Friday, September 14, 2012

East Java: Kawah Ijen

Smoking acid

It is true that the harsher the environment is, the more breath-taking it usually is. This goes to Ijen Crater (Kawah Ijen) as well. Want to look at the smoking sulphuric acid, blue acidic crater lake, and above the cloud experience? No better transport to reach there than with your feet. Yeah, so it was another hiking session! Yay!

we hiked above the clouds

We started at about 6am. The hike was about 3km and it was not really an easy hike, as the path was sandy hence the grip was not as firm. The downhill hike was especially tough. I slipped and almost fell so many times that Swen and Marcus said their cold sweat broke out whenever they saw me slipped. Luckily I was able to regain balance and did not fall down even once.

Even though it was quite a tough climb, the view was spectacular.

We made it!

Layers of Hills

We passed by the sulphur miners, who risk their lives to go really close to the acidic crater lake and carry these heavy baskets of solid sulphur which can be as heavy as 90kg I heard, down the hill. I was a bit taken aback when this miner saw me with camera and asked me to take picture of him. Of course he expected some return, cigarette or small tip.

The Sulphur Porter

When we finally arrived at the peak, we first noticed the smoke that rose from the big "hole".

smoke

Walking along the outer circle of the caldera, and feel ignorant of the danger that lurks right below us. Imagine if the volcano suddenly becomes agitated, I don't think we can run away. Our guide, Bajo told us that we should go before daylight to see the "Blue Fire" of Ijen, a phenomenon most visible at night when the sulfur catch fire and burns with blue flames. However, we decided to give it a miss due to budget-constraint and the lack of proper gear.

along the crater

no joke, danger

sulphuric acid

Danger! Of course, with the acidity of the lake as low as pH 0.5 I don't think anyone wants to have even a droplets of the water to land on the body.

Last but not least, tourist pictures for all of us wa ha ha.

oh the group

kawah ijen

Getting to Ijen Crater was not easy. From Surabaya Juanda airport, the car ride took us almost 7 hours to reach the Arabica Homestay where we spent a night. The ride up the mountain was... not fun at all.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

East Java, so many VOLCANOES!

Back from Indonesia. Experienced another very different world. Other than the looooooooong rides from one place to another, the views of the volcano craters, the mountainous ranges, milky ways, are magnificent to behold.

Yeah, we were so excited we flew up. 興奮到飛起.

me, the levitating man

swen the petite asian

marcus the cartoon guy

The above-the-clouds photos were taken right beside the Ijen crater.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Japan: Nikkō and Zen「日光・禅」

Zen Hostel

It is actually my most anticipated stay throughout my travel in Japan. Having read the blogs, reviews, introductions of Zen hostel and Nikkō, I couldn't stop telling YN about my expectations before we went to Japan and even when we were in Tokyo.

We communicated using Viber, Scout, the owner of the Zen Hostel and me, to let him know which train I was taking. It had been a hassle-free arrangement, I arrived at Shimo-goshiro station(下小代駅)from Tokyo and he was already there waiting for me at the platform. Well, I had been wondering if Scout was an old Japanese that went abroad for work and then retired now, operating a hostel as pastime to meet people from all around the world. Turned out, he is a Caucassian! How rare in Japan!

We arrived at the hostel, after passing by village houses and winding roads. The hostel is definitely as described, very remote... However, this was what I had been looking forward to! As promised, Kurokawa(黒川)river was there flowing right beside the hostel!

Local, fishing

Staring at Kurokawa and the clarity of the water, I was seriously amazed. It started to drizzle, and Scout told me it hadn't been raining for weeks and he looked so glad to have the rain coming down. Since I was not going anywhere, I might as well take out the goggles and shorts, prepare to wade into the river!

Smile

Being on my own, I have no one to take picture for me, therefore I might as well use my iPhone and take a picture. My friends were even amazed (LOL) at how I was able to use the self timer of the iPhone in order to capture the atmosphere. After all, holding the camera on my hand to take picture of myself was not able to compose much.

A swim in the Kurokawa

Despite the drizzles, the water was cold and refreshing, and I was able to stay inside for about 10 minutes before the chill started to get into me.

Then I started to go wild with Scout's bicycle in Minami-Okorogawa.

In the morning, when the weather was good, Kurokawa sparkled in the sunlight. It was really too hard not to look away and not to admire the beauty of the river. Not to mention about another dip into the crystal clear water. Swam with fishes, yeah, literally, I saw some small Sakanas swimming in the water.

Kurokawa & Zen Hostel

Feel like a fish

Transparent

Sparkling river

Wade

After another dip

Ahhh... Total number of swims in Kurokawa: 3. That's 3 out of 3 nights while I was there. The river was simply irresistible.

Back to the Zen Hostel. Interesting history about this hostel, it was once an Onsen club house. Scout cleverly turned the Onsen area into one of the biggest shared bathrooms I have ever seen. I stayed in the only common room of the hostel. Tatami, and Futon, the Japanese style.

IMG_7199

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They offer dinner option too. Dinner? 1000 yen pizza, totally worth it. Surprisingly Scout is very good in cooking. The pizza was amazingly well made, generously topped with vegetables and mushrooms from the local farm. Breakfasts? Again, all of us, the guests were surprised by how delicious they were.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Japan: Nikkō and Minamiokorokawa 「日光・南小來川」

杉の路, Path of Sugi

If I never step out of my own comfort zone, and try to do something that I have never tried, i.e. travelling on my own to somewhere totally new to me, perhaps Nikkō would just be another world heritage site hidden within Japan Travel Guides.

When the cool summer wind caressed my cheeks as I sped down the road lined up with Japanese Cedar trees, blissfulness filled my lungs and body. The sun rays illuminated the misty mountains with such warmness that I was unable to stop myself from admiring.

pentration of light

Sugi Forest

after rain

peaceful escape

This is not written chronologically, as Nikkō trip is my personal trip which happened near the end of my Japan Kantō trip.

Departed from Wei Ann's hotel in Kashiwa, taking a detour to Asakusa, and purchased the All Nikkō Pass from Tōbu Tourist Center, and then rushed to the Tōbu Nikko(東武日光線)train with my packed lunch from a nearby convenience store. A two-hours train ride in slight drizzles to arrive in Shimo-Goshiro(下小代駅)and picked up by a Caucassian which is the Zen Hostel's host, Scout. Thanks to Japanese punctuality, the train timings make life easier in planning trips.

Without having to go anywhere but spending time around the hostel for one full day, if you give me this option, I would love to do that again. The hostel is located at Minami-Okorokawa(南小來川), a peaceful countryside with Kurokawa(黒川)flowing through the village. Been there, experienced, this village was the kind of village that I imagined I would have lived in if I was born to a countryside. Roam around the countryside with friends of similar age, dive into the crystal clear river, catch freshwater fish with barehand and barbeque at the riverside with wet body while drying myself beside the fire.

I was able to fulfilled part of the dream, which would not be possible without a bicycle loaned from the hostel. Here it is, something that came in handy here!

Paddy field

I cycled like a child, going up and down the slopes without feeling tired at all. Despite it was mid-Summer, it felt so comfortable here. And I explored the world, with my curiousity pushing me forward.

A sight so common in Japan, is the water sprout that people rinse the hands and mouth to cleanse themselves at sacred temples. A temple in Minami-Okorokawa was like a sanctuary, for pilgrims who are seeking the enlightenment. Quiet.

Dragon that blesses

Imagine when I saw the foggy mountain ranges!

Misty Mountains

Especially easily viewable from anywhere in the countryside.

Mountains everywhere

I couldn't stop the inner-voice from screaming silently.

in good spirit

I want to stay here for a longer time, I want to come back in the future, I want to... This is exactly the escape I want.