A Travellerspoint blog

Aswan


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After a night flight to Aswan and a good night sleep we started a new day. Today it was on to the Aswan High Dam and the temple of Philae. The Aswan dam was nice, you passed the friendship monument between Egypt and what was still the Sovjet Union back then and you ended on the High Dam which gave a nice view over the Nile on one side and Nassar Lake on the other.
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We went down to the lake by bus and by boat we went to visit the temple of Philae in Lake Nassar. It is an amazing temple, very different, so if you have the chance you should visit. It is part Egyptian, part Roman. And mostly known because it was cut to pieces and replaced and rebuild on the island of Philae piece by piece, because the temple was partly under water because of the building of the Aswan Dam, but was on the edge of disappearing completely.
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We had lunch at a place called Aswan Moon. Good food for a reasonable price and the fresh juices are really nice as well.

In the evening we visited a Nubian village, it was about 45 minutes by boat to get there. It is partly rebuild, the oldest and smallest cottages were abandoned and the people live in larger houses now. We had dinner with one of the families (i think it was the best dinner we had all trip) and were invited to taste the famous hibiscus tea. It was very sour, and in this case cold.
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Posted by Astreia 09:57 Archived in Egypt Tagged temple aswan dam nubia philae Comments (0)

Touchdown in Cairo

the trip begins

overcast 23 °C
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We landed in Cairo in the early afternoon, so we got to our transport to the hotel where we would stay. It was called hotel Happy Cairo. Location was perfect, the rooms unfortunately were a little old and weathered, and not too clean. There is a metro station on the corner of the street, but a few things were manageable on foot. We wandered around a bit and the first night ate at a place called Kazzaz. Really nice food, not a very fancy restaurant but simple, a lot of locals there too. It is a recommendable restaurant, also it isn't expensive (in our opinion) and as i said the food is good.

The next day we walked to the Egyptian museum, it was about 20 minutes. The museum is huge and obviously something you shouldn't miss. Get there early though, it gets really, really busy later on the day. The museum is magnificent, although the display of some of the pieces could be better. The pieces are marvelous, sphinxes, mummies, coffins, jewelry, lots of temple parts, it is a lot to see and you can spend a few hours there. There is also a royal mummy room.
The museum was being renovated as well so it was a bit of a mess with people working and painting and parts of the museums collection wrapped in plastic. Also our guide said they are building a new museum in/near Giza, and parts are going to be moved there as well.
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We also went to the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church, also known as Abu Serga. This is a Coptic church and is one of the oldest Coptic churches in Egypt, dating back to the 4th century. It is famous because in this church is the crypt where Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus are said to have rested for a few weeks or a few months. It is a very beautiful church, simple but elegant.
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We also visited the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, the first mosque built in Africa. It has been expanded over the years and there isn't much to see anymore of the original building, but still impressive.

Of course we also visited the amazing Plateau of Giza, with the Sphinx, the pyramid of Cheops and of Chefren, the side pyramids of daughters and mother and wife, and graves (mastabas) of the nobility. The pyramids are huge, the one for Cheops is 146 meters, and the one for his son a little bit smaller, 136 meter. The smallest one is for Menkaure. You feel really small when standing next to one building block that is as big a a man and weighs tons, and the look up to a building so high. Incredible what that civilization has accomplished in times so long ago. And this was just a small part, with the hieroglyphs, paintings, colors and everything else they had. The Sphinx is the guardian of the plateau. It is hard to describe how it all fits so beautifully together. Rumors are there were two Sphinxes once, but they never found the second one.
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Next was the city (now museum) of Memphis, the former capital of Egypt and now nothing more than a tiny open air museum. It is nice to see though. There is also a building where you can see a huge statue of Ramses II, unfortunately broken at the knees and apparently they still have to find the feet, but it is already 11 meters long as it is. Also there is a mini Sphinx, as in smaller then the one in Giza. It is still a very big sphinx.

And don't forget Sakkara, a temple complex with several pyramids and a big part of the city/town has been excavated as well, very different from the Giza plateau. They are renovating the pyramid of Djoser at this moment so that was all up in scaffolds.

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Posted by Astreia 12:02 Archived in Egypt Tagged markets mosque church egypt museum building sphinx cairo pyramids Comments (0)

Baoan Temple and Chiang Kai-Shek


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Baoan Temple is located opposite of the Confucius Temple in Taipei. In 2003 the temple was inducted into the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation. It is a very decorated temple, the columns, windows, beautiful painted doors. Some decorations are clay, some are made from ceramics. The woodwork is amazing. It's really worth visiting.

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We also went to the National Museum. There were two pieces on display, a jade cabbage and meat shaped rock, that according to our guide were very interesting pieces. There also was a white jade ball, it is built up from several layers, but they never found out how many exactly. Other then that there was a really nice ceramics exposition, and wonderful paintings and ancient calligraphy on display.

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National Revolutionary Martyr's Shrine was the next stop. The structure houses the spirit tablets of about 390,000 persons killed during several wars and revolutions. We were in time for the changing of the honor guard. It was impressive to watch. Unfortunately the shrine was under maintenance so besides the outside there wasn't much to see.

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Next stop was Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. It was bigger then i imagined. It was huge. The memorial hall had an exhibition, or actually several, on the ground floor. Up the stairs was the statue of Chiang Kai-Shek. It's a huge hall with the statue in the back. There are also two other buildings on the site, the National Theater and National Concert Hall.

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Posted by Astreia 11:47 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Nature around Taipei

semi-overcast 36 °C
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First stop today is a National Park just outside Taipei, Yangmingshan National Park. It's about an hour from Taipei. The park is famous for its unique volcanic geology and topographical sights. There are several (dormant) volcanoes located in the park. Mount Qixin is the highest mountain. There are several fumaroles in the area so you can smell the sulfur everywhere and see the steam coming up, the proof that there still is volcanic activity even though the volcanoes aren't very active, some have been dormant for quite some years. There used to be sulfur mining in the area, but that was a long time ago. DSC01015.JPGDSC03025.JPG

There are several hiking trails in the park up the mountains. The area is very nice to be around, There are also several scenic spots. At the visitors center there is a little exhibition on how the park came to be what it is now with all the volcanic activity, how it works with the continental plates and so on. Taipei is located near the ring of fire, and the guide told us there are actually several (small) earthquakes every day, most of which you don't even notice, but there always is the risk of earthquakes. That's why everything that is being built on the island is as earthquake proof as possible, like with the Taipei101 and the damper. It is interesting to take a look in the visitors center, but the short film they made with explanations is really made for kids and school/educational purpose, so you don't really need to watch that.

Next we went to Yehliu Geopark. This park has a lot of rock formations and parts of it really look like a moonscape. As is common with the rock formations you sometimes need imagination to really see what they mean, but it is worth visiting. We were still getting used to the hot weather so it was all a bit challenging with the heat.
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We first visited the mushroom forest. It is a part of the park with rocks that look like mushrooms. No touching though, or the guard will start blowing his whistle very often and very loud to give a warning. There is also a rock called 'cute princess' on that side. This is one of the two main attractions of the park. The other one is located on the other side, called 'the queen's head'. Along the way we saw several others like tofu rock, ice cream rock, the sandal, and gorilla rock. The middle one is the cute princess, the last one is the queen's head.
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The park is located near water. So everywhere on the edges they put down red lines. Do not cross them. Besides the guards that will whistle at you to move back as soon as you cross it, if you fall there is no shore to climb back on. Also the sea currents are very strong so swimming is actually not a real option. A while a go a student who crossed the line fell down into the sea. A fisherman tried to help him and dove after him. The fisherman now has a memorial statue that is located in the park near the place where he and the student drowned.

Today we also visited Jiufen Village, it's a village built up against a mountain slope. It isn't very big, but it is nice and you can get very nice views over the countryside. Unfortunately it is also very crowded with tourist, because it is said that the (down)town was a model for the town in the anime Spirited Away even though the director of the film denies this. A lot of (Japanese) tourists want a picture of the tea house that supposedly stood model for the bathhouse in the movie.

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Other then that there are a lot of shops, food and drink stalls, and other teahouses where you can enjoy tea or lunch with a breathtaking view. We went to Shifen, a place where you can buy (and release) sky lanterns. It was fun decorating it and letting it fly. We went back to Taipei after that.
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Posted by Astreia 17:00 Archived in Taiwan Tagged nature taipei taiwan Comments (0)

First day in Taipei City

semi-overcast 35 °C
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We landed early in the morning, around 6.30 am, on Taipei Airport. Our choice for Taiwan was questioned a few times, because it's not a very well known place to go for Europeans on a holiday, instead of for example Vietnam or Thailand. We love trips to SE Asia, and after reading up on this and seeing a few pictures we decided to go.

Anyway we landed very early. So early that the rooms in the hotel weren't ready yet. They would be ready around 3 pm. First stop was Lin An Tai Old House. Long ago it was the house of a wealthy family and it is now open to visitors and a sort of museum. It is a very decorated beautiful old house with an immense garden and a pond and a teahouse next to it. It also has a very nice terrace behind it.
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Next we went to the botanical garden in Taipei. It is a very nice, huge, beautiful park with different 'sections', there is a lotus pond, but sadly we were too late too see the lotuses, we only saw a few, and there is a part with flowers that respond to the chinese zodiac signs, a bamboo garden and so on.

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Next stop was Xingtian (or Hsing Tian Kong) Temple, one of the larger temple complexes in Taipei. It is build in honor of Guan Di, a famous general. It is a beautiful temple where a lot of people still visit every day. A lot of decorations, on the walls and ceilings as well as the roofs and rooftops. There are two doors, the dragon door and the tiger door. A long time ago important people went in through the dragon door and came out through the tiger door. For other people it was the other way.

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After this visit we stopped somewhere for lunch and had our first Taiwanese meal. It was different kinds of vegetables, meat and fish.

After that it was on to the hotel as the rooms were finally ready. After a short stop it was on to probably the most well known building in Taipei (at least internationally), Taipei101. The building is 101 floors high, and has shops, offices, restaurants and an observation platform outside and one inside. You can't always go to the outside observation platform (on the 91st floor), it depends on the wind. If it's too windy the platform is closed. We were lucky. The inside observation floor is on the 89th. There is a superspeedy elevator to get you there.

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Needless to say the view is amazing. You can see all over Taipei. There also is a short film about how the tower was built etc, and more information. Don't miss the massive gold-colored iron wind damper that keeps the tower stable through typhoons and earthquakes. After that we went to Xinzhuang Old Street Night Market. There also was a temple near the market. The Night market itself is one of the smaller ones in Taipei but still very nice and lovely to see and walk through. We had our dinner there, made up from sausages, black pepper pork buns, a wrap with veggies and veggie dumplings. Besides that there were different stalls with fresh fruits and fresh fruit shakes, gadget stalls, souvenirs, clothing, everything. A good end of the day.

Posted by Astreia 10:35 Archived in Taiwan Tagged temple taipei taipei101 Comments (0)

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