Bangkok Must See: Itinerary Summarized

Over the past few days I’ve been recommending the best of what ancient Bangkok has to offer in terms of sites and cultural heritage for those have only a day to spend. Below is my recommended itinerary and one that I use when I have friends visiting ūüôā Hope you like it!

Morning:
– Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Lunch: Pra Athit Road (There are so many restaurants along this road, I’ll mention them in my next post)

Afternoon:
– Temple of the Reclining Buddha
– Tea at “Vivi The Coffee Place”
– Cross the river to the Temple of Dawn

Evening:
– Dinner at “The Deck” Arun Residence

I realize I haven’t really talked about where to eat “Lunch” yet and eating is always a big deal of travel. Somedays on trips one can spend so much time looking for good delicious food it can be a bit of a headache.

In the next post I’ll give you some recommendations about restaurants along “Pra Athit” Road which is a funky little road filled with good restaurants and cosy bars for you to lunch. At one end of the road they also have a park by the river and an old fortress which makes you travel back in time ūüôā

Stay tuned!

Bangkok Must See: Vivi The Coffee Place

There is a hidden secret that was discovered by a colleage a few years back right and one that I¬†truly enjoy visiting.¬†Thank you na ka. ¬†It’s a¬†little coffee shop¬†called “Vivi The Coffee Place” located right next to the river of Kings and it is somewhere that is perfect¬†if you want¬†to stop by and have a little rest after a visit to the Grand Palace or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.¬† It gets hot and humid and having somewhere to just chill and relax by the river is ideal.¬† Or if you just need a little hideaway, this place too is the perfect place.¬† It’s quiet, it has a gorgeous view of the Temple of Dawn, an ancient fortress and you can spend a good number of hours just reading away.¬† Away from all the crowds of people you usually find on streets and shopping malls.¬† Here you are at peace.

The Coffee shop is part of a boutique hotel called “Aurum” which in itself is a beautiful building that makes you wonder if you are indeed in old Bangkok.¬† I believe the building is new, but it has been built in a style that reminds me of the old buildings in Paris.¬† What I love about it is the feeling you get when you first see it.¬† You are walking up a small little “soi” or alley surrounded by old Thai shop houses and then suddenly you find yourself standing in front of a beautiful building and the entrance to a coffee place.¬† You feel like you are an explorer finding a secret.

The service is friendly and if you go early mornings, you have the place to yourself.¬† There’s seating both outdoors and indoors.¬† Outdoors you get to sit on a little balcony right next to the river and facing the Temple of Dawn, and indoors you get to be in the comfort of airconditioning.¬† You also have a view of the temple, but it might be somewhat obstructed by those sitting outside.¬† Wherever you sit, it’s still a beautiful little coffee place.¬† Their bathroom is also very clean so if you are in search of a clean bathroom (which is most often the case when one goes on holiday) this one is great.

Check out their website! It’s mostly about the hotel though…but it’ll offer you a map of the place.¬† Enjoy!¬† http://www.aurum-bangkok.com/

 

Bangkok Must See: The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

If you are visiting Bangkok or have friends visiting Bangkok, a site you cannot miss is the Grand Palace.¬† I always believe that to understand a city and its people you have to understand it’s past.¬† The Grand Palace is exactly that.¬† It is what the old Kingdom of¬†Siam (Thailand before we changed our name)¬†is all about and it is indeed majestic¬†sitting on the banks of the ChaoPhraya River or the River of Kings.¬† If you are a first time visitor, this should be your first stop, and if you have friends coming over, please take them to the Grand Palace.¬† It’s an amazing site that everytime I go there, I feel like I’m transported into another era.¬†¬† Bangkok is not just about shopping malls and good food.

Amazingly, one can spend years and years¬†in Bangkok living day to day life and probably never see the Grand Palace if you don’t make an effort to see it.¬†The city has expanded so much and now the economic centre is far from the Old Bangkok.¬† If you don’t have any business in the area or live in other parts of the city, you’d probably get lost when you come to this ancient area of Bangkok.¬†¬†Fortunately for me, my office is located in the old area of Bangkok with all the government offices and so I get to explore the area a bit more.

What is so beautiful about the Grand Palace?  First of all, it is not just one building but rather it is a complex of buildings which were constructed in the 18th century when the capital of Bangkok was moved from the Thonburi side of the river over to its present day location.  This was to be the seat of the Rattanakosin government and centre of the Chakri Dynasty.  This was where the King and his family resided, where the government held court and where they worshipped.  This is also the location of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew).  What makes this palace even more amazing is that its plan follows that closely of the palace in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya.  No one but the King is allowed to touch the Emerald Buddha.

The architectural style is that of ancient Ayutthaya and is so colourful and intricate you could get lost just looking at the details.  The roofs have gentle curves that gives the structure a certain elegance and softness whilst the bright orange tiles and green borders make it radiate.  The walls are filled with glittering mosaics and colourful tiles adorn the outside.  The corridors and walkways are of marble.  If you go there on a hot sunny day, the flickering spots of light make you wonder if you are in some sort of dream.  Beautiful and mesmerizing.  Be sure to wear sunglasses though.  It gets very hot in the sun.

Surrounding the inner area where the Emerald Buddha, which is actually made of Jade,¬† is located ¬†you will find “Giants” standing guard over the entrance.¬† These mythical giants are 5 metres high and enough to make any child scared, but they are so beautifully painted and filled with mosaics, it makes me smile everytime I see them.¬† They are the temple’s guardians.

On the inside walls, you will also find murals of the Ramayana.¬† Thai Buddhism is greatly influenced by India and we share many things in common.¬† It’s a beautiful depiction.¬† I could go on and on about the Temple, the Grand Palace, the Golden Pagodas, the mythical creatures¬†and the legends that surround it, but it would require an entire book and so I leave you at this.

File:Bangkok statue.jpg
If you decide to go visit, I recommend making time for an entire day¬†walking around the¬†Grand Palace and visiting other¬†sights in this old¬†area of Bangkok.¬†(I’ll outline a plan¬†in future posts).¬† Go¬†early in the¬†morning as it gets very warm.¬† Dress respectfully as it is a place of worship and still used in ceremonies.¬† This means, long sleeves, long pants, long skirts and no sandles.¬† If you don’t have them, you can rent it by the entrance.¬† There are guides available too and if you are a tourist, you can buy tickets which is a mere 250thb ($8) per person giving you entrance to the entire complex as well as to the armory and smaller buildings in the complex.¬†¬† The ticket also gives you entrance to the Teak Palace not far away which is also incredibly beautiful.¬† Thais do not have to pay as it is a temple and place of worship.

If you start around 8.30am you could finish in around two hours.¬† Afterwhich I recommend visting Wat Pho with the reclining buddha just behind the Grand¬†Palace, having lunch, taking a boat ride across to the Temple of Dawn before spending time walking around the ¬†park by the river and having some¬†tea.¬† There is much to do.¬† One day won’t be enough if you love historical sites…

Photos are courtesy of wikipedia today..I’m still searching for my photos!

Old Vienna: Karlskirche and Karlsplatz

There’s a church in Vienna that is often not on the list of sights to visit for tourists who have limited time in the capital, but one I’m glad I visited.¬† Karlskirche.¬† I passed by it often on the way here and there around Vienna and one day I said, I must go.¬† It looks like a place worth visiting and it was.

This church¬†dates from the time of the¬†bubonic plague that devasted most¬†of europe.¬†¬†It’s name Karlskirche because Emperor Karl¬†VI¬†vowed he would build a church¬†to St. Charles Borromeo (who is apparently patron saint of the plague)¬†when the plague ended.¬†¬† The architect, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach won the design competition and the church was built in a rich Baroque architecture.¬† Its no wonder.¬† He was also the architect of Schoenbrunn and that too was Baroque.

Going offtrack for a moment, I love the fact that the Austrians had design competitions hundreds of years ago.  The result is they now have a city full of beautiful buildings, buildings which have lasted for generations and have become landmarks.  If only we had that in Bangkok, how beautiful will our City of Angels be?

Anyways, Karlskirche is impressive.¬† There’s something about it that I like but I can’t quite pin.¬† Perhaps it’s the immense size of the church which makes you feel humble and insignificant next to it.¬† Or perhaps its the gigantic dome of green that tops the church. and adds colour to its otherwise¬†white walls.¬† Two enormous columns stand by the front entrance with reliefs and reminds me of minarets in Egypt.¬† It’s baroque, yet there is some strangely asian, arabic influence.¬† Vienna is where the Turks were defeated.¬† Imagine if they had won, Christian Europe and Austria¬†as we know it, would not be.¬† What a fascinating world that would be.

Inside, the altar is a stucco relief that is a must see.¬† In baroque style, the heaven is a golden triangle with rays of light shining all around.¬† Looking back on it now, I am reminded of the Da Vinci Code and the masons….I wonder if there is an eye, but I don’t remember.¬† Anyhow its beautiful.¬†¬† Beneath the gigantic dome, there is a fresco that according to my guidebook depicts the Apothesis of St. Charles Borromeo.

Outside, there is a large fountain that makes it so breezy on a summer’s day¬†that people just come to hang out.¬† You can also walk around to Karlsplatz and see the marvelous art nouveau subway station that has been converted to a coffee shop (if I remember correctly.)¬† Its a nice setting overlooking the Musikverein (music hall) where famous concerts are held.¬† The great thing is that its not so crowded (when I was there anyways) and there aren’t many tourists.

My favourite architecture style at the moment is art nouveau so I am just all grins and smiles in Vienna.¬† This was where art nouveau flourished and you can find it almost anywhere…¬†but that’s a whole different discussion so I shall have to stop here before it gets too long.¬† ūüôā

Old Vienna: Schonbrunn Palace

If you want to see a palace that looks like those in fairy tales where princesses and princes roam about in beautiful buildings and halls, then walk around in their fancy dress in a majestically beautiful garden, I say go to Schonbrunn Palace.  This is one of my favorite sites in Vienna. 

Schonbrunn was the summer residence of the imperial family and dates back to 1695.¬† The palace itself was commissioned since then, but it wasn’t completed until 1730.¬† It has lived through wars and seen deaths.¬† It was Napoleon’s headquarters from 1805 to 1809 and it was here that Emperor Franz Josef died.¬† It was also here that Emperor Karl I abdicated from the throne in 1918.

History came and passed by here.  In the olden days, this must have been considered far for the Viennese and outside of the city.  I imagine carriage trips through fields and hills, but now the city has grown and it is easily accessible by bus and underground.  A summer palace within the city itself.

When you first walk into the grounds, you are greeted by the Baroque building that is so wide you would find it hard to fit into your camera view finder if you went too close.  There are hardly any trees and all you see is a large expanse up towards the grand staircase.  I imagine trotting up towards the palace on my horse.  How much fun it must be with all that space to ride.  Of course everyone in the palace would also be aware of my entrance.  I guess the design is also for security.  I read also that Schonbrunn was inspired by Versailles in France.

Inside, the palace’s rooms are so beautiful I cannot help but wonder what it must have been like living amongst all this grandeur.¬† The wood paneled walls and themed wall paper give each room a distinct character.¬† There’s the Blue Chinese Salon, the Vieux Lacque Room and even a Great Gallery that was the site of imperial banquets.¬† This is where the aristocracy waltzed their nights away in beautiful dresses.¬† I wish¬†I could see this place alive with people. How magical it must be.¬† There is the Round Chinese Cabinet room which shows you how far China came centuries ago. Vases and lacquered panels give it an oriental flair but in a baroque setting.¬† China was strong then , now it is once again becoming a world superpower.

Once you’re done with the palace, do not miss the garden.¬† The garden here is one of the highlights and I wish I had spent more time there.¬† I had spent afternoons writing away in my little notebook amidst the fountains and hedges that shaded you from the¬†sun, but I still yearn for more.¬† The garden is a beautiful design and reminiscent of French gardens, but you just have to love it. Hedges, framed alleyways and openings give it a magical feel.¬† There is a maze where you can get lost in, a zoo with an octagonal pavilion, a palm house, japanese gardens and even a public swimming pool.¬† So large is this garden.¬†¬†

But that is not all though.¬† The crowning jewel of the garden is the Gloriette which is a neo-classical arcade that stands atop the hill at the end of the garden. It towers above the garden and gives you a view of not only the palace, but also of Vienna.¬† By the time I climb up there, I’m usually ready to have a seat at the coffee shop in the Gloriette.¬† It’s a wonderful place to just really have “me” time.

No matter how many times I go, I still like Schonbrunn.¬† Even¬†if its¬†only to sit in its gardens and enjoy listening¬†to¬†the birds chirp.¬† Its a garden that’s open to all, but oh what a magical one it is.¬† I wish I could spend a summer there…but I guess that’s only in my dreams.¬† www.schoenbrunn.at

Old Vienna: The Hofburg

Imperial Vienna is a city that is rich, very rich¬†in both¬†history and culture.¬† Just visit the Hofburg or the Imperial Palace and you will understand what I mean.¬† The palace is a complex comprising 10 or more buildings and is reflective of the six centuries of Austrian rule.¬† Now, most of it has been converted into museums whilst part of it has been turned into the President’s office.¬† Lucky him to be working in such a beautiful building.

I don’t know where to start, there’s the Albertina Museum which houses one end of the complex and is home to one of the world’s finest collections of watercolours, prints and drawings.¬† There, I saw breathtaking peices by Durer, Rubens, and Michelangelo to name a few.¬† I was also lucky enough to be there during the Munch exhibition an got to see some of the most famous works, “The Scream.”¬† If you are bored of the prints or they aren’t really your taste, you can also walk around some of the newly renovated rooms.¬† This used to be the residence of Maria Theresa’s daughther, Maria Christina and her husband Duke Albert.¬† The rooms have beautifully inlayed floors and silk panel coverings.¬† Exquisite.


If you are a book lover, stop by the Austrian National Library (Prunksaal) and be mystified by it’s wood paneling and flamboyant gold coverings.¬† Walls and walls of books await whilst the painted ceiling overhead just takes your breath away.

There’s a statue of Prince Eugene in front of the Neue Burg which is a great place to take photos because of its curved architecture added in 1881-1913.¬† It’s beautiful and grand. It’s no wonder this is where Hitler chose to proclaim “the Anchluss” in 1938.¬†¬†The Neue Burg was also¬†the latest addition to the Hofburg as Imperial power faded.¬† A mere 5 years after it’s completion, the Habsburg empire ended.

To see all the glory of the Habsburg empire, do not miss the State Apartments, Silberkammer and¬†Schatzkammer (Treasuries).¬† In this part of the Hofburg, you will walk through rooms and rooms of ornate interior.¬† This was the home of Emperor Franz Joseph, the famous Empress Sissi, and even those of Tsar Alexander I.¬† There is an incredible 10th century crown dating from the time of the Holy Roman Empire and the cradle of Napoleon’s son with Maria Louisa.¬† There are golden crowns and chairs from the order of the Golden Fleece.¬† There are so many treasures here you get dizzy.¬† Museums in other countries seem to have but a fraction.¬† These are things you read about in history books and see in movies.¬† These¬†objects from history are¬†behind stories of knights in armour and wars.¬† Stories of love and marriages and hidden childs.¬† All this you must not miss.¬† You could spend a good part of the day roaming around the quarters and delving into the treasures.

My favorite part of the complex,¬†aside from the treasuries,¬†has to do with horses. The Winter Riding School.¬†¬† By now you probably know I love horses.¬† This is the Spanish Riding School (horses from Spain bred with Arab and Berber horses)¬†believed to have been founded in 1572 to train riders in horsemanship.¬† Here, they have shows showing you horses dancing to music¬†as¬†if they were part of¬†a ballet.¬†¬†The horses leap into the air completely in control of their legs¬†with such grace, you wonder if its really a horse.¬† And all this, happens amidst a hall filled with carvings, intricate plasterwork¬†and crystal chandeliers.¬† If you changed the flooring to wood, it could very well be a beautiful ballroom.¬† That’s how beautiful the building is.¬† I saw the morning training session, even then it was so beautiful.¬†

Yes, the Hofburg is large. You could get lost roaming around the place, but its definitely a site not to be missed.¬† At least see all the treasures.¬† It is amazing.¬† You’ll see how rich Imperial Vienna was and still is.

 

Old Vienna: The Stephansdom

If you’ve been to the Stephansdom, you’ve been to Vienna.¬† It’s located at the centre of city and is a landmark you cannot and shouldn’t miss. Not ever.¬† Some liken it to the “soul” of Vienna and I must say I agree.¬† It is to Vienna like what the Eiffel Tower is Paris.¬† It is a symbol that once you see it, you know that you have arrived in Vienna.

My first impression of this awe-inspiring Cathedral is implanted firmly in my mind as if I had first seen it yesterday.  (Actually, its been a good couple of years).  As in any european city, the tourist spot is almost always at the old town square.  The ones in France and Belgium had their own characteristics with buildings around a square as did the ones in Italy.  Vienna was different.

The State Opera House was my start and from there I walked down Karntner Strasse.¬† It was a beautiful wide cobbled stone road.¬† Cars are forbidden in this pedestrian area and large beautiful buildings lined the streets.¬† Shops and cafes abounded.¬† People were everywhere.¬† Locals and tourists aliked shopped here.¬† This wasn’t a place just for sightseeing.¬† This was where the Viennese came out for a stroll and to shop.¬†¬†Goods ranged from¬†high-end shops to chain stores such as H&M, Zara and Salamander.

Whilst being completely mesmerized by all around me, the bustling of the people, the cobbled stones, the beautiful turn of the century shop which boasted an elevator that reminded me of movies, I am suddenly a speck in a large open space with an enormous cathedral looming overhead.  I have to literally bend my neck backwards to look up at this collosal building.

Stephansdom is impressive.¬† For over 800 years, a church has stood in this place and the surviving one dates from the 14th and 15th centuries.¬† Some of the Habsburgs lie in a vault beneath this church and the spire points up 137 meters into the sky.¬†¬† The roof is unlike other cathedrals I’ve seen.¬† According to my guidebook, it has over a quarter of a million glazed tiles in beautiful colours of yellow, green and blue.¬† One side has the crest of Vienna with the two-headed eagle.

Inside, it is like other gothic cathedrals with a large altar up front and high high ceilings.¬† I pass the pulpit and cannot but stand in awe at its intricate design of portraits of the Four fathers of the Church.¬† The master craftsman of course doesn’t forget to put a portrait of himself looking out a window.¬†He¬†has a sense of humour.

I climb up the North Tower for a view of Vienna.¬† It’s beautiful up here, but the wind that blows through the small balcony makes my legs shiver.¬† I stand close to the wall and dare not move around too much.¬† I suppose I am afraid of heights afterall even though I like to tell myself¬†I am not afraid of heights.¬† The see through¬†metal flooring doesn’t help. I can see the ground¬†far below me at certain points.¬†¬†I bypass the catacombs below.¬† They are not my cup of tea.

I take a seat in front of the altar with my camera and guidebook and relax whilst taking in the beauty of the place.¬† Its peaceful and beautiful in here.¬† I can understand how much this has done for religion.¬† It is a place where people unite together and pray.¬† It’s a place where they can find peace of mind amidst the busy walking street outside.¬† Stephansdom.¬† Generations of Viennese have passed through these doors.¬† Now I can say that I too have seen Stephansdom in Vienna, Austria.

Old Vienna: The Ringstrasse

My virtual trip to Vienna is starting, and I have to admit that I too am excited about it.  It makes my heart beat faster and my face smile.  Like every trip, its the anticipation that gives us the most joy.  The first area one must visit while in Austria is definitely the old town.  Most of the action happens here and almost everything worth noting is around the this district number 1 (Vienna has 23 districts).  The old town is the centre of Vienna and everything else revolves around it.  I spent a good few months wandering around the area, taking buses, trams and doing a walking tour of the place.  Only by foot can you really learn about a city.  Learn its streets and see its culture. 

My recommendation for everyone’s first visit is to head towards the Ringstrasse before walking through the Old Town.¬† It gives you an idea and orients you about the city.¬† What is¬†it?¬† The Ringstrasse is a circular boulevard that encircles old town Vienna.¬† This was¬†where the fortress walls protecting Vienna had¬†previously stood in ancient days.¬† It took Emperor Franz Josef’s vision to demolish the defences and convert it into a grand boulevard.¬† It’s a grand boulevard just as grand as the Champs Elyssee but what I love is that on this boulevard are all the main cultural and political institutions.

Now to walk the entire boulevard would be tiring. You would be encircling the entire old town and its not that small, so my tip is to hop on the tram.¬† There are two trams that go around the Ringstrasse.¬† Trams 1 and Trams 2.¬† One goes clockwise, the other anti-clockwise.¬† I can never remember which does which, but if you just hop on one, you’d see all the main sites. It’s worth it. Just don’t go on rushhour in summer. It can get packed and sweaty.

What is there to see?¬† Oh its full of architectural feasts for the eyes.¬† Emperor Franz Josef hired architects from all over Europe to beautify the boulevard and that they did.¬† ¬† The Neues Rathaus or New¬†Town Hall is the seat of¬†Vienna City and¬†is interesting in a Neo-Gothic style built by Friedrich von Schmidt.¬† Since¬†then, they had design competitions and he won.¬† It’s¬†impressive and has a¬†huge tower that brings your eyes up towards the sky.¬† I remember seeing it in winter when every year they’d¬†put in place a large outdoor¬†ice-skating rink just in front of the building¬†decorated with Christmas trees and¬†angels that lit up at night. This was where they had the Christmas market.¬† What a beautiful¬†backdrop for ice-skating isn’t it?¬†¬†I told you Vienna was romantic.

Just a hop away, you suddenly see another spectacular building built in a completely different architectural style. It’s¬†the¬†Parliament building in a Neo-classical style that reminds me of¬†Athens and Rome.¬† Greek marble figures of Greek and Roman historians adorn the front. A fountain with the goddess of wisdom stands out front.

The next site is one that you could hop off and spend an entire day roaming around.¬† Its the Kunshistorisches Museum (Museum of Art) and the Natural History Museum.¬†¬†There is so much¬†there they can occupy a¬†post of its own. ¬†Perhaps on a rainy day or after you’ve walked around the Old Town Square, its a perfect place to see the collections of the Habsburg monarchs.¬† Now, with the building of these museums, the private treasures of the Habsburg were made available for all to see.¬† I saw treasures that were later stolen.¬† Invaluable treasures.

The arts arrive after all the politics and the treasures.¬† There’s the famous Opera House, the Burgtheatre, and the Stadtpark with the famous golden statue of Johann Strauss with his Violin.¬†¬† You can see the list is long so I won’t delve into details.

Not only do you pass by impressive buildings, you also¬†pass by hotels and cafes and a little bit of local life. On the northeastern side of the ring, you catch a glimpse of where the locals live and the Danube canal built to stop the city from flooding.¬† Urban planning in Vienna is exemplary.¬† Everything is planned and integrated.¬† What else can I say…¬†Just going around the Ringstrasse can take your breath away.¬† Wait till you see the inner square of the Old Town and see the treasures that lie inside the Treasury.¬† Imperial Vienna was a rich city.

Old Town Bangkok: The Bangkokian Museum

Sometimes you stumble upon unexpected things that really are very pleasant.¬† I guess this is what you call “Serendity.”¬† It reminds me of the movie by that name… Anyways,¬† as it happens upon our “walk” around Old Town Bangkok, we passed by an unconspicuous house with a sign above saying “Bangkokian Museum.”¬†¬†We had never heard of this place and never intended to visit it, but since we were already passing by¬†we thought, “why not?”¬† We weren’t in a rush to go anywhere, so lets just explore it.

And so we went in.  To our surprise, this house comprised of a fairly large compound comprising of three houses and a row of shop houses on the side.  Two of the houses and the row of shop houses had been turned into a museum by the owner (72years old) who is now residing in one of the houses.  It was like we went back in time. 

The garden was green with an old wooden gate. The houses were built of wood and in a style that reflected the western influence during the 1930’s. It somehow reminded me of the houses in Kobe, Japan that were very much influence by foreigners living there. There were large patios and open windows that allowed the air to flow through the house. As we walked around, a cool breeze flowed through. Nature’s air conditioning.

A volunteer guide greets us at the entrance.  He looks like he should be out clubbing, with his fancy hairdo, tight jeans and a fancy jacket.  He must be in his early twenties.  Looks though can be deceiving.  He is knowledgeable in history and takes us around the house, showing us this and that and telling us the story behind each item.  Its fascinating.

Old pianos,¬†chairs,¬†old books and personal belongings made me wonder about these houses’s former owners.¬† It belonged to a doctor Francis, originally from India and a Thai lady.¬† I see an old weigh scale like I’ve never seen one before.¬† The dial is written backwards and can only be read in the mirror attached to it.¬† This is to allow those standing on top of the scale to see their weight.¬† Amazing.

There is cupboard filled with surgical equipment.  Fascinating.

Old leather bound notebooks still in excellent condition remain and handwritings of his children learning english are on display.  The calligraphy back then was so beautiful, so perfect, I wonder what happened to my handwriting.  With the advent of the computer, I write less and less and my handwriting gets worse and worst. 

And so we spend a good hour wandering around the houses.¬† Exploring and looking at the objects.¬† They’re normal everyday objects, but it is reflective of the life back then.¬† While leaving,¬† I wonder what people almost a century from now will think about the things we use today….. One day, we too will be just history.¬† (http://www.bmalocalmuseum.com/)

The Temple of Philae

There are so many temples, so many majestic sites in Egypt that I dare not say which ones are better than the other.  Each person has their own preferences and what some like, others may not.  I,  for some reason, often find myself liking structures near to rivers or large bodies of flowing water.  Perhaps in another lifetime I lived on the river.  Who knows.   In Egypt, I rediscovered my love for water and one moment I remember clearly is the first impression I had of the Temple of Philae.

On an island of its own, this temple is accessible only by boat.¬† It’s late evening and the sun reflects off the dark blue water that mirrors the sky above.¬† It’s been a tiring day and everyone is exhausted. We had been awake since 2am in the morning with our early morning¬†flight to Abu Simbel¬†then Aswan.¬† This temple I remember being almost our last destination for the day.¬† I was tired and sleepy.¬† I walked down the pier and got onto the boat that would take us across.¬† I wasn’t really expecting too much and was pleased to just be able to sit quietly on the boat, listening to the water splashing on its side as the late afternoon sun flickered through.

I observed a beautiful scenery of birds, trees and water reflecting the afternoon sun. Palm trees offered a beautiful sihoulette to the clear cloudless sky.  All was calm and peaceful until all of a sudden, beautiful structures looking somewhat mythical appeared before me.  I sat there quietly taking it all in.  Stone columns reddened by the afternoon sun rose majestically to the sky.  I felt like I too was on a pilgrimage to this great temple.  I wondered if pilgrims thousands of years felt the same way I did just then. This place must indeed be magical.   As I got closer, the towering columns grew in their splendor and size.  They belonged to the Temple of Philae.   

This temple I am told was believed to be the burial site of Osiris, the God of the Underworld,” and was inhabited by only priests.¬† It was a sacred¬†place of worship for ancient Egyptians and have been mentioned in literature since ancient times.¬† I got off the boat and inside the temple is just as astounding.

Pillars filled with hieroglyphics lined the entrance and the main gate was still in wonderful condition.  Although most of the colours are gone now, they hieroglyphics remain just as surreal.  The complex is large and there are many buildings.  Some were built by the romans and one especially beautiful is the Kiosk of Trajan which has 14 columns and is in a classical style.  Beautiful.   I walk around looking at the lights and shadows. Light and darkness contrasting with each other.   I wish I had more time here, but we are given only 20 minutes to take photos.

I wander around and just fall in love this temple. Perhaps crossing the river in the setting sun with the clear blue sky above made it all the more magical.  Whatever it is, I can imagine this being the resting place of the Gods.