Some observations from travels


Atop: A Point of View

This week’s Photo Challenge is the point of view: Atop.  My interpretation of the word is what’s on top of us.  When I take photos I like taking those on top of me and when I look at them later on I’m surprised at what we actually see when we just look up.


Coconut palms in the tropics


Sun shines through Norfolk Pines


Ferns on trees in the rainforest


Bird cages along the alleyway


Jelly fish growing on trees


How about artwork hanging on trees?


Colourful festival decorations


And one of the classic ceilings of the Palace of Versailles 

Wherever you go and whatever you might be doing, look up! There’s so much to see atop of our heads!

Visit the Photo Challenge page for more contributions and versions to this week’s theme.




It’s been a while.  It’s great to be back and catching up on my long abandoned reader.

Life sometimes caught up with us and other days they seem to run us over.  But, here I am and it surely is great to be back.

This week’s photo challenge, Shadow, can conjure many different meanings.  For me, shadow means a literal dark reflection of the objects on the photo I took on a recent walk along Cairns’ marina.

On the other hand these structure on the marina are also shadows of their past life: the old   wharf.  In the 1900s these timber wharves served as berths for ships and the entry to the Great Barrier Reef.  The old timber wharves were replaced with sturdy reinforced concrete ports to accomodate all the larger ships bringing in tourists and commerce to Cairns.fullsizeoutput_210efullsizeoutput_210ffullsizeoutput_2110

The Trinity Wharf boardwalk is a shadow of its past.  It stands proud and beautiful.  On the old poles there are Aboriginal Australian stories and peepholes that you can look through and see key areas along the harbour beyond.


Most shadows may be dark but they can have many meanings.

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Travel Theme: Stone

Having been back home meant back to the usual grind of life – work, friends, coffees, food, sights, sounds, smells and of course the beach.  Ailsa’s Travel Theme last week was Stone.  A couple of the beaches I enjoy visiting on the Gold Coast has a good collection of stones, both big and small.

A bird's view of Burleigh Heads and Surfer's Paradise

A bird’s view of Burleigh Heads and Surfer’s Paradise



Fishing and boating on the Spit

Fishing and boating on the Spit


Don’t forget to visit Where’s My Backpack for more Travel Theme.  Have a great week everyone.

A Quick Stop to…Honolulu

As promised this post was meant to start on my return to the Gold Coast.  Along the way let’s visit Honolulu for a quick stop.

I was fortunate enough to join a company trip to one of the islands of Hawaii.  This was my first time to visit the islands and it was a nice experience.  Hawaii is made up of six major islands – Kaua’i, Oahu, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Maui, and the big island of Hawai’i.  Each island boasts its own distinct feature.  Honolulu is on the island of Oahu, and our hotel was smack bang on the beach of Waikiki, where the majority of the hotels and touristy spots are found.

From the moment we touched ground, dropped out luggage and off we went to have lunch at the Veranda at the Beachhouse in one of Waikiki beach’s iconic buildings – Moana Surfrider.  Then is was a matter of settling our stuff and taking in the views.

The following day we promised to get up early for a dip on the (protected area) beach across the road from our hotel.  Then more sightseeing and exploring Waikiki.  Later in the day we gathered out appetite for an evening of cultural immersion – Luau.  We chose to join the Paradise Cove Luau, and was happy to learn that they were the preferred choice amongst the many options available.  We got picked up near our hotel along with 51 other bus members to a secluded area along the beach of Ko Olina Resort.  The main man of the night would have to be our tour guide – Rich.  For those of you who have not been to a Luau I highly recommend you join one next time.  It is packed with entertainment from the different villages or islands such as joining a traditional Hawaiian games, making flower leis, boys learning to dance the hukilau and of course partaking in the buffet of delicacies from the time-honoured cooking at the Imu Ceremony.

The next day it was a day of double deck bus city tour.  You gotta have a double-decker bus tour! It’s just fun.  Luckily, there were only my friend and I during the first half of the tour, so we had the tour guide to ourselves on the top of the bus.  Although I was disappointed that it wasn’t a hop-on hop-off bus.  The city of Honolulu has many historical buildings and interesting places.  Firstly, we were picked up in from of the statue of Duke Kahanamoku along the beach then driven around the city to our main stop at Chinatown.  Then after a couple of hours walking around downtown Chinatown we hopped on back on the bus to finish the second half of the city tour.

So, it was our last day in Honolulu and we haven’t even ticked half of our wish list.  Unfortunately, it was school holidays when we went and interacting with dolphins seemed to be the number one activity tourists want to do in Hawaii.  Who wouldn’t! It is such an experience.  Then looming in the historical background was Pearl Harbour! What to do!

We opted to give Pearl Harbour a miss and went for the next best thing to be closer to dolphins.  Fortunately for us there was still space for a boat ride to snorkel and swim with wild dolphins!  I highly recommend this tour option – Ko Olina Ocean Adventures.  The speed boat was smaller (than a catamaran) and able to take us closer to where the dolphins are.  We had many chances to snorkel to swim and feed fish, turtles and dolphins!  It was such a great experience.

I would love to visit the other islands when the chance comes up.  But, I must admit, the beaches of the Gold Coast awaits and it’s so much better.  See you soon.

Memoirs of Kyoto

This is my second visit to the old capital city of Kyoto, Japan.  Previously I visited the city for a day and did not seem to finish what I had on my wish list of places to see.  It was not possible!  There is so much to see around Kyoto!  So I went for another visit and this time I managed to visit the Nijo Castle, the Kyoto Imperial Palace, visited the Golden Pavilion once again, then last but not the least the Fushimi Inari Shrine.  So come along for a walk through my photo gallery of my second visit to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan.

Nijo Castle.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in 1603 as a residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu.  The castle was finished around 1626.  Some parts of the castle was damaged by fires on 1788, remained closed and empty until it was donated to the city of Kyoto in 1939 then opened to the public the following year.

The castle ground area is vast 275,000sq metres of two main palaces – The Ninomaru Palace as well as the Honmaru Palace surrounded by traditional Japanese gardens, moats, inner and outer gates.  The palace buildings are mainly built in timber and beautifully made.  Unfortunately, as with any World Heritage Sites, photo taking is strictly prohibited inside the palaces.

Kyoto Imperial Palace.  Formerly the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family until 1868 when the capital city was moved to Tokyo in 1869.  The current structure had been reconstructed around 1855 after the original palace was burnt and moved around the capital over the centuries.  The palace grounds are elongated and filled with beautiful tree groves and broad gravel path where tourists can walk through.

The Imperial Palace is open to the public and private tours are held frequently throughout the day.  I have indicated ‘private tours’ as the gates are not open to just anyone who walks in.  If you wanted to join a private tour it is best to go with a tour group.  Otherwise you have to make reservations, be prepared to bring your passport and fill out security forms prior to being allowed in.  Once inside the group is accompanied by security at the front as well as the end of the group.  It is discouraged to walk away from your group or venture out on your own.  The inner buildings are private and not available for viewing.

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion).  Formally called Rokuon-ji, which literally translates to The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, dates back to 1397 is a Zen temple formerly the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.  The present structure was rebuilt in 1955 having been burnt numerous times in the past.  The impressive structure covered in gold leaf is what’s left of the shogun’s villa.  It overlooks a big pond and the complex is surrounded by a classical Japanese garden design.  Each of the three floors represent different architectural design to reflect the extravagant and wealthy aristocratic circles of the Kitayama culture of Kyoto.

This was my second visit to the pavilion and it was not boring to see it once again.  This time around I had a beautiful sunny day for my photos as oppose to the cloudy and rainy day during my first visit.

And last…but not least The Fushimi Inari Shrine, which I had been beating myself for missing out since my last visit.  For those of you of have read the book and seen the movie – “Memoirs of a Geisha”, this shrine would, hopefully, bring back a sweet memory.  This was one of my favourite books and the movie was just an ‘icing on the cake’ as they say.  Fushimi Inari was one of the places where they filmed the movie.  Remember the scene when Chiyo as a young girl, after she met the Chairman and got given the change from her sweet treat, ran through a series of torii gates to make her wish to one day meet him again.  Well, call me a romantic, but it was here at Fushimi Inari Shrine where she ran through, and I wanted to do the same…

Fushimi Inari Taisha.  The shrine is the head shrine of several thousands of shrines (32,000 sub shrines) around Japan dedicated to Inari, the shinto god of rice.  Also famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates donated (paid by) Japanese business.  If you are keen, follow the trail of these torii gates that takes you up the wooded forest towards the sacred Mount Inari.  The whole trail could take you up to three hours to go up and back.  At the summit of the mountain one can enjoy a view of Kyoto.

When my hubby and I went it was such a hot day and I forgot to spray myself with insect spray.  We went up to, I believe, level 2-where the track splits into a circular route.  We were exhausted and decided to go back as my legs already resembled a polka-dot legging.  But, I still have to admit, it was very much worth the visit.  It was an experience walking through these torii gates.

And that, I’m afraid, was my farewell for Japan (for now.)  I have enjoyed my stay exploring and learning about the country, a little bit of its history, the people and the food!  I would love to have the chance to learn more, see more and experience more of Japan.  I hope you all will get the chance yourself.

Stay tuned for more adventures around this weird and wonderful world of ours.  Up next…Gold Coast, Australia!

The Seaside Resort City of Gamagori

Gamagori is in the middle of Japan and easily accessible by a 30-minute train ride from Nagoya.  It is known for its boat racing, one of the three kinds of gambling in Japan – Horse, Bike and Boat Racing.  It is also known for its numerous marine museums and onsen (hot spring) spas.  But the most important attraction I was interested in was the Takeshima Island, which can be reached from the main land through a 387 metre long bridge.  On the island are a collection of different plant species considered a Japanese national treasure as well as a buddhist temple.

This day trip was one of the last few trips I did before leaving Nagoya.  Once you step out of the train station you will be welcomed by an imposing tall yacht in the middle of the roundabout as an indication that you have landed on Gamamori – The Seaside Resort City.


Then off I went to find my way through towards the island I was after.  From here a couple of blocks towards the port area another impressive timber building meets visitors – The Natural History Museum – Sea of Life.

Not far from the Natural History Museum is the Takeshima Aquarium but as it was a very warm day I gave that a miss and proceeded to more interesting views ahead of me.  By this time I could already smell salt water and feel a light breeze on my face.  Then I caught a glimpse of Takeshima Island looming in the not too far a distance.

I had to contain myself from running off towards the island and wander around the Mikawa Bay National Park.  A small park with a shrine and the Seaside Literary Memorial, just across from the island.

Then it was on to the bridge to take me to the Takeshima Island.  The view across the bridge was beautiful.  Maybe it was just being within close proximity to water, which I haven’t been near for a while, but it was just the cleanliness and simplicity of the island that lifted my spirits that day.

When I got to the other end of the bridge I was quite excited to climb up the long stretch of stairs up the to Yaotomi Shrine, known for its gods who bring luck for marriage and giving birth.  There are many ways to reach the shrine, but if you’re not very interested, you can just wander around the whole island.  It is quite easy to walk through even on a high tide such as that day I was there.  When the tides are low visitors can walk to the island by strolling through the waters.  Apparently there are treasures to be found on and around the island.

Then it was time to say farewell to this beautiful island of Takeshima and the resort city of Gamagori.


Tokugawa Ieyasu looking over the island where he once prayed before going to battle

It was a good day.

Farewell Summer…Hello Spring!

I’m back! and so glad to be.  Now you might be wondering why it is Spring after Summer.  Well my few weeks of absence have been occupied by transitioning from Japan and back to Australia.  So in the process I bid adieu to Japan, in the northern hemisphere, during summer and entered Australia, in the southern hemisphere, towards the end of winter.

In the last few weeks I spent in Nagoya I got to enjoy some summer festivals – Japanese matsuri style.  So here are some photos of famous summer festivals in Japan.  I hope you enjoy it.

Tanabata in Ichinomiya.  Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, in Ichinomiya is one of the three biggest Tanabata festivals in Japan.  Celebrated during the last weekend of July (25th-28th) this year.  The festivities builds up from Thursday to the grand climax on Sunday.  Anyone is welcome to celebrate with the locals.  Many come in their beautiful yukatas, enjoy the music and colourful fukinagashi (streamer) decorations, write up their wishes on the tanzaku, and feast on yummy street food!

Bon Odori in Goju Hachiman.  Bon dancing is a traditional dancing that locals do to welcome their departed spirits during the bon week.  When one wants to join in the biggest and best bon dancing, or all night bon dancing, one visits Goju Hachiman.  I was particularly curious about this event in summer.  Bon dancing is so cool, I couldn’t help myself but join in the fun!

Goju Hachiman is well known for it’s small traditional town image maintained since the 17th century.  The town is very easy to walk through and the locals are friendly.  Have you been to a cafe or restaurant and saw your meal displayed on the window?  Plastic replicas of food are very famous around Japan and many asian countries and out here you get to experience making one!  Goju Hachiman is the centre of making food replicas.

What seemed like a sleepy town came to life after dark when suddenly people were walking through the streets, dressed in their yukatas, started making their way to a part of the town where the dancing was happening that night.  After dancing all night you can stay over in one of the many ryokans where, if you haven’t got a yukata, usually lends their guests their very own ryokan-inspired yukata for you to dance in.

So these were two of the many summer festivals in Japan and I am so glad to share them with you.  In my next posts I will show you fun places I visited during my finals weeks in the wonderful country of the rising sun.  I hope to see you again very soon!

Was it a Dream…or was Sarah Brightman a bit too dreamy!

I had the chance to watch Sarah Brightman live during the Nagoya (Japan) leg of her Dreamchaser World Tour.  She is known as the world’s biggest selling soprano, and I can understand why, She has a great voice! I must admit.  From her early stage presence in Cats, numerous albums and of course The Phantom of the Opera’s Christine – which was written specifically for her.   I hope she didn’t crack any glass windows especially when she did the last note of the Phantom of the Opera theme song.

She is currently touring for her 11th album Dreamchaser and to promote her lifelong dream to travel on the Space Station, orbit the earth and record songs whilst she in space!  Here are some photos I managed to take of that memorable night.

Cover of her tour book

Cover of her tour book







This was my favourite...when she sang 'Time to say goodbye'

This was my favourite…when she sang ‘Time to say goodbye’

IMG_1476It was a good night of songs and light show.  Very dream like.  I went home in a trance-like feeling.

Have a great weekend everyone.

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