Tag Archives: temple

The Great Buddha, Nara, 2016

We walked along the path to the one of the oldest gates in Japan. It was tall and made of faded wood. On the steps of the gate a deer stood defiantly as if it dare us to enter.

Inside the walls of the gate were huge wooden guardians on either side of the entryway, casting a watchful eye over all who passed through.

We headed down the steps and were confronted by a wall. Peeking through the slats of the gates, we could see a beautiful ordered green garden leading to an enormous white temple with dark wooden embellishments and golden horns on the roof.

On the other side of the gate was the largest incense holder I had ever seen where people were burning and praying.

We walked around the walls to the side entry gate, paid our fee and entered the garden.

Walking into the temple through the front entrance, I was immediately struck still in awe. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting it, or perhaps because it appeared to be trapped in a building that could barely contain its greatness, I was stumped by the largest Buddha I had ever seen in in my life. It was so overwhelming that not even photos could show just how big and amazing it was.

The main sitting Great Buddha was flanked by two bodhisattva statues in gold and two more guardians, one on each side; this time in stone.

We moved around the statues in an anti clockwise direction, continually being drawn back to the Great Buddha and it’s awesome size.

There was a model of the temple complex towards the back and a hole in one of the temple pylons that was the same size as one of the Great Buddha’s nostrils. Children were lining up to crawl through the hole which is said to guarantee enlightenment if you can fit.

On the way back out of the temple complex, my daughter wanted to burn some incense. I like to think it was to pay her respects to the greatness that we had just seen, but it was more likely because everyone else was doing it.

We left the temple complex, walked back through the park with the now snoozing deer, their bellies full of biscuits; through the small town and caught the train back to Osaka where we dined on traditional Okonomiyaki pancakes and Asahi; hoping that it wouldn’t be so long before we saw our friends again.

No more sight seeing and temples for us, nothing would have been able to top the Great Buddha at that point anyway, so it was off to Disneyland for a different kind of wonder.

Related posts: Nara, 2016Castle and shopping in Osaka, 2016Osaka, 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

Nara, 2016

One of our most epic days in Japan was our trip to Nara to visit one of my husband’s American friends, Perry, who had lived in a more remote area of Japan with his Japanese wife for a number of years. He was bringing his son who was the same age as my daughter, so we decided on the destination of Nara for our catch up.

Nara is known for its relatively tame deer that used to be looked after by monks and now were open to being hand fed by tourists. We met Perry and his son at Nara train station and went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. Over a few beers, the friends caught up and their kids got acquainted.

After lunch we walked through the little town of Nara, which was made up mostly of eateries, one where I had a strangely flavoured persimmon smoothie, and shops selling deer souvenir’s of any shape or size. There was even an official deer mascot shop, which the kids liked.

On the way to the deer parked we passed a lake and then stopped at the impressive Five Storey Pagoda. Here, I discovered that Nara is also known for its many world heritage sites, this being one of them. The pretty red Hokuen- do Hall and large Nanen-do Hall formed a square with the pagoda.

We knew we were getting close to the deer park when they started appearing all over the road. There were cute little fawns with their mums, pregnant deer sitting and mewing and one fawn getting fed at a crossing.

In the park, the deer were everywhere, walking among the humans and not seeming to mind their presence at all. There were groups of deer wading in lakes and hiding in the reeds near streams. There were signs up in the park depicting pictures of what the deer could do and to take care.

Some deer biscuits were purchased and many deer immediately surrounded us, wanting to get in on the action. Some of them were definitely not shy, butting me for more food. We found some smaller deer for the kids to feed and my daughter seemed to enjoy it.

Now that the kids had been amused, it was time for the adults to do a little sight seeing. As we walked on to Todai-ji temple, with deer weaving out of the temple complex completely as ease, I had no idea of the greatness that was about to be unveiled.

 

Related posts: Castle and shopping in Osaka, 2016Osaka, 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

Markets and Manga in Kyoto, 2016

After breakfast at our regular café, we headed to Nishiki Market. The market roof was stained glass of many colours and beautifully illustrated banners showed which section of the market we were in.

We saw tofu being made in barrels, washi paper, Kyoto gift boxes and all the usual vegetables and seafood. There was a great arts and crafts shop that was selling kimono dolls, hair clips and fans- one of which cost 21,600 yen!

There was also a pretty little temple hidden behind white lanterns at the end of the market. It had chains made of paper cranes and some dragon statues, including one in a box that moved.

The rest of the day was our daughter’s choice so we went to the International Manga Museum. A friend of ours who spent three days there had recommended it to us. We soon found out why, as the museum was also a library of four floors of manga books.

Unfortunately, the main display was in the process of being changed, but there was an interesting display in the regular area showing a timeline of manga and the differences between it and normal animation.

Our daughter loved the big bright yellow mascot of the museum and the life-size placards that she could pose for photos with. She was also happy, as there was a television in the library showing moving manga films.

My favourite part was seeing the manga comics from the year I was born and buying Sailor Moon comic book number one for our daughter.

We saw an entertaining picture show called Kami-shibai. This is what they used to have before television and consists of a box with comic placards that are moved by the storyteller as the story unfolds. They used to be very popular and I could see why as the narrator was very interactive with the audience.

Our daughter’s choice for lunch was sushi train, so we went to one of the better-known ones in the area and we all ate our fill. Then we went back to the play park in the Imperial Palace Gardens.

After she had tired herself out, we went to a local restaurant for dinner and planned the next day- a journey into the unknown to find a family onsen in the mountains outside of Kyoto.

Related posts: Gion, 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 Harajuku, Japan, 2016

Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016

After our busy first day in Kyoto, my husband found a local restaurant that had fire ramen. Curious to see what this was, we walked the short distance to the establishment and waited in the queue.

When we made it inside, it became apparent that it was not just the food that was the attraction here, but also the showmanship. After donning bibs, making sure our daughter was seated behind us and covering our arms, the chef briefed us on safety instructions and we waited with anticipation.

Fire ramen was poured into our waiting bowls and a large flame erupted from each one. Now I understood the caution. The ramen actually tasted pretty good too and the chef indulged us all by taking cameos of us enjoying our meals.

The next morning we found a local coffee house for breakfast that was owned by a friendly lady. The menu included both eggs and Japanese curry which pleased the whole family at that time in the morning. We liked it so much that it became our regular morning spot.

On the agenda for the day was a historical walk including some of the main temples in Kyoto. First we went to Shoren-in temple, which had a great Japanese raked garden. Here we met a group of school girls who thought our daughter was cute and had to take a photo with her.

Next was the Chion-in temple with the largest entry gate in Japan. This time we followed a group of school children dressed in kimonos and distracted them as they took their group picture in front of the gate. More photos with our daughter ensued.

The gate to Chion-in temple was indeed big, wooden and old. There were many steps leading up to the temple complex that was nestled into the hills, just showing some autumn colours.

Our daughter was very interested in the Buddhist ceremonies. She enjoyed watching the monks as they performed a rite and wanted to join in with the praying.

The last temple was the Nanzen-ji temple with a two-storied gate. The walk to the temple had pretty residential streets with old houses. The usual rock, lantern and moss garden flanked the temple, along with an aqueduct, which was a bit different.

I had also read that there was a waterfall temple behind the main one, so we headed up the hill to look for it. As the path became less trodden and the foliage became thicker, I began to think that something was awry. After we had been climbing for over half an hour and couldn’t even hear a waterfall, we decided it was time to turn back.

Turns out, we had been walking up the wrong hill in the opposite direction. We eventually found the right path, but by then we were done for the day and we left without seeing the waterfall. Our religious fervour had officially faded and it was time to call it a day.

Related posts: Kyoto, 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

Kanazawa, 2016

The next day, we caught the fast train to the ‘small town’ of Kanazawa, which had less than 500,000 people. How is that considered a small town? Small by Japanese standards I guess.

We whizzed past canola fields, mountainous forests and the sea. We were greeted at Kanazawa train station by a huge gate and a waterfall. There was also a robot that gave directions from an iPad and looked up at you when you spoke.

In Kanazawa, we stayed in a great traditional Japanese house in Katamachi that was made of dark wooden slats and paper windows- thankfully also with glass on the outside. It had a communal sleeping room and cushions to sit on the floor in the living room. Why do people sleep and sit on the floor in Japan?

The town had its own busy Shibuya-like crossing, albeit smaller and with more pushbikes than cars. We found the pretty Saigawa River that ran through the town and that every block had a temple. There were some cute little houses and creative signage adorning bars and buildings.

For our daugther, we found a small kids play park nearby, stone statue children outside one of the large shopping centres to pose with and a character dressed up promoting a restaurant roaming the streets to meet and greet.

The mascot of the Kanazawa looks like a fat Russian nest doll, but it has a moustache and the town is known for its Samurai and Geisha districts. We were told that the Japanese came here to relax and buy kimonos.

For dinner we went to an authentic restaurant that served pork cutlets and Oden- meat and vegetables served in soup broth. Our daughter liked the complimentary cabbage leaves that you could dip in special sauce.

Our first day exploring Kanazawa started with the Omi-Cho market. It was filled with seafood and delicious croquettes. We found an apple for our daughter to eat that was half the size of her head.

We were stopped by a group of school children on assignment to practice their English who asked a series of questions and then gave us a paper crane as a thank you. One of the questions was- where would we prefer to live: Kanazawa or Tokyo? It was only the start of our first day here, but we already knew that with its slower pace and smaller size, Kanazawa would be our choice.

Related posts: Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

Upcountry, 2015

While staying with my aunt Pauline and uncle Bernard at Ebony Springs, we explored the surrounding areas upcountry. One day, my parents, husband, daughter and I were taken to Mas Villa overlooking Kotamale Dam.

The old colonial dwelling once housed the prime minister and was now a luxury hotel. We went for lunch on the verandah, to nose around the indoor courtyard with koi filled fish ponds and for a swim in the pool. The house was almost as beautiful as the view from the garden and the signature desert.

On another day, we drove past tea pluckers to visit the factory at Norwood tea estate. My uncle Bernard had been managing this particular tea estate last time I had stayed in Sri Lanka.

The factory was obviously much bigger than Ebony Springs and it had many rooms of large machinery with no smoking and no betel chewing allowed. There were rollers, mixers, fermenting beds, drying areas, grading and packing rooms. Followed by a professional tea tasting of the finished product with aprons and spitting.

On the way back from the factory we saw Adam’s Peak, the Virgin Hills which was the site of a well-known plane crash and a colourful festival at a Hindu temple.

The next day, we decided to go into the closest town- Nawalapitiya- for some shopping. My daughter was delighted that we were taking a tuk tuk on this journey and one that she could pose in, being away from the busy city.

Nawalapitiya is a functional hill town for the locals. Most tourists would not stop here, except to catch a bus or a train to somewhere else. And I guess that’s what I liked about it- a little bit off the beaten path, and authentic.

Most shops held clothing or bags of produce- coconuts, betel leaves, chillies and rice. We stopped at a bakery for some dine in short eats that were very tasty.

And so ended our retreat at Ebony Springs. Good food, beautiful scenery, top notch tea and great company, as always.

Related posts: Ebony Springs, 2015Ella, 2015Mirissa, 2016Galle, 2015Cooler Colombo, 2015Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Tulum, 2011

My husband and I arrived in Tulum and went straight from the bus station to the beach.

We stayed in one of the separate huts on the beach in a hotel that had a mini statue of the Tulum ruins near the beach bar. The image was very familiar to me as it featured on the cover of our guidebook.

Tulum had the bluest water I had ever seen along with the whitest sand. I understood now why everyone raves about the Caribbean.

We went to an Italian restaurant in the fancy hotel at other end of beach as I had heard it was famous for it’s fresh lobster pasta. We took our sunset cocktails at the deckchairs on the beach before we headed inside the restaurant for dinner, where the floor was also sand. The waiter made us a prawn made out of palm leaves.

Thinking it the safer option, we walked back to the hotel along the road instead of the beach, but it was a creepy deserted country road at night. By day, there wasn’t much to do either, except to go to the local shops for supplies.

I discovered what a real taco was when we had the best fish tacos I have ever had on the beach. No Old El Paso hard shell tacos here, just small soft fresh tacos with fresh fish and some special sauce.

We spent a couple of days lazing on the beach, listening to the other travellers talking loudly, trying to outdo each other; and the regular fruit seller passing by with cries of “Piña, mango, coco.”

One night, we met a group of young Aussie surfers at the beach bar; and on another, an old surfer dude from America who had been living in Tulum for a number of years now. He introduced us to some local friends who proceeded to drink us under the table with double strength tequila happy hour cocktails. We declined their offer to head into a nightclub in town for further drinking.

Instead we went into town the next day for the freshest, loveliest tortillas I have ever eaten at a local restaurant near the bus stop, made while you eat. I really didn’t know what good Mexican food was like until I had been to Mexico. Even the guacamole is made differently here.

On our last day we went to explore the Tulum ruins. While definitely not the most culturally significant ruins, being the newest in Mexico; they are definitely one of the most picturesque as they overlook the beach and the blue waters of the sea.

There were huge iguanas everywhere that roamed around the tourists and the stones. Walls surrounded the site and a small cenote could be found in one of the ruined houses.

We saw the Temple of the Wind God, the famous El Castillo and walked down to the beach. There were many temples, platforms, a palace and a guard tower.

Next stop to continue our Caribbean adventure was Isla Mujeres, and if I thought the water of Tulum was blue, we hadn’t seen anything yet!

Related posts: Chichen Itza, 2011, Campeche and Merida, 2011, Palenque, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011

The Grand Canyon, 2007

My main aim for being in Las Vegas was to get to the Grand Canyon this time. So my husband-to-be (HTB) and I boarded a bus that would take us 6 hours to travel to the Grand Canyon and back and spend a mere 40 minutes at this wonder of the world; but it was worth it.

We passed Lake Mead, stopped at Hoover Dam on the Arizona border and went to Seligman- a well preserved area of the old Route 66. The temperature outside was so cold that my camera fogged up, so all my photos of these places look obscured by mist.

Our bus drive/tour guide was a bit of a character, full of facts and jokes about Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

Whenever we made a rest stop at a service station he would say in his American drawl:

“Ladies, ladies, ladies;

Please do not, I repeat, DO NOT go shopping.

We are only here for 5 minutes and we WILL leave you behind.

We WILL find a new wife for your husband, this is Vegas!”

In between his commentary, we watched National Lampoons Vacation to the Grand Canyon to get us in the mood.

Arriving at the Mather Point on the South Rim, we finally made it to the Grand Canyon. I was aghast. The bright blue sky contrasted with red canyon and the white snow that had fallen on the ground. It was the colours of the American flag and oh, so amazing.

I wished we had more time here or could afford the helicopter ride over the Canyon as I would have loved to explore more.

We walked the Rim Trail as this is the only path we really had time for before we had to leave. We saw the Temple and deer hiding in the snow laden trees. They were too fast, so I only go a picture of a white tailed bottom.

From Yavapai Observation Station we saw the Horseshoe and the Indian Garden and met back up with our tour guide at Bright Angel Lodge.

On the way back to Las Vegas we saw the sunset in desert which was a beautiful ending to an awe striking day.

Related posts: Las Vegas, 2007, USA Road trip, 2007, Disneyland, 2007, Los Angeles, 2007, USA, 1990

It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

It’s the people, it’s the place.

Welcoming faces.

Tasty tropical mangosteens.

Unrivaled hospitality.

Old colonial leftover hotels with kamikaze cocktails.

The locals love for children.

The lethargic heat.

Respect for the ferocity of the sea.

Whitewashed walls and stupa’s.

Joy and jubilation mixed with enthusiasm.

Busy bustling markets.

An easy going attitude.

Short eats and orange Kandos chocolate.

The way that everyone wants to do something for you.

The cool breeze and beautiful clear blue water of the Indian ocean.

The acceptance of the foreigner.

A peaceful temple oasis in the busy city.

Where the locals go.

Their willingness to go above and beyond.

Members only clubs.

The genuine wish to make your trip better.

Homemade margarita’s and little girls dresses.

Their sense of humour and camaraderie after years gone by.

A fortress by the sea.

Polite service staff.

Fancy restaurants in renovated dutch hospitals.

Their persistence and patience.

Orderly school children walking in a line.

Dining on the beach with the added danger of the strong swirling currents of high tide rising.

A Rastafarian brothers greeting.

Listening to the crashing waves as you drift off to sleep.

Early morning exercisers and sunset surfers.

Palm trees aplenty.

The familiar tune of green sleeves as the bread seller passes by.

Friendly tuk tuk drivers.

The largest roti in the world made while you wait.

The elephant on the side of the road and the monkey on your balcony.

Crashing waterfalls.

Dogs with a death wish daring elaborately decorated trucks.

Windy climbing roads.

Their craziness about cricket.

Hillsides of tea above rocky rivers.

Tranquility, peace and quiet.

Flower sellers following you up and down mountains for a sale.

Showing me what is not in the guide book.

Speciality hand rolled white tea.

Cooling afternoon rains

Egg hoppers and fresh coconut sambol.

A private tea taste testing.

That Singaporean couple we bumped into 3 times before we finally exchanged details.

Stone crafted to look like wood.

Drinking out of coconuts.

Dizzy display of Kandian dancing.

150 Buddha’s in a cave.

Feeding an elephant and then watching the herd bathe.

Seafood platters and long island ice teas.

It’s all this and more.

Thanks to all my family in Sri Lanka for making my family trip a delight. Hope to see you all again sooner rather than later.

Related posts: Sri Lanka, 1998, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994 , What’s your obsession