Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Run! Kranji

Run Kranji!

How about a run to the countryside of Singapore? Is there even a "countryside" in Singapore?

It was our Running Group's series Run number 2, which we have yet to name the group. The reason I did a write up about this run is simply because I have some pictures which I think are nice to share out to. Too bad this time only Edward and me, and we kinda had an almost non-stop session. Of course, except for a few small stops as I wanted to take pictures.

We started our run from Kranji MRT station, at around 7:30am. It was a just nice timing for a run here. In fact, a nice day for a run as well, weather was cool and sunlight was not too harsh.

Kranji

The first half of the route towards our destination, the Sungai Buloh wetland reserve, was... pollution and busy traffic. Point to take note of, if you are not enjoying the hustle and bustle of industrial area, skip this and take a bus to somewhere near the reserve.

After about 4 or 5km, we passed by some canals that link to the Straits of Johor. We could actually look across the sea and find the Johor skyline at the opposite end. At the right timing, the view was spectacular. I paused for a short while to enjoy it.

Run Kranji!

Run Kranji!

Run! Kranji

We finally ran into Sungai Buloh reserve, hoping to find a way out at the other end of the reserve so that we could pass by some farms and take a bus to Choa Chu Kang. Unfortunately, there is only one entrance, one exit. The others were being fenced up and locked away.

The wetland was interesting. We spotted the signboard warning visitors of crocodile. Crocodile in Singapore? Must be kidding. Less than 5 minutes after we ran past the signboard, we spotted a monitor lizard on the path but it immediately shied away when I tried to get closer. Well, right after the monitor lizard it was the crocodile's turn! It was lying beside the elevated pathway, I wonder if it could just climb its way up if it wanted to?

Run! Kranji

Run! Kranji

Sunday or public holiday would be better days to visit the farms and marshland, as bus services are available near the reserve in 30 minutes interval, otherwise visitors would have to flag a cab or walk some distance back to the canal for bus ride back to Kranji MRT or Choa Chu Kang.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Japan: Nikkō, Kanman Path II(憾満の路 II)

Treasure

I met a lot of things that impressed me along the Kanman path. This is supposed to be the main highlight of my Nikkō trip, if I did not encounter the river of Kurogawa beside Zen Hostel.

The first lunch I had in Nikkō after finished touring the temple complex in the morning, was a local specialty, Yuba(湯葉)and ramen. Yuba is basically made of tofu skin that is quite common in Chinese food. However, the Japanese version looks like they roll the tofu skin into a ball. As always, this Yuba Ramen seems really healthy.

湯葉 Ramen

After lunch, I traced along the heritage trail of Kanman and passed by the residential area, and a small shrine. The ground of the shrine was covered with moss, the feeling when I stood in the compound was the same as other shrines, peace and Zen. Summer wind blew occasionally.

Stone Lantern

I was getting nearer to the Abyss here, tracing along the Kanman path following the map. I crossed a bridge overlooking the river that seemed safe enough for the Japanese to wade into it. Nice, is every river in Japan looks that inviting during summer?

Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss(憾満ヶ淵), one of the reasons that made me so determined to come to Nikkō.

As I walked past the Emperor Taisho's(大正天皇)poem monument, I saw maple leaves with that summer green that was translucent against the sunlight, a small Zen shrine, and Jizo statues.

Last Summer

慈雲寺

Surreal and hauntingly beautiful. A river lies beside the path. The path lined with 74 Jizo statues(地蔵尊) or also known as Narabi Jizo(並び地蔵)along the Kanman-ga-fuchi was relatively tourist-free, which make this place even more dreamy. The statues were there, really at peace, and dragonflies resting on the top of the head, relaxed.

並び地蔵

Jizo

Magical

Found this in YouTube, the walk along the Jizo Statues:



I continued my journey, leaving the Jizo statues behind, and wished I could stay longer to take in more of the Qi around them. No signs of monkeys still, despite hearing from Japanese that Nikkō has nothing much but many monkeys.

After walking past a water dam, a small Sasuke-Inari shrine(佐助稲荷神社), I came back to cross the Dainichi Bridge(大日橋)back to the side where the heritage area is. The view, was breathtaking, again.

大日橋

Dragonflies zipping here and there. Some even with body as huge as my finger. Ahh... the goodness of Summer. Not forgetting that I finally encountered the Cosmos wild flower that I saw in the photos and artworks of Japanese artists!

Dragonfly

コスモス - COSMOS

After crossing the Dainichi bridge, the Kanman Path was completed. Short and sweet. Left with about 2 hours before sunset, I decided to venture into the Urami-no-Taki(裏見の滝) that was praised highly by Scout the Zen hostel host as the best waterfall of Nikkō area. Indeed, despite a boring 2km walk uphill along a neighbourhood area that offered nothing much to see, the waterfall was great.

裏見の滝

裏見の滝

Encountered a middle aged couple while admiring the waterfall. Using my limited Japanese language, I still managed to understand that the Oba-san told me her son is of the same age as me, and discussed with the Oji-san that the statue behind the waterfall with a sword is a statue of Acala(不動明王).
I was little bit impressed by myself.

不動明王

In the end, they are yet another nice couple that saw me walking on my own down the path where I came, and offered to hitch-hike me and let me save 2km of journey. Something I had learnt here, Japanese are friendly towards tourist, especially if you are able to speak a little bit of Japanese to impress them. The couple is only one of the many Japanese that offered me assistance. I asked them to take a picture of me and I think Oji-san did a good job!

Urami-no-Taki

As the sky turned darker, I head back to the Tobū Nikkō station and then called Scout for a ride back to the remote hostel from Shimogoshirō station after having Ramen dinner.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Japan: Nikkō, Kanman Path I(憾満の路)

憾満の路

憾満の路
Kanman no Michi, or the Path of Regrets.

This day, was supposed to be the highlight of Nikkō, the World Heritage site. Looking at the pictures from websites, the temples didn't seem too inviting... Well, at least I had to go and do what a tourist should do, look at the real "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", the famous monkey trio.

I know it would get kinda boring after countless times of writing "I am amazed!!" but the fact is, I really couldn't stop myself from being amazed. Japan seemingly have all the places that I would like to visit. Hence, I couldn't stop myself from being awe-struck...

The walk into the touristy temple areas or the UNESCO site, started from Shinkyō(二荒山神社神橋)of the Futarasan-jinja. Walking in this area, I have to say that the Japanese are really good in preserving the mood and atmosphere. We all should learn from them on how to preserve a UNESCO site, a total contrast to what the Malaysian government did on Malacca when Malacca was declared a UNESCO too...

For the first temple which was still under renovation, the Rinnō-ji Sanbutsu-dō(輪王寺三仏堂). Nothing too impressive as most were under renovation and the photo-taking was not allowed inside the temple. As implied by the name of the temple, there are three statues Buddha inside.

Then the next one, the most famous icon of Nikkō, the Tōshōgu(東照宮)glittered in the summer morning. Of course, the most crowded temple.

陽明門

Golden frames, rich details, the most iconic gate with so many ornamentation on it.

Details of the 陽明門

三猿 (Sanzaru, the three wise monkeys):見ざる(Mizaru) 言わざる(Iwazaru) 聞かざる(Kikazaru)

三猿

Things I like most about heritage area of Japan, the structures are maintained the way so naturally that they look like they had been found only recently and not "over-polished". The moss on the lanterns(石燈籠) found throughout Nikkō is the best example.

.

Moving on to the next temple along this walk way covered by Sugi and other large trees.

Tranquility

And I arrived at Futarasan-jinja(二荒山神社). The temple that worships the Mount Nantai, which is a go-shintai(御神体)that plays an important role in this region and the Shinto religion. Seems like the locals were doing some prayers for hiking trails going up to the mountain.

二荒山神社

The Sacred Trees

Then continuing to the last temple that my temple passes can bring me to. Passing by a secret garden that was off-limit to visitors.

Peep into a secret garden

Finally the Taiyū-in Reibyō(大猶院霊廟)where the mausoleum of Tokugawa Iemitsu(徳川家光)is. It is truly built for Zen. I could stay here watch the world beneath revolves itself.

Path

Bell tower of Taiyuin

Actually the link below is a good site to read and understand about the temple complex of Nikkō. I seriously don't think that Nikkō is a place for old folks like what many others told me!
UNESCO - Shrines and Temples of Nikko

After all the temples, I took a lunch break and there's Part II of the Kanman Path!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

East Java: Bromo Caldera

From the Bromo Viewpoint

The highlight of this Indonesia volcano tour, Mount Bromo. It was far exceeding my expectation of a touristic Indonesia.

Igniting

Mount Bromo, is still an active volcano. It had a recent major eruption in early 2011 and the ashes that it spitted out put the villages next to the volcano in miserable dust. Ventured to an active volcano so close was a first in my life. Perhaps I was still not aware of the danger of an active volcano yet.

From the Bromo view point between 5am and 6am, when the light transitioned slowly and all the spectrums of rainbow were splashed on the mountain skylines, I could hear other tourists making remarks such as "this is the best ever sunrise that I have seen... so beautiful".

In scenes like this, sometimes panorama mode is able to capture some of the essence of what we saw with our bare eyes. I believe that no photographs can re-imagine the beauty that was best behold by our very own eyes, but at least a panorama like this can give some "wows".

Panorama

Sunrise Panorama

From the sunrise, the mountains went through interesting transition of colours. The below pictures show that at different time, the mountain changed magically too.

Bromo Sunrise

Bromo in daylight spectrum

The three of us did not forget to take a picture as well:

Group pic

As the clock hits 6am, we had to rush to the caldera of Bromo! Seriously, we were going to the mouth of an active volcano and look into the crater that could possibly explode and spit out fire!! We went down to the shrine area, about 1km from the caldera and our horses were already there waiting.

Jeeps and Horse

I think it was easier for inexperience tourists like us to ride on ponies, hence most of the horses there were ponies, the one Swen rode was only 4 months old! Over there at the Sea of Sands, we could see the horse guides roamed around as if we were at Mongolian grasslands.

galloping in the sand

horse guide

visitors and the ponies

all the ponies

For the unadventurous ones, we actually saved ourselves from having to tread across the thick sea of sands. The walk should be quite tough for those without good stamina as walking on these textures drain your strength quickly. Imagine running on a sandy beach where the sand is smooth.

sea of sand

the iconic view

For the last few steps towards the crater, we would have to climb up the stairs... and when the wind blew...

sandstorm

The sand storm was that bad... For a few minutes we couldn't move but faced away from the wind. Still, even with the face mask, we couldn't escape having sands that went into the mouth. In the aftermath, it was as if we just rolled on a sandy beach.

On the top, along the mouth of the crater, there was not much safety protection that prevents you from slipping and falling into the abyss. We heard a loud bang, which resembled the fire cracker sound during Chinese New Year and realised it came from the crater. Bubbles could be seen inside the milky blue crater and smoke could be seen too. However, looking around, there were still so many people that were not alarmed. I guess it must be very normal for such explosion to happen now and then.

along the caldera

There were even 2 silhouettes at the opposite of the caldera. I wondered how the two adventurer got to the other side?

in the distant there were 2 silhouettes

We made the descent and back to the hotel to clean up all the ashes before we looked at the view of Bromo one last time and left. All these happened within the timespan of 4.30am to 10am. Short, but full of surprises.