Posts from ‘June, 2010’

Darwin’s tropical parliment

Darwin’s Parliament House is home to the Northern Territory Legislature and is one of the city’s more striking pieces of architecture. Opening in August of 1994 this building has been designed to suit Darwin’s tropical and sometimes harsh environment. The huge facade screens up to 8-% of the direct sunlight to the interior of the building and specially selected interior features including Tasmanian timbers and special fittings also help keep the building suitable for the many office workers and ‘most importantly’ the politicians. The building is open for self guided tours most days and there are guided tours certain times of the year. School tours are very popular and are a great way for the young to understand how and why the parliament operates. The building overlooks the beautiful Darwin Harbor and is located on land which was once occupied by the Larrakia Aboriginal People. To the west of the parliamentary building is Speaker’s Green which is a very popular place for weddings in Darwin. Just about every weekend you will see newly weds having their photographs taken or taking part in their ceremony. Towards the southern end of the green you will find Government House which amazingly survived both the bombing of Darwin in World War II and the horrific Cyclone Tracy of Christmas Day 1974. The lush gardens and tropical architecture make this one of the jewels of Darwin.

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Ha Long Bay of the decending dragons

Ha Long Bay meaning the Descending Dragon Bay is one of the most beautiful and tranquil sights of the South East Asian country of Vietnam. Located a few hours drive north east of the capital Hanoi the area covers around 120km of coastline and some 2000 islands or rock outcrops. Just over 330 square kilometers of this is made up of a UNESCO World Heritage Site which includes 775 of the islets. Local legend tells that the gods sent a family of dragons to help the Vietnamese people fight off the Chinese invaders years ago. The dragons spat out jewels and jade, as they would, and they turned into the islands and smaller islets we have today forming a great wall against the nasty invaders. The dragons are now believed to live in the area where they are joined by the dragon children overlooking the Ha Long region. The islands and rock outcrops offer great shelter and fishing for the people of the area and the biodiversity of the tropical dense forests are incredible with some incredible plant life including some very interesting endemic flowers. The forests are home to many varieties of bat and some beautiful bird life, lizards and even deer and monkeys. Most of the islands are not inhabited but the two biggest islands Tuan Chau and Cat Ba do have people living there and are home to tourist facilities including some beautiful beaches. A must for any visitor is to see the floating islands which are home and workplace to many of the fisherman of the area. People live in houses which are floating on huge barges where they farm fish in the beautiful clear warm waters.

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A golden gateway

The burnt orange Golden Gate Bridge is San Francisco’s best known and loved icon. Spanning 4200 feet across San Francisco Bay the bridge built in 1937 carries six lanes of US 101, 67 metres above the water. Construction started in January of 1935 and cost 35 million dollars to complete, taking just over four years to complete and it remained the longest suspension bridge until 1964 when it was surpassed by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which links Brooklyn with Staten Island. The bridge colour is officially called International Orange and was painted this colour to stand out in the thick fog which San Francisco harbor readily sees. Around 120,000 vehicles use the bridge on any given day which is controlled by a toll. Pedestrians and cyclists are permitted to use the bridge on the eastern side which faces the city during daylight hours. The walk is about 1.7 miles long and can get busy especially on sunny weekends when it is a very popular pastime. Just remember it might be a nice day but it’s sure to be windy crossing the bay and the fog can roll in very quick. Many tourists visit the historic Roundhouse which houses a giftshop and historical information centre. There are a wealth of books, memorabilia and other interesting items on the Golden Gate Bridge which make great souvenirs. The Roundhouse can be found on the southern side of the bridge. The northern side of the bridge also has a popular and moving tribute, The Loan Sailor Memorial located near the Vista Point parking lot is an important US Navy Memorial.

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Moscow’s Magnificent

Saint Basil’s or the Cathedral of Intercession of Theotokos on the Moat is probably the most known piece of architecture in Moscow. This magnificently coloured cathedral with its onion like domes is one of the world’s great religious buildings. The church celebrates Russian Orthodox and its beginnings date back to 1555 although the vivid colours and architecture were not a feature until the 1680’s and happened in stages over nearly 200 years. The building is meant to be inspired by a bonfire and its architecture is so unique there were no known similarities to it anywhere. It is rumoured that the architect Postnik Yakovlev was blinded by Ivan the Terrible so he would not design anything as magnificent ever again. The building today is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site which includes the two other major Moscow landmarks Red Square and the Kremlin. The cathedral has been pretty lucky to survive until today. Napoleon was so taken with the St Basil’s that he wanted to dismantle it and move it to Paris but legend tells he didn’t have the technology or manpower to do it. Unhappy with Russia having it and not Paris he then decided no one should have it and ordered it to be blown up. The story goes a sudden shower extinguished the gun powder fuses and the cathedral was saved. St Basil’s was nearly lost in the 1930’s too. Stalin’s Red Square development team planned to knock the structure down to make way for a new grand square luckily the plan didn’t come to fruition. Read the rest of this entry »

Towering over Shanghai

The Oriental Pearl Tower is one of the most striking and futuristic sights in China’s business stronghold Shanghai. Overlooking the Huangpu River opposite the historic Bund the tower rises 468 metres above the street and was the tallest building in China until the nearby Shanghai World Financial Centre surpassed it a few years back. The tower opened in 1994 and as well as an important communication tower it is home to a hotel,exhibition space a revolving restaurant and 15 yes 15 observation levels with the highest being 350 metres from ground. The tower features 11 spheres supported by three columns, and was designed using plenty of Chinese symbolism based around a poem dating back to the Tang Dynasty. Over three million visitors visit the tower each year and this year with World Expo being hosted in Shanghai you can bet the numbers will soar. Some visitors to Shanghai consider the admission price expensive and the queues long but many agree the view over the city is quiet spectacular if you are lucky enough to visit this fascinating city on a clear day.

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Monorail Monorail.. Monorail

Gliding smoothly on a track high above the city streets in the tropical city of Kuala Lumpur is the KL Monorail. The monorail links the Golden Triangle sector of the city with the Sentral transport hub and stops at 11 stations. After a bit of a shaky financial start the system opened in 2003 and today over 21 million people use the 8.6km system every year. For the visitor to Kuala Lumpur the monorail offers a unique and easy way to visit some of the major attractions of the city and is in easy reach of many of the huge shopping malls including the massive Times Square shopping complex. The two carrige train can carry up to  244 people although fairly tightly, with 48 people sitting and 196 standing. There are 10 units of 2 car trains in service.   The KL monorail is one of a number of monorails in Malaysia others include the Sunway Monorail at Sunway Pyramid Mall just outside KL, and several other new or under construction systems in Malacca, Penang and Putrajaya.  There have been proposals to extend the KL monorail line but no firm funding or plans have been announced.  One interesting highlight of the system is special animal conservation at each station. Each station has been given the responsibility to look after an endangered or precious animal. You will see some pretty fancy birds and reptiles at many of the stations.

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Sydney Rocks

When we think of Sydney Australia we think about the beautiful Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge but one of the jewels of the city and and one of the most popular tourist attractions are the Sydney Rocks. The Rocks is a historic precinct not far from the Harbor Bridge and the Circular Quay precinct.  The Rocks date back to pretty much English settlement of Sydney in 1788 when the area quickly became a hive of activity with pubs and lodging and a bustling port trade. Drinking and gaming was soon followed by prostitution and other forms of illigal activities. The area became a wasteland in the early 1900’s with the city moving on leaving the Rocks behind to decay. The building of the Bridge regained interest in redeveloping the area but World War II stalled the plan and the area became even more run down. During the 1960’s the government planned to turn the area into a modern showcase of concrete and glass skyscrapers, this got the public off side and many sought to fight for the heritage of the area. The people won over development and slowly the area was rebuilt and restored into a jewel of the city. Today the rocks is a historic collection of great old pubs, cafes, restaurants, galleries and many other tourist based industries. The area is popular for its weekend craft markets and many of the city’s events it is a must see for anyone visiting Sydney.

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Teeing off with a roo

Anglesea on Australia’s Great Ocean road only minutes from Geelong in Victoria is home to one of the world’s most unique golf courses. The greens are shared by golfers and hundred’s of Australia’s national symbol the Kangaroo. These delightful grey kangaroos gracefully hop around the course picking the lush greens not giving a second thought for the golfers or the balls flying across the green. The Anglesea Golf Club is surrounded by bushland which is the perfect habitat for kangaroos and everyday they come onto the green for a nibble or maybe just a lay in the sun.  The kangaroos usually don’t give the golfers much problem but they are sometimes not as cute and cuddly as they look they have very sharp claws and extremely strong rea legs and have been known to inflict serious injury on people when alarmed. Kangaroos like many of Australia’s other unique animals are best viewed at a distance.

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