Photo Of The Day: A Golden Thai Temple

Buddhist temples in Thailand are unlike any other in the world. They are intricate, colorful and laden with gold. Mark Fischer took this amazing shot of Wat Pho in Bangkok, putting the golden chedi spires in stark contrast with the night sky. There are dozens of major temples throughout Bangkok, not to mention the spectacular temples throughout the rest of Thailand, such as the amazingly pure white Wat Rong Khun.

If you have taken a great travel photo, submit it to us and it could be featured as our Photo of the Day. There are two ways to do so, either by submitting it to our Gadling Flickr Pool, like Mark did; or via Instagram, by mentioning @GadlingTravel and tagging your photo with #Gadling.

[Photo Credit: Flickr User Mark Fischer]

Ashmolean Museum In Oxford Receives Major Gift Of Renaissance Art

Ashmolean Museum
Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has received a major bequest in the form of nearly 500 works of Renaissance gold and silver from the collection of Michael Wellby (1928–2012), the museum has announced.

Wellby was a well-known antiques dealer specializing in German and Flemish silver of the 16th and 17th centuries. He ran a shop in London for many years. As is typical with antiques dealers, he kept some of the best pieces for his personal collection.

Some of the pieces were made for royalty, like a silver gilt ewer made in Portugal c.1510-15 that bears the Royal Arms of Portugal. Another stunning item is a lapis lazuli bowl with gold mounts made in Prague in c. 1608 by the Dutch goldsmith Paulus van Vianen. Many of the pieces incorporate exotic materials such as ostrich eggs and nautilus shell, items that were just becoming available to the wealthy of Europe through the new global trade routes.

The collection will go on display in a temporary gallery this month and will remain there until a new permanent gallery is opened to house the collection. The Ashmolean already has an impressive collection of Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern art, including a large display of English silver.

The Ashmolean, like the equally famous Pitt-Rivers, are both free museums, making Oxford a good budget travel destination.

[Photo copyright The Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford]

%Gallery-177873%
Share on Tumblr

Russian Ship Carrying 700 Tons Of Gold Ore Goes Missing

A Russian cargo ship like the one that went missingA Russian cargo ship carrying more than 700 tons of gold ore has gone missing off the country’s Pacific Coast after sending a distress call a few days back. The ship, which is named “Amurskaya,” had a crew of nine aboard at the time and was headed for the island of Feklistov in the Sea of Okhotsk.

The cargo vessel was contracted by a mining company called Polymetal to ship its cargo to a processing plant where it could be refined into gold. It had departed the port of Kiran and was making a routine run to Feklistov Island when apparently it encountered stormy weather. Emergency response teams picked up the distress signal from an automated beacon, but lost contact with the crew when the ship lost power. Since then, search and rescue teams have been combing the area, but continued poor weather has complicated those efforts.

As for the value of all of that gold ore, gold actually only makes up a small fraction of the material in the ore, with rock and other minerals being much more abundant. In order to extract the precious metal, the ore must first go through a refining process. As a result, 700 tons of gold ore sounds like it would be worth a lot more than it actually is. Bloomberg Business estimates that this shipment was worth about $800,000 and that its loss won’t have a substantial impact on Polymetal’s bottom line.

Polymetal hasn’t released their own estimate of the value of the ore, although they have said the responsibility for the cargo lies with the shipping company. In short, that means the owners of the missing freighter will likely have to reimburse them for the loss.

I’m not sure if insurance will cover something like this, as the storm probably activates their “Act of God” clauses.

[Photo credit: Heb via WikiMedia]

Queen of Sheba’s gold mine discovered in Ethiopia

Queen of Sheba
The gold mine of the Queen of Sheba has been discovered in Ethiopia, the Guardian reports.

A local prospector led British archaeologist Dr. Louise Schofield to a mysterious mine in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. Schofield believes that this was the source of the Queen of Sheba’s fabulous gold, a large pile of which she gave to King Solomon when she visited the Holy Land, as is reported in the Old Testament, the Koran, and the Kebra Nagast, one of the holy books of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Sheba was probably the Sabaean Kingdom, a wealthy kingdom that included what is now northern Ethiopia and Yemen. It rose to power 3,000 years ago and controlled trade along the Red Sea, especially the profitable spice trade.

Inside the extensive mine, Schofeld found an inscription in Sabaean and a stele bearing a carved sun and crescent moon, the symbol of the Sabaean Kingdom. The remains of a temple and battlefield were found nearby. Schofield is planning to start a major excavation at the site.

This can only be good news for Ethiopia’s growing tourist industry. During a road trip around Ethiopia two years ago, I was stunned by the desolate grandeur of Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The main attractions are Axum, the ancient capital of a kingdom dating from 100–940 AD and considered by many to be a successor state to the Sabaean Kingdom, and Debre Damo, an amazing clifftop monastery that I had to climb up a leather rope to visit.

When I returned to Ethiopia a year later to live in Harar, I found that tourism had increased. Most of the visitors I spoke with said that Ethiopia’s history was one of the main reasons they came to visit, and the Queen of Sheba was often mentioned. While Ethiopia can be dangerous just like any other adventure travel destination, most regions are safe and I’ve had no trouble in the more than four months I’ve spent in the country. Going back is my number one travel priority this year.

Hopefully this latest discovery will help inspire more people to discover Ethiopia’s long history, friendly people, great food, and of course the world’s best coffee.

Photo of an Ethiopian painting of the Queen of Sheba on her way to meet King Solomon courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

%Gallery-147211%

Robert E. Lee’s sword to go on display at Appomattox

Robert E. Lee, Civil WarOn 9 April 1865, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant met at Appomattox, Virginia, so that Lee could surrender his Army of Northern Virginia.

This momentous event effectively ended the American Civil War. With Lee and his army gone, the Confederate cause lost hope. General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee on April 26, and in Louisiana General Kirby Smith surrendered his Trans-Mississippi Confederate forces on May 26. The last Confederate general to surrender was the Cherokee Brigadier General Stand Watie in the Indian Territory on June 23.

Now a new museum will open at Appomattox dedicated to the war and its conclusion. A centerpiece of the display will be Robert E. Lee’s golden ceremonial sword. Owned by the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, the sword will grace a branch museum it’s building at Appomattox. The museum is also building branches at the important Civil War sites of Fredericksburg and Hampton Roads. The Appomattox museum will open next spring.

The sword was the same worn by Lee during the surrender. Lee famously showed up in full dress uniform with his French-made golden sword at his side. Grant showed up unkempt and wearing a muddy uniform.

The sword has recently been restored with a new layer of gilt that has restored its original luster.

[Image of Robert E. Lee courtesy Wikimedia Commons]