Sydney / Saigon Mindboggle

It can’t just be me right? I mean, the similarity is uncanny.

Notre Dame de Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Perhaps one of the few advantages of old world colonialism is the fusion of architecture styles. The Notre Dame de Saigon was built by French colonists to establish Roman Catholic Church in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). During its construction, red bricks were imported from Marseille and the glass windows from Chartes Province in France.

Luna Park in Sydney, Australia

This is an amusement park on the northern shore of Sydney Harbour. Luna Park was originally opened in 1935. Since then it has been closed, reopened, demolished and opened once more following a series of urgent repairs and general lack of profits. Nowadays though, it has been refurbished and is a fun sun-shiny way to spend a day in Sydney.

Marina Bay Sands

If you are a fan of megastructures and excessive living then you must check out Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. It is the world’s most expensive standalone casino property and a night in one of the hotel’s 2561 rooms is enough to cover my monthly rent. Argh!

Aside from the casino and hotel, the Marina Bay Sands also houses a theatre, shopping mall, museum, skating rink and several high-end restaurants. The photo above was taken from the DNA bridge leading to the development. In case you were wondering, that thing on top of the three towers is a 340m long ‘Skypark’ with a 150m long infinity pool overlooking the Marina Bay. Pretty swanky huh?

Note: Here’s a panoramic view of the entire development just to emphasize the grandiosity of it all!

Chandeliers of Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul wins the award for most adaptable structure. Throughout its life, it has been a basilica, a mosque and since 1935, a museum.  Most people assume that it means Saint Sophia but Hagia Sophia literally translates into “Divine Wisdom”.

The chandeliers above date way back from the Ottoman Empire. If you look closely, the interiors are an eclectic mix of Biblical mosaics and Koranic calligraphy. Two different beliefs from two different eras, seamlessly meshing with each other to create one of the greatest examples of Byzantine Architecture.

Sydney Opera House

A building that needs no further introduction, the Sydney Opera House is a quintessential Aussie icon as much as the kangaroo.

Its construction is surrounded by controversies and budget constraints leading to the unjust resignation of Danish architect Jorn Utzon. Formally opened in 1973, Utzon was not even invited nor mentioned in the ceremonies.

A reconciliation didn’t happen until the late 1990s when the Sydney Opera Trust appointed him as a design consultant for future works. Utzon was awarded a long overdue Pritzker Prize (highest honour in architecture) in 2003. A true visionary and modern artist, he died in November 2008.

Wangfujing Snack Street

Skewered seahorses and scorpions anyone?

This is one of the many exotic fares in Wangfujing Street in Beijing, China. Clearly not for the weak of heart and stomach, you can also sample some starfish, cicada, horse meat and silkworm among others. Yum!

Note: I never tried the scorpions as they were still wriggling. As Woody Allen said “I want my food dead–not sick, not wounded– dead!”.

Puerto Princesa Underground River

You know what I’ve said previously about caves not being photogenic? Well the Puerto Princesa Underground River in the Philippines is one of them caves. It’s highly unfortunate too because it really is a sight to behold. The photo shows the mouth of the cave. You enter by paddle boat armed with just a trusty battery powered floodlight and then total darkness!

The rock formations and several secret caverns are easily jaw dropping however, the guides advise against it as not all droplets from the ceiling are water. The cave is home to several birds and bats that fly around continuously. With its unique flora and fauna, it’s not surprising that this subterranean river was named as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.