Birds eye view of Athens from Mount Lycabettus

Standard

Mount Lycabettus, pronounced [likaviˈtos], is a Cretaceous limestone hill in Athens, Greece. At 277 meters (908 feet) above sea level, the hill is the highest point in the city that surrounds it. Pine trees cover its base, and at its two peaks are the 19th century Chapel of St. George, a theatre, and a restaurant.

The hill is a popular tourist destination and can be ascended by the Lycabettus Funicular, a funicular railway which climbs the hill from a lower terminus at Kolonaki (The railway station can be found at Aristippou street). Lycabettus appears in various legends. Popular stories suggest it was once the refuge of wolves, possibly the origin of its name (which means “the one (the hill) that is walked by wolves”). Mythologically, Lycabettus is credited to Athena, who created it when she dropped a mountain she had been carrying from Pallene for the construction of the Acropolis after the box holding Erichthonius was opened. The hill also has a large open-air theater at the top, which has housed many Greek and international concerts.

Panoramic views from Lycabettus are amazing, so is the evening breeze!

Visited in 2009, Travel Packaging by True Blue Holidays

Advertisements

Philippines: Land of smiles, Sleepy volcanoes & More…

Standard

The Philippines is defined by its emerald rice fields, teeming megacities, graffiti-splashed jeepneys (Americans left behind their Air/ Naval Bases & Jeeps…Jeeps were then modified to be called as “Jeepni” and used extensively for inexpensive public transport), over burdened PadJak (motorized trishaw: usually a bike (Honda 100-150cc) with a side car with capacity to seat from 2-6 persons apart from the bike pillion), smouldering volcanoes, bug- eyed tarsiers, fuzzy water buffalo and smiling, happy- go-lucky people.

Worlds third largest English speaking nation, which supplies skilled workforce to many parts of the world. Most of us would have met at least one smiling Filipino in one of the restaurants/ airport duty free shops!

The Philippines is a land apart from mainland Southeast Asia – not only geographically but also spiritually and culturally. The country’s overwhelming Catholicism, the result of 350 years of Spanish rule, is its most obvious enigma. Vestiges of the Spanish era include exuberant town fiestas (festivals) like Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan, unique Spanish-Filipino colonial architecture, and exquisite, centuries-old stone churches lording over bustling town plazas. Malls, fast-food chains and widespread spoken English betray the influence of Spain’s colonial successor, the Americans. Yet despite these outside influences, the country remains very much its own unique entity. The people are, simply, Filipinos – and proud of it. Welcoming, warm and relentlessly upbeat, it is they who captivate and ultimately ensnare visitors. (text adapted from LP)

Visited in August 2012: four day visit can just be a curtain riser for exploring this diverse country!

Day1: Arrival & Transfer by road to Clarks city: formerly an American air base, abandoned after a volcanic eruption. Now a special economic zone, with neat infrastructure & attached entertainment hub.

Day2: Puning hot springs 4X4 safari, in the Mount Pinatubo range (which last erupted in 1991 forcing Americans to abandon their air base!), Nayong Filipino Park, Clarks city Air force museum

Day3: Manila city, Intramuros, Fort Bonifacio (With a total of 17,206 graves, it is the largest cemetery in the Pacific for U.S. personnel killed during World War II. The tombstones are from Tivoli, near Rome, Italy. Also listed are 32685 missing in action soldiers names…Cross represents a soldier with faith in christianity, star- jewish…)

Day4: Lake Taal (world’s largest lake on an island in a lake on an island, and it in turn contains its own small island, Vulcan Point), Visit to the “Palace in the Sky” built by dictator Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos…at Tagaytay.

Pushkar: Blue Lotus & Brahma…

Standard

Brahma dropped a lotus flower on the earth – so say the epics – and Pushkar floated to the surface. This Hindu pilgrimage town is a magical desert-edged place, with one of the world’s few Brahma temples. (other Brahma Temples around the world are in  Bithoor/ Uttar Pradesh; Asotra,Barmer/ Rajasthan; Uttamar Kovil,Srirangam/ Tamil Nadu; Mother Temple of Besakih,Bali/ Indonesia; Prambanan,Yogyakarta/ Indonesia). Rows of sacred ghats (52, one for each erstwhile princely states of India) front a mystically magnetic lake, where hundreds of milky-coloured temples and weather-touched domes sit beneath a shifting, pale grey sky.

Smooth operators abound though, as dodgy priests try to outwit pious pilgrims who are intoxicated by God or bhang (marijuana) but are either way enchanted by this much feted low-rent paradise.

Things to Do & See

Attend Pushkar Fair/Mela: 20-28 November 2012: period of relaxation and merry-making for the villagers. This fair time is the most busy time for them, as this is one of the largest cattle fairs in the country. Animals, including over 50,000 camels, are brought from miles around to be traded and sold. Trading is brisk as several thousand heads of cattle exchange hands. All the camels are cleaned, washed, adorned, some are interestingly shorn to form patterns, and special stalls are set up selling finery and jewellery for the camels. Become the hero of the Mela: participate in the “matka phod”, “longest moustache”, and other rural games… Pushkar Lake:The prime attraction of Pushkar is the Pushkar Lake which is considered sacred. Beware of touts and priests, who may force you to perform religious offerings to your forefathers! Brahma Temple: The most important temple in Pushkar is the Temple of Lord Brahma, one of the holy trinity of Hinduism. Also found in the temple are smaller temples for Narada…No cameras allowed. Savitri Temple: This temple that is located at the top of the Ratnagiri Hill is dedicated to Savitri, the wife of Lord Brahma. The temple houses a statue of Goddess Savitri. At present needs a trek on flight of good steps (first 2/3), bad steps (last lap), usually covered in 45 min. Offers panoramic views of Pushkar. A cable car project has started, likely to cause more pollution and crowding on this hilltop. Ajmer: It is a pilgrimage centre for the shrine of the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

Jaipur to Pushkar: 90 minute drive, day trip (8 am to 4 pm), Ex Jaipur: 3500 inclusive of toll (in Toyota Innova)

Prasat Sut Ja-Tum: Sanctuary of Truth, Pattaya, Thailand

Standard

Not many, who visit Pattaya are aware of this unusual temple – Sanctuary of Truth! Due to the relatively high entry fee (and maybe lack of “incentive” to tour operators), this spot hardly makes it to the itinerary of a tourist visiting Thailand on a packaged program.

Once you reach the gate of this massive temple complex on the Rachvate Cape, you will need to buy the ticket. From the gate to the temple there would be a complimentary horse carriage ride. The 105 mt tall wooden temple complex is completely built with Burmese Teak & is constructed to withstand the wind and sunshine on the seashore.

The project was initiated as an idea of Thai businessman Lek Viriyaphant in 1981, and is scheduled to be complete in 2025. Currently the project is being carried forward by his son…

The building is being constructed according to ancient Thai ingenuity and every square inch of the building is covered with wooden carved sculpture. Temple has a simple design, where four wings emanate from a central sanctum. Each wing has depiction of stories from Ramayana, Mahabharatha & Vedas. However, in the words of the builder, “The purposes of decoration with wooden carved sculptures are to use art and culture as the reflection of Ancient Vision of Earth, Ancient  Knowledge,  and  Eastern Philosophy. Within this complex, visitors  will  understand  Ancient  Life,  Human  Responsibility, Basic Thought, Cycle of living, Life Relationship with Universe and Common Goal of Life toward Utopia”…mmm, his intentions are as complicated as the carvings!

The Sanctuary of Truth presents seven creators through carved wood sculptures which adorn its interior. They are: Heaven , Earth , Father , Mother , Moon , Sun and Stars.

Construction is still in progress (construction started 20 years ago, might need 5 more years for completion).

Additional activity: Boat ride, Speed boat, Dolphin Show, Foot Massage, Elephant ride, Horse carriage ride, Paint Ball, ATV rides, Candle lit dinner, Souvenir shop, cafeteria… Address: Sanctuary of Truth, Rachvate Cape, Tumbon Naklea, Amphur Banglamung, Chon Buri Province

Entry fee: Adult: 700 Baht, Child: 400 Baht, Taxi from Jomtien Beach: 20 Baht. Though windy, light clothing is recommended. Sun protection++

First visited in 2007, Last visited in 2009.

Photos shot with Canon 30D, Sigma 18-200, Hoya PL