Thursday, February 20, 2014

Beautiful Sharjah

I first read/heard of Sharjah in my early stamp collecting days when it featured the hard-to-obtain  Beethoven stamp which I collect until this day (There are more than 200 stamps of Beethoven and I have at least 150 of them). In the 70's when the UAE was not yet rich as it is today, novelty stamps would be featured by that country to raise some extra revenues.  I got their novelty Beethoven stamp on gold and silver foil which was issued in 1970. This stamp cost around P500 today.  During those days, I memorized all the 7 emirates by heart never had I imagined that I would be visiting 4 of them someday.  

Sharjah is a beautiful city less than an hours drive from Dubai.  I stayed at Hilton hotel at very cheap rates at Booking.com which I booked a month in advance. I have booked through this site in my previous travels to Paris, Yogyakarta and Siem Reap and they give "secret deals" to frequent "bookers".  I was lucky to have gotten this deal.  The nice thing with Booking.com is that you can cancel any reservation at least a day prior and they don't charge you a cent. At the Hilton, the mostly Filipino staff  were very friendly and helpful and made me feel at home. The Hilton view was magnificent overlooking a lake and the wonderful city skyline.  The city center is just a few meters away and bustles with more activity at night.  I had a blast taking pictures and the scenery really brings night photography to a whole new level.  I was glad I brought my reliable and super-lightweight Sirui tripod. I took several pictures of the mosque, cityscape and lake-views and enjoyed every minute of it!  I didn't realize it was almost midnight (4am RP time) and after a few minutes walk, I was back in my cozy hotel.  The next day I ventured to Al Ain, an ancient city of Abu Dhabi emirate.

I had a memorable time in Sharjah, far away lands on my stamps, now I am treading on.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Cultural Sites of Al Ain

After an hour and a half drive from Dubai, one arrives in Al Ain, a small but vibrant city which is a part of Abu Dhabi, one of the the seven emirates. It borders Oman so a few more steps and you are in another country.  Tourist beware though of taking pictures near the border because the Omanis are strict and you can be reprimanded.  Always bring your passport wherever you go around UAE because you might be crossing borders without being aware of it.  The serial property of The Cultural Sites of Al Ain, with its various component parts and the regional context in which it is situated, provides testimony to ancient sedentary human occupation in a desert region. Occupied continuously since the Neolithic, the region presents vestiges of numerous prehistoric cultures, notably from the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

Al Ain is situated at the crossroads of the ancient land routes between Oman, the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf and Mesopotamia. Very diverse in nature, the tangible elements of the property include remains of circular stone tombs and settlements from the Hafit and Hili periods, wells and partially underground aflaj irrigation systems, oases and mud brick constructions assigned to a wide range of defensive, domestic and economic purposes. This expertise in construction and water management enabled the early development of agriculture for five millennia, up until the present day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Anthem Postmark from Ettelbruck

Ettelbruck  is a commune with city status in central Luxembourg, with a population of approximately 7,500. As of 2005, the town of Ettelbruck itself, which lies in the east of the commune, has a population of 6,191. The town of Warken and Grentzingen are also within the commune. Until 1850, both Erpeldange Schieren were part of the Ettelbruck commune as well, but both towns were detached from Ettelbruck by law on 1 July 1850.

This first day cover was issued on June 13, 1989 with special FDC postmark to commemmorate the 12th Anniversary of the Premiere Execution d Hymne National.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Stamps from Suzhou

I got hold of this wonderful tri-fold stamp set from Suzhou post inside the Humble Administrator's Garden  for 75 Yuan.  The first set of four stamps features the land and waters-capes of the garden, the middle set portrays the art of Suzhou and the miniature set shows an example of the flora of the garden.  The garden had a long history of destruction and modification, changing under several owners  (at least 7 times) along the way until inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997.

On the Zhuozhengyuan's site was first built a garden during the Shaoxing period (1131-1162) of the Southern Song Dynasty. Afterwards it changed ownership, and was destroyed or modified continually.  It was the residence and garden of Lu Guimeng, a Tang Dynasty scholar. Later in the Yuan Dynasty it became the Dahong Temple's garden. In 1513 CE, Wang Xiancheng, an Imperial Envoy and poet of the Ming Dynasty created a garden on the site of the dilapidated Dahong Temple which had been burnt during the Ming conquest. In 1510, he retired to his native home of Suzhou under the occasion of his father's death. He had experienced a tumultuous official life punctuated by various demotions and promotions, and gave up his last official post as magistrate of Yongjia county in Zhejiang province, and began to work on the garden. This garden, meant to express his fine taste, received close attention from the renowned artist, Suzhou native, and friend, Wen Zhengming. The garden was named after a verse by the famous scholar official of the Jin Dynasty, Pan Yue, it his prose, An Idle Life, "I enjoy a carefree life by planting trees and building my own house...I irrigate my garden and grow vegetables for me to eat...such a life suits a retired official like me well."

Wang's son lost the garden to pay gambling debts, and it has changed hands many times since. In 1631 CE The eastern garden was divided from the rest and purchased by , Vice Minister of the Justice Board. He added many modifications over the next four years, finishing work in 1635 CE. After completion it was renamed Dwelling Upon Return to the Countryside. The central garden was purchased by Jiang Qi, Governor of Jiangsu in 1738 CE. After extensive renovations he renamed it Garden Rebuilt. In 1860, it became the residence of a Taiping prince, Li Xiucheng , and it was remodelled, and the current aspect of the garden is said to be inherited from this period. Also in 1738 CE the Western Garden was purchased by Ye Shikuan Chief Histographer, and renamed The Garden of Books. The Garden of Books was purchased by a Suzhou merchant, Zhang Lüqian, in 1877 CE and renamed The Subsidiary Garden. In 1949 all three parts of the garden were rejoined by the Chinese government and subsequently opened to the public, then restored in 1952. In 1997 the garden was given UNESCO World Heritage status.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Humble Administrator's Garden- A Unesco Classical Garden of Suzhou

After a quick 30 minute bullet train ride from Shanghai train station distancing 100 kilometers, one arrives at Suzhou, a beautiful ancient city which was originally built in the fourth year of the Zhengde period of the Ming dynasty.  The Humble Administrator's Garden, covering 5.2 hectares is one of the four most famous gardens in China.  It is divided into the eastern, middle and western parts.  Centering around the broad expanse of a lake, the poetic and picturesque garden landscapes and waters-capes with exquisite buildings and luxuriant vegetation, seems to be changing at every step and awakening reminisces of the Venetian scenes in the area south of the lower Yangtze.  These scenes are rustic,archaic, extensive and naturalistic.  As a whole, it has kept the style of the Ming dynasty and was inscribed on the UNESCO World heritage list in 2007.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Yogyakarta's Borobudur

Borobudur, or Barabudur, is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside a perforated stupa. Built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty, the temple's design in Gupta architecture reflects India's influence on the region. It also depicts the gupta style from India and shows influence of Buddhism as well as Hinduism. The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). 

The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the walls and the balustrades. Evidence suggest Borobudur was constructed in the 9th century and abandoned following the 14th century decline of Hindu kingdoms in Java, and the Javanese conversion to Islam. Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparked in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, following which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage

Friday, August 30, 2013

Candi Prambanan Temple

Candi Prambanan or Candi Rara Jonggrang is a 9th-century Hindu temple compound in Central Java, Indonesia, dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). The temple compound is located approximately 18 kilometres (11 mi) east of the city of Yogyakarta on the boundary between Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces. The temple compound, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia, and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. It is characterized by its tall and pointed architecture, typical of Hindu temple architecture, and by the towering 47-metre-high (154 ft) central building inside a large complex of individual temples.Prambanan attracts many visitors from across the world.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thang Long Imperial Citadel in Hanoi

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is the cultural complex comprising the royal enclosure first built during the Lý Dynasty and subsequently expanded by the Trần, Lê and finally the Nguyễn Dynasty. The ruins roughly coincide with the Hanoi Citadel today. The royal palaces and most of the structures in Thang Long were in varying states of disrepair by the late 19th century with the upheaval of the French conquest of Hanoi. By the 20th century many of the remaining structures were torn down. Only in the 21st century are the ruin foundations of Thang Long Imperial City systematically excavated. The central sector of the imperial citadel was listed in UNESCO's World Heritage Site on July 31, 2010 at its session in Brazil.

Remains of the Imperial City were discovered on the site of the former Ba Đình Hall when the structure was torn down in 2008 to make way for a new parliament building. Various archaeological remains unearthed were brought to the National Museum to be exhibited. Thus far only a small fraction of Thăng Long has been excavated. Hanoi Flag Tower Main article: Flag Tower of Hanoi Among the structures related to the Imperial City is the Flag Tower of Hanoi . Rising to a height of 33.4 m (41 m with the flag), it is frequqently used as a symbol of the city. Built in 1812 during the Nguyen Dynasty, the tower, unlike many other structures in Hanoi, was spared during the French colonial rule (1885–1954) as it was used as a military post.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Majestic Halong Bay in Vietnam

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, located in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam. Administratively, the bay belongs to Hạ Long City, Cẩm Phả town, and part of Van Don district. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. Ha Long Bay is a center of a larger zone which includes Bái Tử Long bay to the northeast, and Cát Bà islands to the southwest. These larger zones share similar geological, geographical, geomorphological, climate, and cultural characters. Ha Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960–2,000 islets, most of which are limestone. The core of the bay has an area of 334 km2 with a high density of 775 islets. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate. The geo-diversity of the environment in the area has created biodiversity, including a tropical evergreen biosystem, oceanic and sea shore biosystem.Ha Long Bay is home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species. 

Historical research surveys have shown the presence of prehistorical human beings in this area tens of thousands years ago. The successive ancient cultures are the Soi Nhụ culture around 18,000–7000 BC, the Cái Bèo culture 7000–5000 BC and the Hạ Long culture 5,000–3,500 years ago. Hạ Long Bay also marked important events in the history of Vietnam with many artifacts found in Bài Thơ Mout, Đầu Gỗ Cave, Bãi Cháy. 500 years ago, Nguyen Trai praised the beauty of Hạ Long Bay in his verse Lộ nhập Vân Đồn, in which he called it "rock wonder in the sky". In 1962, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of North Vietnam listed Hạ Long Bay in the National Relics and Landscapes publication. In 1994, the core zone of Hạ Long Bay was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site according to criterion vii, and listed for a second time according to criterion viii.