Snoopy’s World

Are you a fan of Snoopy and Charlie Brown?

Here’s an activity for the non-tourists, who prefer to take a different route from your travel guidebook. On my way back to the Sha Tin train station from the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery, I chanced upon this:IMG_0708

I walked around the pillars and found the entrance to what was known as ‘Snoopy’s World’.IMG_0746

It’s free of charge, and there really isn’t much to do unless you have children. There isn’t much I can tell you, except that it’s connected to the New Town Plaza shopping mall. Snoopy World isn’t crowded – again, it isn’t a touristy area. Drop by at least, just to take a few pictures of these familiar characters! IMG_0727

Ten Thousand Budhha Monastery in Hong Kong

On a recent trip to various countries, I had a short stopover at Hong Kong. It was a familiar city to be in, and I really wasn’t a tourist anymore.

I chanced upon the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery located in Sha Tin in the New Territories. This temple overlooks Sha Tin and gives a beautiful view of Hong Kong’s village areas. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This Buddhist complex comprises of 5 temples and a beautiful pagoda. It’s a long walk up, and the 431-steps route is lined with thousands of Buddhist statues (hence the name). The pagoda is accessible by a spiral staircase. Inside, you will find gold statues at each of the windows over-looking the temple compound. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You will also find in the main temple, over ten thousands miniature golden Buddha statues lining the inner walls. However, respecting the compound’s rules, I am unable to share any photos. I could however say – do visit when you can!

The higher you get to, the more elaborate the statues. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you keep walking past the main hall, you will find another pathway that takes your journey further up the bamboo-lined hillside. The upper terrace houses a huge Kwan Yin statue before a waterfall, and many statues lining a bridge around a pond. The Jade Emperor Hall is also situated at the upper terrace (This was also where I’d met the man on a journey.) Once again, I am unable to share these photos, but would strongly encourage you to visit if you have a chance. To get to this magnificent temple, take the most convenient transport in Hong Kong – the MTR. Head towards the Sha Tin station and walk towards Exit B. Keep walking towards the Home Centre Shopping centre, and you’ll find the start of the walk on the left of a little street. I guess it hasn’t been a popular location for tourists because of its religious nature and the fact that it isn’t exactly easily accessible. Nonetheless, I ask – do we procrastinate and wait, or do we seize the opportunity to see these amazing things around the world?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

man on a journey

Having just returned from a multi-city trip, I was filled with inspiration and new perspectives to life. I climbed 509 stone steps to the top of a Cathedral; I walked over 430 steps to see a Buddhist monastery. And of all things that got me writing here, it wasn’t the view – it was a man I met on one excursion.

I stepped out of the Jade Emperor Hall, which took another 69 steps or so to get to after reaching the main monastery ground. A Caucasian man, breathing heavily, appeared at the steps. He was in his sixties, and had come alone. He held his camera  precariously as he took his last step and walked towards the Hall. For a moment I stopped and observed.

His movement was slow; his right hand was shaking vigorously, and he had a slight hunch as he made his way forward. He packed his point & shoot camera into his pocket and smiled briefly. Parkinson’s, I first noted. Then it came to me that there in the advanced stages of the disease, dementia might occur. It all hit me with a bunch of questions, and a strange surge of emotions brought me close to tears

His hands were shaking, but his determination wasn’t. He had walked so far up the hill to see this religious compound. What about the local people? How much has tradition died out in the country, that it has only become a place where foreigners visit?

Some day he might not remember, but his photos would give him an impression that he had been there; or maybe not. But he still chose to take a shot. See if before he could no longer. What about us – what about the rest of us who choose to sit and whine about wishing to do something, but never get down to it?

I watched him for awhile. He looked up at the religious statues, and I wondered what went through his mind. I quietly hoped that all would be well for him, and took my leave.

This man on a journey got me to realise that if there was so much I wished to do, I had to do it without procrastination. While we all have this resolve, we don’t seem to keep it in mind long enough. Let’s try…

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.

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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!

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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!

Miyajima

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.

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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.

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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!

where am i?

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten online. Took some time off thinking about life, and just as I was thinking, I got hungry. I seldom post about food, but I realised too that food is so representative of a culture or nation that I needn’t say and you’ll know where this comes from.

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Know where this is? Give it a guess, and do expect more posts about this place soon!

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.

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