Tag Archive: UNESCO Heritage Site



India is never short on ancient forts, palaces, towers, temples, monuments. Among its many heritage sites is this 12th century complex which includes this soaring 75-meter tower erected soon after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu Kingdom. Come sunset, it glows as a lovely redstone and marble minaret. The complex is quite manageable to explore, and we picked a lovely time of the day to do it.

 

 

The 2nd tallest minaret in India, just a few kilometers south of Delhi.

The 2nd tallest minaret in India, just a few kilometers south of Delhi.

We found many local tourists within the complex.

We found many local tourists within the complex.

 

 

We visited the Qutab Minar complex on our last day in India, just hours before our departure. Glad we didn’t miss this site which is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The minaret towers above some ruins much like The Forum in Rome, Italy. Built to honor the onset of Islamic rule in India, Qutub Minar is not without controversy. Sometimes called Qutab, after the first Islamic ruler, or Qutub which literally translates to “pole of justice”, the tower symbolizes “Islamic Justice”in this corner of the world.

 

 

It was a lovely time of day to visit Qutab Minar.

It was a lovely time of day to visit Qutab Minar.

Islamic calligraphy (verses from the Quran) and Hindu motifs combine in many of the monuments to be found here.

Islamic calligraphy (verses from the Quran) and Hindu motifs combine in many of the monuments to be found here.

 

 

Earthquakes. Wear and Tear. All these left the tower damaged and tilted slightly on one side. The first 3 storeys are made of red sandstone, the next 4th and 5th of marble. The many steps could be scaled before but a recent accident involving schoolchildren forced authorities caring for the monument to stop such uphill excursions. Access is not allowed now. The view from the top must be lovely, especially at sunset, when the adjacent red sandstone ruins within the complex glow as the sun fades from view.

 

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It’s hard to take anything seriously in Korea. Been here years ago but I continue to be amazed how Korea has “reinvented” itself. It is, after all, the “Land of Gwiyomi” . As one friend describes it, the “land of cute-ness”. K-Pop, K-Fashion and Psy’s Gangnam style. How long has it been since my first trip in the 80’s? Then, as is now, FOOD and NATURE are major considerations and attractions. Neither can it be denied that Korea is so rich in art, culture and history. But there’s more NOW that’s drawing in more tourists to this country.

 

 

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The ‘”Flower of Fortresses”, Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.

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One of many gates to the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.

 

 

Outside of the world-class theme parks and awesome natural wonders, Korea’s rich history finds a solid spot in its well-preserved palaces and fortresses. Many have visited temples and palaces to be found in Seoul, but I find those outside the capital even more charming. In Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, we found more local tourists and schoolchildren out on field trips. Much rehabilitation effort was spent here especially on the 200 year old circular wall spanning nearly 6 kilometers. Although reconstructed, the fortress is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is claimed that the restoration of the structures which began in 1975 heeded the details recorded in many books on the “Flower of Fortresses”.

 

 

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The Dragon Train In Hwaseong

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Such adorable Korean kids. One big hug!

 

 

The Dragon Train unloaded a bunch of schoolkids before taking us all in for a ride around the walled fortress to check out the 4 main gates, sentry posts, centuries-old temples, towers, and command posts. We comfortably took in all the sights in the comforts of our seats on the cute-sy train. Not so when we visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace in the city center. Though manageable, we walked across and around this large palace complex which also houses the National Museum. But it was a leisurely walk around this lovingly-restored palace. It’s hard to miss as it is right smack in the capital in the vicinity of the Presidential Blue House.

 

 

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Not a mountain park. This shot was taken from Gyeongbokgung palace grounds.

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Gyeongbokgung palace complex.

 

 

What I do mind fascinating — even amusing — is how historical spots bear reminders of some Korean film or television series drama. I swear there’s even a lilt in the voice of our tour guide whenever she draws our attention to some spots where such and such drama sequences were filmed. I wish i was familiar with them. It came to a point where i actually pretended to “remember” a movie scene, if only to appease our guide. Maybe that….. Or we just wanted to move on to the next site. 😉

 

 

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Still inside Gyeongbokgung.

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MBC Dramia. Wish I know them Korean TV stars!

 

 

There was no escaping more of these spiels though when we arrived at the MBC Dramia. Think Universal Studios ……. But movies loaded with history and showcasing Korean traditions and crafts. We meandered around folk villages, traditional and royal kitchens, korean architecture, arts and crafts. There were standees of popular movie and television stars to remind where such and such scenes were filmed. Wow. These koreans surely know salesmanship. I’d even go as far as saying that they have elevated the art of salesmanship to a higher level. Talk about raising the bar for branding and marketing!

 

 

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Recreated palaces and folk villages inside MBC Dramia.

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If you’re a fan of Korean TV drama series, this should remind you of many scenes.

 

 

Palaces restored. Fortresses rehabilitated. Arts and crafts preserved. Historical sites, Korean architecture & traditions lovingly recreated. Cute-sy theme parks, museums and galleries created and reinvented. Shopping and dining experiences brought to new levels. Natural wonders preserved and respected. And how about Incheon International airport? This is Korea? I’d go back in a heartbeat!

 

 

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I’d say…… The cutest police station in the whole world.

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St. Paul’s Subterranean  River National Park in Puerto Princesa certainly deserves to count among the 7 wonders of the world.  My friends and I thought it’s about time we visit this famous underground river which has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site , and check out the many other attractions of this southern part of Palawan. We were pleasantly surprised to find many more wonders in Puerto Princesa. And this is how our adventure went.

 

St. Paul’s Underground River

 

It took us a couple of hours to reach the place.  That’s over land.  Next step is to board a boat passing limestone cliffs to reach the entrance to the underground river. The boat ride was another 30 minutes. When we got off the boat,  we found a path “guarded” by monitor lizards and swinging monkeys through this mini rainforest which led towards the river. Waiting for us at the mouth of the cave were professional guides who divided us into small groups. Each small group to a professional rower guide to each boat. While waiting for an earlier batch to come out of the cave entrance,  we listened to instructions from our guide while taking in the sights around the entrance.  I asked about this tree which must have stood by the cave entrance for many years to witness all the comings and goings in this world wonder. The Dangkalan tree is a fitting guard that stands between the open sea and the cave entrance.  By the time we were instructed to board our boat and don our helmet,  I was satisfied with the pictures I took of the lovely tree.

 

 

Inside the cave, the underground river snaked through for some 4 kilometers before we were led back the same way to get out.  We must have spent a good hour inside……..enough to see many of the stalactite and stalagmite formations. I’ve got to hand it to the guide who cheerfully flashed his light on cave formations in different shapes and sizes, resembling various fruits and vegetables, as if we were all out in the market.  There was also a spot aptly called Cathedral because of it s height which looked like an atrium with the “Holy Family” cave formation somewhere near.  We were careful to keep our  mouths shut as there were too many bats too eager to shed some droppings!

 

Iwahig Penal Colony

 

If there was ever a prison community with the most cheerful inmates, this is the place.  The penal colony spanned many hectares.  This correctional institute is really more like a farming community much like the kibbutz farms I have visited in Israel. Some prisoners lived with their families and were given lots to till to earn a living. Along the river were picnic cottages where families of other prisoners stay during “visits”.  I met an inmate there with a pet snake,  just a small one,  but no matter –  those slimy creatures still give me the creeps.  Another inmate had a pet turtle.  Still another had various handicraft products for sale.  It felt kind of strange to roam around the place, meeting inmates,  chatting with them, even haggling with them for some keychains and other souvenir wood products which they crafted with their own hands.

 

In another part of the penal colony,  we found this old structure with lovely windows. Must be at least 50 years old.  Certainly not too old,  but it’s got character.  Reminded me of some of the old structures that can be found in the old Sangley Point back in Cavite City where our family once lived.  Right beside this structure was the handicraft store.  Wooden souvenirs,  keychains,  table mats, etc were up for sale.  One can tell these prisoners had their hands full,  busy working with their hands to earn a living.  No wonder they look happy in this place.

 

Dining at Kalui’s and Badjao

 

Not to be missed are these 2 fine establishments.  Kalui’s has such a homey atmosphere where diners are asked to leave their slippers outside the hut and don house slippers while enjoying many of Kalui’s seafood delicacies.  The grilled fish selections were so yummy,  and paired with the local seagrapes salad called “lato” make for a really good lunch.  I like the ambience in this place.  It is truly an artist’s place.

 

 

Badjao Restaurant on the other is a lot bigger, built on stilts looking out into the sea.  Seafood is the place’s attraction too.  Freshly harvested prawns and lobsters, grilled tuna, and some local vegetable dishes.  I can imagine many weddings and birthdays held here.

 

Crocodile Farm in Palawan’s Wildlife Center

 

I have never been to any crocodile farm, so this is my first outing with these crocs.  Each one of us in the group was made to hold a baby croc and pose for a picture.  Naturally,  i did not pass up the opportunity.  But just like the snake,  I have no affection for these reptiles.  Forgive me. We crossed a short bridge passing a group of crocodiles who looked like they were waiting for their lunch.  Hopefully they did not expect me for lunch.

 

Viet Ville

 

On our way back to Legend Hotel where we were booked,  we stopped by this place for dinner.  We met some ex-refugees from Vietnam here.  Obviously, not everyone left for good old America.  Some chose to stay behind, and married their Filipina girlfriends.  The Vietnamese restaurant where we had dinner boasts of authentic Vietnamese cuisine.  We had the usual rolls, barbecued meats and noodle soups. We even tried their air-dried jackfruit slices.

 

Snake Island

 

We took a boat and braved the waves in Honda Bay , passing a number of islands.   We chose to eat our lunch of grilled fish, salted eggs with tomatoes,  mangoes with bagoong (shrimp paste), and rice in Snake Island.  We also found a couple of snorkelling guides who  found the perfect spot for us to see schools of fish.  Frankly,  I was a bit scared venturing out in open sea.  My guide was kind of advanced in years and I was praying he won’t have an attack while watching out for me.  Tried hard not to panic, and simply enjoyed snorkelling.

 

Mitra’s House

 

The house of the late Congressman Mitra is atop a hill and provided a lovely view of Honda Bay.  It was also a house with a unique architecture…………round in shape,  with wooden balcony rails to hem in the tourists enjoying the panoramic view.  Inside the house, one finds pictures of the entire family.  The caretaker still speaks lovingly of the late Speaker of the House.  As do most people from Palawan. What a waste.  Now, we’d never know if Mitra could have been the republic’s greatest ever president.

 

Read also my Palawan blog in TravelBlog.  More photos can be viewed there.