A Travellerspoint blog

July 2007

JUNE 2007 -Hong Kong, Lantau Island & Disneyland

A very brief entry from a very brief visit to Hong Kong

sunny 31 °C
View Seoul to Hong Kong on Bulls's travel map.


Hong Kong -"the fragrant harbour", was our last and the shortest trip out of Korea.
With Nick having only 1 day holiday left + the weekend, Maja and I set off a few days before to prepare the ground.

Before coming to Hong Kong we were a bit puzzled with "where would be the best place to stay". When we asked some different friends who had already been there, they gave us opposite suggestions all implying their options were the best.

Hong Kong comprises Hong Kong Island (the commercial heart of Hong Kong, almost futuristic skyscrapers with the offices of Asia's leading banks, trading companies, upmarket shopping malls and top class hotels) , Kowloon Peninsula ( mainly industrial and residential area with numerous factory outlets, street stalls bargains but also museums and parks), Lantau Island (the new airport, Disneyland) and The New Territories ( a big chunk of the mainland China ,mainly rural areas good for hiking) and some 260 other islands.

After some speculation we decided that we preferred to look at the famous Hong Kong skyline from the other side and stayed on Kowloon Peninsula in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) area. Although the most touristy it was also the most convenient place to stay -we got a good hotel deal -5 mins walking distance from the waterfront and Star Ferry that takes you to and from Hong Kong Island.

We arrived on wednesday evening, checked in at the hotel , quickly refreshed and went out for a bite to eat and to check out the neighbourhood. On the way we decided to get some take away and eat at the waterfront.
We followed the sign to the pier


and suddenly we were there with the most dramatic view of the city I think I have ever seen


It was the evening but still too early to be very dark. On the other side of the harbour we saw a silhoutte of mostly silver towering builidings with their peaks cut off in the clouds that hang over them like an old fashioned ladies' hat - covering and at the same time revealing but never giving the whole picture.


Unfortuantely looking at our snaps you might wonder what I am on about as they don't come anywhere close to what it really looked like !

I am a nature lover and don't usually get easily impressed by modern architecture. Although I always appreciate the original designs and brave ideas I have never felt like "WOW" until now.

The combination of the modern buildings, the green bushes in the background appearing and dispappearing from the palette of grey and dark blue clouds made the harbour look amazing as if it was one huge modern construction floating on the water or hanging off the clouds, depends which way you looked at it.

We got to the pier just in time for the Symphony of Lights - orchestration of music, decoration and laser lights and a pyrotechnic fireworks display with commentary in English and Chinese depending on the day of the week. The show takes place every evening (weather allowing) at 8 pm and lasts for about 13 minutes. With 43 buildings on both sides of the Victoria Harbour and participating in the show it made it to the Guiness Book Records as the largest permanent laser and light show in the world.
It is definetely worth a watch and can be best observed from the waterfront of TST (Avenue of Stars) or from the deck of the ferry.


After the show we decided to take a walk to the Star Ferry Terminal to check the opening times etc.
Having collected enough leaflets to organise our stay we went to Hong Kong Cultural centre -located just by the waterfront -to have a nose around and sit with a coffee/juice and plan our next few days.

The following morning the weather still didn't look very promising. We sat at the hotel by the huge glass window eating our breakfast and having watched people getting soaked on the street below we decided to go to the Ocean Park - although located mostly outdoors it also has a variety of indoor activities and some of Asia's biggest aquariums. We took the subway to get to the other side of the harbour and then a bus to the amusument park. The rain was easing a bit so it was actually all right to walk around in our raincoats. The park is located on the sides of the mountains of Aberdeen and offers fantastic views of the channel and mountains on the other side.
It is divided into 3 levels which can be reached by riding the cable car or using one of the world's longest outdoor sets of escalators. With a big variety of thrilling rides suitable for different ages, theatre shows (dolphins and sea lions),birds aviary , feeding schedules,some best aquariums in the world (Asia's biggest shark aquarium and world's largest reef aquarium), sea animals art and craft activities and many many more it should make a good day out for anyone not just a family with kids. Although it remained rainy and sticky for most of the day and we could not get on some of the rides as they were not operating due to the weather conditions or with Maja being only 4 -we were not allowed, we had a brilliant time! We left the camera at the hotel so we have no snaps from there but here is a good link for those interested to get a taste of it


While on the bus ride to/from the park we were able to have a closer look at the towers and buildings that we were admiring the night before from across the harbour. I was under the impression that the first (outside) "layer" of the buildings were grand but as we travelled further into the island more and more of the buildings looked pretty tired, neglected and were a big contrast to their flashy neighbours.... On the way we passed the Happy Valley with Hong Kong's Royal Jockey Club and also the cemetary which made a powerful impression on me, maybe because I always associate them with quiet spacious places on the outskirts or outside of towns and this one was quite the opposite -sunk somewhere amongst the buildings it looked so out of place -yet again all these souls were buried just there to rest in peace. It made me realise how every possible square meter of the Island had been used up.

The next day we went to Lantau Island and planned to go for a walk along the beach as well as to see the Big Buddha. We took the subway to get to the island and then a bus (about 1 hour drive) to get to the Buddha and the temple. There were some stunning views as the bus kept climbing up the mountain, the island looked pretty unspoiled and a nice place for hikes.


Unfortunately the weather wasn't any better then yesterday and just got worse as we got to the Buddha so we gave up on walks and we only hoped to get a glimpse of the Buddha from amongst the clouds!


We still had to walk up plenty of stairs to get a closer look at the Buddha


as well as the misty view below:


Once back in Kowloon we had a walk around the hotel area in the opposite direction to the pier. The streets were busy and the air so humid that we quickly decided to get back to the hotel especially as we didn't fancy any shopping and most of the streets were occupied by shops and traders. Maja didn't take long to fall asleep while I waited for Nick who was arriving later this evening.


It was an early start next morning and a big day for Maja -her (and ours ) first visit to Disneyland.
Thankfully the weather had totally changed overnight and we had a sunny day.

Disneyland is also located on the Lantau Island and you can get there by subway. The last part of the journey is on "Disney Resort" line where the train has Miki mouse shaped windows,statues of different Disney characters etc.
Maja just could not wait to get off that train ....she was sooooooo excited!

And so we arrived.


For some reason we didn't think it was gonna be that hot and didn't take any sun cream. With the sun getting stronger and stronger, Maja's white and easy to burn complexion and no shops selling sunblock on the horizon, we were in trouble. If you ever get yourself in such a situation remember there is always First Aid or Emergency room. Although the staff seemed a bit suprised with our request we got the cream and could enjoy the rest of the day without worrying about the sunburn.

So here there was no plan, we followed wherever Maja wanted to go. She made sure she got to say hello and get a hug from nearly all of the Disney classic characters which involved just a little bit of queueing:


Then we went to watch the 3D opera:


And after that the parade:


Having done and seen so much, there was still 1 character Maja kept on looking out for -the beautiful Cinderella.
She had seen her palace at the entrance and finally, towards the end of the day we spotted her near the gates. But as we joined the queue we were told that CInderella was finishing greeting kids for the day and was now going for dinner....just imagine our reaction....I told the woman they should block the road or something so other kids would not be able to see her and get their hopes up. However sorry I felt for Cinderella who had probably been smiling without the break for the last 10 hours (unless they had a twin sister) and was in need of a break and some food, I could not tell Maja that Cinderella wouldn't see her. There were simply no words in my mind that would justify the reason without breaking Maja's heart. So I went on and on, even said something like "We came here all the way from London to see Cinderella....", and after few minutes the woman took us on the side and advised that Cinderella will be passing through the nearby gate in a few minutes and if we wait there she will ask Cinderella to see Maja.....I was somehow suspicious that she was only trying to get rid of us but all we could do was to go to the gate and hope she would turn up.
I think the woman must have indeed said to "Cindy" that we came all the way from London as once she arrived she spent a good 5 minutes with Maja


and Maja.......................................................................................................................... was in heaven:


It was definetely worth the effort!!!

After that someone discovered the toy story zone and we were there forever!


Although it was hot and crowdy, watching Maja having so much fun and innocently believing in the fantasy world we were in made our day and at the end of it we were all sad to leave:


The next day we went to Hong Kong Island and took a tram on the 106 years old railway to the Victoria Peak. In the old days before the tram had been put in place, most people were carried to and from the Peak by the sedan chairs. The ride up is 1.4 km long and pretty steep but guarantees some fantastic views of the city on both sides of the harbour.


We spent some time on the top enjoying the views


and then came back down and walked around the Central. As it was sunday, the streets were closed and there were Filipino maids nearly everywhere you looked , sitting in small groups on mats with cool boxes, eating food or playing games. It was an extraordinary view because there were so many of them gathering just anywhere enjoying their only day off work.

As this was our last day and we didn't have enough time to walk the streets as we would like to, we took yet another tram. This time the 90 year old ricketydouble decker tram line operating through the centre from the west to the east side of the Island.


It was very old and narrow inside the tram with many people on it as it is the cheapest way to move along the route. We went on the top deck and after some time managed to get a seat. The train slowly transported us from the modern glamour of the commercial city, through the local markets


selling probably anything you wanted to the poorer residental districts in the east. We were glad we sat on the top as if we were at the bottom we would probably only see the nice shop windows etc. Being above allowed us to see more than just a glitz and tinsel of Hong Kong -the collosal numbers of apartments that looked like they were just piled on the top of each other. I couldn't help wondering how long it could all hold on.....


We spent our last evening in Hong Kong cruising the harbour and looking at the twinkling lights of a city with a great history that definately deserves more of the tourist's time than the average 24-48 hour shopping stopover in between other destinations.


And being there only a few days, looking at it from different heights and directions we felt like we hadn't seen it at all!

Posted by Bulls 07:42 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

MAY 2007 Buddha's Birthday

A Lotus Lantern Parade and another visit from London and Malaysia

sunny 15 °C

Lotus Lantern Festival is held every year in spring to celebrate Buddha's Birthday which falls on the eighth day of the forth month of the Lunar Calendar. It is an official holiday in South Korea and festival includes many programs for Buddhist as well as non -Buddhist locals and tourists to enjoy like - making lanterns, sampling temple food, traditional Korean games etc.

Although only 15% of Korean population (according to most statistics) consider themselves to be Buddhists at the moment -The Lotus Lantern Parade was definetely the most bright and colorful event we had seen in Korea. It attracted crowds of people of all ages,

from Korea as well as other countries,

that marched joyfully through the central streets of Seoul bringing the sounds of drums, dancing and chantings for enlightment and peace.


The parade was a real race of lanterns that came in many shapes and sizes, home made or state of the art ones representing different temples and Buddhist groups in shapes of the Buddha or Buddhist monks


scary dragons, animals and other creatures.


We only wished we knew more of what they were symbolising.

Our favourite however was a group with instruments made out of recyclable materials. They were definetely the most original and enthusiastic ones amongst the parade!!!



We ended the evening with the dinner in the restaurant near the temple where all the lanterns where going to, so we could still watch parts of the parade and enjoy the noise.

Just a few days before the festival, our friend from London Kai and his girlfriend Wisky arrived in Seoul for their holiday in Korea and Jeju Island.
Although they had their own itinerary and understandably wanted to spend as much time as possible in their own company, we managed to hook up with them a few times!
We all went on a cruise on the Han river, to celebrate our birthdays with a buffet dinner, some drinks and "live entertainment"! Although it was cheesy and as the average age of other cruisers indicated most popular amongst the elder Koreans, the food was good and so was the company so I think we all enjoyed it although we all lacked in courage ( or drinks consumption) for the boogie on the dance floor.....



Posted by Bulls 04:32 Archived in South Korea Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

MARCH APRIL 2007 Springtime in Korea

Time for Korean blossoms and good-bye to Maja's teacher

semi-overcast 13 °C
View Seoul to Japan part I on Bulls's travel map.


We always associate Japan with beautiful cherry blossom trees but Korea can be proud of them too.
When spring arrived blossoms seemed to be nearly everywhere but they looked most impressive in big spaces, attracting people back to the parks with their families, mats and picnic basket. It was an awesome view when the petals were flying in the air blown off the trees by the slightest wind.


Spring was my second favourite season in Korea, if not in the same place as autumn. It seemed as if it came overnight swapping shifts with winter, painting the city with colour, bringing warmth and fresh breeze of a not so fresh here air.So apart from our routine life of work, school etc we also took every opportunity to go to parks and enjoy the outdoors.


We also walked the streets again but usually without the camera, so haven't got many great snaps but here are some of my favourite:

"Spring" - a shell shaped sculpture in the centre of Seoul

Some street performances:


An original display of Korean dresses:


And a shop with some pretty fancy shoes (awaiting your orders):


With the winter over Maja had to stop her weekly acrobatics on ice but we soon found a replacement - a ballet class in the nearby centre. It is all conducted in Korean so I wasn't sure how Maja would find it but she didn't seem to mind and just followed the teacher and the other kids.


She also had to say good-bye to her school teacher who was leaving Korea and doing some more travelling in Asia. She'd been really good to Maja and Maja had grown very fond of her, so as a farewell, we all went to dinner in a Buddhist restaurant that served "vegetarian temple food".


This month we didn't like:

"the yellow dust/cloud or sand dus/cloud" - the unpleasant side of spring in Korea and other Asian countries, it originates from the deserts of Mongolia, China and Kazahstan and is carried eastwards over Koreas, Japan, Russia as sometimes as far as the US . The clouds components include many toxic pollutants from solphur, ash, carbon minoxide, heavy metals such as mercury, copper, zinc etc, and also different viruses, pesticides, bacteria and what have you. As the cloud comes and goes sporadically the warnings are issued on TV, radio as well as sent to you mobile. Depending on the scale of the wind you are either advised to keep your outdoor activities to a minimum and while outside to wear a mask and shower properly from head to toe on your return or in the extreme cases refrain from going out, stay at home and keep your windows shut.
The list of side effects is probably as long as the list of its components so won't go into the details here but the main ones are -decreased invisibility (as its nickname indicates -the air looks yellow and leaves a layer of yellow dust on everything after the rain -best seen on cars if you brave enough to draw a line with your finger...), variety of health problems from sore throats to asthma and could be fatal for those who already have respiratory problems,harmful to wildlife, farmlands....and so it goes....

Posted by Bulls 04:08 Archived in South Korea Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

APRIL 2007-kaleidoscope of ancient & modern Japan -part III

Paper cranes in Hiroshima and red colours of Miyajima

semi-overcast 13 °C



It is difficult to say why we came to Hiroshima. All other cities we had visited in Japan where the obvious tourists hot spots, rich in cultural heritage and filled with countless attractions and fun things to do.
Although plenty of tourists visit Hiroshima every year I find it difficult to put it down on the same list of places we've been to so far.
The city's main attraction is ironically one of the greatest human tragedies, a terrific disaster to its nature and its people fully scripted and actioned by powers of other human beings on the 6th of august 1945 who turned this once military but also an educational city into the first atomic bomb target.


Standing on the soil that has once, within seconds been burnt to ash and facing some of the reminders of this horrific event, one can't believe the horrors that had happened in this city:

The A-bomb Dome, the only blast survivor left in ruins, a naked skeleton of a building that had once proudly stood and served as an Industrial Promotion Hall has now become and eternal reminder of the sufferings and a symbol of a total destruction that took upon Hiroshima.


Across the river from the A-bomb Dome, there is the Peace Memorial Park stretching behind the T- shaped bridge which was the actual target used by the bombardier.
It is dotted with memorials


The Cenotaph that includes all the known names of the victims (excluding the Korean ones who have a separate memorial) and is believed to serve as an arch for the souls to hide from the rain. There is a flame burning beneath the arch and it is to be extinguished once the last nuclear weapon on earth has been destroyed.


Further along the park there is the Children's Peace Memorial


inspired by one of the victims Sadako, who at the age of 10 developed leukimia and decided to fold 1000 paper cranes -the Japanese symbol of longevity and happiness- hoping that once she achieved her target she would recover. Unfortunately Sadako passed away having completed her 644th crane. She was buried with 1000 cranes, the remaining 356 made for her by her schooldfriends.
The paper folding of the cranes continues up to this day and the monument is surrounded by milions of them, sent or delivered from schools from all over the country.

Each day we came back to our hotel room we would also find a different paper crane folded for us by the room-maid and in hope for peace in the world.

The Memorial Mound


Although you probably find yourself like us feeling deeply touched, sorry and angry for what had happened here -especially while you are at the museum, where exhibits speak for themselves and the model showing the town after the blast makes it easier to imagine it although you are probably still nowhere near the reality of those days- the town is far from depressing.And it is all thanks to the citizens who have recovered and on the contrary remained in their town and managed to build a new city of a tranquil yet modern atmosphere and also rebuild some of its previous attractions. If anything it gives you inspiration and hope and shows how much us human beings can achieve on both - bad and good fronts. It reminds us how precious our life is and how little time it takes to destroy it!


The Hiroshima Castle and one of the trees that had survived the blast and kept growing:


And while visiting in the castle Nick and Maja got to wear traditional Japanese costumes and grins:




Designated as a World Cultural Heritage, Miyajima is an island that makes a perfect day trip if you are staying in Hiroshima (although if you enjoy nature you can easily spend a few more days here!). It can be reached from Hiroshima by a train, followed by a short ferry crossing.


On the day of our trip we were very lucky with the weather - the sun was shining and the sky was blue which contrasted nicely with the red colours of the famous "floating" O-Torii gate (classified as one of the "three Japanese best views), the shrine and the 5 -storied pagoda.
The island's corret name is Itsukushima taken from the Itsukushima shrine located on the island since the 6th century, although its present form comes from the early 12th century. The island had (and I suppose still has) a holy status and people were not allowed to set the foot on the island unless they approached the shrine - constructed in a form of a pier - on the boat , going first through the O-Torii gate.


We walked around the gate for a while and then decided to climb the sacred Mt Misen - 535m above the sea level, not too high but those who did the walk know how difficult and fairly steep it was in places.

We passed by the Daisho-In Temple

-one of the most prestigous temples in Western Japan. This is where we found why the little statues of Bosatsu (Buddhist monks) are wearing the red bibs and caps like babies - the parents who have lost their children take good care of them as though they were their lost children.

We also came across the statue of Tengu, who with his wings and a long nose has been considered to posses supernatural powers since the ancient times and is indispensable to the holy sites on mountains in Japan. It reminded me of our Polish "Duch Gor" -The Ghost/ Patron of the Mountains-.


During the walk,Maja needed some serious encouragement from time to time and with a little help of daddy's back and the promise of an ice-cream afterwards (always works!), she proudly made it to the peak.


The views from the top were magnificent and as the walk back would be same as the walk up- mostly through the forest - we decided to make our way down using the cable car and enjoy the views just a little bit longer. It was fun!


There is plenty of other attractions on the island -for example the Eternal Fire Hall which shelters the fire, lit by Kyobo Daishi (who underwent the ascentic practise for 100 days on the mountain in the autumn of 806) and believed to have been burning for 1200 years! This fire was used to lit the Flame of Peace in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
The island is full of cultural assets and various spiritual sites located mainly on the mountain, "wonders of nature" and "Miyajima's living miracles" as advertised on the leaflet together with traces of travels of famous worshippers which are probably very interesting to the followers but wouldn't have much significance to us.
Still, we found the place absolutely stunning. The shrine and temples "co-exist" with perfect harmony with nature, that has been kept totally intact creating a magnificent scene for anyone who visits.

Here is what we found on the slopes of the mountain, a perfect description of the place put into words by the First World War poet Edmund Blunden who must have visited the mountain during his life- if you click on the picture it should enlarge:


This month we also liked:


very sad and very true:
"Eyewitness Testimonies Appeals From The A-bomb Survivors"
"Hiroshima" John Hersey could not describe it better then The New York Times did on the back of its cover -"...nothing can be said about this book that can equal what the book has to say. It speaks for itself, and in an unforgettable way, for humanity..."

learning how to fold the paper cranes: get your colour square paper ready:


Posted by Bulls 09:45 Archived in Japan Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

APRIL 2007-kaleidoscope of ancient and modern Japan -part II

Templed out in Kyoto and Nara

semi-overcast 13 °C
View Seoul to Japan part I on Bulls's travel map.



Once we arrived in Kyoto our slight disappointment with Mount Fuji's "poor hospitality" towards us, was quickly replaced by the zing and excitement of being in Japan's most beautiful and most "Japanese city" -according to the worlwide reputation.

However, if you arrive like us by train, you will be first impressed not by -what Kyoto is best known for -rich cultural heritage of the ancient Japan (17 Unesco World Heritage Sites)-but one of the largest buildings in Japan -the very futuristic and modern building of the Kyoto Station. It will also take you back into the 21st century when your visit to Kyoto is over.


We had only a couple of full days to explore it with an extra day for the trip to nearby Nara. With a late evening arrival, also a late departure and a trip to Nara we decided to stay in the ryokan located near the station and save some time on commuting to and fro.
It proved to be a good choice as it was handy and very comfortable and compared to Tokyo's one - recently renovated and very clean. The room was specious and once Maja was fast asleep in bed (read: on futon) we could sit on the little "balcony" and reflect on our busy day and plan the next one while sipping green tea...or indulging ourselves in Japanese beer and delicious desserts....


Although most scenic and beautiful spots are located west, east, south and north of the city centre as if embracing all that is new, there are also a few highlights in the central part of the city which we decided to explore first.

We went to Nijo Castle -built at the beginning of the XVII century. It first served as an official residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns until the country's sovereignty had been returned to the Emperor in the XIX century and the castle became the property of the Imperial Family.

Passing through the fortification and over the moat to stand on the hill overlooking the castle grounds with its palaces and gardens, you're guaranteed to be taken back in time.



But if your mind keeps drifting back to the present day wait until you go through old wooden gates and enter the reception rooms and the original "nightingale floor" starts squeaking under your feet as you walk along!



Of course the castle wouldn't be short of blossoming trees that come in all colours and variations and it even has its own "blossom calendar":


We have also visited "nearby" -well still centrally located- Imperial Park surrounding The Imperial Palace although we didn't go to the palace as you need to prebook your tour well in advance and also because we didn't have enough time.

It was getting late in the afternoon when we went to wander the streets of Gion district hoping to catch a glimpse of a geisha passing by. The place felt very aunthentic with its streets lit by lanterns, decorated with vivid colour ribbons and lined up with original old wooden buildings that served as restaurants, souvenir shops or exclusive teahouses -"geisha retreats" where patrons may pay more then $4000 to spend an evening in the company of 2 or 3 geisha.

According to the guide book the evening in a teahouse begins with an exquisite dinner presented in accordance with strict rules of ettiquette and geisha (or maiko-apprentice geisha) introducing herself in Kyoto dialect while the client eats his dinner. Next comes shamisen (traditional 3 string instrument) performance, followed by a traditional fan dance and of course the service of pouring drinks, lighting cigarettes and bantering.

Unless you are introduced by an established patron it is almost impossible to enter the a Gion teahouse and witness a geisha performance with the exceptions of annual public performances or dance presentations or.... watching more or less dodgy posts on YouTube!


And today the luck was on our side - we managed to see quite a few, possibly on the way to/from their appointments or theater shows.


Once in Gion we went to Gion Corner to observe tea ceremony, Moribana -a flower arrangement, a performances of Kyoto music, an ancient comic play and a traditional Kyoto dance performed by beatifully and colorfully dressed Maiko and Geisha. At the end we also watched a puppet play where the actors operating life size puppets are also present on stage although dressed completely in black.


It was an interesting experience although it felt a little stiff and dry.

After that we went back to the central part of Kyoto to see what the modern Kyoto's night life and streets look like.
Unfortunately only to a certain extend as our own little puppet was getting a bit tired. We found a nice place to eat (deep fried noodles served and then crashed with salad and other bits, delicious!) and headed back to ryokan.
On the way we popped into an internet/manga cafe to check our emails:


and of course some MANGA


Although the central part of Kyoto is a very modern place with neon lights,big shopping arcades, modern architecture etc Kyoto's ancient vibe does not leave you for a minute. Many people move around on old bikes, you see many women and men casually wearing their kimonos, there are plenty of little shops or stands serving traditional foods and snack -we had delicious grilled rice cakes topped with succulent caramel.

Here is a view of a temple at night:


The next day we went to the outskirts of town and visited quite a few temples which seemed to be appearing anywhere like "mushrooms after rain". After walking from one to another we were totally templed out and decided just to walk along and enjoy the serenity of nature without stopping by:


While walking we came across not an average VIP you might think of - the moss boss and his numerous faces


and here he is at his best, stretching amongst the trees like a green carpet decorated with red flowers:




While staying in Kyoto we visited nearby Nara (40 min train journey) -the first permament capital of Japan (before that capitals were moved from place to place with the passing of each emperor according to native Shinto taboos about deaths) and a second only to Kyoto as a repository of Japan's cultural legacy (8 Unesco World Heritage Sites ). In size Nara is quite small so we were able to see most important sights and attractions but we could easily have spent another day or two there and explore some of the more distant sights as well.

Most of the attractions are situated in Nara-koen area -a park on the eastern side of the city. It is within a walking distance from the JR station and the whole area can be easily covered by foot.

Temples and shrines are Nara's biggest attractions. Buddhism first flourished here along with traditional Japanese Shinto religion under the strong patronage of succesive emperors and empresses.


The park is also home to an estimated 1100 deer which today hold a status of National Treasure and in pre-Buddhist times were considered messengers of the gods.


You can see them roaming all over the park but mainly at the entrances to temples looking out for tourists with food. You can buy special buiscuits for them but if you are with children you should try to do it discreetly as their eyes are watching you all the time and the moment you hand out something to one you 'll be surronded by the others sniffing and biting your pockets which can be a little scary and intimidating.

Nara's star attraction is Todai-Ji temple and Daibutsu-den Hall


which is considered the largest wooden building in the world sheltering the enormous statue of the Buddha (16m high, 437 tonnes of bronze and 130 kg of gold!).
The statue represent the cosmic Buddha -the centre of the universe, believed to give rise to all worlds and their respective historical Buddhas,


There is also a tall wooden pole with a hole the size of Buddha's nostril. It is believed that once you squeeze through it you become enlightened. We wanted to have a go but would have to dedicate half a day to it by joining a long que of schoolkids on their way to illumination!


Outside the hall there is a "healing statue" (sorry I cannot remember the name) and again according to beliefs if you touch it with "a suffering part" of your body it will be healed.


We walked around the park, admiring the scenery and the old architecture that survived through wars, fires and other disasters.


On the way back we came across a Buddhist celebration. We tried to find out what it was but nobody could speak English although they tried to explain it to us by gestures mainly pointing at Buddha.


Maja went to get a closer look and say hello to a beautifully dressed Japanese girl, who in return gave her a colorful flower to keep.


Accompanied by fog and drizzle throughout the entire day,we really enjoyed Nara and wish we had more time to explore this little town , go to museums and see some more of the local people and their ways of life ...


This month we also liked:

"Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken." Frank Herbert

"Memoirs of the Geisha"- strongly critised however still a great film!

Maja posing with Kitty - her favourite character !


watching Japanese Matrix on YouTube (now we know where they get the idea from)
here is our favourite:


Posted by Bulls 14:55 Archived in Japan Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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