Thursday, April 9, 2015

st sophia church harbin

why would somebody from the Philippines visit China to see a church? it may actually sound like a Chinese local going to the Philippines to eat dumplings. but not quite. when i searched for Harbin online, i found St Sophia church. an iconic Russian Orthodox church in Harbin. 
i've been longing to see this type of structure because of the famous St Basil church in Moscow. so i didn't have second thoughts. immediately decided to make Harbin as my side trip to Beijing. it was initially Mongolia but then train trips to Ulanbataar from Beijing was just twice a week.
the next day after i arrived in Harbin, i got myself a map from the hostel and walked my way to St Sophia. felt the early morning breeze but still hoped that it would snow. it has been two weeks according to the daily weather that the city had no snowfall despite it was still on a month of February. 
good thing the hostel where i stayed is part of Daoli, Harbin's central district, where the church is also located. it just took me 15minutes to reach the square. there were many beautiful colonial structures along  the way but when i saw the church, i was awed by its scale.
i have always been fascinated at huge brick structures but it was the church dark green cupola and the multiple golden cross that made it even more striking. being in the center of the open square, it was just imposing. it somehow made me feel like i was in Russia.
thru the years when a large community of Russians occupied Harbin, other minority groups from Ukraine, Germany, Israel and Denmark also established structures and churches in the city. but what remained today as iconic structures were predominantly Orthodox. 
sad though that like the church of St Basil in Moscow, this church is already a museum. contrary to my thought that it still is a church. but let's look at some of the similarities and the differences of the two churches:

St Basil Church (Moscow, Russia)
Date built: 1561
Location: Red Square
Height: 47.5meters
Number of domes: 9
Number of spires: 2
Wall: Bricks
Floor layout: Irregular

St Sophia Church (Harbin, China)
Date Built: 1907
Location: Harbin Square
Height: 53.3meters
Number of domes: 1
Number of spires: 5
Wall: Bricks

Floor layout: typical cross-shaped orthodox style

it may not be as old as St Basil Church, its history as a spiritual symbol to the Russians who lived in the city, makes it the most iconic structure in Harbin. the church was closed in 1959 and was a warehouse for certain years. only in 1996 when it was decided to be re-opened as a museum of architectural heritage.
there was not much to see inside except for old photos and a miniature set of the old city and the church. but then i was more interested in the interior structure itself more than the photo exhibit. the rustic pillars and the high dome ceilings was beautiful.
temperature that day was ranging from -5C to 0C. so i stayed inside the museum to about 20minutes for the heat. checked out some souvenirs and bought post cards before i went out. not knowing that outside the church it started to snow. 
the entire time i thought i will leave the place without experiencing snow fall. it made St Sophia Church even more majestic. quite a great chance to have captured the church without and with snow on one day. 



structure profile:
church: from 1907-1958
closed: from 1959-1996
museum: from 1997 to present
built by Russians as a spiritual symbol
re-opened by China as a museum

location:
St Sophia Cathedral-Museum
Harbin Square - Toulong St corner Zhaolin St
short walk from Harbin's famous Zhongyangdajie

for more updated information:
Website: St Sophia Church
Admission: 3-5USD
Open: 8:30am-6:00pm


how to get there:
by plane: 
most major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Guangzhou have regular direct flights to Harbin.
by train:
Trains Schedule Beijing to Harbin
Bullet Train:
Train D29 - Beijing ETD 7:00am ETA 3:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D25 - Beijing ETD 10:00am ETA 6:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D101 - Beijing ETD 1:50pm ETA 9:50pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D27 - Beijing ETD 3:15pm ETA 11:15pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Sleeper Train:
Train T157 - Beijing ETD 6:18am ETA 5:00pm (Estimated trip length: 10hrs)
Train K339 - Beijing ETD 11:00am ETA 2:40pm (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K297 - Beijing ETD 12:00nn ETA 2:00am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train T39 - Beijing ETD 1:45pm ETA 4:45am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K2265 - Beijing ETD 1:57pm ETA 8:30am (Estimated trip length: 18hrs)
Train T47 - Beijing ETD 6:57pm ETA 6:20am (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K1082 - Beijing ETD 8:43pm ETA 4:04pm (Estimated trip length: 19hrs)
Train T17 - Beijing ETD 9:23am ETA 8:30pm (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K19 - Beijing ETD 11:00pm ETA 3:04pm (Estimated trip length: 16hrs)

Note: 
Trains from Beijing to Harbin will be from Beijing South Railway Station (Kaiyang Rd Cor Nanzhan Xingfu Rd)
Train length varies depending on the train speed and the number of stopovers.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

my first impression of harbin

just when i got out of the train, i immediately felt the freezing cold temperature of a February afternoon in China's northernmost province, Heilongjiang. another large open space out of the station in view. like almost anywhere in China, i just have to follow the flow.

what lead me here was simply to see the ice city and St Sophia cathedral. a Russian Orthodox church built during the Russian occupation. a time that formed what Harbin is today. a mix of Chinese and Russian influence.
unlike the cities of Guangzhou and Shanghai, where much of its structures were influence by French and United Kingdom, Harbin was greatly influenced by Russians and Jews. there was even a certain time when the number of Russians were more than the locals.
but what remains of Russia in this city today are just structures and monuments. Harbin's industrial growth went along with China's economic boom. thus, becoming one of the country's mega-city with a population of around 6 million.
unlike the busy streets of Shanghai, Harbin even at its busiest hours remains uncrowded. Zhongyang Street or Zhongyangdajie is the main tourist area whole year round. a street composed of preserved colonial buildings now used as commercial spaces.
hundreds of these colonial buildings are found in the city. this was not what i expected. this has now been one of my favorite cities.

how to get there:
by plane: 
most major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Guangzhou have regular direct flights to Harbin.
by train:
Trains Schedule Beijing to Harbin
Bullet Train:
Train D29 - Beijing ETD 7:00am ETA 3:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D25 - Beijing ETD 10:00am ETA 6:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D101 - Beijing ETD 1:50pm ETA 9:50pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D27 - Beijing ETD 3:15pm ETA 11:15pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Sleeper Train:
Train T157 - Beijing ETD 6:18am ETA 5:00pm (Estimated trip length: 10hrs)
Train K339 - Beijing ETD 11:00am ETA 2:40pm (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K297 - Beijing ETD 12:00nn ETA 2:00am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train T39 - Beijing ETD 1:45pm ETA 4:45am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K2265 - Beijing ETD 1:57pm ETA 8:30am (Estimated trip length: 18hrs)
Train T47 - Beijing ETD 6:57pm ETA 6:20am (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K1082 - Beijing ETD 8:43pm ETA 4:04pm (Estimated trip length: 19hrs)
Train T17 - Beijing ETD 9:23am ETA 8:30pm (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K19 - Beijing ETD 11:00pm ETA 3:04pm (Estimated trip length: 16hrs)

Note: 
Trains from Beijing to Harbin will be from Beijing South Railway Station (Kaiyang Rd Cor Nanzhan Xingfu Rd)
Train length varies depending on the train speed and the number of stopovers.

Friday, April 25, 2014

beijing to harbin by train

Harbin is about 1,200km from Beijing and that is like traveling three times the distance of Manila to Laoag. so you either take two hours plane ride from Beijing or a 10-15hours sleeper train or the 8hours bullet train. i chose the latter for the experience and comfort. 8hours might sound long but just give me a book, a note, a lap table and a reclining window seat that's it.
you won't run out of options if you travel by train to Harbin (see train schedule on how to get there). some leave Beijing as early as 6am and as late as 11:00pm in several intervals. the most preferred option would be a sleepover trip but in this particular trip i chose a morning trip leaving Beijing by seven in the morning. 
this route is part of China's Trans-Machurian route and i won't sleep over a trip like this. getting to Harbin by bullet train will take few very short stopovers to major cities of Changchun and Shenyang. the comfortable reclining seats and the nice view made me took photos from time to time.
coming from a tropical country, seeing a different country during winter is a delight. from beautiful misty fields to frozen lakes. for me, views like these just inside the train is like paying the fare for a scenic tour. no guides needed. 
few hours before reaching Harbin came a hilly field with windmills. when i reached the winter city a freezing 2 degrees Celsius welcomed me. it was a sign that i am indeed at China's northernmost province.

next post: a first look at the city of Harbin

how to get there:
by train:
Trains Schedule Beijing to Harbin
Bullet Train:
Train D29 - Beijing ETD 7:00am ETA 3:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D25 - Beijing ETD 10:00am ETA 6:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D101 - Beijing ETD 1:50pm ETA 9:50pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D27 - Beijing ETD 3:15pm ETA 11:15pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Sleeper Train:
Train T157 - Beijing ETD 6:18am ETA 5:00pm (Estimated trip length: 10hrs)
Train K339 - Beijing ETD 11:00am ETA 2:40pm (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K297 - Beijing ETD 12:00nn ETA 2:00am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train T39 - Beijing ETD 1:45pm ETA 4:45am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K2265 - Beijing ETD 1:57pm ETA 8:30am (Estimated trip length: 18hrs)
Train T47 - Beijing ETD 6:57pm ETA 6:20am (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K1082 - Beijing ETD 8:43pm ETA 4:04pm (Estimated trip length: 19hrs)
Train T17 - Beijing ETD 9:23am ETA 8:30pm (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K19 - Beijing ETD 11:00pm ETA 3:04pm (Estimated trip length: 16hrs)

Note: 
Trains from Beijing to Harbin will be from Beijing South Railway Station (Kaiyang Rd Cor Nanzhan Xingfu Rd)
Train length varies depending on the train speed and the number of stopovers.

Monday, April 21, 2014

dian suites makati

Oftentimes, we want accessibility to these three important locations in Metro Manila, Manila for the business activities for conference and conventions, Makati for shopping and meetings and Pasay for airport access.
My Dian Suites will best serve you for this considerationThe hotel's accessibility to your point of destination and the budget has always been among the most initial considerations when choosing a hotel. 
With a very reasonable budget, I did not expect to get good service, a room with table and chair, a mini kitchen and a personal balcony with a city view. Best thing is if you're planning to stay longer, you actually have the option to rent a room condominium style. 

No worries if you're occupying the 5th or 6th floors, they have elevators operating 24hours. Plus you get a nice panoramic view of Makati City. 


Things I like with Dian Suites:
1. Accessibility
The hotel's proximity should really serve your purpose at a very reasonable rate. Dian Suites is just few steps away to Buendia corner Dian Street. That makes it a quick easy link to Makati, Manila and Pasay. Quick ride for bus and jeepney to these cities makes the hotel's location significant. 

Accessible landmarks/stations:
Makati Central District 
Makati Medical Center
Cash and Carry Mall
SM Hypermart Makati
LRT 1 Gil Puyat Station
Jac Liner Bus Terminal
Jam Liner Bus Terminal
World Trade Center
CCP Complex

2. Comfy room space
You have your own table and chairs and a mini kitchen yet still have enough space to move around. did i mention that you also have a mini balcony with Makati cityscape?

3. Breakfast
Not your usual morning breakfast set as expect to have it served to your room with a heart shaped garlic rice and a sumptuous meal.

4. Long term option
Since each room comes with a microwave, refrigerator and kettle, i can stay here even for two weeks. Making it your remote home.

Each Dian Suites room is fully-equipped with the following amenities:
24" LED TV
Airconditioning
Refrigerator
Water Kettle
Microwave Oven
Dining/Study Table and Chairs
Double Size Beds
Bedroom Cabinet
Private Toilet and Bath with Hot and Cold
Towel
Telephone

My Dian Suites Makati
1720 Dian Street
Makati City
(Short walk from Buendia corner Dian Street)
Website: http://www.diansuites.com

Manila Reservation Office:
+632 552.33.60
+632 822.42.91
+63922.822.6629

Thursday, April 17, 2014

cintai coritos garden

I would consider Cintai Coritos Garden as a secret gem on this side of Batangas. being off the usual tourist routes in the area makes this resort a spot worth exploring even over a weekend or after a tour around Batangas and Laguna's growing adventure spots.
interestingly, the resort compound is composed of a large area of Bali-inspired villas, swimming pools and gardens. archways and intricately carved wooden gates divide its entirety to smaller areas of peaceful spots. it's quite easy to move around because of the large open lawns and stairways.
villas were strategically placed on areas that gives you a sense of privacy from the larger open grounds of the swimming pool and play areas. there are four types of villas:

deluxe villas - 1 queen size bed, a personal bar with refrigerator and its own terrace
terrace villas - 2 queen size beds, a personal bar with refrigerator and its own terrace 
garden villas - 3 queen size beds, a personal bar with refrigerator and its own terrace
executive villa - 3 queen size beds, a personal bar with a designated bar tender and waiter, an exclusive garden terrace, and an outdoor jacuzzi.
kids will love this place. one big reason would be finding the ten freely roaming peacocks in the resort compound. often moving around in groups of four and if quite lucky, you get to spot them on their most beautiful state. that's when they open their colorful large tails. next thing that kids will definitely enjoy is the open playground and a game room where they can play board games and console games. 
overall a great spot to consider if you want to rest and be disconnected from the busy lifestyle.

recommended activities when in the resort:
swimming - there are several number of swimming pools in the compound. 
walking - follow the walking trails from the main open area to the gate. you will be surprised to find small spots of interest.
do nothing - though it has great amenities doing nothing still is a great activity











giving two thumbs up to:
Bali-themed design villas and structures
several dining spots to choose around the compound
good food is served generously
big rooms of king and queen sized beds
spacious bathrooms and comfort rooms
nice landscape and walkways
fresh air and nice green scenery











facilities and amenities:
swimming pools - for kids and adults
game room - for barkada entertainments requiring television, movie players, music room
conference areas and halls 
cabanas
kids playground
volleyball area
bikes
gazebos









Cintai Corito's Garden
address: Sitio Pandayan, Malabanan Balete, Batangas
mobile numbers: +63917.833.1508 / +63917.833.1728
website: www.coritosgarden.com 
facebook page: Coritos Garden Page
email address: coritosgarden@gmail.com

how to get there:
from Manila: Take South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) then direct transfer to Star Toll (Laguna-Batangas Expressway). Take Malvar exit and right at P. Montecer road. Left at President Laurel Highway then right at General Leviste. Cintai will be on your left with a large covered wall. Gate is most of the time closed but a guard is always available. less than 2hours from Manila via this route.

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