Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Mementoes from faraway places

Each time I was on vacation, I used to buy lots and lots of souvenirs back home. I once lugged a beautiful huge conch shell back from Phuket. I also bought big heavy wooden framed pictures of the countryside and flowers from Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, all squeezed inside a large luggage. I hand carried a very heavy Himalayan sea salt rock lamp all the way from Kuala Lumpur. And when I was in Turkey, I lugged back 3 sad looking clowns made of porcelain, each half a metre tall. From Turkey too, I brought back wine bottles shaped like the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia. Then I used to collect different unopened Coke bottles from different countries as well. All these souvenirs I threw them all away, when I ran out of space and when I was shifting house. What was I thinking then when I took so much trouble to lug those stuff back? And what was I thinking then when I threw them all away? Maybe I was trying to practice impermanence (*chuckle*). But seriously, too much stuff takes up too much space and dust.

Henceforth, I stopped buying bulky souvenirs. Instead, I decided the only tangible memories for each country I visited, besides taking tons of photos, would just be one or two magnets from each country. Here are most of the magnets of the different countries, probably 80% of the places I visited, fronting my fridge. Enjoy this blockbuster post.

From Switzerland, a magnet cum bottle opener is bigger than usual, showing the flags of the 23 cantons of Switzerland. I was at the Swiss Alps and bought this magnet somewhere near the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) in Lucerne. Switzerland is my favourite European country.

I love the Netherlands too. The most memorable would be cruising along the Amsterdam canal as well as visiting the windmills in Kinderdijk with a stopover at a cheese farm.

What is Holland without mentioning its tulips? I was in Keukonhof to admire the colourful 7 million types of flowers and tulips. The garden is opened only 8 weeks a year.

The other famous thing besides windmills and tulips, is the wooden clogs. Had a hard time deciding which souvenirs and magnets to buy!

To me, it is the most atas country in Europe - Monaco - even though it is the second smallest country in the world. I bought this magnet in Monte Carlo Casino from an atas (Malay for "high class") sales lady, who refused to tell me the price of this magnet in English even though she understood what I asked and even though I could not understand French!

I have to show these 2 magnets side by side, the renowned Mona Lisa from Paris, and her copycat from Teddy Bear Musuem in Jeju Island, South Korea. The Mona Lisa painting is the biggest attraction in Louvre Musuem, Paris, yet it is just a small portrait behind bulletproof glass. Frankly, there are plenty of other awesome works which are even more interesting.

A boring magnet of the Louvre Museum. I was lucky as there was a few days of strike before that. If I was a day earlier, the Museum would have still been closed to the public.

I am not sure who went to Okinawa, Japan. Heheh...

Wat Phra Sri Sanpetch in Ayutthaya, Thailand. Heart-stopping moments climbing the steep steps of the ancient pagodas at the ruins.

Mom went Shanghai a few years back. The only places in China I like are probably Beijing and Wuhan (which was near the Three Gorges and Chongqing). I hate the city of Shenzhen the most.

Probably from Shanghai too.

Had a very brief stay over in Brussels, Belgium - one night. This famous landmark, the peeing boy, is at an inconspicuous corner of a street. I bought and loved the chocolates on the same street.
Again in Brussels, this is the Grote Markt (Grand Place) in the heart of the city, central square of Brussels. I also visited the gothic looking St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral

I only bought one magnet from Dubai. One of the more memorable places in Dubai which gave me a good feeling was cruising along the Dubai Creek, having dinner by the river and then a brief stop at Dubai's busiest overnight fish market in Deira.

From Cambodia, the mystical Angkor Wat with so many other temples. A beautiful experience where I came nose-to-nose with Kuan Yin, the Compassion Bodhisattva.

Niece bought this from her school trip to Sabah, East Malaysia. I remember fondly of my business trips to Sabah many years ago, which was still not so modern in those early days of their financial centre in Labuan. We had to endure a rocky ride on a jeep to an outskirt where there was a fish farm cum restaurant to enjoy all types of cheap seafood.

I think I got this from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Watched the elephants bathing, performing, and the elephants can paint too at Maesa Elephant Camp. They have 78 elephants there!

This is one of my favourite magnet and place - Florence, Italy (Firenze in Italian) - a beautiful and artistic city rich in culture, birthplace of the Renaissance. Almost all its writers, poets and artists of the golden age were somewhat connected to Florence. This is the famous Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) along the Arno River.

This magnet is from my mom's visit to Madrid, Spain. This is the Royal Palace of Madrid, which is the biggest palace in Europe.

Another favourite magnet from Heidelberg, Germany. It is an awesome charming picturesque city and I was right here at this Old Bridge facing the Heidelberg Castle along Neckar River.

Again in Germany, I was at a wooded mountain called Schwarzwald (Black Forest). Yes it is this very place where I ate their famous Black Forest Cake.
I was at Cologne city in Germany (or Köln in German). I remember munching on delicious bread outside the Cologne Cathedral along the Rhine River and admiring the masterpiece as well as watching a street performance.

I like the 3D magnets from Paris. I was not that impressed with the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe, or the Louvre or the Notre Dame Cathedral. Instead I was charmed by Les Bouquinistes, the riverside vendors who peddle used books, set up shop along the Seine River and the artists who lined the river with their pieces of artwork. There are some quaint restaurants nearby too.

This is from the Philippines - a Jeepney - it is resized and remodeled from the American army jeep and is used as a popular mode of public transport. The different designs of each jeepney is art itself.

New York New York! This beautiful Statue of Liberty magnet.

We are so familiar with the tuk-tuks in Bangkok. They are very cheap too. I remember booking a tuk tuk which drove my friends and I to different places for half a day.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy! It was a pleasant tour around Pisa's Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo). If you are lucky perhaps you can chance upon a ride on a horse.

Wonderful family trip to Melbourne and Adelaide, Down Under. Actually we did not see much of the famed animals; kangaroos, koala bears... instead we saw the penguins at Philips Island, visited the Barossa Valley for wines and chocolates, and the charming German town of Hahndorf in Adelaide!

A tiny boomerang magnet I bought. I also bought a couple of bigger boomerangs in beautiful wooden design and paint.

One of my favourite magnets from Melbourne, Australia. It already broke into half and I painstakingly glued it back. Memorable slow rides on the trams around the city and shopping at Queen Victoria Market.

This magnet is from Minnesota, USA. There are 4500 lakes and rivers throughout Minnesota.

My visit to Disneyland, Hong Kong. Once is enough.

I think this was from Sis' trip to Tokyo, Japan.

This rubber magnet of the korean girl in hanbok, their traditional costume. In fact I took photos with a very beautiful Korean dancer, and also with a group of korean school girls in hanbok, as well as made friends with another beautiful young Korean mother on top of Mt Sorak.

I really love London for its friendly people. Been to all the main attractions; Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Madame Tussauds, and shopped at Harrods! We went further to visit the Windsor Palace as well.

An unforgettable trip with my buddies to Turkey. We were at Istanbul (Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace), Ankara, Ephesus, Pammukale, Goreme, Troy, Pergamon, Cappadocia.

Forgot where I bought this magnet from many years ago. The colours have faded but I love this quote a lot.

Guess which country's magnet would I like to collect next?

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