Some observations from travels

Posts tagged “culture

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!

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Winter

The past winter was my first to experience living in a country where there were four seasons.  Although in Nagoya (Japan) snow does not happen compared to other areas of the country.  So, as they say, if winter doesn’t come to you…you go to it! and we did.  We went about an hour outside the city to Mount Gozaisho and enjoyed a real winter.


We rode a cable car to go up the mountain

We rode a cable car to go up the mountain




White is beautiful!

Don’t forget to visit Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge for the new list this week!

South Korea (Part 7)

Photography by Lucas

Itaewon is a city district of Seoul known to residents and tourists alike. A place with many restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shops. A “hot spot” for expats and military personnel from the nearby base. Most embassies are located around Itaewon as well as the infamous “Hooker Hill” with its line up of trendy Gay bars like Bar Bliss and Always Homme to name a few. You will find an abundance of shops here where you can get traditional South Korean souvenirs as well as plenty counterfeit goods and clothing of varying quality. You’ll find some interesting shop signs that are a good laugh and a stark reminder that the English language here is not very well versed and only spoken by a very few.

One pub known to all expats and locals alike is the 3 Alley Pub. Founded by Gunter Kamp in 2001, better known as “Happy G”…

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12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 12 Power Spot Course

And the end has come.  Chapter 12, the last of the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour.  It had been wonderful to experience these walking guides each week for the last 12 weeks.  I must admit some of the sites were not as interesting as others, but looking at the overall bigger picture they all tied in and made sense.  Through these walking guides I have learned so much more about Nagoya and its history; about the stories behind significant tourist places; and a little bit about what lies behind the Japanese culture.  I am not saying I have uncovered what the culture is about as it is a deep-rooted traditional culture.  First you have to learn the language and have closer relations with traditional and modern families to begin to understand these people.

I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters where visiting temples and shrines were involved as I am quite intrigued by the intricate architectural details of the buildings and the ritualistic ceremonies held ever so often.  I have enjoyed collecting Goshuin, calligraphy stamps from temples and shrine.  I will post them next time.

For now, let us take another walk through the Power Spot Course.  This power spot course proved to need more power walking indeed.  I have cheated on this chapter as the weather have become hotter, more humid or rainy to make leisurely walks.  I have done this course in instalments.  But it is not a race, well not for me anyway.

1.  Kogane Shrine, Yamada Tenmagu Shrine.  This shrine is popular for those seeking more wealth and success in their studies.  Around the shrine it is evident that many have prayed for these requests as it is heavily littered with statues of maneki-neko – the beckoning cat, known for bringing good luck to its owner, as well as daruma dolls – a symbol for perseverance and good luck.


2.  Seimei Shrine.  One of the three shrines to pray for success in romance, which can be accomplished through this walking course, Seimei Shrine is deceivingly tiny.  Dedicated to Abe-no-Seimei an esoteric cosmologist who dispelled snakes that lived in the marshes around the area.  The incantation performed here is popular to dispel evil and fortune-telling to consummate love.


3.  Ueno Tenmangu Shrine.  Built over 1000 years ago, the shrine has two cows at the entrance.  These cows are famous for those seeking relief from any affliction to their body by rubbing the corresponding part of the cow’s body.  Others visit the shrine to pray for success in examination as well.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to see the beauty of this shrine as when I arrived at the site it was fully covered with scaffolding.  Maybe another time.

4.  Shiroyama Hachimangu Shrine.  I visited this shrine in another chapter and liked the area.  Although I did not find the ‘marital tree’ worshipped for happy marriage and restoration of relationships, I enjoyed the other historical remains present in the shrine grounds.  Shiroyama Hachimangu Shrine is one of the three shrines of love.


5. Takamu Shrine.  The third shrine for success in romance.  Takamu Shrine is also known for the Motokoi legend, where one could drink from the water fountain of the good well that promises a start to a new romance.  Famous amongst young women in search for love.


6.  Sakuratenjin Shrine.  Old blending in with the new, this shrine is set in between commercial buildings in Nagoya.  I have visited this shrine as part of another chapter but learned a new information in this chapter.  The cow stone statue is known as the Wishing Water Cow.  It is believed that when you make a wish and using the ladle to pour water on the cow, with the number according to your age, your wish shall come true.  I would have been there a long time.


7.  Atsuta Shrine.  Quite a famous shrine this one.  For these chapters alone it had been mentioned twice already, in Chapter 3 and Chapter 8.  I like this shrine as it has a beautiful property around it.  There are many festivals and special days attributed to this shrine so one would not be bored visiting it many times.


8.  Gokiso Hachimangu Shrine.  This shrine is small and older in its appearance.  There is a large boulder in the shrine called the ‘god stone’ the god of long life.  Tokugawa Ieyasu was known to have prayed here for the Battle of Nagakute, considered as one of the largest and most important battles in the history of Japan.


And that concludes the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour.  I hope, for those who have read and followed the chapters, have enjoyed learning something new about Nagoya and a little bit of Japan’s colourful history.  If you would like to catch up with previous chapters, here they are:

Chapter 1: Nagoya Castle Course

Chapter 2: Course covering region of the Owari Tokugawa family and the Cultural Path

Chapter 3: Oda Nobunaga “Owari’s Foolhardy Youth” Course

Chapter 4: Course Covering the Birthplace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kato Kiyomasa

Chapter 5: Course for Experiencing Nagoya Manufacturing

Chapter 6: Nagoya Stroll Course

Chapter 7: Funtown Osu Course

Chapter 8: Atsuta History Course

Chapter 9: Course Featuring the Townscape of Arimatsu and the Battle of Okehazama

Chapter 10: Arako Walking Course of Maeda Toshiie

Chapter 11: Shiroyama and Kakuozan Course

Thank you all for following and visiting.  Looking forward to your future visits next time.

Travel Theme: Flow

Flow, is to move along in a continuous and steady stream or current.  Flow is the Travel Theme over at Where’s My Backpack this week.  My take on flow is from our visit to Tokyo last year.  One of the top things to experience in this vibrant city is the crossing along Shibuya.  This district is known as a shopping, fashion and a favourite meeting place around the train station.  Before coming to Japan, my image of Tokyo was always about this crossing.

shibuya by day

shibuya at night

Both during the day and at night, the steady flow of people traffic is non-stop, it’s quite amazing how this place doesn’t run out of people!

Don’t forget to pop by Where’s My Backpack for more of this theme.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

I’m late for the other week’s challenge, but I couldn’t help myself.  Here’s my addition to the Fleeting challenge.  I hope you all had fun browsing through what everyone has contributed to this challenge.

Sakura, or the cherry blossoms, are revered flowers here in Japan.  It is said that the transience of these flowers symbolises a Japanese cultural tradition, for its blooming en masse as extreme beauty followed by a quick death.  It had been associated with mortality as the ephemeral nature of life.  These beauties have to be enjoyed really quickly as they will suddenly go as quickly as they blossomed.