A couple minutes walking from the Exit 2 City Hall Subway Station, finally I stood in front of the Daehanmun Gate of Deoksugung Palace in Seoul, South Korea. Deoksugung Palace is one of the places where the ceremony of changing Royal Guards will be held first at 11.00 AM. Arrived too early, I preferred to wait the ceremony before exploring the palace, behind the front gate.
The ceremony of Changing Royal Guards in Deoksugung which is similar to the process at Buckingham Palace in London, was re-established in 1996 after extensive and thorough research by Korean historians. The ceremony lasts for 30 minutes and always follows the standard rules. Beginning with traditional musical accompaniment, wearing beautifully coloured costumes, the royal guard troops walk in neat rows then the new commander will meet to the other commander who was on-duty to exchange passwords and keys as verification and to ensure the authenticity of the assignment. Then proceed with the changing of the guards position and followed by the rest of troops.
Being there, without any knowledge of the stages and story behind the ceremony of changing royal guards, I had to admit that the ceremony was very interesting because of the beautiful colours of their traditional costumes.
Deoksugung Palace in Seoul, South Korea can be reached by taking Subway Line 1 from Seoul Station and get off at City Hall, Exit-2. The signage of direction is clear in English and Hangeul. The schedule of ceremony: 11.00, 14:00 and 15:30
When I visited this place, –and psssstt don’t tell anybody… actually it is in this world-, what if I let my imagination to fly freely? One thing I could imagine was, -without any knowledge about the place-, I went there with blindfold and then after a while something with robotic voice told me to open the blindfold.
Ok, after I opened the blindfold…
Perhaps, while adjusting my eyes from the blindfold, I stood there and was confused. I saw a strange building in front of me and also near me, I saw a high pole with another strange objects. There were five antenna with horizontal circles in the middle on top of the roof of the building. I’d never seen this kind of antenna, especially on top of a building’s roof. And about the strange objects in the high pole, did those objects have meaning? Where was I actually? Was I still on Earth? Or out of the World? Was I kidnapped by a group of aliens?
What is Orbitron
Strange objectson High Pole
Ok, I woke up from the day-dreaming and back to the reality. I was in Hong Kong Disneyland, in the area of Tomorrowland. It’s a nice place to play with imagination…
It was around 07.00 AM at Annapurna Base Camp, end of April last year. Being standing in the crowd at the base camp and looking around the massif Annapurna mountains in North-West part of Nepal, I felt so tiny among the huge breathtaking landscape and snow covered Himalayan mountains which are part of the highest mountains in the world. Every corner of the 360 panorama view was mesmerizing my eyes and soul. That was the most incredible place I have ever visited in my life.
A moment passed by. A guy appointed something on the rocks and said something loudly. Suddenly my eyes caught a small red object flying among the huge rocks and deep valleys of the mountains . It came closer and I was so fascinated to know that was a helicopter. It should be big enough but I could not see clearly among the rocks of high gorges. A few minutes later, as an unusual object among the surrounding nature, and its resulting wind vortex during its landing, the helicopter took the attentions of people who most were trekkers.
From the place where I stood, I captured the situation right in front of me, the people, the helicopter and the mountains. I could not see their facial expressions, I just saw their back.
Was it about the helicopter? Did someone in the base camp have problems of Altitude Mountains Sickness? Or was it about the passengers who can afford the flying cost of the helicopter instead of trekking by themselves? Or was it about the noise, -or whatever problems-, caused by the helicopter against the surrounding nature environment? Or was it still about the beautiful mountains with blue sky and snow capped peaks and the additional ‘small’ red object?
But by capturing the anonymity of the most expressive obvious parts of us, by looking at this picture I could always play a game to ask myself the thoughts in people’s mind that time.
Everybody has tough days in life, but it doesn’t mean that we should give up to it. Instead of giving up, we should face it, -whatever tough is-, with our best strength and confidence.
Perhaps it is not too different than tasting a sweet red cherry with full of cream after a dark chocolate of a black forest birthday cake. Just think about getting the sweetness after the bitterness? By time the feeling of bitterness will fade away and will be replaced by the sweetness. Or, can we call the mix of those taste is a nice bittersweet?
We all know that…
Who has never tasted what is bitter does not know what is sweet
Since I was born and now still living in Jakarta, Indonesia, let me be your tour guide of my hometown.
Starting from the city center of Jakarta, we will see the roundabout with fountain and Welcome Statue at its center. Sometimes political street protest is conducted here by a mass group of people. And then around 2km to the north we will see the National Monument, as the national landmark of Jakarta. It stands in the center of public park and can be seen from the National Palace. The gold atop National Monument represents the flame of our national struggle. But there is a mysterious folklore about this golden flame. If we notice it from the Palace, it shapes like a body of a kneeling woman seen from behind. But honestly until now I don’t know who the woman was…
Welcome to Jakarta
And then we can stop for a while at National Museum that is located in the western part of the National Monument. We can see a lot of historical evidences here from the ancient Hindu-Buddha kingdoms’ era. Do you notice a Nandi sculpture here? It is related to Shiva, one of the 3 major gods in Hinduism.
We will go around the public park of National Monument and at the North-Eastern direction, we will see the biggest mosque in Indonesia, Mesjid Istiqlal (or Istiqlal Mosque). Do you know the architect of this mosque is Mr. Frederich Silaban who’s a Christian? And to represent the harmony of religious life in Indonesia, we can see The Cathedral which is located directly in front of the great mosque.
The inner yard at Museum
The Cathedral of Jakarta
From here we drive south, perhaps we will be trapped in several traffic jam on the way to our next destinations. Yes, we cannot avoid the traffic jam in Jakarta, or perhaps Jakarta, -as Bangkok several years ago-, is always indicated by “Macet”, a Indonesian word for Traffic jam, especially before and after office hours.
We will pass by the Central Business District which is full of modern office buildings and not far from this area, we can see the National Stadium with a nice archer sculpture on top of the gate to the stadium.
A Sculpture near National Stadium
We continue to drive to Setu Babakan, a nice Betawi Cultural Village, which is located in Srengseng Sawah. As part of the cultural heritage of Jakarta, Setu Babakan is devoted to the preservation of the indigenous Betawi culture. We can see a traditional Betawi house here. Do you know that Betawi is a derivative word of Batavia, the previous name of Jakarta that was given by the Dutch Colonial Empire?
A Traditional Betawi House
Welcome to Betawi Cultural Village
We can have lunch here with lots of Betawi culinary menu. Then we have to go north again to the old town of Jakarta. We will drive through the outer ring road to avoid the traffic in the city center.
We start from the Sunda Kelapa, the old port of Jakarta. Today Sunda Kelapa, as the old port, only accommodates traditional two-masted wooden ships which are serving inter-island freight service in Indonesia. Although now it is only a minor port, Sunda Kelapa was the origin of Jakarta and has a long significant role in the Jakarta’s development.
We continue to explore the old town of Jakarta. A lot of old historical buildings around this area. Unfortunately those important buildings need significant budget to be properly maintained and getting that budget is not so easy for the government. The main points of interest around here is The Fatahillah Museum or the Jakarta History Museum, which was built in 1710 and was functioned as the city hall of Batavia.
A Building in Old Town
Museum in Old Town
The sun will go down to the West. We still have destinations at the beachfront of Jakarta. We can see the luxurious housing complex and apartments or we can just walk on the bridge while enjoying sunset. It is usually full of locals in the weekends, but don’t worry, the wind is always nice.
A view of Jakarta Bay
For ending this city tour, we can have a happy hour at beachfront, we can have also a light meal while listening to the music or watching the performance. It would be nice…
A few years ago I made time to walk around Marina Bay, Singapore, just before midnight. I wanted to see and feel the atmosphere of the modern never-sleep city. I was amazed; for a moment I felt silence filled up the air. The area which is normally full of visitors during the day seems so empty, nobody’s there. The colorful lights on the Helix bridge had been turned off and it was illuminated by minimal lights. There was only a couple walking through the iconic bridge in Singapore. I followed them to cross the bridge and hope to find more people that night, but I saw nobody until the end of the bridge.
I felt the emptiness of the night, but at the same time I felt the beauty filling up the air. Yes, I saw the buildings in the business center across the area I was standing were still full of lights, but for a moment I felt the city of Singapore was so beautiful. In its silence and darkness, the city still looked so mesmerizing, just like Hellen Keller said,
There is beauty in everything, even in silence and darkness
Almost Midnight At Marina Bay
Almost midnight at Marina Bay and nobody was there
The cool breeze of December, and also the drizzle in that afternoon made the atmosphere in Hoi An’s old town, -an small city in Central Vietnam which is recognized as an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to 19th century and listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site-, become more tender. I stopped for a while in front of the gate of famous Japanese covered bridge, looked up and was amazed.
Ignoring the dropping drizzle on my face, I could not take my eyes off of the Chinese style decoration on the gate’s rooftop. The weathered decoration could not hide the bright beauty of the blue ceramics which were glued on the decor.
This bridge was one of the famous landmarks in Hoi An and became as a symbolic of Hoi An of its rich mercantile past. It’s believed that this bridge was built in 17th century by the Japanese trading community to link them with the Chinese people in the eastern section of the town.
And I could see the similar beauty on other rooftop’s decoration in a temple in Hoi An…
As we know that all change is not always growth, as all movement is not always forward. But at least we can learn about life from the nature, from flowers. In some ways, flowers can make people better, happier, and more helpful; and for those people, flowers are the sunshine, the food, and the medicine to the soul.
And if we choose growth in life, from this moment we have to replace our characters that prevent growth with actions that nourish it and the flower of self-realization will bloom automatically.
And since a new bloom spreads fragrance and freshness around…
May the new year add a new beauty, freshness into your life!