departure of our first night bus in Turkey.  At 09:00 the next day we arrived at Izmir, where we transferred to another bus for Bergama, the town where the famous Classical Greek city of Pergamon once stood in the 3rd century BC.  We hired a taxi from Bergama’s otogar (bus station) to the acropolis archaeological park.  I was quite excited for arriving at the ruined acropolis of Pergamon, largely due to my 2003 visit of Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, where the Great Altar of Pergamon was restored and displayed for the past 90 years.  Seeing the Great Altar of Pergamon in Berlin’ three years prior to the trip was probably the main reason why I chose to stop by Bergama on our way to Selcuk from Istanbul.  In the archaeological park, the acropolis where the high altar once stood was pretty much in ruins.  A few notable structures, including the Trajaneum (where a headless marble statue in Roman armor stood in a courtyard) and the Greek Theatre, claimed to be the steepest theatre in the ancient world, represented the highlights.  Near the base of the theatre lower, we stopped by the ruined Temple of Dionysus to pay a little respect to the God of pleasure and wine.

As the capital of Kingdom of Pergamon during the Attalid dynasty (281-133 BC), Pergamon was one of the major cultural centres in the Greek world.  After 133 BC, Pergamon became part of the Roman Empire, and assigned as the capital city of province Asia.  As trading routes shifted to Constantinople during the Byzantine era, the once Greek and Roman metropolis was transformed into a medium size city, but maintained its religious importance as it was mentioned in the Book of Revelations as one of Seven Churches of Asia.  Then came the Ottomans who transformed Pergamon into a Turkish city with mosques and bath houses that we know today.  From the first visit of German engineer Carl Humann in 1864 to WWI, the Germans had made numerous expeditions and archaeological excavations at Pergamon.  Most of their findings are now on display at Berlin’s Pergamon Museum.  After WWI, artefacts found on site were being restored and exhibited at Istanbul or the Bergama Museum.

03EU37-22Probably the most famous Classical artefact in Berlin, the Great Altar of Pergamon has been moved to and reconstructed in the German capital about a century ago.

03EU37-24The statue of Athena Parthenos was found in the ruins of Library of Pergamon in 1880.

06ME10-17Today, the most prominent remaining structure at the Acropolis of Pergamon is the Greek Theatre.  With a seating capacity of 10,000, the theatre was the steepest in the world.

06ME10-18Below the theatre lies the town of Bergama.

06ME11-02Off to the side at the base of the theatre once stood the Temple of Dionysus.

06ME11-07Looking up the theatre from the Temple of Dionysus allowed us to fully appreciate the scale and steepness of the theatre.

acropolis 1A series of stepped walkways allowed the ancient audience to disperse efficiently.

06ME11-09Fragments of classical cornice and frieze could be found all over the archaeological park.

06ME10-24One of the most remarkable structures in the acropolis is Trajaneum, the only Roman building on site.

06ME10-25Completed by Emperor Hadrian, the Trajaneum was used to worship Zeus as well as  Emperor Trajan, Hadrian’s predecessor.

06ME10-29Occupying the summit of the acropolis, Trajaneum sent a clear message to the citizens of Pergamon that the Romans were fully in charge of the once Hellenistic city.

06ME10-26The Corinthian column capitals still look spectacular after 2000 years.

column base at acropolisIt was a pleasure to wander around the ruined acropolis and looked for the remaining architectural details.

hadrian at acropolisThe statue of Hadrian could still be found in the acropolis.

 


ROYAL PALACE & SACRED QUADRANGLE, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.08

Day 4 (1of 3).

100km southeast of Anuradhapura stands the ruins of Sri Lanka’s second ancient capital, Polonnaruwa. For two hundred years, Polonnaruwa served as the centre of the nation after Anuradhapura was sacked by the invading Chola Kingdom from Southern India in the 10th century.  The Chola Tamils destroyed Buddhist monuments and monasteries, and established a new capital in Polonnaruwa.  In 1070AD, Vijayabahu I of Ruhuna Kingdom (southeast of the island) drove the Chola out, unified the country, and established the second major Sinhalese kingdom and restored Buddhism as the national religion.  Polonnaruwa flourished as the most important medieval city in Sri Lanka until the 13th century when the island was again invaded by the Tamil Pandya Dynasty from India.

Today, the archaeological ground of Polonnaruwa is a popular tourist destination in the Cultural Triangle (marked by Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy), the region on the island dotted with ancient capitals and World Heritage sites.  To save time, we hired a private car from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya, with a detour to Polonnaruwa.  At Polonnaruwa, our driver took us first to the visitor centre for the admission tickets and a brief visit to the museum, before driving us to the five highlights in the archaeological park: Royal Palace, Quadrangle, Rankot Vihara Stupa, Lankatilaka Monastery and the Buddha statues of Gal Vihara.

01Built by Parakramabahu I (reigned 1153-1186 ) in the 12th century,  the Royal Palace was once seven storey tall in its heyday.

02The Royal Palace of King Parakumba was said to contain 1000 rooms.  Now only a few dozens remain.

03Much of the crumbling ruins is covered with lush green moss.

04The Royal Bathing pool (Kumara Pokuna) near the Royal Palace was a delightful treat for visitors.

05Built by Parakramabahu I (reigned 1153-1186 ), water would enter the pool through the two dragon mouths, and could be drained out after use.

06The Audience Hall of the Royal Palace is another feature at the Royal Palace.

07The Audience Hall is famous for the frieze of elephants, each has a unique pose.

08Two stone lions guard the entrance of the Audience Hall.

09The stone pillars of the Audience Hall have some amazing details.

10The second highlight we visited at Polonnaruwa was the Quadrangle.  On a raised platform, Quadrangle encompasses a cluster of religious structures erected by different rulers of Polonnaruwa.  Atadage is the oldest building among them all.  Built by King Vijayabahu the Great (1055 – 1110), Atadage is believed to house the Relic of the Tooth of Buddha.  Adjacent to Atadage, Hatadage built by King Nissanka Malla (1187 – 1196) was also a shrine for the Relic of the Tooth of Buddha.

11Built by King Nissanka Malla (1187-1196), Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is an interesting structure with unique columns and a small stone stupa.  The building was used for the king to listen to Buddhist chanting.

12Built by Parakramabahu I to house the Relic of the Tooth of the Buddha, or by King Nissanka Malla to hold Buddha’s alms bowl, Vatadage was an essential structure at the Quadrangle.

13Because of its circular form and well preserved carving details, Vatadage is also the most famous building in Polonnaruwa.

16Vatadage has two stone platforms and a small stone stupa atop.  Steps and statues were constructed at the four cardinal directions.  Stone pillars suggest that a wooden roof might have once covered the circular structure.

14Monkeys are everywhere in Sri Lanka.

15At all temples or ruins, including Vatadage, tourists would be reminded that taking selfies with their backs toward the statue of the Buddha is prohibited.

17Completely built with bricks, Thuparama is about 84 ft long and 56 ft wide.  Its brick walls are about 7 ft thick.

18Inside Thuparama, the central seating Buddha statue was long gone.  Yet the adjacent limestone statues survive till the present day.


DAY 8 (5/5): FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018.12.01

Out of all structures in Fatehpur Sikri, the most imposing building is undoubtedly Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque).  Completed in 1571, Akbar’s impressive grand mosque houses the white marble tomb of Sufi saint Shaikh Salim Chishti, and the spectacular 54m tall Buland Darwaza (Victory Gate).  One of the biggest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid of Fatehpur Sikri features a series of chhatris, elevated dome shaped pavilions purely for decoration.  We came just in time to make a brief visit at the mosque before sunset.

IMG_2085From the former royal palaces, we entered the mosque via the Shahi Darwaza (King’s Gate).  At the gate, we took off our shoes and left them with the shoe keeper along with a small fee.

DSC_2438Beyond the Shahi Darwaza, we arrived at a huge open courtyard.

DSC_2466The gigantic Buland Darwaza (Victoria Gate) was built as a victory arch to commemorate Akbar’s conquest of Gujarat.

DSC_2445At 55m from the outside, the Buland Darwaza (Victoria Gate) is considered the tallest gate in the world.

IMG_2111At the back, the Buland Darwaza stepped down to a more human scale towards the  main courtyard.

IMG_2087Opposite to Buland Darwaza stands the elegant white marble tomb of Shaikh Salim Chisti and the red sandstone assembly hall Jamat Khana.

IMG_2092 The Tomb of Shaikh Salim Chisti is considered one of the finest example of Mughal architecture.

IMG_2098The marble cenotaph is popular with Islam worshipers.  Shaikh Salim Chisti was a Sufi saint who blessed Emperor Akbar with his son before he was born.

IMG_2103Worshipers studied religious text at the outer corridor of the cenotaph.  Photography was not allowed inside the cenotaph.

DSC_2456The tomb building is covered all four sides with beautiful lattice.

DSC_2462Showing the direction of Mecca, the central mihrab is covered by a dome.

DSC_2465We paid a brief visit to the interior of the main mosque building.

IMG_2121Splendid marble inlay in geometric patterns cover most of the interior walls.

DSC_2467The principal mihrab situates beneath the great dome of the mosque.

DSC_2477Worshipers gathered at the front porch of the assembly hall Jamat Khana.

IMG_2127There are a number of tombs in the courtyard.

IMG_2086As the sun set below the magnificent sandstone chhatris, it was time for us to return to the parking lot and finished our day’s journey to Agra.

IMG_2156At around 8pm, we finally arrived at Taj Ganj, the district immediately south of majestic Taj Mahal in Agra.  After checking in at our simple guesthouse near the West Gate, we headed out for a quick bite.  We would need to rest for the night and get up early the next day to line up for the sunrise entry into the Taj Mahal before 6am.

 

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Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi


DAY 8 (4/5): THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018.12.01

Known as the “City of Victory” after Emperor Akbar’s conquest of Gujarat in 1573, Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585, until its abandonment in 1610 shortly after Akbar’s death.  The abandoned Mughal capital makes a great side trip from Agra, where tourists from all over the world flocked to visit probably the most famous attraction in India, the Taj Mahal.  Inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage in 1986, the red-sandstone capital is considered an Indo-Islamic architectural masterpiece.  It is also one of the biggest tourist attractions in India.

It was almost 4pm when we arrived at the huge parking lot of Fatehpur Sikri.  From there, we had to hop on a shuttle bus for a 5-minute ride to the main entrance of the historical site.  The sun was already quite low.  The red sandstone buildings were very photogenic under the late afternoon sun.  However, our visit was quite rush as we only had a bit over an hour to appreciate the historical site.

DSC_2384With four distinctive chhatris on the top, the Diwan-i-khas or Hall of Private Audience was the first building that caught our eyes as we entered the complex.

DSC_2391Emperor Akbar’s Throne Pillar in the Diwan-i-khas contains motifs of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, aiming to incorporate all religions into one for his empire.

IMG_2039Tansen Musical Pond at the centre of Fatehpur Sikri was famous for the platform designated for the legendary musician Tansen.

IMG_2058The green pond provided a pleasant contrast to the red sandstone architecture.

IMG_3328Panorama of Tansen musician pond.

IMG_2046Surrounded by a verandah, the Turkish Sultana’s House is an highly ornate building. Both the interiors and exteriors are beautifully carved with motifs. The house is believed to be the residence of the Turkish Queen Sultana.

IMG_2042The Turkish Sultana’s House is full of intricate carved motifs.

IMG_3305Every single inch of the building is ornately carved.

IMG_2049With influences from Hindu and Muslim cultures, the buildings of Fatehpur Sikri showcase some of the best examples of Mughal architecture.

IMG_2056The well preserved Fatehpur Sikri looked like a large empty shell made with red sandstone.

IMG_2060The structural skeleton of the buildings looked neat and surreal.

DSC_2415Chhatris, the elevated, dome shaped pavilions, are commonly found in traditional Indian architecture.  They serve mainly for decorative purpose.

DSC_2425Built in 1571, the Birbal’s House accommodated the two senior queens of Emperor Akbar.

IMG_2064Beyond the Birbal’s House, we reached the long colonnade of the Lower Haramsara.

DSC_2422The colonnade of the Lower Haramsara.

DSC_2423Many historians believe the Lower Haramsara was used as a stable for camels and horses.

DSC_2430Adjacent to the Lower Haramsara is the Jodha Bai Palace, the complex constructed for the Hindu queen.  Hindu motifs such as lotus flowers and elephants could be found at the magnificent Jodha Bai Palace.

DSC_2433A pleasant courtyard can be found at the centre of Jodha Bai Palace.  For security purpose, only one single guarded entrance was provided for the complex back in the old days.

IMG_2075We exited from the main entrance of Jodh Bai’s palace to find our way towards Jama Masjid, the famous Friday Mosque of Fatehpur Sikri.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi


DAY 8 (3/5): CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan, India, 2018.12.01

In 2012, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy had come to closure with The Dark Knight Rises.  In this final chapter of the trilogy, there was a remarkable scene where Christian Bale (Batman) escaped from a terrifying underground prison.  That underground prison was actually shot in Rajasthan, at Chand Baori of Abhaneri.  Consisted of 3500 steps over 13 stories, and with a depth of about 30m, Chand Baori is one of the biggest stepped wells in India.  The oldest parts of Chand Baori date back to the 8th century.  For centuries, the well served as a community water cistern outside of the monsoon months.

We have long been fascinated by the beautiful stepped wells of India.  Visiting Chand Baori of Abhaneri was one of the first attractions we selected for our travel itinerary.  Despite visitors can no longer walk down the well, seeing the well from the top edge is still more than worthwhile to appreciate its ancient engineering marvel and sheer beauty of the stair arrangement.

01We arrived at Chand Baori before 1pm.

02It wasn’t the best time of the day to appreciate the shadow of the stairs.

03But the sheer grandeur of the stepped well was really overwhelming.

04One side of the well is occupied by a temple and resting spaces for the royal family.

05The intricate carvings of jharokhas (windows), balconies and rooms reveal the significance of Chand Baori in the medieval time.

06Like many attractions in India, pigeons are inevitable at Chand Baori.

07Details of the architecture.

08Dressed in blue, the staff of Chand Baori stood out from the earthy background.

09Full view of Chand Baori.

10Full view of Chand Baori.

13Full view of Chand Baori.

11The scale of Chand Baori is truly amazing.

12The 3500 steps of the stepped well constitute a surreal picture as if an etched painting by Maurits Escher.

14Similar to Bhangarh, Chand Baori was popular with local school groups as well.

15Without protective railings, the stepped well can be dangerous when the place becomes too crowded.

16The staff in blue really stood out at the stepped well.

18The entire stepped well was like an open air museum.

19There was a small Hindu shrine at the exit of the stepped well.

20Panorama of Chand Baori.

 

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Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi


DAY 8 (2/5): HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan, India, 2018.12.01

Adjacent to Sariska Tiger Reserve, the ruined fort in the village of Bhangarh is well known in India, not just for its impressive 17th century ruins but for its fame as the most haunted attraction in the country.  It is common for visitors with their own wheels to stop by the ruins during the journey between Jaipur and Agra.  Some adventure seekers go as far as hiding in the fort and staying the night illegally to challenge their courage when everybody is gone.  But they are truly risking their lives as tigers from the nearby reserve have been known for occasional visits in the wee hours.

We spent roughly an hour at the ruins.  Knowing that we still had two more places to go after Bhangarh, we had to be disciplined with time management.  While many visitors come to Bhangarh for its haunted legends, the site was in fact worth visiting also for its well preserved ruins.  Legend has it that a black magician fell in love with the beautiful Princess Ratnavati of Bhangarh.  The princess saw through the magician’s wicked plot of tricking her to fall in love with him.  The sour consequence led to the magician putting a curse over the entire fort.  The troubled fort had since then became deserted and haunted.

IMG_1165We passed by the Hanumaan Temple as soon as we stepped into the site of Bhangarh.

IMG_3210Flanked both sides by ruined stone houses, walking on the main street into the site allowed us to imagine its former glory.

DSC_2277Beyond the street of ruined houses, we arrived at the inner core of Bhangarh.

DSC_2224We were delighted to find a large open space at the heart of the site.

DSC_2273The open space was flanked by a number of buildings, including the Gopinath Temple.

DSC_2222From the open space it was another short walk uphill to the fort complex.

IMG_1190We were delighted to see how well preserved the fort was.

DSC_2227On our way up to the fort, we encountered several groups of local students.

DSC_2235They were really interested in us.  Perhaps it wasn’t common for them to see foreigners.

DSC_2243Groups after groups of local students urged us to take them pictures.

DSC_2247The laughter of the school children was a big bonus for our Bhangarh visit.

DSC_2238Looking down to the open space from the fort.

DSC_2254The fort was built cascading up the hill.

IMG_1194Most of the buildings had collapsed after centuries of abandonment.

DSC_2259Monkey were everywhere in the site, especially at the entrance of Somnath Temple.

IMG_1207Local visitors stepping out the Somnath Temple.

IMG_1215Gray langur monkeys are native to the Indian subcontinent.

DSC_2280Before leaving the site, we had encountered several different groups of monkeys, some of which were devouring fruits given by local visitors.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi

 


DAY 3 (1/8): MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.25

The most remarkable and photogenic experience of our trip to Myanmar was undoubtedly watching the sunrise in Old Bagan.  The romantic spectacle of hot air balloons floating over the plains of ancient pagodas has drawn every Bagan visitors to get up before dawn.  We had high hopes for the experience long before we came to Bagan.  Our driver came at 6:45 to pick us up at Oasis Hotel.  He drove us to a pagoda in Old Bagan, and told us to walk up a staircase to the pagoda terrace.  We turned on our head lamps and climbed up the narrow stair to reach the upper terrace.  We were surprised to find that two out of four sides of the terrace were already packed with visitors.  Without guessing which way to look, we stationed ourselves at a corner in the crowd and patiently waited for the sky to light up.

DSC_3993We stationed ourselves at a corner in the crowds and set up our tripod.  Stars were still visible in the sky, and so as the flooded lights at some pagodas.

DSC_4000At a distance, what appeared to be Ananda Pahto looked gorgeous with the golden flood lights and the purple horizon beyond.

DSC_4015Ten minutes later, the foggy plain looked mysterious.

DSC_4020In every directions, silhouette of ancient pagodas and distant mountains formed an one-of-a-kind mystic landscape unique to Bagan.

DSC_4058A few minutes later, a cluster of hot air balloons appeared from the horizon.

DSC_4064At the same time, we had the first peek of the Christmas sunrise.

DSC_4085The hot air balloons went up just in time to catch the first glimpse of sunrise over Old Bagan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sunrise over Old Bagan was absolutely a stunning sight.

DSC_4121Watching sunrise of Old Bagan from the basket of a hot air balloon should be a remarkable experience.  That would require us to book well in advance and cost each of us about US$500.

DSC_4122From the pagoda terrace, the hot air balloons provided the extra magic to the already otherworldly scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome balloons got pretty close to the spires of pagodas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA hot air balloon seemed reaching the rising sun.

DSC_4136For several minutes, the entire Old Bagan appeared in layers of silhouettes.

DSC_4148The balloons gradually floated across the horizon while the sun rose up quickly.

DSC_4164On the other side, the scenery was dominated by ancient pagodas under the orange glow of the rising sun.

DSC_4173At 8:45am, about an hour and fifteen minutes since we first arrived at the pagoda terrace, dramatic low angle sunlight covered much of Bagan with a mystical ambience.

DSC_4179A group of locals walked towards a nearby pagoda under the early morning sun.

DSC_4198Silhouette of the distant Ananda Pahto was astonishingly beautiful.

DSC_4209At 9am, smoke from wood burning began to appear from the fields around us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy 9:10am, most visitors had already left the terrace.

DSC_4245Down at the pagoda entrance, vendors were setting up their souvenir stalls for the day.

DSC_4255We quickly descended the pagoda and returned to the driver.  We couldn’t wait to begin another day of Bagan’s temple hopping with our guide Win Thu.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR

 


FAN LAU (分流), Western Lantau Island Part 1, Hong Kong

At the southwest tip of Lantau Island, the Fan Lau Peninsula (分流) extends out into the Pearl River Estuary, with its northwest facing the slightly brown water of Pearl River and its southeast to South China Sea’s pristine blue.  Only accessible on foot, at this westernmost corner of Hong Kong, deserted beaches and abandoned village homes of Fan Lau reminisce some of the city’s long lost memories.  The pleasant and relatively flat 6-hour hike to Fan Lau has been on our wish list for quite some time.  Known as the Lantau Trail Section 8, the first part of the trail brought us onto a coastal trail, where open views of the South China Sea dominated the horizon, with the hazy silhouette of Lantau Peak or Fung Wong Shan (鳳凰山) behind us in a distance.  In the trail’s second part we made a detour onto the Fan Lau Peninsula to visit its various attractions.  Then we followed the Lantau Trail Section 7 north to Yi O and then Tai O, our final destination of the day.

DSC_5737In a sunny but hazy winter Saturday morning, we took the ferry from Central to Pui Wo of Lantau Island.  On our way to the Central Pier, we passed by Lung Wo Road where the annual Hong Kong Marathon was taking place.  After arriving at Mui Wo of Lantau Island, we boarded a local bus for Shek Pik (石壁) Reservoir to reach the trailhead.

DSC_5751The first half hour or so we walked along a storm-water channel right by the mountain foot.

DSC_5761With the day’s heavy hazy, we could only barely see the silhouette of Lantau Peak or Fung Wong Shan (鳳凰山) behind us.

DSC_5767In less than an hour from trailhead, we made a short detour out to a peninsula near Kau Ling Chung (狗嶺涌) to check out the South Obelisk (嶼南界碑).  The small obelisk was erected by the British in 1902 to mark the southern boundary of Lantau Island.

DSC_5779The hilltop of the South Obelisk offered us a good view of the beaches of Kau Ling Chung (狗嶺涌) and Fan Lau Tung Wan (分流東灣) further afield.  We followed a path down to the campsite and beach of Kau Ling Chung, and walked further southwest towards the tip of Fan Lau Peninsula.

DSC_5803The coastal path up and down the peninsula took us closer to Fan Lau Tung Wan (分流東灣).

DSC_5816We finally reached the main beach of Fan Lau Tung Wan (分流東灣), and were delighted to find the colourful rocks on the sand.

DSC_5844Unfortunately, other than rocks we could also find a never-ending blanket of rubbish on the beach.

DSC_5860From the main beach, there was a small path that led to Chan’s Store, one of few houses in Fan Lau Village that were still occupied.  In fact, according to South China Morning Post, the owner of the store could well be the only resident left in the village.

DSC_5865Many houses in the area were already overtaken by vegetation.

DSC_5866The village was mostly desert, except for Chan’s Store.  We picked up a can of soft drink and rested for a few minutes.

DSC_5892From Chan’s Store, we returned to the beach of Fan Lau Tung Wan (分流東灣).  At the end of the beach we exited the beach into a narrow uphill path.  A peculiar rock (石筍) stood atop the hill overlooking the beach, just a few minutes before we reached the remnant of the old Fan Lau Fort (分流炮台).

DSC_5898Built in 1729 by the Qing government, the fort was abandoned in 1898 when the British were granted the lease of the New Territories. It was originally built to defend the coastal area from pirates.

DSC_5914Also on the Fan Lau Peninsula was a mysterious stone circle.  Archaeologists believe that the circle was arranged for ceremonial purposes during the Neolithic and Bronze Age.

DSC_5922Leaving Peninsula behind, we stumbled upon a small beach called Fan Lau Miu Wan (分流廟灣), where a Tin Hau Temple was built.  The temple was probably erected in 1820.

DSC_5932There wasn’t anyone in the temple when we entered.  The neat altar and fresh offerings on the counter suggested the temple, though remote, was under well maintenance.

DSC_5934In the temple’s anteroom there was a traditional bed with slippers and shoes on display.  Maybe that chamber was some sort of representation of the home of the deity?

DSC_5935In another small chamber there were old stone plagues dated from late Qing Dynasty, Nationalist era, to just a few years ago.  Each plague recorded a major renovation of the temple and the names of donors (mainly from individuals and business around West Lantau.  There were also two wooden boat models on display.

DSC_5943After checking out the temple, we stepped back onto the Fan Lau Country Trail.  Some parts of the trail was dominated by taller-than-human silver grass.

DSC_5949As we left the tip of Fan Lau Peninsula behind, Fan Lau Country Trail led us back to the main path of Lantau Trail Section 7, where we once again encountered the former settlement of Fan Lau Village (分流村).

DSC_5950At this westernmost area of Hong Kong, Fan Lau Village once housed 200 people, but now there could be only one inhabitant left (owner of Chan’s Store).  We passed by plenty of abandoned houses in various state of crumbling.

DSC_5962One of the highlight in the village was the former Fan Lau School.

DSC_5956There was only one room in the building.  The blackboard was still on the wall.  There was a photography show by artist Lily Leung on display in the building.  Her works depicted a strong sense of nostalgia of the nearly abandoned Fan Lau.

DSC_5970Many old utensils were left behind in the village, including a stone grinder below a banyan tree.

DSC_5978In most of the abandoned houses, there was a mezzanine floor.  Large ceramic containers were also common.

DSC_5985The wooden roofs of many village homes crumbled, while walls were taken over by vegetation.

DSC_5988One of the most impressive building in Fan Lau Village was undoubtedly the ancestral hall.  Some travelers set up a tent right in front of the former ancestral hall.

DSC_6004Some village houses revealed unique preferences of the former residences.

DSC_6007Glass details of the old windows revealed the age.  These glass windows were popular decades ago, but is now a rarity.

DSC_6013Before leaving Fan Lau Village, we passed by another iconic structure from the village’s heyday, a chimney structure right by the Fan Lau Sai Wan (分流西灣).  After the village, we continued on our hike on Lantau Trail Section 7 northwards to Yi O.


SAKSAYWAMAN, Cusco, Peru

In Quechua, Saksaywaman means viaiable hawk.  Standing above the northern end of Cusco, Saksaywaman is the perfect place to admire the impeccable Inca stone construction.  Huge boulders weighting from 25 to 200 tons were used in Saksaywaman to construct the famous stone walls constructed without the use of mortar.  Stones were shaped and placed together precisely by Inca craftsmen, and the joints so tight that not even a knife blade or a piece of paper could fit in.  Despite its fortress appearance, Saksaywaman was in fact a religious complex back in the Inca times.

We arrived at Saksaywaman by taxi.  The sky was grey and it seemed that rain would be inevitable.  We quickly walked around the ruins.  Not much interpretation information was presented at the site.  Nevertheless, we were amazed by the magnificent Inca construction and its simple but monumental stone walls.  As we wandered around the site, we reached a spot by a cliff overlooking the city of Cusco.  The vista from the lookout was gorgeous.  Despite strong winds, we stayed there for quite some time to take photos and checked out every small details of Cusco from a birdeye’s view.

Rain clouds were approaching fast.  As planned, we decided to walk back down to Cusco.  Via steep stone steps of Calle Palacio, we quickly descended to the city as it began to rain.  Soon we were reaching the door of Museo de Arte Precolombino when rain poured down heavily.  We decided to visit the museum partly to avoid the rain and partly wishing to know more about the pre-colonial cultures of Peru.  Museo de Arte Precolombino is an excellent place to understand the history and art of many pre-colonial Peruvian cultures, including Nasca, Mochica, Huari, Chimu and Inca.

From Museo de Arte Precolombino, it was only a few minutes’ walk to Jack’s Cafe, where we had a cheerful early dinner.  We were all getting excited about the upcoming Inca Trail trek.  Next morning, the 4×4 from our trekking agent Peru Treks would come to pick us up early in the morning to officially kick off our 4-day trek towards the Andean lost city of Machu Picchu.

1Monolithic stone masonry at Saksaywaman.

2Monolithic stone masonry at Saksaywaman.

3Rain clouds were approaching as we wandered around Saksaywaman.

4Magnificent stone works at Saksaywaman.

5Distant view of Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.

6Distant view of Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.

7By the time we left Saksaywaman, the rain was about to start.

8We quickly walked down the lane towards Pumacurco Street.

9Heavy rain soon dominated the skyline of Cusco.

10Walking down Calle Palacio towards Museo de Arte Precolombino.

11Walking down Calle Palacio towards Museo de Arte Precolombino.

12Display at Museo de Arte Precolombino.

13Display at Museo de Arte Precolombino.

* * *

Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru

 

 


SALINAS DE MARAS & MORAY, Sacred Valley, Peru

After Ollantaytambo, we headed back to Urubamba, the largest town in the Sacred Valley.  At Urubamba, we hired a taxi for the Salinas de Maras (Salt Pans of Maras) and Moray, the archaeological site Inca terraces.  The drive to the remote Salinas de Maras was full of breathtaking views of the Urupampa Mountain Range at the opposite side of the Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley), including Mountain Ch’iqun at about 5,530m above sea level.

Salinas de Maras is a salt mine of roughly 3000 small pools along the hillside of a mountain.  Each pool yields about 150 kg of salt per month.  The pools are fed by a hotspring with a high concentration of sodium.  As the water evaporates, crystallized salts are left behind for harvest. This salt mine has been in operation since the ancient times.  Little has changed for the past hundreds of years.

After Salinas de Maras, our taxi driver drove us to the nearby Moray site, an Inca ruins of remarkable circular terraces. The purpose of Moray was unknown, but most archaeologists believe that the circular terraces of Moray were once an Inca outdoor testing lab for agricultural experiments to study the effects of different micro-climates and soil conditions on crops.

We stayed at Moray for a short while, but didn’t have enough time to venture down to the bottom.  We lingered at the top of Moray ruins and the nearby area to take in the magnificent scenery of Urupampa Mountain Range until the sun began to set.  Standing at over 3500m elevation, many peaks stood in front of us across the Sacred Valley on the Urupampa Mountain Range were over 5000m above sea level.  We were grateful for ending our day of the Sacred Valley with such a peaceful scenery, a moment of cool breezes, fast moving clouds, fading sunlight, and majestic Urupampa Mountains.

We returned to Urubamba for the return bus ride back to Cusco.  Upon arrival, we were all hungry and tired.  We decided to treat ourselves a delicious dinner at one of the most well known tapas restaurants in the city, the Cicciolina.  Under the atmospheric setting of Cicciolina, we had one of the best meal of our entire trip.  This was the place where we took the courage to try a “cuy” dish (guinea pigs).  On the Andes, guinea pigs have long been a source of meat since ancient times.

1On the road to Salinas de Maras with Mountain Ch’iqun as the backdrop.

2Our taxi is approaching the salt mine, Salinas de Maras.

3The scene of a myriad of salt pools at Salinas de Maras was quite stunning.

4Staff could be seen working at the salt pools at Salinas de Maras.

5A water channel that diverts the salty water into the pools.

6The water channel that feeds the different salt pools.

7A water channel that diverts the salt water into the pools.

8Shadow of the mountain was cast onto the pools.

9The Salinas de Maras with the Sacred Valley in the distant.

10The various shades of earthy colours of the salt pools at Salinas de Maras.

11As the water evaporates, crystallized salts are left behind for harvest.

12Moray, an Inca ruins near the village of Maras, was an ancient outdoor testing grounds for agriculture.

14As evening approached, we had no choice but to embark on our return journey to Urubamba.

13We were at the elevation of over 3500m, embraced by mountainous scenery including the Urupampa Mountain Range across the valley.  As evening approached, we bidded farewell to the breathtaking scenery of Mountain Ch’iqun and the Urupampa Mountain Range and headed back to Cusco.

15Back to Cusco, we headed to the guidebook-recommended Cicciolina Tapas Restaurant to end our long day with an exciting meal.

* * *

Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru


PISAC & OLLANTAYTAMBO, Sacred Valley, Peru

To many, the lost city of Machu Picchu and the Inca capital of Cusco represent the biggest tourist highlights of Peru.  Arriving in the Urubamba Valley (or Sacred Valley of the Incas) where Machu Picchu, Cusco and several other famous Inca sites are located felt like we were  entering the heartland of the Inca Empire.  We spent our first full day in Cusco exploring the nearby Inca sites in the Urubamba Valley.  From Cusco, we took a regional bus to the town of Pisac. Pisac serves as the gateway of the valley from Cusco. Our primary destination in Pisac was the Inca ruins on the hilltop.  From the bus drop-off, we hired a taxi to take us to the hilltop.  The taxi ride took about 20 minutes.

At the hilltop where the ruins sat, we could truly admire the Inca’s fabulous agricultural terraces.  Set against the mountainous backdrop, the agricultural terraces dominated the steep hillsides. Top of the terraces lie a series of ceremonial platforms, temple and citadel overlooking the valley.

After the visit to Pisac, we hopped onto a minibus to Urubamba, and from Urubamba, we took a collective van up to the village of Ollantaytambo, the starting point of the famous Inca Trail and home of another famous Inca ruins. At the main square of Ollantaytambo, we went to the Hearts Cafe for lunch.  Hearts Cafe was another charity establishment, this time, by an English woman and her NGO Living Heart, which engaged in a number of children and community projects in the Sacred Valley.

After lunch, we climbed the steep steps to the top of the Inca ruins, the Terraces of Pumatallis which offered a spectacular view of the village of Ollantaytambo. In addition to religious purposes, the massive Terraces of Pumatallis also served as a fortress during the resistance against the Spanish conquest.

After Ollantaytambo, we continued our visit of the Sacred Valley. We took a local bus and returned to Urubamba, from where we hired a taxi for the Salinas salt pans and the Inca terraces of Moray.

1Early morning at Ninos Hotel, a charity establishment founded by a Dutch woman in 1996 to help the street children in Cusco.

2Our quadruple room Carolyn, named after one of the street children at Ninos Hotel, was located on the upper level.

3Agricultural terraces dominate the hillside of the mountain where the Inca ruins sat in Pisac.

5There were footpaths connecting to other parts of the ruins and Inca terraces in Pisac.

4Inca ruins in Pisac lie atop the agricultural terraces.

6This gateway at Pisac presented a fine example of the mortar-free stone masonry perfectly fit together with hand tools, a common construction feature in many Inca structures.

7A stone retaining wall at the Inca ruins in Pisac.

8Inca terraces in Pisac.

9We had lunch at Hearts Cafe near the main square of Ollantaytambo.

10The terraces of Pumatallis in Ollantaytambo witnessed some fierce battles against the Spanish during the twilight moments of the Incas.

11 View of the village of Ollantaytambo from the Terraces of Pumatallis

12Terraces of Pumatallis, Ollantaytambo.

13The stone works and steep steps at Terraces of Pumatallis, Ollantaytambo.

14Magnificent Inca stone work at the terrace of Pumatallis, Ollantaytambo.

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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru


DAY 43 (2 OF 2) – PUCARA, TILCARA, ARGENTINA

From Garganta del Diablo, the hike back to Tilcara was a pleasant downhill walk.  At the edge of Tilcara, instead of returning to the town centre, we crossed a bridge that led us to Pucara, the pre-Inca ruins overlooking the town on a hilltop.  Near the entrance of the ruins, we stopped by a café for lunch.  Recommended by Felipe, Grandma Rose at the café made some of the best vegetarian food in Tilcara.  Her dog at the café was really playful. He sat beside us and watched us eating, always looking for food under the table.  After the delicious meal, we made our way up to the ruins of Pucara, a partially reconstructed fortress.  From Pucara, the panoramic view of the surrounding mountains was gorgeous.  The wind was strong and the clouds were low.  The field of giant cacti in the middle of Pucara was interesting to stroll around, despite most cacti did not look too healthy.  Some of the taller cacti looked a little scary as they swayed in the strong wind, as if they could fall any moment.
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Read other posts on Northwest Argentina in 2013 South America:

Day 43.1 – Garganta del Diablo, Tilcara
Day 43.2 – Pucara, Tilcara
Day 44.1 – Hills of Seven Colours, Purmamarca
Day 44.2 – Cemetery, Purmamarca
Day 45.1 – Antigua Gusthouse, Tilcara
Day 45.2 – Museums and Plaza, Salta
Day 46.1 – Carpe Diem, Salta
Day 46.2 – Helados Miranda, Cafayate
Day 46.3 – Bodega el Porvenir, Cafayate
Day 47.1 – Bodega Domingo Molina, Cafayate
Day 47.2 – Quebrada Las Conchas, Cafayate
Day 48.1 – Museo de Vino, Cafayate
Day 48.2 – El Hornito, Cafayate
Day 48.3 – Goodbye Northern Argentina, Salta

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 38 (3 OF 4) – RUINAS, SOUTHWEST CIRCUIT DAY ONE, BOLIVIA

The Ruinas is an abandoned town lying at the foot of surrounding hills. It was once a big town in the mountain region but was abandoned after the outbreak of an unknown disease during the colonial times. We stopped briefly at the ghost town to check out its houses, church, and cemetery.
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Read more on Southwest Circuit, Bolivia in 2013 South America:

Day 36.2 – Cerro Corazon de Jesus, Tupiza
Day 37 – Quebrada Hike, Tupiza
Day 38.1 – Departure Southwest Circuit Day 1
Day 38.2 – Highland, Southwest Circuit Day 1
Day 38.3 – Ruinas, Southwest Circuit Day 1
Day 38.4 – Quieten Chico, Southwest Circuit Day 1
Day 39.1 – Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Southwest Circuit Day 2
Day 39. 2 – Laguna Verde & Blanca, Southwest Circuit Day 2
Day 39.3 – Desierto de Dali, Southwest Circuit Day 2
Day 39.4 – Geysers Sol de Manana, Southwest Circuit Day 2
Day 39.5 – Laguna Colorada, Southwest Circuit Day 2
Day 40.1 – Huaylliara, Southwest Circuit Day 3
Day 40.2 – Arbol de Piedra, Southwest Circuit Day 3
Day 40.3 – Flamingos, Southwest Circuit Day 3
Day 40.4 – Ollague Volcano, Southwest Circuit Day 3
Day 41.1 – Salt Hotel, Southwest Circuit Day 4
Day 41.2 – Sunrise at Uyuni Salt Flat, Southwest Circuit Day 4
Day 41.3 – Isla Incahuasi at Uyuni Salt Flat, Southwest Circuit Day 4
Day 41.4 – Salar de Uyuni, Southwest Circuit Day 4
Day 41.5 – Train Cemetery, Uyuni, Southwest Circuit Day 4
Day 42 – Border Crossing, Villain, Bolivia / La Quiaca, Argentina

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 28 (1 OF 2) – EL FUERTE, SAMAIPATA, BOLIVIA

El Fuerte, a pre-Inca archaeological site at a hilltop overlooking the town of Samaipata, is the main draw for foreigners to this sleepy hill town.  Listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, El Fuerte contains one of the world’s biggest stone carving.  On a gigantic rock surface at the hilltop, pictorial and geometric carvings were made by pre-Inca cultures.  The carving began at around AD300 and continued over generations for various purposes, from ritual services to astronomic and weather observations.  The Incas added two wall structures with mummy burial niches and a sun gate when they conquered the area and named Samaipata as a provincial capital.  The Spaniards then came to occupy the site as a military fort and built a few Andalusian houses on the site.  Apart from the sheer gigantic size of the stone carvings, the superimposing of symbols and architecture from various cultures offers a unique character to the site.  In recent decades, there were numerous rumours about some sort of mystical energy of the site.  Some even imagine the site being used by extraterrestrial to land their spaceship.
Following a raised boardwalk and a loop trail, we spent about 2 hours at El Fuerte to contemplate its unique history and take in the glorious views from the site.
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Read other posts on Samaipata & Santa Cruz, Bolivia:
Day 27.2 – Night Arrival, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 28.1 – El Fuerte, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 28.2 – Town, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 29.1 – Finca la Vispera, Sampaipata, Bolivia
Day 29.2 – Garden Cafe at Finca la Vispera, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 30.1 – Cloud Forest at Amboro National Park, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 30.2 – Starry Night, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 31.1 – Goodbye, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 31.2 – Centro, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought