My Time Capsule


Azerbaijan: Old City Of Baku

Baku, October 2017

If you've been following my stories in this blog, you might have noticed that I adore old architecture and ruins. Ancient stuff triggers my curiosity thus I always make sure to explore Old Towns when I travel. I just love getting lost while wandering through those small alleys and the gorgeous maze of cobblestone streets. I would let my imagination go wild thinking about events it has been witnessing through the centuries. Each corners has a story waiting to be revealed.

This post is mostly a photo essay and at the very end of this post I'll let you know what's my thoughts about Baku Old Town...

entering the gate

sandy-coloured buildings

Aliagha Vahid

I walked towards a garden just behind the metro station when I saw this bronze statue. At a first glance there was nothing special about this statue. I thought he looked a lot like one of my uncles. But as I got closer, I was stunned by the detailed sculpture. His hair is actually some inscription which depicts life scenes from sad to happy, also how Azerbaijan was influenced by Iran, Russia and Turkey. To be honest, I've never heard about him before but apparently Aliagha Vahid was born in Baku and once was a well known poet in Azerbaijan. He also helped to translate Persian literary works into Azerbaijan language. He passed away in 1965 at the age of 70. To honour his dedication, in 1990 Rahib Hasanov, Natig Aliyev and Sanan Salamzadeh sculpted the 10-foot-tall bronze. 

European buildings are influenced by the Russians

the wall

Baku Old City or Icheri Sheher is the most ancient part of Baku. Along with the Palace of Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower, it became the first location in Azerbaijan to be classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Not only some historic spot, there's also hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and museum inside Baku Old City. Now more than 4000 native people still live in this Inner City. Surprisingly it was quite empty when I was there.

contrast of the old and modern city

Bakuvi Mausoleum 

Palace of the Shirvanshahs shouldn't be missed when you are in Old Town of Baku. The complex contains the main building of the palace, Divanhane, the burial-vaults, the shah's mosque with a minaret, Seyid Yahya Bakuvi's mausoleum, a portal in the east, Murad's gate, a reservoir and the remnants of a bath house. Built in 15th century, the palace is now serves as a museum where a series of historic treasure are being kept. The Palace is located hilltop so I could get a nice view of the modern city at the background, including the famous trio Flame Towers. 

Caravanserai Restaurant

cellar underneath 

a laid back city indeed

the Royal Mosque

Baku is undoubtedly a pretty city, however I personally think that the Old City of Baku is somehow lacks of character and soul. Partly this could be the impact from earthquake but also from illegal demolition and uncontrolled development. Sadly, some part of it has lost its authenticity.

I was expecting a more exotic setting like hustle bustle of local doing their daily activities which I experienced in Morocco and in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Or something like coming out from the movie of Aladdin. Though I know that Aladdin doesn't come from Azerbaijan. Some source even confirmed that Aladdin was actually from China? Dang! It really ruins my childhood imagination! Anyway it could be me missing some areas and didn't explore it thoroughly. I definitely should have stayed in one of the hotels inside the Old City. Perhaps I would be able to absorb the atmosphere better.

All in all Baku is still a destination worth to visit. Built on a site inhabited since the Palaeolithic, the Walled City of Baku has been a witness of some era from Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian. It's like a melting pot which is certainly rich in custom and culture. And have I mention that the people are genuinely friendly? While not all destinations would meet our expectation, there's always something unique to immerse. Would I give Baku another shot? Absolutely! There's still many places I want to see and many things to experience there.

Have you been to Baku before? Or is Baku on your bucket list?


Japan: Shirakawa-go Under A Blanket Of Snow

Japan, December 2017

I've always been fascinated by Shirakawa-go since the day I laid my eyes on a picture of a traditional Japanese village covered in snow. Samurai village! That's what I thought when I saw it on Instagram feed a couple years back. I started nagging to my old friend, Google to dig as much information possible about this village. Where it is and how to get there, kind of stuff. But it was not until my 5th visit to Japan that I finally made it here.

Roughly it's about 320 km or more less 5 hours bus ride (including 2 toilet breaks) from Osaka to Shirakawa-go. First thing first, a late lunch at Soba Wakimoto located near the entrance of the village on the west side. The restaurant is also a traditional house so I got to experience the rustic ambiance. After removing my shoes before stepping onto the tatami platform, I was then led into a zashiki area. It's a traditional Japanese restaurant seating arrangement featuring a low table set on tatami flooring. We have similar arrangement here in Indonesia, called lesehan. Soba Wakimoto is actually a soba shop but also serves Hida beef bowl and other traditional dishes.

but first....Hida Beef!

Hida-gyu or Hida beef is the name given to beef from a black haired Japanese cattle breed that has been raised in Gifu Prefecture. To be honest, these past years I rarely eat beef and lamb because most of the time I get headache after eating red meat. I did ask my doctor about this and turned out it's a common thing. But while in Gifu area, I feel the urge to at least taste this famous meat which is ranked one of the highest quality in Japan.

Beside a beef rice bowl, we also ordered a portion of Hida beef steak. The meat is brown on the outside, while still remaining its redness in the centre. As expected the cube-cut meat was tender and cooked into medium perfection, with some juice oozing out when I bite it. Sauce tasted light too so it didn't overpower the meat. Just a hint of salt with umami aftertaste. Delectable indeed! However to me it was slightly gamy and after a few chunks of meat, I needed to clean my palate with some pickle and put down my chopsticks. In my opinion comparing to Kobe beef, Hida beef is fattier hence it left a buttery taste on my palate.


Shirakawa-go was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, famous for its historical farmhouses called gassho-zukuri. The thatched roof looks like a gesture of hands pressed together, that resembles a prayer or a sign of greeting, gratitude or apology. Apart from Ogimachi, the largest village that I visited, there are also two other villages in Gokayama region named Suganuma and Ainokura. They have existed since 11th Century and most of the houses are more than 250 years old.

crossing the bridge

From the parking lot, we needed to cross the suspension bridge to reach Ogimachi village. My sister and I decided to visit Shiroyama viewpoint before exploring the village. Because during winter the last shuttle bus to Shiroyama viewpoint leave at 15:40. You can actually walk up  for 15-20 minutes to the viewpoint via the walking trail. Unfortunately the snow was pretty thick and I didn't wear proper winter shoes, so we settled with the bus instead. The shuttle ride costs ¥200 per person, takes only less than 10 minutes each way. I got a bit lost when trying to locate the bus stop. Everything hidden under the thick snow, including the bus stop sign! Turned out it's located near the Wada-ke house, one of the wealthiest and village leaders of Ogimachi. It's the largest gassho-zukuri and now open to public as a museum.

*Scroll down to watch the video 😁

view from Shiroyama observatory deck


Shiroyama viewpoint offers stunning view of the farmhouses in Ogimachi village, with mountains as a backdrop. From up here, I got the 360 degree view of the fairy tale like village that I've seen a lot on internet and on most postcard in souvenir shops. The snow was really thick that the wooden fence got buried under. I was lucky there were only a few people around so I didn't have to queue to get a good spot for photo taking. There was a professional photographer and I was amused when he kept saying Indonesian words to me, "Mari...mari! Tidak bayar" (come take picture, free of charge). I'm pretty sure he meets a bunch of Indonesian visitors everyday. I handed him my camera before my sister and I gave him our best fierce pose. He took some shots using my camera and also his camera that turned out to be muuuuuch better. Thought we looked pretty amazing so I ask him to print it on the spot and paid ¥1500 for the picture. We are so typical tourist, right? πŸ˜‚

who lets the dog out!

Back to the village, I ventured to smaller path behind the main street. There was nobody around so I could explore the area freely while admiring the historic houses with its stunning environment. I was amazed by the fact that the wooden houses were built without a single nail or brackets. Complex joinery, ropes and strips of hazel wood hold the beams together. The roofs were steeply angled to prevent the snow from piling up. I was told that during summer the straws keeps the houses cool.

I wish this is what I see from my balcony on daily basis 

the main street

Besides several souvenir shops and eateries along the main street, there are also some farmhouses turned museums in Ogimachi village. Sadly most of them were already closed when I get back to the village. Actually I really wanted to stay overnight to experience the unique traditional Japanese farmhouse stay. But it's kinda tricky to find a minshuku or family run Japanese B&B that fit for my big family so this time I had to settle with a day trip only.

souvenir shop

suspension bridge over the Shokawa river

As I mentioned previously, here's a short video I took on the way from Shiroyama Observatory Deck back to Ogimachi village. I was grinning from ear to ear when passing through this narrow winding road surrounded by thick snow. This polar bear was super happy to be back to her habitat. I sang 'Let It Go' from the Frozen movie quietly. This was my expression along the way ⇾ 😍

Shirakawa-go is easily accessible from Takayama and Kanazawa via bus. I was travelling by a private bus from Osaka since it was easier for my family of 20 pax and stayed overnight in Takayama. That afternoon I certainly left Shirakawa-go with a heavy heart. But I knew it wouldn't be my last visit. I plan to come back and will stay longer maybe in spring or autumn season. I do think Shirakawa-go can be enjoyed all year long and look equally beautiful. Mata aimashou, Shirakawa-go!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...