Posts Tagged With: UNESCO site

INDIA’S QUTAB MINAR, A UNESCO SITE

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Today, we visit Qutab Minar, a World Heritage site. UNESCO means the site is preserved by all nations because it is so beautiful and special that it is cherished by the whole world.

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As we walk toward the first set of  buildings, Hugo, always injects humor into everything we do. What a delight to have him on the trip. We rarely see a waste container, but India has a program called Keep India Clean. I’ll talk some about that later.

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The first thing we come to is this wall with two domes and a tower. The tower is the main attraction, but I don’t know how special it is yet.

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I got distracted by these beautiful parakeets on one dome. They are most likely the pigeons we do not revere in the U.S.

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Inscribed rocks in the wall reflect reused materials from a former life and then built into this 12th century edifice.

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Our guide leads us to this structure that Theo is photographing.dsc09518-copy

She explains what a perfect place to frame a picture of this 234 foot high tower. dsc09498-copy

This makes a nice photo too, but it does not do justice to the tower.

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A closer look. These columns are circular near the top and made of curved bricks.

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An even closer look gives a better perspective of it’s great beauty. Nearer to the ground, the tower meshes square columns and circular columns of brick, an astonishing feat.  To me, just viewing a building from the 12th Century boggles my mind.

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This is the entrance to the tower, though it is closed to the public. The tower  measures 14.2 meters in circumference at the base and 2.7 meters at the top. The original builder of this tower died before it was finished and a second Ind0-Islamic architect finished it.  It was twice struck by lightening and repaired, the last time in 1503.

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The ornate carvings into the gate and walls leave you in awe.

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Our guide points out a section of wall restored.  I am thrilled and grateful that UNESCO has preserved this site from ruin.

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On the other side of the gate, we run into a group of school children. They are as fascinated by we tourists as we are of them.

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Children are so direct. They instantly bridge distances and you realize how alike all cultures are.

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Every surface of the gates-the arches are carved with exquisite designs.

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This arched gate is a mixture of sandstone and marble.

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Words pale.

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Another window.

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And another window.

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The grounds here are extensive and I mainly concentrated on close ups of the decoration. The square column in the middle is helping hold up what was part of the original structure. dsc09574-copy

This is the entrance to a tomb best explained by a sign. The white contrasting marble reminds me of ivory.

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Marble carving was perfected in ancient times and no one could afford to have such work done in this day and age.

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This site, the tower, the amazing history. If that wasn’t enough, we have this famous iron pillar that does not rust. This great pillar carried an effigy of the great God Vishnu. It was moved here in…well, let the sign tell the story.

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Brought here in the 11th century A.D.?   It makes me dizzy.

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Another close-up of marvelous design that defines this whole complex.

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We say goodbye to Qutab Minar…

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…and pass the well as we leave. It too, was decorated but not as elaborately as the main buildings.

 

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THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN

It is an early October  morning and our tour bus takes us to the Temple of Heaven, another UNESCO site. We see buses with people on their way to work, like these women catching a cat nap. Vicki, our guide,  tells us Chinese laborers put in long hours for low pay.

This orange hooded stand is a telephone booth, simple, protected from the weather, low-cost.  You have to respect the design. Although, like the US, cell phones are seen  all over China,  more than in my neighborhood.  (Remember this is 2006.)  The street scenes are so interesting here but  I was using a new digital and still taking pictures as though each picture would be developed and being very conservative, not knowing how many pictures would fit on the sandisk. At that time I hadn’t heard of a cyber album where I now keep my pictures.

We entered the complex through a park with many squares. Our first encounter was a group of people doing ball room dancing. We watched for a while.  A single man asked me and another woman from our group to dance. This is very common in China, morning exercise with a huge group.

The next square held a group of people line dancing.  Wanning Determan, in red and my partner Michal joined them. What an enjoyable way to start the day.

This group was performing a kind of fast clapping exercise designed for mental alertness. In between the clapping they make foot figures and turn around and start again, sometimes hands raised above their heads.  Quite tricky and challenging. Like line dancing, they follow a leader in this exercise that also has music to it.

This group, at a distant square,  practices a graceful flag dance.

This group is doing Tai Chi. I’ve tried it since my China visit, and it is harder than it looks. Great for balance and coordination.

This group was doing a type of  Tai Chi with paddles and balls, very difficult Vicki informed us. I was quite taken by the vast amount of people who exercise. It is easy to see why you rarely encounter an overweight  person in China.

We finally arrive at the entrance gate to the Temple of Heaven.

Before passing through the gate,  I grabbed a picture of the ornate decoration under the eaves and you can see the parade of  protective lions on the roof.

The Temple sits on vast square all the way around it.  It is the tallest round building in the world.  At one time animal sacrifices were done here and the meat cooked and eaten  in a great kitchen/dining room.

You enter by way of this huge marble staircase.

Each newel post is carved, each one different.  The rails have decorative carvings. This stairway was meant to last forever.

The unique building is highly decorated with the typical colors of the day. The Chinese people love the color red and you see it in their special places.

Inside, the building is held up by a series of beautifully decorated columns. They all have gold leaf. Magnificent and irreplaceable.

A close-up of the dragon on the roof.  It is no surprise the temple is a UNESCO treasure.

On the way out we passed through the Long Hall which is really long. Without the measurements, I would guess it is the length of a city block.

It is kind of fun to observe the Chinese people.  We are curious about them and they are open and friendly and curious about us, as well though we can’t speak their language, this mother was obviously enjoying all the fuss over her cute little girl. The wooden stroller is unique.

Instead of a cloth sling, this woman carries her baby in a bamboo slat basket.

As we left, a lone woman was practicing her banner exercise.

As we left the temple, we passed the last remaining gate from Mongolian times hovering above the Ring Road that replaced the feudal walls and surrounds the city. Mau was smart enough to preserve it for posterity. It was through this gate the people, dignitaries, and the privileged few passed to have access to their leaders and protection from enemies.

 

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A CHINESE CEMETERY

We leave Kunming on the bus headed for Guilin. On the way we stop at a poor Suni Yi village that  still functions much like it has for hundreds of years. It has been insulated from tourists until recently when the village and its cemetery were designated a UNESCO site. Most of the houses are ramshackle. Some have tin roofs, some have straw. Some keep pigs next to their houses.

Raw sewage runs into a ditch down the street; garbage is strewn on the ground everywhere.  You understand very quickly what life was like, and still is,  for some ethnic minorities in China.

The Suni Yi believe spider webs are good luck and they don’t remove them from doorways, alleys or houses.

The women work together to remove corn from the cobs. The crop is shared among the families. It appears to be the major crop in this area. Front right is the village adobe mixer.

They have many uses for the fibrous husks and don’t throw them out.

Clearly visible on this building, the many layers of time. On the right, is a slap dash repair. The center is from an earlier time. Above and on the left are different materials.

Here, too, you can see the different style of adobe bricks and stucco that went into repairs over the years.

Like all Chinese, they adore their children. During the enforced one child per family policy ethnic minority people are allowed two children per family. The Chinese government enforces this with ostracism. An unregistered child is shunned by neighbors; he cannot get work as an adult, no one is allowed to hire him.  His parents also suffer; they lose jobs and get punished in many, small ways. Farm people didn’t exactly have “jobs” like city people before collective farming. And now, collective farming  has been discontinued.   At one time they gave out free condoms and demonstrated them by showing how to use them by slipping  them on their fingers. So the farmers put the condoms on fence posts, tree branches and anything but their privates thinking they would work.
The people here are not used to big noses parading through their village and they are a bit shy. Vicki asked us not to give them money and turn them into beggars. But, you can see the dollar bill in this little boys hand. One of our group “forgot”.  It won’t be long before tourism will negatively and positively affect their  lives.

We barely give the above ground  cemetery a passing glance. It is unkempt and overgrown with weeds.

From past experiences,  UNESCO sites usually have some great beauty, but this site was chosen for its historical significance and rarity. Above ground cemeteries have not been allowed in China for several centuries. By law,  bodies must be cremated.

As we leave the village, this woman is headed for the fields with her child on her back. You can tell the dog has had recent puppies and we wonder…

Happy children play on the street. They don’t know they are poor when they get enough to eat, have loving parents, and adequate shelter.

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THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN

These first two days in Mt.Vernon, I’ve swam, walked the grounds, rested and re-oriented myself to life in a motor home. Today, we will Ferry to Orcas Island and explore. In the meantime, I’m enjoying my pictures from China that I rescued from my old Mac.

As we approach the Temple of Heaven, we see street scenes like this, mobs of bicycles. From our bus we notice tired commuters trying to catch up on their sleep. The Chinese people work very hard under difficult conditions.

Entrance to the grounds is through several gates; an openness the Chinese people  treasure after the ring of three  feudal system walls, the Mongolians erected, were torn down by Chairman Mau. He replaced them by three ring roads, in all the cities that had the walls.

The grounds surrounding the temple is a huge complex with squares, grassy park areas and woods. The first square we come to is filled with ballroom dancers. This is early morning, and nearly all Chinese exercise in the morning, together, in public areas like this. Our guide invites us to join the dancers if we like. One man asked me to dance and I did. Like us, a senior with gray hair, but  strong and muscular. You rarely see a fat person in China.

Michal joined the single dancers on the next square over.

Part of the joy of visiting the Temple Of Heaven was strolling the beautiful grounds and watching the people. Here exercisers perform a  swirling banner dance with graceful ballet like movements.

At this square the people were clapping their hands and changing positions in a very rhythmic  fast-paced way. We enjoyed several groups of  typical tai chai movements.  One group did tai chai while holding balls and paddles. Amazing. Here houses are small so big body movements are only possible  in the parks. They don’t appear to have gyms as we know them.

And, finally, the temple itself. Everything here is so huge, it is difficult to get a picture up close, at least with my camera. This temple is a UNESCO (World Heritage) site. At one time, animal sacrifices were done here and the meat cooked and eaten in the “great” kitchen. The temple is the tallest round building in the world.

Carved column and rail as on the temple stairs.

In the vast interior of the temple, your flash is almost useless. Instead, we were astounded at the beauty of the building; the priceless labors from ancient times that went into building and designing it.  Some things are enjoyable but do not translate to a camera such as mine.

The outer facade of the temple. Not difficult to understand why it is a world-class heritage site. The Temple of Heaven was the province of the Emperor, his family, consorts and servants. The public did not worship here.

And the long hall is really, really long.

A roof corner decoration detail.

We repaired to a Chinese restaurant for lunch.

No matter where you are, the appeal of little children is the same.

But only in China will you find a roof  like this.

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FRIED RAT AND OTHER TREATS


On the road again today to Phitsanulok. Panu, man of many talents, teaches us about the National Anthem and the Kings Anthem, but we especially enjoyed his demonstration of traditional Thai clothing both male and female. He teaches us how to tie the sarong and why it holds up. Clothing so cleverly useful and cool, we all want one. One of his jobs is to find rest stops along the way which isn’t quite as easy as in the U.S. But our first stop on this trip was non parriel. I loved this wonderful black sticky rice cooked in a bamboo stick so much, I found bamboo sticks to take home and try it.

Here Susan kind of trepiditiously tastes a spoonful of the sweet concoction made with black eyed peas, black rice, (we know the sticky comes from tapioca flour) and coconut milk.
Equally fascinating was the special grill used to cook these bamboo tubes of rice over coals. The operator, wearing thick gloves, would turn them from one side to the other as they cooked. An amazing treat.

I mentioned roadside rests and here we stopped at this rock quarry because they have a bathroom, that is, a “Happy Room”. We all loved this pose of Adria with camera and cousin Wendy still dressed in Thai pants that she modeled on the bus. Pants with no buttons or ties, just a simple, single piece of cloth. Can you tell we are having fun?
Our next roadside rest brought us to a fried rat stand. Gophers or some other larger rodent with buck teeth was also for sale along with small hens. And, yes, several of us agreed we wanted to taste fried rat so Panu bought one for our lunch.
Soon we arrived at a quaint and lovely market that has just been issued its UNESCO credential. The town is Uthaithani and the market is superbly clean and picturesque. The picture below shows the town from the bridge.
This is a rural town and the market is not so hectic as others we’ve visited. The woman below quietly sews on her wares while people browse.
The fish and vegetables and fruits are beautifully laid out. We find soups and rice dishes and what looks like coconut ice and milk shakes. Wood carvings, steel knives and tools; musical instruments and toys. Silks and rugs and wall hangings and purses. It is instantly evident why it received the coveted UNESCO rating. For those unfamiliar with UNESCO, these heritage sites are considered historically unique and worth saving for all mankind. And, collectively, many nations contribute to keep these sites for posterity so they don’t fade away with progress and social change.

Here Panu slogs through the various patterns to keep all of us happy as we choose a sarong. Our group sort of overwhelmed the proprietor who was trying to keep up with our choices.

We then board the Khiri Nava, a large traditional rice barge and cruise past peaceful scenes of river life while enjoying lunch.
Fish is often served whole with head and tail intact.
The buffet lunch was delicious, and, for a few of us, the fried rat was an experience. For my taste, though it resembled crispy fried chicken, I would have preferred it to be stewed. But, hey, you don’t get fried rat everyday.
A typical house along the Saekaekrang River. This is rice farming country and like our own rural areas, people live more simply.

Another rest stop as we push north. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this wonderful wooden stump faucet for washing hands. The Thais wash hands continually, provide anti-bacterial lotions and stress cleanliness. No one got sick on our trip and our tour leader also provided hand wipes every time we re-entered the bus.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to stop at a roadside rest with these beautiful dragon benches? Amazing place.
Simcha and Phyllis enjoy sweet treats. Personally, I would choose black sticky rice any day.
We arrive at Leelawadee Hotel in Phitsanulok with the traditional refreshing juice greeting. Here Flat Stanley gets a close up of our drink. The waitress looked at us a little strangely as we pulled him out for a picture, but we didn’t know enough Thai to explain to her.
P.S.
Tomorrow I travel to Tuscon to meet my ramblin partner. I’ve had the luxury of uploading many pictures, full size, from home. On the road things change. Signals are iffy at times. I can’t always use so many photos and/or I must reduce them in size so you cannot click on them for a close-up view. In any case, more of Thailand coming. Chaio!
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