A kitchen and photography experiment in one to top off a gloomy, rainy Tuesday!
As the hunt for World Heritage Sites continued, we decided to spend our second day in Japan’s old capital of Nara. But before getting off at Nara Station, we made a sidetrip to Fushimi, a ward of Kyoto and home to the head shrine of the largest Shinto shrine network in Japan worshipping the god Inari.
1. Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi is just a few minutes away from Kyoto Station. The entrance to the shrine itself is also very close to Fushimi Station making it a relatively easy sidetrip from central Kyoto. Aside from Fushimi Castle, the Inari Shrine or Inari-taisha of Fushimi is popular among travelers and locals alike. It’s at the top of the largest network of Shinto shrines in Japan and is best known for the iconic Torii gate (traditional red gates associated with Shinto shrines) footpaths leading to the shrine.
It’s also noteworthy (and one of the reasons we visited aside from the irresistible photo opportunity) that the shrine is one of the shooting locations for the 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha wherein the young protagonist runs along the torii-lined path towards the shrine. After almost an hour of marveling at the gates, we continued towards our original destination – Nara.
2. Kofuku-ji, Nara Park, Todai-ji and Kasuga Shrine
The Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara are eight spots from the old capital of Nara collectively regarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These include five Buddhist temples, one palace, one Shinto shrine and one primeval forest. Naturally, since most sites are within the vicinity of Nara Park, we spent our short time there. The common idiomatic expression “a walk in the park” certainly did not ring true for Nara’s 660-hectare park. Walking wasn’t an easy undertaking thanks to the hot and humid weather, but with an unusual abundance of free-roaming deer, it was nevertheless amusing.
We visited four of the eight sites – the temple of Kofuku-ji with its two picturesque pagodas, Todai-ji temple and the largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, the Shinto shrine of Kasuga and its stone lantern pathway, and part of the Kasugayama primeval forest which is next to Kasuga Shrine.
To be continued…
Since seeing historical sites is more tempting for us than experiencing a bustling metropolis, Karla and I decided to visit the old imperial capital of Kyoto during our first visit to Japan. Kyoto is home to a number of World Heritage Sites as well as close to other historically important cities.
We arrived at Kansai International Airport and went straight to Kyoto via the 73-minute express “Haruka” train and stayed at K’s House which is conveniently located near Kyoto Station.
The first day was dedicated solely to Kyoto Walking Tours – a guide for backpackers intent on exploring the must-see spots in the city that are relatively close to each other and easily accessible by a bus or even by walking. We’ve only allotted a full day due to our limited time and made a list of the top sites we wanted to see. These were Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion), Kyoto Imperial Palace, Philosopher’s Path and the geisha district of Gion.
1. Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
We bought a one-day pass that allowed us to ride certain buses within central Kyoto indefinitely. Our first stop was Kinkaku-ji or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion.
We didn’t take more than an hour walking across the entire temple complex. It was an easy enough stroll but the sun sure was catching up on us. Even in those early hours, the summer heat was intense. Nevertheless, we moved on to our next stop – Kyoto Imperial Palace.
2. Kyoto Imperial Palace
The Kyoto Imperial Palace is located within a 1,300-meter long and 700-meter wide park made up of lawns and wide gravel paths that turned into an oven under the heat of a midday summer sun. There are free tours daily (except weekends and holidays) in English and Japanese. The English guided tours were held at 10AM and 2PM. Since we arrived later than 10AM and there was no other way to enter the palace grounds but with a tour, we spent a few hours within the park until the next one.
After the one-hour palace tour, exhausted from all the walking and the heat, we decided to skip Ginkaku-ji and go straight to the Philosopher’s Path which is also within the vicinity.
3. Philosopher’s Path, Gion and Kamo River Dining
We didn’t finish the entire path as the heat was unrelenting so we hopped on the bus which dropped us off at Gion. Gion is a well-known geisha district in Japan. During one of our many strolls along the streets of Gion, we’ve spotted one that seemed to be in a hurry. The district is full of restaurants and hotels that offer dinners with cultural shows starring geishas and maikos (geisha apprentices). After much deliberation, we went for the seasonal Noryo Yuka (dining terrace) dining experience along the Kamo river. The dinner was our most expensive for the entire trip.
We went back to the guesthouse tired but excited for the rest of the trip. Our plan for the next day was to visit Nara, the old capital of Japan during the Nara Period.
To be continued…
In an attempt to finally cross out our neighbor Indonesia from the list of countries to sate our wanderlust with, my usual travel buddy Karla and I went on a weekend trip to Yogyakarta (or Jogja/Jogjakarta) to see the Prambanan and Borobudur Temples.
It was a leisure trip sans the leisurely pace as we had only two full days and some wee hours to move around and explore. Our initial plan was to arrive in Jakarta past midnight Saturday, sleep in the airport until our flight to Yogyakarta, visit Prambanan, Kraton and Borobudur in a day, spend the night in Yogyakarta, leave in the break of dawn for Jakarta by train, arrive at the airport Sunday afternoon and rest until our flight back to Manila.
1. Prambanan Temple Compound
First on our list was Prambanan, a Hindu temple compound east of Yogyakarta. We opted for an early morning visit as midday can be very hot. Photo opportunities were also easy to come by during that time of the day since tourist traffic’s not yet heavy.
We haven’t stayed very long inside the temple grounds. Unfortunately, our guide/driver Didik wasn’t able to match our pace and often appeared late to pick us up. His jolly and friendly nature more than made up for his tardiness though. His life stories fueled most of our conversations. One interesting fact we learned about Didik was before studying Business Management in Yogyakarta, he worked as a model in Jakarta for 2 years and has once had his abs printed on every box of a local brand of packed milk.
2. Kraton Yogyakarta and Bus Terminal
After almost an hour of driving, we were back in the city of Yogyakarta. Next stop was Kraton Yogyakarta, also called the Sultan’s Palace. The entire complex, which is a popular tourist destination, is home to the palace where the Sultan of Yogyakarta and his family live.
Just after our Kraton stop was when things have gone awry. We were informed beforehand that queues for train tickets to Jakarta are terribly long so we tried to book two weeks in advance through Didik’s agency. They weren’t able to secure two tickets so we went to the station for our purchase. The amount of people waiting in line wasn’t surprising. What really caught us off guard was there were no more trains bound for Jakarta on that day AND the next day. Okay, no reason to panic yet.
We could easily give up experiencing the beautiful Java countryside by train and just go with buses that ply the traffic-heavy routes back to Jakarta – as long as we get to see Borobudur. So, we’re off to the bus terminal hungry and unamused but nevertheless excited and positive.
The bus terminal, which was in a seemingly abandoned building, was out of our route and has set us back at least an hour and a half. We’ve been taken to a long hall of bus service helpdesks and got attended to by a few guys. Didik was with us all the way so it wasn’t really a challenge to communicate our needs. After some minutes of negotiating, Didik turned to us smiling and said that there were no more buses for Jakarta save for one that would leave at 3:00PM on the same day. And so we were left with two choices – take the 3:00PM bus and miss Borobudur or see Borobodur and spend a lot on plane tickets. Of course, we chose neither.
We kept on pushing the bus guys to look for ANY transport back to Jakarta that would leave the next day or even in the evening. Apparently, they were looking for the more comfortable buses that tourists usually ask them for. Once they understood that we only care about getting back to Jakarta in one piece and with memories of Borobudur, they finally found one that would leave in the evening at 7:00PM. Salvation. We purchased the tickets and headed out for the most critical stop of the day – lunch.
We left Yogyakarta for Borobudur at around two in the afternoon and arrived there two hours after. I was already preparing myself for the possibility of dishing out extra for plane tickets since our route back to the city was experiencing a serious traffic jam. We shouldn’t have underestimated Indonesian traffic.
Once inside the complex, we decided that we only have a 30-minute window to explore, so we jumped on the next tram bound for the giant stupa, snapped away with our cameras while swimming in a crowd of tourists, escaped from a strategically located maze of souvenir shops and ran towards the exit in Amazing Race fashion.
As expected, we got stuck in traffic on the way back to the city but arrived at the bus station just in time, only to find out that the bus we were trying to catch was arriving an hour late. We then spent that golden hour helping ourselves to a delicious meal of instant Mi Goreng.
We arrived at Kebon Jeruk district in Jakarta after traveling for 12 hours. With no decent sleep, no plans for Jakarta and 16 hours before our flight back to Manila, we decided to just stay in the airport to eat, rest and do some instant Mi Goreng hunting.
I like to think of our trip to the Indonesian island of Java a product of chance and spontaneity. It did not go as smoothly as arranged but with a solid plan, some good company and the right attitude towards the unexpected, I was able to enjoy every minute of it.
After the week-long trip to Green Head where I’ve spent the New Year’s Eve with a bunch of cool people, I’ve mostly been roaming spontaneously around the city of Perth, Fremantle and some places in between, breathing in the laid-back atmosphere that makes the Australian lifestyle easy to fall in love with. In the spirit of keeping true to my last post, here’s the rundown:
It’s been seven months since my short stay in Western Australia and boy, rummaging through this photoset brings back some crazy good memories. I’ve been all around the capital Perth, the port city of Fremantle, the fishing town of Jurien Bay and picturesque Green Head. Yes, it seems a bit too late to do a report on my year-ender (or year-starter, depending on your philosophical perspective) but since late bests never, here is a quick rundown on my first week in Western Oz:
The rest would be continued on Part 2…
Nature. Art. Culture. Peace. Harmony. Namiseom is a small resort island in Chuncheon – an amusement park sans the rides and all that noisy fun. The park presents an aura of harmony between nature and art in various forms while its theme changes naturally four times a year. It’s a popular getaway for families and couples looking for some R&R and a must-see for fans of the Korean television series “Winter Sonata”. I’m not a fan myself, but yes, it was actually the series that put the island on my map.
Clockwise from top left: Capturing the picturesque backdrop; A couple on the tree-lined footpath; Soju bottle art; Nami at sundown.
Changdeokgung Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the “Five Grand Palaces” in Seoul. The entire palace complex was damaged during the Japanese invasion, some structures preserved while some restored. Due to its location relative to the main Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace which is the largest of the five, Changdeokgung is often referred to as East Palace.
The Changdeokgung “Secret Garden” or Huwon which literally translates to “Rear Garden” is named by Koreans as such since it is a private space for the king that even the highest of officials do not dare enter without permission.
A boy advances on foot at the shore of one of the islands of Calaguas, Camarines Norte, Philippines. Sunsets alone are always great to shoot, although a subject on the foreground never fails to make the scene more interesting.
Shot using a Nikon D3000 and Nikkor 18-55mm lens at 1/25 f/3.5 ISO-400. Post-processed to boost the brightness a little bit.