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Posts tagged ‘UNESCO World Heritage’

Himeji-jo: Castle of the White Egret

It towers above the neon signs and drab concrete blocks of modern-day Japan, a gleaming monument to an age when shoguns and samurai didn’t just exist in the imagination. From its hilltop perch, Himeji Castle dominates its namesake city, marking one end of the tree-lined boulevard leading to the busy train station. Read more

Hoi An: a bridge between cultures

Standing on a pedestrian walkway by the Thu Bon River, Bama and I drink in the view of a sublime architectural gem. It rests on a succession of stone piers, the timber frame bearing traces of maroon paint, faded and stripped away by years of exposure to the elements. Above the rafters, delicate blue-and-white porcelain bowls are set into the edges of the tiled roof, itself crowned by florid, dragon-like finials. It was this famous structure – the Japanese covered bridge – that had brought us to the central Vietnamese town of Hoi An. When I read last August that the 400-year-old landmark would eventually be dismantled for restoration, I knew it was high time to go. Read more

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

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

Why I love Kathmandu

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This city of 2.5 million, sprawling haphazardly across a smog-filled valley, does not crop up on the usual lists of the world’s most desirable destinations. From above it is a jumble of brick and concrete boxes, a turn-off for the more cocooned traveller. But coming from India – Calcutta no less – gave us a more sympathetic view. Kathmandu would prove far gentler, less filthy, and a lot less miserable. 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

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

Indonesia: dangerously beautiful

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If we only believe the sensationalism of Fox News, CNN America and other media outlets, Indonesia is the kind of country a lot of people might want to avoid. Historically, it has made world headlines for all the wrong reasons – plane crashes, violent protests, terrorist bombings and large-scale natural disasters. Read more

Komodo: the land before time

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A flickering tongue tasted the air, and the giant lizard turned in a momentary pause from his lunch. Together with a handful of Australian visitors, we stood on the edge of a mud pit, watching in hushed excitement as a young Komodo dragon feasted on a water buffalo carcass, its horns and bare ribs protruding from the muck. Read more