Read more about the article Galle – Sri Lanka
Galle - Sri Lanka

Galle – Sri Lanka

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Best preserved example of Portuguese fortified city in Asia

Our next move in Sri Lanka after visiting its fascinating capital city, Colombo, (and still our base for the next days); we take the advantage of the small distances in the country for a day trip to one of the most historical cities, Galle. First taken by the Portuguese as their colony in 1502, they built its fort which until today it remains as the most complete, largest and best preserved example in the whole of Asia, although greatly revamped and enlarged when the Dutch took over.

It was until 1640 that the Portuguese surrendered to the Dutch East India Company who then built pretty much the proper city and not just a military post as was before. From 1796 the city and the country itself would pass onto the hands of the last colony, the British. Over the centuries of 3 different colonial periods, the city grew in prosperity, being the largest port city in Sri Lanka, something that never changed since at least 1400 BC with the trade route, with Sri Lanka the largest export of cinnamon.

Being in Galle is transporting yourself to the past. While we are much more used to visiting former Spanish colonial cities in Central/South America and already experienced few times that feeling, in Asia is somewhat different. More exotic if I have to find a word for it. And it does still feel the same even though we’ve been to many beautiful colonial cities in this part of the world. The more similar to Galle could be Goa, Macau, Batavia (the old town of Jakarta), Jogjakarta, Surabaya or Malacca to name some former Portuguese and Dutch. British are many more, but Galle has its uniqueness in having retained majority of the Portuguese and Dutch constructions, urban plan and flair. (more…)

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Read more about the article Shanghai – China
Shanghai - China

Shanghai – China

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Pearl of the Orient

Leaving behind South Korea, we moved into our next destination; China. A new country visited in our already busy list, currently occupying the 67th place (as of 2014). Knowing there are 196 official countries in the world then this is quite an achievement so far! Not an absolute “new” country let’s specify in this note as we’ve been to Hong Kong and Macau before which belong to China under special territories though surely first time in the mainland.

After visiting Seoul some days before now arriving to Shanghai, there’s not too much difference between them in the sense of architecture. This is after all, the financial heart of China. And that title comes with an obvious outcome: the already thousands of skyscrapers the city has. More shockingly to know that all you see today has been built pretty much over the past 25 years only. Unfortunately (or fortunately), depending which kind of person you are and what interests you have behind, most of the traditional old architecture is lost on behalf of this frenetic construction and development.

Still good to know and see that the waterfront, what is named “The Bund”, has been spared and retains almost in full and intact the heart of the colonial city that Shanghai once was, in this area, the British Concession. A massive and beautiful collection of buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries with special attention to the 1930s when the city bloomed and so the art-deco new architecture embellished the city with grand constructions, most of them financial institutions like the HSBC headquarters (also shared with the Hong Kong headquarters). (more…)

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Read more about the article Antigua – Guatemala
Antigua - Guatemala

Antigua – Guatemala

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The Old Capital of Guatemala

Stunning Antigua, one of the major tourist attractions in Guatemala together with the ancient city of Tikal, one of the former Maya capital cities far in the north of the country.  A must visit for anyone’s trip through Central America and Guatemala itself. This is the former capital of the country; one of the best preserved colonial cities in Latin America, all “thanks” to it’s sad past. Twice destroyed by earthquakes and abandoned after the most devastating one in 1776 on behalf of a new capital city being built at a safer location, named at the time, Nueva Guatemala de la Asuncion. While nowadays we know it as Antigua, or Antigua Guatemala, its original colonial name was Santiago de los Caballeros.

Since the last century it has experienced again a regrowth and transformation with the reconstruction and restoring of almost every old house and church. Nowadays it rather looks a city where no destruction ever happened. So much history and fine architecture no wonder it is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site.

For me as Spanish, being here was like being anywhere in the south of Spain or the Canary Islands, where the old towns look almost identical in architecture, urbanism and colours to Antigua and of course elsewhere in colonial Latin America. (more…)

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Read more about the article Merida – Mexico
Merida - Mexico

Merida – Mexico

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The Capital of Yucatan Region

Leaving behind the Mexico City of the country and all the beautiful places we’ve been around, we move to our next base: Merida, the capital city of Yucatan region. Our main aim for a base here? Get to visit two of the major and most important Maya cities: Chichen Itza and Uxmal. Sadly for us, we could not count with more days to keep exploring the many other Maya cities in this region, therefore we had to choose and decided for the most important ones.

Merida has retained one of the finest collection of colonial buildings in the country and hosts the very first cathedral to be built in the New World. Of course no need to mention here that the distribution of the city follows the same pattern as any other in Mexico, where the Zocalo is the main square with the cathedral and City Hall along the sides and the streets follow a strict grid pattern. Wherever you walk is another sight, no wonder it is one of the finest colonial old towns in Mexico to be listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Now the main question is how many days you do need here. Let me tell you, for the city itself you don’t need more than one. It is small enough to make a one day visit perfect. But since coming to Merida is mostly because of visiting the Maya cities around, then it is really when you need to calculate your time, which cities you want to visit, and how many. We spared 2 days to visit 2 sites. Gladly I would have stayed longer and keep visiting as many others as possible but my plan for this trip included 3 other countries, therefore I was limited in time. (more…)

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