Your Italian Doorway to a Whole New World

I always suffer greatly in summer. I know it is weird. I was born in Indonesia, a tropical country but I can’t stand the heat there. So, when I finally moved to a four-season country, Italy, it was kind of relief as extremely hot temperature lasts only two to three months max, peaking in July and August. Usually, when August holiday time arrives, I always found my escape for some time to fresher destinations in other European cities.

This year, as we have all noticed, the situation isn’t appropriate to go abroad. With new disease that has no specific cure yet, it is inconsiderate to do certain stuffs. Therefore, this year, I booked a place at a breath-taking mountain destination just two hours away from where I live, Milan (by car drive). When I reached the spot, it was as if I just opened a doorway a completely new world, absolutely stunning.

This Italian region is named Valle D’Aosta and the comune where I stayed is called Valtournenche…

Not only wondrous, the temperature there was also perfect for me, especially when it was July, the hottest period in Italy, around 20 to 25° Celsius in the day and 13 to 16° in the night. I was there only for four days, just a long weekend trip. Nevertheless, it was really memorable and I would totally love to return back without hesitation.

When I was there, these were the three incredible spots that I saw as impeccably splendid:

Blue Lake, Breuil-Cervinia

Having clear water with blue to turquoise color (explaining the name), this lake is truly fantastic as it shows mirror reflection of the sky and also of the Matterhorn in the water.

To add to its excellence, there is also spacious green grass area where you can bring and put your picnic blanket, stop, and simply enjoy the view all day while nipping some snacks.

Maen Lake (where I rented the Bed and Breakfast)

This was the first lake I went to when I stepped my foot on the first day at Valtournenche. It was three-minute walk from the Bed and Breakfast, very comfortable for a relaxing walk on a sunny day.

For fishing lovers, it is permitted there seven days a week from April to October even though for further information, you may have to contact the local authorities there.

Place Moulin Dam

I know this is not a natural lake but it doesn’t reduce its beauty and charm. Place Moulin is one of the biggest dams in Europe and is located in Bionaz. Constructed between 55 to 65 years ago, this lake is almost 700-meter long and as high as 155 meters. It is able to contain around 100 million square meters of water.

Other than visiting these magical spots, I also had the luck to explore and try the local dishes variety there. After, I was more than convinced and contented about the quality. However, that is another story to tell for another day. 😊  

Pompeii Ruins: The Prominent Heritage of Ancient Roman Lifestyle

The first time I saw the horrifying scene of Pompeii ruins was in the Singapore National Museum at the end of 2010 when they held an exhibition dedicated to this terrible event that occurred a long time ago. The ruins are part of UNESCO’s world heritage site, located in Pompei Municipality, a city in Naples, Campania, Italy.

The city of Pompeii was buried under volcanic ash by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, along with Herculaneum and the surrounding areas in 79 AD. It was estimated that there were more than 10,000 people living in Pompeii and surroundings at that time and the catastrophe had killed around 2000 Pompeiians.  Despite everything that had happened, the site displayed an exceptional example of ancient Roman life that was frozen at the moment of the disaster.

The site area consists of nine regions: The South, The Southeast (Amphitheatre and Gym or Palestra), The East, The Northeast, The North, The Northwest, The West (Forum and Municipal Buildings), and The Southwest (Theatres), and The Centre.  

Once you decide to come here, here are some suggestions to see while you are strolling there:

The Stabian Baths

This was the oldest thermal baths in the city. Its sections were divided for men and for women and built in three parts. The rooms had hot water running through the walls and there was also varying water temperature, including the cool one. To add, most rooms were decorated with excellent workmanship and unique art.

The Forum or The Main Square

If you ask where they centralized their political and cultural activities, the answer is this. With rectangular open space and cross-shaped designed courthouse, this zone was also the center of marketplace and bathhouses. This was the main square and the first thing I saw when I arrived there.

The Amphitheater

Known as the oldest Roman amphitheater, it was built around 70 BC. Yes, this was even before the Rome Colosseum. It was famous for its gladiatorial contests and life in Pompeiian culture.

The amphitheater was enabled to host up to 20,000 spectators. Sadly, after there was a bloody riot between the Pompeiians and the people of Nocera in 59 A.D., the arena was closed.

Villas, Temples and Houses

Other than the main attractions, you should also definitely see the elegant constructions located in these heritage sites. Numerous villas, temples, and houses will tell you the story of ancient Roman civilization and lifestyle, from the modest ones to the spectacular luxurious ones.

Among those, you’ll find: The Villa of Mysteries (with 40,000 square feet area and 60 rooms, from bedrooms to kitchens and servants’ sections), The House of Neptune and Amphitrite (completed with a fountain of colorful mosaics of The God of Sea, Neptune and Amphitrite, his wife), and The Temple of Apollo (since 120 BC and dedicated to the famous Greek and Roman God, Apollo).

It took me nine years to finally be able to have one day trip to this extraordinary heritage, from the first time I knew about it during Christmas time in 2010 to the visiting day during Christmas time in 2019. Honestly, I haven’t even visited everything properly as the area is gigantic and I believe one time was not enough.

This place exhibits perfectly different aspects of the old Roman period: its social, political, economic, and religious life. Have you been there? If not, this might be where you want to be once the pandemic crisis ends, especially if you are a huge fan of ancient history and archaeology.

Brussels: Your European Metropolis

As I mentioned earlier in a previous post, I went to Belgium in summer 2018 and managed to visit four cities: Brussels, Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp. Certainly, I stayed in Brussels and did some day trips to the other three cities. It was really a wonderful week for me as Brussels took a piece of my heart.

First of all, it is one of big cities that will amaze you if you are a fan of urban life. It is always crowded, full of life but still, filled with a lot of stories and places that capture your full attention while you are there. Why is it so special in its own way?

Atomium
It is a very special monument to visit, a 102-meter steel construction with diameter of 18 meters, representing an enlarged iron crystal. The building’s construction dates back to 1958, in the year of the Expo, the Universal Exhibition that was held in Brussels.

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Mini Europe

It symbolises the attraction of the intertwining cultures that resides in Brussels. It is an amusement park that contains the remakes of Europe’s most beautiful icons: 80 cities and 350 buildings in mini 1:25 scale. Not only the miniatures, you can also admire animated attractions such as the eruption of Vesuvius. Completing the tour, you can see an interactive exhibition explaining the mechanisms of European Union in a game.

Grand Palace Square

This square is the centre of all the activities that take place in Brussels as it is surrounded by several palaces: the Town Hall, a palace in Gothic style, which has a high tower on the summit of which is a statue of St. Michael the Archangel, Patron of the city, and the Maison du Roi, originally built in wood, which was then restored in stone in the late Gothic style. This wonderful square is deeply rich in history.

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The Guild Houses

Around the Grand Palace Square, there are the numerous Guild Houses that recall each masterpiece by different artisans who were part of the area, including bakers, brewers, painters, cabinet makers, archers, tailors and all the craftsmen in this large commercial square. Today, a part of these buildings is home to museums, such as the Beer Museum (no surprise as Belgium has some of the best beers worldwide). In the area, there is also the “Maison des Maitres Chocolatiers Belges”, where you can get mouth-watering Belgian chocolates. Never return back from Belgium without its chocolates!

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Royal Palace

This is certainly among the most important buildings to visit. It is the official residence of the royal family despite being used only in special events. On such occasions, the Belgian flag on the roof signals the presence of the sovereign. It is possible to attend the ceremonial changing of the guard every day at about 2.30 am. Around the palace there are some important cultural buildings. It is opened in summer for public for free!

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Manneken Pis

This statue looks like chubby boy or maybe little man in the city, one of the symbols of Brussels folklores, as well as one of the strangest monuments in the world. Certainly, it is also the most photographed statue of the city no matter it is quite small in size which doesn’t even reach a meter high.

Mont des Arts

Mont des Arts was created between 1956 and 1958, located on Place Royale and Place de l’Albertine. It is an urban complex that includes some of the most beautiful buildings in the city including the Palazzo dei Congressi and the National Library, where you can find more than three million volumes and ancient manuscripts.

Cinquantenaire Park

It was established in the 19th century, exactly in 1880 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence. This park belongs to the monumental Palais du Cinquantenaire and they are linked by a massive triumphal arch. In addition, it is home to two interesting museums Brussels: The Royal Museum of Art and History and The Museum of Weapons.

Various Churches in the City

Churches architecture in Europe is always amazing and unforgettable. It is like that too in Brussels. Try to visit Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Or, maybe go to the main churches, which are the Cathedral of San Michele and Santa Gudula. However, not only these three, you can also go to see many other wonderful churches, basilicas, cathedrals and abbeys.

Nevertheless, other than these marvellous places, remember also to taste Belgian beers, chocolates and waffles! Obbligatory! Don’t skip as you’ll regret 😊

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Why Bruges Is Unskippable If You Come to Europe

I visited Belgium in summer 2018 and managed to make day trips to several cities there. It is a shame that I just have the will to write about them one by one at the moment, after 3 months of pause. Sometimes, even bloggers also have this period when they seem unable to compose good articles for their readers.

And yep, that was me in the last three months. But now, I am back! Though before, I will greet you first, HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019! May this year bring prosper, happiness and everything good to us!

So, let’s start with one of the most beautiful cities in the world, filled with stunning bridges, Bruges. I was there for a day and I was really amazed with how gorgeous the city was. The only minus was only that I came there during a cloudy day. Nevertheless, it didn’t reduce its charm at all.

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Bruges is around an hour of train away from Brussels. With lots of bridges and canals, this city is often considered as the Venice of the North. And just like in Venice, it will be fantastic to take a boat ride to explore its marvellous view.

Here, you can enjoy the luxury of medieval era: from its cute historical architecture to superb canals that fill the entire city. In fact, the city attracts more two million visitors yearly and you can also discover every spot of its excellence by walk as each corner is a story to tell. And of course, the historic centre has been inscribed in UNESCO’s world heritage list since 2000.

When you are in Bruges, make sure that at least these five are on your DOs list:

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  • The market, located in the heart of Bruges, city centre. At this spot, you can see various outstanding old buildings from different centuries. So, make sure that your camera and smartphone work perfectly to capture the beauty of the surroundings.
  • The heavenly Belgium chocolates. As you know, the Belgians are absolutely famous for their yummy chocolates and when you make the trip to Bruges, the city will never disappoint you.
  • Distinctive Belgian beers. Once, a friend told me that Belgian beers are the best. I trusted her surely. But when I finally came to Belgium, I just realised even more than she is 1000% correct. In Bruges, you can find some of the world’s finest breweries.
  • Great long walk at those canal sides and bridges. Looking for unforgettable pictures for your Instagram stories and posts? Bruges will give you what you need!
  • Museum and church. Not only canals and Belgian delights, you can also explore awesome museum and church in Bruges, if you are a big fan of churches and museums. Take as examples: The Groeninge Museum that offers the history of Belgian arts and the Church of Our Lady, which dates back from between the 13th to 15th century and which has a tower with more than 100-metre high.

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Are you still not convinced enough? Well these images might help you to realise that it is completely unskippable if you visit Belgium. Or, better to say, unskippable if you visit Europe.

Ten Courts of Hell: Not for The Faint-Hearted

Have you ever heard about the Haw Par Villa in Singapore? This is a themed park created in the 1930s by the brothers who made Tiger Balm, one of the most famous balms worldwide, known for its powerful benefits for aches and pains.

The park can be reached easily by Singapore MRT and it has a stop with its name, so you definitely won’t forget where to get off. On today’s post, I will dedicate to the most interesting part of the villa, Ten Courts of Hell. However, I should remind you first that this is not for the faint-hearted.

Guarded by the Ox-Head and Horse Face, the Ten Courts of Hell lead you to series of punishment that any wrong-doer may receive based on their karma and actions in life.

DSC_1465The courts of hell are located inside a dark cave where there is very little light, adding more mystery and horror feel into your walk. The courts start with the first one, where there are preliminary trials by King Qinguang.

Here every prisoner is judged according to what they did when they were still alive, to decide if they will go directly to paradise or if they have to receive some punishment first. Certainly, the good ones are distinguished from the evil ones.

From here, the walk becomes scarier and certainly turns your mind upside down after you finish all the courts.

Let’s begin…

Second Court of Hell: King Chujiang

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Third Court of Hell: Yama: King Songdi

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Fourth Court of Hell: Yama: King Wuguan

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Wang-Si Town – here, those who were wronged to their death will receive benefits as the wrong-doers see that their victims receive retribution. The evil doers on the other hand, receive proper punishment for what they’ve done.

Fifth Court of Hell: Yama: King Yanluo

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Sixth Court of Hell: Yama: King Piencheng

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Seventh Court of Hell: Yama: King Taishan

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Eighth Court of Hell: Yama: King Dushi

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Ninth Court of Hell: Yama: King Pingdeng

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Tenth Court of Hell: Yama: King Zhuanlun

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Old Lady Meng Po

And at the final court, all will pass to the Pavilion of forgetfulness after serving their sentences and after King Zhuanlun gives his final judgment to them.  At the pavilion, the prisoners will meet an old lady named Meng Po, who prepares them a cup of special tea that helps them forget their past life, and certainly, the horrifying punishment in the previous courts too.

When they finish drinking the tea, each will go to the Wheel of Reincarnation. To know if one would be reborn as a human or as an animal, it will depend on his past karma from his previous life. As humans, there are also differences as some could go into family where there is a life of ease and comfort while others might go into family with sorrow and sufferings.

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The Wheel of Reincarnation

Like I said, this must have completely blown our mind right. It really makes us think if we still want to even do the least evil action (like small or white lie as they often call it or even not finishing food on our plate) while we are still on earth, as we don’t know what’s going to happen when we die. Who knows if this might come true and it is too late to undo our actions.

For me, all I understand is that what goes around comes around and there is always cause-effect relation in every situation of life, whether we want to understand and accept it or not. Beware of our own karma and doing guys.

 

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