7 April 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

Baixa, (downtown Lisbon), seen as the heart of the city, was completely destroyed by the 1755 earthquake.  The Marqués de Pombal, was the chap responsible for rebuilding Baixa and he devised a grid pattern for the area that included earthquake-proof construction. The grid was built to  precise geometric specifications, with streets, flanked by neoclassical buildings, named after different trades; fanqueiros-firefighters; douradores-gilders; sapateiros-shoemakers, prata-silversmiths; comercio-traders; correeiros- saddle makers; and, ouro-goldsmiths.

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Praça dos Restauradores

In the centre of Praça dos Restauradores is the Monumento dos Restaurdores, (Monument to the Restorers), the obelisk monument commemorates Portugal’s independence in 1640, from sixty years of Spanish rule. The ‘restorers’ are the soldiers who died restoring independence to the country. The district of Baixa starts here and continues on to the River Tagus.  Looking over the square is the Art Deco, Eden Theatre, it opened in 1931 and was one of Lisbon’s main theatre/cinema buildings. It closed in 1989 and converted into a hotel in 2001. DSC_0121 (1)

DSC_0127 Praça de Dom Pedro IV, is known locally as Rossi Square, (Rossi train station is here) two baroque fountains, one at each end, are the main features of this square.  The monument in the centre has a statue of Dom Pedro IV at the top of the column, around the base are representations of justice, strength, wisdom and moderation, said to be qualities attributed to Dom Pedro IV.

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Praça de Dom Pedro IV

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There are stunning examples of neoclassical architecture in Baixa, however some buildings are in a poor state of repair, renovation plans for the whole district, mean extensive building work is currently being undertaken. Some of the area is pedestrianised, and restaurants line the middle of the streets tempting tourists to stop and eat.

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The Elevador de Santa Justa, a neo-Gothic iron tower, also known as the Elevator of Carmo, transports people up the hill to Chiado, and provides views over the city and the river, from the viewing platform. Built in 1902, originally powered by steam, it was electrified in 1907. It is the only public vertical lift in the city.

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At the end of Rua Augusta, one of the main pedestrian streets of Baixa, is the Arco da Rua Augusta. Designed as a symbol of Lisbon’s recovery from the devastation of the earthquake, the building wasn’t actually completed until 1875.

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As part of the restoration of the building in 2013, a lift was installed to allow public access to the top of the arch. The lift only goes up so far, then there are two sets of very narrow, steep, steps to climb, before one gets to the top, for a birds eye view of the straight, patterned pavements of Baixa, the Praça do Comércio, and the River Tagus.

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Praça do Comércio

 

25 March 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal.

I now live a short walk from Praça do Marquês de Pombal (Marquês de Pombal Square), the square is in the centre of Lisbon, and three of the capitals largest boulevards meet here. North of the square is Lisbon’s largest park, Parque Eduardo VII, named as a tribute to the English monarch Edward VII, who visited Lisbon in 1903.  The park slopes gently up to the Monumento ao 25 de Abril, a contemporary monument, that commemorates the 1974 Revolution. The April 25 coup is known as the Carnation Revolution, it ended the longest dictatorship in Europe, the Estado Novo.

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One is rewarded at the top of the slope with views across the city. Half way up the slope is the Carlos Lopes Pavilion, it was built in Lisbon, and taken by boat to Rio de Janeiro, to be the Portuguese Pavilion at the International Exhibition of Rio, in 1920. Originally called the Palace of Exhibitions, it was renamed Pavilion Carlos Lopes, in honour of the Olympic athlete who won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games, the first gold medal won by Portugal. It fell into disrepair and the refurbished building opened in February 2017.

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Praça do Marquês de Pombal is where a statue of the Marquês stands, looking towards the Tagus River and Baixa, the area of the city he was responsible for rebuilding after the 1755 earthquake. The lion standing next to the Marquês represents strength, and at the base of the statue as well as various figures and animals,  the jagged rocks are reminders of the shattered city after the earthquake.

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Avenida Da Liberdade, is a wide, (90 meters), tree lined, boulevard, built in the 19th century, which connects Praça do Marquês de Pombal to Restauradores.  Designer shops, hotels and theatres, some in beautifully restored buildings, sit either side of the avenue, and dotted along the cobbled, mosaic walkways are statues, fountains, cafes and seating.

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Half way down the avenue is the Monumento aos Mortos da Grande Guerra, (Monument to the Fallen of the Great War), created by the local sculptor Maximiano Alves. The Avenida Da Liberdade ends at Praça Dos Restauradores, which is in the district of Baixa, more about this next time.

The sun was setting when I was walking home so I went up to the Monumento ao 25 de Abril to take some more photos. The monument fountains had been turned off, which turned the water into a mirror.  While the moon was playing peek a boo with the columns, birds were roosting, a few bats were out feeding, and dogs had brought their humans to the park to throw balls for them, to watch while they jumped over and through the box hedging, or played tag with each other, until they too, decided it was time to take their humans home.

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11 March 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

I’m moving away from Alfama next week (to more settled accommodation) so I thought while I am still here I would show you some more of this area.  Alfama is the oldest area in Lisbon, the medieval district was a Moorish and then a Jewish quarter before it became a fishing community. It’s built on solid rock foundations, which is why  it escaped the catastrophic damage the rest of the city suffered from the 1755 earthquake. It has a village like quality to it, and is a snapshot of time before 1755. It also provides views over the city.

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The pink building in the photo below is where I am staying, it was a monastery which has been converted into apartments. The other photos show a selection of the decorative styles of building in the district.

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I’ve said before that walking is the best way to experience Alfama: not just because some of the streets are not wide enough for cars to get through; or because you won’t get to see what’s at the end of winding set of steps; or so you can take in the aromas of local dishes being cooked, that waft, tantalisingly, over the cobbles; or missing a tiny bar with only three tables inside, that has some of the best portuguese wine and tapas you will ever taste; it is because you will hear fado. The beautiful, haunting sound of fado will be your companion as you wander along the bumpy, cobbles, it is the soundtrack of Alfama.

The origins of fado are disputed, but the fado one hears in Lisbon today came from Alfama in the 1830s. Fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, originally often about the life of the poor, or the sea, today fado is a form of song which can be about anything.  Fado may be melancholic, but it is also beautiful, in 2011 UNESCO designated fado as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage. Amália Rodrigues is fado’s most celebrated performer (fadista), she was known as the Queen of Fado, (Rainha do Fado) and was most influential in popularising fado worldwide. When she died in 1999 the portuguese government declared a period of national mourning. This mural of Amália is on a wall in Alfama.

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The Viewpoint of Santa Luzia is a terrace, with, as the name suggests, views over Alfama. It also has some good examples of azulejo, both on the side of the church and  on the terrace.DSC_0107

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4 March 2018

Lisbon, Portugal

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Fábrica de Cerámica da Viúva Lamego

One doesn’t have to walk far in this city to see a building clad in azulejo, or painted in a bright colour. The Fábrica de Cerámica da Viúva Lamego was originally a pottery workshop founded by António da Costa Lamego in 1849, producing tiles and ceramics.  When he died the factory adopted the name Viúva Lamego, the Viúva Lamego factory is now in Sintra and still produces hand painted tiles, the original building is now a tourist attraction.

Along the same street is the 1908 Hotel, named after the year it was built, a newly refurbished Art Nouveau building, with a sprinkling of azulejo.
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It seems as though it has rained in Lisbon for weeks, torrential rain is not ideal to go exploring with my camera, however I made the most of a break in the weather for a quick visit to the district of Príncipe Real.  The area gets its name, Príncipe Real, (royal prince) from the first son of Queen Mary II. My first stop was to see Sao Bento Palace.DSC_0008

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Sao Bento Palace

Sao Bento Palace dates back to the late 16th century, when a monastery, said to be the first Benedictine monastery in Lisbon, was situated on this site. The building was damaged in the 1755 earthquake, and what was left became the seat of the Portuguese Parliament in 1834, eventually being renovated into this enormous Neoclassical palace, Palacio das Cortes or Parlamento. I couldn’t get any further back to get the whole building in one photo.

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Príncipe Real has 19th century mansions, trendy restaurants and bars, antique shops, green spaces and a ten acre botanical garden, which was closed for refurbishment when I was here. It also provides great views of the city, once the weather is better I will take my camera so I can show more of this district.

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One can just see the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge in this photo, it is one of Lisbon’s most notable landmarks and spans the River Tagus at the narrowest point. The bridge connects Lisbon, on the north bank, with the district of Alameda on the south bank.

Opposite the Portuguese Parliament is this vivid yellow building, brightening up, what was, weather wise, a rather gloomy day.  This striking piece of street art is on the side of a house.

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This is another view of the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge taken near the Praça do Comércio.

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Praça do Comércio is known by the locals as Terreiro do Paço, because it was where the royal palace was before it was destroyed by the earthquake in 1755. It is one of the largest squares in Europe and was completely rebuilt after the earthquake. The chap on the horse in the middle of the square is King José I who was the Portuguese ruler during the reconstruction of Lisbon and the statue was inaugurated on his birthday on the 6th June 1775.

25 February 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

It was a meeting with a dear friend for a long overdue catch up, that brought me to Martim Moniz Square, with its multicultural spaces and distinctive fountains.  The square gets its name from a noble man who, according to legend, during the siege of Lisbon in 1147, wedged his body in the doors of São Jorge Castle as the Moors were trying to close them. His actions gave the soldiers time to get to the castle and reclaim it. Unfortunately for Martim Moniz, this was the cause of his death, they are quite big doors.

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Martim Moniz Square

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On the morning of the 1 November 1755, one of Europe’s most powerful earthquakes struck Lisbon. Tsunamis hit Lisbon  after the earthquake had subsided and then fires burned continuously for five days throughout the city. It’s estimated that a third of the population, around seventy-five thousand people, died, and ninety percent of the buildings were destroyed, the event has shaped Lisbon’s history ever since.

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The Bairro do Mocambo

In the National Azulejo Museum there is a twenty three meter long tile panel, The Bairro do Mocambo, depicting fourteen meters of the coastline of Lisbon. It was painted in the early eighteenth century and is iconic because it is the most complete view of the city before the earthquake of 1755. It shows some of the most important buildings of Lisbon at that time, which were subsequently destroyed by the earthquake, such as the 70,000-volume royal library and the royal Ribeira Palace.

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The museum’s collection is the only one of its kind in the world, displaying azulejo from the early 15th Century to the present day. The museum is in the monastic buildings of the Madre de Deus Convent, which was renovated after the earthquake, and also appears on the Bairro do Mocambo. It is the building on the far right of the following photo.

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The following is a selection of the azulejo on display at the museum.

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Madre de Deus Convent is richly decorated with every surface covered in either paintings or azulejo. The azulejo panels are not just decorative, they depict historic events, or stories about daily life in Portugal.

I went to one of the many theatres here in Lisbon, the Teatro da Trindade opened in 1867, located in Chiado, it is one of the oldest theatres in Lisbon. Extensive renovations were undertaken in the 1920s, and  the biggest names in Portuguese theatre have performed here. The buildings adjacent to the theatre are just as colourful.

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Orange trees are in fruit now and can be seen dotted around the city streets.

17 February 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

I am currently living in an area of Lisbon called Alfama. It’s one of the oldest districts in Lisbon and got it’s name from the Moors, alhama means springs or bath, and is a reference to the hot springs found here.  The Moors are responsible for Alfama’s maze of narrow, winding, steep, streets, which at the time were a defense system, but also help to keep homes cool in the summer. Walking is the best way to see Alfama, if only to see just how narrow the streets are and how close some of the buildings are to each other.

DSC_0017Every Tuesday and Saturday morning, Alfama is the venue for a flea market, (Feira da Ladra), known locally as the thieves market. In Portuguese ‘ladra’ translates as a female thief, however it originally comes from the word ‘ladro’ which is a bug found in antiques. A market has been in Lisbon since the 12th century. The stalls are spread out over several streets at Campo de Santa Clara, next to the National Pantheon.  DSC_0042

Santa Engracia Church, although originally built as a church, was never completed, and is now designated as the National Pantheon of Portugal. It contains the tombs of Portuguese Presidents; Amalia Rodrigues, the iconic Fado singer; and Almeida Garrett, a leading literary person.

 

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National Pantheon

 

 

If the buildings aren’t covered in azulejo, they are usually painted in bright colours, giving the streetscape of the city, a vibrate and colourful, jumble of windows, doors and balconies.

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Police Station

The Algarve

I have friends who live in the Algarve, which is in southern Portugal, a couple of hours from Lisbon either by car or train. I visited recently and on a sunny, Sunday morning,  we went for a walk along the cliffs at Benagil, Lagoa, which as you can see is quite beautiful.

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After lunch we stopped off at the beach at Vilamoura to ( have a drink) watch the sail boats taking part in the Vilamoura Carnival Sailing Regatta, you can just see the little white dots of the sails in the photos.

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22 January 2018

Lisbon, Portugal

There was a moment, I’d been here two weeks, I was looking over the city from one of its many viewpoints, that I became overwhelmed when I realised just how much there is to do and see here. I am reminded of this now as I decide what to write about. I did think to do a district at a time, this isn’t going to work for me as I have already been to quite a few of the districts either to eat, visit an attraction, or see an event, so I think as I do something I think you would like, I will write about it. Today there are two quite different experiences in two different areas, I hope you enjoy getting to know Lisbon with me.

Belém, a district to the west of central Lisbon, is where, on the third Sunday of the month the Guarda Nacional Repubicana (National Republican Guard) performs the changing of the guard ceremony at Belém Palace.

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The ceremony begins with the arrival of the new guard, then the band plays a few tunes, there was a  lovely moment when the national anthem was played, the people in the crowds sang along.

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The arrival of the mounted troopers is next, including a mounted band, they all gather on the road, which has been closed, there’s another performance by the Band.

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Once the ceremony was over the mounted band put on a more informal display in a park near the palace. It is quite impressive how they manage to play an instrument while riding a horse. The music the band played at the changing of the guard ceremony was quite formal, in the park they began the display with the theme from Star Wars and ended with Phantom of the Opera.

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Northwest of Lisbon in the suburb of Benfica is the Palace of Fronteira.  The palace and the gardens were built around 1670 as a hunting pavilion for the first Marquis of Fronteira, Dom Joao de Mascarenhas. From the road the building looks like a large house rather than a palace, however a step inside the entrance reveals the walls and stairs of the palace covered in azulejos.

Although the style is very Portuguese, the palace and gardens were heavily influenced by Italian Renaissance Architecture. It is the only surviving suburban private house and gardens, of its period, that still retains its original characteristics. The palace is built in the Mannerist style with Baroque decoration, reflecting a 17th century palatial style. The house is extensively decorated with artworks and azulejos, photography is not allowed inside the palace.  Access to the palace is by a guided tour, which ends on the terrace.

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The 16th century chapel, is the oldest part of the palace, and is covered with stones, shells, broken glass and porcelains.

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Both the palace and gardens are decorated with the largest and best collection of Portuguese seventeenth-century azulejos, depicting hunting, battle scenes, mythical figures, religious scenes and animals.  The formal gardens have statues, fountains and a large pond.

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15 January 2018

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 Lisbon, Portugal

Hills, (some ridiculously steep!); narrow streets; steps, (hundreds of them); stone tile pavements, that turn into skating  rinks when they are wet; castles, mosques, cathedrals, palaces and monasteries;  beautiful beaches; buses, trains, trams, the metro, funiculars and lifts, (to aid getting up the steep hills); countless museums and places of interest; situated on the River Tagus; a mild winter climate; Fado; a mix of  Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassicism and modern architecture; and decorated with millions of azulejos, (ceramic tiles); welcome to Lisbon, Europe’s second oldest capital city, only Athens is older.

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It’s easy to get around this city, if one doesn’t want to walk, there is an excellent transport system. Perhaps the mode of transport Lisbon is most famous for is the old Remodelado trams that clatter around the streets. Trams were first used here in 1873 when they were pulled by horses, the first electric tram appeared 1901, with the whole system converting to electricity a year later. Today a cobweb of electric cable hovers over the remaining operational tram routes.

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There are practical reasons Lisbon is the only city in Europe that uses old trams like the Remodelado trams, which originally date from the 1930s. It’s because of the tight corners and narrow streets of historic sections of Lisbon, particularly in an area called Alfama, where the tram tracks are the world’s steepest, and the turning circle of the carriage is centimetres from the edges of buildings.

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The Elevador de Santa Justa, is also part of the transport system of Lisbon and moves people from the Baixa district to the Largo do Carmo, a steep climb on foot, although more popular now for the viewing platform at the top of the lift, providing panoramic views of the city.   DSC_0010 (2)

The Glória Funicular, also known as the Elevador da Glória, is a funicular that takes one up a very steep hill. The tram operators were on a break when I was here, so I walked up!

The reward for getting to the top is a view of the sunset lighting up São Jorge Castle (Castelo de São Jorge).

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While I’m writing about transportation, access to Rossio Train Station, in the city centre, is through horseshoe shaped, arched doorways of a Neo-Manueline building, built by the architect José Luís Monteiro and completed in 1888. Topped with small turrets and a clock tower, it looks more like a palace rather than specifically built as a train station.

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Dotted around the city streets, are roasted chestnut sellers, like the one pictured outside the station, and one is never far from nut scented smoke wafting up from the burners, at this time of year, the signature smell of the city.

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24 December 2017

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It’s Christmas eve, where has the time gone, I can’t quite believe I have been in Asia for nearly a year. I had originally planned to stay here for longer, however I have decided to move to Europe to be nearer to a relative who has become quite poorly. I want to be nearer so I can visit regularly. This decision prompted a hastily arranged trip to visit places that interested me in this region, that I had not previously been to, before I leave. Unfortunately this trip was cut short by an erupting volcano, so one can only plan life so far ahead. I am flying to Portugal in early January, where I plan to settle, however this is what I said this time last year about Asia, so who knows what I will be sharing with you this time next year.

This is my last post from Asia and for this year.  Thank you for your comments and support over the last twelve months, I am looking forward to sharing my adventures in Portugal, and Europe, with you in 2018.  I hope you are doing what ever makes you joyful over the festive season, and wish you a healthy and happy, new year.

 

29 November 2017

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Kuala Lumpur

The keen eyed amongst you will notice that I am back in Kuala Lumpur. Well my travel plans were interrupted by a volcano in Bali. The last stop on my trip was going to be to the island of Flores, still in Indonesia, I was going to stay on a small island resort near Flores, and visit the Komodo National Park to see the dragons.

I had a 6am flight from Lombok to Bali on the 28 November, the plan was then to fly from Bali to Labuanbajo on Flores. I knew before I got to the airport on Tuesday morning that I wasn’t going to Bali, Bali airport had been closed for two days due to Mount Agung erupting, I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to get off Lombok though. When I got to Lombok airport the only airline that was flying was Lion Air and only to three destinations, one of them was Jakarta, and I managed to buy a seat, thank goodness. I had a seven hour wait for my flight so I had time to decide what to do next. I did think of going to Thailand but I decided I had had enough of sitting around at shitty airports for hours so I managed to book a flight from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur. I then had an anxious wait to see if the flight from Lombok would go ahead, it did and on time. I got to see views of Indonesian rice fields as we took off from Lombok.

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When I landed at Jakarta I was delighted to see that my flight to Malaysia was delayed, for 2 hours, it ended up being delayed for over fours hours and I finally got back to Kuala Lumpur at 2.30 on Wednesday morning.  I am really disappointed that I haven’t managed to see the Komodo dragons, however I decided I couldn’t take the risk of hanging around in Lombok to see if conditions got better in case I got stuck there, and I have friends flying over to  Malaysia for the festive season.

This is it for Asia, for me now. There isn’t anywhere left in the region that I want to see. Over the years I’ve visited, China, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea,  Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia, although only the last six countries since I started this blog. My top three of Asia would be Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, in no particular order.

 

26 November 2017

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Lombok, Indonesia

When I use the word ‘ferry’, when referring to a boat, I have a rough idea of what this is. The ‘public ferry’ I took to go to Gili Trawangan, was one of the more ‘interesting’ journeys I have taken on this trip. The ‘Gilis’ are three tiny islands just off the coast of Lombok, I had intended to visit all three, but decided just the one was enough. Each island has its own features, Gili Meno is the smallest and least developed, Gili Trawangan is the largest and the most developed, the ‘party’ island,  and Gili Air is in between the two.

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The harbour

My day started with getting to the harbour to catch the public ferry.  Having discussed how to get to the islands with the very helpful chap at my hotel, I decided to use the public ferry. The ‘harbour’ is the beach and the ‘ferry’ is a little, wooden boat moored up on the beach, that one has to wade into the water to get on.  All the provisions on the Gilis are taken over by boat and I found myself sitting on a little wooden seat surrounded, not just by humans, but by baskets of provisions and bags of grass, the ferry only leaves when it is completely full.

As I was ‘enjoying’ my journey, I was pleased to see that the ferry had life jackets, it looked like there were enough for all the humans on board. However, I was just very slightly concerned as to how they could be accessed, if the boat started sinking, as they were all very snugly tied up to the roof of the ferry.

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It took about thirty minutes to get to Gili Trawangan, and once the ferry had moored up on the beach we all waded through the sea again to get onto the sand.

There are no motorcycles or dogs on any of the islands. If you have experienced an Asian country where motorcycles are a popular mode of transport you will know that motorcycle riders tend to ignore traffic lights, or any road traffic signs of any kind, and invariably they will ride on the pavement if this is the best route to get to their destination. So motorcycle free sounds idyllic, however on Gili Trawangan, horse and carts are the mode of transport. So as I was walking up to the pathway that runs parallel with the beach I was greeted by an aroma I rarely experience in my daily life, and that  aroma was horse shit.

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The pathway running parallel to the beach

The beach is busy with people leaving and arriving on the island, boats also run from Bali so there is a constant stream of people and luggage, to and from the beach, and then off and on the horse drawn carts. When the carts aren’t being used to transport tourists, they are used to clear what looked like huge piles of rubbish, dotted along the beach, in between the seating areas of the bars and restaurants. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the beach, or the bars and restaurants that I saw. I was told that the beaches further around the island were better, but I didn’t really want to walk through all the hubbub to get there. 

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I was thinking of getting the next ferry back when I came a cross a vegan coffee shop, such joy. I had a leisurely lunch and bought a bag of goodies to take back to Lombok. Full of delicious food I felt slightly better about the boat trip back.

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I didn’t have very long to wait for the next ferry back to Lombok. The total price of my two tickets worked out at the grand sum of 17 pence, GBP. Now I expect there is a human reading this that may say I got a bargain for my 17 pence. I would say that my desire to undertake cultural research, and experience a certain level of discomfort, so you, dear reader,  don’t have to, does have limits, and paying 17 pence for this return trip was of little comfort to me.

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Arriving back on Lombok

 

 

24 November 2017

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Lombok, Indonesia

A flight time of just over an hour from Yogyakarta  and I am in Lombok. Lombok is an island in the  eastern part of Indonesia, located between Bali and Sumbawa island, it has a population of around 3.5 million, of which approximately 90% are Muslim. Lombok has the second highest mountain in Indonesia, Gunung Rinjani, 3726 meters high. The island is very green and mountainous.

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My hotel is situated on a hill and from my breakfast table I can see Mount Agung, an active volcano, on the island of Bali. I also have views of the lush hillside surrounding where I am staying. I arrived here two days ago and it has rained for almost the whole time.

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Mount Agung

 

The morning mist, dancing around the tree tops, in the brief respite from the rain.

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Lombok has many beautiful beaches, however my guide books suggest that the Gili islands just off the coast of Lombok are worth a visit, this is the main reason I came to the island.

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Finally I saw the sun set, this was taken from my balcony, previous evenings have been overcast due to the rain. Once the rain stops I plan a trip to the Gili Islands.

22 November 2017

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Yogyakarta, Indonesia

I’m sitting in a café, drinking awful coffee and admiring this rather lovely view. The entrance fee to this site includes a drink and a snack at the café here. The snacks looked like complete meals so I just had a drink. The café is excellent, built into the hillside to make the most of the position, it’s the perfect place to sit and admire the view after a couple of hours walking round this site, and this is why I am drinking the slightly vile coffee. DSC_0189 (2)

I’m  at Ratu Boko, 196 meters above sea level, hence the great views, built during the 8th century, and thought to be a palace, although it is now referred to as more of an archaeological site. The exact function of Ratu Boko is still unknown, with theories ranging from a place for rest and recreation, a palace of the ancient Mataram Kingdom and a monastery.  Inscriptions indicate the site was occupied by humans during the 8th and 9th centuries.

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The entrance to the site is a two part gate, and when it is not cloudy, which it is today, makes for great sunset photos. The site covers an area of 250.000 square meters, the gates lead to a huge lawn terrace.

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The large structure with a square hole in the middle is thought to be a place where corpses were cremated.

A pathway leads through the lawns to a landscape garden area, and past these gardens is a pool complex.DSC_0170 (1)

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I like a rice field. Humans can live in space stations, yet haven’t managed to mechanise rice growing, so one can still see humans tending to their rice crops the same way their ancestors would have. Indonesia is the third largest producer of rice in the world, behind China, and then India. However, Indonesia doesn’t export rice, it imports it, although usually to keep the reserves at a safe level. Rice production in Indonesia is by smallholder farmers, rather than big private or state-owned companies. Smallholder farmers account for approximately 90 percent of Indonesia’s rice production, each farmer holding an average land area of around 0.8 hectares. Indonesians are also big consumers of rice, with only Myanmar, Vietnam, and Bangladesh consuming more.

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My time at Yogyakarta is coming to an end, my next stop is the island of Lombok.

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20 November 2017

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Prambanan is the largest Hindu Temple complex in Indonesia, and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. Built in the 9th century it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The complex has eight large temples, the main temple is 47 meters high, and dedicated to Shiva.

DSC_0090 (3)There were originally 240 temples on the site, eight main temples have been reconstructed. There were 224 smaller temples, Pervara temples, surrounding the main eight, however these have not been reconstructed so the stones lay in little heaps around the complex.DSC_0076 (2)

All the buildings have panels of relief work, and I particularly liked the dragon heads jutting out from the corners of one of the temples.

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For a break from temples I went to the Taman Sari Water Castle, which was built in the mid-18th century. It was a place for bathing but was also used for meditation, and as a hiding place for the Sultan and his family. There are ‘secret’ tunnels that the Sultan could use to escape enemies. DSC_0264

Taman Sari was a royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, and originally had four areas: a large artificial lake with islands and pavilions; a complex of pavilions and pools; a small lake; and a bathing complex. The bathing complex is what visitors have access to and seen in these photos. One wouldn’t want to go bathing in this today.

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In one area there is a circular building called Sumur Gumuling, where there are five sets of linked steps, four sets of steps lead up to a central platform, the fifth staircase provides access to the first floor.  The reason for this odd angle photo is, people, this is a popular selfie spot, somehow I managed to be there, when for a second, there wasn’t a human posing at the top of the steps.  DSC_0284 (2)

I’ve seen lots of songbirds in cages during my stay here, I haven’t seen caged birds in these numbers since I visited China, it seems it is very popular here too. Songbirds are  a huge industry in Indonesia with birds being sold for the equivalent of, a few, to hundreds of dollars. They seem well looked after, although I think it does look sad seeing these tiny things stuck in the confines of a cage. The demand for some bird species is threatening the numbers in the wild with extinction. We humans are a strange lot, rather than see birds living freely, where their songs can still be heard we prefer to trap them in cages. Not that the UK is a better example, it’s supposed to be a nation of animal lovers, yet there are hundreds of dog and cat shelters where pets end up when it is decided they are no longer wanted. Strange humans.

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19 November 2017

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Yogyakarta, Indonesia

I’ve come to this region to see temples and my first visit is to Borobudur Temple.  Borobudur temple is the world’s biggest Buddhist monument. Built in the 9th century, using 2 million stone blocks, without any kind of mortar or cement, it covers an area measuring 123 x 123 meters, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues.

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The temple fell into disrepair and was rediscovered in 1815, buried under volcanic ash. In the 1970’s the Indonesian Government and UNESCO worked together to restore Borobudur, and UNESCO formally listed Borobudur as a World Heritage Site in 1991.

Borobudur consists of six square platforms, topped by three circular platforms, each of the levels can be walked around, to get to each level there are very deep, steep, steps.

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The platforms provide an opportunity to have a closer look at the relief panels that cover every surface of the temple, depicting Buddhist doctrines, and Javanese life, a thousand years ago.DSC_0057 (3)

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The main dome, at the centre of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupas, one of the stupas has been dismantled to show a Buddha statue.

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The top of the temple

The effort to get to the top of the temple is rewarded with views of the region.

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Many of the Buddha statues are headless, this is thought to be the result of the heads being stolen and sold as collectors items.

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Mendut is a ninth-century Buddhist temple, located in Mendut village, a few kilometres from Borobudur, built in the 9th century, it is older than Borobudur.

The temple steps lead into a room with three  large stone statues. A 3 metre tall statue of Dhyani Buddha Vairocana, noted for his posture, as he sits with his feet on the floor, Western style, on his left is statue of Boddhisatva Avalokitesvara, on his right is a statue of Boddhisatva Vajrapani.

The temple stands in a small formal garden.

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17 November 2017

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Indonesia is an archipelago of over 17,000 islands and I am on the island of Java. The world’s most populous island, more than half of the country’s population, 145 million people, live on Java. I flew from Caticlan to Manila, then from Manila to Jakarta, and finally from Jakarta to Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is in the central region of Java, and is the cultural capital of the island.  It is the only region in Indonesia that is still governed by a pre-colonial monarchy, the Sultan of Yogyakarta, Hamengkubuwono X.

DSC_0024 (10)There is a daily market near my hotel, aside from the main market hall,  provisions are also sold from small stores the size of a cupboard, or straight from the pavement, anywhere that looks like it could be a good spot to display items to sell, is used.

Coconut preparation is done using a homemade machine and pasta is dried on the roadside.

I came across a furniture restorer, what looked like a cycle/junk shop and locals having refreshments at a local café.

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Cafe

Outside the market, there’s a line of becak, a bicycle-rickshaw with three wheels, the drivers dozed while they were waiting to take shoppers home, there is a choice of motorised or human powered  becak, and this is a very popular method of transport here.DSC_0037 (7)

The top floor of my hotel provides a good place to capture the sunset.

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14 November 2017

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A paraw

Boracay, Philippines

Boracay is an island and so naturally there is a proliferation of boats here, either moored up on the beach or out at sea,  with the paraw being the most common.  A paraw is a double outrigger sail boat from the Visayas region of the  Philippines, they were originally used for fishing and the transportation of people and goods.

oznorA paraw has a main sail and a gibb, it takes at least two people to sail it, and as it doesn’t have a keel, one person has to be on the outrigger to keep the sail boat in balance, this person is called a ‘balancer’. The hull of a paraw is fairly narrow and only one person can sit in the actual boat, usually the captain, the passengers will sit on the outriggers. Paraws here are used for tourist trips, and most of them seem to have blue sails.

DSC_0018 (6)As the sun starts to set many of paraws line up on the beach waiting to take tourists on a sunset sail. Getting on the paraw involves wading through the water, once it’s full and the sails have caught the breeze, it glides silently out to sea. DSC_0002 (3)

DSC_0009 (7)As the sun slips away, the evening ritual of the island begins. The horizon is filled with the silent shadows of the paraw sails; beach loungers are replaced with bean bags; the pathway fills with black clad divers, freshly emerged from the sea; barbeques are lit; happy hours are taken advantage of; people wade into the sea for sunset selfies; fairy lights are switched on; and the volume gets turned up as DJs compete with live musicians to mark the end of sun worshipping day and the start of the party night.

DSC_0051 (7)The party continues through the night, so I was surprised, when, one morning I went for an early beach walk thinking I would have the beach to myself, it was around 6, to find the beach was quite busy. People were swimming, paddle boarding, children were playing, joggers were jogging, and others like me, taking an early morning walk,  the moon was still out too.

DSC_0053 (4)The beach takes on a different colour as the sun rises.

The weather has been good during my stay here, although in a lot of the photos there are what look like rain clouds. Despite an often very cloudy sky, it only rained a couple of times and for very short periods, and afterwards the sun always came out to dry everything up.cof

Boracay had some of the best sunsets I have ever seen, and it seems fitting to end my posts on the island, with a reminder of just how stunning nature can be.

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10 November 2017

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Boracay, Philippines

There is a sandy pathway that runs the whole length of, and parallel to, White Beach. It is here that many of the resorts restaurants, hotels, bars, cafes, and shops are located.  Motorised transport is not allowed on the pathway, so although it’s traffic free, it is full of humans. Hawkers roam along here, trying to sell you: boat trips or dives; sunglasses, phone cases, or hats (or anything that glows in the dark after sunset); offer massages on the beach, which sounds better than the reality, which was a grubby mattress on a lounger under the shade of a tree, while the world walks past; henna tattoos or braiding hair; and tempt one to eat at a particular restaurant. As I have said previously the hawkers here are not terribly aggressive, so it is easy to ignore them, however there is no escape from them and they are encountered every time a trip is made along this path, so it can get annoying. There is a tacky side to Boracay, and for me, this is it.

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White Beach is a haven for water sports, diving, paddleboards, windsurfers, snorkelling, and parasailing. Most days there were people parasailing, and from the beach, they looked like air borne jellyfish, gliding under the clouds.DSC_0016 (5)

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While the middle of the beach is popular and so quite busy,  either end is quiet .

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Every evening as the sun starts to set, the beach takes on a different vibe. Humans head to the sea for a sunset selfie, and the paraws line up on the sand ready for sunset cruises.

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The sunglass sellers now sell glowing, neon, nonsense, DJs arrive at the bars, and the volume gets turned up a notch or two, nature is putting on one of it’s best shows, and we are all invited.