Tag Archives: waterfall

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

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

Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016

From the Omi-cho Market, we walked to the Higashi-chaya geisha district. On the way we passed many interesting buildings and more temples. Why are there so many shrines and temples in one place? Perhaps so there is always somewhere to pay respects.

As we crossed the river, we were mesmerised by the sight of lots of eagles hovering, swirling and occasionally diving into the clear water for fish.

The geisha district had lots of pretty alleyways with wooden slat houses and a view to the mountains behind. My favourite were the red coloured structures and one famous street in particular which had the perfect angle for a classic photo. The only question was, where were all the geisha girls?

Inside the Higashi Chaya Krukeikan Rest house, we saw vast living areas, a strange contraption for making tea that was hung from the ceiling and a cute little Japanese garden. My daughter had fun trying on a pair of geisha style wooden block shoes and getting a big stamp of the rest house from the staff there.

Next we picked up some lunch as a local bakery and went to the vast Kanazawa Castle Park for lunch. Many school children were there, also eating. Here we saw our first beautiful orange autumn leaves on trees.

Inside the castle gates, we went into one of the guardhouses that had views over the park and to other parts of the castle. It was a room of golden floorboards and we got our second stamp of the day.

In the grounds of the castle we found two very friendly ladies dressed in kimonos who were more than happy to have their photo taken with our daughter at the castle and wanted a picture for themselves as well. We learnt the word for cute in Japanese- Kawai. It was one we were to hear more as we journeyed around Japan with our daughter.

The highlight of the day was the most beautiful gardens that we went to in Japan- the Kenrouk-en Gardens. It was easy to see why they were heritage listed. The gardens were spectacular with bridges, ponds and views over the town.

We saw the well-known Rainbow Bridge that is depicted on manholes around the town with the Kotojitoro Lantern. The Horaijima Island was in the middle of a pond surrounded by pine trees hanging over the water and the Flying Wild Geese Bridge, made of stones in a point, was aptly named.

Our favourite part of the gardens was when we slowed down and took a seat in a traditional teahouse over the water of Hisagoike Pond. We had green tea that was actually green and muddy and a sculpted Japanese sweet.

As the sunlight bounced off the roof making pretty patterns on the ceiling and we could hear a waterfall trickling in the background, I got a glimpse of the peace that a Japanese garden can bring and didn’t want to leave.

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

Hong Kong, 2013: Part 2

One afternoon, my husband, daughter and I caught one of the double decker trams to Soho. For a toddler, the journey is often better than the destination and for my husband he very much enjoyed revisiting one of the Soho bars that he went to last time he was here for work.

I liked that the bar was cool and had an indoor fountain as well as tasty cocktails. We also took a ride on the longest escalator in the world and saw some local market stalls in the area.

On the way back to the hotel we stumbled upon some modern art installations inside a train station. There were mural of rainforests, kites and a Chinese dragon.

The next day we took the iconic Star Ferry to Kowloon. The colourful ferry was striking and the old wooden boat was lovely.

On the other side, we were greeted by the tall stone clock tower and the views back to Hong Kong were great. The buildings on this side were older, apart from the modern museum, and had flashing neon signs.

We stumbled upon a children’s fun run sponsored by Kinder and took a walk along the strange Avenue of Stars that had bronze statures of film makers, Bruce Lee and the handprints of Jackie Chan.

The Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade was a bit of a disappointment, but it did have a cool modern dragon fountain. They sure do love a fountain in Hong Kong as we were to discover even further with a visit to Kowloon Park which was basically a park of fountains, lakes and even a waterfall. Plus the cartoon art installation featuring Dragon Ball-Z and a big Panda that we found.

Lunch was had in an modern air conditioned café near the ferry terminal where high chairs were not a problem, before we caught the ferry back to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was not as overwhelmingly busy as I expected and there was more to see than I had thought. It was an easy and cheap stopover with a one year old and I could see why so many expats enjoyed living here.

Related posts: Hong Kong, 2013: Part 1, It’s an Asia Thing

Hong Kong, 2013: Part 1

Before it was time for me to return to work, my husband and I decided to take a trip to Europe with our one-year-old daughter.

Qantas Club in departures was great with a little one. Comfortable seats, fancier toilets and all the food and drink you could want. I was glad that my husband had to travel so much for work so that we were able to make use of the benefit of that.

We stopped at Hong Kong on the way and stayed in a cute little apartment in Wan Chai in the city. It was too small for a bath, but fortunately our daughter fitted in the kitchen sink.

The old surrounding buildings were multi coloured and we could see the modern HSBC building in the distance.

Our first stop was the famous red Peak Tram which we rode to the top for a view of Hong Kong. We went early enough to avoid the smog clouding the view. The lookout building was a modern Chinese style structure and there was Halloween themed paraphernalia on the roof.

A nicer view was seen from the grounds of a nearby temple structure with stone Chinese dragons on the balconies.

After we caught the tram back down the hill, we went to the beautiful oasis of Hong Kong Park. There were waterfalls, lakes and an aviary. I loved Fountain Plaza with its various water features and a fountain that you could even stand inside.

More importantly, our daughter loved to kids playground. She was a bit of a novelty with the young nannies on duty in the park as the only blonde blue-eyed child. A theme which was to continue during our stay in Hong Kong.

We went to a new dumpling restaurant in one of the many large shopping centres for lunch and a break from the humid environment. Booster seats were no problem and our daughter loved the variety of food.

Take away dinners were easy to find near our hotel and not expensive. Breakfasts were even easier with the many available local eateries offering the works for cheap.

Related posts: It’s an Asia Thing

Singapore, 2013: Part 2

My favourite sightseeing part of the trip to Singapore with my daughter was Gardens by the Bay. Due to smog from fires in Indonesia it was advised that my friend Cynthia and I stay inside with our daughters, but seeing as Gardens by the Bay is an indoor Botanical Gardens, this was not a problem.

The waterfall in the Cloud Forest Dome was fantastic and such fun to be able to walk up to, behind and above. There were many beautiful orchids, lots of colourful miniature hot air balloons and bridges in the sky to cross.

Marina Bay Sands and the Super Trees were mostly clouded by the smog, but inside the air was clear and the colours of the vegetation were bright. There were Boab trees, turtle statues, old olive trees and even windmills. I borrowed Cynthia’s ergo carrier so my daughter could have a nap while we wandered through the lovely Mediterranean garden.

The gift shop was almost as good as the gardens themselves. I left with a pair of dragonfly earrings and a clever cup that changed colours when you poured hot water in it as a gift from Cynthia.

The next day, the air quality was still bad, so I took my daughter on a quick trip to the indoor MINT toy museum. I think I enjoyed seeing Astro boy, Punch & Judy and Tin Tin paraphernalia more than she did.

That night, Cynthia and I left the girls with her husband Tony and their helper Rosie to hit Little India for a French dinner. After some good wine and great company, I almost forgot that we had kids and it was just like old times.

On our last day we went to the smick and modern Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. There was an indoor skating rink, gorgeous window displays and an indoor canal that you could take a gondola on under a bridge. The highlight was Cynthia’s favourite ice cream/chocolate shop Au Chocolat and the ingenious water fountain that dropped from the ceiling to fill the canal.

Singapore to see a good friend had been the perfect first trip to test the waters of travelling alone with the little one and I was so glad that I had come.

Related posts: Singapore, 2013: Part 1Singapore, 2012: Old vs NewSingapore, 2012: Part 1Indonesia and Singapore, 1994England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1998It’s an Asia Thing

Singapore, 2012: Old vs New

The next day, my husband and I headed back to Chinatown to explore further the mix of old and new. The old colourful Hindu Sri Mariamman temple was still there along with the Buddha Tooth Relic temple.

There was an old Buddha statue near a new perspex temple and old markets next to the new Tin Tin shop. My husband was a big fan of Tin Tin from his days of living in Belgium and he was happy to find some of the books in French so that he could teach the language to our child once it was born.

Another Asian favourite of my husband’s is a good hawker centre, so we found an authentic one here for lunch. The humidity being cut briefly by the afternoon rains was an old familiar Asian experience. One clap of thunder was so loud that it made me jump.

After the rain, we went into to the new Marina Bay Sands to journey to the top. We got a tip that the best place to go was the cocktail bar at the curved infinity pool where you got the view without having to pay for the observation deck.

From the bar we could see the shell like Art Science Museum, the Singapore Flyer and the domes and trees of Gardens By The Bay that was currently under construction. It was a clear day so I felt like I could see almost all the way to Malaysia.

On our last day in Singapore we went to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. We saw the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage, a statue of Chopin and Swan Lake with fountains, swan statues and real swans and turtles. We went behind a waterfall, which triggered the old memory that I had been there before.

I’m not usually a flower person, but we figured it would be rude not to go into the National Orchid Garden while were here. After all, the purple flower is the national emblem. There were arches of golden orchids, an interesting cage display and a tiger orchid fountain.

The waterfalls in the cool room were another welcome reprieve from the heat. We got lost heading out of the gardens and found it hard to find a cab home, so that evening we took it easy by dining at one of the riverside restaurants at the foot of our hotel.

After a hectic couple of days in Singapore, my husband was looking forward to some relaxing beach time on Tioman Island and I was looking forward to returning to the island that held old memories from the last time I had been there.

Related posts: Singapore, 2012: Part 1

It’s a South Pacific Thing

The South Pacific has been largely romanticised by the musical of the same name. As an Aussie, I feel like the South Pacific is not so much of a novelty as it close by and therefore accessible.

It is also cheap and an easy beach holiday destination with built in babysitting services for families. Of course, some may be more expensive than others. Any island carries higher prices on food due to transport, which is why you may choose to stay on the mainland when visiting Fiji.

The South Pacific has also become one of the places to go for a destination wedding with 5 star resorts catering to every need.

Personally, I like the friendly people, having a cocktail in the pool bar and the beautiful sunsets.

But what do you do when the weather is bad?

This happened to us on a trip to New Caledonia- it rained all week. So we focused on the food and indoor activities such as shopping and museums.

And of course there are other cultural experiences you can partake in like visiting a cultural village, drinking cava and experiencing the local market.

In more developed islands such as Oahu and Hawaii, there are so many activities to choose from that it’s hard to pick no matter what the weather is like.

The South Pacific is about palm trees, drinking out of fresh coconuts and listening to the ukulele. It’s scuba diving, poolside time and smelling the Frangipani’s.

Sliding down a waterslide, visiting a waterfall and watching as the night time torches get lit. It’s bright tropical colours, shell necklaces and endless lazy days.

Crazy cool resorts like the famous ones in Bora Bora and Vanuatu plus lots of little islands I’ve never even heard of.

And of course, you could always fall in love and have a real South Pacific story of your own.

Related posts: Fiji, 2011, Fiji, 2008

Fiji, 2008

In the Christmas of 2008, instead of celebrating at home, my husband-to-be’s (HTB) family decided we would all travel to Fiji for 5 nights. We stayed at the Radisson Blu- one of the large hotels on the mainland at Denarau.

I had never been to the South Pacific, never really stayed in a flash hotel before, and never been away with my HTB’s family, which included two brothers, so it was all a bit different.

It was the hottest time of the year, so most days were spent lounging by the pool after the breakfast buffet and swimming over to the pool bar for 11am cocktails. The Blue Marlin was the voted the favourite.

If we felt a little more energetic, we would slide down the fun waterslides or take a walk on the beach. We read, played cards and ate a lot. Every night the firelighters would come down to the beach and light torches that reflected off the beautiful picture perfect sunsets.

After a few days of this, my traveller gene kicked in and I dragged everyone away from the safety of the hotel for a waterfall tour. The bus picked us up and drove us up the coast and into the green hills.

We visited a little village called Biasevu with children running around and went to the community hall for a traditional cava ceremony- strong stuff. Suitably fortified, it was time to trek to the waterfall.

Unfortunately, half way through the walk, it started to rain. Heavily. But our tour guide Nadine lent a helping hand and everyone made it across the river to Sava Mate Laya waterfall intact.

It was flowing quite a lot due to the rain, but I was still determined to take a swim underneath and get my head wet. A little wetter and a little wiser about Fiji culture, we headed back to our little piece of luxury, to enjoy it while we could.

It’s a water thing

Growing up five minutes from the ocean, perhaps it was inevitable that I have an affinity with water. I love swimming in the ocean, particularly with dolphins, turtles or any other safe sea creatures I can get close (but not too close) to, and will take any opportunity to go for a dip.

I always enjoy going to the beach, walking along the sandy shores, dipping my toes in the water and running from the waves. I remember long summer days by the sea and had my first kiss on the beach.

Wide-open spaces leave me feeling restless for the feeling of the sea breeze in my hair again. I feel land locked and only sighting the ocean shore makes me feel at ease again.

I have been lucky enough to grow up near some of the most beautiful white sandy beaches in the world in Jervis Bay and visit other beautiful beaches in Mexico and Malaysia.

Even if you can’t get in the water, getting on the water by boat will do, or a walk down a promenade, or even a bar with a water view.

All of the best road trips I have been on have been along the coastline, like Big Sur in California, the Great Ocean Road in Victoria and pretty much the whole of the South Island of New Zealand.

My search for waterfalls is a bit obsessive. I have been to Iguazu and Niagara Falls as well as countless other less famous waterfalls. I plan not to rest until I see Victoria Falls, Gullfoss and a waterfall on the beach in Norway.

I also love a fountain, which is probably a lot of the reason why I love Spain, Rome, Versailles and all those other big gardens with lots of fountains. I mean, how can you not admire the Trevi Fountain?

Unless you were unlucky enough to go when they were restoring it, in which case there is always the Fountain of the Four Rivers and all those other gorgeous fountains in practically every square in the city.

So, yep, that’s me, water baby in search of any beaches, waterfalls or fountains I can find. I wander where my search for water will take me to next…

Related posts: It’s a French Thing, Random Public Holiday Ramblings, USA Road trip, 2007: Part 2, Malaysia, 2006, Canada, 2005, Argentina, 2005, Europe, 2003, Italy, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to Florence, Spain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond BarcelonaEngland, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988