Wowed by Biblioteca Vasconcelos

If you don’t know me yet, and though I don’t look like one, let me tell you that I absolutely love books and reading.  That is why when I travel, there is always a book that I would bring along with me.

So when I heard that there is a unique mega library in Mexico City and even though it is not included in Tripadvisor’s the top 15 destinations to visit in Mexico City, I know that this would be a place that I have to check out.

It’s Biblioteca Vasconcelos!  I didn’t know really what to expect.  But when I walked in, I literally let go of a massive gasp.  It was so loud,  a bunch of quiet people inside the building knew that there is an elated first timer who has just entered.   

This place is unlike any other places that I have been to.  The architecture is incredibly unique and it is not just like any other library but unlike any other place I have ever seen!  And the more entire I went, the more incredible it becomes.

After the first initial wow impression, the next thing I noticed is just the sheer scale and size of the building.  The uniqueness is that you would see people around: beside you, beneath you and above you.  Some of the floors are actually thick translucent glass.

Biblioteca Vasconcelos opened in 2007 and has over half a million books.  It got its name after Jose Vasconcelos who is a Mexican philosopher, a former presidential candidate and was also the president of the national library of Mexico.   

I noticed that the walls are transparent and that the floors seem mismatched.  It also have very intricate staircases and balconies, it reminds me of the movie Inception in a scene where things were folding on to each other.  I really felt like I was in a sci-fi novel.  It gave me the feeling of being set in the future which not many equally awesome buildings could do.

Biblioteca Vasconcelos is called a mega library because it is actually 5 libraries merged into one.  And each one library is dedicated and pay homage to Mexico’s great thinkers.

One thing that really takes center stage inside this library is the massive white whale skeleton done by an artist named Gabriel Orozco.  The whale’s skeleton, fitted onto a metal armature and inscribed with granite rings and circles, hangs suspended in midair.  It seem visible from almost all sections and every point within the library.

The library is so massive, there are tons of areas where people can sit and work.  Entrance of course is for free and there is free wifi.  And what is best is that Tripadvisor seem to have yet discover this place as one cool tourist destination. 

If you are a book lover like me or an architecture fanatic or just want to see a really unique place within Mexico City, then Biblioteca Vasconcelos is definitely worth a visit.  

Waw as is WAW!

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The Blue Mosque of Instanbul

Sultan Ahmed Mosque also known as the Blue Mosque should not be missed by any tourist in Istanbul.  Set on one side of the magnificent Sultanahmet Square, this vast mosque with high-domed ceiling is accessible to non-worshippers only at certain times of the day.

But don’t let the time of its closure put you off! The beautiful exterior can be considered one engineering marvel.  It is tagged to be one of the most impressive monuments in the world.  And its interior is a beautiful display that exudes peace, harmony and goodwill.

Can’t say much about this place for I was astounded by the massive beauty of the Blue Mosque.  Let me just post numerous photos I took of this majestic world wonder. 

Ang ganda!

Bravura of Hagia Sophia

VoucherCloud, a money-saving app, last year released a world map that identifies each country’s most popular tourist destination based on TripAdvisor’s top-rated “things to do” feature.  Surprisingly and with a bit of disappointment, the stand out for my country, the Philippines, was Kayangan Lake.  But where is that?  I wonder how this lake beat and knocked out world-class destinations like El Nido, Boracay and Bohol.

spectacular especially at night
massive indoor view
impressive minbar, the pulpit where the imam stands to delivers sermons
grand calligraphic panes!
selfie muna
monolithic marble cubes: these massive liquid container is used to distribute juice to the public for holy nights and prayer celebrations

But when I checked Turkey, I was super happy to know that this beautiful country’s top destination was the Hagia Sophia.  Though they seem to be a flop in the Philippines, VoucherCloud and TripAdvisor are so correct with the Turkey result.  I have recently been to Turkey and only a stupid, puny and absurd tourist will miss the majesty, grandeur and beauty of the great Hagia Sophia.

As one of Turkey’s most celebrated landmark, the great Hagia Sophia was a Byzantine church for 916 years. It was later converted into an imperial mosque by a Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and stayed as such for 482 years.  Then in 1935, it was transformed into a museum and was later considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It may have a turbulent past but because of its rich and significant historical background, Hagia Sophia easily earns respect from all religions and occupations.

Though every nook and corner of this building seem to have an intense and loud story to tell and despite being the busiest and most visited attraction in Turkey, the Hagia Sophia still maintains its calm and peaceful effect towards its visitors.

I don’t have a tip on how to explore this ancient structure.  The only advice I can give to all those who will be fortunate to visit this top Turkish destination is to breathe, digest and admire the bravura of the rich stories of this spectacular structure.

mother mary with baby jesus in the middle. to the left is emperor john komnenos while to her right is empress irene
theotokos! apse mosaic
lovely dome
ancient deisis mosaic treasure…
at awe!

Nakakamangha!

Touched a Weeping Column and Met a Coequal Villain at Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern as a tourist spot at the tourist-infested Sultanahmet area of Istanbul seem to have always been overshadowed by the more grandeur, more magnificent and more historically ornate Sophia Hagia and the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque). All these three spots surrounding the Sultanahmet Square are within short walking distances only.

But the Basilica Cistern seem to have always been the last choice that tourists would go to if the 3 places to visit in Sultanahmet would be Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Cistern Basilica.  This is why it dawned in me that it would be smarter to start with the latter before heading to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.  Making the Basilica Cistern my first spot to visit would make me avoid the hordes of noisy and annoying tourists who later in the day would flock the underground treasure of a place after their respective visits to both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

still with puffy eyes… need to drag myself from bed…
eerie yet majestic
no wonder Istanbul does not have an underground train system… treasure lies beneath…

My temporary smartness actually paid off.  On the morning I visited, there was actually only one Caucasian and a family of four Chinese tourists inside the cistern.  The rest of the tourists that morning I suppose were at a long queue at the gates of both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

Without seeing yet and not yet been overwhelmed by the magnificence of the Istanbul’s icons (Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque), I was able to fully grasp, value and appreciate the historical richness and structural splendor of the Basilica Cistern.  I was at awe as soon as my eyes were able to adopt to the underground darkness.

One mini-highlight was the Hen’s Eye column.  It is the only column of the site engraved with what looks like numerous eyes which appears to be weeping as dripping water from the ceiling runs down to this column.  The dripping water has left its mark over the years, turning this specific column into a medley of blue, brown and green hues.  The Hen’s Eye is also known as the weeping column which is said to be engraved in tribute to the thousands of slaves who died during the construction of the cistern.

weeping column
need to touch it

And since I had limited time to read about Basilica Cistern prior to going to Turkey, only when I reached the end of this ancient water reservoir was I surprised to realize that this place houses the head of my co-villain Medusa!  After giving some imaginary greetings and salutations to the giant Medusa heads, I never missed my chance of taking a photo with her.

Now I understand why Dan Brown has chosen this Byzantine-made murky, eerie and creepy expanse as the final site in one of his famous novels.  I truly marveled at the sheer engineering magnificence of creating such an expansive underground cavern below the colorful ancient city of Constantinople (now Istanbul).  I was so thankful that there were few tourists around for I really got to see, smell and digest the beauty and richness of the place.  It made my Medusa and Basilica Cistern visit such a very gratifying and enriching experience.

co-villainous
medusa!
the wicked tandem!

Nagkamustahan bigla kami ng gagang Medusa!

A Visit to the Palace of Fine Arts

Sometimes we grow up with images of a place thinking we’ll never see them in real life.  But when you finally get there, those images are just as magnificent as you expected.  The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District of San Francisco CA is one of those places.

i love this shot
majestic!
overwhelming!

There has been voluminous magazines, journals and publications in my younger years that this popular tourist attraction has been featured.  There are even lots of foreign movies wherein this place is the location shoot.  One in particular is a 1995 Filipino movie starring Lea Salonga and Aga Mulach entitled Sana Maulit Muli.  (Hahaha! Of course I remember that!)

And when I finally and personally got to see and feel the whole majestic beauty of the Palace of Fine Arts, the feeling is just but surreal.  I can’t actually remember how many times I sat on various locations of benches scattered around the park.  I even sat under a tree!  Maybe it is because I was too overwhelmed by the experience, I had to stop and breathe so as to sink all the prodigious feelings in.

smile!
pikchur muna

A visit to this gorgeous piece of architecture is one memorable highlight of my SF adventure.

Akalain mong makaraing ako dun?!

Still Majestic & Magical in Bagac, Bataan

It’s been 5 long years after my return to Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar.  Five years ago the resort located at the edge of the Philippines radiates a feeling of how majestic and magical Filipino culture is.  And with my recent visit, five years later, the beautiful resort in Bagac Bataan has massively expanded offering more Filipino architectural wonders of the past.

In my second visit (this time with Beth, Wlillie and JB), I was again at awe on the richness and beauty of the Filipino culture and architecture.

beautiful
the building where we were billeted
my personal favorite… casa la drillo
the bagac gang selfie
still majestic… the former hotel where i and travel buddy karen was billeted 5 years ago
serene…

There has been some arguments on whether Filipinos are Pacific Islanders or South East Asians, but when one visits Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar, one would realize that Philippines has a different character that is unique and of its own.  The architectural wonders along with the culture and customs linked to it as featured in Las Casas Filipinas are uniquely Filipino and could not be found anywhere in the Pacific Islands neither in the neighboring countries of south east Asia.

The best thing I like about Las Casas De Acuzar is that there is no ugly photo that we have shot.  One need not be a professional photographer to obtain an excellent photo.  Because of the beauty and stylishness of the place, every photo is Instagram worthy!

sunset… one of my instagram entries
a new thing near the lobby
strike a pose muna
magical! (with beth and willie)
will be back…

I don’t know if Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar is a popular foreign tourist destination.  I have yet to realize that because when we were there, all I could see are domestic tourists or Filipinos living abroad doing a short vacay in the Philippines.  This place has yet to be tapped by the foreigners.  And in case I would have a foreign visitor, Las Casas De Acuzar would be one awesome option for a destination!

Grabe! Ang ganda!