What’s there at Norilsk, Russia

No, I did not get to go. I did not get an invitation to visit this most Northern industrial city in the world. But I saw this , by Elena Chernyshova. And now I am so moved, I’d decided I had to share this – in part due to my personal fascination for the country’s history, and also for those who would read this space for the same reasons. I work at whatever I’m at, unsure if I’ll ever get there. But honestly, I doubt I could do that, ever.

Most of us probably wouldn’t have a chance to visit, much less to make a positive impact to many of these places in the world. I am thankful the the Internet, despite having complained about our over reliance on it briefly a few posts back.

So for those of you who are interested, watch the short interview with Elena Chernyshova. And hear her out, you almost never get the daylight there. The narrow corridors between buildings – that which we would avoid usually – were the very things that kept them away from the strong winds.

It’s amazing. It’s simply too amazing for words.

All around Kyoto







Countless temples and shrines dot the city of Kyoto, a place that has such great historical value that I wouldn’t have missed it when in Japan. Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines are a common sight, but I could never have enough of looking at these unique structures.


Kyoto is often represented by the Kinkaku-ji, or Golden Pavilion. This is a Zen temple that stands over a large pond in Northern Kyoto, and the top levels are covered with gold leaf. I would have tried to get a better view if there weren’t so many tourists – this is the back of the pavilion; so do visit the site to check out the actual view you’ll get when you’re there! In any case, a teahouse sits nearby along the path to the exit.

Instead of joining the endless crowds, I decided to make my way out of the area and head off to somewhere that is undeniably packed with culture and history…IMG_0791If the study of the religion might not be aligned with your interests, take a look at these amazing architecture and the intricacies! A typical place to visit when in Kyoto would be the Higashiyama District along Kyoto’s Eastern slopes. This historical site is well preserved and gives the experience of walking through ancient Kyoto – narrow lanes are decorated with stone statues and little shops. Just within the vicinity you’ll be able to find about ten or more temples/shrines! 

IMG_0869It is a peaceful walk around the Higashiyama region. Most tour groups would visit the Kiyomizudera Temple (so if you’re not a fan of crowds, go early in the morning!). I’ve chosen to share the picture of Chionin Temple above, because of its serene environment. Most temple entrance fees are about 200 – 400 Yen, so do prepare some cash for your activities. And check on the reconstruction / preservation works before visiting!


Osaka Castle

Ever wondered what might be unique of an Asian / Japanese castle? IMG_0358

This is the Osaka Castle.
It’s history is fascinating – this wasn’t the original structure built! It was once meant to be the centre of a unified Japan during Hideyoshi’s time. However, the castle was destroyed following his death, and the rebuilt version was then struck by lightning. What we see here was built in 1931 and had somehow survived the war.

I’d spent half a day around the castle grounds. The castle was a museum that detailed the history of the castle, battles, and Hideyoshi’s life. It was interesting, but I was more keen to look at the stone walls and moats surrounding the castle tower. Take a walk around the castle grounds and gardens!


PS: If you’re planning a visit, it’s easily accessible by the JR Osakajokoen Station. Step off the train, out the station, and keep walking around what seems like an entire imperial city! It’s beautiful!


Somewhere southwest of Hiroshima sits an island bursting with culture – Miyajima. Miyajima is a sacred site for Shintoism and Buddhism, and also boasts a highly-forested peak Misen San. To get to Miyajima, you can take 15minute ferry from Hiroshima.


Miyajima’s most significant sight might be the enormouse torii gate and the Itsukushima shrine. The shrine is a complex structure of various temples, bridges and walkways. Due to its proximity by the waters, the entire structure appears to be floating during high tide.

IMG_0257Wild deers inhabit the island, and there are several signs around the town warning visitors not to feed the deer. Unfortunately, too many people fail to abide, at times causing the deers to mistakenly attack the brochures in your hands thinking that it was food. I had a good walk around the island and found many other interesting historical sites, like the photo below, featuring the Senjokaku Hall hidden from sight.

IMG_0224On your next visit to Japan, do consider taking a trip out to Hiroshima and Miyajima! At least I know I will definitely be back to Miyajima for a next hiking trip!

Hiroshima Genbaku Dome

This is probably one of the most prominent sight in Hiroshima – the Atomic Bomb Dome, within part of the Peace Memorial park. . The Genbaku Dome stands exactly as it did after the bombing on August 6, 1945. IMG_0291

The building was once an exhibition hall, but had somehow stood intact post-war. While I appreciate the opportunity to see this historical site, I began to wonder about the impact of demolition vs preservation on the locals’ psyche. This applies for all historical sites that I’d visited – would it be worse to be reminded, or would it help to heal by knowing that it had not been forgotten?

For those who would like to go around the city, Hiroshima is easily accessibly by their convenient Hiroden tram lines. You can pay on board the tram, depending on where you’ll like to alight. If it helps, you can get more information from  http://www.hiroden.co.jp/train/rosenzu/streetcar_map.htm

And while at Hiroshima, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit nearby island Miyajima. More on it in the next post.

Japan: Hiroshima

That’s the view from Japan’s famous high-speed bullet train, shinkansen, while on my way from Osaka to Hiroshima. IMG_0150

I observed how everything was so orderly at their train stations. Directional signs were clear and precise; they had indications on the platform floors to indicate which types of trains and how many rows to stand in. My interpretation of the sign below is as such: for the JR Kyoto Line (the one with ‘JR’), this is Carriage 7; for the other type of train, there is no carriage. Please stand in lines of twos. IMG_0665

It seemed like an unspoken standard to be orderly and efficient. Everything was made for ease of comprehension, such that even if you didn’t speak the language, you could navigate the country without worries. It wasn’t my first time to Japan, and it still hasn’t failed to impress me each time I visited.

They’ve got a new series of JR 700 trains Hikari and Nozomi. The train ride from Osaka to Hiroshima will only take about 80minutes. If you’re a history fan like me, don’t miss this trip out!

XIV: Kazan Cathedral, St Petersburg

I found an old photo in the pile of Russian trip snaps and decided to share a brief post today. This is the Kazan Cathedral of St Petersburg, which caught my eye for plain simple reason that it so closely resembles St Peter’s Basilica in Rome! Imagine what I felt when I saw a Catholic-influenced building in a country known for its Russian Orthodox Church?!

Religion and politics aside, this building is impressive to look at and was ironically used in 1932 as a pro-Marxist museum that highlights the history of atheism. It has thereafter been returned to the Orthodox Church.

Kazan Cathedral 14

XIII: Russian Cruisor Aurora

A visit to St Petersburg warrants a trip to the Russian Cruisor Aurora. It might not sound like an exciting journey, but for those interested in military history, the Aurora is a protected/preserved cruisor moored at St Petersburg, now acting as a museum ship.Cruisor Aurora 10

This ship was one of the Pallada class of cruisors to serve in the Pacific Far East; its main foray was in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 and the Baltic Seas during WWI, The Aurora was used as a training ship thereafter and had even suffered damage and sunk during WWII. After extensive repairs, it was harboured at Leningrad and still is today (what we know of as St Petersburg). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Russian Cruisor Aurora is the oldest commissioned ship of the Russian Navy and is still manned by an active service crew. The little bits of history that sustains til today deserve a lot more focus and respect than we bother to give today. If you do make a trip to St Petersburg, remember to board and explore this cruisor!

Russia XII: Lenin’s Statue in St Petersburg

A recent read of Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe (Vintage), by Robert Gellately, brought my interest back to a statue I’d once seen years back during my stay in Russia.

I took residence in The Park Inn Pulkovskaya at St Petersburg, which stood behind the great Ploshchad Pobedy (known more to the West as Victory Square). The Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad features a sleek obelisk that reaches into the sky, surrounded by a sculptural ensemble at the pedestal of the obelisk.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASculptures representing soldiers, sailors and civilians who did not surrender despite hunger, cold and constant bombardment were featured. Beneath the elaborate Soviet monumental art dedicated to WWII housed a museum which held maps of Leningrad defense plans beneath. My fascination of the details in each sculpture and wild imaginations of them springing into action, as if the past still lingered, cannot be better expressed than by the two pictures below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What stood high above the rest was the vast statue of Lenin as he “directs” the crowds in a dominating stance. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It has been a long time since my visit to Russia; at times I wonder how much has changed in this country so rich in its history…