A Travellerspoint blog

Easter Reflection

Remembering Brussels

rain 17 °C

It is Easter Sunday and I felt apt to take a pause and to reflect on the hope that I professed I hold. Another round of attacks in a supposed safe haven earlier this week shook me and I grieved for such violent trampling of another's comfort zone. While Brussels occupies my thought this week, I would like to also express my sympathy and support for those in Turkey, Mali, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Somalia, and elsewhere who have been affected by recent terrorist attacks. I'm heartbroken by your suffering, and I stand with you.

In painful moments when the message of hope, peace and love get thrown around in a supposed holy week, it can really sting the ones in suffering. In his book, the problem of pain, CS Lewis said it well. “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Now that peaceful existence has been painfully shattered, the faith that I professed rouse me to think and to act.

Christ's final journey to the cross takes him through the heart of darkness as he was sold out for a few pieces of silver, saw one of his closest friend disregard everything that he has said about loving your enemy and sliced a guy's ear off, got stuck in a political ping pong game when bureaucrats tried to stick charges on him but did not want full responsibility, he was bullied, tortured and in the end hung outside to die. All Christ ever did was love and give the masses hope in a world engulfed by Roman superiority. The injustice that he received is a showcase of the depravity and violence human beings are capable of. That hatred was triumphed over by forgiveness ultimately birthed from a deep deep love. Forgiveness was on his lips even as he was breathing his last and suddenly, the oppressors themselves were set free from the chains of hatred as well.

Today, the sheer barbarity of Islamist militants certainly managed to start striking fear in the hearts of many, suddenly nowhere seems to be that safe anymore. As many are trying to make sense of the senseless murder, I think it is important that we do not give way to hatred. They can take away everything, but not our capacity to love, to hope and to build peace. The horrors and hope more than 2000 years ago can and should be connected to horrors and hope of today. As I remembered the violence that Christ went through, I remembered the violence the unfortunate ones face today. As The Lord's resurrection brought about a triumph over evil through non violent means, may we too, bring about a movement of life in remembrance of both the events of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

If you are around Brussels, go offer your support. It is the heart of the European Union and hosts the EU parliament. it is currently closed for visits due to heightened security alert but I think tourist should also make it a point to be there to stand in solidarity and to show that we are unafraid of their ideology. This is the main area.
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On the walls of the visitor center, you will see pictures that characterize the generations and important events in the world. When our time comes to be judged by the future generation, I hope that it will be a picture of peace.
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To my readers, Happy Easter Sunday. See you next week!

Posted by canglingy 19:58 Archived in Belgium Tagged history peace Comments (0)

København suburb- Kastrup

Inspired by our blue planet and harbors exploration

semi-overcast 14 °C

This week's spotlight is on one of the suburbs in Copenhagen. I intend to show my readers the other parts of Copenhagen that most foreign visitors wouldn't normally go. Kastrup doesn't feel very touristy because it is the home for some industrial buildings such as the SAS cargo head office. Transavia and Kastrup glasswork. However, Kastrup houses the largest aquarium in Northern Europe and a pleasant neighborhood/pier that can be explored by foot.

To get to Kastrup, take the M2 metro if you are coming from the airport, get off after 1 stop. If you are coming from the city center (Kongens Nytorv), get down at the 7th station, the journey should be about 15 minutes. If you wanted to get a closer look at the neighborhood, I recommend taking the public buses. Bus 2A and 5A will take you to Kastrup. The Danes speak great English so getting around is no problem. One extra note, I do not recommend getting the Copenhagen visitors card if you are only here for a short visit (1-2 days), it is expensive and you will not be able to visit sufficient attraction to get your money's worth.

I have an interest in huge aquarium as it gives me a rare glimpse of some treasures of the earth that I would otherwise not be able to see. From Kastrup station, den bla planet (literally the blue planet) is about 10 minutes of walking distance. This huge building is a landmark in this suburb, you won't miss it.
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As you walk closer, you'd see that this aquarium is a mammoth compared to most building one might see in Copenhagen.
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There is a walkway leading to the entrance of the blue planet.
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This facility resembles a whirlpool when seen from above. One can catch a great view when flying into Copenhagen provided the clouds are clear. The blue planet is another testament of the Danish pursuit of sustainable energy as they are equipped with cooling units using seawater from nearby, this greatly reduce energy consumption through conventional means. Another unique aspect of this place is that it is not just a huge showcase of exotic marine life (looking at you, Dubai), it is also an area to help scientific research, disseminate marine information and also assist educational institution in their pursuit of knowledge. As I grow up, I have become slightly more discerning in regards to where should my money be channeled. In this case, the blue planet gets my vote over the luxurious displays in Dubai at any time.

A total of 7 million liters of water is on all side and it really gives the visitor a sensation of being underwater. When I look at huge tanks surrounding you like these, the sensation sinks in and I appreciate the work being done.
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There are 5 main sections, each of them highlighting the distinctive waters in our planet. For the record, they are divided into the rainforest, the african great lakes, cold waters, warm ocean and adapted species. The cold waters section is native to Danish waters and it has a child friendly touch pool. The adapted species is where you can find interesting creatures such as the snapping turtle, Australian lungfish and primitive fishes. Not limiting themselves to underwater species, there are boa constrictors in the rain forest section.

I enjoy spotting the species in their natural habitat, it gives an appreciation on how these creatures live and interact with nature. It is a welcoming break from the complexity of our lives. Can you spot them?
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Seemed harmless, but these are piranhas.
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I could stare at this for a long time without getting bored. Signs of life in seemingly barren rocks.
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The blue planet is by the sea, I went for an extended walk after exiting the area. First up, more windmills in the distance, I really admire the dedication of keeping their energy source sustainable. Did you know that Denmark is one of the world's leader in green technology?
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SAS cargo headquarters on the other side of the coast
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Shores were not the usual sand, but the rocks were nice to walk on too. Make sure your foot is covered properly.
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Tried to get a close up picture of the ducks before they are escape into the waters. The fun is in the attempt to try to gauge the duck's comfort zone with a stranger holding a strange device.
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Weather forecast wasn't that great. Lots of boats still docked at their spots. The gathering of the boats create a nice man made scenery.
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The piers connects to a residential area and a park, if I grow up in a district like this, I can imagine myself being more passionate about seafaring and marine life. The neighborhood is very quiet in the evening. It has a more uniformed setting compared to the more distinct structures in the danish countryside. Kastrup's industrial nature is reflected in houses. I took some snap shots on my way back.
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Oh look, I found another place for breakfast that happens to serve one of my favorite food.
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I will do a pivot back to Asia in the next entry. Until next time.

Posted by canglingy 18:39 Archived in Denmark Tagged boats sightseeing Comments (0)

Journey in Northern Ireland Part 2

Tracing the paths of giants, wandering in the countryside, and the Titanic

sunny 11 °C

The journey in the north continues. After exploring Carrick-a-rede, I made my base in another small town, Ballycastle. The town was unassuming and quiet while having pleasant folks, exactly my type of town. I was drawn to visit the giant's causeway and took a short 15 miles drive on the A2 to my destination. The Giant's causeway is a UNESCO world heritage site and a National Nature Reserve, that means this is a tourist hotspot and potentially overhyped. I am glad to report that it does not disappoint. This area is formed as a result of an ancient volcanic eruption in which tons of interlocking basalt columns were formed in that time. The rock columns are mostly hexagonal and this geometrical symmetry is astounding. Also, after being subjected to centuries of natural erosion, some of these columns starts to resemble objects that is up to the viewer's interpretation.

According to local legends, there once was two giants. One stood on the Irish shore and the other stood on the Scottish shore. They have become undisputed mighty beings on their islands and is thirsting to prove who is the strongest among them all. Accepting the challenge, the giants begun to build this causeway so that they could meet. One of the giants suddenly realized that he is much smaller than the other giant. He panics and his wife disguised him as a baby. When the bigger giant came over and saw the huge baby, he thought the father must have been insanely huge. In his own moment of panic, he quickly flees and destroy the causeway in the process so he wouldn't be hunted down. This version of the story is more exciting, I prefer this alternate reality.

Back to the actual site, the landscape visibly changes as I get closer to the giant's causeway. The scattered rocks becomes more uniform.
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Rock columns becoming more impressive with every step
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This is a close up view of the rocks
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Going through this pathway is like entering a mythical kingdom
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And the causeway stretches out to the sea, a pity that I couldn't actually try to walk to Scotland on that pathway.
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I decided to explore the hills and plains on foot. I enjoyed hiking in colder climates because generally I would only sweat very minimally and I find that my brain seems more alert when it is cold. This preference is also in stark contrast to hot tropical climate which I will avoid the outdoors if I can. In the Irish region, the weather can be very unpredictable, the closest comparison that I can think of is Melbourne in Australia. This is where you can experience four seasons in a day. It can be sunny fifteen minutes ago, and then cloudy or even hailing/raining without a moment's warning. It will not be a fun experience if one is unprepared to duke it out with the elements. A good walking shoes and windbreaker is a must in my opinion since the winds can be rather chilly as well. I enjoyed the light drizzle but you might want to consider bringing an umbrella if you prefer not to be rained on.

The good thing is there is a good walking trail even in the countryside.
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Lots of uphill and downhill action
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But the views are ultimately rewarding.
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And legend has it, this old castle ruin is where CS Lewis finds his inspiration.
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Post exploration, I need to head back to civilization to restock. The closest major city is Belfast, she is not as charming as Dublin but definitely worth visiting too. Did you know that Belfast used to be very good at industrial stuff? In fact, they were once world leaders in heavy industries such as ship building. To reinforce this fact, the almighty Titanic was built in Belfast. Today, she is recovering her industrial prowess and signs of life after decades of strife. A remarkable story of resilience, recovery and reconciliation. In this case, Belfast is successful.

As a living memory and monument, there is a Titanic museum in this town. I am museum buff, and was promptly tempted inside.
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The interior is very beautiful as well. I will stop the spoilers and leave it to potential wanderers to explore it themselves.
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I also find the local town hall a good exhibit as well.
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There was another occasion where I managed to be in Belfast during Christmas and the lights were marvelous, not too grand and just the right amount I think. The lights will be through the month of December.
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Ireland, both the north and the south was a slow paced contemplative journey, a great reminder of the beauty of this world that I have inherited and my duty to be a good steward for the sake of the ones that will come after me.

The story ends here this week. In the next entry, the spotlight will move away from Ireland and this blog will focus on another spot in Europe.

Posted by canglingy 17:12 Archived in Northern Ireland Tagged landscapes mountains castles sightseeing Comments (0)

Journey in Northern Ireland Part 1

Memories from Carnlough and Carrick-a-rede

sunny 11 °C

After wandering in the western part of Ireland, today's spotlight will be on the northern part of this beautiful island. Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom. It will be a little strange to suddenly pay in pounds when you were just paying in euros a few kilometers down south. A fun fact, the pounds note issue by Northern Ireland government is not accepted worldwide. Make sure you spend it all or convert back to Euros before you leave in case you get stuck with money you can't use. Even though they share the same conversion rate and the name with the British pounds, it's accessibility is simply not as great as the latter. I think the Bank of England should just step in and issues notes on their behalf. This weak currency usage outside of Northern Ireland smells like discrimination.

Speaking of discrimination, for most of the 20th century when this country came into existence, it has always been marked by it. Furthermore, the Catholics nationalist and the Protestant Unionist have traded hostility in long period of times. This hostility peaked in the late 1960s, sparking three decades of violence in what we know today as "the troubles". Today, marks of violence in the past can still be seen in outskirts abandoned buildings, industrial areas and even some districts in Belfast. Sporadic violence still happen occasionally but as a whole, this area is opening up and the economy has recovered. Public infrastructure is still lacking compared to Dublin down south, hence the motorway is the best way to get around the area.

Driving around the island is rewarding and you get views like these in your occasional stopovers. It is very scenic, rustic and relaxing.
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Beyond the roads, the landscape is equally beautiful.
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And there are stuff straight out from a horror movie too, imagine stumbling upon this scene late at night.
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Driving along the coast is fast becoming one of my favorite driving experience. Though taking pictures can be a really dangerous thing to do.
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One of my meal stopover is in the small little town of Carnlough, they serve outstanding breakfast!
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Carnlough is a small picturesque harbor town reachable through the coastal road and situated at the northern tip. Winston Churchill's great grandmother used to run an inn in this town. It is still standing and operational today.

Roads color and material is a bit unique.
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Even the road dividers are pleasant to look at.
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This is the harbor and the general view around it. All within a short walking distance from the town center.
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From the harbor, you could see most of the city as well.
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Beyond that, it is Ireland's rugged beauty
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Walking around quiet, quaint town like this one relaxes the soul, the fresh sea air helps as well.
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Loket is still my favorite small town but Carnlough's charm is easily in my top 30 list. The people were more generous and cheerful in these towns compared to the industrialized cities that I work in which is a very welcoming change. From Carnlough, I journey onwards to the home of seabirds, basking sharks and dolphins, the carrick-a-rede. It is a very nice drive further up north, 30 miles drive along coast through A2. This area is a natural trust, hence it was very well maintained and one could easily spend an entire day here.

I appreciate a good, detailed overview of an area prior to exploration and was delighted by the info given here.
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On a good day, you could see Scotland beyond those small rock islands. I could catch some glimpse but it wasn't very clear.
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The main attraction in this area is the rope bridge. This bridge links the main land to the tiny rock island. For over 350 years, salmon fisherman used to construct a bridge to connect to the main land and make their job easier. It is a steep 30 meters drop and the bridge sways a lot when gust starts blowing. First, you will walk a well maintained path to get there.
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Greet the cows along the way
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And then starts descending
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The bridge is tiny and is probably not for the fainthearted to attempt crossing. The staff in visitor center will also tell you stories of visitors getting stuck on the island, on the occasion where they were unable to face the walk back on the bridge and had to be ferry back on a small boat.
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And it probably wise not to look down too much if one has a fear of heights.
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The waves crashes on the rocks as the wind blows, making beautiful natural symphonies.
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Fishing activities have now ceased but once upon a time, many fishermen walked this path.
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This is the view of the main land from that small little rock.
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Spent the rest of the day just listening to the waves, watching the birds and fishes, sitting near the cliffs. These moments of mindful idleness is getting harder to come by with heavier responsibilities as one grows into working adulthood. But of all these will be safeguarded in the deep recesses of one's mind and soul, remains one of the incorruptible treasures where I can withdraw into when I need my solitude bubble.

The next entry will be about this lovely Irish island again, I am giving her the triple entry treatment out of my love for the place. Until next time.

Posted by canglingy 17:11 Archived in Northern Ireland Tagged landscapes bridges cliffs sightseeing Comments (3)

Road trip in Western Ireland- The Cliffs of Moher

semi-overcast 12 °C

Today's entry will be about one of the crown jewel in Ireland (in my humble opinion), the Cliffs of Moher. The cliff is in the south western of the Burren region, which is also one of the more unique landscape that I have been to. Beautiful rock formation stretches as far as the eyes can see and yet in the cold wet sea breeze it retains some sort of solemn majestic feel when you are standing on those formation.

The closest major city is actually Galway or Limerick, driving from either of these cities will take about 90 minutes. If you are coming from Dublin, it will take you about 4 hours to reach the cliffs via Limerick. Since Ireland is such a beautiful country. I'd suggest escaping from Dublin and explore the countryside, city by city while you make your way to the cliffs of Moher. I recommend driving from Galway since you will be on the coastal road with great view of the Burren and Galway Bay. A note of caution though, the climb is steep and there a few sudden sharp curves, be careful of the walkers and cyclist as you approach the cliffs. It is also worth noting that some of the days the fog might be too thick and one might be unlucky enough to not be able to have a good view of the cliffs. Please check local weather report to ensure you have a good experience.

Here are some of the pictures. It is times like this that I am reminded of my own frailty and insignificance, awed by the beauty of this world full of thanksgiving for the Creator.
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These cliffs reminds me of the scenes in princess bride and harry potter, being hear strengthen the memories I have of these movies.

It feels like I am standing at the edge of the known world, facing the North Atlantic Ocean with a huge 200 meters drop beneath me. It is both thrilling and refreshing.
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Galway Island in the distance
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Approaching an old fort
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You will also be able to spot many different species of birds. Wikipedia tells me that 30,000 birds inhabited this area so this is also a good spot for bird watching. Another worthwhile mention is the visitor experience center, this facility is built into the hillside approaching the cliffs. It is a showcase of environmental friendly building model with the heating and cooling both comes from geothermal source. There's also solar panels and gray water recycling. Inside the facility, you will see interactive media displays covering the flora, fauna, history and geological information of this area. It is a good source of knowledge if one is coming in blind. The large multimedia screen on display will give a bird eye view of the area in case the weather is bad and you miss the scenery.

I enjoy the long walk along the hiking trail. The scenery is truly breathtaking. Due to my own lack of fitness, I quickly find myself breathless as well.
The path that I took was the Burren Way.
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The road can be winding, I feel as if I am one of the ancient travelers, journeying between two villages.
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Some interesting rocks along the way
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Next up is the Burren area, I did the drive the next day because I was exhausted with all the walking in the same day and wanted a break. Roads along the coastal road can be challenging and they look like this
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Then when I stop at the coast and started walking, I began to appreciate why the Burren is such a gem. In common English, Burren simply means great rock
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The sounds of waves crashing is soothing
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I'd normally consider this environment harsh for plant growth but I am pleasantly surprised by all the green plants popping up between the seemingly barren rocks.
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Upon further study and reading when I return from the Burren, I came to understand that the climate there is rather unique. Due to the crisscrossing limestone pavements with cracks, it essentially became a good support for arctic and alpine plants. In geological terms, this is the effect of earlier karstification (solutional erosion) and tempered by a glacial period after that. The solutional process have widened and deepened the cracks between the limestone and it forms a drainage like system between them.

Western Part of Ireland will have occasional treasure troves of historical and archaeological site. Coming across sites like these makes me smile.
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Next entry will still be on the isle of Ireland as well. Until next time

Posted by canglingy 18:18 Archived in Ireland Tagged landscapes mountains cliffs sightseeing travelling Comments (2)

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