Painting a Picture

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Angkor Wat is such a sight to behold, and there’s so much to explore within its ruins.

This is one of my favorite shots from our 2014 trip.  I actually want a pic of me framed in one of the many windows in the ruins (haha! ok not really!) but this makes a much more interesting subject^^

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Striking Gold: Kinkakuji

Remember those classic anime scenes wherein the main character oversleeps, hurriedly runs to school, sees the gate starting to close, and revving up to make it in?

That happened to me when I went to Kinkakuji.  There was a monk sounding a bell, and another urging us to hurry up.  The scene looked like the last stop in an Amazing Race episode.  I kid you not, the gates were closed after I got about 10 big steps in.

Probably one of the flashiest temples in Japan along with Kiyomizudera, Kinkakuji is one of the 17 Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which are World Heritage Sites.  Access to the main temple itself is restricted, though there are better views of the temple from across the pond.  Didn’t get close enough to see the interior, although I noticed the differences in details of how each story is constructed. That, and with a bit of reading, I learned that

  • The exterior of Kinkakuji’s second and third storeys are covered in gold leaf.
  • The first storey is built in the Shinden style during the Heian period, second in Bukke style used in samurai’s residences, and the top floor in Chinese Zen hall style.  Pretty eclectic, and it works.
  • The rooftop ornament is in the shape of a phoenix (and I thought it was supposed to be a rooster!!! >_< )

Well, here’s a look at the temple and its garden, plus a side story or two in the pics:

Kinkakuji is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm.  There’s an entrance fee of 400 yen.

How to get to Kinkakuji:

  • Via bus from Kyoto Station (40 mins).  Take Kyoto City Bus No.  101 or 205 and alight at Kinkakuji-michi stop.  The temple is just a few minutes walk away.
  • Take the Karasuma Subway line and alight at Kitaoji Station (15 mins). Ride the city bus from there (101, 102, 204 or 205), and alight at Kinkakuji-michi stop.  The bus ride will take about 10 mins.

The Temples of Angkor

Rewatching the Indiana Jones movies with my boyfriend made me miss Angkor, so I thought of digging up some pics and here’s another blog entry.

The weather at Angkor was cool and dry on the day of temple-hopping.  Our first stop was Angkor Wat, the most famous temple complex in the area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  One unique feature about it is it started out as a Hindu temple in the 1300s and Buddhist influence crept in centuries later.  A symbol of Cambodia, Angkor Wat is absolutely breathtaking!

We went to Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple next.

These temples have been subject to harsh weather, wars and at times unruly tourists (we saw at least three going beyond the set barriers just to take pictures…), but through conservation efforts, we can see these temples a little longer to remind us of the rich culture and history of this part of Asia.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Check any travel guide about Singapore, and the Botanic Gardens would certainly be among the top recommended attractions–and rightly so.  It’s pretty much free to go around (except for the minimal fee to get to the National Orchid Garden), and yet it’s very rich in nature and history.

The gardens are a vast sanctuary in the heart of the city.  There’s so much to explore, it’ll take literally a whole day or maybe even two to fully experience what the gardens have to offer.

My plan was to get there early, but being the nocturnal creature that I am, I woke up pretty late and got to the gardens at around 11 am.  I started my looooong stroll from Bukit Timah Gate, where I took some shots of the Eco Lake:

After a brief stop and looking at the map several times, I decided to make National Orchid Garden my priority, then the small tropical rainforest.  I’d then check out the other gardens if I still had the energy to do so.

And stuck to the plan I did. Here’s a mini-gallery of the different sections of the National Orchid Garden:

And choice shots from the rainforest:

A must when going to the Botanic Gardens is plenty of time, fully charged camera battery and enough space in your SD card, comfortable shoes, and a bottle of water.  (There are drinking fountains throughout the garden where you can refill the bottle, too.)

When I do go back to Singapore, I’ll definitely check out the Botanic Gardens again and visit the rest of the sections I wasn’t able to explore as much as I wanted to. Besides, there are upcoming attractions to this newly inaugurated World Heritage Site 🙂

Singapore Botanic Gardens is open every day of the year from 5 am – 12 mn, although certain sections have their own schedules.  It is also very accessible via bus or train, and tourist shuttle services are available as well.

‘Til next time!

Himeji Rush

I decided to go west on my first day of last year’s trip to Japan.  I was supposed to visit Himeji Castle, check out Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, and visit Kobe Sannomiya Center before doing a rain check.  I didn’t realize that taking local trains from Sakai to Sanyo-Himeji would take close to 3 hours plus it took the train stations some getting used to, so I only got to visit Himeji.  No worries though because Himeji is worth the travel plus it gives me at least three more reasons to have another go at Kansai.

After taking a few moments to enjoy the view out of Himeji Station, I quickly scouted the area for something to eat.  And I sure was starving!

I had a simple meal of rice and gyoza in a small family-owned store.  The gyoza was stuffed nicely, the rice is filling, and the sauce is unlike anything I’ve tasted before. Like what I said in the picture, after having this meal, no gyoza here back home ever comes close and I couldn’t enjoy it here anymore >_< (and sorry Osaka Ohsho, but your gyoza doesn’t compare to this at all… )

Recharged and refueled, I walked a few more blocks to get to Himeji Castle. Good thing I don’t have to take turns here and there; I just had to walk straight along this road.

The castle complex is finally in sight!

The upside of ending up at Himeji Castle at this time is you see the castle look nice and golden.  Downside?  Admission is already closed 😐 in any case, I was happy with what I saw especially with the cats :3

Despite missing the other stops in my overly ambitious itinerary, I’m glad I didn’t skip this one.  A world heritage site, a beauty, a standout.

 

Puerto Princesa Underground River

I’m probably one of the few people who don’t really mind not seeing Boracay–now please don’t throw tomatoes at me or something–but Palawan? I can’t not go to Palawan!

My friends and I went to Palawan at the same year the Underground River was officially listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.  The National Park it’s in is also listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

Before getting to the National Park though, you have to ride a ferry at Sabang.  Boat rides can make me anxious, but the sea and the limestone mountains pleasantly distracted me.

The place was packed when we got to the entrance of the cave, and I took some pictures while waiting for our turn.

And then it was finally time to go in!

I regret not having a decent camera with me by the way.  I was at the mercy of my boatmates who had DSLRs with killer flash with them. My shots inside the cave look like frames from a James Bond opening sequence! >_<

I feel proud of these two shots though:

The ride through the river is about 45 minutes long. And I noticed by the way that the boatmen follow a script, even down to the jokes 😛

And then we finally got to the exit where we were greeted by the beach… and monkeys!

 

Nature Photography Challenge, Day 6

Cats =(^.^)=

I’m very much fond of cats, and they’re one of my favorite subjects when I’m wandering about.

Here are some of my favorite shots. Enjoy!

Nature Photography Challenge, Day 3

Arashiyama

 

I cannot let the opportunity to experience walking though the Sagano Bamboo Grove pass, although I almost gave up in doing so.  It was quite tricky reaching Arashiyama from Sakai, Osaka and I used the local trains where I could use my Kansai Thru Pass.  Getting to the Bamboo Grove was a good deal though because I’ll get to see Tenryu-ji and its gardens, and I’d have the chance to see the Okochi-Sanso Villa.

That was the plan, but in reality, I just ended up in the bamboo grove and then in Tenryu-ji.  (In the guide I tried to follow though,  I was supposed to pass through Tenryu-ji first and then exit into the grove. Agh!)

In any case, even if the bamboo grove was crowded, and the path is just around 5oo m long, and there were a lot of people in Tenryu-ji, I still enjoyed being there.