Sunday, 27 November 2016

Travel Photos Series#22-The Street of Gion, Kyoto


The cobbled streets and alleys of Gion destrict were lit up in the night by big red lanterns. We came with the intent to catch a glimpse of Geisha who entertained in the Japanese teahouses (Ochaya).

Well-preserved traditional wooden machiya merchant houses could be easily spotted here and we had a sumptuous dinner in one of them which served One Michelin Star Unadon (Eel rice). This is one of the star destinations in Kyoto. Japan and not many would leave this place disappointed.

Photo taken on 28 Nov 2015.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Travel Photos Series#21-Sunset at Torrey Pines Gliderport




I was away on business trip at San Diego, USA recently and was introduced to this amazing place by my colleague. Located on the cliffs above Black's beach, the Torrey Pines Gliderport is a paradise for paragliders displaying their paragliding skills with help of the strong, cooling wind.

The cliffs overlooked the majestic Pacific Ocean and we were lucky enough to witness the amazing sunset on that day. I did not bring my DSLR camera but managed to capture the amazing scenes in my I-phone.

Photo taken on 2 October 2016.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Travel Photos Series#20-The Marble Temple


One of my favorite photos in Bangkok, Thailand taken few years back. We went to the Marble Temple (known as Wat Benchamabophit) early morning  to avoid the crowd. I was setting up the camera on the tripod to take our family photos when I saw the monk strolling towards the main temple. I managed to snap a few shots of him in motion with the beautiful temple structure in the background.

Many tourists skipped this lesser temple after visiting the more famous temples like Wat Arun, Wat Phra Khew and Wat Pho. I strongly recommend not to do so as you will potentially miss one of the most beautiful temples you have ever laid your eyes upon ;-D.

Photo taken on 3 March 2012.

Related Posts: Bangkok-The Land of Smiles

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Travel Photos Series#19-Kinkaku-ji Temple at Autumn


This world famous Kyoto-based temple has been photographed umpteem times by visitors. Before visiting, I was afraid that the actual scenery could not meet my expectation. I realized my worries were unnecessary when I finally set eyes on Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion). The first thought that came to my mind was "Beautiful in pictures, gorgeous in reality".

I could not remember how many photos I take that day at the Golden Pavilion :-P. This is one sight you must not miss when you visit Kyoto in Japan.

Photo taken on 29 Nov 2015.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Touring the Famous Street of Dotonbori, Osaka

Fanciful Dotonbori Street
Our first stop in Osaka was Dotonbori. In fact, we purposefully selected a hotel that was near to this famous street and the plan was to visit it whenever we had the opportunities. Dotonbori is famous for it's countless restaurants and the interesting and life-like mechanized billboards and neonlights that adorned their facade. It is known as a gastronomic street for great reasons. Just name any Japan delicacy, they will surely have it- Ramen, Takoyaki (Octopus balls), Okonomiyaki, Kushikatsu, Gyoza, Tonkatsu-don, Sushi, Sashimi, Udon, Unadon and the list continues on. We were spoilt for choices when our stomachs groaned for food and the usual complaints were the limited capacities they held.

Mascots of Dotonbori
There are many landmarks and mascots one will not miss when visiting Dotonbori. The Glico man (running man), and the moving King Crab billboard of Kani Doraku are the ones that we will always remember. It is impossible to walk through all the interesting destinations we visited in a single blog. But I will be sharing on those that have left us great impression and feel that you shall not miss them when you visit this famous street.

The Glico Man (aka The Running Man)
This was our first stop at Dotonbori. Located near the always busy and crowded Ebisubashi bridge, the Glico Man billboard was stationed here since 1935. For those who do not know, the Glico group is the Company which produced the famous Pocky stick snacks. There are flavors which are unique to Osaka stores only. They will serve as good souvenirs for your loved ones back home . We would take photos with this "celebrity" in similar running posture which earmarked the commencement of our interesting trip. I personally feel this is a "Must"for everyone that visit Dotonbori :-) !

The Glico Man

Kani Doraku (The Giant Moving Crab Restaurant)
There are in fact three of these at Dotonbori. One was situated near the start of the street, one in the middle and the last the end. The famous and prominent one is the restaurant at start of the street with the largest mechanized crab. It is just opposite the Glico Man and I strongly recommend you have at least a meal here during your visit. Kani Doraku serves one of the best and freshest crab cuisine in Japan. It is not cheap but worth every cents that you will be paying. We certainly enjoyed ourselves here and the crabs were certainly one of the best that I have tasted. One tip here is that you have to reserve early (at the counter near the entrance) in order to get a place in this famous restaurant.

Kani Doraku Moving Crab Billboard
Live Crabs
Crab Sashimi

The Ramen Restaurants (Shi-ten-noh 四天王, Kinryu 金龍, Ichiran 一蘭, Kamukura 神座)
Your visit at Dotonbori will not be completed without tasting at least one of the famous Ramen here. I had in fact tasted all the above mentioned and it was a struggle to decide which is the best. After a democratic family poll, we decided our favorite is Ichiran! The average price of the Ramen is about 800 to 1000 Yen per normal bowl. They tasted especially good during the cold weather period and our family had at least 1 Ramen meal everyday when we were here. All the mentioned Ramen restaurants are actually clustered together somewhere in the middle of the street and you will have little problem finding them. The most easily recognizable Ramen restaurant is Kinryu with it's formidable looking Dragon above their outlets.

The Ramen Restaurants
Kamukura Ramen
Charlotte and Alison feasting on Kinryu Ramen

Osaka Ohsho Restaurant (大阪王将)
The store famous for it's Gyoza (dumplings with pork meat) is easily spotted with it's big succulent looking mammoth Gyoza above it's facade. Osaka Ohsho has actually expanded their presence in other countries and we have tried the Gyoza back in Singapore and Hong Kong. But nothing beat trying the real McCoy in Dotonbori, Osaka. We gave two thumbs up for these delicacies and agreed unanimously it tasted better than the ones we tried elsewhere before. The price was around 210 Yen for 5 Gyoza.

Osaka Ohsho Restaurant
Queue to buy my favorite Gyoza
Can you resist the succulent Gyoza?

Acchichi Honpo Takoyaki 
Do not tell people you have come to Osaka without trying their trademark Takoyaki (Fried Octopus Balls). Takoyaki is basically a fried wheat flour ball with octopus meat inside. There are in fact many outlets selling Takoyaki at Dotonbori but the one we always saw with the longest queue was Acchichi Honpo. It is located near the Dotonbori canal where tourists board the boats for the Tombori River Cruise. We could smell the aroma of the Takoyaki from the store at a distance and inevitably queue up for the delicacy. The rest was history :-) (I remembered one serving of 8 Octopus Balls was around 500 Yen. Their most popular flavor is the soy sauce mayonnaise taste Takoyaki)

Acchichi Honpo Takoyaki in the background
Waiting for the sizzling hot Takoyaki

Be Careful! They are HOT!!!
Tombori River Cruise
This cruise offers a 20 minute boat ride down a length of the the Dotonbori River. The ticket booth and boarding point are near the Acchipi Honpo Takoyaki outlet.  During our ride, there was a Japanese narrator onboard who seemed to explain us the history and the landmark of the river. We did not understand what she was saying but her humorous gesture and expression won our applauses. I recommend to take this ride at night when the buildings are illuminated by the colourful neonlights with their wavering reflection cast on the river surface. Ticket fee is 900 Yen per adult and 400 Yen per child.

Tombori River Cruise
River view during boat ride
Family Photo in boat
As mentioned before, one article was too limited to cover Dotonbori. I just stated on those that I felt you must try if you plan a visit here. This will serve as a good guidance when you are mesmerized and wondered where to start in the maze of restaurants and shops.

Related Posts: The Osaka, Kyoto and Nara Trip
  
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Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Osaka, Kyoto and Nara Trip


At Kinkaku-ji Temple, The Golden Pavilion

We visited Osaka, Kyoto and Nara back in last year November and December. It was a different experience compared to the visit to Tokyo two years back. The people, culture and food have their own unique flavor and we were glad to visit during the autumn. The spectacular and colourful sceneries with the sea of reddish and yellowish leaves left deep impression with us.  For the local, the fall autumn season holds equal significant meaning to the Sakura season. I was not too surprise after being very fortunate to witness the splendor of both.

The Famous Dotonbori Street
The Osaka Castle
We would spend about two weeks exploring the Kansai region. Osaka was our base with side trips to Kyoto and Nara. Being fans of Japanese gourmet, we decided to reside in hotels near the famous Dotonbori street. This was one of the best decisions made as we conveniently managed to savour the different delicacies for our meals. The only regret we had was the limited capacities of our own stomachs :-(.

Let's Start Running with the "The Glico Running Man"!
All my readers shall know by now I am a "Temple Man". The beautiful Japanese temples and shrines were "Must Have"items in my travel plan. Top in my lists were the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kyoto and Nara. To name a handful-Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkaku-ji, Todai-ji temple and Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine. The last name is not a UNESCO World Heritage site (yet) but we were always fascinated by the Senbon Torii (thousand of Torii gates) situated along the mountain trails behind the shrine.

The Great Buddha of Todai-ji Temple
Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

The trip would not be completed without including plans for my young daughter, Charlotte. Her best memory would be the time spent with the deers at Nara Park and the snow monkeys at Iwatayama Monkey Park at Arashiyama. We would also indulge ourselves at the different theme rides at Osaka Universal Studios and the sight of wonderful sea life at Osaka aquarium (Kaiyukan).

At Osaka Universal Studios 
Charlotte feeding a Nara Deer
With LARGE Stingray At Kaiyukan

More posts and tips will be shared in my later blogs for this trip. Below is my itinerary for this trip for your planning and reference:

(For a detailed itinerary, please Like our Facebook page and contact me by Email)

Day 1

-Arrived at Osaka
-Checked in Metro 21 Hotel
-Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi
-Tombori River Cruise

Day 2

-Osaka Castle
-Umeda Sky Building

Day 3

-Sumiyoshi Taisha
-Shitennoji Temple
-Shinsekai
-Tsutenkaku Tower

Day 4

-Arrived at Nara
-Nara Deer Park
-Todai-ji Temple
-Kasuga Taisha Grand Shrine
-Higashimuki Shopping Street

Day 5

-Universal Studio

Day 6

-Arrived at Kyoto
-Checked in Amenity Hotel
-Kiyomizu-dera Temple
-Gion District
-Yasaka Shrine

Day 7

-Nijo Castle
-Kinkaku-ji Temple
-Ryoan-ji Temple

Day 8

-Arrived at Arashiyama
-Tenryu-ji Temple (with Bamboo Groves)
-Saga Scenic Railway Ride
-Monkey Park Iwatayama

Day 9

-Tofuku-ji Temple
-Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

Day 10

-Yasaka Pagoda
-Higashiyama District
-Arrived in Osaka
-Checked in Naniwa Hotel
-Dotonbori

Day 11

-Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan)
-Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi

Day 12

-Hozen Temple
-Kuromon Market
-Tennoji Zoo
-Shinsekai

Day 13

-Back to Singapore

Have you been to Osaka, Kyoto or Nara yet? Share your experience at the comment columns below!


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Friday, 25 March 2016

Travel Photos Series#18-Panoramic View from the Mountain City, Jiufen (Taiwan)

View from Jiufen
I remember it was raining and the day was gloomy when we visited Jiufen in Tawian. But it was no surprise to us as the Mountain City was also known as the "City of Sadness" (made famous by the award winning film of the same name). Rain was a very common affair here so do not forget your raincoat or umbrella when you are preparing a visit.

We love the view from the top of city. Here you could savour the scenic sight of sea meeting the mountains while immersing in the cooling atmosphere. Although the area was bustling with tourists, you could still find a quiet spot for your own activities.

Photo taken on 28 Nov 2013.    

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Travel Photos Series#17-Sika Deer at Nara Park

Sika deer at Nara Park

This is one of the many deer photos I captured at Nara Park, Japan. The hundreds of free roaming sika deer are the main draw of this popular tourist site. Together with the lush greenery, magnificent temples and shrines with their decorative statues and sculptures as the backdrop, the ubiquitous deer offer great photo capturing opportunities for the enthusiasts.

My family thoroughly enjoyed our day trip here. Charlotte loved feeding the deer with the deer crackers and has been asking me when we are returning to the park again :-).

Photo was taken on 26 Nov 2015.      

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Why We Travel?

Scenic Sagano Train Ride at Arashiyama, Japan
I always admire those travelers that have the courage and determination to give up what they had and went to explore the World. It was and will never be an easy decision. Although I am unlikely to do this in my lifetime, I will always try to see the other parts of this planet whenever I have the opportunities.

The older generation of people used to share with us that we shall work hard and earn lots of money when we are young. When we grow old, the money will enable us to enjoy life and travel the world. My philosophy of life is actually exactly the opposite. I think all of us shall see the world when we have the health and physics to do so. We may have the money to travel but our bodies and legs will let us down at certain stages of our life.

I remember very clearly when I visited the Great Wall of China many years ago. The whole bus was overjoyed when we finally set eyes on the magnificent structure. I was determined to climb a section of the Great Wall which would take me to a hill top and a breathtaking aerial view of the surrounding. Almost everyone had left the bus apart from these old couple who huddled together at the back of the vehicle. "Are you coming down to join us?" I asked them. The old man replied me: "The weather outside is too cold for us. Our frail bodies will also not allow us to climb the Great Wall." These words still rung clearly in my ears and acted as a good advice for me to do things whenever I have the abilities and capabilities to do so.  

Charlotte and Japanese Gal

Seeing the World, taking great travel photos, experiencing other culture, savoring great and exotic food, making new friends etc are always common and good enough reasons for our travel trips. But sometimes without realizing, there are also other great reasons for us to do so. I like to share with you on my other reasons here:

Bonding & Learning the Other Sides of Your Family and Friends


Be it traveling with family and friends, traveling together will always help to create the extra cohesiveness among your traveling partners. You have to consider each other interests and feelings when planning the itineraries. Your traveling members may also show you a different side of themselves which you never expect to see in your normal life.

Tet, Bayee & Paulo at Terrace of The Leper King at Siem Reap, Cambodia
For example, during my recent trip to Japan, I was discussing with Alison at a Osaka's train station on the best route getting to a planned destination. We were still in the midst of sorting out the way when Charlotte suddenly pointed to the map and said: "Daddy, I think we shall take this route to our destination. It seems the most direct and shortest." We were really taken aback as we did not expect any input from our young daughter. The  biggest surprise was that she had pointed the solution to us! I would learn later that she had been picking up the  knowledge since our first family trip to Tokyo two years back and would put them to good use for the later trips. Rather than just discussing with my wife, I always want to hear Charlotte's opinions also after this incident!

Dad, Mum and Paulo at a Thrilled Ride at E-Da Theme Park at Kaohsiung, Taiwan










Another good example happened during our trip to Taiwan together with my aged parents. I had included E-Da theme park at Kaohsiung for my daughter but was worried that my parents would be bored. But how wrong I was to be. They (especially my father) thoroughly enjoyed their day and took on the challenging rides whenever they had the chances. This was something I did not expect to see from them.


Knowing Where and Who We Are


It's important to know where and who we are in the planet. This applies especially to the privileged children of our country. They are born with no worries for the basic necessities and are comfortable with their life. Many of them have taken this for granted. Instead of always planning trips to the developed countries, I also try to plan at least a trip per year to visit the less developed countries. These trips served as eye opener for Charlotte that there are less fortunate people in the World and life is not a bed of roses.

Children playing at a ruined temple at Siem Reap, Cambodia
During our trip to Indonesia, Yogyakarta, Charlotte had the chance to see young children working hard under the hot sun to earn a living. She saw children almost the same age as her or some even younger helping out their parents at their stalls or pestering tourists to buy souvenirs from their self-carried stocks. She would then question me: "Daddy, shall these children be studying at this time of the day? Why are they working?"  I took the opportunity to tell how lucky she is to be not working but having a good education at this stage of her life. Not everyone in this world enjoy the same privileges. I feel this is very important and send a strong message to our young ones that they shall strive hard for themselves if they want to have a fruitful life in the future.

Taking Well-Deserved Breaks


When I mean well-deserved breaks, I really mean WELL-DESERVED BREAKS!  I am referring to holiday that really help me recharge my often drained biological batteries. I made mistakes in my early travels and often cramped the itineraries like a can of sardines. In the end, I felt more tired as though I had not taken a holiday at all. The experience taught me to be more relaxed and accommodating when planning for my trips. I learnt that it's perfectly OK not to see everything when visiting a country. The key thing is to enjoy and recuperate. More importantly, Alison and Charlotte would minimize their complaints on my hectic traveling schedules :-P !

Alison and Charlotte at The Fisherman Wharf, Macau

Satisfaction


Nothing beat the Satisfaction that I had after every travel to see that everyone has enjoyed the trip. Though I have invested days and sometimes even months to do research and plan for the trips, it is always a happy feeling that we have benefited from the breakaways. The smiles that my parents wore on their faces after the Taiwan trip, the grateful thanks from my traveling mates after the Cambodia venture, the sweet dreams that Charlotte has after the Japan travel, the unending recollection of the good traveling memories with Alison are good enough reasons for the efforts put in to arrange a great trip for everybody.

Sweet Family Photo taken at Umeda Sky Building at Osaka, Japan














So what's your reasons to travel? Do share them in the comment column :-) 

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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Travel Photos Series#16-Stupas at The Borobudur Temple

Stupas
One of our magical moments in Year 2015 was experiencing the sunrise at the Borobudur Temple. I was always fascinated by the mysterious and sacred stupas that lined the temple ground. Each of them actually housed a Buddha in different meditating stances. Sadly, many of them had lost their heads, stolen by robbers who sold them at very high prices to collectors.

It is extremely fortunate the stupas are not easy to be moved by potential robbers and most of them are still left intact. It is a blessing as our generation and many to come will still get to witness these ancient heritages.

Photo taken on 18 March 2015. 

Related Posts: Travel to Borobudur Temple, Dawn at Borobudur Temple

Sunday, 10 January 2016

2015 Wrap Up-Year of visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Year 2015 has been a great year for us and we nearly lost count of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites that we got to visit during our travel.

Borobudur

In March, we finally got ourselves to Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the World. For those who have followed my blogs closely would know that I have been wanting to visit this religious site for the longest time. The plan had been postponed due to various reasons and being finally able to visit it was a fulfilling experience. I strongly recommend the sunrise experience if you visit Borobudur.

Prambanan Temples

We also got to visit another UNESCO World Heritage Site-The Prambanan Temples in the same trip. The ancient Hindu constructions made us felt like Dwarfs among the Giants. We paid a visit to the unpredictable Mount Merapi in a jeep tour and witnessed the destruction it has wreaked during it's past eruptions. The tours at the Sultan Palace (The Kraton) and Water Castle (Taman Sari) at Yogyakarta have given us an insight on the luxurious lifestyle of the royal families.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

I am very proud to mention on one of the newly-promoted UNESCO World Heritage sites that we re-visited in July. It was our very own Singapore Botanic Gardens. Though we have already visited it for numerous time, it was a special feeling to visit it with the new status. Congrats and a big thank again for those putting their utmost efforts to make this happen.


Kyoto and Nara

In November, we traveled to Osaka, Kyoto and Nara in Japan. This trip took us to more World Heritage Sites-Toda-Ji temple and Kasuga-taisha shrine in Nara, Kiyomizu-dera temple, Nijo Castle, Kinkaku-ji temple, Ryoan-ji temple and Tenryu-ji temple in Kyoto. These were on top of those not listed as World Heritage Sites but equally impressive temples and shrines like the Tofuku-ji temple and Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine. November end was a great time to visit Japan as we got to witness the beautiful autumn foliage at the temples and shrines gardens. More of these in my coming blogs.

Thanks for following my blogs and I wish everyone a Great Travel Year in 2016!!!