Tuesday, September 13, 2011

La Mano del Desierto, Chile

Hey everyone! I apologize for not having written a blog post in SO long, my junior year so far has been extremely crazy!

Last week was our recruitment week for Kappa Kappa Gamma then on Sunday was Bid Day! My chapter welcomed 15 beautiful new members and I’m so excited to have them!

Anywho, moving on to the main subject of this post…

Several weeks ago, I went to see “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and it was surprisingly very good! I was extremely impressed with all of the special effects not to mention the whole movie in general was really intense. Anyway, I’m not here to talk movie reviews but I do have a reason for bringing this up.

The place I want to adventure to today actually looks like it’s straight out of the original movie “Planet of the Apes.” I’m not kidding either, take a look!

La Mano del Desierto, meaning “Hand of the Desert,” is a giant hand merging out of the ground in the Atacama Desert in Chile. This stone hand is about 36 feet tall and has a base made of iron and cement. The Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world (bet you didn’t know that!). The sculpture was finished in 1992 by the Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal, which was meant to symbolize the emphasis on human vulnerability and helplessness.

Irarrazabal has built other sculptures around the world featuring giant body parts but this one will certainly last a long, long time because of the lack of precipitation and deterring weather.

Although very simple, this huge sculpture draws a huge amount of attraction by tourists and is very popular in Chile. What do you think about La Mano del Desierto?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

I don’t have real cable television at home so I haven’t been able to watch my favorite channel all summer: Travel Channel (I guess it’s fitting, isn’t it? Haha). Anyway, I finally got a little snippet while at the hotel in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago and something really caught my eye. Although this place isn’t a whole city or town or region, it will most definitely spark your interest, whether it be intrigued or creeped out.

The Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora in Czech Republic is a small Roman Catholic chapel. The most interesting and unique part of this chapel is that it is decorated and furnished with the skeletons of around 40,000 to 70,000 people! How freaky is that!

The exterior of the chapel looks pretty normal, like any other church that you’ll cross by. However, in front of the church, there is a mosaic of skull and crossbones that almost seems like a warning.

In the 13th century, Henry, the abbot of Sedlec, was sent to Palestine (then called the Holy Land) by King Otakar II of Bohemia. When Henry returned, he brought back a small amount of soil from Golgotha and sprinkled it around the cemetery in front of the abbey. The word was spread about this act and therefore the cemetery became an extremely desirable site for burial all over Central Europe. After the Black Death in the 14th century and the Hussite Wars in the 15th, thousands were buried there and thus the cemetery had to be greatly enlarged in size.

Around 1400, a Gothic church was built in the center of the cemetery, by which many skeletons had to be unearthed for the construction. Therefore, the upper level was used as a chapel while the lower level served as an ossuary (for those of you who don’t know what an ossuary is, check out the Wikipedia page here). Since then, the chapel and ossuary has been renovated and redesigned to its current look.

In 1870, Frantisek Rint was employed by the Schwarzenburg family to create the current design that you can see today. There are four enormous bell-shaped mounds of bones that make up the four corners of the chapel and a huge chandelier of bones that contains at least one of every bone that makes up the human body. A large coat of arms of the Schwarzenburg family is also displayed as well as the signature of Rint, which was executed with bones on the wall near the entrance of the chapel.

This morbidly fascinating place has been the influence to many films and music. I’m not sure I’ll have the courage to step in to this place, but if you’re up for the adventure I’m sure it will be thrilling!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Baltistan, Pakistan

I’m finally on the verge of a new school year at Babson…4 days until I’m back to be exact! I was thinking really hard about today’s post and came across a memory of reading this book called Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin for my freshman orientation. I had dreaded reading it since I thought I was so done with summer reading when I left high school, but this book ended up being swell. (To check out this book, visit http://www.threecupsoftea.com/.)

In this nonfiction novel, Greg Mortenson describes his adventures and philanthropy in the mountains of northern Pakistan. He is attempting to climb Mountain K2 in honor of his sister Christa and on his way down after failing, he runs into a village called Korphe where the story takes place. I specifically remember his descriptions of this part of Pakistan and how heavenly everything was and thus, I decided to do today’s post on Baltistan, Pakistan.

Situated in the Karakoram Mountains just south of K2, the second highest mountain in the world (after Mount Everest), Baltistan is the main focus of Mortenson’s book. The area is often grouped together with Gilgit, a city in the area; hence the northern region can also be referred as Gilgit-Baltistan. Although very remote and little is known about this place by the rest of the world, Baltistan is no sight to be ignored.

According to the novel and internet sources, this region is not heavily populated. Villages and small towns stay in tight communities often with no small government, education, or businesses. It won’t be hard to travel to though, Skardu and Gilgit, the largest city and the region’s capital, are easily accessible.

I think pictures will do the magic in this post for you to get the full effect of Baltistan’s beauty, so here you go!

Captivating, isn't it?? I'd love to visit someday when I get the chance because I know that not only will the trip be relaxing to the eye, it will be a life-changing experience to meet the villagers. What do you think of Baltistan?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Houston, Texas, USA

Hey y'all! I hope you enjoyed my last post about my trip to Las Vegas! For today, I wanted to try something different. My friend Brad recently took a trip to Houston and instead of me writing about a place I've never been, I thought I'd get some words from him about his own experience! Here is my guest blogger.

Hello bloggers! Brad Heglin here, writing as Hyo's first guest blogger about a trip I recently took. This past weekend I flew to the United States' very own Houston, Texas. This was my first time really getting away from the east coast so I was very excited for the trip. I left Logan Airport in Boston at 11:05, switched planes in Baltimore (BWI) and finally my plane touched down at Hobby Airport in Houston at 3:40 on Thursday afternoon, and thus began my adventure. Though I was there for a conference held by HOBY, a youth leadership organization, and would be in sessions most of the time, I knew I would have a little time to explore and that is what I'm here to share with you!

First things first: find the hotel. I took a shuttle with several others going to the conference that I had met up with in Baltimore. Meeting for the first time we all had plenty to talk about, but I made sure to take in the sights passing by me on the way. The city is very different from what we see here in Boston. It is spread out over the entire area that makes up Houston, so instead of being a bunch of stores, restaurants and skyscrapers clumped at the center, there are tufts of them throughout Houston with neighborhoods and small business areas in between. That aside, it was mostly as I expected, sand colored buildings and homes with terracotta styled rooftops. There were palm trees and the temperature was extremely hot but either way I was glad to be there.

Finally arriving at the hotel we grabbed our bags and went inside; what I found was very impressive. The hotel had a beautiful lobby was decorated with comfortable cushion chairs, lovely rugs, and these awesome gardens and fountains spread throughout the room.

After checking all this out I made my way to the elevators and luckily for me, the rooms also met my expectations and were just as nice as the lobby. Complete with two full beds, a flat screen tv, and a very large bathroom with toilet (which had a phone next to it!), big shower and a mirror which ran around the room, I was very impressed. The service we received from the staff was also above and beyond.

The first night I ate at the hotel restaurant and bar, the "NOÉ", which despite the high prices was well worth it. I had quesadillas and a beer, which were delicious and the service was very good too. They also have a lounge area separate from the restaurant which guests are allowed to use for smaller more casual groups! There was also a bar in the basement of the hotel, which isn't as sketchy as it sounds, called "The Black Swan" . It was actually very cool; offering a large variety of drinks, had small private booths throughout and a dance floor in the back for people enjoy! Some such people were from one of the four weddings held there that weekend, in addition to vacationers and our group attending the conference, so the hotel holds a variety of events and has plenty of space for them.

In addition to this we also ate at a restaurant called "El Tiempo" which was very good. The fajitas were to die for and I highly recommend checking this place out. From there we went on to a club called "The Roosevelt" and spent the night dancing and having a good time.

Though these were the only sights I really got to check out the city of Houston seems fun with plenty to do. There is also a large mall known as the Houston Galleria with plenty of shopping, food, and entertainment to keep you going. Though I did get to go many people did and had an awesome time whether they were purchasing some snazzy new outfits or just people watching.

I hope you all enjoyed my first blog! I stand by all the places that I mentioned so check them out if you're ever in Houston! Otherwise keep reading and happy travels! Thanks.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Hey bloglovers and followers! This week has been absolutely crazy: I went on vacation to the great Sin City, Las Vegas, Nevada for my 21st birthday celebration! To make it up to you all for not posting for a while, I’ll tell you all the nitty gritty details of my trip.

Las Vegas, meaning “The Meadows” in Spanish, is worldly famous for its tourism, shopping, gambling, and fine dining. It was a stopover for pioneers and travelers out west, then thanks to the continental railroad, expanded exponentially in the early 20th century. But enough about the history, let’s get right into my trip!

My family and I arrived on Wednesday, my birthday after a long 6 hour flight from Manchester, New Hampshire. We had a layover at Chicago Airport, where I ran into some awesome statues of The Blues Brothers. The Las Vegas airport was extremely easy to get around, although it was easy to get distracted by all the slot machines and advertisements for shows! We took a tram to get to the baggage claim, and took a shuttle right to the Rent-A-Car Center. After getting our rent, we headed over to the Mirage Casino right on Las Vegas Boulevard (aka The Strip). The Mirage was amazing; everywhere I looked I found something unique and mesmerizing.

For my birthday dinner, we went to Bouchon restaurant at the Venetian. The restaurant had a fancy atmosphere and there I ordered my first legal drink called “Nirvana,” which was a fruity cocktail with pineapple and lime juices. Afterwards, we headed over to Treasure Island for the Mystére, a Cirque du Soleil show. The show was absolutely insane! The tricks put on by the performers were jawdropping and the experience as a whole was extremely unique.

The next day, my sister and I hit the mall and slot machines at Caesar’s Palace. Of course, everyone thinks of Caesar’s Palace when they think of The Strip because it is certainly beautiful, not to mention HUGE. I was awed (and exhausted) by how many shops were inside this building!

That night, my sister and I headed over to the TAO club at the Venetian, which was incredible. Frequently visited by many celebrities, the club was three stories high and had a roof deck called “TAO Beach,” which featured an outdoor pool, bars, tables, booths and benches. The club also offered an open bar towards the beginning of the night, which was a definite plus.

The next night, my family and I went to Bellagio, which had amazing sights to see, including an exhibit by Dale Chihuly. After spending a little time inside the Casino, we stepped outside to experience the water show, which was captivating and also refreshing (the desert was starting to get to me).

Afterwards, my sister and I headed over to meet a friend of mine across the boulevard to Sugar Factory, a huge candy store/bar/restaurant inside Paris Casino. This famous place is home to the Couture Pops, which are decorated and bedazzled lollipops. After making a couple sweet purchases, we headed over to the bar where I ordered the Lollipop Passion cocktail. This giant cocktail was a little piece of heaven: it was poured over dry ice cubes at the bottom so that when the drink was poured in, the cocktail started bubbling and smoke poured out over the sides. It was garnished with two unicorn candy pops and a candy necklace… talk about a drink! For the remainder of the night, we hung out at Paris and enjoyed some gambling.

On our last full day in Vegas, my family and I went all over The Strip to explore other casinos and cool attractions. We first checked out Luxor, which is in the shape of a giant black, glass pyramid. This Egyptian-themed casino was pretty impressive, yet at the same time, it probably was one of my least favorites. The place was much smaller inside than I had expected and was badly ventilated that there was a huge cloud of smoke that filled the whole place. However, they did offer plenty of shows and had a huge party going on at their famous pool called Oasis.

After, we headed over next door to New York New York, which was much more impressive. The place took their theme very seriously, not to mention there was a huge roller coaster going in and out of the building! We had dinner at the New York Pizzeria, which had a huge variety of specialties and toppings as well as cheap for those of you who are looking for a trip on a budget.

To end our trip with a bang, we took our chances and headed over to MGM Grand after dinner to see if we could score any last minute tickets to another Cirque du Soleil show. Luckily, thanks to an amazing concierge, we got tickets on the center section of the theatre for a reasonable price! We headed over to see KÀ, which turned out to be a much more entertaining show than the first one we went to see at Treasure Island.

Four nights and five days seemed like a long time to spend in Las Vegas; however, I felt like there were so many things I didn’t get to see. Even as my second time there I didn’t even get to see half of the casinos and attractions, which proves that the 4.2 mile Strip is a giant place to explore. That’s about as detailed as I can get about my amazing trip, I hope you got all the way through to down here! My advice if you’d like to plan a trip to Vegas is to have a set itinerary to see as much as you can so that you’re not distracted for hours at the addicting slot machines. Thanks for reading!

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