Wednesday, September 1, 1999

Korea - Gyeongju

Gyeongju used to be the Capital of Shilla dynasty where the Buddhism flourished. Despite the long lost dynasty, the temples and beauty of the Shilla remains here.
The view from the top of the mountain temple where one of the largest stone sculpture of Buddha remains is spectaculous!

Seokguram Grotto

More info on Seokguram Grotto (Mt. Tohamsan) UNESCO World Heritage site

Entrance to any Buddhist temple, there are four statue of the keepers of underworld. They warn us, before we enter, not to live a life of bad deeds.

Temple Entrance
Inside the worshiping area of temple. There are many golden statues and beautiful designs inside. 
Inside a rich temple
The worshiping areas are located inside the naturally formed caves in the mountain.
The Buddha is carved on the naturally formed stone mountain. It is steep area, but the climb is worthwhile...

Golgulsa (Stone Buddha Temple)
More on Golgulsa (Stone Buddha Temple)

Bulguksa is considered one of the most beautiful Buddhist temple and its two beautiful Pagodas are the prizes of the temple. There is a sad story behind them.

Bulguksa Temple

The story artist was called to build the second pagoda after the first one. He went, promising her that when the pagoda is finished, she will see him where the shadow of pagoda touches. When the construction was over, she went to meet him at the shadow, but he was no where in sight.
Fearing his death, she killed herself by jumping into the pond. He came later, after being detained by the commissioner. Knowing his wife's fate, he also killed himself.  

Two beautiful pagodas in Bulguksa

Two beautiful pagodas in Bulguksa

More on Bulguksa temple UNESCO world heritage site

The Kings and Queens of Shilla dynasty was buries inside a huge mound of earth, almost like the pharaohs of Egypt. Many beautiful artifacts were found when these tombs were 
Tombs of kings and queens of Shilla dynasty

More on Daereung-won Tumuli Park (Cheonmachong Tomb)

Books about Korea:
Culture Shock! Korea: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette (Culture Shock! Guides) Insight Guide Korea (Insight Guides)

Friday, July 23, 1999

U.S. - CA (Northern)

San Francisco
San Francisco...has become the city of the night.
If you have read Interview with Vampire, you might perhaps understand the dark streets of San Francisco and why vampires might wander there.
Do you remember that first scene in the Interview with the Vampire? That small abandoned flat where Louis agrees to do an interview.
Just picture that scene...
and look at the picture to the right.
Victorian Houses in San Francisco
San Francisco, in the middle of the night you can see the clock tower gate illuminated with light...
Clock tower Bridge
Golden gate bridge is a signature image of San Francisco. Many days of the year, it is surrounded by a fog.
Do you know that the painters who paint Golden gate bridge never stops? When they finish painting, they have to start back all over again from the beginning.

Golden gate bridge (From across the city)
Fisherman's wharf has many sailboats, including some beautiful ones.
Fisherman's Wharf
Of course, having some clam chowder and seafood is a must to do for the wharf area, even if it is a bit of touristy thing to do. Taste the clam Chowder from this restaurant in a hole. You will never be able to forget it even if you've had to eat it on the street.  
Fisherman's wharf
Although at this point, all the sea lions have left the pier, there is nevertheless no shortage of travelers there.
Besides the joy of being able to browse the souvenir shops full of little trinkets, you can see the whole city from the top of Pier 32.

Right next to the Exploratorium, you will see beautiful old fine arts buildings. Of course, people recognize those structures as more of a landmark than the Exploratorium. It is a beautiful park at any time.
Palace of Fine Arts
Stroll around this beautiful park.
You will feel like you have traveled back in time.

Palace of Fine Arts
Palace of Fine Arts
After so much walking, of course one needs to go indulge oneself. Where else but to get some chocolates at Ghirardelli place? Or if you are more of an ice cream fan, you can die by chocolate ice cream.
Ghiradelli chocolate shop
Books about San Francisco:


Hearst Castle (San Simeon, CA)
Hearst Castle stands on top of a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, somewhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It is an impressive achievement of a man who owned a Media empire.
Unfortunately, no one is allowed to roam around this grand structure. There are five different tours and every one of them starts at the Neptune pool.
The water was so inviting that I wanted to jump in regardless of the tour rules.
Neptune Pool
I guess a little history of the Castle is in order. After watching the National Geographic documentary on WR Hearst, I have some idea of the history behind this castle.
Neptune from the side
WR Heart's father was a very determined smart man. He came to California looking for gold, but became rich from the silver...which he had to transport hundreds of treacherous mountain road to sell. With that money, he began to buy ranch land of California.
One of the Entry way into the Hearst Castle. Imagine getting out of the limousine, walking down the path into the grand house...past the Neptune pool, past the amazing vista of the San Simeon. It must have been a dream for those famous. 
Entry way behind Neptune Pool
WR Hearst's father married a very smart, well educated woman. I would say another good move on his part. She gave her love of travel and art to WR Hearst. At least that is why his Castle looks something close to an "Antique warehouse". He has gotten the love, but I guess not completely a taste to display it in the way of a real European house.
There were three guest houses on top of the main house (Casa Grande). Casa del Monte, which faced the mountains, Casa del Mar, faced the ocean, and Casa del sol.

Main House (Casa de Grande)
All the rooms in guest houses were lavishly decorated with the antique furniture and ceilings of many different Spanish and Italian areas.
From the Casa del Monte, you can see a great view of San Simeon. All the land you could see, and more were all owned by WR Hearst's father.

One of the guest houses
Books about Hearst Castle:

Solvang (Dutch town)

Saturday, May 1, 1999

Taiwan - Taipei

Views of the National Museum in Taipei. All the treasures of China are here. It is said by sheer man power, the treasures were moved from Forbidden city all around China and to Taiwan, without breaking a single vase.
There is so much treasure here that most of them are locked inside the vault inside the mountain seen behind the museum.  It's said that to see all the treasures, one has to go to the museum every day for four years...or some ridiculous amount of time like that.

National Museum
Taiwan was full of Chiang Kai Shek memorials, gardens, monuments...
So called the father of the country resides everywhere.
The one with blue roof is Chiang Kai Shek memorial with his bronze statue inside.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
They open late at night, little street full of trinket stores and restaursnts. It is a real treat...literally and figuratively.

The night market in Taipei

Buddhist temples are often seen in the city.
The temples contain tribute to Buddha as well as other gods. They are very different from the Buddhism seen in Japan or Korea. Their temples are very elaborate with decorations on the rooftops and they believe in other gods besides Buddha.

Buddhist temple

Books about Taiwan and Taipei:
THE LADY AND THE TIGER: A memoir of Taiwan, the Republic of China
Travel Guides:
Taipei In A Day Includes: Taiwan From A To Z, First EditionThe Rough Guide to Taiwan 1 (Rough Guide Travel Guides) Vignettes of Taiwan