Cameron Highlands Tea Plantation, Malaysia

Monday, May 31, 2010

RT- Unforgettable Rome

After years of planning, we finally made it to Rome and it is incredibly amazing than I can ever imagine. It’s full of ancient buildings and sculptures, enticing corners to explore, delicious desserts and not to mention, the very colourful nightlife. And despite its hustle and bustle, everything I see and feel is absolutely romantic and I can't help but be touched by the romance of Rome. Walking in Italy’s largest and bustling city will delight any history buff and the splendour of the ancient buildings and the greatest architectural works just amazes me.

When in Rome, we visited some ancient ruins along the way and some of the favourite spots for the lovey- doveys including the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps.

Our first stop is Piazza Navona which is a very colourful piazza, with lots of touristy restaurants, beautiful churches, free entertainment, endless displays of paintings for sale, and a multitude of baroque art pieces that you can see all in one place.

We also went to the Pantheon which was even more overwhelming. The sheer size of this monument was absolutely breathtaking. It's actually a temple built to honour all of the gods of ancient Rome.

Trevi Fountain is a timeless favourite with tourists both in and out of love. The story says that throwing one coin over the shoulder into the fountain guarantees that someone will travel to Rome again someday. I've no idea if this is true but I gladly nudge myself towards the crowd to do what everyone comes to do, toss a coin over the left shoulder with my back to the fountain in the hope of returning to the Eternal City.

Apart from visiting one great place after another, we also had our first experience with hop -off hop-on bus. You can save a lot on walking and it's a perfect way to see the sights and stop wherever you want. Most of the tourist destinations are also accessible by metro but it can get extremely crowded during rush hour.

Obviously this is a must see if you are visiting Rome. The Colosseum is a place I have always wanted to visit ever since I was in high school and glad it didn't disappoint. The metro stops directly in front of it so it's easy to get there. We arrived too late to get inside the Colosseum, but walked all around it taking pictures. It amazed me seeing this ancient structure surrounded by busy roads, people rushing around and all the excitement in the air.

Standing beside the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine was one of the last great Roman monuments, erected in AD 315. Honestly I have not heard of this triumphal arch, mainly because the colosseum draws all the attention from it to itself.

The Roman Forum, now mostly just piles of ruins, was once ancient Rome's main square and it is just a ten minute walk away from the Colosseum. There were temples, arches, and a meeting place for the senate. Julius Caesar was cremated here with fresh flowers marking the site.

Having Italian ice cream is a must and it is called Gelato. It's the best ice cream I have ever had. Not only is gelato incredibly scrumptuous, it is fresh and smooth and I really like the fact that you can get multiple flavors of gelato in a single serving. There is a wide array of gelato from fresh nuts to rich, creamy and exotic natural flavours, all created fresh each day using traditional Italian recipes and ingredients.

The Spanish Steps, seen from Piazza di Spagna. With 138 steps leading from the Piazza del Spagna at the base and the Trinity Church at the top, this is the longest and widest staircase in Europe.

This monument honouring Vittorio Emanuele II was the first king of a unified Italy. It is another nice place to visit for some awesome views of Rome and Piazza Venezia.

Friday, May 28, 2010

PhotoHunt - Memorial


This gold coated statue is a memorial to Johann Strauss II, in Stadtpark, Vienna. He was a well-known Austrian composer of light music, particularly dance music and operettas. He composed over 500 waltzes, polkas, and other kinds of dance music, as well as several operettas and a ballet (Cinderella). During his lifetime, he was known as "The Waltz King", and was largely responsible for the popularity of the waltz in Vienna during the 19th century.

Monday, May 24, 2010

RT- My trip to St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

We visited the Vatican City during our trip to Rome and St. Peter’s basilica was, without a doubt, the most impressive piece of architecture I’ve ever seen. Pictures and words could not describe how magnificent the basilica was. This cathedral has the largest interior and it can accommodate 60,000 people.

When we arrived, we were greeted by thirteen statues standing on the balustrade above the attic of St. Peter's Basilica. They portray Christ, St. John the Baptist and eleven Apostles.

Before entering the cathedral, we made our way to the top of the cupola and came across a walkway from where we can see inside the dome. This walkway going round the cupola allows you to admire the beautiful mosaics and the magnificence of the inside of the cupola in a close up.

As we exit the interior of the dome, we reach another level where you can see the awesome view of the main dome from the roof terrace. The sheer beauty of it is simply amazing. It's an enormous dome, the largest church in the world and gives a spectacular view overlooking the entire square below.

There is a lift leading to the dome but unfortunately, the top level is only reachable by stairways. So after getting off the lift, we had to climb 320 steps in progressively narrowing staircase, zigzagging and rounding up the side of the dome. I almost fainted when I came upon the winding stairways. But then, it was virtually impossible to turn back because there were people coming along behind you. Despite the strenuous climb, we were glad we made it to the top level, the cupola view really showed us what a magnificent city it was.

So here we are, at the highest point of Vatican city. The view of Rome from the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica. The observatory deck is not that spacious and big, so there's not much room to walk around the cupola. We managed to observe the whole Vatican, the city of ancient Rome, the entire St. Peter's Square, it was incredibly awesome. The shot was not as good as I would have liked, but I was glad I had a chance to experience the view and proudly say I was at the top of St. Peter's.

After enjoying the panoramic skyline, we proceeded downwards to the cathedral where it houses the famous Michelangelo’s Pieta, and incredible pieces by Bernini, the tomb of St. Peter, as well as the tombs of many Popes.

This is the view seen upon the first step beyond the entrance hall

The bronze statue of Saint Peter. Local and foreign tourists queue up to touch or kiss the foot of St. Peter to pray for mercy or forgiveness.

Michelangelo's Pieta is one of the Vatican's best known artworks. It depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. It's behind proof glass due to vandalism in the 70's.

The famous altar with Bernini's baldacchino. St. Peter's tomb lies directly below this structure.

Visiting Saint Peters on a Sunday morning, we were lucky enough to be in the Basilica for one of the masses. In the center of its background, you can spot the chair of St Peter's, one of Bernini's most magnificent inventions.

We also visited the tombs of St Peter as well as other Popes. They do not allow any photography in this area and they are strict about silence here also but we did sneak one without flash.

This is the front facade of St Peter Basilica as we walked out from the cathedral. You can see the chairs that were set up for the events which were expected to take place later in the day.

St. Peter's Basilica, view from a distance

First Commenter - Mei Teng

Friday, May 21, 2010

Skywatch Friday - Pamucak beach

We came upon this quiet beach after visiting the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey. The tide was coming in and the skies were bluish white and gray with clouds scudding across the horizon. Since there was a heavy downpour the day before, with forecasts predicted more rain, the beach was totally deserted. It was great having the beach practically to ourselves, with no one in sight as far as the eye could see.


First Commenter - Rainfield

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WW- Reflections of trees and buildings




First Commenter - Caite

Monday, May 17, 2010

RT - Volcano tour in Santorini

During our trip to Santorini, we took a boat excursion to Nea Kameni, the most active volcano on the island. The volcano is also known as Caldera and during this three hour visit, we have the chance to walk up the active crater, take photographs and enjoy the surrounding views. I haven't seen an active volcano up close before, so it was a cool experience.

The weather that day was nice for a day out with clear blue skies and not too hot, with cool sea breeze blowing through.

As the boat approaches the volcano, you can see piles of black lava stones almost everywhere. There we get off the boat where we've to walk on an uneven, rocky surface to approach the crater of the still active Volcano.

Obviously, you need comfortable hiking shoes for this trip. I'd recommend not going if you're not in good physical condition as the hike up to the volcano is considered steep, challenging and strenuous.

From a distance, you can see Thira and Oia on top of the huge cliffs. I was told that the volcano is over 400 years old. It last erupted in 1950 but is set to erupt at any time. It might sound scary but we took our chances and headed to the summit anyway.

The active crater is actually quite big and there are lots of area to explore and lots of details to observe. There are little wisps of steam emitted from a number of spots though they are not very evident in this picture. In some spots, you'll find that the ground is literally too hot to step on.

As you walk further up, you can spot the different colour tones of the volcano, as a result of several eruptions.

I finally reached the highest point after a strenuous 40 minutes hike. Yup, so this is what it’s like to be on a live volcano. What a feeling!

After getting baked in Nea Kameni, our next stop was Palea Kameni which is the oldest volcano on the island and is known for its stunning hot springs. The boat docked some distance away and a small group of enthusiasts swam towards the hot springs and bathe in the beautifying volcanic mud. It is believed that the hot springs are good for the body and on the bottom of the springs is mud laced with sulphur which is a great skin tonic. Too bad I can't swim but sometimes, it's enough to just watch.

After a thirty minute halt, the boat brought us back to Fira, its departure point. It was a fabulous way to spend the day and see the other interesting sights of Santorini. This is a pretty challenging journey that we'll treasure for a lifetime.

First Commenter - Mei Teng