Byblos City

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Byblos Marina still used by local fishermen
Photo by: sergemelki, Creative Commons

Byblos is a Mediterranean city located in Lebanon. The city was founded around 5000 BC and was named Gibelet at the time of crusades. According to Sanchuniathon, a Phoenician author, the city was built by Cronus the leader of the Titans. The city is also mentioned in the Bible, 1 Kings 5:18 that refer to the Solomon Temples builder’s nationality and also it is being mentioned in Ezekiel 27:9 that describes the riches of Tyre.

An adventurer’s delight, teamed with being a modern city, Byblos provides a visitor to soak in the great scenic mountains. The people here are Maronite Catholics also Shi’a Muslims are also seen here. The major attractions in the city are:

Ancient Phoenician Temples
An archaeological site that features the ruins of Temple of Baalet Gebal built around 2700 BC, Great Temple Built around 2700 BC and The Temple of the Obelisks built about 1600 BC.

Byblos Castle
The Byblos Castle was built in the 12th century with the use of limestone and bounded by a huge moat.

Medieval City Wall
The Medieval City Wall features a wall that measures about 200 meters from the north to south and 270 meters from the east to west.

Byblos Wax Museum
The Byblos Wax Museum features the wax statues that display the lifestyle belonging to the Phoenician era.

Byblos Fossil Museum
The Byblos Fossil Museum features the collection of marine life belonging to several millions.

Byblos International Festival
It is a music festival that is held during the summers.

St John the Baptist Church
The construction of the church began in the year 1150 and it was destroyed by a massive earthquake in the 12th century and the ruins of the church are still visible to the present day.

October 21, 2009 at 12:43 am | 1 comment

Changdeokgung Palace

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Changdeokgung Palace
Photo by: Daderot, Creative Commons

South Korea – a beautiful country in the Eastern part of Asia. Just like its neighboring countries, it too has its own colorful historical and political past. Luckily, for both locals and tourists, some traces of the old world still exist today, one of which is that Changdeokgung Palace.

Historical Significance:
The Changdeokgung Palace or the “Palace of Prospering Value” is one of the original five grand palaces that were built during the Joseon Dynasty. Since its construction, it has played home to several rulers and has undergone several extensions and renovations through time.

One major event that affected the Changdeokgung is the Japanese invasion in 1592. This palace along with the five others was torched by the Japanese soldiers in an attempt to gain control of South Korea. Being the center of politics and commerce in Seoul, Changdeokgung was promptly rebuilt by King Seonjo and King Gwanghaegun. But that attack was just the first. It survived one more arson and revolt during that political era.

Despite several renovations and reconstructions, the Changdeokgung Palace remained true to its original design. To honor the architecture and the history behind the place, it has been proclaimed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites last 1997.

Tours:
Because of the size of the area, the arranged tours can last from one to one and half hours. You can get a guided tour from April to November at any day except for Mondays and Thursdays. If you do not speak the local language, you do not have to worry because an English guided tour can also be arranged.

Places to see:
1. Donhwamun Gate – the largest of all the palace gates that was built in 1412.
2. Injeongjeon Hall – the palace’s throne ball where major state affairs were held.
3. Huijeongdang Hall – originally, this was meant to be the king’s bedchamber, but later on converted to be his workplace where he conducted state affairs. The room now has a very modern, interior that is influenced by western countries.
4. Huwon Garden – a 78-acre garden that was originally made for the use of the royal family alone. This huge piece of land now houses over 26,000 or so specimens of flora and fauna. Some of the landscaped trees are even said to be approximately 3 centuries old.

October 20, 2009 at 4:05 pm | 1 comment

Gaspe Peninsula

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Road to Gaspe
Photo by: abdallahh, Creative Commons

Gaspe Peninsula lies in the Eastern part of Quebec, Canada. It is a small Island surrounded by the St. Laurence River and Bay of Chaleur. The name Gaspe comes from a word that means land’s end. The people here are regarded as Indians of the sea because they are good in fishing cods, shellfish and salmon. These people are the Mikmaqs or the Native Americans recognized as the first people in the Island to encounter Europeans.

The most talked about regions in Gaspe Peninsula are the Bay of Chaleur, the Matapedia Valley, the Forillon National Park, and the Saint-Georges-de-Malbaie. The Bay of Challeur, the warmest region in Gaspe offers a lot of attractions like the Miguasha Park and Carlton. Bars, lodges, inns, mountain ranges, and beaches are common to that part. Another region in Gaspe is the Matapedia Valley, legendary for the fishing spots and agriculture Industry.

Another is the Forillon National Park trail that is known for its spectacular seascapes. The path to a lighthouse is breathtaking. There are other trails in the region, but the trails of the Forillon is the best so far. Saint-Georges-de-Malbaie is the region where one can find the Indian Rock, it shows a profile of a Native American Indian facing a cliff.

If you are planning to visit, you should consider staying there for a few days to savor the beauty of Gaspe Peninsula. It is ideal to go there during the summer and spring season which is ideal for hiking and climbing. The winter months will not allow you to do, but, then of course, there is skiing. Whatever season, you’ll enjoy the friendly confines of Gaspe.

October 20, 2009 at 3:50 pm | 1 comment

Perce Rock

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Rocher Percé, in French means “pierced rock.”
Photo by: blackwing de, Creative Commons

When you plan a visit to Canada, make sure that on top of your list is Perce Rock, located off the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula. Rocher Percé, in French means “pierced rock.” It is across the Gulf of Saint Laurence in the province of Quebec. It is a massive formation of rocks layered with lime stones, it is 1,300 feet long and 296 feet wide; it is called pierced rock because it has a hole in its structure which forms an arch like figure. It actually has two holes, today, it only has one because the other has collapsed over time.

It is captivating and inspiring to look at, a unique rock structure close to the shoreline. It is not just a barrier for high waves but also a home for various species of birds, the seagulls, razorbills, guillemots and other seabirds.

The rock island can be reached by means of a boat. The best way so far is by taking the boat to really go around the rock. Many people are drawn to the beauty of the rock especially during the break of dawn where different colors radiate from the rock. Even during twilight its beauty glows. That is the natural splendor of the rock.

Very near to Perce Rock is Bonaventure Island, the best place to view thousands of seabirds. Because of the proximity of Bonaventure Island to the rock, it has become a major tourist destination. Both Islands are great for sightseeing; at the same time an ideal destination for camping, hiking, and rock climbing. The best description for Perce Rock is, magnificent.

October 20, 2009 at 3:48 pm | 5 comments

Old City of Quebec

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On the boardwalk in the old town of Quebec
Photo by: Rene Ehrhardt, Creative Commons

Quebec is the capital city of Quebec, Canada’s largest province. Its name comes from a native word which means “where the river narrows.” It refers to a river in Quebec that narrows as it reaches a specific point. Old Quebec City on the other hand is a neighborhood within Quebec. This is known to be one of the heavily populated provinces of Canada and the first settlers are the Inuit, Algonquians and other native European migrants.

This is UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, voted as significant for its outstanding history. The Old town is Quebec’s favorite destination. It is surrounded by a wall made up of stones built by British and European Armies. It is the only city in Canada that is still protected by walls.

There are actually hundreds of Attractions in the old city, these include the Chateau Frontenac, Dufferin Terrace, The Citadel, Plains of Abraham Battlefield Park, Musée national des Beaux-arts du Québec, and hundreds more.

As you plan to visit the old city, you will never get bored with the many events, shows and many shopping boutiques. One can choose to shop in the popular Quartier Petit Champlain, a district for shopping and relaxation, named after Samuel de Champlain.

Within the area are shopping stalls and cafeterias. There are other activities to be busy about in the Old City, ride a cable car called Funicular, or Climb the Breakneck Stairs (Casse-Cou), wooden steps that links the upper old city to the lower old city. The staircase was made during the 17th century. Undeniably, the Old Quebec City has a lot to offer its visitors, from attractions to the shopping experience.

October 20, 2009 at 3:22 pm | 1 comment

Old Town Lunenburg

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Streets of Lunenburg
Photo by: how long it takes, Creative Commons

One of Canada’s pride is the Old Town Lunenburg in Nova Scotia. It has been designated as Canada’s National Historic District. It is a port town established in 1753 by the first settlers, the Acadian and the Mikmaqs, which was later made into a British Colonial Settlement. Many migrants from Italy, Germany, Switzerland and other European folks followed the first settlers.

During those days, it was considered as one of the best places to live because of its rising economy. A lot of people were drawn to the place because the potential it displayed to start a livelihood like ship-building, fishing, and small scale businesses.

Today, the town is still has a thriving economy, only it is now more of a tourist destination. Tourism is the number one industry in the old city. It is also acknowledged of having one of the largest fishing plants in North America.

What brings people back is how maintained and how the town is planned and constructed. By looking at their houses, churches and other buildings, one can quickly notice how creative the settlers were. Most of the construction were planned and included great structural design. Visitors always notice the wooden architecture of the houses, which shows that the place is well maintained.

The town shares its popularity, Bluenose and Bluenose II both were born there. Do not be confused, these aren’t people rather, these are the world’s famous schooner. These are the world renowned ships and fishing vessels during the 18th Century. Lunenburg Old Town is one example of a well-preserved British Colony that is worth a visit.

October 20, 2009 at 3:22 pm | No comment

Fortress of Louisbourg

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Fortress of Louisbourg
Photo by: Joe Shlabotnik, Creative Commons

Fortress of Louisbourg or Forteresse de Louisbourg in French is a National Historic site of Canada. Located in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, it is the largest historical society reconstructed in Canada –an 18th century like fortress. It was mainly built to support the Fishing Industry and protect France’s interests in the new world. The construction of this community was started in 1719 by French investors who later became very successful in Fisheries and made the community a thriving settlement.

The Fortress of Louisbourg gives a visitor a nostalgic sense of how things were. The houses, the streets, and ramparts give visitors an idea of how the early Canadians lived. It’s a window to Canada’s History. The main attractions in the place are the Theme Centers and Parks like the DeLa Plagne House, the Ordonnateur’s Residence, De la Perelle House, and Carrerot House. These are theme centers named after family residences. The De la Plagne House is where one can watch a film about the fortress’ history. The Ordannateur’s Residence displays paintings of the seaport made in 1744. While in De la Perelle House, visitors can take photos of themselves dressed in an 18th century garb.

The Fortress of Louisbourg is both a popular tourist destination and an excellent place to retreat to, no pun intended. After a well rested vacation at the Fortress, you will feel rejuvenated.

October 20, 2009 at 3:20 pm | 2 comments

CN Tower

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CN or Canadian National Tower
Photo by: alexindigo, Creative Commons

The Canadian National Tower, also known as the CN Tower, is North America’s tallest structure with a height of 1,815 feet and 5 inches (553.3 meters). It is located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and it has been Canada’s icon for many years and for that reason many people are drawn to visit the place. The tower looks like a telecommunication structure built originally as a TV and Radio communication platform for the whole area of Toronto before a revolving restaurant was built on at the first level and moves its way to the top.

The restaurant revolves every 72 minutes taking the café aloft. The tower has six high-speed elevators with glass fronts that are sturdy, these can take guests up to the peak. The speed of the elevator is fast because you can reach the top, which is the Skypod (Look-out Level) in just a matter of 58 seconds. From the top, visitors can actually see the whole of Toronto, the best sceneries in the area, and even the Niagara Falls. On an observation deck, more people visit the tower.

Today, it is the center of entertainment. Surrounding the freestanding tower is the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, a venue for events, meetings, and conventions. Another is the Rogers Centre also known as the Skydome. The tower makes it possible for everyone to experience a one of a kind sky adventure.

October 20, 2009 at 3:18 pm | No comment

Cabot Trail

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Cabot Trail
Photo by: glangille, Creative Commons

Cabot trail named after John Cabot, an explorer, is in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia a province of Canada. This is a 185 miles or a 298-kilometer long highway. The trail passes through beautiful places, attractions, landscapes, parks, beaches and a wonderful community. Most people hike instead of driving through the trail wanting to take pleasure in the beauty of Cape Breton Island. In fact the trail will only consume few hours of driving but more often than not visitors stop and stay there for a night and usually for few days more.

Cape Breton Island has a lot of breathtaking sceneries; it has also a lot of trails like Pollett’s Cove and the Skyline trail. However, Cabot trail is the most talked about. The views alongside the road are charming and the people as well are very charismatic which made it even more pleasant.

The place is truly amazing, it does not change through to the seasons, and instead it becomes more pleasing. If it’s winter, the place becomes a good destination for skiing and when it’s fall, the surrounding become all the more fantastic.

There is no such thing as boredom in the Cabot trail because nobody will run out of activity. And even if there is no activity at all, by simply looking at the sceneries alongside the trail is already a great experience.

October 20, 2009 at 3:13 pm | 7 comments

Bay of Fundy

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Bay of Fundy
Photo by: Five-two, Creative Commons

This is one of Canada’s best destinations. In fact it is contested to be part of the Seven Wonders of the World. This Island is known as the largest Island of the Arctic Archipelago which lies directly in between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia which is in the East Coast of Canada. Bay of Fundy or Baie Francaise in French was discovered in 1604 by a voyager by the name of Samuel de Champlain. The bay has a funnel like shape to it.

This bay is known for their rocks that are as high as a four storey building. One of the bays residents is the second largest whale in the world, the finback whale. Bay of Funday gives the visitor many to see, add to that the food, they are abundant in fresh sea foods like fish, lobster, and mussels just to name a few. Fundy is also renowned for its wines –extraordinary in taste.

October 20, 2009 at 3:11 pm | 5 comments

Baffin Island

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Baffin Island Perspective
Photo by: L. Lew, Creative Commons

The name comes from an explorer in 1616, William Baffin. Baffin Island lies in the East of Nunavut which is the largest federal territory of Canada. When one looks at the map, the Island is positioned at the North West of Mainland Canada and West of Greenland. It covers about 183,810 square miles which make it as the fifth biggest Island in the world that is part of the Arctic Archipelago.

The majority of the people living on this island are the Inuit. The most common languages they use in the place are English, French and Inuktikut. Although there are areas where people speak English and French, the vast majority still speaks in Inuktikut which is their native language.

Baffin Island is very enticing most especially to visitors because there are lots of things they can do there such as wall climbing, skiing, mountain climbing and touring. Also, it offers kayaking and viewing of the polar bears which make it even more interesting to visit. The Islands attractions include the Cumberland Peninsula where the Mount Asgard and Thor Peak is located. It is also the region in the Island where one can find the well known Akshayuk Pass where one can ride a boat to see the parks. Clyde River is another region of the Island where one can find Granite Mountains. Another region is the Bylot that is in the North of Baffin, this is where the popular Sirmilik National Park can be found. This park is where most seabirds migrate and where attractive fiords are to be found.

October 20, 2009 at 3:10 pm | 7 comments

The Canadian Rockies

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Canadian Rockies – Banff
Photo by: Satoru Kikuchi, Creative Commons

The collection of mountains that extend to the parts of British Columbia and Alberta is the Canadian Rockies. These mountains are layered by sedimentary rocks. Its peaks are spiky because of glaciers on it. These glaciers obviously make the mountains cooler and moist.

There are five major parks that are part of the Canadian Rockies, they areYoho, Jasper, Kootenay, Banff and Waterton.

The oldest park of Canada and one of the most visited parks around the territory is Banff. Some of Banff’s residents include Grizzly bears, lynx, deer, weasel and a many others. Next is Jasper, the largest of the five. It is also in Alberta and at the West of Edmonton. The park is alluring because of glaciers, lakes, hot springs and many more.

The Kootenay National Park’s main attractions are the Hot Springs, the Olive Lake, the Marble Canyon, Sinclair Canyon, Floe Lake, Fay Hut, and also to mention the Paint Pots –a spring rich in minerals. Yoho National Park lies in the South of British Columbia. Limestone caves are found here.

Obviously, there are a lot of places to explore in the Canadian Rockies.

October 20, 2009 at 3:00 pm | 5 comments

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

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Yuanyang Rice Terraces in China
Photo by: Pratyeka, Creative Commons

For tourists who want to bring back breathtaking photos as souvenirs from their China vacation, the scenic and spectacular Yuanyang Rice Terraces is the perfect travel spot to go. Professional photographers are among the main visitors to this site. Oftentimes, day-trippers who visit the area will see tripods abound, along with other photography equipment, ready to shoot the magnificent landscape of cascading rice fields.

Yuanyang Rice Terraces is located south of Kunming with a distance of 300 kilometers. You can reach the site by renting any vehicle. There are no railroads near the location so visitors are recommended to rent vans and cars for your convenience and safety. You can also wait for the bus near Beijing train station if you prefer a cheaper transportation means.

Yuanyang Rice Terraces may not be as popular as the Great Wall of China, but people who appreciate privacy, solitude, and contemplation can definitely enjoy its picturesque landscape. The location’s high mountains and rolling hillside is a perfect combination of balance and beauty that can leave you in meditative silence. If you want a travel spot that’s not too crowded, then you should definitely check out Yuanyang Rice Terraces.

Yuanyang Rice Terraces is a man-made rice field landscape completed by the Hani ethnic tribe 1,000 years ago. The hard work and perseverance of the Hani people long ago is being preserved by the new batch of rice farmers through practicing farming concepts such as ecology, land preservation, and irrigation.

The best time to go to Yuanyang Rice Terraces is either at sunrise or sunset. There is magic when you see the sun’s rays hitting the surface of water on every rice field. In case you’re too late for either a sunset or a sunrise, just look at the sky’s reflection. Both scenarios will leave you breathless no matter what location you’re located and what time you’ve arrived to witness the terraces’ natural beauty.

October 20, 2009 at 11:23 am | No comment

Corniche Beirut

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Corniche Boardwalk
Photo by: lucianaluciana, Creative Commons

Corniche Beirut is a seashore esplanade located in the Beirut, Lebanon. The area here features of palm trees in a sequence and offers stunning views of the Mediterranean, in addition, the highest point of the Mount Lebanon can be seen from here.

The Corniche is a favorite spot for bikers, walkers, and joggers. The area features a number of restaurants. It is also one of the best holiday locations to hang out with friends.

The sunny days here is a major attraction where one can find a number of people jogging. Also it offers stunning views of the water and the local food at the nearby restaurants is a highlight here.

In addition a number of public events and local festivals are held at the Corniche which is one of the major attractions.

October 19, 2009 at 8:36 pm | No comment

Jeita Grotto

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Jeita Grotto Entrance
Photo by: BorgQueen, Creative Commons

Jeita Grotto is a series of Karstic limestone caves located 18 kilometers from the Beirut, Lebanon. The grotto has a series of chambers known as lower caves and upper caves. These caves provide a major route for the underground rivers and fresh water to the city of Beirut.

The Jeita caves are found between the western mountains and is 330 feet above sea level. These caves formation is a result of limestone dissolution.

Lower caves
The lower caves were discovered by William Thomson in the year 1836. These caves reached only by boat. There are number of underground rivers and the water here is fresh which is mainly used by the people of Beirut.

These caves are located 60 meters below the upper caves and it features a number of cave formations. The distance of the caves is about 500 meters; visitors can be transported using electric boats. During the winters the caves remains closed as a result of high water levels.

Upper caves
The upper caves were discovered in 1958. These caves are situated about 60 meters above the lower caves. The upper caves is a major tourist spot and it features a sequence of chambers where the largest chamber here measures about 120 meters high.

The upper caves can be reached through a concrete tunnel that measure about 117 meters long. These caves feature three chambers where the first one is White Chamber and the second one is Red Chamber that measures 106 meters high. Among all the chambers the Third Chamber is the largest of all that measures 120 meters high.

These caves are a major attraction in the present days. It also features an air conditioned theatre, train and cable cars. In addition there are a number of restrooms, bars, restaurants and shops for the visitors. The caves opens at 9 am in the morning and closes at 6 pm in the evening and Mondays is a holiday here.

October 18, 2009 at 8:36 pm | 1 comment

Yungang Grottoes

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Yungang Grottoe in China
Photo by: Patrick Streule, Creative Commons

The colossal statues and remarkable sculptures of Yungang Grottoes match China’s large surface area, making it a must-see tourist spot. Located at the foot of Wuzhou Mountain, Yungang entices visitors from around the globe with its gigantic grottoes that were carved out from the stony and earthy mountain’s side.

A monk named Tan Yao is believed to have had the grottoes built around 453 AD. Given the superb artistic forms of the grottoes today, it’s quite amazing that the whole place took 50 years to be finished. There were about 40,000 Buddhists who helped build the place.

There are 53 caves in Yungang Grottoes, which contains 51,000 statues and 1,000 nooks. Tourists are left in awe upon seeing the grandeur that only comes from the hard work and determination of those who had it built. The huge statues showcases traditional Chinese artistry and design with just the right amount of Greek and Indian influence. One example of China’s impeccable taste for art is the 17-meter high Buddha located in Grotto No. 5

Yungang Grottoes has three areas: the east, west, and middle part. In the east are Grottoes No. 1 and 2. Sculptures on this side have sustained minor damages due to different weather conditions it has endured during its lifetime. In the west are grottoes that include one of the TanYao’s earliest caves. Here, rests the statue of Sakyamuni, a figure similar to Buddha sculptures complete with a smiling face and big body. The artforms in the western portion are more intricate, a mastery in sculpting. The middle grotto part is considered to have highest value for it was made earlier than the two other sections. Here, Buddhist carvings are predominantly displayed.

Yungang Grottoes was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. It is located in Shanxi Province, Datong City, Western Suburbs, south of Wu Zhou Mountain.

October 17, 2009 at 11:25 am | 3 comments

Sidon City

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Sidon viewed from Sea Castle
Photo by: upyernoz, Creative Commons

Sidon is Lebanon’s third largest city located about 48 kilometers from the Beirut. The word Sidon means fishery. The city has a population of 200,000 and the people here are mainly Greek Catholic, Maronite, and Muslim Sunni and Shiite.

The city was has a history that dates back to 4000 BC and was an important Phoenician city at the time. Glass manufacturing was the main occupation of the Phoenician era. During the Roman era, a number of monuments and theatres were built. At the time of the Byzantine period a massive earthquake hit the town in 551 AD and the majority of the constructions were destroyed leaving the town in ruins.

The major ruins are:

The Sea Castle
The Sea Castle is a fort built in the 13th century. Located on a small island, it offers a great view of the city. The castle consists of two chambers, among them the west tower which is the best preserved tower.

The Souks (Market)
It is located in the middle of St. Louis Castle and Sea Castle. It extends to the old town and the massive fishing markets are one of the main attractions here.

Khan El Franj
It was built in the 17th century for accommodating goods and merchants. It features a massive courtyard and a central fountain bounded by a number of galleries.

The Great Mosque
The Great Mosque was built in the 13th century and previously it was the Church of St. John.

The Castle of St. Louis
It is situated to the south of Old Souks and it was built in the 13th century on the site of ruined fort.

Eshmun Temple
The Eshmun Temple was constructed in the 7th century and it was devoted to the Phoenician God.

Debbane Palace
This palace was built in the year 1721 AD in Arab-Ottoman architecture. In the present day, it is a major tourist attraction, and will soon be converted to Sidon’s History Museum.

In the year 2000, the Asian Football Confederation’s Cup was held in Sidon.

October 16, 2009 at 8:36 pm | No comment

Haeinsa Temple

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Front View of Haeinsa Temple

Photo by: Caspian blue, Creative Commons

The Haeinsa Temple or “Temple of Reflection on a Smooth Sea” also belongs to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is one of the more important temples in Korea as it houses the historical Tripitaka Koreana – Buddhist scriptures that are carved into approximately 81,258 printing blocks. Those blocks have stayed in the Haeinsa Temple since 1398.

The construction of this temple has 2 legends. The first one mentions that Haeinsa was built in gratitude of Buddha’s mercy after two monks have successfully cured King Aejang’s wife.

The second legend by Choe Chi – Won accounts that the same monks have won the support of a wealthy dowager who converted her religion to Buddhism.

Just like other important structures in Korea, this temple has survived several political revolts and arsons. In fact, the structure that we see now is a result of no less than eight major reconstructions and renovations. This temple is located on the Gaya Mountain, south of the Gyeongsang Province.

Places to See:

1. Janggyeong Panjeon (also known as National Treasure Number 52)

This is the oldest part of the temple that holds one of Korea’s national treasures – the Tripitaka Koreana. Given the fact that this structure is mostly made of wood, it has miraculously survived fires and bombings during the Japanese and Korean Wars.

This storage facility is also one of the reasons why UNESCO included the temple in the list of World Heritage Sites. Its architects have found natural and ingenious ways to preserve the wooden blocks.

2. Daejeokkwangjeon (also known as the Hall of Great Silence)

This hall is special because it is mainly dedicated to Vairocana – the Buddha that is the embodiment of Dharmakaya who is one of the forming parts of the Trikaya doctrine.

Hourly tours are given to locals and foreigners who are interested to see the place. These can be arranged by contacting travel agencies that are locally based. Some of the guests are also given the option to stay overnight and appreciate the tranquility of the place at a meager rate. The stay is best recommended for people who wish to meditate and stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city even for just one night.

October 13, 2009 at 4:05 pm | 3 comments

Gobi Desert

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Gobi Desert “transport”
Photo by: Honza Soukup, Creative Commons

The Gobi Desert is Asia’s largest desert area and it also covers some parts of Southern Mongolia and northwestern China. The desert areas here are surrounded by Altai Mountains to the north, North China Plain on the south east and Hexi corridor to the southwest.

The Gobi Desert is the world’s fifth largest desert and it is a combination of different geographic regions. The Gobi Desert covers an area of about 1,295,000 square kilometers and the major part of the desert is covered with bare rock. The desert has an elevation of 1520 meters above the sea level.

The Gobi Desert is famous for the explorations the first traveler to explore this desert was Jean-Francois Gerbillon in the year 1688. Most Nomads and early europeans explored the major areas which include

The Eastern Gobi Desert Steppe
It is the easternmost eco region that covers an area of about 281,800 square kilometers. It features the Yin Mountains and a number of low lying areas that includes ponds and salt pans.

The Alashan Plateau Semi-Desert
It lies to the southeast of the eastern Gobi Desert. It features low lying mountains and desert basins.

The Gobi Lakes Valley Desert Steppe
It lies to the north of Alashan Plateau and in between the Khangai mountains on the north.

The Tian Shan Range
It divides the Junggar Basin from Taklamakan Desert. The area here is low and it is bounded by high mountains.

October 12, 2009 at 8:19 pm | 4 comments

Amiens Cathedral

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Amiens Cathedral
Photo by: Pingu1963, Creative Commons

Amiens cathedral, also know as the cathedral of our lady of Amiens, is the tallest cathedral in France. Amiens Cathedral is the heart of Picardy which is a couple of hours north of Paris. The interior volume is estimated as 200,000 meters cube . It is listed as one of world heritage site by UNESCO in the year 1981. It is the tallest gothic church in from the Gothic era. The height of the ceiling is about 43 meters and the width of the nave is about 14.7 meters. The interior ceiling is a modern 14-story building. This cathedral was built in the year 1152 and was influenced by the roman style.

The cathedral was burnt in the year 1218 due to a lightening strike. The reconstruction of the cathedral was started in the year 1220 and completed in 1245.

October 12, 2009 at 7:14 pm | 2 comments

Kyongbok Palace

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Front View of Kyongbok Palace
Photo by: Isageum, Creative Commons

The Kyongbok Palace or the Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of the Five Grand Palaces that were built during the Joseon Dynasty. In English, its name translates to “Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven.” This structure has been famous worldwide because of its sheer size and unique architecture.

Unfortunately, it is one of the historical sites that acquired much damage during the Japanese occupation. Up to this date, efforts are being done to somehow restore the palace’s old grandeur. Despite the ongoing reconstruction, this place remained to be one of the most visited places in South Korea.

Here is a list of some information about the Kyongbok Palace that you need to know.
• The main structure was constructed in 1934 by King Taejo – the founder of the famous Joseon Dynasty. Unfortunately, during the late 1500’s, a huge part of the palace was burnt down by the invading Japanese.
• After the Japanese invasion, Daewongun spearheaded the repair, reconstruction and expansion in 1867. At its completion, 330 buildings and 5,792 rooms made up the palace.
• Before the assassination of Empress Myeongseong, this palace was the home of the royalties of Korea. The trauma left by the assassination pushed the royal family to move into one of the other imperial palaces.
• The palace and the buildings are open to the public today. Visitors frequently visit it because it houses the National Folk Museum of Korea and the National Museum of Korea until the displays were moved to Yongsan–gu last 2005.
• Apart from the museum, here are the other parts of the palace that you may want to visit.

Gangnyeongjeon Hall – The king’s main living and sleeping quarters, which used to have bedchambers that were laid out following a checkerboard pattern. While the king stayed in the middle chamber, he housed his attendants and bodyguards on each side for his convenience and added protection.
Geunjeongjeon Hall – This is the throne room where the king grants audience to his officials and advisers.
Gyeonghoeru Pavilion – This pavilion has been the venue for important state dinners and other significant gatherings. This structure is constructed in the middle of a rectangular man–made lake and it is currently depicted in the 10,000 won Korean banknote.

October 12, 2009 at 4:05 pm | 2 comments

Nan Madol

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Ruins at Nan Madol
Photo by: ctsnow, Creative Commons

Nan Madol is in Pohnpei Island, a member of the Federated States of Micronesia. It is a ruined city and it also served as the capital city for the Saudeleur Dynasty. The city is also called as “Venice of the Pacific” and it is also a chain of artificial islands with a group of canals.

Nan Madol has a population of about 1000 and it is a special place for the mortuary activities performed by priests. The mortuary block features 58 islands located to the northeast of Nan Madol. A major part of the islands are occupied by the priests and some islands are used for preparing food and oil.

The city is bounded with high walls that measures 7.6 meters high, in addition there are a number of tombs located in the city belonging to the 15th century. The city has no fresh water and food source and one must go to the other island to gather food and water.

Nan Madol features an archaeological site that includes the ruins of stone architecture on the Coast of Temwen Island. The site measures 18 square kilometers and the early constructions dates here to 200 BC. These ruins were also named as Micronesia’s National Historic Landmark in the year 1985.

October 12, 2009 at 12:28 am | 4 comments

Chinguetti City

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Road to Chinguetti through Mauritanian Sahara
Photo by: John Spooner, Creative Commons

Chinguetti is a medieval trading centre located to the north of Mauritania. It was established in the 13th century as a trans-Saharan trade route. The city is well known for its scenic beauty, stunning architecture and ancient libraries. A major part of the city is abandoned as the sand from the desert invade the city.

The buildings and houses in the city are built of mud bricks and dry reddish stone. Most of the houses feature hand made doors that are taken from the acacia trees. Also these houses feature a courtyard and narrow streets that leads to the nearby central mosque.

The Chinguetti city was founded around 777, and in the 11th century it was the major trading route for the Berber tribes. The city prospered at the time of the Almoravids, who ruled here between 1040 and 1147. During this time a number of buildings were constructed that can be seen to the present day. The city was was deserted for two centuries, but in the 13th century the city once again prospered, a fort was constructed and it became a major trading center.

The Chinguetti city is also the main place for the pilgrims visiting Mecca. It is one of the major religious sites; in addition it is Islam’s seventh holiest city. The city features a number of historical and religious ruins which can be seen to the present days. For its historical and religious importance Chinguetti city was also included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The major sites in the city are

The Friday Mosque
The Friday Mosque was built in between 13th and 14th centuries. The minaret in the mosque is also the second oldest minaret in the Muslim world. This mosque is also considered as the national emblem of the Mauritania Islamic Republic.

French Foreign Legion Fortress
This fort was built in the 19th century for the foreign nationals who served jointly with the French Armed Forces.

October 12, 2009 at 12:22 am | No comment

Maldives Islands

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Steps to Maldives
Photo by: Chi King, Creative Commons

Tourism is the major industry of the Maldives Islands. Tourism plays a key role for the countries service sector as well as creating a wide range of employment here. Maldives features sandy beaches with clear waters and a number of hotels and resorts are located nearby. The beaches feature outstanding natural scenery with clear waters, in addition Maldives is also ranked as the worlds best recreational diving destination.

Every year Maldives attracts people worldwide and provides the best services. The tourism in the Maldives began in the 1960s as a part of United Nations mission. The first resort was built here in the year 1972 and the fist tourist group arrived here was in the same year.

At the beginning there were two resorts with 280 beds. In the present day, there are about 80 resorts and every year Maldives is being visited by 600,000 tourists.

The natural beauty in the Maldives is the major attractions that include the white beaches with clear waters. The underwater scenery is a highlight and the beaches are the best spots for water sports such as snorkeling, windsurfing, scuba diving, water-skiing, fishing and swimming.

Maldives features one of the best hotels in the world and unique resorts. In addition Maldives, feature coffee shops, restaurants, driving schools, pubs and bars. Most of the resorts display local artifacts and promote other activities such as table tennis, volley ball and aerobics.

October 12, 2009 at 12:20 am | 1 comment

Lake Malawi

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Fishing in Lake Malawi
Photo by: SarahDepper, Creative Commons

The Lake Malawi is situated in the East African Rift Valley. It is the world’s eighth largest lake and Africa’s third largest and deepest. The lake features fresh water inhabited by a good number of fish species compared to other lakes in the world.

The Lake Malawi covers an area of about 29,600 square kilometers and it measures 580 kilometers long with 75 kilometers wide. The lake also shares its borders with Southern Tanzania, Eastern Malawi and Western Mozambique. Lake Malawi is 350 km from the Lake Tanganyika.

Malawi features the largest part of the lake, where a quarter part of the lake is situated in Mozambique bounded by the Chizumulu and Likoma Islands. There are a number of disputes about the lakes name where the common name is Lake Malawi and in the international maps the Lake Malawi is mentioned as “Lake Nyasa”.

The Lake Malawi features immense wildlife that includes monkeys, hippopotamuses, crocodiles and large population of African Fish Eagles that feed on the fishes here. Lake Malawi is also well known for its cichlids that are famous in the fish trade. In addition it is also famous for its unique snails that causes bilharzia, a parasitic disease.

Also there are certain holiday spots close to the lake. The major attractions here are swimming, scuba diving, boat rides and the local food.

October 12, 2009 at 12:11 am | 2 comments

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