Posts Tagged With: Asia
My challenge to myself is to find these challenge photos from a recent trip to China. Cooking hot Peking Duck, and enjoying cold “iceas.”
For Cee’s Black & White photo challenge: https://ceenphotography.com/cees-challenges/cees-black-white-challenge/
In a faraway land called India, a great emperor named Shah Jahan adored his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. When she died giving birth to their 14th child, he built her the most magnificent tomb in the history of the world—the Taj Mahal.
“We’ll meet at the bus at 5:30am,” our India tour guide informed us the night before. “We want to be first in line.”
Ugh! Near the front of the line, we stood in the dark for what seemed like forever, waiting for the gates to open. Luckily we were squeezed between “stand in line” railings, so I had something to lean on in my groggy condition.
When we finally entered at sunrise, all sleepiness disappeared, and we were struck by the ethereal beauty of one of the world’s most beloved edifices. Consistently named one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the ivory-white marble tomb takes your breath away when you see it up close for the first time. Its name is Persian for “Crown of Palaces,” and so it is, reigning on a marble base, or plinth, at the far end of a narrow reflecting pool, and guarded by a minaret at each corner.
The tomb was commissioned in 1632 and finished in 1643 using materials from all over Asia (white marble from India, jade and crystal from China, turquoise from Tibet, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, sapphire from Sri Lanka), and it’s thought that more than 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials. The rest of the 42-acre complex—finished between five and ten years later—includes a mosque, guesthouse and formal gardens. Total cost in 2015 U.S. dollars—$827 million. The project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects. In 1983 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India.”
Clever subterfuge: To protect the building during WWII, the Indian government erected scaffolding around it in anticipation of air attacks by the Japanese Air Force. Scaffolding was again used during the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971 to mislead bomber pilots.
To this day, the Taj Mahal still stands as a symbol of love. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore poetically described it as “the tear drop on the cheek of time.” And so it was for Shah Jahan. When he died, he was laid to rest in a sarcophagus next to his beloved Mumtaz.
The troop-carrier jeep bounced along a dirt road carpeted with large potholes that looked like they’d been blown out by meteorites. I tightened my grip on side railings and those attached to the back of the seat in front of me, but still, every pothole sent me careening in four different directions. Twice, my mouth connected with the side bar, and once, while I was looking up, the bar behind my head rose up to crash into my skull.
We were in the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, on safari, looking for wild tigers. So far, we’d spotted a lot of sika and samboor deer—including two young bucks testing their fighting mettle by locking horns—and several birds. But no tigers. Where the deer were, the tigers weren’t, which makes sense from a deer’s point of view.
To give you some background, the Ranthambhore Reserve covers an area of 1334 square kilometers, was started in 1973, and is home to six species of cats, three species of mongoose and marsh crocodile, an estimated 38 species of other mammals (the deer would fit in here), 315 species of birds and 402 species of plants. Whew!
The road wound up and down, crossing streams and the aforementioned potholes, through a thickly forested underbrush area categorized as tropical dry deciduous. If the tigers had been there, we might not have been able to see them in the tall grass. I was disappointed—and a little banged up. So, to avoid the whiplash affecting my lower back, I opted out of the next morning’s safari. My husband did go, though, and we were both happy about the results. Not only did they spot a tiger, but also a marsh crocodile, monkeys, and different birds.
Tigers are king in Ranthambhore, and tiger images are everywhere, including at a craft shop known as the Village Women Crafts, where sari-clad women (sometimes with a small child nearby) sew and weave beautiful designs into wall hangings, clothing and other fabric items. It may be a woman’s craft center, but men, it seems, are the ones painting tiger images. All the work is exquisite.
Another craft center again offered the vibrantly colored fabrics India is known for, as well as camel-pulled carriage rides. It was here that a group of sassy local barely-teenage boys (the girls are much more reserved) presented themselves to me to have their picture taken, and, wanted to take their picture with me. It was a delightful international exchange, and we all had fun. For me, this is one of the big perks of travel—random exchanges between people. It helps us bond with people of other cultures—and they with us—and reminds us that we are really all the same, despite different skin colors, religions and customs.
To see the slideshow, just click on any photo and use the arrows to move back and forth.
Last September, we embarked from Shanghai on a 17-day cruise that made port at Nagasaki, Japan; Busan, South Korea; Taipei, Taiwan; Hong Kong; Vietnam; Bangkok, Thailand; and finally Singapore. My story (with photos) of the journey is featured in the Spring issue of TravelWorld International magazine, starting on page 6. http://issuu.com/travelworld/docs/_twi_magazine_spring_2015/1. Please enjoy the tour.
Rong Gao (Dragon Bridge), Da Nang, Vietnam. Built in 2013 and designed by U.S. engineers, this dragon breathes fire and hissing smoke (water mist) each weekend after sunset. Now that I’ve photographed it during the day, returning at night is on my Bucket List.
The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul itself, Cappadocia….all these iconic sites come to mind when travelers think of Turkey. But for this week’s photo challenge, I wanted to show a different side of the country that straddles two continents, and, indeed, two worlds. Turkey is at the same time part Asia and part Europe, Islamic yet democratic, both modern and ancient, and in the immortal words of Donnie and Marie Osmond, it’s a little bit country and a little bit Rock ‘n’ Roll.
By Rock ‘n’ Roll, of course, I mean Urban. In the Turkish countryside you’ll see vast acreages dedicated to growing fruits and vegetables. But you’ll also see a plethora of urban centers. Istanbul, certainly, but also Izmir, Ankara, Antalya and many others.
I’ve selected just a few of the many images that to me represent Turkey in its most unique urban sense.
Ouch! Double Ouch! I’m the original tenderfoot, and walking barefoot over little ridges feels like walking on a bed of nails. But the sign said, “remove your shoes,” so I knew resistance was futile, especially since management had conveniently made available plastic bags as shoe carry totes. A short distance to go over the ridged and wet terrain, and I knew the end result would be worth it.
I was at Pamukkale (pronounced Pah-MOOOK-kah-lay), where calcium-rich water oozes over a cliff and forms lovely white-terraced pools. At one time visitors could climb down to the lower pools and soak in the mineral waters, but no more. To keep hoards of tourists from damaging them, the lower pools are closed to bathing. But all is not lost. Travelers can still try out the healing properties of Pamukkale’s springs.
One way is to patronize the spa. Pamukkale has been home to a spa since the Romans built the city of Hierapolis around the sacred, volcanically warmed spring (once you buy your ticket you can visit both the terraces and the extensive ruins of Hierapolis).
I didn’t check out all the options at the spa, but I found Cleopatra’s Bath (featuring underwater seating designed as broken and tumbled columns) and two rows of aquarium tanks. Sit on a bench above a tank, immerse your feet, and dozens of itty-bitty cleaner wrasses will relieve you of dead skin and any ectoparasites they can find. It’s their job. And their food supply. One kind gentleman agreed to let me photograph his feet.
The other way is to do what I was doing—gingerly picking my barefoot way over to one of the calf-deep pools on the plateau at the top of the cliff, relieving my feet at little tidepools along the way. I must admit, the warm water felt indescribably good, and whether it was the comfort of the smooth-bottomed pool, or whether the healing waters were actually performing their magic, I won’t ever know. But afterwards, my nagging headcold disappeared. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.
Where in the world is this ancient community dwelling (interspersed with Christian churches)? If you know, please share your story and your thoughts about this place: How and when did you come to be there?
It’s in an ancient land where people lived above and below the ground.
Once the people embraced Christianity, but no more.
Most days, a flotilla of hot-air balloons hovers above the landscape.
You will see an occasional camel, which you can sit on and have your picture taken.
Shop for intricately decorated ceramics, leather coats, and carpets.
(Dallas, has Ahmet been here?)
When I was a teenager, my parents moved us—lock, stock and barrel—from Pennsylvania to Southern California. We made our way across the country packed in our station wagon, checking into a motel each night and seeing the sights by day. When we were hungry, we stopped at a diner or supermarket along the way. All we had to worry about were boisterous bikers, a wrong turn here and there, and getting caught smuggling our parakeet, hamsters and cat into the motel each night.
About a hundred years earlier, eager settlers made the same trip via another kind of wagon—a wagon train. They had it a little tougher than we did. No convenience stores and plenty of danger from marauders or the whims of Mother Nature.
Now let’s go back a little further—to the 10th century AD. There were no cars, busses, trains or planes back then, so travelers—mostly merchants carrying the riches of Persia and China to the markets of Europe, and vice versa, along the Silk Road—made their way across the landscape of central Asia in camel caravans. Safety in numbers, right? But there were plenty of highwaymen lying in wait in the dark of night to rob and kill.
Fortunately, the sultans of Turkey had a bright idea. They knew the best way to encourage commerce (and the taxes, political power and prestige the label of “trading dynasty” brought with it) was to protect the merchants, so they built a series of caravanserai (essentially parking garages for camel caravans) along the trading routes—each one a day’s journey from the last.
These caravanserais were like stone forts or castles, with a large entry portal to accommodate the animals and whatever they were carrying, and an iron gate. There was no roof over the central courtyard, which often held a small mosque. Interior rooms included a great hall, bathhouse (Turkish-bath kind), bathrooms and places to sleep. Ovens were embedded in the ground to keep the place warm, and candles and lamps provided light. A manager oversaw operations.
Not only would these government-run caravanserais provide a nighttime safe haven for travelers, their camels, horses, donkeys and cargoes, they also offered services such as doctor, imam (prayer leader), veterinarian, messenger, blacksmith, shoe repair and cook. Travelers could stay for three days, and all services were free during that time. It was a win-win situation for both travelers and government.
When Europeans found new ways to China, the Silk Road declined in importance, and after the 15th and 16th centuries, most caravanserais were never used again. Many are in ruins, but some are well preserved and a treat to visit and explore.
This time last year I was in Turkey. It’s a place that will not leave my thoughts. Before I went, what I expected was mosques and sightseeing. What I got was a cultural infusion of sights and people that left me feeling both awed and happy.
Today, let’s start with the people. Turks, especially those in the countryside and outlying towns, really like Westerners, perhaps because we’re different, or come from such faraway places.
At one restroom/convenience-store stop along our bus route, a wedding party and family (sitting at picnic tables in front of the store) offered us food from their post-wedding feast. “Turks love to feed foreigners,” our guide told us. Everywhere, groups of wide-eyed schoolchildren and their teachers surrounded me, practicing their limited English by asking the same two questions—what is your name, and where are you from—clamoring to hear me speak or just wanting to stare at me. The lack of a common language didn’t seem to matter. Somehow we communicated. And they were eager to jump in front of my camera.
If you’ve been to Turkey, I invite you to share your stories of this amazing place by commenting below. Or perhaps you’d like to author a guest blog. And look for more—much more—from me on this subject.