Hi, I am Ken from Singapore. Travelling to me is really a moment of truth when finally I can let my hair down from working almost 300 days each year and explore the world and look at nature, culture, food, people from a different perspectives and appreciate what I have been missing out.
As the saying goes, "All Work no Play makes Ken a dull boy" :-)
Many of us know that Gardens By the Bay doesn’t just consist of 1 dome but 2. In addition, there is also the non-domed area where we can see the Super Trees! The Super Trees reaches far into the skies at 16 stories high (~50 metre tall) … If one has the guts, there is the OCBC Skyway (~22 metres tall excluding the tree dome that is) that allows you to walk between two Super Tree at height with a panaromic view of the Garden as well. While the views are unique by the day (though hot haha…), it is even more picturesque and colorful in the night!
Well … if one happen to be around in the evening, this musical symphonic is definitely worth watching with the colors on the Super Tree moving in synchronization to the spectacular music! The musical spectacular is on daily for about 15-20min if I am not wrong, at two timings of 7:45pm and 8:45pm. And what’s more, it is FREE 🙂 🙂 🙂 … to be honest, there is not much good stuff in Singapore that comes free hehe!
Coming back to topic hehe …. whilst the Garden has more to offer (most of the contents are in the hot sun during the day) … the other worthy destination in my opinion to explore without breaking into perspiration would be the Flower Dome. It is another spectacular dome that showcases plants and flower collections from different parts of the world …. from as dry and arid as South Africa desert to flowery displays from Australian to Mediterranean theme!
Look at the Dragon & Galloping Horses sculptures that are complemented among the foliage and floral here … I don’t think I saw them the last time I was here 3 years ago. It seems that the garden theme changes every now and then! Also do not just look at the plants at eye level. This dragon photo taken is way above head level. One would never see it without looking up! Also the subsequent photo of the Galloping Horses … they have to be sighted across the opposite gallery … and could be easily missed out as well.
Oh yes … not forgetting the giant Orangutan romping among the flowers and grass. Did you spot the Orangutan ? Hope you didn’t manage to miss it …hahaha!
There are flowery sections featuring the Australian & South American gardens like those below …
And of course the trademark flowers from Singapore … more aptly called the Orchid nation …hahah … where our Singapore Botanic Gardens have cultivated and grown so many new species of Orchids and named them after famous dignitaries that have visited this little Red Dot here.
This year is SG50, Singapore’s 50th Birthday since gaining Independence in 1965. So there is quite a fair bit of the Flower Dome themed to items uniquely Singapore. Catch it soon or miss it until 50 years later at SG100 \(^-^)/
On the whole, there is really a good deal of walking to be done, and I didn’t manage to complete my quest to visit all the segments in this nice Dome though I did visited the bulk of it so much so that even my camera’s battery went flat after taking lots of photos! To reward those that still have stamina after touring the two domes and the Supertree grove, you could then chill off at Satay by the Bay … probably about 100-200 metres walking distance, enjoying a nice glass of cold beer with traditional Singaporean food like Satay, Fried Chicken Wings, Fried Kuay Teow and the likes… Yummy! Yummy!
Yes, there are many gardens in the world. Gardens with nice themes, beautiful flowers, historic relevance even nice accompanying weather. But there would be nothing like this in the world that can only be found on the little red dot on the map, called Singapore.
Singapore … a humid and hot country all year round, maybe wet sometimes but still humid all the same. Small country, but nevertheless, after the visit to Gardens by the Bay, I am almost certain that the beautiful sights in this garden will keep you going and going and going … and until you feel that you are too tired to go on anymore, that your legs are just about to give way below 🙂 …. that’s just how good it can get!
The moment one steps into the Cloud Dome, you will be greeted by the majestic manmade waterfall ~ 35metres above thundering down …. sending gusts of cold air towards you. Spraying anyone that dares to approach closer with fine water droplets but wet all the same… in that split second, one could almost feel transported magically out of the humid and hot environment of Singapore into a new world of tropical rainforest area more than 1000m above sea level, one that is cool, colorful and damp!
As one marches onwards from this spectacular sights, one could see the ‘mountain’ top covered in misty clouds …
Using the ‘advances of technology’, one could take the ‘elevator’ and quickly transport oneself to the top of the mountain to enjoy the bird’s eye view from the top!!! (Lol … if this is a real mountain … that would be really an advanced technology haha!)
After reaching the peak of the ‘mountain’, one could sit by the large lake where the water of this lake eventually flows down the waterfall. It’s not exactly like this but just imagine …. put your imagination to work :)))
And as one makes his journey down the mountain, one can see the lush vegetation on the mountains, and the beautiful flowers that co-exists in the tropical vegetations along the way… not to mention signs left behind by mysterious tribes that inhabit these highlands …
After walking for what seems like minutes whilst being totally absorbed by the amazing sights that this ‘mountain’ offers, one just realized that hours has actually past! And suddenly … you spotted what looks like a cave into the mountain!
Within the mountain, you spotted what looks like deposits of semi-precious stones !!! Oh Wow!!! It’s of the likes that one had never seen before!
Right at the exit of the cave that we have just found … stands a statue. Looks like the native tribes have staked their ownership here. Maybe this could be their sacred ground ??
Well … this amazing dome’s story doesn’t end here. There is much more to be explored, to be recorded, to be photographed, to be experienced … but I shall not let the cat out of the bag. I shall stop my writing here… Isn’t it time for lunch? A hunger pang has suddenly strike me … hahaha! Till the next time that I write again, Ciao! 😛
Shirahama is a onsen-resort town by the south coast of Wakayama. By train, it would take roughly 1hour 30min to reach from Wakayama as I don’t remember there being any express or rapid-express train for stops into the countryside, therefore the train stops at every stop until Shirahama station … and it does feel really long. Looking back on the trip made to Shirahama, I really do feel that 2 days would be a good enough time to explore this resort town, which I only had about 3/4 day then. So I couldn’t really explore this place to satisfaction having allocated some time to the Adventure Park for the children in our travelling party.
At Shirahama, though there were 3 buses abound that could bring us to the various attractions around for about 300-400yen per pax, the waiting time is quite long for about easily 15-20mins plus. If one drove up from Wakayama, I am pretty sure that this place could be covered in a better and faster manner, with a better opportunities for good photo-shots (and less walking hahaha!).
This was the only good shot from within the bus while headed towards Senjojiki. Well … the ideal shots were to capture the sunrise or sunset within the hole of Engetsu giving some of the most beautiful pictures. For whatever reason, we decided to give that a skip and didn’t return back here after the bus passes by this location. I guess we were leg-fatigued with too much walking by the time we were done with other places.
Senjojiki sandstone was probably the best place among other locations in our 1-day trip to Shirahama. It is most unique in the way the surface layers presents itself from the consistent erosion by the waves from Pacific Ocean over time.
Subsequently we made our way to Sandanpeki by foot that was about 3 bus stops away as there were no bus in sight. Bad call … lol. The children in our party were foot-fatigued by the up-slope march. And to access Sandanpeki, admission fees apply. Considering the condition of the party, we didn’t proceed to enter Sandanpeki Caves (located some 30+ metres below ground) as more walking was called for. So we made our way to Adventure Park instead. Maybe the animals there could attract the children and disperse away their fatigue …
First stop @ Adventure Park was food … LOL! To re-charge up.
Well … this is the real deal here below haha!
As a side-note, I probably won’t recommend the Adventure Park to would-be travellers to Shirahama. Other than the good looking pandas, the rest of the showcase was pretty standard, and some of the animals are kept in less than clean enclosures … I am sure there are better places to spend your time. Probably at Heisogen Park, taking a Glass-Bottom boat at Engetsu-to island, exploring the Marine Sports Centre where there could be opportunities to swim with the dolphins, to dive the ocean. And most of all, go for their Onsen, where Japan’s 3 oldest Hot Spring are located here, open air-bath and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. How good can it get :)))
It is probably one of the best chocolate cookies ever made, ever tasted. All my children, nephews, even my working colleagues and friends know this packaging, this name by 白い恋人. In case one is still not aware of how it looks like, check out the photo below, hopefully it could jolt your taste buds into an over-run 🙂 My kiddos were entirely fascinated to be able to visit these cookies’ place of origin, whereas for me … well … due to time constraints, I had to give the Sapporo Beer Museum a miss … no big miss though since I was the main driver, and I didn’t really want to drive after even a single cup of beer, not in a winter environment.
The entrance to the building from afar looks ordinary. But upon stepping in closer, Japanese standards never fail to surprise! Right from the outside, the wafts of sumptuous chocolate and cookie baking smell just pulls one by the nose into the building. Upon inside, the buildings looks refreshingly English-style and odd compared to the architecture structures just outside the gate across the road.
Boy! …. Was the entrance into the cookie production line dramatic with such a treat of beautiful dancing lights and shadows generated by the Aurora Fountain.
The main attraction here personally if you ask me is to really get the opportunity to make the famous Shiroi Koibito cookie by yourself! The other option is to paint and decorate the cookie (not so interesting to me). The DIY cookie experience was really memorable where they have chefs guiding my kiddos step-by-step patiently, and they were really having so much fun too! Me too actually lol … taking photos and a little bit of an art work!
Oh … did I forget to mention they also sell amazing sugar crafts! Just take a look at some of the fantastic crafts that they made here from mini and tiny ones to giant life-sized ones! Just remember that they can’t be eaten. Though they could melt in your hands … (literally by the heat of your palm…hehehe!)
And last but not least, after all the walking and waiting and buying, the desire to reward oneself for the successful enjoyable day out at Shiroi Koibito Park is just over-whelming … geesh, just look at the range of desserts available =D
If you ask me as a typical person if a cemetery would fall into my Must-Go places? Most likely one would get a bewildered, big eye look from me, expressing “You Gonna Be Joking ?” Not unless Buffy is my good friend hahah!
But here I am, bring my family exactly to one, not to mention that this is an ancient graveyard, but an enormous one too !!! In Mt. Koya, this graveyard is called Okunoin, wherein lies the mausoleum, the final resting place of Kukai (also known as Kobo Daishi), a legendary Shingon Buddhist monk who is believed to have giving aid and comfort to millions of people who prayed to him.
And even in after-death, thousands of grave lines the ancient forest from military commanders to common folks, wishing to receive salvation and his blessings in death.
Along the way into the Okunoin, one could see unique tombs, probably one of the most unique memorial designs that I have seen so far … there are other equally weird like a memorial build for a pesticide company … how weird can it go ?
I didn’t really captured too much photos of this otherwise beautiful environment. The trees were rather tall and shady, making the walk rather yin and cooling in Autumn, and my natural aversion of cemeteries held my fingers from the camera trigger … I didn’t really wanted to catch anything else on the digital photos where it doesn’t belong, though I did take a few photos which gives an imagery of a ancient tombs, worn-off by time, and eerily-beckoning .
Also upon reaching the bridge (Gobyo-bashi) that leads to the inner sanctum of Kobo Dashi, photography is not allowed. Somewhere further up from this bridge there is a Miroku stone (feels more like an iron ball), where it is rumored that the purest of good heart would be able to lift effortlessly with one hand. As I look at others before me trying in vain to lift the ball … well … neither did I managed to lift it well off. It felt really heavy haha … and I would rather not get my hands caught in between the bottom and the ball!
As much as I enjoyed the tranquility of the walk in Okunoin, a part of me was glad to be finally out of the cemetery as well.
At Wakayama, one of the MUST GO place is definitely Mount Koya or Koyasan. Koyasan is one of the religious location steeped in Japanese Shingon Buddhism, where there is opportunities to see many famous and majestic temples, some offering lodgings to visitors too. It is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. For me personally, it was one of the place that I managed to see overnightsnow in Autumn, for its attitude is ~ 900m above ground!
To get to Koyasan is not hard. If my memory serves me right, we bought our tickets from Gokurakubashi station for the Cable Car ride to Koyasan Station. From Koyasan Station, we got our 1-Day Bus Pass (Adult 800Yen, Child 400Yen) that would serve to ferry us from point-to-point within Koyasan. Believe me, you will need it. There is alot of walking to be done there even with the full-day Bus Pass available.
Our first stop here was Kongobuji Temple, the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism throughout Japan. The temple showcases work of art dating back to the early Edo period, like the one shown below of the Cranes on the sliding door. It is done in gold flakes, and in order to preserve the colors for the years to come, even flash photography is not allowed!
What strike me most and left the deepest impression is the Banryutei Rock Garden within Kongobuji Temple. This is also the largest rock garden in Japan with a design supposed to show a pair of dragons emerging from a sea of clouds to protect the Okuden. To be honest, I have little artistic flair to determine which of the rocks are the dragons, and which are the clouds 😀
Nevertheless, the garden emits a sense of serenity, tranquility and peace. As I walk along the corridors of the temple, I could almost feel myself at peace with nature …. It is only there and then that I could almost fathom the meaning of the state of Zen and how ancient Japanese monks achieve their enlightenment in such tranquility and quietness.
Konpon Daito was among one of my last stops there. Based on brochure information, one could actually access it for 200Yen from 0830 – 1700. We were quite late, probably 5.30 to 6pm by the time we were there. So all we could do is take some photos to take back as memories of this towering pagoda that has 4 Buddhas enshrined inside.
Part 2 of this title should be completed in about 1-2 days time 🙂 That is where we made our 2nd stop and it’s an awesome place that deserves a piece by itself! Do follow my blog to catch it hot from the press soon !!!
What can be a better family activity than picking fruits? This is absolutely something that doesn’t exist in Singapore anymore with her rapid modernization and an exceptional experience to back-to-the-basics for city-dwellers like us.
Oh … by the way, I have a word of advice here… do pick up a decent bit of Japanese before coming to Wakayama. Don’t be too surprise if the standard of English comprehension by the locals here is bad or very bad. This is afterall not the likes of metropolis-like Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto. The alternative is to have a I-device or the likes to do a quick translation for whatever you need to say and show it to the locals instead 😀
At Sakaguchi Noen farm, I guess we are a few hundred meters above sea level, maybe more. And this farm that we have chosen seems to be located on sloppy land ….hahah! At this high attitude, walking up and down the slopes take a certain toil in the breathing, probably due to the thinner level of oxygen here. But it doesn’t seem to affect the local farmers …. I guess their body must be used to these effects unlike ours 🙂
Even the vegetables here look bigger, greener and healthier than what I have ever seen in the wet markets of Singapore. Its no wonder that Japanese have one of the longest lifespan in the world, they have such luscious, greeneries grown in the high attitudes of Japan.
While the initial idea was to come here to pick persimmons, we were kind-of late in the season (Persimmon picking occurs from mid-Sep to end-Nov) with only Mikan oranges left for harvesting. I have attached the fruit-picking calendar for anyone that might like to have a try at it. It’s fun, I swear by it 😉
My kiddos really had great fun getting to the trees to cut the Mikans off … it is eat all you can hahaha! And there were so much Mikan trees, it is almost like hid-and-seek for each other as well LOL!
I am almost afraid that the Mikan orange would be too sour for my liking. My fear was thoroughly unfounded. These were probably the sweetest and juiciest oranges I have tasted in my life, every single one!!!
Yes, that is the monkey park located at Mt. Arashiyama, about 15min walk from Torroko Saga Station, past Togetsukyo Bridge to the “World of the Monkeys”. While it is unfortunate that I have been as close as 1.2km to this amazing place, I didn’t set foot on it … What can I say lol, just don’t make my mistake hahaha! And most of all, I would like to thank Golden Diamond for allowing me to re-blog her article so that others visiting Arashiyama for the natural beauty there, won’t miss out this treasure among others.
They will be looking at you everywhere, every step you take … they are just above you on the branches, behind the tree trunks, everywhere just a step beyond the shadows … They will be sniffing you out for food, that is food that you might have brought as your own snacks …hahah
Yes, these are wild, untamed macaques, native to Japan, also called “Snow Monkey”. While it is definitely not as scary as I made it to be, nevertheless, caution precedes interaction with wild animals and there are some basic rules for visitors to follow:
Don’t stare in an aggressive manner to a monkey looking at you. This is definitely a way to provoke their aggressive traits.
Keep your hands to yourself and refrain from touching. Don’t look at this little critters as smaller and weaker than us. When they bite, it’s gonna be nasty.
And don’t feed them outside designated areas which would encourage them to test their boundaries with human visitors for food.
Oh yes … the monkeys like to be fed, and they are almost perpetually hungry for food, and I wonder why? And for once, the human is within the cage to feed, with the monkeys roaming freely. That is a different perspective for a change. And boy, do these monkeys move lightning fast to grab the food off the human hands.
And if one is lucky, the native macaque might just grace your camera to take a photo with you 🙂
(Psss … there is a little secret to tis that I am not gonna tell you. If you want to know how to invite a snow macaque to take a photo with you, check out the link below for the original article from ~ Golden Diamond ~)
Arashiyama have numerous sight-seeing spots from the Bamboo Grove, a number of temples (Daikakuji, Gioji, Nisonin temple, etc), Sagano scenic rail-ride and Hozu River Cruise to name a few. On my trip there, I was fortunate to be able to at least make it to two of the scenic sites … though more would have been better on hind-sight, just that they weren’t part of the plan then.
We took the Sagano Scenic Rail ride (from Torokko Saga Station) after hopping out from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station. It is just located conveniently beside each other. The rail ride by the ravine brought us towards Torokko Kameoka Station. At the Kameoka station, there are connecting buses that took us to where we could enjoy the Hozu River Cruise! It was as convenient as could be 😀
I forgot whether the bus rides cost money or not though haha …. I suppose it does, what doesn’t 😛
The Sagano Scenic Railway ride has another sexy alias …. “The Sagano Romantic Train” hahaha …. maybe to reflect that once anyone seats on the classic old-fashion style train winding by the side of the Nishiyama mountains along the ravines, with Hozu river below at certain stretches, the ride would literally have one fall in love with the scenery that chugs by.
I didn’t manage to catch a lot of quality photos as the rail ride that I had was really crowded during Autumn and it took me quite awhile to position myself for one or two few good photo shots only lol …. not to mention that the train vibrations and close photo shots while moving were difficult without a DSLR camera.
I have to say that the temperature was cold upon entering the Hozu River. Perhaps it was due to our itchy hands that went dipping into the ice cold water only to be exposed back into the cold autumn temperature that came with a soothing wind! The heat pack didn’t too work well for us hahaha! Or perhaps our hands were just too cold to feel the heat pack. But thankfully my hands were still agile enough to take some amazing photos from the Hozu River cruise, with every few moments creeping my hands back into the thick gloves to generate a little bit more warmth for the next photo shot.