Tag Archives: Christmas

Onsen in Nantan, 2016

One of the main things my husband wanted to do in Japan was visit an onsen. Most of the best spas are in the snow, single sex and naked. Seeing as we had our daughter with us we had to find a family onsen near Kyoto that allowed swimwear.

Our journey to Rurikei Onsen in Nantan began with a local train through plunging rivers and mountain tunnels. It seemed like the spa was in the middle of nowhere already, but the best was yet to come.

When we arrived at the closest train station, we found out that we had missed one of only a couple of buses that go to the spa in the morning, so we had to catch a taxi. As the cab climbed further into the mountains and the meter ticked over, I feared that we were lost.

Eventually, we pulled up to the Rurikei Eco Resort Village and there was not a tourist to be seen. The functional spa had pools, hot spas, cold spas, reading rooms, relaxing rooms and a foot tub where fish ate the skin off your feet.

The prettiest was the traditional looking outdoor spa with bamboo decorations and I liked the indoor waterfalls. The weirdest room was the mysterious room that had coloured rocks on the roof that could be seen glinting in the dark room.

The resort also had a hotel and healthy eating restaurant attached to it where we had a tasty light lunch. It also had the only beer vending machine we saw the whole time we were in Japan. I was beginning to think they were a myth.

With time to kill before the free afternoon bus back to the train station, we wandered around the surrounding gardens. The backdrop of mountains was beautiful and they were building a little tent area for future campers. Lots of autumn leaves up here, a cute little friendship pavilion, a water wheel and real waterfalls.

They were setting up the gardens for Christmas with lots of colourful lights, a few Christmas trees, reindeer, angels and even Santa’s sleigh that you could sit in. There was also a strange kids playground that consisted only of stone animals, like Narnia. There were kangaroos, tigers, giraffes and duck statues mixed in with real cranes in the river.

While we were waiting for the bus back at the spa entry with the old folks, I felt the ground roll underneath me. One of the older ladies started freaking out and we realised it must have been an earthquake. Small, but still shaky, it was a very odd feeling.

We caught the train back to Kyoto, happy in the fact that we had been somewhere only locals go and had our last dinner in a neighbourhood restaurant serving Kyoto specialities like mackerel, fried chicken and sake.

Related posts: Markets and Manga in Kyoto, 2016Gion, Kyoto, 2016Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016Kyoto, 2016Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

West Coast to Wellington, 2012

After Fox Glacier, my parents and I went for a walk around Lake Matheson which is meant to show a reflection of Mt Cook in the right conditions, which we did not have. Even so, we enjoyed the rainforest walk to the lake while my husband stayed in the café with our sleeping daughter.

Next stop was a viewpoint of Franz Josef Glacier which offered fantastic views of the blue ice and ended up being more scenic than the walk up close to Fox Glacier. I was glad that we had taken the time to at least stop and see a second glacier.

I actually felt like we were becoming desensitised to the amazing scenery as I found myself being blasé about the next stop at Okarito lookout which had a view out to the Tasman Sea.

But then I was reamazed with the drive up the incredibly scenic West Coast. I found the coastline similar to the west coast of Vancouver Island and could see what my Canadian friend Celina was talking about when she had spoken about her trip to New Zealand. Both New Zealand and Canada are countries where natural beauty takes pride of place in their mountains, lakes and forests and I could see the similarities between the two.

We stopped at the windy Pancake Rocks with its strange rock formations. Unbeknownst to me, my husband sneakily bought me a Christmas present of a beautiful wooden jewellery box and a brightly painted plate by local artisans here.

Our lunch stop was for fish and chips at Hokitika. That night we stayed in the windiest holiday park in the west- Westport Holiday Park- and watched How I Met Your Mother on the van DVD player while our daughter slept and the wind howled outside.

The next day’s drive through the mountains was a hard one, but also one of the most beautiful. High windy roads meant a new scenic mountain was around each corner dropping down to the rivers below.

We stopped briefly in Nelson at low tide and came out the other side at the beautiful sparkling Marlborough Sounds complete with bobbing white sailboats. I could just imagine myself on one of those boats enjoying the sun.

We stayed in Picton overnight and caught the ferry to the North Island the next day from Picton Harbour. The ferry trip has good views in good weather, which we did not have. However, we did have a private room with a cot, which was luxury.

We soon arrived at my aunt and uncle’s place in Wellington that overlooked a valley of ferns from their backyard. Christmas Day was the usual lazy affair with the ever-welcoming Sri Lankan extended family that I discovered extended as far as New Zealand.

After a Boxing Day filled with cricket watching, we caught the Wellington Cable Car past the cricket ground to the justifiably iconic lookout point. My cousins took us on a tour of downtown Wellington from the majestic old parliament buildings and the new ones, like the beehive, too.

Related posts: Queenstown to Fox Glacier, 2012, New Zealand, 2004, New Year’s Eve on the Island, Canada, 1997 

Christmas in Canada, 2007

It was the first time my husband-to-be (HTB) had been to Vancouver, so our first stop was Prospect Point with it’s view of Lions Gate Bridge, the local mountains and west van. We saw an eagle at Capilano salmon hatchery and went over Lyn Canyon suspension bridge (sober this time for me).

My cousin Glen took us to Stanley Park to see the totem poles and Gastown to see the steam clock and the railway station. We also went to the Granville Island Brewery for a paddleboard tasting and a cheap sushi restaurant where we had 50 pieces of fish for next to nothing.

It was a Canadian family tradition to see a British Pantomime, but my uncle insisted that my HTB needed to see an ice hockey game. So while the two of them headed to the ice rink, I went to see Jack and The Beanstalk at the Metro Theatre with my aunt and cousins Kate and Glen.

The next day, my uncle took us to Mount Seymour where we had lots of fun tubing in all the snow. He also took us skiing at Grouse Mountain on another day. I wore my terrible aqua eighties snow suit again and found that I was still just as bad at the sport, so went to watch a documentary that was showing about two bear cubs growing up in a wildlife refuge on the mountain instead.

Even though my aunt and uncle now lived in White Rock, on Christmas Eve they headed back to their old neighbourhood in Richmond to catch up with all their friends at a sort of open house party. It was nice seeing familiar faces from the past.

Christmas Day dawned cold, but we still all took a family stroll along the pier to spot the white rock on the beach. Yes- we were crazy to go out in the silly temperatures of a chilly Canadian winter. Rover the cat didn’t join us- he was older and wiser and didn’t even bring in dead animals anymore.

Related posts: Canada, 2005, Canada, 2002, Canada 1997- 1998, Canada, 1997, Canada, 1990, Seattle, 2007, People vs Place, The Seven Year Itch, Friendship: Great Expectations?

San Francisco, 2007, Part 1: Falling in love again

Being a fan of Party of Five and Charmed, I was in love with the city of San Francisco even before I revisited. I love the rows of terrace houses, the harbour that reminds me so much of Sydney and the hilly roads. Although, I’m sure if I lived here I would get sick of those hills after a while.

My husband-to-be (HTB) and I stayed in a small room in the Tenderloin district with an ethnic supermarket next door. I was a bit apprehensive about the area having just read a book about a prostitute that lived in the Tenderloin back in the days when it was a dangerous place to live. But that was years ago and it was a nice room, so I cast these fears aside.

We started our day with a walk up the Filbert steps on Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. The walk up the long spiral staircase punctuated by murals made the climb interesting. From the top of the tower we could see all of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Oakland Bay Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Transamerica Building and Lombard Street. It was awesome.

Back down the hill, we went to Jackson Square with all its lovely old rounded buildings and colourful jazz murals. Murals was becoming a bit of a theme for the city! We found the foot of the Transamerica building, which turned out to be an office building.

Chinatown was pretty much like every other Chinatown all over the world- colourful with lion gates and the smell of incense in the air. I did get ripped off on the purchase of some postage stamps, which was new. Which just goes to show that no matter how much you travel, you can still become victim to a travel scam. I don’t think I ever sent postcards again after that.

The Macey’s in Union square was lit up and decorated with impressive Christmas decorations. Being the main square of San Francisco it was very busy with people rushing around running errands and shopping for Christmas presents. We found Lotta’s fountain nearby which was tinier than I expected and ran into a gay couple who gave us an Irish pub recommendation nearby.

The pub was packed, had good food, great beer and we met a guy who worked at Google. Gays and Google- you can’t get more San Fran than that!

Related posts: USA Road trip, 2007: Part 2, Grand Canyon, 2007, Las Vegas, 2007, USA Road trip, 2007, Disneyland, 2007, Los Angeles, 2007, USA, 1990

Happy Holidays!

Ahh Christmas: supposedly the happiest time of the year, but also the loneliest for those that have no one to share it with. And families- don’t even get me started- love them, or hate them, this is the time of year when they are in your face!

This year I am looking forward to a big Sri Lankan Christmas which is so big that we had to hire a hall. No, I am not exaggerating. We haven’t had a Christmas this big since a few of the older generation passed away and the younger generation started breeding.

I am taking delight in the fact that it is the first Christmas that my daughter knows it’s Christmas and is obsessed with Santa, but is not quite yet old enough to demand particular presents that she wants.

I am also looking forward to seeing a few more members of the Canadian branch of the family than usual and sharing some fun in the sun with them. It is probably odd for Northern Hemisphere folk to have turkey in the middle of summer I am sure, but I usually have rice and curry anyway so I wouldn’t know the difference.

And then, before you know it, it will be the New Year’s Eve.

Once a night of drunken debauchery where I whizzed around Sydney trying to attend as many of the five different parties that I had been invited to without the aid of taxi’s and end up walking home with a bottle of champagne.

But New Year’s Eve is one night and now I enjoy the thought of a New Year with new travel plans to new places. I plan to begin the year with a new positive attitude about new possibilities, try to appreciate the little things and dream bigger about the big things.

I will be taking a couple of weeks off from blogging over Christmas and New Year’s as I don’t trust my parents internet/who’s really going to be reading my blog at that time anyway.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers out there- thanks for reading, commenting and for all your social media support over the past year. A special thank you also goes out to those fellow bloggers that have published my articles and let me guest blog for them. I’m excited to share more stories with you all in 2015.

Oh, and start the year right by subscribing to my blog- just enter your email address in the box on the home page and my new posts will be delivered straight to your inbox.

Cheers!

Related posts: Random Public Holiday Ramblings, What’s your obsession?, Canada, 1997-1998, India, 1987-1988, Part 1: The Road South

Czech Republic, 1997

On our first day in Prague, Sarah and I walked to the Vltava River dotted with islands and onto the Charles Bridge lined with statues. We headed to Stare Mesto and found the Church of Our Lady in front of Týn overlooking the old town square.

The square was in a festive mood with a Christmas tree, manger of animals and free gluhwein. We saw the astronomical clock strike the hour as little men came out of the clock windows. I loved the gothic feel of the city and couldn’t wait to explore more.

Back at the hostel which doubled as a tavern we tried the illegal 75% proof local speciality absinthe, which is also meant to have opium in it. I had one shot and had to stumble up the stairs to my loft bedroom to pass out.

We caught the one hour train to Kutna Hora the next day to visit the Kostnice Sedlec church which has the bones of 40,000 people inside. There are skull and cross bones everywhere and a chandelier made with every bone in the body. It really spun me out!

We crossed the Charles Bridge to Mala Strana with its green, gold and white buildings. We saw the imposing St Nicholas church and walked up to Prague Castle. A band was playing in the windows of the buildings surrounding Hradcanske Square and the palace guards were very friendly- so we stayed to watch the changing of guard.

Heading further into the castle, we saw the church of St George and St Vitus Cathedral and found the short houses on the golden lane where alchemists tried to turn lead into gold.

We headed down the hill to see the John Lennon wall- most of which was falling off.

On our last day in Prague, we went to Vysehrad Fortress. Of the fortress’s three entry gates, Leopold Gate was the nicest. We saw the cute little St Martin Rotunda and went to a lookout point with a view of Prague Castle. We found a tiny stage theatre and the Church of St Peter and Paul which dominates the fortress.

My favourite part of the fortress was Libuse’s Bath which is virtually hanging off the cliff over the Vltava River. I walked into Libuse’s Bath and thought that I could easily fall into river from here.

We headed back to the old town square in Prague and enjoyed the Christmas stalls before we boarded our train to Germany.

Related posts: Austria, 1997Hungary, 1997Romania, 1997Bulgaria, 1997Turkey, 1997Greece, 1997Italy, 1997, Part 2: Bella ItaliaItaly, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to FlorenceSpain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond Barcelona,  Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona,  France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: ParisBelgium, 1997Holland, 1997England, 1997I first started travellingBy special requestHome is where you make itI first started writing

Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994

In 1994, my parents and I joined the Holsinger Reunion Trip to Sri Lanka. My mum was technically a Berenger, not a Holsinger, but I am sure we are related somewhere down the line. Not that this really matters anyway as anyone Sri Lankan and older than you is considered an aunt or an uncle.

We all wore yellow t-shirts with green writing that said “Hollies Reunion 94”on our trip around the country. I met lots of cousins from England, Australia and Sri Lanka and we had lots of parties. The young cousins and the older aunts all put on dance and acting shows of varying skill levels. Mum joined the “I Will Survive” dancing number and my cousin and her father sang to “Unforgettable.”

Being 16 at the time, I remember being very angry that my mum wore a red dress to the reunion ball when she knew I was wearing that colour too. We all spent Christmas together and New Year’s Eve at a house on a lake where we had dinner at 2am because the Lankans like to get maximum drinking time in before they eat.

In Colombo, we saw the Sri Lankan cricket team practicing on the next field when we played our reunion cricket match.

There were monks, a big white Buddha, dancers and monkeys in Kandy. Dad and I were the only ones brave enough to have a snake on our shoulders at a rest stop where we drank out of coconuts.

We went to the Pinawela elephant orphanage and saw the lion’s paws and rock frescos at Sigariya. We visited the buddas at Polonnaruwa and the temples at Anuradhapura. We went to Dambulla rock temple where we saw many colourful buddas in a cave.

At the beach, I swam in the deepest water I can ever remember swimming in and we stayed at the Tangalle Bay Hotel which was shaped like a ship.

Upcountry, we stayed at Loinorn tea estate which my uncle was managing. (He now has Ebony Springs). My family are Sri Lankan burghers, so they had a driver, a cook and a servant who looked after me when I was sick. The estate had a big house, a rock fresh water swimming pool and lots of tea hills to explore. They also had a golden retriever called Goldie who liked to sit around with her legs out like a seal. We got a personal tour of the Bogowana tea factory and I climbed Adam’s Peak at dawn.

We went to The Hill Club in Nuwara Eliya which was run by another uncle and visited family in Negombo.

On the way back to Australia we went to Malaysia with my aunt, uncle and two cousins.

In Kuala Lumpur we saw an orangutan smoking the Asian way in the zoo.

There was great food and good shopping in Malacca. Years later, I still regretted not buying silver sunflower ring that I found there.

We took a day boat trip to Pulau Kapas. We couldn’t afford to eat at the resort on the island so we sat on the beach and listened to their stereo system which played Ace of Base all day instead.

Related posts: England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, Travel rememberings, I first started travelling

India, 1987-1988, Part 1: The Road South

In 1987, when I was nine years old, my parents and I spent three months in India travelling from Madras to Bombay. I am happy to have been so young when we went as I experienced no culture shock and had no real concept of poverty.  It remains one of the most different places I have ever been to and one that I remember quite vividly.

Madras in Tamil Nadu was filled with Hindu temples. One beach temple in Mahabilipurum had elephants that were walked inside.  I purchased a statue of Ganesh the elephant god for my Tamil uncle back home and a necklace of intricate pieces all carved out of one piece of ivory.

In Madurai I loved all the brightly coloured temples and the many different and interesting gods like Shiva with the many arms, Hanuman the monkey god and Vishnu.  Shankar, a rickshaw driver whom we had met the first day, was waiting for us each morning to ferry us from temple to temple.

We met a couple from England who were travelling after meeting on the internet before internet dating was really heard of. The woman was pregnant so she had to make sure that she drank fruit lassi’s (milkshakes) not the bang lassi’s that were laced with marijuana.

I remember a very long and bouncy overnight bus trip. Dad and I slept on the back seat which was like trying to sleep on a trampoline. There were no toilets on the bus and there were few rest stops, so the men peed out the windows and the women had to wait. When we did stop, the toilet was a plank over a pit. There were Bollywood posters on the side of the road and mum bought me a hand painted circular fan to keep us cool.

Christmas and New Year’s was spent in Kodaikanal. Being in the mountains, it was a cool break from the heat of India. Unfortunately, the president had died two days before Christmas so there was a four day official mourning period when everything was closed over Christmas. Fortunately we had already made friends with a local café owner, Israel, who opened to serve us porridge for breakfast. We had to shut the wooden window shutters and be quiet in case a passing mob heard us and stoned the café with us inside.

Israel took us to an excellent view point near his house on Christmas day which was mostly shrouded in mist. There were many walks around the lake and to a waterfall. One day we saw a rabid dog that had his insides on the outside after mating with another dog. India was the one place I was not allowed to pet the animals.

On the road south in Nagercoil there was a completely white temple that only allowed men to enter.

We arrived at Cape Comorin– the southernmost point of India. Here we saw the sun set and the moon rise at the same time. The sight was as unbelievable as the amount of people and faeces that covered the area.

Published as part of A Memorable Journey on Story2Share.