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Posts tagged ‘Architecture’

Bern: Switzerland’s picturesque capital

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Not long after that very first trip to Switzerland in the summer of 2000, my father showed me a picture book on the natural and man-made wonders of the Alpine country. One of the photos that stood out to me most was taken in the medieval heart of Bern, showing a cobbled street that led to the Zytglogge, a whimsical yet stately clock tower capped by a curving pyramidal roof and spire. Read more

Kyoto revisited

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When I was nine years old, a family friend gifted me with a branch of plastic cherry blossoms. I tied it to a pin board above my bed, wrote a haiku about Kyoto in the spring (though I’d never been at the time), then drew a pagoda and cherry trees beside the poem. It was an obsession fueled by lunch breaks spent in the school library, where I returned time and again to a thick hardcover book on the Japanese city. Read more

A walk in Kurashiki

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We were not meant to visit Kurashiki at all. Though I’d heard of the place and looked up pictures several weeks before our trip to Japan, it never became a priority. But that changed with a chance encounter inside a sushi bar at Okayama station, four stops down the Sanyo Main Line. Read more

Remembering Bagan

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Last Wednesday, two major earthquakes struck Europe and Southeast Asia within nine hours of each other. As residents slept in the historic towns and villages of central Italy, a 6.2-magnitude tremor rocked the Apennines, taking the lives of at least 290 people. Amatrice, the birthplace of the famous pasta dish spaghetti all’amatriciana, was one of the worst-affected locales. Later that morning, a 6.8 temblor shook the heart of Myanmar. Footage of bricks being torn from an ancient Buddhist stupa seemed eerily familiar, and the reports I read soon confirmed my underlying fears. The quake’s epicentre was roughly 30 kilometres from Bagan, a sprawling archaeological site of 2,200 temples that Bama and I had visited just 10 months before. Read more

Sunrise at Borobudur

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Under the veil of darkness, I saw little more than a hulking presence that towered in the distance. Our flashlights illuminated small details along the path: heavily worn steps, the edges of a gateway, and then a bell-shaped, perforated stupa. I had arrived with Bama, my longtime travel companion, and fellow bloggers Bart and Badai. All of us were repeat visitors to Borobudur, but none had yet witnessed the glory of a new day from its terraces. Read more

Holland in Java: the old town of Semarang

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It isn’t long after daybreak when Bama and I find ourselves in a small slice of Europe. Across the tree-lined street, not yet spoiled by the din of motorcycle traffic, the painted copper dome of a church glints in the first rays of the morning sun. Around us rise noble structures in brick and stone, some crowned with the narrow, steep-sided gables of a country halfway across the world. Semarang has one of the best-preserved historic centres of any major city in Indonesia, and we are standing at its very heart. Read more

Semarang and the Chinese treasure fleet

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Lying almost midway along the northern coast of Java, Semarang is a port city with a deep Chinese connection. It is particularly famous for lumpia, the spring rolls introduced by Hokkien-speaking immigrants, while many local dishes use tofu as an important base. The influence extends beyond the culinary sphere, for it is in Semarang that a magnificent temple pays homage to the greatest admiral in Chinese history. Read more

Bhaktapur unbowed

Nyatapola pagoda, Bhaktapur

It is half past six when temple bells awaken us from our slumber. Each note is soft but clear, resonating with the prayers of the faithful, and tinging the winter air with hope. I glance over at the window, a sturdy wooden lattice encrusted with floral motifs, to find only darkness behind a film of moisture. The bells ring again, at languid, irregular intervals, while the darkness slowly yields to an ethereal mist and the pastel blue of a cloudless sky. Read more

The magnificence of Shwedagon Pagoda

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Mankind has long believed that building high allows us to connect with the divine. The Mayans created monumental stepped pyramids as temples to the gods. In medieval Europe, towns and cities competed to build the tallest cathedral, using dangerously thin stone walls pierced with stained glass windows. And in the kingdoms of Indochina and South Asia, towering stupas were erected as grand reliquaries of the Buddha. Read more

Cheong Fatt Tze’s blue mansion

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Peering out of our window on the seventh floor, the house looked far smaller than it did from the street. But its romantic window shutters, tiled roof and walls painted in indigo blue were still magnificent. Although The Blue Mansion was just behind our hotel, it took Bama and I four days of slow deliberation before we stepped inside for a guided tour. Read more