Posts Tagged With: Historical Monument

The Baths of Caracalla: The Ancient Roman Spa

After all the hustle and bustle of sightseeing around Rome, I wanted to get away from tourist groups to spend some quiet time.  I met a few backpackers at the hostel who directed me to places in Rome where there are not too many people in one place at the same time.  One of these places with very few tourists around is the ancient Roman architecture called the Terme di Caracalla better known as the Baths of Caracalla.


The Baths of Caracalla is essentially divided into 2 sections:  one inside the bath complex and one around it.  Built by Emperor Caracalla in AD 212, the magnitude of the baths were staggering and the buildings enormous.


About 9000 workers were employed daily for five years just to create the 337 x 328 meters platform.  The baths were not just built for swimming but also as a wellness and sports venue.


The baths were inaugurated in AD 216 but were only completed after the death of Caracalla.  The whole site was abandoned after the siege of Rome  in AD 537.


Today, many of the walls are still several stories high giving you an idea of the scale of the establishment.


There are informative plaques at strategic places showing the original layout.  You can also pay for an audio guide which will help you imagine what it must have been like when it was being used.


There are quite a few mosaic floor fragments still left as well as some stonework and few frescoes.



The Thermae Antoninianae, is considered as one of the largest and best preserved ancient thermal complexes showing the sheer ingenuity of the Roman engineers.  If you are a history and archaeology buff, walking through the ruins would be a nice respite from the crowded tourist attractions in Rome.


The Baths are south-west of the Colisseum. To go there, I took the 160 bus from Piazza Victtorio which stopped just after the baths.  There was a small street with signs that led me to the main entrance.  I paid 6 Euros for the entrance fee (you have to pay additional 7 Euros for the audio guide).


More than the history and the ancient archaeological ruins, I particularly enjoyed the garden area.  It is a nice place to stroll or just relax and rest as there are very few people and little or no traffic noise.  I stayed there for awhile just to get away from the tourist crowds.  It was a worthy visit.

Categories: Europe, Italy, Rome | Tags: , | 7 Comments

South Africa: A Country of Eclectic Cultures with a Fascinating History

South Africa

South Africa is known for its great safari and outdoor activities.  From the top of Table Mountain to the barren desert of the Kalahari with both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans to choose from, South Africa is considered the most geographically diverse with unbelievably beautiful nature reserves and wildlife on the African continent.

But, aside from spectacular landscapes and natural beauty, the country offers sites full of vast culture and historical value.

South Africa

South Africa has a colorful history at the heart of which lies the Apartheid and the legacy that it left behind.  To get to know the country, you have to understand its history.  And this is just what I did when I travelled to South Africa with two friends – taking the Liberation Heritage tour.

Most of the historical sites can be found at the vibrant city of Johannesburg where you will find links to key Apartheid historical sights.

First stop is the Apartheid Museum.  It was a bit of a gruesome experience which reminded me of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia because of its provocative and violent film footages and actual photographs.  However, unlike the Tuol Sleng, the Apartheid Museum brings the visitors to an emotional journey based on the struggle to overthrow tyranny and racial discrimination.  The museum tour will actually make you feel like you are actually in the Apartheid era where the segregation of black and white is re-enacted from the time you enter the museum grounds. This is a fundamental trip particularly for those who wants to understand the Apartheid.  The only downside is that taking photos is not allowed inside the museum.  With R65.00 (about $6) admission fee for adults, it is all worth your money.  For more information, visit their official website at:

Next stop is Soweto short for South-West Township, the most famous district in the country.  We took a guided tour to revisit its history and its significance in the resistance movement during the Apartheid in the 70s to 80s.  On the way, we passed by homes ranging from extravagant mansions from the prosperous white areas to makeshift shacks that traditionally houses the black workers.  Under the Apartheid, this city was developed as a township for black people.  It was the center of the struggle against Apartheid.

South Africa

One of the places that encapsulates the spirit of resistance is the Regina Mundi, the largest Catholic Church in the country where gatherings of various political and anti-apartheid organizations happened.

South Africa

In June 16, 1976, during a student uprising, the church became the refuge of protesting students fleeing from the police’s bullets and teargas canisters.  Many were injured and the church’s sacred symbols were damaged .  Despite its renovation, it has retained the damaged altar and bullet holes in the ceilings bearing testimony of what happened on that fateful day in Soweto.  Beautiful stained-glass windows donated by Poland in 1998 surrounding the walls are a welcome invitation.

South Africa

A mini exhibition was built for visitors (ranging from 200 a day) wanting to have a glimpse of its historical value.  Entrance is free but donations are welcome.

Another important stop in Soweto is the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum.  It was erected in honor of the late Pieterson, the 12-year old boy shot dead by police during the 1976 student uprising.

South Africa

The museum is located not far from where Pieterson was shot and killed.  On the day he was killed on June 16, students were protesting against the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools.   The supposedly peaceful protests ended in a deadly riot with police firing openly to the protesters.  His death was captured by a photo-journalist and was published globally.

South Africa

Since then, Hector Pieterson has become something of an iconic image of the Apartheid uprising.

South Africa

The museum is open Monday to Saturday with a fee of R25 ($2.42).  Unfortunately, photography is again not allowed inside the museum.

Other attractions in Soweto are residences of famous anti-apartheid activists such as the Sisulu residence, the house of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the mansion belonging to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, second wife of Nelson Mandela and lastly the first house of Nelson Mandela which is now a popular tourist attraction.

The Nelson Mandela’s humble house in Orlando West, Soweto, has been transformed into the Mandela Family Museum.  The house was preserved the same state it was when the Mandelas lived in it in the 1960s.

South Africa

The house contains assortment of memorabilia, paintings and photographs of the late Nelson Mandela.

South Africa

When I visited this place in 2011, I find that it was not worth the R65 ($6) fee for international tourists.  At that time, it was just a small building and does not fall as a high quality tourist destination.

South Africa

However, the Soweto Heritage Trust is keen to improve the museum and expand the area.  And with the untimely death of Nelson Mandela, this place might turn into a worthwhile point of interest in South Africa.  For updated information, visit its official page,

South Africa

If you want to learn more about Nelson Mandela, the first South Africa’s democratically elected black president, visiting Robben Island is a must if you visit Cape Town.  Over the centuries, the island has been used as a hospital, mental institution and a military base.

South Africa

However, it is most famous for being a political prison during Apartheid where Mandela spent 18 years of the 27 years of his prison life.

Since 1997, it has been a museum and a heritage site with ferries departing from the mainland regularly (each tour takes approximately 3.5 hours).

South Africa

A bus will take you around the island stopping over at the Lepers’ Graveyard, Kramat Shrine, the house where Robert Sobukwe lived in solitary confinement, the lime quarry area where prisoners including Mandela did hard labour and the maximum security prison where Mandela’s cell was left in its original state.

South Africa

One of the interesting things of this trip is the on-foot-tour with the former inmate giving their firsthand accounts of prison life, making the whole visit a personal and poignant tour.

South Africa

Aside from its historical significance, Robben Island is a home to African penguins and interesting mix of flora and fauna.

South Africa

Ferries depart from Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town and costs R250 (about $24) for adults and P120 (about $11.60) for children. For more information, visit

South Africa

South Africa, is definitely one of my favorite African destinations. With Mandela’s death, South African tourism is likely to boost, not just as a premier outdoor destination but also as a country of eclectic cultures and a fascinating history.

South Africa

Categories: Africa, Cape Town, Johannesburg, South Africa | Tags: | 3 Comments

Modern Buddhist Heritage of Sri Lanka’s South



The Weherahena Temple situated close to Matara town in the southern part of Sri Lanka, is famous for its iconic 39 meters high Buddha Statue which sits in the samadhi or squatting position in front of the temple.  A 600-foot tunnel is decorated all over with paintings and murals that describe the life of Buddha.  The temple is a multi-story building with lots of Buddhist statues created in the modern era.  The ancient nature of the place gives a calming and peaceful setting and an amazing view from the top.  The short ride from Galle to the Weherahena Temple passes through a picturesque road to Matara where one can enjoy a long stretch of beach flanked by swaying coconut trees along the way.  

Categories: Asia, Sri Lanka | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Eiffel Tower Series – Part 2: Framing and Foreground

In my March 3, 2013 post, Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in Details, I have presented to you Part 1 of the 3-part series on how to take a photo of the Eiffel Tower the unconventional way.   In that particular post, I showed different images of Eiffel focusing on the intricate architectural details using close-ups or detailed shots.

Part 2 focuses on how to get foregrounds right in photography.  I am not talking about the technical aspect such as Depth of Field or changing the settings of the camera’s aperture.  That is for advanced photographers to find out.  I want to focus on creative composition and the framing aspect of taking images, as my intended target audience for this series is mainly the ‘tourist’ photographers, those who are not actually photography enthusiasts but love to take photos during their travels for photo souvenirs or for facebooking! As one photographer said, being creative does not require highly technical skills and knowledge; it just means looking at the world a bit differently.

Therefore, this post will show you different ways to compose a photo of the Eiffel Tower using the right foreground to add depth to your shot.  Keep in mind that your composition tells the story that you want to project out of your photo, whether you use the DOF technique or keep the entire image sharp it does not matter….(as long as you know and understand what messages you want to convey and how it can be accomplished!)

As I mentioned in Part 1, the challenge is in finding the right angle or composition and taking the right shot in order to have your own unique photos of France’s global cultural icon.

So let us get started!

Part 2 of Eiffel Tower Series —  Framing and Foreground

Most of us are fond of taking long shot or landscape shots like this with all the elements including the foreground sharp and clear.

Eiffel 1

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Categories: Europe, France, Paris | Tags: , , | 14 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details

I wanted to do a series on how to shoot Eiffel Tower the unconventional way…something that defies the standard clichés in taking a photo of famous landmarks — > that is avoiding the typical landscape shots!

Incidentally, the photo challenge for this week is about getting lost in the details which is exactly what happened to me when I first saw the Eiffel Tower – I was overwhelmed by the intricate architectural details of the tower that I ended up taking close-ups or detailed shots.

So here is the first part of the Eiffel Tower series: GETTING LOST IN THE DETAILS.

Eiffel Tower is usually shot in a typical landscape format like this:

eiffel 1

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Categories: Europe, France, Paris, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , | 37 Comments

St. Peter’s Basilica: The Largest Catholic Church in the World

St Peter

St. Peter’s Basilica, the center of Christianity, is the largest and most famous Roman Catholic Church in the world. The building is an amazing feat of architecture.  The structure was built over a span of more than 100 years. It is traditionally believed to have been erected over the spot where St. Peter, considered the first pope, was buried. Located within the walls of the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica is a place where religion, history and art blend. Last Thursday, the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI officially stepped down, making him the first pope to resign after 600 years.

Categories: Europe, Vatican | Tags: , | 2 Comments

An Unfinished Masterpiece



The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, has been under construction for more than 100 years.  This unparalleled architectural gem was designed by Antoni Gaudi who oversees its construction since 1883 until his death in 1926.  This unfinished masterpiece was designated as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 2005 despite its ongoing construction in the hands of many architects and artisans.  This unique creation has become Barcelona’s universal symbol and most popular tourist attractions.

Categories: Barcelona, Europe, Spain | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

An ‘Eiffel’ Landmark in South East Asia

Vietnam Postoffice

Designed by renowned architect, Gustave Eiffel of ‘Eiffel Tower’ fame, the Saigon Central Post Office is another example of French colonial architecture.  It was built from 1886 to 1891 when Vietnam was still part of French Indochina.  Today, it is the largest functioning post office in Vietnam.  But there is much more here than a classic post office station.  On both sides of the building, there are souvenir shops which are a little bit expensive.  There are also ATM Machines and at the left side are telephone booths and desks for you to write your letters to send. Another good reason to look inside is the massive mural of Saigon in 1892 with old colonial maps of Saigon and Vietnam-Cambodia.  There is also a huge portrait of Ho Chi Minh inside.  You will find this grand building just beside the Notre Dame Cathedral, another lovely old French Colonial style ornate building.  If you are within the area, you can drop by and send your postcards.  But if you have limited time, you can skip this place as there is nothing much here to do other than admire its Gothic architectural design and have a photo at another famous ‘Eiffel’ landmark.

Categories: Asia, Vietnam | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

An Enchanting View at the Sacré-Cœur

Sacred Heart Paris

I was taking a photo of the Basilica’s facade in a low angle shot when an Asian woman wearing a mini skirt bent over to get her camera inside her bag.  I got distracted, hence, my foreground changed.  The expression of her friend looking annoyed added value to the story that the image is projecting.  This photo was taken at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre, one of Paris’s major tourist draws.   Known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica by the locals, its distinctive dome white Romanesque-Byzantine structure overlooks Montmartre, one of Paris’s most picturesque districts. The church is perched at the very top of the Butte de Montmarte where you can get an exquisite view of the city.

Categories: Europe, France, Paris | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

A Fairytale Wedding Pictorial at the Louvre

I was taking a photo in front of the entrance of the Louvre Museum when I saw this newly wed couple having their wedding pictorial at the right wing of the Louvre Palace.  I couldn’t resist taking a photo.  As one of the best romantic cities in the world for couples, wedding/pre-wedding photography is a common sight in Paris.  From Eiffel Tower to River Seine, you will often see a wedding pictorial where brides in their long white gown  bravely walk in the street crowded with tourists. And one of the popular places for those who come to get married in France is the Louvre Palace.  The Louvre Palace has been extended many times since it was built as a fortress in the late 12th century.  Today, it houses the Musée du Louvre, one of the world’s largest, most visited historical museum in the world containing the most important art collections in the history of mankind. The palace compound also includes the surrounding gardens of the Jardin des Tuileries, one of the most famous gardens in Paris because of its central location.

What is your dream wedding destination?

Categories: France, Paris | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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