ISTANBUL IN PINK

Many years ago, I visited the ancient and mystical city of Istanbul, Turkey and I would say it was one of the most exciting trips I’ve ever done. I was on a Mediterranean cruise and the city was a highlight stop so we docked for two days before sailing to our next destination. It also happened to be my first time to this part of the world so I made sure to visit every historical site from the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque to the Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar as well as tasted every delicacy I could stomach. One of the best parts about cruising into Istanbul is that the pier is located right on the most historic part of city. The ship enters a waterway called the Golden Horn, which separates the Galata district (where our ship docked) from the Historic Peninsula district (where the mosques and palaces are located). When I booked my stateroom, I made sure my balcony would face the Golden Horn and the Historic Peninsula district so I can view all the magnificent minarets and domes rising above the city skyline. On the first night, I sat on my balcony to watch the sun set and prayed that its last rays would paint the sky with the brightest and richest of colors. Fate seemed to have favored me that day as the sky turned into this beautiful rosy pink, which transformed the scenery before me into some exotic and colorful work of art reminiscent of the Turkish rugs and lamps that are sold in the bazaars. Here are some of the photos I took of Istanbul’s Historical Peninsula district using my Canon Rebel XSi.

BAYON: THE TEMPLE OF MANY FACES

Bayon is an ancient Khmer temple located in the middle of Angkor Thom, which is the last capital city of the Khmer empire. The temple’s most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and smiling faces carved on the roofs of all the towers in the complex. Interestingly, all the faces look similar and our guide told us that scholars suggested it was a representation of King Jayavarman VII. This ancient city is now part of the modern city of Siem Reap, Cambodia. I arrived in Cambodia on the last days of the rainy season and during my visit to the temples, the skies were leaden with overcast. Although, the sun trying to break through the clouds created a golden haze making the colors of the temple richer. The temple is every photographer’s dream destination from the carved facades, the stone statues, the towers with faces and the bas-reliefs on the galleries, there is just a bounty of subjects to photograph. I took hundreds of photographs in all available angles and these are some of my favorites. Hope you all enjoy looking at them and maybe they will inspire some of you to visit Cambodia in the near future.

THE BRIDGE TO BAYON

Angkor Thom is located in the Kingdom of Cambodia and is the last capital city of the Khmer empire. In the heart of this ancient city is the temple of Bayon, which is known for the multiple carvings of serene and smiling stone faces on its many towers. The city is surrounded by a moat and on it’s south gate entrance is a bridge lined with statues of gods and demons. Thankfully, our guide decided to have us walk through the bridge instead of driving by it so I was able to walk up to the statues and took as many photographs as my memory card can accommodate. It was such a thrilling and magical experience.  I can just imagine the sense of awe people felt as they walked across this bridge many centuries ago.  I’m glad they were able to preserve these archeological sites for us and for future generations to appreciate. Here are some of the photos I took of the bridge, the statues and the entrance gate to the ancient city of Angkor Thom.

BENG MEALEA

The temple of Beng Mealea in Angkor, Cambodia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the many temples built around the Angkor Wat period. After I was told by our guide that we were visiting multiple temple ruins for four straight days, I was worried I’ll eventually get tired of them. To my amazement, every temple we visited was as magnificent and unique as the other. For Beng Mealea, I like that they kept the forest that encroached on the temple complex. They didn’t uproot the trees and the stone slabs were still covered in moss. It felt like we were discovering the place for the first time. This was one of the many archeological sites we visited that I really enjoyed photographing. Aside from it’s beauty, the place was also almost deserted allowing me to take photographs minus the crowd of tourists. Here are a few of the many photos I took during my visit. Enjoy them and I hope you can take time to leave a comment. Thank you.

MEN IN ORANGE

Buddhist monks have always fascinated me…their meditative and simple lifestyles require them to abandon a life of pleasure in order to reach Nirvana. Based on those basic requirements, I obviously am not going to become a monk. LOL! Their orange robes are also very eye catching and mystical at the same time. I saw a lot of them during my trip to Thailand and Cambodia and always wanted to photograph them. I was instructed not to come too close but it was okay to take their photos from a distance. I had so many opportunities to photograph them during the trip but decided not to until I photographed them by accident. I was in Angkor Wat taking photos from across the moat when these two monks walked past in front of me just as I was clicking on my camera. I photographed them by accident and the photo turned out perfectly. It sure was my lucky day. The other photos were taken after the one above during the tour around the Angkor Wat complex. 
I call this photo the Orange Phantom…again I tried to keep my distance when taking their photos but this monk walked too fast and so I ended up with a photo of his back. I do like the mood of this photo with the all the shadows and spot lighting…very mysterious.
These last two photos were taken while driving out of the Angkor Wat complex. There was a brief traffic jam and these monks were patiently waiting for their tuk tuk to start moving.

ANGKOR WOW!

Angkor Wat is located in Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia and is one of the most magnificent archeological sites in the world. The complex was built in the early part of the 12th century then neglected around the 16th century resulting to the jungle recapturing the complex. Visiting this architectural wonder, which is listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, is both a breathtaking and fascinating experience. My jaw got sore saying “wow” multiple times while exploring this humongous temple complex. If ever you get the chance to visit this place, spare an entire day to explore it as there is so much to see.  I took hundreds of photographs clicking on everything from panoramic views to close ups of the intricate carvings on the walls. Here are some of the photos I took during my visit a few months ago.

LADIES OF THE MOAT

I’ve always wondered what my initial reaction would be when I see Angkor Wat for the first time. Would it be a jaw dropping moment? Would it take my breath away? Or would it be a disappointing experience? My anticipation was further built up as the sunrise experience I signed up for was cancelled due to inclement weather. I was able to go later in the day, once the rain stopped, however the sun just made a very brief appearance that day. I was looking forward to photograph every nook and corner of the temple that day but the gloomy weather made photography a challenge resulting to less vibrant shots. The moment I stepped out of the van, my heart started to beat insanely, and got wilder the closer I was to the temple. For a moment, I thought my heart stopped beating when I stepped up to this flatform and saw the Angkor Wat complex rising majestically across this body of water, which I initially thought was a river but later found out was a moat. It was such a magical moment…an experience I would cherish for the rest of my life. In the moat I noticed this boat with four women scooping what looked like reeds out of the water. I got riveted to what they were doing including the pile of reeds on their boat, which I thought made an interesting shot. I immediately pulled out my camera to photograph them while at the same time captured a reflection of Angkor Wat in the water. I was there for less than 10 minutes and I already got myself these magical shots. Angkor Wat is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and I made sure I took as many photographs as possible, all of which I would feature in my next few posts. For today, photos of these ladies cleaning the moat stole the show from Angkor Wat and will be the main feature of this post.

ANGKOR IN ROUGE

The Banteay Srei is a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva located in Angkor, Kingdom of Cambodia. The temple was built during the 10th century and is smaller in scale compared to other temples around the area but it features the most elaborate carvings making this one of the most beautiful temples in Cambodia. It’s unique color is due to the red sandstone used as primary construction material. It was raining during my visit and the wet walls enhanced the redness of the sandstones. This temple complex is about two hours drive from Siem Reap but is a must visit due to its beauty and unique color. Here are some of the photos I took during my visit using a Canon Rebel T6s.

THE WINDMILLS OF MYKONOS

Aside from being known as Greece’s party island, Mykonos is also famous for its windmills which has become the iconic symbol of the island. When I visited Mykonos a few years ago, I hiked my way across town just so I can photograph these quintessential features of the island. The walk was a delightful experience passing through narrow alleys between whitewashed cubic stone homes with the wooden parts painted in playful colors. The windmills, which were once used to make flour out of wheat and barley are no longer operational today. Fortunately, the town has managed to preserve them by turning some into museums. Somebody told me that some of these windmills are actually private homes but I’m not sure if there’s some truth to it.

VENICE…CITY OF CANALS

When I visited Venice, Italy I prayed so hard for my trip not to end that I would wake up really early in the morning and stay up late at night just to stretch each day. The city was just magical…from the architecture, to the rich history and culture and of course the canals, which are uniquely Venice, making this city one of the most visited in the world. During my stay, I went to watch a Vivaldi concert at a theater right beside St. Mark’s Square, hopped on a gondola that cruised around the city and took long walks along narrow alleyways and across bridges connecting the multitude of islands that make up this remarkable city. I also joined a tour of the St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace and visited the former home of American socialite Peggy Guggenheim, which is now a museum showcasing her extensive art collection. Harry’s Bar, which was right beside my hotel, was also visited to try their signature Bellini and to check out the favorite hangout of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock to name a few. The icing on the cake to my vacation was my suite at the luxurious Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia where my room had a view of the lagoon and my bathroom a view of the St. Mark’s bell tower. The hotel lived up to it’s five star reputation providing me with the famous Baglioni luxury and first class service. The photo above was taken in the front of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum while below are photos taken at Harry’s Bar, Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia.

Harry’s Bar

Peggy Guggenheim Museum

Dining Room at Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia

Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia

View from my hotel suite

Living area of my hotel suite

The luxurious bed in my hotel suite

CHICHÉN ITZÁ IN PHOTOS

Chichén Itzá in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico has always been on my bucket list and my determination to see it was further reinforced when the archeological site was declared as one of the New7Wonders of the World. When I visited Cozumel in 2014 it was a choice between Chichén Itzá and Tulum, which was another archeological site located right beside the Caribbean Sea. Tulum was a shorter ride from Playa del Carmen making it the obvious choice for a visit at that time. However, during my return to Cozumel, Mexico two weeks ago, I decided to take the long trip to Chichén Itza to finally see the famous Maya city. Walking around the archeological site was truly an experience of a lifetime making the six hour trip (3 hours each way) worth it. The architecture was more impressive and the complex larger than Tulum. Below are the photos I took around the complex:

Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars

El Castillo/Temple of Kukulkan

Temple of the Warriors

El Castillo/ Temple of Kukulkan

Skull Platform

Platform of Eagles and Jaguars

Temple of the Jaguars

Temple of the Bearded Man

Top of the El Castillo

Skull Platform

Platform of Venus

TEMPLE OF KUKULKÁN

I just got back from a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico and during this trip I visited Chichén Itzá, an archeological site in the Yucatan State of Mexico, which was once one of the largest and most powerful cities of the Maya civilization. This ancient city is now one of the most visited sites in Mexico and is famous for its 79-foot pyramid called the Temple of Kukulkán. Kukulkán is the name of a Maya deity, which is a feathered serpent whose head is carved at the base of the pyramid in the bottom right of my photo. During this trip, I also learned that a smaller pyramid is actually standing right inside this very pyramid because the Mayas just like other Mesoamerican cultures tend to superimpose larger structures over their older ones. While I was there, the place was packed with tourists that I immediately settled on the thought that my photos will have to include the throngs of tourists scattered all over the complex. I even stopped worrying about people blocking my view or walking in front of me while taking photos. Imagine my surprise when one of my photos turned out with barely a single soul on it…except for one holding an umbrella at the left side of the photo. I know having people in a photo adds perspective to the composition but a beautiful architectural wonder such as the Temple of Kukulkán deserves to be featured on its own. By the way, the Spanish colonizers renamed the temple to El Castillo (the castle) because of its size and intricate design. Chichén Itzá is now a UNESCO Heritage Site and was recently voted as one of the New7Wonders of the World.

ROME IN RUINS

The Palatine Hill in Rome is one of my favorite places to visit in the city. The whole place may be in ruins but it provides you an amazing picture of how great an empire Rome was centuries ago. On my first walk around this archeological heaven back in 2014, I was lucky to join a small guided tour with the most informed tour guide one could ask for. The most amazing thing I learned during the tour was that ancient Rome was right underneath modern day Rome. During my trip this year, I decided to head for the Capitoline Hill to capture a photo of Palatine Hill from a higher angle. In this panoramic photo I took using my iPhone 7 Plus, one can see the Roman Forum, Temple of Saturn and even the Colosseum in the far distance.

ANCIENT EPHESUS

imageThe ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey remains at the top of my list for the best places I have ever visited in my entire life. I have always been fascinated by ancient cultures and what I saw in this archeological heaven blew me away. Built in 10th century BC, the city featured an advanced acqueduct system, mosaic-tiled sidewalks, a hospital, temples, schools, public baths, library, theaters and an amphitheatre with a seating capacity of 25,000.  My hometown was founded less than 100 years ago and we don’t even have an amphitheatre.  The photograph above shows the Library of Celsus, which was built in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus who was a former governor of Roman Asia. He was buried in a sarcophagus beneath this library, which used to house almost 12,000 scrolls. Ephesus may not be familiar to a lot of people, but if you remember the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World…this city used to be home to one of them…the Temple of Artemis.

FORUM MAGNUM

img_4897The Forum Magnum, popularly known as the Roman Forum, was the heart of ancient Rome where commercial and political activities were once celebrated. Today, all that remain are the ruins of ancient buildings that once stood proudly around this historic square. I took this photo during a guided tour of the complex and I fortunately made the right decision to join one as it provided me with tons of history and trivias about this site. The tour lasted about 4 hours and culminated at The Colosseum, which is only a few steps away from this huge complex. This, Vatican and the Colosseum are probably the most interesting places I visited in Rome…although, there really is nothing in Rome that is not interesting.

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