Daily Archives: 14.02.2014

Philippines: The Pearl of the Orient Seas



Philippines: The Pearl of the Orient Seas

The Republic of Philippines is located in the western Pacific Ocean and is a self-governing island country. The location of Philippines is close to the equator and that’s why this place is prone to typhoons and earthquakes. Around 99 million people live there in the space of 115,831 square meters. Thus, the country stands at the seventh position in the most populated countries in Asia. Also, the country is the 64th largest country around the world. Manila is the capital city of Philippines and Quezon City is the most populous city. Chinese culture is very much adapted in the country because of its trading relationship with China. Many Austronesian and Melanesian people live in this country. Thus the country is very diverse in terms of its cultures, languages, food, native architecture, dance and ethnicity. But still the laws and court decisions are written in English only.

palawan-island-Philippines

About 10% of the population of Philippines is of settlers from abroad. Philippine is a political country full of corrupt and greedy politicians. As the city is in red region i.e. the city is prone to natural disasters like earthquake, cyclones, etc. that’s why the city is quite unsafe to visit. Travel warnings are issued continuously from time to time against the Sulu Archipelago island of Philippines. But still many tourists from all over the world visit Philippines to witness the incredible beauty of its islands.

collier_tubb

Pristine beaches and many historic sites grab most of the tourist attraction. One of them is Tubbataha Reef which is treated as a marine sanctuary by the authorities of Philippines. It is titled as a National Marine Park. The North and the South Atoll are the two atolls that the whole reef comprises of. A 5 mile deep channel separates these two atolls. It is for sure the most popular dive site in the Philippines. Another exotic location in Philippine is the San Agustin Church which is in Manila. This beautiful church was built in 1598. This church is very concrete and strong that it has survived two fires and seven earthquakes over the years. The ceiling of the church was painted by the Italian artists, namely Cesare Alberoni and Giovanni Dibella. The main entrance consists of a gorgeous wooden door and the interior is in the essence of a Latin cross. Despite of the fact that this church is the oldest church in Philippines the church remains strong and furnished.

volcano

Next must visit sight is the Mayon Volcano which is at a height of more than 8,000 feet. This conical shaped volcano is perfectly symmetrical and ia not dangerous. Many people visit this volcano and enjoy things like photography, climbing, bird watching, camping and hiking. People can view the volcano from the nearby ruins of Cagsawa. In the previous 400 years, this volcano was erupted about 49 times. Thus, this is indeed the most active volcano in the country. The most disastrous eruption of this volcano happened in the year 1814 but after that no dangerous eruption has taken place. An island with small fishing villages is the Malapascua Island in Philippines. This is the ideal spot for all the divers and for shark lovers this is the only spot where they can see sharks on a regular basis. The beaches are white and sandy, even surrounded by lively coral gardens. The water is crystal clear just perfect to keep your foot on.

The charming town of Puerto Galera is filled with mixed diversity of marine species and excellent beaches. Sabang Beach and White Beach are the most famous beaches of this town. People can dive along with the thousands of fish species and old shipwrecks. Even the restaurants, bars and shopping centres provide great stock. Spending your night in this town is once in a life experience. On the island of Palawa, there is an underground river named Puerto Princesa Subterranean River. This is a must visit place for nature lovers because of its beautiful natural landscapes and rich wildlife. This place also offers boat tours with a guide who shows the sites of rock formation and quivering bats. This underground river is the longest navigable underground river in the world.

news-feature-donsol-whale-shark-jez-tryner-atmospheres

One can explore the heart-throbbing waterfalls, fishing sites, stunning beaches and many unexplored caves in Donsol which is in the Sorsogon Province. A boat cruise is available for the tourists to take a ride in the Donsol River. This river offers a sparkling site especially during night as in the night you will find many glistering fireflies along the river with beautiful palm and mangrove trees. An old style shrimp-catching voyage (with nets and bamboos) followed with a yummy dinner will make your day. The interior part of the island of Bohol has a famous tourist attraction, the Chocolate Hills. There are many symmetrical and large hills which are, according to the researches done, formed because of the accumulation of marine limestone on the top of a resistant layer of clay.

boracay

An adventurous place of beautiful resorts and heart taking beaches is Boracay which is actually a small island. But in this small island people can actually spend their most wonderful days. Scuba diving, cliff diving, horse riding, kite surfing, parasailing, snorkeling and motor-biking are the adventurous things that can be done while enjoying at the marvelous beaches of Boracay. If that is not enough, this place also offers volcano caves, boat tours, great restaurants serving food until dawn, bays of turquoise lagoons and brilliant sunsets.

Seoul: The Land of Morning Calm



Seoul: The Land of Morning Calm

Seoul is the capital city of South Korea and is the largest metropolis in there. It is officially known as the ‘Seoul Special City’. It houses over 11.8 million people and the Seoul Capital Area is the second largest metropolitan area in the world. The city is 2000 years old and is situated on the river Han and is surrounded by mountains. It was the capital of entire Korea under the rule of Joseon Dynasty. The city is a fresh mix of traditional culture and digital technology. It has stark contrasts in everything with the traditional on one hand and modernized cutting edge technologies on the other. You will find street food and vendors and also find the luxurious night life districts. You will find the trend setting youth in the country as well as Buddhist temples.

gyeong

There are a lot of Palaces in Seoul. These palaces represent the royalty of Korean empires. There are five major palaces and others are smaller. The most favorite of all the tourists is the Gyeongbok-Gung majorly because of the grand architectural building and the beautiful designing. This palace is also known as the Northern Palace because of the location of this palace is to the north. The term ‘Gyeongbok-gung’ in Korean language is the term for ‘Palace of Shining Happiness’. This palace was used by Joseon Dynasty. Under the rule of the Japanese during 1592-1598, the interior premises of the complex were destroyed. The Palace has 7,700 rooms which were later restored under the rule of King Gojong. The entire premises of the palace also include the Korean Folk Museum and the Joseon Museum.

Changdeokgung_-_Seoul,_Korea

Another palace that must be visited is the Changdeok-Gung. This palace is included in the list of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO. This palace was built in 1405 and was used in 1618 till 1896. It has a blue roof Seonjeongjeon (King’s office), a Huwon (Secret Garden) and the Daejojeon (the King’s bedchamber). Other palaces are Deoksu-gung, Changgyeon-Gung, and Gyeonghui-gung which are also equally important in the history of the city and equally attractive and beautifully built on large portions of land.

N Seoul Tower_at_night_tour

Another major place to visit in the city is the N Seoul Tower situated on the Mt. Namsan. It is one the Asia’s tallest towers and the view of Seoul from this height is unmatched. It stands as the symbol of Seoul since the tmie it was opened in 1980. Not just the tourists, but even the locals are very fond of the view from up the N Seoul Tower and the glimpse of the city and enjoy the spectacular view of the mountains and the landscape. The tower has a high-tech multimedia design implemented in 2005 which made it even more attractive and advanced. The tourists can view a lot of performances, exhibitions and movies along with the fine dining and restaurants.

bukhan-mountain

The city is perfect for Hiking with a lot of mountains. The maximum height of the mountains in the city is 800 meters (3,000 feet). The best mountain among all is the Mount Bukhan. It has the most efficient and cool hiking facilities in the entire city. It is located to the north of the Seoul and is even crowded during vacations and holidays. Other very popular mountain hiking and trekking place is Mount Gwanak which also has a temple located on it.  Mount Samseong is also very convenient and good place for hiking.

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The city also has a lot of Parks and museums. One of the very famous and most visited places of Seoul is the Yeouido Park. This park entertains approximately 60,000 visitors every weekend. The park covers an area of 230,000 square meters and has the field made of concrete. It was originally designed and constructed for military aviation in any cases of emergencies. The place has a Korean forest and many other shows to entertain you such as concerts, walks, cycling, etc. The place is covered with lots of trees and colorful flowers giving it the fresh environment and an ecological aura. There are three ponds in the park which are always recommended to visit and the place also has basket courts for you to play and cheer.

Another significant landmark in the city is Mount Inwang which is a 336 meter hill which is the home for the giant Inwang Temple, also known as Inwangsa. It also houses the most holy and sacred shrine in the entire city which is the Guksadang. There is a bronze bell of Bongwonsa towards the left stairs after you pass the temple gate. This bell is also considered very sacred and is also the most photographed spot in the entire area. Past this landmark, you can find the Gusadang shrine with a lot of shamanist offerings. There are some unusual and bizarre rock formations, which is popular as the Zen Rocks. If you still continue travelling on the hill, you will also find the Seoul Fortress. Do not disturb any of the rituals and take photographs meanwhile. Other temples are Jogye Temple, Bongeun Temple, etc. which must also be visited if you have enough time because each temple has a history behind it and each temple will provide you a glimpse of the historical times.

Walk of Fame and More: Hollywood, LA



Walk of Fame and More: Hollywood, LA

The district of Hollywood in Los Angeles, California has become synonymous with United States’ Motion Pictures Industry. The area saw the development of the entertainment industry during early 20th century. Today this is a major hub for movie productions, and several historic studios and theaters can be found here. This area boasts of people of diverse ethnicity and is a dazzling destination for all movie lovers.

Walk of Fame

Walk of Fame, Hollywood

Built in 1958, the world famous Walk of Fame is very popular among tourists. It was conceived as a way to honor artists and other members of motion pictures and entertainment industry. At the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, a long stretch of sidewalk has been termed as the Walk of Fame. Annually it attracts millions of tourists. More than 2500 stars are embedded in the sidewalks; each star is named after some famous and important artist. These stars have 5 points and are made of coral pink terrazzo. Their background comprises of charcoal black terrazzo and the stars are rimmed with brass. It is included in Los Angeles Historic- Cultural Monuments since 1978.

Stars on Walk of Fame

 

Each star bears the name of an actor, director, or other contributors. These names are itched in brass letters along with an emblem denoting the category in which that particular artist has made significant contributions. These categories include Motion Pictures, Broadcast Television, Audio recordingMusic, Broadcast Radio, TheaterLive Performance. There are innumerable anecdotes and news associated with the selection, theft, mistakes in the names etc of these stars.

Four Ladies of Hollywood Gazebo

 

At the western end of the Walk, an art deco structure has been installed. Called the Hollywood and La Brea Gateway, or more commonly the Four Ladies, this stainless steel structure is meant to acknowledge women’s (women of diverse ethnicity) contribution in Hollywood. These Stars and the Walk of Fame have a fascinating and glittering history.

The HOLLYWOOD Sign

Hollywood Sign, LA

The famous Hollywood sign is located on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills area.  Built in 1923, this sign has undergone many subsequent renovations.  It is also counted among the Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments today. In 1923, when it was first installed it read HOLLYWOODLAND. During its renovations in 1949 it was reduced to HOLLYWOOD. Its present and immensely popular look, with white capital letters, 45 ft tall and 350 ft long dimension-ally, dates back to 1970s. It is used frequently in popular media, and is among one of the most famous landmarks. The style of this sign has been imitated world over for advertisement purposes etc. Signs like this can be found in Taiwan, New Zealand and Finland to name a few places. Regular tours to this sign are organized, and it is a very popular site among tourists.

Museums

Located in Hollywood, Hollywood Wax Museum was established in 1965. This is advertised as being the only wax museum dedicated exclusively to Hollywood celebrities. Besides the wax figures the museum also displays sets of popular and classic movies. These figures and sets are changed frequently; ensuring there is something new for visitors every time they pay the museum a visit. There is also a Chamber of Horrors within the museum; it displays movie monsters, both classic as well as contemporary. Among the most popular wax figures are those of Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Hugh Jackman, and Halle Berry. You can also get a sense of stepping into the sets of movies such as Titanic, Men in Black among others.

Wax Museum

Another museum is Madame Tussauds, on Hollywood Boulevard, wax museum of the famous franchise. The number of wax figures displayed in this particular museum is over 115. These figures include artists such as Beyonce Knowles, Johnny Depp, and Marilyn Monroe to name a few. Fans can also indulge in getting themselves photographed with life like statues of their favorite actors, musicians and other celebrities.

Theaters

Egyptian Theatre

Grauman’s Egyptian Theater was built in 1922 on Hollywood Boulevard. This theater is also a Los Angeles Historic- Cultural Monument. It is among one of the most famous and historic movie theaters worldwide.  Premiere of Robin Hood, which happened here in 1922, was also the first ever Hollywood premiere. Theater’s architecture, as is evident in the name, is of the Egyptian Revival style. Paintings in the Egyptian styles are itched on the walls, on both the interior and exterior.

Chinese Theatre

Another theater with an international theme was the Chinese Theater built in 1927. Its forecourt has footprints, hand prints and signatures of film stars and celebrities in cement, making it a popular choice among tourists.

Oscars

Dolby Theater earlier known as the Kodak Theater is located on the Hollywood Boulevard and has been declared host for Annual Academy Awards. The Academy Awards are more popularly known as Oscars, and are a very famous and significant part of the entertainment industry. This theater has also hosted several Miss USA pageants and Emmy awards. The theater is a major presence in tinsel town

Hollywood Boulevard

Boulevard

Built in 1939, Hollywood Boulevard is a famous street in Hollywood, LA. It has many landmarks across its stretch. Dolby Theater, Chinese Theater, Walk of Fame, Wax Museums are some of the tourist attractions found across Hollywood Boulevard.

Hollywood and Vine

Intersection, Hollywood and Vine

Intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street has become a tourist destination in itself owing to its iconic popularity. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is also stretched across this intersection. Many historic buildings are located here, each with their dazzling and rich anecdotes of entertainment industry. Urban legends associated with this intersection state that many of the buildings here are haunted. They are considered to be a part of Haunted Hollywood, as it is believed that ghosts of celebrities haunt these buildings.

Located in LA, Hollywood is one tourist destination that is replete with fascinating history as well as glitz and glamour.

Rich in Aroma, Taste and History: French Cuisine



Rich in Aroma, Taste and History: French Cuisine

Any mention of food is incomplete without mentioning the French Cuisine, whose influence can be seen on most other western cuisines. France the city of lovers is also a food lover’s heaven, with its diverse and delicious culinary offerings. The different cooking traditions in France are all the more significant as they have been perfected over centuries through various experimentation. French cuisine is world renowned, and UNESCO has included French gastronomy in the list of World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Bouillabaisse

The wide variety of cheese, rich sauces, the extraordinary palate of beverages along with the mouth watering desserts make French Cuisine a treasure worth exploring.

The French cuisine has a flavored history, dating back to the Middle Ages. Some of the more significant names in this history include La Varenne, a 17th century chef. He is said to have published the first ever cook book of French recipes. Marie-Antoine Car me was an 18th century chef who developed some famous French sauces including béchamel, and velout.  Béchamel is a rich white sauce made with milk infused with herbs and other flavorings. Velout  on the other hand is a sauce made from roux of butter and flour with chicken, veal or pork stock.

wine and cheese

Another prominent name is that of Georges Escoffier. He is credited with the modernization of Haute Cuisine. 1960s saw the rise of Nouvelle Cuisine. Its main concentration was on utilizing fresh ingredients, retaining natural flavors by reducing cooking time, doing away with complicated procedures in cooking. This was mostly due to Portuguese influence. Heavy sauces were replaced by concoctions of butter, fresh herbs and vinegar.

The French food today has influences of all these past practices which make it even more tasteful. Ingredients used in French food include diverse kinds of vegetables, fruits and herbs. Locally grown vegetables like potato, green beans, carrot, turnip, and zucchini are used copiously in many dishes. Truffle, button mushroom, porcini are some of the fungi used for flavoring. Truffle for instance is a strong smelling underground fungus and is also considered a culinary delicacy.

Crepe, dessert

Many succulent fruits are used in French recipes; these include tangerine, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, redcurrants, strawberries, grapes. Herbs are used extensively to create various sauces, and for other purposes. Thyme, sage, rosemary, fennel, bay leaves are a few popular herbs that are used. All kinds of fish, meat and seafood are also included in French bill of fare. From squab, duck, turkey, goose, veal, rabbit, quail, to snails, cod, sardines, mussels, oysters and shrimps, French food has innumerable lip smacking dishes to present.

The structure of French meal is simple. It includes Breakfast followed by Lunch, which is followed by Dinner. Breakfast or Le Petit Dejeuner is a quick affair that consists of French bread with jelly or jam, along with tea or coffee as per ones preference. Croissant and pain au chocolat are two breakfast items that are popular across the globe.

Croissants

 

Lunch or Le Dejeuner is an elaborate affair compared to the breakfast. It is a two hour mid day meal. Dinner or Le Diner consists of three courses. The introductory courses including appetizers, is called the hors d’oeuvre or entrée. Main course that is the plat principal is followed by the cheese course or the desserts.

The meal is often accompanied with bread wine, and water. Rice or pasta is served alongside main meat course. Patisserie and Dessert include such dishes as mousse au chocolat, crème brulee, mille-feuille to name a few. These mouth watering dishes are a must taste for anyone with a sweet tooth.

 

Dessert

Mille-feuille literally means ‘thousand leaves’. It is a rich cake consisting of thin layers of puff pastry filled with jam and cream. Mousse is a sweet dish made as a smooth light mass in which the main ingredient is whipped with cream or egg white. Beverages and drinks include aperitifs (before the meal) and digestifs (after the meal). Pastis, Champagne, Kir are some famous aperitifs. Whereas Cognac and Armagnac along with fruit alcohols are served as digestifs.

The diversity in French cuisine is what makes it so exceptional; this diversity arrives from varied regional cuisines and all the different flavors and ingredients they bring to the cooking table. Different regions have different specialties. To list just a few of them:

Quiche

Lorraine is well known for fruit preserves and quiche which is baked flan (open topped pastry case) with a savory filling thickened with eggs. Normandy is a delight for seafood lovers and is famous for its scallops and sole. Camembert is a local cheese specialty. Brittany too is popular for seafood, chiefly lobster, crayfish and mussels. Galette originated in this area. It is a flavorful pancake made from grated potatoes or a buckwheat batter. This can be attributed to the fact that this area produces Buckwheat extensively.

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Loire Valley provides rich fruits; these include Cherries grown for liquor Guignolet. Burgundy is known for its wines. Bordeaux is again known again for its wines. Specialty grapes for wine are cultivated here. Armagnac, a famous type of brandy, is also produced here. Cote d’ Azur has a remarkable variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs. Olives, olive oil, citrus, lavender are some typical ingredients around here. Honey is also used majorly in dishes around here. Traditional Christmas Dessert includes the 13 desserts of the Provence region. These include almond nougat, fougasse, quince cheese and biscuits among their numbers.

Beef Bourguignon

Some French dishes are popular across the globe. These include Classic French sauces like Au Jus, Bearnaise, Hollandaise. Meals like Coq au Vin, beef bourguignon, bouillabaisse and several desserts are French specialty. Coq au Vin is a casserole of chicken pieces cooked in red wine. Croissant is a crescent shaped roll made of sweet flaky yeast dough. Bouillabaisse is a rich spicy stew or soup made with fish. Crème brulee is a dessert of custard topped with caramelized sugar. Crème caramel is a custard dessert made with whipped cream and eggs and topped with caramel.

Coq au vin, French dish

These dishes, whose very description is mouthwatering, and many more regional delicacies can be enjoyed across all French cities. The bistros, cafes, restaurants and bars lining the French boulevards and squares, all provide travelers and foodies with aromatic and appetizing dishes and drinks. France is a must visit place for all food enthusiasts. Bon Appetit!

Oktoberfest – Every beer Lover’s dream come True.



Oktoberfest – Every beer Lover’s dream come True.

BEER! BEER! BEER! those are the words most heard in this crazy, gigantic and the largest fair of the world known to the world as the Oktoberfest and the locals as simply Wiesn, the name for the grounds at which it is celebrated every year. Oktoberfest is the greatest and largest people’s fair held in the world at the moment with attendances touching more than six million every year. Held in the city of Munich this festival is a great way to celebrate the culture, unity and togetherness of the German people, post the Second World War Oktoberfest became a global event with thousands of tourists coming from all parts of the world to the city of Munich to get involved in the festivities. The festival is one of the biggest cultural events of Europe and is very symbolic of the Bavarian culture and heritage.

old-tracht-group

 

Even though today Oktoberfest is singularly associated with beer it never started out that way though. In 1810, the crown prince of the Bavarian Kingdom Prince Ludwig I later to be crowned as King Ludwig I got married to Therese of saxe-hildburghausen on October the 12th which led to grand festivities in the garden in front of the Palace gates and people from all of Bavaria were invited to attend it. The event involved horse-racing as the main event which was a hit with the locals and was mostly a celebration of the wedding of the crown prince. The horse-racing event became a rage with the locals who wanted it to be held annually at very same spot, this marked the beginning of the Oktoberfest. What started out as a onetime celebration of royal wedding became an annual event for the entertainment and amusement of the locals of the Munich city area. Horse-racing was still the main event and beer which was the favorite drink of the locals became an integral part of it. In 1819 the founding citizens of Munich took responsibility for organizing the event every year and it was decided to move the festival dates ahead to September to prolong it making it a two-week long affair and also because days were longer and warmer during September.

Wisen-Night

The horse racing continued as the main attraction till 1960 after which it was stopped and the festival took its now famous image as the beer festival of the world with elements of amusement such as fancy rides became a big part of the whole festivities. The Oktoberfest is a big part of the Bavarian culture and heritage which is evident in traditions such as the opening of the festival with a grand parade which saw hundreds of Bavarians dressed in traditional costumes and depicting the agricultural as well as cultural life of Bavaria, this parade which was originally held in the wedding celebrations of Prince Ludwig I in 1810 became a favorite of the people. From the very same year the famous and huge statue of Bavaria has bore witnessed to the fun, frolic and celebrations of the Oktoberfest every year, also after the Second World War the festival began every year with a traditional opening of a twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first glass of beer between the Mayor of Munich and the Minister-President of the state of Bavaria at exactly twelve o’clock of the first afternoon of the fest.

oktoberfest_01

Oktoberfest is a friendly party for all ages, the atmosphere, the sounds, and the rides all make the whole of Bavaria come to a stand still for the sixteen days of the festival, a time when Bavarians and visitors from world over indulge themselves over a muzz (litre) or several muzzes of authentic Munich brewed beer (as if they would ever want any other). The “liquid gold” is the main darling of this fest and it is gulped here in thousands and thousands of liters over the duration of the festival. The beer available at the Oktoberfest has to be hundred per cent Munich brewed no other company of a different place is allowed to sell Oktoberfest beer. The Munich Breweries which serve beer to millions of people throughout the festival have been in the city of Munich for centuries for example Ausustiner, which was established in 1328 has been one of the favorite and biggest brewery of the city, same can be said for Hacker-Pschorr which was established in 1417 and became one of the biggest breweries by the eighteenth century. The beer available at the Oktoberfest has gone through some changes over the years today the Oktoberfest beer has an alcohol content of around 5-5.5% and is golden in color compared to the dark brown color of the first beer that was sold at the festival some 200 years ago. Breweries such as Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau and many others have their own tents set-up at the festival grounds. These tents which have grown in size every year today can accommodate some 10,000 people within themselves including both the tented portion and the lawns. The tents are beautifully decorated with different styles of interiors to be as eye catching as possible.

oktoberfest-tent_1998620a

The beautiful waitresses and people who dress up in traditional folk costumes known as Drindl offer great peek into the culture of the region, almost all the beer tents will have their waitresses wearing traditional Drindl dress and the sight of them holding five or six mugs of beer at one time can be recognized anywhere in the world. The festival though is not all about the “golden liquid”, one can dwell themselves into mouthwatering traditional Bavarian cuisines such as roast chicken, roast pork, grilled ham hock, sausages along with pretzels, potato dumplings and potato pancakes among others. The many amusement rides are great way of enjoying oneself at the festival, the rides are almost always full and provide great entertainment (beware though you won’t want to be 100m above ground after getting a little high on gulping beer after beer), there are also a variety of side stalls and games to entertain you. Oktoberfest is one of the coolest inheritances the people of a region could ask for, the beer, the beautiful ladies, the amusement rides and great music making one of the most enduring sights of human celebration and definitely a must-see.

Mighty and Majestic: The Mountains of Japan



Mighty and Majestic: The Mountains of Japan

Japan is known for its cultural heritage and the harmonious intermingling of the classic and the contemporary. Japan’s topography is also blessed with rivers, lakes, mountains among others that are epitome of unspoiled natural beauty. The mountains in Japan are a heaven for hikers and offer marvelous and majestic sights and experiences for all travelers.

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji, Japan

Among Japan’s Three Holy Mountains, at 3776m, Mt Fuji is also Japan’s highest mountain. It lies to the west of Tokyo, within the expansive grounds of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. The visibly symmetrical cone of this usually snow capped mountain is a very prominent symbol of Japan. Mt Fuji is an active volcano, with its last eruption dating back to 1707. At the center of the mountain is a long dormant crater, whose circumference is around 4km.

Mt Fuji

The Mountain and its hiking trails are replete with scenic beauty. There are many routes that can be taken for the climb up Mt Fuji, but one should be well prepared, with all the necessary hiking amenities, proper shoes, as it is not an easy journey. But all the effort is worth it, as the view from the top, especially of the sunrise and sunset is majestic. You can undertake an overnight climb to catch the sunrise, or reach early and sleep in mountain huts easily available for tourists.

Mount Fuji

The official climbing season is July to August. Paragliding facilities are also made available near the many neighboring mountains. Other sites for tourist that lie nearby include Fuji-Q Highland amusement park in the city of Fujiyoshida. Another popular place is the Fuji Five Lakes. Views of Mt Fuji from here are spectacular. Narusawa Ice Caves and Fugaku Wind Caves are also located here. These caves were formed lava flow in prehistoric times. Today these caves stand as nature’s wonderful creations and are worth exploring. UNESCO recognizes Mount Fuji as a cultural site. Mt Fuji has abundant stunning beauty and magnificent vistas. But it is included in World Heritage List as a cultural site because of its importance as a pilgrim place and also because it has been inspirational for painters and other artists since time immemorial.

Mount Osore

Bodaji Temple, Mt Osore

This mountain which literally translates as Mount Fear is one mountainous area that provides tourists and hikers with a totally different experience. It has a height of 2884 feet and is a volcanic peak with the last eruption recorded in 1787. Though there are plenty of beautiful and scenic locales around this Mount, it is more popular because of the rich mythological stories associated with it. According to Japanese Buddhist mythology this mountain denotes the doorway to Hell. Lake Usori which is situated nearby is equated to the mythological Sanzu River. This river is called the River of Three Crossings in myths and legends. It serves as the boundary between the worlds of living and dead. All souls have to cross this river to reach the other side, which is a very popular concept among myths of many religions worldwide. As the mountain is an active volcano site, the landscape here is not one of lush greenery or flowers etc. The landscape is rocky and charred. That is perhaps why the mountain is called Yake-Yama by the locals, which means the Burning Mountain.

Piling Stones, Mt Osore

Mt Osore is for those who are fascinated by the folklore and mysticism that have become attached to this Mountain over the centuries. The sites that are located on Mount Osore and provide sightseeing opportunities of an unusual kind include, Lake of Blood, Mountain of Swords, and Dry Bed of the River of Souls to name a few. In July the Bodai Temple organizes an Itako Taisai festival every two years. In this popular festival Itako or blind mediums gather and are said to summon the departed souls and deliver their messages. The mountain’s rich mythical and mystical qualities make it a unique site for hikers and visitors.

Mount Mitake

Mt Mitake

This mountain is located in the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park near Tokyo. 3048 feet tall Mt Mitake has the famous Shinto Shrine, which makes it a place of historic as well as religious significance. The history of this shrine is traced back to Emperor Sujin, 97-30 BC. The mountain is also a popular hiker’s destination. The rock garden, intermittent streams and waters cascading down the waterfalls makes climbing this mountain a visual delight.

Mitake Valley

 

The forests and profusion of colors on Mt Mitake make it a pleasing place. The ginkgos, maple and different flora of the area give vivid colors to autumn like flamboyant yellow and reds. Lush greenery, sparkling snow, and the shades of blue of the vast skies produce captivating sights. This mountain is said to ‘change expression with seasons.’

Mount Rokko

Autumn

This name is given to a group of mountains in Hyogo Prefecture and includes Mt Maya, Mt Iwahara, Mt Iwakura, and Mt Kabutoyama. Cherry blossoms bloom here till mid April providing picturesque sights. Other sites worth visiting nearby include Nunobiki Falls. It is located near Kobe. It comprises four different falls and has cultural significance in Japan. It is considered as to be among greatest “divine falls”. It frequently features in Japanese literature and art. The observation platform at the top as well as Lookout Tower on Rokko Garden Terrace all provide magnificent views of towns located nearby. The sea of twinkling city light from atop is popular as a million dollar view.

Others

Shinto Shrine

These by no means are the only splendid and scenic mountains in Japan. Mount Tanigawa has exceptionally panoramic views. But climbing here is tough as well as dangerous, and not meant for the untrained hikers. The Mountain is commonly called mountain of death. But for those who are trained, the views around its trail and from this mountain are a memorable sight. Mountains in Wakayama Prefecture are named Mount Koya. The eight peaks of this mountain look like a lotus. It is also the headquarters of Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. They include several sacred sites and pilgrim routes which are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Zao, snow monsters

Mount Zao is known for the snow monsters- fir trees coated with snow and ice giving them monstrous shapes. Mount Haku and Mt Tate are among Japan’s Three Holy Mountains. Oyama Shrine is located atop Mt Tate. It has breath taking scenery which provide travelers with a memorable experience.

Japan

Be it the magnificent views, or the mystical and mythical attributes, a hike through the mountains in Japan leave all with a magical and memorable experience.

Chiang Mai: Rose of the North



Chiang Mai: Rose of the North

Chiang Mai is the city in Northern Thailand that houses more than a million people in the metropolitan area and a population of around 170 thousand in the main area of the city. The name ‘Chiang Mai’ in Thailand means ‘New City’ and is popularly called ‘Chiengmai’. The city lies along the river Ping and has become a very modern city over time having more than five million visitors on an annual basis. The number of tourists keeps on increasing every year. The city is now called the ‘Creative City’ and is among the top two tourist places in Thailand. There are many other temples in the city. It is recorded that the city of Chiang Mai has over 300 temples and many more in the outskirts of the city. There is a specular view of many ancient and historical temples. Major among them are the Buddhist temples what have a reflection of architectural styles of the Lanna Thai, Sri Lankan and Burmese influence.

Wat-Phrathat-Doi-Suthep

The major and significant place in the city is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. This is located 18 km away from the city to the North West. It is situated on the mountain slopes of Doi Suthep which is at a height of 1,073 meter. It was constructed in 1383, under the rule of Lanna Thai Period. The temple is considered as a very auspicious site because of the legend that claims that this spot was chosen by an elephant. The temple is reached after ascending more than 300 stairs. If you think that taking the stairs can be give you strain, then you may use the rope-way cable car. You not only get to enjoy the beautiful temple but even the beautiful landscape surrounding the temple. Being at a great height, you can see waterfalls and amazingly beautiful trees and forestation on the mountain. Many other places near the temple are also worth visiting. The Bhuping Royal Palace gardens are at a walking distance from the temple and are very striking and attractive gardens of the royalty. You will also find many local shops of handicrafts and art-crafts which are made by the tribal people but are very creative pieces and you will be stunned by the talents and designs offered there.

wat-chedi-luang

Wat Chedi Luang is the temple in the main centre of the Chiang Mai, only the remains of the temple are seen now as the temple was toppled in the significant earthquake of 1545 and the height of the temple became half of the original size. The temple was constructed in the year 1401 by the king Saeng Muang Ma. The ruins were preserved and many things were reconstructed to preserve this historical and holy place in the year 1912 by the Fine Arts Department with a cost of millions. It used to 80 meters tall and used to be the home of Emerald Buddha which is the most sacred relic of Thailand.

Wat_Phra_Singh

Another very important and famous attraction temple of Thailand is Wat Phra Singh. This temple is designed is Lanna style of architecture having golden patterns and red lacquer made behind the altar and it houses the image of Phra Singh. It was constructed in the year 1385-1400 AD by King Pha Yu. The temple is dedicated to his father Late King Kam Fu. There is typical repository located near the temple. They were originally made to preserve, protect and keep the mulberry paper sheets which were used by monks and scribes. The walls of this place are designed and sculpted with murals that demonstrate the customs, dresses, scenes etc. from the daily life of people during Lunna rule. The Wihai Lai Kham located at the back is a very lovely chapel and inside it holds the image of Phra Singh Buddha. The head of this image was stolen and the current image is a replacement.

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Under Thai law, elephants are treated as livestock and therefore, the owner can keep them in any way they want and even beat them. Carefully choose your elephant tour but do not avoid it. A person visiting Chiang Mai must go for an elephant tour. There are many options available. The most popular among them is the Mae Sa Elephant Camp. This place is located in the hills and it exhibits an elephant show. There you can watch well-trained elephants that will be playing football and doing paintings. They also allow you to take elephant rides for half hour or complete hour. Other parks and camps are located in Chiang Mai where they take care of elephants in an extremely hygienic environment with all the love and concern. There is Baanchang Elephant Park, Eddy Elephant Care, Elephant Nature Park and Friends for Asia Elephant Camp.

Chiang-Mai-City-Arts-and-Cultural-Centre

The city also has museums and galleries. The main attraction among all the centres is the ‘Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Centre’. It is located in the centre of the old city and has modern multimedia history and is a cultural centre for the entire city. The place has demonstrations of the Pre-Muang period and early civilizations near the river. Others are the Chiang Mai National museum, Numismatic Museum, University Art Museum, Postal Museum, etc.

The entire is full of active vibes and is a mixed and blended area of old traditional and new modernized place. This city must be visited if you are in Thailand.