Pamukkale, which translates to “Cotton Castle”, is a natural site in southwestern Turkey. The white terraces here are made of travertine, and not salt, which is a sedimentary rock deposited by water flowing from the hot springs. The water from the hot springs are supersaturated with calcium carbonate and when the carbon dioxide de-gasses from it, the white calcium carbonate is deposited as a soft jelly that eventually hardens into travertine. People have bathed in these pools for thousands of years.
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia of Turkey. Ancient volcanic eruptions covered this region with thick ash which solidified into a soft rock. These volcanic rocks in the area eroded over time by wind and water into hundreds of pillars and minarets called fairy chimneys, some up to 40 meters high. People of the region carved out houses, churches, and monasteries from these soft volcanic rocks. They even dug out underground cities where a few thousand of people could live there at once to escape bandits or religious persecution.
Bagan is the land of thousands of ancient stupas and temples dating from the 11th and 12th centuries. Over 10,000 religious structures were built in the 42 sq km plain with about 2,200 remaining today. Erosion is an issue in this area with much of the stucco coating of the temples gone revealing the reddish bricks beneath. The resulting ageing process lends a very romantic feel to these temples. I have been to Angkor Watt years ago but Bagan, for me, is more interesting and more spectacular. What is interesting here is that the temples all have very different architectural styles.
Mandalay is the second largest city and the last royal capital of Burma. Only two Burmese kings ruled from here, King Mingdon and King Thibaw, before the British conquest in 1885. Even though a large part of the city and its splendid wooden structures were bombed during WWII, Mandalay still remains the religious center of Myanmar. Mandalay Hill is dotted with numerous temples and pagodas. It has long been a major pilgrimage site for the Burmese Buddhists. The Sutaungpyei Pagoda atop Mandalay Hill offers a panoramic view of the surrounding areas.
Yangon, also know as Rangoon, was the former capital of Myanmar. It is filled with colonial buildings left behind from the British times. We spent most of our time relaxing at the Governor’s Residence Hotel. We did venture out to visit the Bogyoke Market (Scott’s Market) but the highlight was definitely the Schwedagon Pagoda, the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar.
Easter Island or Rapa Nui is probably the most remote place in the world I ever will be, other than Antartica. It is truly in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by water, with no other land mass in sight. A lot of its history is still a mystery because there is no written record and little oral history to be found on the island. It is believed that deforestation, internal wars, rat infestation led to the end of the Moai (the massive statues) period. The massive statues called Moais are believed to be representations of deified ancestors. They are erected along the coastline facing the villages which they watch over and protect.
Atacama Desert in northern Chile is known to be the driest place in the world. Before arriving, I envisioned super dry skin and chapped lips, but strangely enough, it was not as dry as I thought. I have had drier skin in NYC in the winter. What is interesting in Atacama Desert is its Martian landscapes, salt flat and lagoons, geysers and wind-swept canyons.