I finally became a pure tourist in the last day of my California conference trip. Although having transferred flights at San Francisco for quite a few times, this is actually the first time I stepped out of the airport and paid a visit to the city. Golden Gate Bridge is for sure, one of the must-visit sites. There are two things that you can always be impressed by California, the nice weather, and the beautiful flowers. And luckily I got both when I visited Golden Gate Bridge!
Ayasofya was a Christian church when it was first built but later became a mosque. Nowadays, it is a national museum. It’s hard to believe that such a delicate architecture was built more than a thousand years ago. Due to the “multi-function” of Ayasofya in the history, you can find both mosaic illustrating that the Emperor and Empress making donation to the Christ Pantocrator and various kinds of traditional Islamic calligraphy. Looking out of the window on the second floor, you will also get a fabulous view of the Blue Mosque!
Stand on the top of the Galata Tower at sunset, overlooking the Golden Horn. The Galata Bridge connects the two European parts of Istanbul — the “new” city in the north and the “old” city in the south. Fishermen are still gathering there on the bridge; they count how many fish they catch today and say goodbye to each other. On the south bank, life goes on without noticing the night falls: food carts attract long lines of tourists who wish to try out the authentic local food, street performance earns rounds of applause, cruise ships come and go…It must be yet another lively night. And the sunset prayer begins. The music seem to come from everywhere in the city, one after another, lingering in the ears. So this is Istanbul, a city sits between Europe and Asia, a city embraces diverse race and religion, a city different from any other city I’ve visited before. Exciting isn’t it?
Walking along Ocean Drive at South Miami Beach. Miami is in many ways different from quite a lot of other cities in U.S. — the (always) warm weather, the laid-back attitude that you can smell in the air, the tough driving styles on the highway. No wonder Miami has the nickname of “the capital of Latin America”. I guess this is also why it’s always one of the top tourists’ destinations in U.S. It’s just an escape from the normal routine life — get tanned on the beach, enjoy some cool and “colorful” drinks at some random bars alongside the street, and maybe observe people come and go, imagine what kind of life they have behind them.
The second national park I visited in U.S., Everglades. It is well known for being the habitats for numerous precious species. During our visit, we saw various kinds of birds, fish and plants. But the two highlights of this trip: For the first time, I saw so many crocodile at the same time. Apparently, there are many subspecies of crocodile, and south Florida, including Everglades, is the only place in the world where American crocodile and alligator coexist. We even heard the sound of crocodile (kind of scary)! And, when we took a boat tour inside the park, we saw a fisherman caught a shark! Wow!
Yet another sunset. At Key West, the southmost part of US continent. People were waiting along the Mallory Square Dock for the gorgeous moment, and as usual, this is the best time for buskers to earn cheers and applauses — they dressed up as wanderers and sang with their guitars in their carelessly decorated “shelter”; they danced, laughed and embraced you with all their Latin America enthusiasm. And then came the moment. Most surprisingly, just at the moment that the sun fell below the horizon, all the birds (and they were a lot!) — which apparently hided somewhere before — flew out and soared in the sky. Amazing!
A couple of my college friends in U.S. planned a reunion party at Florida in March. Personally one of the highlights of this trip is the journey heading to Key West — the southmost island of U.S. continent — through U.S. Route 1. I’ve heard so many friends who had taken this fabulous drive telling me how enjoyable it was when you drove on the highway while being surrounded by the crystal-clear sea. And it was indeed very impressive! At some moment I almost felt that this highway was endless and we were driving into the deep center of the sea. The sea water was definitely the clearest I’ve ever seen after I came to U.S., which often reminded me of the sea at Sanya, Hainan. U.S. Route 1 actually connects many islands (“Florida Keys”) on the southern coast of Florida, and you can also get off the highway to take a visit at the islands — We had a tight schedule though so we had to drive directly to Key West, but we still got many chances to “window-seeing” those interesting sights, like the Seven Mile Bridge.
The Xi’an City Wall is one of the oldest and largest surviving wall of its kind in China. First built in the Ming dynasty, the city wall has been a landmark of the city for nearly 800 years. Riding a bike or walking on the wall is probably one of the best ways to embrace this ancient and modern city: At one moment, you just learn about this smart idea of creating a “barbican” (瓮城) with the double-gate system to protect the “city” (which is inside the city wall) against attacks from the outside enemy, and then you will see nowadays the concrete jungle spreads way outwards the “city”; at another moment, you find that people in different ages are very much enjoying themselves in the calligraphy, painting and antique market at the foot of the city wall, and then you start to wonder whether hundreds of years ago, people at that time have also experienced such lively lives in then one of the largest international city of the world.