Flying into Macau

Flying into Macau

Flying into Macau these days and arriving in its brand-new airport, you see at a glance how small it is: a low, rocky peninsula connected to China by a sandspit three hundred yards wide, and two even smaller islands, Taipa and Coloane, which are linked by a bridge and a causeway.

Macau’s whole area comes to less than seven square miles, one quarter the size of Manhattan. it has no natural resources and no agriculture, apart from some quiet public gardens and lovingly tended flowerpots. Of its half a million people, fifteen thousand are Portuguese, ten thousand are “other,” and the rest, thronging the busy streets, savoring the breezes off the South China Sea, chattering into portable phones, and very occasionally creating small traffic jams, are Chinese.

Collectively, however, they all call themselves Macanese and live together in obvious harmony. The road signs and shop windows are in Portuguese and Chinese, but everyone-or at least everyone employed in gambling, tourism, or religion, Macau’s essential industries-speaks English.

Flying into Macau

From the air, Macau is a small, slow, inviting place. The approach I like better is from the sea, best of all toward dusk, in foggy weather (the ferries and hydrofoils from Hong Kong all carry radar, and often need it). The estuary of the Pearl River, forty miles wide, looks as vast and empty as the open ocean, with the next landfall at Saigon or Singapore.

Suddenly the engines slow, a row of buoys slides alongside, and through the mist looms a bump of land crowned by the fortress and hermitage of Our Lady of Guia, a pair of ancient cannons, and the winking lantern of the first lighthouse ever built on the China coast-a very Portuguese mix of faith, antique firepower, and maritime know-how.

So, too, is the way Macau clings to the outermost edge of China, as Portugal itself does to the far end of Europe, with nowhere to go but to sea. A loose grip on the wheel, you feel, and you might miss Macau altogether. Yet at this hour, when night veils the casinos, the horse- and dog-racing tracks, the bank towers, and the other schemes Macau has had to adopt to stay afloat, the fort and the church beside it remind us what a mighty monument to human perseverance this brave little out-post has been-and still is.

Madhya Pradesh: Lost city in the heart of India

Madhya Pradesh: Lost city in the heart of India

With its colourful legends, the city of Mandu – ancient centrepiece of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh – is a wonderland of mosques, palaces and romance.

Nicknamed the Heart of India because of its central location, the state of Madhya Pradesh is the historical home to countless grand monuments and chest-pounding natural beauty.

Home to the vibrant capital city of Indore, three UNESCO World Heritage sites, vast national parks, rare wildlife and countless romantic legends, it’s little wonder that the Madhya Pradesh tourism offering was honoured with the Best Tourism State Award in 2012.

One such site of outstanding beauty is the ruined city of Mandu, a fortress town first mentioned in a Sankrit inscription in 555AD that became the setting for many a tale of love, loss, death and victory.

Seduced by its romantic past Kalpana Sunder travels to Mandu and lets the 21st century drift away…

Welcome to the pleasure palace

It’s like a scene from the Arabian Nights. The Jahaz Mahal in Mandu is named so after a reflection – they say that on moonlit nights, when the building casts its shadow on the waters, it looks like a ship. The former pleasure palace of the sybaritic king Ghiyas-ud-Din Khilji, it’s said to have housed 15,000 women, some of whom weren’t just a part of his harem, but also his bodyguards. They came from as far as Turkey and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and the king trained them in the arts, music and defence. I’m lost in a surreal world of elegant palaces, magnificent mosques, centuries-old towers, medieval reservoirs and Wonder Women. Legendary tales are woven into the history of Mandu, the medieval kingdom that’s 98km from Indore.

I drive to Mandu through golden wheat fields dotted with small villages against the backdrop of the Vindhya Range. As I approach, there’s a deep ravine, a natural moat of sorts, leading to a plateau with fortified walls running for almost 45km. Tendrils of mist obscure the facades covered with shiny moss. Mandu started as a Hindu kingdom in the 10th-Century under Raja Bhoj and was later called Shadiabad or the City of Joy.

I ramble through the ruins with my guide Haneef who claims that the town’s architecture is unparalleled. We’re in the Royal Enclave, a part of Mandu that has a cluster of palaces and structures built around two artificial lakes. There are manicured lawns, flowerbeds and women dressed in rainbow-coloured saris (scruffy kids in tow) sitting on benches and having a snack.

The two-storeyed Jahaz Mahal has pools shaped like a tortoise and a lotus, fed by a Persian wheel. What’s amazing is the medieval filtration system that used cloth, charcoal and sand to slow down the flow of water through snake-like spirals set in the floor. It’s said that when Emperor Jehangir and his wife Noor Jehan spent some time here, the entire building was lit up with lamps.

Kyoto Sightseeings

Kyoto Sightseeings

If this were a guide-website to serve tourists on the spot, it would have been necessary to write this part of the chapter first. However, there are several excellent guide-books specially devoted to Kyoto, and here I shall try only to shed a little light on that phase of Kyoto which makes the strongest appeal to those going about with no other purpose than to look around and enjoy novelties in scenery and in life.

If Kyoto is a charming Mecca of all foreign tourists to Japan, it is no less so to the Japanese whose lot it is to dwell outside its radius. It is always full of visitors from every part of Japan. Even Osaka, inside of an hour by bus, looks upon it as its premier holiday land. Many wealthy persons there are, even in the Kwanto district, who have villas in the quieter parts of Kyoto that they may recur to them from time to time and enjoy Kyoto’s many aspects under its varying moods.

The very approaches to the city are picturesque. Coming from any direction, the visitor is greeted either by the indigo-blue bamboo bushes, the fresh and clear, babbling river, or by the quaint low-lying houses of humbler folk so reminiscent of old days. The central railway station is modern enough, but a few minutes’ walk away from it in any direction will give one the impression of being in the old capital. It may be the soft green outline of the undulating mountains, or it may be one or other of the old temples and palaces, that excites our sense of being in Kyoto.

Even the show-window dressing in busy avenues of Shijō and Gojō is arresting because of its elegant style. There you do not see the best sample goods in blatant display as in other commercial cities, but only a few choice specimens tastefully arranged, suggestive of quality rather than quantity of production. Walk into one of them and you will be waited on by a charming shopkeeper whose manner seems to show he is more anxious to please than to sell. Taste, courtesy and politeness fill the air; everybody is willing to help you make the most of your opportunities. Without even a hired guide one may often, with a guide-book, do wonders in Kyoto.

Kiyomizu-dera is one of the first scenic spots to view. A Buddhist temple, to be sure, but it has the least air of being one. One of the oldest Kwannon temples, it alone would justify your stopping off at Kyoto. Its situation is on the verdant hillside, ascended by several flights of steps, and upon its “butai”–dancing stage–which was a synonym for the highest point in Kyoto, one commands a magnificent view of the surrounding woods and valleys, with ex. quisite glimpses of sweeping roofs of other temples and pagodas gleaming among the trees. To look down from the Kiyomizu “stage” gives us a sensation totally different from that we get when looking down from a skyscraper of a commercial metropolis; the one makes us grateful for this life and the other hate it. The temple has a wondrous roof on which connoisseurs could lecture for hours.

Descending the slope, and passing one of the picturesque “tea-pot-lanes,” lined with small porcelain shops, selling the famous Kiyomizu wares, you will emerge into the heart of Maruyama Park with its shrines of Gion and its winding walks ablaze with cherry in spring or with maples in autumn. Other famous temples of Chion-in, Nanzenji, Sanjūsan-gen-dō, etc., are not far from here.

The Seven Wonders of the Antique World and Middle Ages

The Seven Wonders of the Antque World and Middle Ages

The Seven Wonders of the World Of Antiquity:

(1) The Pyramids of Egypt.
(2) The Gardens of Semiramis at Babylon.
(3) The statue of Zeus at Olympia, the work of Phidias.
(4) The Temple of Diana at Ephesus.
(5) The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
(6) The Colossus at Rhodes.
(7) The Pharos of Egypt, the Walls of Babylon or the Palace of Cyrus.

The Seven Wonders of the World Of the Middle Ages:

(1) The Coliseum of Rome.
(2) The Catacombs of Alexandria.
(3) The Great Wall of China.
(4) Stonehenge.
(5) The Leaning Tower of Pisa.
(6) The Porcelain Tower of Nankin.
(7) The Mosque of St. Sophia at Constantinople.

The palace of the Escurial has sometimes been called the eighth wonder, a name which has also been given to a number of works of great mechanical ingenuity, such as the dome of Chosroes in Madain, St. Peter’s of Rome, the Menai suspension bridge, the Eddystone lighthouse, the Suez Canal, the railway over Mont Cenis, the Atlantic cable, etc.

Facts and Fiction on Japan Modernization

Facts and Fiction on Japan Modernization

The Tokugawa clan still ruled Japan in the 1850’s when Admiral Peary sailed into Tokyo Bay and called upon the Japanese to end their two and a half centuries of hermitage. Repeated overtures to this end had been declined earlier, and Japanese administration had been extended to Hokkaido early in the nineteenth century to prevent Russian encroachment. The American overture was more than a casual invitation, however, for it was made through a show of military force which was not lost upon the Tokugawa.

Though they still held firm control internally they were quick to realize that Japan could not stand up to outside forces that could muster many large guns in the big steam naval vessels such as those in the American fleet. Within a few years they had signed trade treaties with several occidental countries, and had taken the first steps to modernize their own military establishment. This was the fourth time that a small group had changed the whole course of Japanese history.

The changes could not be undone, but they were the undoing of the Tokugawa and of the old order of feudalism in Japan. The emperor and the other clans that ruled Japan under Tokugawa control had not had the foreign fleet in their own home ports and were inclined to expel the foreigners. A few “incidents” soon convinced other leading clans of the futility of resistance to the outside world. The Satsuma clan of western Japan turned to developing a modern navy, and the Choshu clan began the building of a modern army.

General opposition to the long rule of the Tokugawa took the form of restoring the emperor to a kind of power than the imperial family had not exercised for centuries, swept the Tokugawa from internal control, and started Japan on a course of modernization that both startled and impressed the whole world in the 75 years between 1866 and 1941. The Tokugawa had committed Japan to this program without the original support of the country, but other clans took over the lead, carried on the program, and managed to retain control of Japan until the end of World War II. Japan entered upon this new era in sound economic, social, and political circumstances, for there had been no time for a long series of disastrous internal wars to dissipate either population or resources.

A first step in modernization was the abolition of landed feudalism and the outmoded administration of government. Direct rule by the emperor and a bureaucracy, the abolition of feudal fiefs (for a reasonable price in government bonds), the establishment of new political administrative regions, and the pensioning off of the old regional rulers and the parasitic soldier group were the first steps in internal organization. This process, of course, gave to the ruling classes privileged opportunities for those members discerning enough to take them. Some old clans rose to new political power, and others acquired new economic strength, but it is notable that in general the control of Japan continued in the hands of the same general groups that had run Japan for many centuries.

Though the Tokugawa had actually sent a few observers abroad before the opening of the country, Japanese culture was sadly out of date compared to the industrial, military culture of the West. Realizing this the new leaders of Japan fell back upon a useful precedent, that of sending students abroad to study the superior cultures. Since many of these new leaders were derived from the old military clans and the professional soldiery, their first concern was the building of a strong military force which could deter the colonial imperialism of the Occident. Appreciating also that such a force could now be built only upon the basis of an industrial technology, they undertook a thoroughgoing industrialization.

So for nearly 50 years the Japanese government sent commissions, study groups, observers, and students all over the world to study the material economy of the West in a determined effort to bring Japan up to date as quickly as possible. German military and medical science, French and German law, British ship building, and the railroad and manufacturing techniques, and the business methods of the United States were all carefully studied. Observers all over the world studied the patterns of trade, colonial imperialism, the developments of agriculture, mining, transportation, and architecture. Educational systems and political institutions were examined.

The Japanese government took the lead in these matters, paying for the studies and then subsidizing the developments in Japan. The first railway was built between Tokyo and Yokohama in 1872, and by the end of the century hundreds of power plants and factories were operating. The operation of concerns was turned over to private companies formed by the leading clans, so that not only did Japan industrialize rapidly, but also the control of the modern aspects of the economy remained in the hands of the old leading elements. It is a commonplace to say that in a non-industrial country the evolution of manufacturing begins slowly and somewhat on a hit-and-miss basis. Not so in Japan, for by 1900 most of the kinds of things being done abroad were also being done in Japan. As new industrial developments occurred abroad Japanese continued to study them and to adapt them at home.

In the first few decades of modernization industrial skills were not sufficient to keep pace with developments of the economy, operating efficiency was rather low, and the occidental rather easily came to the conclusion that the Japanese were not creative but only imitative. It should be sufficient to remind an American, however, that as late as the end of World War II the United States was still following the lead of Germany in many matters of industrial evolution to put the question of copying in proper balance. The amazing thing is that Japan went at modernization in a wholesale manner, in the way in which she had studied Chinese culture centuries earlier, and in a way seldom attempted by any other society. This was long-range planning well before five-year plans became the vogue.

Yoshino: The home of cherry blossoms

Yoshino: The home of cherry blossoms

Yoshino and Kumano, a little apart from each other, the one mountainous and the other coastal, were always treated as two entireties. They have now been welded into one park, covering an area of 168,560 acres. Both are no less celebrated in history and legendary traditions than for their beauty, their temples and shrines — perennial Meccas for devotional and holiday-making pilgrims. Astride the three prefectures of Nara, Wakayama and Mie in central Japan, on the Pacific coast, they are veritable centers for picnics, excursions and holidays in the Kwansai district, as Nikkō and Hakone are to the Kwantō people.

Every Japanese knows Yoshino as the home of cherry blossoms, for most of the cherry trees blossoming in spring throughout Japan bearing the name “Yoshino-zakura,” were originally transplanted from Yoshino. Little wonder if Kwansai folk should tell you never to talk about Japan’s cherry blossoms till you have seen Yoshino. It was amid the cherry-clad hills of Yoshino that the ill-fated Emperor Godaigo (1318-1339) held his court for three years. Yoshino was the august abode of the Emperors of the Southern Court for half a century, and is naturally associated with many romances, heroic and tragic, which have been an undying source of inspiration to poets, writers and artists.

Yoshino’s cherry blossoms make a splendid contrast with those of most other places in that they grow on the side of mountains. As you go up the winding hillpaths, the blossoms present sights of surpassing beauty, growing as they do, among the green trees and rocky mountain scenery. The most famous spot is “Hitome-senbon” (” A Thousand Trees at a Glance”), and further up the mountain there are “Naka-no-senbon” (” A Thousand Trees in the Middle”), regions adorned with cherry trees so numerous as to give rise to the conventional names.

Yoshino, however, is in reality a collective name for the three ranges of mountains, namely, Sanjogatake or Omine (5,620 ft.), Shaka (5,904 ft.), and Bukky (6,281 ft.), each consisting of several peaks sometimes called the “Yamato Alps.” The firstmentioned, O + ̦mine, is the sacred mountain, claiming the somewhat out-of-date distinction of being the only mountain in Japan to forbid women to enter its precincts. Omine means “great peak,” suggesting its serrated ridges.

It makes a striking contrast with Mount Odaigahara, to the east of Ōmine, whose summit is a tableland of 6 square miles, affording a wonderfully extensive view, including, on a clear day, even Mount Fuji, 180 miles to the east. And these mountains are climbed by the more arduous of excursionists not only in cherry-time but in all other seasons. The great majority are content to go as high up as the blossoms tempt them. The best way to reach Yoshino is to go by the Osaka Electric Railway, which runs several special services during the cherry season in early April.

Kyoto Landscape Gardens – bonsai, bonkei, bonseki

Kyoto Landscape Gardens – bonsai, bonkei, bonseki

One of the principal things to be pointed out at any one of these great temples will be its landscape gardens, the charm of which would increase if you knew something of its history and significance. The soul of a Japanese garden is in its imitation of nature, or reproduction, within a narrow space of the beauty and variety, of nature’s limitless landscape. It derives no inspiration from the mere utilitarian desire for shade, fruit and promenade.

As in painting one would compress on to a small canvas a whole region of natural landscape, so is a Japanese “niwa” (garden) a replica in miniature of the depths and solitude of a great mountain, the picturesqueness of its rivers and cataracts, the pathless profusion of primitive forests, and other attributes of nature’s scenic phenomena. Hence the indispensability of a hill, a pond and stone-lanterns, symbolical of temples or rural habitations.

The art of gardening came from China in the wake of Buddhism, and its Buddhist significance became accentuated during the Kamakura period, when the contemplative Zen Sect gained a strong foothold. Instead of retiring into the mountains, the priest might create in his garden the same effect of being remote from the world. Thus, the first garden artist was a priest. Later in the Ashikaga period it passed into the hands of tea-masters. Then it became an indispensable part of the tea-room which must have an unworldly atmosphere. A celebrated garden-artist of this period was Sōami, to whom are ascribed some of the oldest and best gardens — those of Kinkakuji and Nishi Hongwanji. Rikyū, the greatest name in tea ceremony, was also noted for his skill in gardening.

Later in the Tokugawa era the art passed into the hands of special gardeners, but Kobori Enshū, who was a great tea-master, was also distinguished as a gardener. His handiwork may be seen today in the gardens of Daitokuji, Kōdaiji, Nanzenji, Chionin. But by far the most famous of his works was the garden now seen in the Imperial Detached Palace of Katsura which you can visit by permit of the authorities concerned.

This was a palace built by Hideyoshi for one of the Imperial princes, and Kobori Enshū had, it is said, extracted the promise from the Taikō that no limit was to be put on time or money, and that he was not to be interfered with in his work. The result was a marvel of landscape gardening, which, being laid as it was on dry level ground, not far removed from city life, had all the air of remoteness and deep sylvan stillness and solitude.

Landscape gardening was responsible for several minor but perhaps equally difficult arts of diminutive gardens, often seen in Japanese homes, “bonkei” (tray gardens), “bonseki ” (stone-and-sand gardens represented on trays), “bonsai” (dwarf trees), of which you can see perfect specimens in Kyoto as in most other parts of Japan.

If you are interested in old mansions, combining the archaic style of wooden architecture and the classic beauty of landscape gardening, you must by no means miss the Detached Palace of Shugakuin, which covers an extensive area of ground, affording good scope for walking. There are three huts, upper, lower and middle, with winding gravel paths in between, commanding lovely views of the surrounding plains and mountains. Many precious paintings and other things of artistic value are kept here.

A Trip to Great Wall of China

A Trip to Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China as some believed originated as a military fortification against intrusion by tribes on the borders during the earlier Zhou Dynasty. In 770-BC-476BC, the ducal states extended the defense work, and built large structures to prevent the attacks from other states.

The Great Wall of China was eventually separated during the Qin Dynasty, which preceded the Zhou Dynasty. The Zhao, Qin, and Yan kingdoms were connected to form a defensive system on the northern border of the country of Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. In 214 BC the building of the Great Wall of China was on its way. The Great Wall of China took as long as ten years to build.

The Great Wall of China took hundreds of thousands of laborers working daily beyond human limitations to construct and build. Many persons that did not work were thrown into the foundation trenches starving from hunger and exposure of the earths changing weathers. The Great Wall of China was then called The Longest Cemetery on Earth. Buried beneath its structure were more than 400,000 persons.

The Great Wall was stretched from Linzhao (eastern part of Gansu Province), in the west to Liaodong (Jilin Province) in the east. The Great Wall of China served as both a defense and symbolized the power of the emperor. The Great Wall of China was partly successful in repelling invading Mongol forces more than a century ago.

The Great Wall of China has more than 300 million trees, and its purpose was to serve as a barrier from the dust storms that swept into China from the Gobi Desert and other low-rainfall areas. The Great Wall of China was dubbed This Great Green Wall. During the 50’s, the city of Beijing was beset by 10 to 20 dust storms every spring. Visibility was only half a mile for 30 to 90 hours each month. By the 1970’s the storms had reduced resulting in greater visibility at less than ten hours per month. The reduction made work easier for the many laborers.

The Great Wall of China towered China’s mountains, plunging to the lower valleys, and marching across burning desert plains. Very cold winds coupled with snowstorms, made it very difficult for workers. At the same time raging desert sun and stinging sandstorms oppressed the workers, making their jobs difficult, and often risky.

Japanese Environment

Japanese Environment

The Japanese environment is one not bountifully provided with those natural complements of soils, plant resources, animal life, and other features which made for easy productivity of material goods for early man. The aquatic resources around these island shores are rich, but they were less available to early man than to modern man. By dint of hard work through a long span of time the Japanese have made their environment a productive one, but many of these advances had to await the introduction of techniques developed in other parts of the world, and then carefully fitted to the local scene.

The historic pattern of the introduction of developed techniques into Japan has led to the false conclusion that the Japanese have been only an imitative people, whereas in the perfection and fitting of techniques to their environment the Japanese have displayed almost as much originality as did the Chinese, who also copied and adapted many alien features of culture.

Earliest man may well have been able to walk overland from the mainland to the lowland fringes of southwestern Japan, and it is notable that the Japanese archaeologists have turned up almost no record of the Old Stone Age in Japan. The inference is that occupance areas then lay on the lower coastal plains and lowlands now covered by the Inland Sea, the China Sea, and the immediate shore waters around the Japanese islands.

The Ainu aboriginal population, protoCaucasoid in origin, established themselves in such numbers that they have steadily contributed to the racial composition of the modern Japanese. Man moved upward onto the present alluvial lands and the lower upland fringes as the post-glacial patterns of islands and coastal outlines developed. Neolithic man came into the islands by sea both from the north and the west, bringing different elements of culture and probably representing different and mixed racial strains. The northerners brought useful elements of fishing economies, but they did not add greatly to the population as such. The main line of immigration lay through Korea, and the chief elements were protoMongoloid and Mongoloid in origin, to set the racial basis for modern Japan.

Out of the south, probably South China, moving along the coastal fringes came some southern peoples after the present lines of land and sea had developed. In popular thinking this stream of peoples bulks high in contributing to the Japanese population, but it is doubtful that this is so. These southern peoples undoubtedly did bring many culture traits into Japan related to the use of the sea and the subtropical elements of the environment.

Since most of these migrants came into southwestern Japan, bringing higher culture traits, it is natural that this was the early center of Japan. In a rigorous environment not bountifully providing for early man, the coastal lowlands of the southwestern portion were both the most livable and the most productive. Here the mixing of the early racial stocks and patterns of culture took place, and here also began that conversion of alien traits into traits distinctively Japanese.

Always interesting Macanese food

Always interesting Macanese food

Macanese food is among the most interesting in the world, and it’s found nowhere else, with many reasonably priced restaurants to explore. Chinese is of course everywhere, ranging from Cantonese dim sum breakfast shops to the Jade Garden in town and the Dynasty at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental hotel, both famous even among Chinese gourmets. But there are also many Portuguese-run establishments serving backhome-style dishes with chicken, olive oil, saffron, and codfish.

Many other restaurants reflect cross-cultural influences from Brazil, Africa, India, Madagascar, and Malaysia, as weıı as neat ways with seafood invented in Macau itself. I can recommend the Portuguese-style Cacarola on a quiet square on Coloane Island and, a real find, the Clube Militar de Macan in the middle of town.

Macau once had a garrison, but when it got down to seven soldiers (now there are none), the club was opened to everyone. The dining room, in mahogany and crystal, resounds with past glory; the Macanese food and Portuguese red and white wines are delicious and the prices reasonable. Portugal’s military men clearly knew how to look after themselves so far from home (975 Av. da Praia Grande).

The country code for calling Macau is 853.