Tuesday, June 12, 2012

10 Most Iconic Places I’ve Been To

the Great Wall of China
I believe the word “iconic” was created to describe the Great Wall of China. It was one of the most surreal (travel and life) experience standing at one of the places I’d always dreamt of seeing. It also turned out to be one of the most intense experiences, as my husband and I stood on the 8,851.8 km (5,500 miles) long wall with what seemed like the entire citizens of China, and walking just a mile … or so I thought … took about as long as walking through Central Park. Nevertheless, it was an awesome experience that I can definitely check off my bucket list of travel.
the Bund, Shanghai
From the moment we’d landed at airport, I was captivated by Shanghai. Being one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Asia, it truly lives up to its reputation of being “Paris of the East”. Although it doesn’t have as many historical sites or artifacts as Beijing, Shanghai is a vibrant living city, not just a walking museum. Therefore, everywhere you go, you experience sophisticated culture, vivacious energy, and most importantly, thriving economy that isn’t depended solely on tourism.
Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The temple of Angkor Wat, rising out of the Cambodian jungle, is the world’s largest religious structure. But nearby is another temple, Ta Prohm, less grand in scale but more penetrating to the psyche.  Human beings feel out place, and I felt as if we were intruding on a nature's work of art.

Here, the roots of towering strangler figs cascade over the intricately carved stone walls, framing doorways. They depend on each other, neither the walls nor the trees able to stand without the other. The roots snake over and around the religious symbols, looking like synapses of some ancient central nervous system, connecting lost thoughts set in stone.
France is the most visited country in the world, and Paris, the most visited city. I mean, who hasn’t dreamt of seeing the Eiffel Tower, walking along the Champs-Élysées, or visiting one of the many world-class museums? And year after year, the tourists flock to the City of Light … NOT Lights. Even with all the abuse we get from the locals, we can’t help but to love this magnificent city.
Bundestag, Berlin, Germany
While so many of the countries in the Eurozone are struggling economically and politically, Germany remains to be a powerhouse. If you want to know how Germany has managed to maintain its well-functioning government and economy … since WWII, that is … you need not look further than the Parliament building in Berlin. How could the elected officials not feel the importance of their job and their position when they work in a place that looks like the Senate Dome in Star Wars. Or just maybe, its "the force" that's keeping them afloat.
le Mont Saint Michel, France
I'd seen a poster of Mont Saint Michel while walking pass a store window. I’d never seen anything like it or was aware that something like that even existed … an entire city built on top of a rock. Little did I know, Mont Saint Michel happened to be one of the most visited Christian pilgrimage sites in the world, and although there are barely 40 people actually living on the island, it receives over 3 million visitors every year … and boy, we felt every bit of their presence while walking through the narrow winding streets.

Surprisingly, my favorite part of visiting Mont Saint Michel was the drive along the Normandy coast, especially as we approached the island with the scenic view of the sheep and cows grazing on the beautiful landscape.
Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is breathtaking, exotic and mystical. With its Ottoman minarets and beguiling bazaars, it is a place that epitomizes a wonderful mixture of ancient and modern, of conservative and secular, and both Asia and Europe.

For me, the best part of visiting Istanbul was experiencing the hospitality and the graciousness of the people, İstanbullus, and gaining a better knowledge and understanding of a culture that is different from mine.
Monument Valley, Arizona
When I think of Monument Valley, two words come into my mind, Marlboro Man. I mean, isn’t this the iconic image we’d all grown up with … everyone who was born after 1960’s that is. A rugged cowboy sitting on a horse riding through the vast and mysterious landscapes in the wild wild west, epitomizing the free spirit of America.

Although I’d always thought that the scenery was somewhere in Texas, it's in Arizona, along with some of the most magnificent natural wonders and landscapes in the America. So, during my trip to Arizona, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Monument Valley, and riding through the landscape in a rental sedan didn’t quite live up to the image of being the Marlboro (Wo)Man. However, Monument Valley was everything I’d imagined it would be … wild and vast.
Time Square, NYC
Without a doubt, Time Square is one of the most recognized place on earth. Everywhere I go, when I tell people I’d lived in NYC, the image that they recollect is one that people have seen in so many movies, on numerous postcards, and one that is seen all over the world every year on New Year’s Eve. Bright lights, tall buildings, and the famous Coke ad smack dab in the middle of it.

Times Square is still the national, and indeed the global, capital of commercial culture. The restaurants and shops of Times Square are local sites of global retail and entertainment businesses, and the office buildings that line Broadway serve as headquarters for some of those very companies. It is a true embodiment of NYC, and over the century, as THE city reinvented itself, so has Time Square, the center of the city that is the center of the world.
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Of all the famous bridges in the world, for me, Golden Gate Bridge is the most elegant. With its tremendous towers, sweeping main cables, and great span, it is a sensory beauty featuring color, sound, and light.

Also, the bridge is surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery and landscape, the magnificent nature of the Marin Woodlands to the north and the beautiful cosmopolitan city of San Francisco to the south. It’s more than just a bridge that connects commuters from one place to another, it’s an iconic work of art and one of the 20th century’s greatest practical engineering feats ... but for me, it’s a symbol of home.


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