Travel

Europe Meets Asia at Turkey

Exotic Turkey has been a mixture and blend of two worlds: Europe and Asia. Both continents had a great influence in Turkey’s architecture, art and culture. Being an important passageway and gateway to both continents, history unfolded within its territories. Currently there are modern restaurants and party hubs. Turkey modernized with the world while maintaining its rich history.

When visiting to Turkey do not forget to visit the mosques, bazaars, and UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Location

Turkey is located in between Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. It is bounded on the north by the Black Sea, on the northwest by Bulgaria, on the west by Greece and Augean Sea, on the northeast by Georgia, on the east by Azerbaijani and Nakhchivan, on the southeast by Iraq and Syria, and on the south by the Mediterranean Sea.

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Here are the top 12 places to visit while at Turkey

1.    Hagia Sophia

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Hagia Sophia is located at Istanbul, Turkey. It was built in 537 in devotion to the Wisdom of God, Logos. It was sometimes called the “Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God.” It was once a Greek Orthodoxpatriatchal basilica until 1456. It was converted to a mosque in May 29, 1453 until 1931. It was the main mosque in Istanbul until the construction of the Blue Mosque. And in February 1, 1935 it became a museum.
The design of the building was done by Isidore of Miletus, a Geek scientist and Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician. It became very popular and a tourist attraction due to its massive dome. The design was the bases of architectural designs for other Ottoman mosques.

2.    Sultan Ahmet Camii or Blue Mosque

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This historic mosque is located at Istanbul. The mosque is easily seen because of its height and grandeur. It took seven years to complete the mosque, from 1609 to 1616.

The mosque was designed by Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa. It has a main dome, six minarets or towers and an additional eight secondary domes. It was influenced by Byzantine Christian elements and Islamic architecture.
The walls of the interior are lined with blue Iznik style ceramic tiles with over fifty different tulip designs. The walls without tiles were painted blue, it has stained glass windows, and ostrich eggs, gold and gems on its chandeliers. The flooring is lined by carpet which is regularly replaced.

The most valued piece in the interior of the mosque is the mihrab. It is made out of marble with a stalactite niche. On the right of the mihrab is an ornamented pulpit.

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The mosque’s interior

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Blue tiles lining the interior of the walls

3.    Topkapi Palace

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Topkapi Palace is one of its largest palaces located in Istanbul, Turkey. It was built in 1459 and became the residency of Ottoman sultans. It comprises patios, hospitals, bakeries, and mosques. It was the home to almost 4000 people. During the 17th century the sultans abandoned tha palace transferred to another royal residency. In 1923, the government of Turkey decided to convert the palace to a museum. Important artifacts and holy relics are kept here. It also showcases Ottoman architecture, treasures, jewelry and murals.

In 1985, the palace was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was known as “the best example[s] of ensembles of palaces […] of the Ottoman period.”

4.    Galata Tower

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The Galata Tower is also known as Galata Kulesi in Turkish or Christe Turris in Latin and located at Istanbul. It was built in the year 1348 to serve as an observation tower. It stands at a height of 66.9m or equivalent to nine-story. It is made out of stone which is 3.75 m thick. From the top of the tower, tourists could get a panoramic view of Istanbul and its neighboring places.  Inside the tower are a restaurant, café, and night club that tourists could enjoy.

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Panoramic view from the tower

5.    Grand Bazaar

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The Grand Bazaar is a shopping haven for tourists. It is a large, covered market in Istanbul. It encompasses a total land area of 62 streets with other 3000 shops. Throughout the years the marketplace had evolved and many tourists and merchants flock to the area to do trade. The reason for concentrating the market at one place is to decrease petty crimes and increase security. There are guards patrolling the area. It is open from 9am to 7pm except Sundays.

6.    Egyptian Bazaar

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The Egyptian Bazaar is also known as the Spice Bazaar. It is the second largest covered market in Istanbul. Just like the Grand Bazaar, this bazaar sells different products such as spices, jewelry, souvenirs, dried fruits and sweets. During weekdays and Saturdays it is open from 9am to 7pm. And on Sundays it is open from 10am to 6pm.

7.    Pera Palace Hotel

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Pera Palace Hotel is a specialty hotel – a fusion of a hotel and a museum. It was built in 1892 in Istanbul as a waiting area for passengers of the Orient Express. It was dubbed as the “oldest European hotel of Turkey.” The hotel is has the many ‘firsts’ in Istanbul like the first building to have electricity, the first electric elevator, and the first hotel to provide hot running water. Nearby establishments to the hotel includes Istiklal Avenue, Taksim Square and different consulates.

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Elevator door

8.    Antalaya

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The coast of Antalaya

Antalaya is the biggest international sea resort located along the Mediterranean coast at southwest Turkey. It is part of the Turkish Riviera. There are many different places one should see when visiting the town of Antalaya.
Kaleici is the place to go to see ancient and historic Ottoman houses. Here one could find hotels, bars, clubs, restaurants and shopping places. There is also a harbor located within its walls.

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Kaleici Harbor

Cumhuriyet Square is the main square where town performances and exhibitions are held.

And being a coast town, there are definitely beach destinations. One of its famous beaches is Konyaalti, Lara, and Karpuzkaldiran.

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Lower Duden Falls with Lara Beach at the background

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Konyaalti Beach

There are also a number of festivals and events celebrated throughout the year.

9.    Sumela Monastery

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Sumela Monastery is a monastery located at the ledge of a steep cliff at the Black Mountain, Trabzon Province. It overlooks the Altindere valley.

It was built in 386 AD as a dedication to the Virgin Mary that was found inside a cave on the said mountain. During the years, sultans destroyed the monastery. But since the 13th century sultans started sustaining and giving funds for its maintenance. Currently, it is a tourist destination for monks and other guests.

10.    Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia

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Goreme National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. It became popular due to the “fairy chimney” rock formations.

11.    Archeologic site of Troy

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Ruins of the walls of Troy

Troy is located at northwest of Turkey. It is a popular historical site with archeological importance. The famous Trojan War happened here. In the year 1998, Troy was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

12.    Selimiye Mosque

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Selimiye Mosque was built in 1569 to 1575 by architect Mimar Sinan at Edirne, Turkey. It was designed in a way that the mihrab could be seen from any point within the mosque. On the exterior a giant dome could be seen with four similar minarets. It is an example of perfect symmetry.

This mosque was included in UNESCO World Heritage list in 2011.

Kristine Capanzana

Rio de Janeiro: an Exquisite Travel Destination

When traveling to South America, one should not miss the fascinating country, Brazil, particularly Rio de Janeiro. It is a primary tourist destination because of the friendly people, distinctive cuisines, joyous festivities, beautiful beaches and exotic scenery.

Rio de Janeiro

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Although no longer the capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is still considered an important asset of the country. It is the second largest city of the country, and the sixth largest in America. The state is considered a major port. It provides great revenue to the country because of its business, recreation, education, trade and tourism. As a matter of fact, it is noted as one of the most visited cities in South America. It has a unique appeal that attracts foreigners to come and visit over and over again.

Location

Rio de Janeiro is located at the southeastern section of Brazil. It is bounded by the Bay of Guanabara on the east. Also on the eastern side one could see the so-called Sugar Loaf, an important landmark in Rio. On the south, the city is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean wherein a beautiful coastline could be seen. To the north and western side are land masses – hills and mountains.

 

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Location of Rio de Janeiro in South America

Modes of Transportation

Before travelling to Rio de Janeiro, make sure to have your passport and visas ready. If travelling to deeper parts, have your vaccine shots updated. It is best to convert dollars to their monetary unit, “real” pronounced as “hay-al” at legitimate currency converters. Learn their national language, Portuguese, to be more in touch and conversing with locals. Only a few locals could speak and understand English.

By Plane
The main point of entry is by plane. There are three airports within Rio. The international airport, Galeão-Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport is located north of downtown. It has connecting flights to 19 different countries. The domestic airport, Santos-Dumont domestic airport is located downtown. It is used as a service to Sao Paulo. Another airport, Jacarepaguá-Roberto Marinho Airport is used by Brazil Flying Club and located near the city center.

By Sea
Aside from catering to cargo and shipment, the port of Rio de Janeiro is used for cruise vessels. Usinhg a cruise vessel, one could reach the states of Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo.

By Land
And of course, one could always travel by land. The neighboring state, Santo Cristo has a bus terminal that travels to other states.

Getting Around
Getting around is also very simple. There are taxis almost everywhere. Just take note and be cautious that from 6am to 9pm every Monday to Saturday the reading on the meter should be “1.” A meter reading of “2” means the rates are higher.

To save money, one could also take a bus. There are a total of 440 municipal bus lines that travels through all parts of Rio. There are air-conditioned buses and non-air-conditioned buses.

Another option would be the newly improved and updated trains and subways. There are currently two subway lines operating. There is a plan to add another train system in the near future.

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Rio de Janeiro Metro Station

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The new urban train from SuperVia which connects the city of Rio de Janeiro with other parts of the state

Best time to visit
Foreigners could visit the state any time of year. The temperature ranges from 25 to 35 degrees Celsius during summer and 15 to 25 degrees Celsius during winter. It is usually densely populated during summer, from December to March.

What To Do at Rio de Janeiro

Enjoy the Festivities

Carnival
The Carnival is an extravagant, joyous and colorful celebration prior to the Lenten season. During the festivity the Sambódromo Marquês de Sapucaí, a permanent grandstand-lined parade avenue, is opened. The venue is also called Apoteose Square. Approximately 90,000 people participate in the festival. The street is filled with music, dancing and costumes. A popular dance and beat that is heard during this time is samba. Dancers from different samba schools gather and perform a dance to the tune of their respective school’s samba anthem.

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Panoramic view of the Carnival

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Enjoy the Man Made Structures

The Statue of Christ the Redeemer

This is the most famous landmark in Brazil. The Statue of Christ the Redeemer stands atop of Mount Corcovado with arms extending on both sides as the image looks down on the citizens of Rio. The statue was sculpted and inaugurated in 1931 with a height of 2,310 feet. One could see the statue from any point. But if you want to have a magnificent view of the whole Rio and neighboring areas, a climb to the top of the mountain is recommended. You could also book a cog train and see another tourist attraction, Tijuca Forest National Park.

This statue was been named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

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Aerial view

Tijuca National Park
Tijuca National Park, also known as Parque Nacional da Tijuca covers approximately 32 square kilometers. It is an urban forest at the heart of the city of Rio. This park was made to compensate coffee plantations. The most attractive part of this park is the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer which is located at the park’s peak.

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Candelaria Church
Candelaria Church, also known as Igreja de Candelaria was built in 1775 to 1811. It followed the Baroque style architecture on the façade and a Neoclassical and neo-renaissance for the interior. The church started from a simple chapel and grew to what it is right now.

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The façade
 

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The church’s interior

Maracanã Stadium
The people of Brazil love football that is why a large stadium was built. Maracanã Stadium also known as Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho or Estádio do Maracana has a seating capacity of 200,000 people and is considered as one of the world’s largest football stadiums. It was inaugurated in 1950 just before the World Cup. In 2014, the stadium was the venue for the World Cup. And in 2016, it would host the Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony.

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Aerial view

 

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Interior of the stadium

Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens
Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens or Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro was built and designed in 1808 by Dom João VI as the habitat of Amazonian flora and fauna. Examples of plants found here are large Victorian water lilies and Japanese plants.

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Enjoy the Sceneries
 

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Panoramic picture showing the mountains of Corcovado on the left, Sugarloaf at the center and the Two Brothers on the right

Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain is also known as Pão de Açúcar. This mountain is located at Guanabara Bay in the Atlantic Ocean. It stands 395 meters tall and gives a unique view of Rio and its beaches, the statue of Christ the Redeemer and the luscious green forest. For adventure lovers, they can always go up for a hike. But there are also cable cars for easy access to the top and bottom of the mountain. The best time to visit the top of the mountain is during sunset.

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Sugarloaf Mountain
 

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Cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain

Atlantic Coastline
A trip to Rio is never complete without visiting its beaches. There are two famous beaches that must be seen: Copacabana Beach and Ipanema Beach. The former beach stretches 4.5 kilometers and an ideal place to play beach soccer, have a tan under the warm sun, dance and party until early morning. They also offer water sport activities such as snorkeling. This area has nearby hotels and restaurants that cater to the needs of tourists. On the other hand, the later beach is more expensive and luxurious. Nonetheless, it is a perfect relaxing spot.

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Children playing beach soccer
 

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Copacabana Beach
 

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Tourists at Ipanema Beach
 

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Ipanema Beach at night

Kristine Capanzana

Machu Picchu: the Cradle of Inca Civilization

Peru is a country located at the Western area on the continent of South America. It has a total land area of approximately 1,285,216 square kilometers. It is bounded to the north by Ecuador and Columbia, to its east is Brazil, to its southeast is Bolivia, to its south is Chile, and to its west is the Pacific Ocean. The country’s capital is located at Lima. It is divided into 25 different regions plus the province of Lima.

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The country has different topographies and habitats. The west side are coastal regions and plains, on the east side is the high peaks of the Andes Mountains, on the southeast is the Amazon Basin tropical rainforest, and on the east is the Amazon River.

During the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors occupied the land. But because of this diverse topography there are certain areas they did not occupy. One particular area is Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu

machu_picchu02 Machu Picchu or Machu Pikchu is an important historical site and the cradle of Inca Civilization.

During the 15th century, the Incas built the estate. Different theories exit on why the estate was built. Some historians believe that the estate is a sacred religious site. Others believed that it is the birthplace of the Incan or Virgins of the Suns, and the site was later converted to a temple. And some say it was a royal home to the Inca Emperor Pachicuti. The exact purpose of the estate still remains a mystery to historians. But nonetheless, tourists have continued to flock to the area.

Its unique beauty and importance had gained popularity, recognition and became worthy for preservation.

It was during 1911 when the world saw its unique beauty and grandeur. Since then buildings were reconstructed and preserved. Until present reconstruction and preservation of the site was done. In the year 1981, Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary. And in 1983, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was described as “an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization.” In 2007, it became part of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

At present Machu Picchu is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Latin America, and it is the most visited tourist attraction in Peru.

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Machu Picchu covered with clouds

Location

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Machu Picchu could be found in Peru at approximately 80 kilometers northwest of Cusco Region. The Urumbamba River flows directly into Machu Picchu. It lies at the crest of the mountain ridge at about 2,430 meters above sea level. It lies in between two mountains: Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu.

machu_picchu05Panoramic view of Machu Picchu looking towards Huayna Picchu

It is located on a high altitude providing a perfect view of the two valleys below. Situated behind it is a massive mountain that is nearly impassable. The river crossing Machu Picchu provides an excellent source of water. To further increase land for cultivation of crops, the hillsides have been terraced. The terraced hillside has helped steepen the slopes making the ascend harder.

Transportation

To reach the historical Machu Picchu site, tourists gather in Cusco at Kilometer 82 or Kilometer 104 near the town of Ollantaytambo. The only mode of transportation is by foot. Tourist would have to walk through the magnificent Andes Mountains. The whole journey would last two to five days.

There are two bridges that serve as gateways to the estate. These two bridges were built by the Incas. One is the Inca Rope Bridge located at Pongo de Mainique that transverses the Urumbamba River. Another bridge is located to the west of Machu Picchu. This is a tree-trunk bridge measuring 6 meters long and it is approximately 570 meters high.

machu_picchu06Inca Rope Bridge

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Inca trail

What to see at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is the perfect place to see Incan architecture.

Incans were famous for their technique called ashlar. Stones used for the construction of the buildings and houses were obtained from their natural quarry. These stones were polished dry and cut into regular shapes. These stones are then placed close to one another. This technique provided a sturdy material that could stand earthquakes. The chippings from cutting the stones were used in construction of the terraces. Each terrace is composed of top soil, followed by dirt, and the stone chips. This arrangement allowed water to be absorbed by the soil and into the mountain, thus, preventing floods, mud and landslides.

One should also take note of the walls which were designed to protect the people and architecture in case of an earthquake. The walls are tilted inwards. The doors and windows are trapezoidal and inclined inward. The corners are rounded.

machu_picchu08Trapezoidal doors and windows inclined inward

As mentioned, the slopes of the hillsides were converted into terraces. This provided additional agricultural land and irrigation. Furthermore, to maximize the land area, there are roughly 200 buildings that are built along the terraces. There are also long and narrow kanchas or compounds. To reach these different levels of terraces, stone stairways were built.

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Terraces used for agriculture

The eastern section is also known as the Popular District or Residential District. Residential houses for the lower-class people were built here. Furthermore, storage buildings and warehouses are also constructed.

machu_picchu11Residential section

machu_picchu12Panoramic view of the residential section

There is also a section dedicated for nobility and royalty. Each house of royalty had a distinguishing feature. The amautas or wise persons had reddish walls. The ñustas or princesses had trapezoid-shaped rooms.
On the western section was an area devoted to religious and ceremonial activities.

As a sign of devotion to their sun god and greatest diety, Inti, three important structures were built: Inti Watana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows.

The name Inti Watana was derived from the Quechua language and literally means an instrument “to tie up the sun.” Tourists often call the place “The Hitching Post of the Sun.” It is a group of stones positioned to directly point to the sun during the winter solstice. The best time to visit the place is from November 11 to January 30 when the sun is located directly above the pillar. Some historians believed that this also served as a clock or calendar.

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The Temple of the Sun or Torreon is one structure that could not be missed. This was an observational tower.

machu_picchu15Temple of the Sun or Torreon

machu_picchu16Sculptures seen at the bottom of the Temple of the Sun. It is interpreted as “Water mirrors for observing the Sky.”

machu_picchu17Room of the Three Windows

The Monumental Mausoleum is a place for religious rites and sacrifices. On the exterior, it is carved statue with a vaulted interior and carved drawings.

Another important artifact to visit is the Inti Mach’ay. It is located on the eastern side just north of the “Condor Stone.” It is surrounded by other caves that were used as tombs.

This place was the venue of the Royal Feast of the Sun during the Incan month of Qhapag Raymi. Only nobles and royalties could participate in this celebration. The celebration would begin during the start of the month and end on the solstice. One tradition observed was ear-piercing of male nobles to symbolize their manhood.

Aside from being a feast place, it is also a point of architectural interest and significance. It is built with the finest and best masonry of the Incan Empire. There is also a unique tunnel-like window that would only allow sunlight into the cave during a specific period, and that is during the feast.

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Remnants of Inti Mach’ay

There is three-sided building called the Guardhouse. Inca architecture is very famous for its three-sided style. It is commonly called wayrona style. The longest side faces to the Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock.
machu_picchu19Guardhouse

machu_picchu20Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock

Kristine Capanzana

Backpacking at South Africa

For those seeking adventure and some adrenaline rush, then a backpack trip to South Africa is suited for you. It is would be a fantastic, exciting and thrilling escapade. So get your backpacks ready, and explore South Africa.

What You Need to Know About South Africa

The country on the southern tip of Africa is the Republic of South Africa also known as South Africa. Another name for this country is Mzansi which means “south.” There are three cities that hold power: Pretoria for the executive branch, Bloemfontein for the judicial, and Cape Town for the legislative. Johannesburg is the largest city.

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Boundaries
South Africa is bounded on the north by the countries Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. To its east are the countries Mozambique and Swaziland. Located within South African territory is the nation Lesotho.  South Atlantic and Indian Oceans surround the west and southern borders. It ranks as the 25th largest country in the world.

People
It is also the 25th most populous country. 80 percent of the populations are descendants of black Africans which composes different ethnic communities. The remaining 20 percent is composed of Europeans and Asians. Because of the various ethnic communities living here, the country was dubbed as the “rainbow nation.”

Transportation
The main mode of transportation to get to South Africa is by plane. There are international flights from the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The main airports are located at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International or Cape Town.

Travelling within the country is easy because of the organized public transportation. Public transportation includes buses, minibus taxis, trains, and domestic flights. For those who could afford, there are also car and bike rentals.

What you need to know and bring in your travel

Make sure to have your return flight ticket, passport and temporary visitor’s permit ready when travelling to South Africa. The temporary visitor’s permit is valid for 90 days. If you wish to stay longer, you could apply a visa at the Department of Home Affairs.

Before travelling to South Africa, you should learn their language. There are a total of 11 official languages. English is the fourth most-spoken language and is used is public and commercial life. But if you want to converse with people in deeper parts of the country knowing another language would help.

The monetary unit is rand (R) which is also called “buck.” You can have your local currency changed at the airport upon arrival, banks, and hotels. Credit and debit cards are accepted at major cities and hotels. However, in remote areas, cash is needed.

You should also need to know that there are extreme weather conditions. The weather is mostly sunny. But during the months of June and July, temperature drops to zero. It is advised to do some research on the current weather conditions before travelling.

Electric supply here is 220/ 230V, 50Hz AC and the sockets are round-pinned plugs. Make sure to bring an adaptor to charge your gadgets.

Places of interest

There are a total of nine provinces in South Africa. Each of these provinces has its own uniqueness and beauty; something you must visit and see. It is a big country with a lot of fascinating places. The best way to explore everything is planning your visit. You could divide your itinerary between the different provinces.

Cape Town
Cape Town is the capital and largest city at Western Province. This town is a combination of stunning beaches and breathtaking views. Here are four attractions that you should not miss at Cape Town.

•    Robben Island

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(Left) Aerial view of Robben Island. (Right) Prison cell at Robben Island

Robben Island is known to be a penal colony for 400 years. It is situated just off the coast of Cape Town and surrounded by sharks. It was also the prison cell of Nelson Mandela for 18 years. In 1997, it was declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site and museum. A tour to the island lasts 4 hours; this includes the ferry ride, a visit to the prison building, and a bus tour.

•    The Township

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If you want to meet and share an experience with the community, then a trip to Township is recommended. It was built as settlement area for non-whites during the old political system. Currently it is home to majority of Cape Town’s citizen. When you visit this place do not miss the pub or shebeen, school, orphanage, community venter and the traditional healer. It would give you an insight to the life of a South African. Despite their status in life, the people perform the best music.

•    Cape Town’s beaches

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The best time to see the beaches is during summer – that is from December to February. There are a lot of different beach to choose from. There are also different watersports like surfing, diving, sailing, kayaking, and kite-surfing. There are designated beaches for young people showing off their bodies, family beaches, and nude beach. There are also beaches wherein you could see penguins and whales.

•    Table Mountain

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The famous table mountain a large slab of sandstone located at the heart of the town. It stands at 1086m and a length of 3km. It is covered with clouds that dubbed as the mountain’s “tablecloth.” It is admired not only because of its beauty but also because of its diversity. It is the habitat of at least 1400 different plants and animals. For those brave and adventurous enough to climb the mountain for 3 hours, a spectacular view awaits. Or you could try using the cable cars installed. From atop you could see the coastline, the beaches and Robben Island. One way to get down from the top is by paragliding.

Knysna

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Knysna was voted twice to be South Africa’s favorite town. There are a lot of reasons for this nomination. Because of its location, between Outeniqua Mountains and Indian Ocean, it has a spectacular view. There is also a lagoon which water sports are hosted. The luscious forest serves as a nice trail for walking. Here are a few things you could do here:

•    Have fun along the beach. Build sand castles, have a barbeque with family and friends, talk a walk, and go swimming in the beach.
•    Walk into the forest. There is a trail path for walking within the forest. If you are lucky, you could also see birds and some animals.
•    Do not forget the Township tours.
•    Take a dip into the lagoon.
•    Spare some time to enjoy the view from the Featherbed. This is a private nature reserve. The trip starts with a boat trip, followed by a drive up to the lookout point. There are two ways to get down, by driving down or hiking through the forest or alongside the lagoon.

Drakensburg Mountains

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This mountain range is about 600 miles long forms the KwaZulu-Natal’s western border. There are a lot of different things you could do here: hiking, bird watching, guided tours, 4 x 4 trails, bikes, golfing, fishing, white water rafting, and a lot more. It is indeed a sight for those adventure lovers. If you plan to visit this area, make sure to do the following:

•    The Karkloof Canopy Tour

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This tour is an eco-wilderness adventure. You would get to see the birds and plants from above. It is an exciting educational tour because there are professional tour guides to give fascinating facts. The whole tour would last around three hours.

•    Bushman Rock Art

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The first settlers of the Drakensburg Mountains were San Bushmen. They narrated their day to day life through paintings found in caves. Those painting became popular because of its unique beauty. These works of art are showcased at Kamberg National Park.

•    Royal Natal National Park

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Tugela Falls

Mont-aux-Sources is known to be one of the highest mountains; and it could be found within the park. This high mountain is the source of five rivers and the famous Tugela Falls. Tugela Falls is 3000ft tall and the water flows to five different tiers. This is also the perfect place to go rock climbing and horseback riding.

Kristine Capanzana

Sights of China

People’s Republic of China or simply China is a must see country at East Asia. It has a total land area of approximately 9.6 million square kilometers making it the second largest country in the world. There are a total of 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and two self-governing special administrative regions. The seat of governance is at the capital, Beijing.

Traveling to China

There are different ways to reach China: plane, land, or sea. But remember, any of these routes would require the traveler to obtain a visa. To get a visa, inquire at your country’s Chinese embassy.

Via plane
There are many international flights going to China. The main airports are located at Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. From here one could travel by road to the different provinces of China.

Via land
It is also possible to reach China via land. There are roads from Tibet, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Vietnam, Mongolia and Russia going to China. However, some of these roads are tricky and expensive.

Via sea
Traveling by sea is a unique and possible way to reach China. Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam and South Korea offers boat rides to reach the said country.

Natural Attractions

China consists of various land forms. The landscape on the northern borders consists of forest steppes and desserts. This is because of the dry and arid environment. And to the south there are subtropical forests. There are also mountain ranges like the Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamir and Tian Shan that divides China with South and Central Asia. There are also rivers like Yangtze and Yellow River crossing the lands of China. These rivers are known as the third and sixth longest rivers respectively.  It is also surrounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East and South Chine Seas on the east.
These landforms have become a tourist destination. The country has assisted and protected these areas making it an attraction for foreigners. Listed below are some natural sceneries one should see when they visit China.

Mount Huang

Mount Huang also known as Huangshan or Yellow Mountain is one natural tourist attraction that people must visit. It is mountain range located at eastern China. Nature lovers would want to take some time and admire the beautiful scenery, pine trees, and granite peaks that nearly touch the clouds. Ancestors had carved 60,000 steps to reach the peak. But now, tourist could ride a cable car to the top and admire the view.

Mount-Huang

Li River Cruise

For those travelling to Guangxi Province at northeastern China, do not miss a Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo. Riding this cruise one would be at awe with the hills, cliffs, caves, villages by the river, and bamboo groves. It is a nice trip to escape from the busy city life.

Li-River-Cruise1

Li-River-Cruise

Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou Valley was dubbed as a “fairyland.” Within the valley are clear waterfalls and lakes. On its background are snow-covered karst mountains. It is the home of giant pandas.

Aside from these natural tourist destinations, there are also man-made tourist destinations.

Jiuzhaigou

Historic tourist attractions

Historic tourist attractions have been built based on China’s rich history. China is known as one of the oldest civilization with a rich and interesting history. It was occupied and ruled by different dynasties that had influenced infrastructures. Each dynasty had a structural contribution that has now become a part of a historic attraction.

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China was built in the 5th century during the Ming Dynasty. It serves as a protection on the northern border from attacks from nomadic tribes. At present there are portions of the wall that have been ruined. But the government is doing what it can to preserve this historic architecture.

Great Wall of China1

Great Wall of China

Forbidden City

The Forbidden City in Beijing is the largest palace in the world. It was built in 1406 to 1420 on 72 hectares of land. This was the home to twenty-four emperors for five centuries. At present there are approximately 980 buildings with 8,707 rooms still standing. The perimeter has moat 20 feet deep and a hall 33 feet high. It now nerves as a museum.

Forbidden City1

Forbidden City

Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army is located at Xian Province. It is a collection of approximately 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses. It represents the army of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (221 BC-206 BC).

Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army2

Mogao Caves

The Mogao Caves is one of the three most famous ancient rock-cut temples. It is a collection of 492 temples. The wall of the cave showcases Buddhist art and storage of scrolls since 366 AD. It is located 25 kilometers southeast of Dunhuang.

Mogao Caves

Leshan Giant Buddha

The 233 feet tall Giant Buddha of Leshan is located at western China at the province of Sichuan. It was built in 713 during the Tang Dynasty and was completed in 803.

Leshan Giant Buddha

Modern-day attractions

In addition to historic tourist attractions, there are also must-see modern buildings and architectures. These are a reflection of China’s economic progress throughout the years.

Pudong Skyline

Pudong is a district of Shanghai. Twenty years ago, this was a farmland, but now skyscrapers and tall buildings have been erected. Located here are the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center, the Jin Mao Building and the Shanghai Tower. It became China’s financial and commercial district.

Pudong Skyline

Tianjin

Tianjin is one of the national central cities located on the coast of northern China. It is one of the largest coastal cities; because of that, it is a major seaport and gateway. It is the center of advanced industry and financial activity.

Tianjin

China is indeed a large country with so many wonderful tourist destinations. One could choose to go on a nature trip, historical adventure or enjoy city life of China. The travel is all worth it.

Photos by
wikipedia.com
touropia.com

Kristine Capanzana

People’s Republic of China or simply China is a must see country at East Asia. It has a total land area of approximately 9.6 million square kilometers making it the second largest country in the world.

Road Trip to Tagaytay City

TagaytayTagaytay is one of the most scenic and sought after travel destinations in the Philippines. It is a city within the province of Cavite which is located 55km south from the country’s capital, Manila. Public transportation to the city is available. But the best way to reach the place and enjoy all the benefits of the city is by a private car which would take approximately an hour and 15 minutes from Manila.

Tagaytay is an inviting place to go on a road trip. It provides an easy escape for those who wish to unwind and relax from the busy and hectic life. It has an ideal temperature, cool but not freezing. It is within luscious greenery that brings you closer to nature. It also has different viewing points of the iconic Taal Volcano and Lake. It is a popular tourist destination because of its uniqueness – a lake within a lake. There are also establishments that provides for your basic necessities. These establishments were built to cater to the needs of the tourists but at the same time maintaining the beauty of nature.

Where and What to Do at Tagaytay

Here are few of the places you could go to during your road trip:

 

People’s Park in the Sky

This place is simply known as People’s Park. This is the perfect place to bask and appreciate nature. At 2500 feet, this is the highest summit within the city. From here you can see four bodies of water – Taal Lake, Bulayan Bay, Laguna de Bay and Manila Bay – and mountains – Dapdap West and Dapdap East. Within the park grounds one could see the unfinished Palace in the Sky – a mansion that was built during the Marcos’s regime. The Shrine of Our Lady, Mother Fair Love was also built within the park in December 1974. A Doppler weather radar station is also within the park.

View at People's Park in the Sky
View at People’s Park in the Sky

Picnic Grove

The ideal family destination is Picnic Grove, a large and inviting park which overlooks Taal Volcano and Lake. Family and friends could bring their own lunch and rent tables and huts. You can also eat inside a restaurant located within the park. There are different activities that you could do such as horseback riding, eco-trail walk, and ride a zipline and cable car.

Sky Ranch

This is the latest attraction located along the highway. It offers tourist a view of Taal Volcano and Lake, different rides, and a wide range of restaurants you could eat. A few of the attractions here: the biggest ferris wheel in the Philippines also known as Sky Eye, a carousel, train ride, and horseback riding. All these rides could be enjoyed by people of all ages. A few of the restaurants you could choose from are Kenny Rogers, Tokyo Tokyo, KFC, Rue Bourbon, and Leslie’s.

Sky Ranch at night
Sky Ranch at night

One Destination

This is the perfect place if you prefer to dine within a restaurant. Modern establishments and restaurants are available such as Pancake House, Starbucks, Dencio’s Grill, Yellow Cab, and Max’s Restaurant. This is also the go-to place for those looking for a nice cool nightlife.

Other activities and places of interest are spiritual places like churches, chapels and seminaries; to name a few: Divine Word Seminary, Pink Sisters,St. Anne’s Shrine, and SVD Retreat House. As a matter of fact, this city serves as a meditation place for many. There are also historical sites and places of interest like Mabini Shrine, Casa de Segunda Katigbak, Jose P. Laurel Memorial Library, and Marcela N. Agoncillo Historical Landmark. You should also not miss out their famous restaurants and cafes like Leslie’s, Sonya’s Garden, Josephine’s Restaurant, and Bag of Beans.

There is no reason not to visit Tagaytay City in the Philippines. Grab a friend and go explore the city.

Some pictures:

Taal Lake and Volcano top view
Taal Lake and Volcano

Taal Lake and Volcano up close
Taal Lake and Volcano

Taal Lake and Volcano
Taal Lake and Volcano

Taal Lake and Volcano 2
Taal Lake and Volcano

Divine Word Seminary
Divine Word Seminary

Pictures by:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagaytay
http://www.s1expeditions.com/2013/10/104-skyranch-cavite.html

Kristine Capanzana

Tagaytay is one of the most scenic and sought after travel destinations in the Philippines. It is a city within the province of Cavite which is located 55km south from the country’s capital, Manila. Public transportation to the city is available. But the best way to reach the place and enjoy all the benefits of the city is by a private car which would take approximately an hour and 15 minutes from Manila.