Only a few hours away from Bangkok, is the ancient Siamese capital of Ayutthaya. A walk through the ruins takes you back four centuries to a time when the city was a flourishing trade centre, finds Moeena Halim
What will two girls do in Thailand?” laughed a male friend, when I announced our intention to travel to the neighbouring peninsula. He’d recently been there himself, and it seemed quite clear why he (and the host of other Indian men we eventually spotted waiting in the visa queue at Suvarnabhoomi airport) had made the trip.
Our plans did not include the obvious ‘girly’ thing to do either. And when girl friends began drawing up elaborate lists, we’d had to confess that shopping was not going to be part of our itinerary. We were in for another load of confused ‘but-what-will-you-do-there’ stares.
For centuries, historians and archaeologists have puzzled over the many mysteries of Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument that took Neolithic builders an estimated 1,500 years to erect. Located in southern England, it is comprised of roughly 100 massive upright stones placed in a circular layout. Whi1e many modern scholars now agree that Stonehenge was once a burial ground, they have yet to determine what other purposes it served and how a civilization without modern technology—or even the wheel—produced the mighty monument. Its construction is all the more baffling because, while the sandstone slabs of its outer ring hail from local quarries, scientists have traced the bluestones that make up its inner ring all the way to the Preseli Hills in Wales, some 200 miles from where Stonehenge sits on Salisbury Plain.
Petra, an ancient site located in present-day Jordan, has more than a thousand tombs carved in the area’s rocky terrain. These tombs, carved by the Nabataeans between the first century BCE and the second century CE, were places that housed, commemorated, and protected the dead.
Europeans first discovered Petra in the early nineteenth century when Johann Burckhardt, a Swiss-born and British-sponsored explorer, entered the area. The Europeans were fascinated with the classical façades carved into the red rock and gave them fanciful and imaginative names without realizing that these were tombs.
Petra had water available which made it an important stopping place for desert caravans crossing the desert from Arabia and Iraq with cargos of luxury goods bound for the Mediterranean markets in the Levant. For many of the nomadic tribes involved in trade, such as the Nabataeans, this site also came to be used as a burial site.
In the seventh century BCE, the Nabataeans were a nomadic group occupying the region of Tayma and Madain Salih in northern Arabia. They controlled an area on an important trade route which brought incense and spices into the Levant.
The grandiose and mysterious caves of Phong Nha-Ke Bang NationalPark have become a tourist trap for Quang Binh Province, attractingover four million visitors in the past decade. Hoang Trung Hieu reports.
The grandiose and mysterious caves of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park have become a tourist trap for Quang Binh Province, attracting over four million visitors in the past decade. Hoang Trung Hieu reports.
In the words of Phan Van Thang, 24, a guide for Ha Noi Redtours, central Quang Binh’s world-renowned caves are “imposing and beautiful”.
The area, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, features breathtaking natural treasures, including the world’s largest cave, Son Doong.
But despite dozens of visits, it’s the Thien Duong (Paradise) Cave that still leaves him with the deepest impression – bewitching with its blend of majesty and mystery.
In 2003, I visited Sigiriya while on a field study abroad in grad school. At the time, I was struck by the formal similarities between it and the Renaissance gardens I was learning about in landscape history classes, despite Sigiriya having been built more than a millennium earlier. I was also struck by the apparent ingenuity and technical ability of these ancient builders in shaping the land and hydrologic systems. The gardens not only feature fountains that function to this day, but the surrounding area, which is located on the highlands in the central part of the island, features ancient aqueducts used to capture water for agricultural irrigation.
Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island nation about the size of Ireland located in the Indian Ocean just offshore from India. It’s most familiar to modern-day Americans for its long-running civil war that ended in May of 2009 and for being the cultural homeland of London-born rapper M.I.A. Sigiriya is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the central portion of the island.
Think you know Malta? This Mediterranean island is often viewed as a place for cheap beach breaks – but there is much more to this sunspot than sun and sand, says Gareth Huw Davies.
For a country half the size of London, Malta packs a mighty punch.
It has archeological sites older than the Pyramids, the Parthenon and even Stonehenge. The capital Valletta was once known to the ruling houses of Europe as Superbissima – meaning ‘most proud’.
Benjamin Disraeli named it ‘a city of palaces built by gentlemen for gentlemen’. Unesco has put this marvellously well-preserved 16th century walled city on its elite list of World Heritage Sites, judging its crush of 320 churches, palazzos and fortifications one of the world’s most impressive historic areas.
Then there are the Maltese themselves, drawn from stock so brave the whole country was given the George Cross.
When the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur wears you down, there is no quicker escape than the two-hour drive to the quaint state of Malacca. Located in the southern region of the Malaysia, Malacca is the third smallest state of the Malay Peninsula. Small, but definitely incredible, Malacca is filled with so many sights, sounds, and eats, perfect for a day-trip out of the city.
Malacca was once a sought-after trading zone, for most of the most important spices found in South East Asia. No wonder this little town has attracted so much attention from its Oriental neighbors, as well as European countries. Its exposure to trade and share of colonizers created its rich history, brought together by a mix of Malay, Portuguese, Dutch, British, and Chinese influences.
Experience the rich history of this Indian masterpiece and ‘fall into a romantic trance’ at this ‘monument to love’.
DELHI – Glancing through travel brochures of India, I found this brief description: “This morning we visit the Taj Mahal, the magnificent tomb built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal.”
Ah, so much history, so much romance and pathos, so much architectural and engineering accomplishment in that one sentence which refers to this wonder of the world – the Taj Mahal.
If anything resembles the glamor of the mysterious East, it is incredible India’s Taj.
And so I flew nonstop – from New York to Dehli, close to 13,000 kilometers in 16 hours – to that far-off mysterious land we know as India.
The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as “the jewel of Muslim art in India” and is one of the world’s universally admired masterpieces.
From the walled Old Town to Battlefield Park to narrow streets lined with cafes, international visitors soak up the history and cuisine of Quebec’s capital.
In the Old Lower Town of Quebec City, the small Eglise Notre-Dame-Des-Victoires, dating from 1688, serves as a quick introduction to the fierce battle for this territory. A small replica of the Breze, a French ship that brought the Marquis de Tracy and his men across the Atlantic to fight the Iroquois in 1665-66, hangs from the ceiling. It’s a supposed lucky charm in a church named for victories over the British. When I visited, vocal music resounded as tourists waited their turn to get photos at the altar.