Tag Archives: temples

Athens Day 1 – after the Parthenon

13 Oct

This post is part of our adventures in Greece in September and October of 2013.  To see other posts in the series, click here.

After viewing the Parthenon we headed behind it to the other temple – the one originally with the pillars that we saw in the museum – the temple of Nike.

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These pillars are replicas - the real ones are in the museum

These pillars are replicas – the real ones are in the museum

We made an effort this trip to get more photos together.

We made an effort this trip to get more photos together.

Under the techni-color blue skies, we headed down the hill with the intention of viewing the Ancient Agora as well as another marketplace.

A view from over the fence of the Roman Agora

A view from over the fence of the Roman Agora

Since it was so late though, they had closed for the day (at 2:30!) and we continued down until we found a restaurant perched behind the temples.  We settled in for our first Greek salad, stuffed tomatoes and spinach pie.

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Stuffed tomatoes - a vegetarian lunch

Stuffed tomatoes – a vegetarian lunch

Stomachs full we wandered back to the hotel enjoying the narrow streets of the Plaka neighborhood.

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Hadrian's arch

Hadrian’s arch

We happened upon Hadrian’s arch in the distance and then sneaked into the temple of Zeus just before closing time.  The timing worked perfectly.

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We then hurried back to the hotel so that we could head to the airport and continue our adventure in Crete.  The first day of our trip was a success.

Have you ever stumbled across a great restaurant by happenstance?  Eating when traveling can be hit and miss and so much depends on the atmosphere in addition to the food.  Where did you find a hidden gem?

Athens – Day 1 anticipation

10 Oct

We woke up early on our first full day in Greece because of the five hour time difference from Shanghai.  After eating a quick breakfast at the hotel (where we experienced our first Greek yogurt and honey) we headed out with the goal of seeing as many major sites as we could before we flew out that evening for Crete.

The hotel had been chosen because it was within walking distance of the Acropolis so we headed first to the Acropolis Museum at the base of the hill.  The museum is built over the remains of a long lost town and there are clear tiles at different points overlooking the archeological site which you can see beneath your feet.  A sign by the  door said that hopefully in the near future tourists will be able to walk those same ancient streets with the ruins.

Walking "above" the ancient streets

Walking “above” the ancient streets

As a museum, it is a streamlined building with spectacular views.  Some of the important statues from the Acropolis have been relocated to the museum to protect them from the elements.  There was also an informational video playing that gave us a sense of what had been – the buildings and temples before the wars and conquistadors that ruined them.  It was a good introduction to the general area.

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Posing with the reconstruction of the frieze on the top of the Parthenon

Posing with the reconstruction of the frieze on the top of the Parthenon

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The back of the pillars gracing the smaller temple.  I love the braids.

The back of the pillars gracing the smaller temple. I love the braids.

From the outdoor café of the museum - with the Parthenon as back drop

From the outdoor café of the museum – with the Parthenon as back drop

After the museum we then purchased our tickets and started the long climb up to the top of the Acropolis.

Theater of Dionysis

Theater of Dionysis

The sun was beating down, but we took the time to enjoy each site.  There were theaters and temples and about halfway up, the most beautiful music coming from around the bend.

Heading up - what these stones have seen!

Heading up – what these stones have seen!

A postcard perfect view

A postcard perfect view

We slowly approached and then realized that a musical group was doing a dress rehearsal in the recreated theater ahead.  The acoustics were stellar, even though the group was over a hundred feet below the amplification was perfect.  We must have spent 20 minutes there – listening, enjoying, absorbing.  It was magical.

The top of the theater, musicians were far, far below

After rousing ourselves, we then approached the Acropolis itself.  It’s huge – meant to inspire awe and the entrance itself is stunning.  We took many shots trying to capture the beauty that was there.

Climbing up

Climbing up

The pillars are so big - truly not on human scale

The pillars are so big – truly not on human scale

And then finally, we were there.

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Our trip to Greece was starting really well.  We had only been there slightly over twelve hours and already seen so much.  After taking a break in the shade we moved out to continue exploring.

Sometimes trips really hit it out of the park – this one started with a bang.  Have you had a trip like that before?

And we’re back… (or should I say – from Alpha to Omega?)

8 Oct

After a lovely 10 day vacation, we have returned to Shanghai – this time to be welcomed by Typhoon Fitow that has turned the last day of the Golden Week into a perfect day for napping and watching the rain pound down. It was a stand out trip – the perfect honeymoon.

The title of the post gives a clue to where our travels led – we spent our time in Greece soaking in the culture, history and blue skies from Athens to Crete to Santorini and back again. I didn’t want to leave.

It was a random comment by Li that resulted in the destination.  Greece is on the Aegean sea and the translation of Aegean into Chinese is Ai Qin Hai (爱琴海)which literally is “Love piano sea.”  However, the pronunciation is the same as Ai Qing Hai (爱情海)which is translated as “Sea of Lovers.”  With the second translation in mind, he suggested we look into it.

From our good luck at getting upgraded to business class on our first flight, through stumbling on a professional music group playing in an open air amphitheater on the Acropolis, to catching a sunset in Hania to the European cultural heritage days in Heraklion – we enjoyed ourselves. We searched for blue roofed churches on Santorini, viewed the changing of the guard at Parliament and indulged in one too many Greek salads, lamb chops and fresh orange juice.

I have three single-spaced pages of notes from our trip, 3800 photos and over 30 minutes of video. It’s safe to say that I will not lack blog fodder for a long, long time.

Please enjoy a few photos that serve as a taste of our beautiful trip.

The Parthenon, Athens

The Parthenon, Athens

The ubiquitous Greek salad, which we consumed every day without fail

The ubiquitous Greek salad, which we consumed every day without fail

Sunset over Chania, Crete

Sunset over Chania, Crete

Catholic Church in Fira, Santorini

Catholic Church in Fira, Santorini

The three blue churches of Oia, Santorini

The three blue churches of Oia, Santorini

And so, it begins…

Lunch in Santorini overlooking the cliff

Lunch in Santorini overlooking the cliff

Have you been to Greece?  Where did you go on your honeymoon?  Any stories you are willing to share?  As I have told my husband – why not have a honeymoon every year?  Who says one is enough?

Taiwanese temples – new and old

27 Aug

Over my two trips to Taiwan (May and July) I went to two different temples.  They seemed to represent two different sides of Taiwan and two different sides of worship in that country.

The first example was part of my group trip with my colleagues – a temple set high on a mountain that was created to awe.  The floors sparkled and the statues of the guardians towered over the people who were inside.  It was probably the largest and cleanest temple I have ever been in.  People walked around in hushed silence – though most of the visitors were groups who followed guides with little flags.

The temple was so large I couldn't get the entire thing in my shot

The temple was so large I couldn’t get the entire thing in my shot

Gold leaf and temple guardians

Gold leaf and temple guardians

Frightening lion by the door

Frightening lion by the door

Enormous multi-headed guardian inside

Enormous multi-headed guardian inside

When I confirmed the name with my colleagues, I got confused – it actually is called the Zhong Tai Mountain museum (中台山博物院)- but it is also a working temple.

Wishes floating to the ceiling like balloons

Wishes floating to the ceiling like balloons

Beautiful tiled floors - spotless!

Beautiful tiled floors – spotless!

The Buddha - meditating

The Buddha – meditating

Holy individuals - larger than life

Holy individuals – larger than life

The grounds outside the temple were manicured – a golden bridge crossed a small pond where we posed for an occasional photo in the mid-afternoon heat.  I was in awe of the surroundings and the peace at the temple – very different from the typical experience at a temple in China. We didn’t have enough time to visit both the temple part and the museum part, but I tried to absorb the peace and serenity that existed – even though it seemed just a little too squeaky clean.

The second temple was Longshan temple (Dragon Mountain Temple – 龙山寺) that is in downtown Taipei.  It was on the subway line and one of the top tourist sights in Taipei.  When I went though – it didn’t feel that there were any tourists at all – just me.  I snapped a few photos of the outside of the temple – an obviously historic building with lots of character and lots of people!

The entrance gate at Longshan temple

The entrance gate at Longshan temple

Intricately painted walls at Longshan temple

Intricately painted walls at Longshan temple

The double dragons dancing over the entrance

The double dragons dancing over the entrance

A peaceful waterfall near the entrance

A peaceful waterfall near the entrance

By chance I had arrived there at the same time as they were finishing an afternoon set of prayers.  In addition to the many monks who were seated in the main body of the temple, over 100 people in street clothes were following along and chanting prayers and sayings with the monks.  The smell of incense hung in the air.  I felt out of place taking photos, so I decided to put my camera away and just enjoy the spirituality in the area, hoping it would soak in to me.

I have been to lots of temples over the last several years, but this was the first one that I visited where it felt like ordinary people were participating in the life of the temple in more than writing wishes on a page or making a donation.  The temple had obviously been there for a long time, but it was neat and clean.  People inside were very polite – letting others towards the front or offering lights for the incense.  I am not a Buddhist, but it felt like some place I could feel comfortable in – a local temple, for the people who live nearby.

I thought the two temples summed up Taiwan for me – a city with many shiny new things – Taipei 101 – as well as a deep respect for history and culture found in the politeness of the people, the food and the worship.

I liked Taiwan.  It was a wonderful transition before the end of my long trip.  Taipei especially seemed very familiar – almost as if I had been there before – enough differences to make me notice, but enough similarities to mainland China that I still felt at home.  I would recommend a visit to anyone looking for a view of what China may become.

Have you been to Taiwan?  Do you have any feelings about temples and how they represent a people?

Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

4 Aug

After a busy day exploring in Tokyo we found ourselves at the Meiji shrine in late afternoon.  After exiting the subway station we turned and suddenly found ourselves in a huge park.  The trees towered overhead, shading us from the late afternoon sun and welcomed us into the ground of the shrine.

It was an interesting contrast between the ultra modern subway and train system and the shrine which looked as though it has been there for hundreds of years.  Tokyo is a city of contrasts and this was one of the largest ones I felt during my visit there.

As we entered through the large main gates it felt like we were stepping back into another world.  In fact, though, the Shinto shrine – dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken was rebuilt after World War II in the late 50s.

Posing in front of the entrance gate

Posing in front of the entrance gate

Lighting the way (though not needed during the day)

Lighting the way (though not needed during the day)

After the main entrance was a display of sake barrels that were donated to the shrine.  The bright colors and intricate wrappings almost made me want to try the sake inside.  Almost – that was one part of Japanese culture that I wasn’t up for sampling on this trip.

Barrels of sake - which is your favorite?

Barrels of sake – which is your favorite?

I like the red colored barrels.

I like the red colored barrels.

Then, before the official shrine itself was a place of purification.  There were ladles available to wash your hands, head and mouth prior to praying.

Washing area to purify before the entrance

Washing area to purify before the entrance

Walking around the inner area there was also a wall of prayers written in many languages where people put their wishes and dreams.  We didn’t write our own, but viewed what others were hoping for.  It reminded me of the wishes I saw in Seoul and the locks attached to the Buddhist shrines in China.

Approaching the main shrine

Approaching the main shrine

Spotless grounds with blue skies

Spotless grounds with blue skies

Blessings

Blessings

And more blessings

And more blessings

Like everywhere else we went in the city – the shrine was spotless.  It was a place of prayer and intentions and the tourists that mixed in with the visitors were respectful.  We were even interviewed by high school students practicing their English and trying to see where the visitors to the Shrine were from.  I haven’t had that type of interaction with language students for quite and it brought a smile to my face.

I was lucky to be able to see this side of Tokyo on my visit and would recommend a visit to the shrine if you have time.  The grounds are extensive and with the large trees a peaceful contrast to the hustle and bustle outside.

Where do you find peace in busy cities?  This was the first Shinto shrine that I have been to – it is different than Buddhism or Hinduism, less gaudy – different rituals.  Does anyone have insight on the differences?

Cambodia Day 3 – Sunset behind Bakon Temple

9 May

This is part of our travels in Cambodia, if you want to see other posts in the series, please click here.

After our epic car ride of the afternoon, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go to the last set of temples that Li had picked for our long day, but the driver assured us we could make it before close, so off we went.

There were three temples situated together to the south west of Angkor Wat, which was where we headed.  Even though the road was much better, we still weren’t sure if we would make it as the shadows lengthened and we saw children, animals and people all heading in for the night.

Finally we pulled up to our destination – Bakon Temple, the largest of the three in the group and the only one that we would have time to see that evening.  We showed our passes and went in to the grounds.

Our first view

Our first view

This temple had a large Buddhist monastery painted in Technicolor to the right side when we entered.  There were teenage monks in bright robes checking out the last few visitors straggling in.  We paid them little mind though, because just over the edge of the temple in front of us the sun was starting to set and the sky turning violet.  Rather ungracefully we scurried up and over to see what sunset would be like at Bakon Temple.

Before the sun dipped too low, Li and I climbed to the top to get a view.  It was pretty impressive.

At the very top - posing with others as well

At the very top – posing with others as well

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Then, we settled down by the back edge of the temple and watched the sun slip lower and lower over the trees until it finally disappeared.

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Tired and at peace, we walked back around to the front and met our driver who drove us back into town.  We had finished our third day in Cambodia.

A final look with purple clouds

A final look with purple clouds

This sunset was picture perfect and quite solitary.  What type of sunset would we see the following evening?  Stay tuned to find out.

Cambodia Day 3 – Exploring Beng Mealea temple

2 May

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia, for other posts in this series, please click here.

Beng Mealea was an amazing temple and definitely worth the long road to get there.  As we looked around there were so many interesting views to absorb that in total we took several hundred photos.  It was difficult to choose which ones represented the temple most accurately.

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Too many photos! How could I choose just a few?

I tried to choose photos that represent my idea of the temple, though they may not give you an exact idea of its size or it’s structure.  These shots remind me of that afternoon exploring.

Even more so than some of the temples we visited earlier – the carving popped out of nowhere – it was in the places you would expect – walls, arches, doorways – but also within the blocks heaped on the floor.  It would have been an enormous life-size jigsaw puzzle to put things back together again.

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Another unique things about the temple was that you really needed to climb to get to different places.  There were random blocks of stone piled on top of each other and it was a maze to figure out where to go next.  We “hired” a local guide to show us the way which was worth the $3 that we paid.

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And the guide then led us up, up, up to where we were walking on a catwalk over the temple.  We were Indiana Jones exploring in the jungle – nature closing in on all sides, looking for a hidden treasure.  It was a perfect release after the car ride there.

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Nature is so powerful – the trees and their roots continuing to pull apart the gigantic blocks that earlier kings constructed.  If we continue to believe we can control nature, I don’t want to be on that side of the bet!

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Making our way down again we were greeted by more locals asking us to buy drinks or maps or guides.  This child seemed like a young Tarzan, comfortable in the natural world.

Our own Tarzan?

Our own Tarzan?

And as a final memory I snapped this picture of Li by one of the enormous trees on the grounds.  It reminds me of the photos in the Sequoia forest in California where you had trees so large you could  drive a car through.  This tree isn’t quite that wide, but look how small a person looks beside it!

How many people could you fit inside?

How many people could you fit inside?

Looking back, I believe we could have spent an entire day there – happily exploring each room and watching the colors change as the sunlight went from east to west.  Instead though, we had one last place to go before that day was done, so we returned to our car and went to chase the sunset.

Have you ever been somewhere where you felt like Indiana Jones?  How and why were you there?

Cambodia Day 3 – The road to Beng Mealea temple

30 Apr

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia, for other posts on our trip, please click here.

After a quick lunch (at the least impressive restaurant of our trip and one of the more expensive), we headed to Beng Mealea temple.  It was way off the beaten path – normally represented with a small arrow to the right side of the map, indicating that it was not close by.  Our driver seemed to know his way though and we settled in for a drive and Li fell asleep.

Unfortunately – the road was under construction.

It was one of tensest car rides that I have taken.  The road was quite literally dug up with large piles of sand and rocks.  Large pieces of machinery appeared at random, punctuated by motorbikes and farm machinery.  The sand tracks were slippery and deep ridges threatened to stall the car.  To make things more complicated traffic was moving in both directions and the road for much of the way was one way.  It meant that we had to wait in small turn-offs and also were never sure when another vehicle would appear over a ridge.

There was one point where our driver started to drive along a newly plowed path, then wound up getting off the road, stuck in the dirt – turned around and the backing up for several football fields in length.  We finally maneuvered our way around after about two hours of nail biting (on my part, Li stayed asleep through most of it) and towards the end of the day arrived at Beng Mealea temple.  Nearby the temple grounds was the sign below.

This only started 10 years ago.

This only started 10 years ago.

Signs about restoration are all over Siem Reap – different governments have played an important part in restoring this part of the country.  In this instance it was the German government that started clearing the land mines, but they just started doing it in 2003, 10 years ago.  It is difficult to understand or appreciate.  Our driver told us that both of his parents had been killed in the conflict and I don’t think he was much older than I am.  The horrors that this land has seen are so recent that it is almost impossible to understand.  The long drive and this sign emphasized it even more.

Beng Mealea has not been fully restored and it was a different type of exploration – climbing over and under blocks and different pillars.  Below are some of the views as we arrived.

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I wonder if Ta Prohm had been that way ten years ago.  Later that evening at our hotel we saw pictures of Khmer Rouge fighters taking an outing to explore the same grounds.  It was eerie to think we had been at the same place just a few hours before.

Beng Mealea was an amazing temple – one that called for photos and I’ll share more of them shortly.

How do you connect a history of a place with its monuments?  When does the history over shadow the place itself and what risk do we take if we forget?

An aside – I have been having a difficult time putting pen to paper (or rather hands to keyboard) recently.  It seems that there is so much to write about that I am getting stuck in the details.  Please stay patient with me as I work through it.

Cambodia Day 3 – Banteay Srei

16 Apr

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia.  For other posts in the series please click here.

After two days of tuk tuk travel, we had booked a car for day 3.  Li had an ambitious schedule that he negotiated with the driver that had us going from the north east to the south east side of the temple area.  Looking at the distance and the dust on the road, we wanted windows that closed to attack such an itinerary.

Our start times were consistently earlier and this morning was no exception.  We had no time for a leisurely breakfast to make sure we got on the road.  The car was air conditioned and very comfortable and we headed out ready to explore.

Our first stop was the “ladies temple,” so called because of the delicate carving there.  Unfortunately about 30 buses of Chinese tourists had the same idea to see it as well.  Of all the temples we saw over the week it was the smallest and we hit at peak time.  The carving was nice, but in general not up to the hype.  My advice is to go in the afternoon if possible to make sure that you can truly appreciate the details.

Going back through our photos (now almost two months later) I am struck by the lack of other tourists in our photos.  Li has a knack for making it seem like we are the only people in the area.  Rest assured though – this temple was packed to the gills!

Have you gone to a place which has been a bit of a let- down?  From the photos, you can see that it is still very beautiful – but just not what I expected.  This was also the temple where we got “scammed” by one of the local touts.  They were selling books about the history of all of the temples which they offer to sell for $1 USD.  I finally decided I would buy and then all of the sudden the price jumped up to $11!  When we started to pay attention, it seemed like this scam repeated itself over and over again.

We didn’t buy the book – and now I’m letting our photos speak for themselves.  Would you visit?

Cambodia Day 2 – Preah Khan

2 Apr

This is part of my adventures in Cambodia, if you would like to see other entries in this series, please click here.

Preah Khan was huge – not as big as Angkor Wat, but still a large blob on the map that we were carrying around.  Li had done his research and requested that the tuk tuk driver meet us at the other side of the complex and so as the afternoon light started to fade, we entered down the long walkway.  Once again we were lucky with our timing and the number of tourists was few – we were able to ramble at will.

Preah Khan seemed more like a city than a single temple – the walkways were wide and many different buildings (and fewer steps) were in the complex.  Parts of the complex had been restored and other parts were wild and because of that contrast it seemed as if we may see an ancient priest come from around the corner or workers building and repairing around another one.

One of the special things about this complex was there was one building that looked like a Greek temple, rounded columns instead of the square ones found in other places we visited.

I have hundreds of photos from that afternoon.  These are some of my favorite shots.

 

To see the photos up close you can click on one which will bring up a slide show.  Which is your favorite?

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