Sunday, 21 December 2014

2014 Wrap Up (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!)

Family Photo at Cheung Chau, Hong Kong

Time flies. It's December again and Christmas is around the corner. I made a resolution last year for my Travel Bugs blog. I told myself that I must write and post more in Year 2014 than Year 2013. In 2013, I posted 12 blogs. For this year, I have posted 15 blogs (this blog included). I know it works out to be only 1.25 blogs per month but nevertheless, I have achieved what I intended to do. It is never easy to find time to write amid my busy work and family life but this excuse is last on my list for not writing. For those following my posts, I apologize for the frustration of awaiting my posts. Hopefully, I am able to post more of my travel stories for the coming year. This will be one of my resolutions for Year 2015.

During last year wrap up, I penned down on the destinations that I planned to visit. I listed Japan, Indonesia (Yogyakarta) and Hong Kong. Out of the three, I managed to travel to Tokyo, Japan and Hong Kong. For Yogyakarta (I meant to visit it for the famous Borobudur), I missed it due to the eruption of Mount Kelud in February and other reasons. I shall find time to visit it in 2015.

Family Photo at Kamakura,  Japan
Tokyo is always a place where we want to visit again. I had in mind to include Kyoto and Osaka but finally settled on Tokyo only. The reason was simple. We want to experience Tokyo at a relax pace. Taking a side trip to nearby Kamakura was the highlight of the trip. We finally got to visit the famous Daibutsu at the Kotokuin Temple.The deletable foods in Japan have left their marks on our tongues. We hoped to be back very soon.

During my Company department outing in October , I got to visit Kukup at Malaysia. It reminded me of Tai O, the Fishing Village in Hong Kong. My colleagues and I had a great time at the resort and the sunset on that day was very captivating.

Sunset at Kukup, Malaysia

Finally at end November, we took our (countless) trip back to Hong Kong to visit my In-laws. The "Occupy Central" movement did not deter our plan. My wife planned a 2 day trip to one of it's island-Cheung Chau. It was an enjoyable stay with the good foods, beaches and most importantly, laid back life style. As usual, I would take a "one day break" and go for a "Photography Day". This was the day I would take my time and capture the photos that I want without the complaints from my wife and daughter ;-) I hope to share those photos in the coming blogs.

I do not have any concrete travel plans for 2015. But in the back of my mind, I hope to travel to somewhere further. Europe (and Italy) is in our thoughts but we have not firm up anything yet. I hope to visit Thailand again. My wife suggested Chiang Mai for it's cooler weather. Of course, I will also target Borobudur as mentioned earlier.

Last but not least, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May all your travel wishes come true in Year 2015!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Day Trip at Kamakura (Part 4)-The Inamuragasaki Beach

The Inamuragasaki Beach
I put Inamuragasaki Beach in my Kamakura trip for one main reason. It was to capture the beautiful view of Mount Fuji from the Inamuragasaki Park. The day was cloudy when we visited Kamakura and I felt that the chance of seeing the elusive sacred mountain of Japan was pretty low. Nevertheless, we decided to continue with our plan since we have already came so far.

We walked back to the Hase station from the Kotokuin temple and took the Enoden to the Inamuragasaki station which was only two stops away. Not many people alighted at the station when we arrived. In fact, Inamuragasaki gave me a feeling that it was a very slow paced town. Perhaps we did not come at the peak season.

Street Photo by the beach

We heard and followed the sound of the wave which indicated we were not very far from the sea. True enough, after navigating a few streets, the sea was right before us. The first thing that I looked was for the sight of Mount Fuji. It was supposed to situate between Enoshima and the main land. The sight was supposedly breathtaking during a clear day with blue sky and during sunset. But it was not to be. Mount Fuji was nowhere in sight. Though already setting the expectation of not being able to see the Unesco Heritage Sight for this visit, I still could not hide my disappointment.

Black Kite

With the "since we are already here" mentality, we walked towards Inamuragasaki Park- a place where many would gather on a good day to enjoy the beautiful sight of the sacred mountain. Along the way, we could see many Black Kites flying around. I spotted their presence at the Hase-dera temple too. From the internet, I was warned not to eat anything under their razor sharp eyes and claws or risked injuries when they swooped down to rob the food. 

Tsunami Evacuation Route

I would say that the beach was not very impressive. Perhaps I have higher expectation of beaches in Japan than those in Singapore :-P. The signage for the warning of Tsunami have me worried a bit. They noted down the procedure of spotting and evacuating from a Tsunami.I wondered how would I react when there was a Tsunami attack. It was very difficult to imagine what was the mindset of the people residing near the sea here with the genuine potential Tsunami threat everyday.

View from Inamuragasaki Park

The Inamuragasaki Park was a place to admire and capture beautiful photographs of Mount Fuji. It was hidden from sight but we still chose to rest on the many benches around to enjoy the sea breeze. I could only use my imagination how the scene would look like on a good day. I looked into the distance, hoping for the faintest of hope that the sky would suddenly clear up a bit for me to catch a glimpse of the sacred mountain.

Self Photo at Inamuragasaki Park
Plaque indicating Mount Fuji Scenic View Spot

Though not able to accomplish the objective of coming here, I was still glad I have made it to this place. Mount Fuji is well-known for it's shyness. It always take a a mix of luck and timing to witness it's glamor. Perhaps I will have better fortune next time :-) This would be our last stop at Kamakura. My family and I have enjoyed every bit of our time here. Thank you, Kamakura! Good bye, Kamakura!

Mount Fuji missing between Enoshima and Main Land

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Day Trip at Kamakura (Part 3)-The Daibutsu, Great Buddha of Kamakura

The Great Buddha of Kamakura
One of the main reasons I came to Kamakura was to see the famous Daibutsu at Kotokuin Temple. In Japan, Daibutsu means "Great Buddha". The 13.35 meter bronze sitting Buddha is the second largest in Japan. For the Japanese, the Daibutsu is considered a legend as it has survived multiple disasters and wars for centuries since it was cast in 1252. The temples that housed the Daibutsu were destroyed thus leaving it in the open.

Front gate of Kotokuin Temple
Picture Map of Kotokuin Temple compound
From Hase-dera temple, it was just a 5 minutes stroll to Kotokuin temple. Visitors would always plan to visit these two temples together since they are in such close distance. It was around 4 pm when I reached the temple but we still could see that it was packed with people. We paid the entrance fee (200 Yen per adult) and proceeded straight into the temple compound.

Family Photo with Daibutsu
Daibutsu with Japanese Children
I could not really explain my feeling when I set eyes on the Great Buddha of Kamakura. I have read all about it's history and see it in the tour guides and internet but nothing beat seeing the real presence itself. It was strange that the temple was supposed to be a ground of tranquility but now overflowed with tourists due to the Daibutsu's influence. I came across an article that there are plans in a certain country to build more larger, higher and imposing Buddha statues. The main reason is to draw in the crowd and generate profits. To me, those are only empty shells and act against the Buddhists' belief. I will certainly not visit them.

Daibutsu & Paulo
Daibutsu & Alison
Daibutsu & Charlotte

The setup of the Kotokuin temple was very simple compared to the rest of the temples I visited. The Daibutsu statue was situated in the center of a large square compound. It was fronted by a small main gate. At the back of the temple lied a small shrine. The whole temple itself was situated in a forest. I could only imagine how serene and peaceful this environment would look after the temple closing hours.
I walked close to the Daibutsu and observed him from close proximity. The expression of the Buddha emitted a sense of kindness and peacefulness. He was seated in a meditation stance, oblivious to the noisy crowd around him. For centuries, he has watched over Kamakura and protected it's people. In return, the believers continued to visit and pay respect to him.

Small shrine at temple back

The crowd dwindled when the closing hours of the temple approached. We continued to hang around, admiring the Buddha and at the same time, rested our legs after a day of continuous walking. When it was time to go, I took one hard look at the Daibutsu again. Perhaps I would be back someday to visit him again.  
Daibutsu from afar