Tag Archives: modern

Castle and shopping in Osaka, 2016

The main thing I wanted to see in Osaka was the castle. My husband, daughter and I passed a museum on the walk from the train station where people were lining up and there was some sort of travelling circus with large lizards and eagles.

As we neared the castle, I could spot a green roof looming above trees and I knew we must be close. We crossed the moat that was lined with willow trees and autumn leaves with a few boats floating by.

Stone walls surrounded the castle grounds from which there was a good view of the city. We walked around Osaka Castle, which turned out to have more white washed storeys than I first saw from afar, and lots of impressive gold embellishment.

There were large topiary trees, a huge rock out front and vending machines around the castle. My daughter asked- where are the king and queen of the castle? And I really didn’t know, so I bought her a Lady Borden ice cream on a stick instead.

We returned to Shinsaibashi-suji by day to shop, as this was our last city stop before going home. My daughter stocked up on Hello Kitty paraphernalia and chose Rapunzel as her first princess dress.

My husband bought souvenirs for his family and a sake set for us in Tokyo Hands; and souvenirs for friends at the Kit Kat shop. I found a gorgeous red jacket in Stradivarius, a funky shop that I had never heard of, and had to have it. And of course we hit Uniqlo and H&M.

After half a day focussed on shopping, I got a bit disconcerted by the chorus of thankyou’s, so we stopped for a nice lunch in a traditional style restaurant below street level. Every little dish had a plate of its own making the presentation very appealing.

We returned to our modern apartment with the many confusing light switches and buttons for a rest, before heading back out to a local restaurant that specialised in tempura for dinner.

Related posts: Osaka, 2016Onsen in Nantan, 2016Markets 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

It’s an Asia Thing

My first foray into Asia was to India. I marvelled at the temples of Tamil Nadu, spent Christmas in KodaiKanal and saw the sunset at Cape Cormorin. There was a visit to a strange circus in Kerala, a boat trip in Cochin and lots of ice cream in Goa. We went to markets, met Mormons, climbed Cape Rama Fort and left through the gateway to India in Bombay.

Next was a school trip to Indonesia where we were educated in all the traditional arts and crafts from batik to silver making. We travelled through Lombok, Bali, Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. The highlights were the vast Borobudur temple and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

On the way home we went through Sentosa Island in Singapore. There have been many trips to the land of the Merlion since then to explore the food in Chinatown, the shops on Orchard Rd and visit friends, now expats of the city.

Close by is my favourite Asian destination of Malaysia. The fabulous food halls in Malacca, the life of Penang and the beautiful islands of course. So far I have visited Pulau Kapas, Pulau Pangkor and Pulau Tioman twice. Each island is special and interesting in its own way for the monkey in a hammock, the snorkelling or the sunsets.

The first time I went to Bangkok in Thailand I thought it was a big dirty Asian city. I thought Phuket was incredibly spoilt by tourism and I was sure I would never return. How wrong I was, as the island of Koh Lanta was to become the special place where I became engaged and later married. The little town of Ban Saladan and the beach at Kaw Kwang will forever have a piece of my heart.

Vietnam was a pleasant surprise, largely untouched by the greed of making a buck when I went there. I loved Hanoi, the city built around Haan Kim Lake and was fascinated by the other side of history as the story of Ho Chi Min unfolded before me. Halong Bay was undoubtedly beautiful and the little French colonial hill village of Tam Dao was a rare treasure.

When you think of places to go in Asia, South Korea is probably not at top of mind. However, I found I very much enjoyed discovering the two sides of Seoul. One deep in the traditions of markets, gates and palaces; and the other slightly crazy side of shopping centres, theme parks and off beat fashion.

I wish I had visited Hong Kong before the English handed it back to the locals, just to see how much it had changed. The modern world could clearly be seen here, but there were still the remnants of old. Like the Star Ferry and the fact that the city still had many large green spaces that had not yet been bulldozed by development. The smog of Victoria Peak reminded me that it was still Asia, but back on the ground there was always a drink in Soho to cool you down.

Yes, Asia can be hot, dirty and tiring; but it is also exciting, enticing and an assault to the senses. Riding in tuk tuks, bargaining with the friendly locals and appreciating the simple things in life. Asia has a lot to teach us and I sincerely hope that modernisation doesn’t engulf it to the point where it can no longer be recognised for the glorious cultural explosion it is.

Related posts: It’s a Sri Lankan Thing, Destination Thailand, 2010, Thailand, 2009, South Korea, 2008, Malaysia, 2006, Vietnam, 2003, Thailand, 2002, Sri Lanka, 1998, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994, Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, India, 1987- 1998, Part 2: The Journey North, India 1987- 1988, Part 1: The Road South

Italy, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to Florence

In Rome, Sarah and I stayed with Seneka, a Sri Lankan relation of sorts. He drove us to modern Rome and the beautifully floodlit Ancient Rome by night where we saw the statue of Romulus and Remus and threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain to ensure our return to the city. The fountain itself seemed too big to fit in the narrow square and was quite overwhelming.

On our first day, we went to the Colosseum which was in the process of being rebuilt, so it was easy to see through the non-existent floor to the underground tunnels that led to entrances to the ring and imagine what it looked like when it was still in use. We climbed to the top for a fantastic daytime view of Ancient Rome and its ruins.

Back on the ground, we went to the Roman Forum where we saw the third triumphal arch Septimius Severus next to the Rostrum Forum and the House of the Vestal Virgins. We walked through Caesar’s Forum, the Imperial Forum, past Trajan’s column and the market.

I liked the Pantheon with its hole in the roof for light and the cute elephant statue by Bernini in the nearby Piazza Minerva; but was a little disappointed with Circus Maximus which just looked like an ordinary park overlooked by the ruined Palace of Augustus.

We visited a few Piazza’s and saw lots of fountains: the Piazza del Campidoglio with long wide steps designed for horses; the Piazza Venezia with the new style Monument to Victor Emmanuel 2 also known at the wedding cake- so big it can be seen from miles away; the Piazza di Spagna which had amusing statues posed on park benches and the Piazza Navona which I loved even though the Fountain of Four Rivers was covered by scaffolding.

My favourite place was the Spanish steps. I had a gelato, soaked up the atmosphere and watched the locals pass by.

The Vatican museum was closed when we went to The Vatican City, but we went into St Peter’s church and the square. I still remember the huge angels on the bowl of holy water and the Pope appearing in the window- so small that it could have been anyone.

We met up with my friend Kim- an Australian born model who now lived in one of the three hills overlooking the Vatican City and had a job translating Italian books. She took us to Castel Sant Angelo where the view of the River Tiber and to Rome beyond was a sight to see.

Kim drove us out of the city down Via Appia and took us to a restaurant in the olive groved countryside where I had pasta with truffles for the first time. We drank too much wine that day and never made it to see the Catacombs. On a more sober day, she took us to Hadrian’s Villa who added a wing to his house after each of his travels- my kind of guy! Real swans were in the Poikile water lily lake and the Canopus pond was lined with alligator statues.

On his day off, Seneka drove us to Florence where we saw the strange multi coloured Duomo of Santa Maria patterned green, red and white and the imitation statue of David in the square outside Palazzo Vecchio.

We visited San Marco monastery for some peace and quiet and had a gelato in Piazza San Marco from the biggest gelato bar I had ever seen. I had to go back for seconds.

Crossing the interesting Ponte Vecchio over the River Arno, we wandered through the lovely Giardino di Boboli. On a hill behind Palazzo Pitti we took in the views of Florence and the hills of Tuscany with their freshly harvested vineyards.

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Related posts: Spain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond BarcelonaSpain, 1997, Part 1: BarcelonaFrance, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, Belgium, 1997, Holland, 1997, England, 1997, I first started travelling, By special request, Home is where you make it, I first started writing