Tag Archives: architecture

Copenhagen: my first impressions

At 530am local time (1230pm PST), Niklas and I arrived at Copenhagen Airport, 30 minutes earlier than our Singapore Airlines ETD of 6am. After completing our immigration check (two minutes!) and being warned of the cold by the lady immigration officer, we set out to pick our luggage and brace ourselves for the freezing cold. It’s 3 degrees, says Merete, Niklas’ mom, as she and Claes, Niklas’ dad, met us. As I prepared myself to cross the revolving door between the airport’s comfortable 22-degree temp and the ear-numbing 3 degree temp outside, I still can’t believe that we finally are here in Copenhagen, in Denmark, in Europe!

Just another street in Central Copenhagen
Just another street in Central Copenhagen

Continue reading Copenhagen: my first impressions

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Viahera Vlogs: A Visit to the Victoria Memorial, Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal

I am not necessarily a fan of prince charming and fairy tale endings but I’ve always been interested with royalty and period films centered on their lives—such as the movie Young Victoria. So much so that when I was in Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta as in the British Raj’s former capital in India, I decided to visit the Victoria Memorial.

Viahera Vlogs - Kolkata - Victoria Memorial Entrance
Impressive green and white symmetry

Before my visit, which was part of my 10-day vacation dubbed “The Great Eastern Journey”, I did not even know about Victoria Memorial. Or what it is exactly. I only assumed that it was, like the Gateway of India in Mumbai, a colonial structure meant to commemorate the power of the British Raj during their reign in India.

Viahera Vlogs - Kolkata - View from Kings Way
The Victoria Memorial definitely can’t be missed from the King’s Way

Julie has been to Kolkata a few times before (since she lived in Bhubaneshwar which was just an overnight train away) and apart from Mother Theresa’s tomb (which I missed coz they’re closed on Thursdays, the day I was there!), the Victoria Memorial is the other place she recommended for me to visit. Jane, my co-volunteer based in Kolkata, gave me directions after we three decided to split up in the afternoon to do our own thing.

I can’t remember the directions anymore but Victoria Memorial and other colonial structures and areas are found in the Esplanade locality. I think once you are in Esplanade, tourist spots are basically walkable. You can also ask for directions, which I did. As I said, Victoria Memorial is one of the top attractions and the guava peddler (the red chili and salt mix was too good!) easily gave me directions to just turn right from the main street and follow the road called King’s Way. He said I won’t miss the Victoria Memorial.

True enough, I found it. I mean, the Victoria memorial is a massive structure made of what I assume is white marble. It truly is hard to miss. Hehe. Besides, as long as you know how to ask directions, in broken English, Hindi or body language, people in the street can help you find the place you are looking for.

Viahera Vlogs - Kolkata - Victoria Memorial Gate
There were probably 9.5 out of 10 locals among the visitors of the Victoria Memorial

Speaking in Hindi, at the entrance gate, actually helped me score a 10-rupee instead of 150-rupee ticket. With my northeast Indian features and a simple “Ek ticket do, saarji!” phrase, I managed to get the local price. And no, it was not illegal as I held a residency permit at the time. So, with that and because it was too hot with too many people in the queue under the scorching sun to enter the Victoria Memorial building itself, I chose to eat my red chilli-ed guava and some biscuits under the shade in the garden, while the birds chirped away.

After my food ran out, and realizing that the queue isn’t really getting shorter, I decided to fall in line and wait for my turn to enter the building. Actually, the Victoria Memorial did not have as much items as you would expect of a museum. And, I didn’t enjoy it much since there were too many people at the same time, walking around in a line as in a procession. And photos are not allowed inside the halls! Not that there was a sign but I saw that the guards meant it when they snatched a camphone away from its teenage owner who tried to reason with them but ended up getting scolded at. Scary.

Viahera Vlogs - Kolkata - Victoria Memorial - Queen Victoria
I am assuming that this statue is Queen Victoria, young version. It’s the only photo I have inside the halls

It was better after the first area by the entrance as the hall was bigger (I assumed it’s the center area, under the dome) and was again much better once I climbed up to the next floor. Not that there was much to see in the floor itself but because it gave you a view of the garden at the back. It made me feel like Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice at Derbyshire with Mr. Darcy. (cheesy!!!)

Viahera Vlogs - Kolkata - Victoria Memorial Terrace Garden
View from the upper floor terrace. Beautiful, isn’t it?

After letting my imagination flow, I moved on to the back garden to enjoy a greener and more peaceful part of the grounds and see the Victoria Memorial at a different angle and perspective.

I liked what I saw. I mean, I liked it enough to recommend for you to visit it whenever you happen to be at Calcutta. Especially if you are interested in architecture. Apart from eating yummy Bengali fish curry, riding the trams and pulled richskaws, might as well add the Victoria Memorial to the list and enjoy the scenery and gardens and be transported to the time of royalties and majesties!

Viahera Vlogs - Kolkata - Victoria Memorial - Back Garden Panorama
The Victoria Memorial. Bow!

FotoFolio: Walking Tour of South Bombay (Images of Colonial Mumbai)

I miss Mumbai. There, I said it. I lived in Navi Mumbai (New Bombay, totally different twin city) and I would go to South Bombay (aka SoBo) whenever me and my friends  would go out for dinner and drinks. Why SoBo and not in Bandra, the party/gimik capital of Mumbai? I think it’s mainly because it is more accessible and hanging out in Colaba has a more chill vibe. Not to mention, I personally find South Mumbai more pleasant to walk through, with more character and history than the upscale Bandra area.

FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Gateway of India and Taj Hotel
The Gateway of India and The Taj Hotel

Needless to say, South Bombay and Colaba is also the most touristy. But hey, when you live in the city, you don’t really mind the mix of the local and foreign crowd. You enjoy it. People-watching and all. Being a foreigner myself, though I am not as tourist as the newly-arrived ones anymore, I always find something new to discover in Mumbai.

Anyway, I am not in a talking (writing) mood much today. Unless I want to end up too nostalgic to function. Haha. Therefore, I would jus want to share with you the images of Colonial Mumbai. I always call South Bombay the British area, primarily because the structures you would see closely resemble what you would find in London. I think (as referenced to movies and TV series).

I’ve included here a series of photographs, showing these British colonial structures. I tried my best to put them in the walking order, although my memory might be messed up already since there were some turns during these several walkthrough of South Mumbai.

FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST, formerly known as Victoria Terminus) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the main railway terminal for local and inter-state trains
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - BMC
Birhanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) serves as the City Hall (sosyal!). It’s on the left side if facing CST
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Unidentified Building
I can’t be sure if this is still part of CST but it is behind the CST facade area
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Unidentified Buildings
These colonial buildings house modern establishments and banks
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Sculpture
Several unidentified sculptures form part of one building’s foundations
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Churchgate Area
I am not sure if this is the Churchgate Railway Station. If it isn’t, then it must be the building across the road
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Hutatma Chowk
Hutatma Chowk (Martyr’s Square) is found at the center of South Bombay. Easily accessible from Churchgate Station
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Hutatma Chowk - Martyrs
The Hutatma Chowk memorial, as far as I have heard, was to commemorate the lives of the martyrs during the Maharashtra and Gujarat separation (correct me if I’m wrong!)
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Hutatma Chowk - Flora Fountain
Flora Fountain, built in 1864, is one of the most photographed landmarks in South Bombay. Sorry, no more water flowing through. 😦
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - University of Mumbai
University of Mumbai (Fort Campus) was established in 1857. It’s mong the oldest universities in India
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Rajabai Clock Tower
The Rajabai Clock Tower, completed in 1878, is called Little Ben as it was patterned to the Big Ben in London
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - David Sassoon Library
David Sassoon Library, built in 1870, is another main landmark in the Kala Ghoda area. I never entered the library.
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Prince of Wales Museum
The Prince of Wales Museum (officially renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya) houses artifacts, sculptures, painting, china and other art collections. I think it’s under the patronage of the Tatas. (Entry Rs 300 for foreigners, Rs 50 for Indians. Camera fees apply)
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Colaba Crossing
I don’t know who the statue is for or what is the building. But I’m sure this is after the museum and towards the Colaba area
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Gateway of India
The Gateway of India (not to be confused with the India Gate in New Delhi). Built from 1911 (primarily to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary) to 1914, the Gateway of India is perhaps the most visited and photographed monument in Mumbai. The boats leaving for Elephanta Island is found at the back of the Gateway of India.
FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Taj Mahal Hotel and Arabian Sea
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and Tower is on the left of the Gateway of India if arriving by boat. It is said to be the or one of the most expensive hotels in Mumbai.

I hope you enjoyed these virtual walking tour of South Bombay. Maybe you’ll get to walk through Colonial Mumbai someday too! I’ve heard several mixed reviews of being a tourist in Mumbai. Admittedly, the city can be unnerving and overwhelming but hey, give it more than a day or two and surely, you’ll get to know and feel it’s vibe too. If you need a walking guide (especially for couchsurfers), let me know and I might introduce you to a friend or two who may be able to show you around Colaba, South Mumbai and the rest of the city!

FotoFolio - South Mumbai - Taj Hotel Dome and Arabian Sea
The illuminated dome of the Taj Mahal Hotel and the waterfront (Arabian Sea)

Viahera Vlogs: Charminar and Mecca Masjid at Hyderabad, Andra Pradesh, India

The most iconic monument of Hyderabad in Andra Pradesh (south India), Charminar is said to have been built between 1589 to 1592 BC (dates are not still debatable). It was supposed to be a monument to commemorate the founding of a new capital and the end of a plague. Charminar was commissioned by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the 5th ruler of the Golconda Sultanate. Learn more about Chaminar at Wikipedia.

Exploring Hyderabad: Charminar and Mecca Masjid

Beside Charminar is the Mecca Masjid (Makkah Masjid), one of the oldest mosques in India. It is called Mecca Masjid as Qutb Shah ordered the soil from Mecca to be made into bricks that were used in building the Masjid. Learn more about Mecca Masjid at Wikipedia.

Viahe Vlogs - Charminar - Palace Hospital and Mecca Masjid
View from the top: Nizamia Tibbi College and Hospital and Makkah Masjid along Charminar Road

Reminder: Women going inside the Charminar are not permitted alone, for some reasons I did not understand, nor explained. My CouchSurfing host Bhavesh for my Hyderabad/Secunderabad trip also was not able to explain. However, a dark secret was shared while we were on top: it’s a suicidal area, much like the famous bridges where people jump! Scary! This is also why visitors were limited to only the “first landing” area of the Charminar, which by the way is about six-floors high! So get ready! (I wasn’t as I was still carrying my weekender pack with additional sarees I just bought!)

Charminar: View from the top

The view from the top of Charminar lets you see the other major landmarks of Hyderabad like the High Court and Patel Market (garments and pearls) on one side, Laad Bazaar (bangles market) on another, then the Makkah Masjid area, and a former palace turned into a college and hospital. Hyderabad, actually, is called the City of Palaces, among its other monikers!

Viahe Vlogs - Charminar - Palace turned Hospital
Very busy Charminar Road