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Thursday, December 21, 2006

China Travel - Old Towns in Lijiang

China Travel - Lijiang - I will be back

When we first arrived in Lijiang - i honestly didn't know what to expect. We had juz came from Kunming city and kunming was juz OK, nothing spectacular, u know what i mean? but i was of course looking forward to lijiang as i've heard so many things about it, and also, we are going to stay @ banyan tree, my first stay in a banyan resort. Was looking forward to a good rest, the travelling the past week kind of tired me out.

Banyan was excellent! i will post pictures of it later. But back to Lijiang. Geez, the blue skies .... endless blue skies .....and vast vast land got me hooked. I honestly thought that in hkg/china, it's unlikely we will get to see clear blue skies ..... i was sooooo wrong. The Gu3 Cheng2 (old city)was quaint and reminds me of venice u know ..... it has its charms. We went to another old town Shu He which was equally rustic ... the ke4 zhan4 (guest houses) .... will probably make good locations for a martial arts film. Oh, i think one of Zhang Yi Mou's movie was filmed in Shu He.

The streams that run through Shu He apparently originates from the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yu4 Long2 Xue3 Shan1) and it's crystal clear. and i think locals use the water for washing their vegetables and cooking too. and it's so cold, it's used to iced-beer. the place is just quaint and brings one back in time.

Know something, apparently, the Naxi ethnic tribe which is one of the tribes you can find in Lijiang, the women are the ones who work hard for the familiy. Whilst the men enjoys the leisurely activities like playing chess and stuff. I am glad i am not from the Naxi tribe. Haha.

One drawback, everytime i travel in china is the toilets and food. sometimes i am glad i wore my sunglasses in the toilet, i see less of things.....hahaha ... ok ok, better don't to be grouse here.

and for a person like me, where food is integral to my holiday experience, i don't eat a lot of chinese food when i travel in china..... cos i don't particularly enjoy them .... guess that's why i always prefer japan as a holiday destination .....hehehehe.

the food we had in the Gu Cheng was decent (hotpot, roasted duck, local delicacies) ...... but ........ guess what, the meal i enjoyed the most, was probably the breakfast and dinner provided @ banyan during our stay ..... ;p

the 2 days we had in Lijiang was simply insufficient ...... there's so much more that we wanted to do...... so u bet we'll be back in lijiang again and hopefully, make it to shangrila as well. In fact, the next trip, i hope we will be able to go with some frens, that will be more fun!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Travel - Lijiang - Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Japan Travel - Takayama Old Town

Takayama is an "old town" -- especially the preserved old streets - they remind me of Kyoto ...... we enjoyed exploring the various arts and craft shops; shops selling local eats and delicacies and Sake! they are quite big on sake here. and quite reasonably priced i think :)

As we arrived close to noon, we missed the morning markets -- else that will be fun ..... i enjoy visiting the local markets where-ever i go ..... reflects my love for fooooooood.

Japan Travel - Nagoya

As we started our journey in tokyo, to reach Shirakawago, we passed through nagoya and i planned for a nite's stay @ Gero a hotspring town.

Nagoya, was, a disappointment for us. Probably because most of the sites, castle, shrine etc, we have seen similar or even more "majestic" ones in the other japanese cities that we have been. In the end, we decided that it will be juz a lunch stop and we headed straight to GERO.

So, errr, i think we won't be back in nagoya anytime soon. unless we need to use it as a base to visit other areas.

GERO, we didn't have much time to explore the town as it grew dark very early. so, we spent our time in our ryokan hotel exploring it, the foot baths, and the hotsprings. hehehe. of course, we cannot take pictures in the hotspring bath.

Minoriso ryokan which we stayed in, is on a hill and provides an excellent view of the town. only complain i have about the ryokan is the food ...... it's ....... normal ..... hahahaha ..... maybe i've developed high expectations of meals served in ryokans. but of course, the previous 2 ryokans i stayed in (in hakone and ito) are traditional ryokans and costs us more.

to be fair, the food is good and the quantity ..... huge .... it's just not "delicate" enough ..... i think i am "spoilt" ..... heehee. but our room was excellent, big and with a private bath. very value for money.

the good thing abt Gero is the journey between gero and takayama -- it is lovely. i can imagine how it is to travel on the orient express .... it would be something like the train ride we had between gero and takayama .....(i am talking about the views, not the inside of the train ;p) even though it was early and rainy, our mood wasn't spoilt and we enjoyed the hour-long journey much.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Japan Travel - In Shirakawago

Shirakawa-go is a very small village ..... and the huts -- they are called gassho-zukuri -- traditional vernacular farmhouse-style houses. To withstand the weight of heavy snow, the angle of the roof is sharp. and there are around 150 such houses in this village. so u can imagine how small the area is.

We arrived around 1 pm and it was a wet and rainy day. Initially i felt kind of dreadful ... cold and wet isn't a very good start and i was looking forward to seeing the "beautiful" sight as seen on postcards. ;) but surprisingly, it was still easy to walk about as the rain was light. we even managed to trek up to the "observatory" hill to take pictures of the entire village which is in the post below.

And of course, enjoy a leisurely lunch of HIDA-beef in one of the local restaurants. Be warned, when u come to a village such as this, there's not much to do at night. we were tired ..... and so we slept ard 8pm!!!! very early ah! even for my standard......hahahaha. actually, the few times i've stayed in the "country-side", it's always like this, sleep early, wake up early!

The minshuku we stayed in was very well kept and clean -- as you would imagine a japanese home. we shared the facilities (bath and toilet) with 3 other persons who were staying there at the same time. A japanese couple and an american lady. with breakfast and dinner provided, i felt it was a reasonable price @ 8000+ yen per person. (japan standards lah!) and the hosts are usually very friendly and nice ..... despite our language handicap ;) somehow, we manage to communicate ... .....

when we left shirakawa-go the next morning, it was a pretty fine morning ... and on the bus ride to takayama, seems like the Lord knew i was disappointed not to see snow in shirakawa-go, he decided to "reward" me with a snow-fall ....... right in the comfort of our bus, where we are warm and cosy.... :) .... and our destination takayama was bright and sunny, although cold.... perfect for exploring the old streets, corners and nooks.

Japan Travel - Food !

Japan Travel - Views of Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO world heritage site and a very very quaint village it is! even on a rainy day -- which was juz that when we arrived there.

Apparently it had snowed the previous days but alas, the rain, melted most of the snow , since this is only "early" part of the winter ..... understand that in Feb, the snow is quite deep! 20 inches or something like that ......... someone who visited shirakawa-go last Dec experienced 3 inch snow and i was kind of hoping to see the village with its snow-capped thatched roofs. pictures i've seen of the place is really very very very nice ......... maybe there'll be some opportunity in the future for us to return to this lovely village.

Getting there was was also a beautiful journey ...... the train ride from Gero ( a hotspring village) to takayama was abt an hour (faster if one takes the limited express train) .... but we really enjoyed the "slow" "toot-ing" along on the train. It felt like we've travelled back in time. the surroundings were rural, to say the least, yet very peaceful, quaint and there was some charm about it.......the streams flowing, the lush greenery (even though it's into winter season) and the quietness of it all. Japan's countryside somehow makes me want to be a farmer. LOLOLOL. hahahaha.

and from takayama, it's a 1.5 - 2 hour bus ride and the road runs round the foot of the hills/mountains (whatever they are) .... so it's a very scenic drive.

in fact, i really enjoyed the "getting there" process as much as being there in shirakawa-go. not sure if you know what i mean.

Anyway, the pictures above are "bird's eye view" of the village ...... will post more of photos of the village and the FOOOOOOOOD we ate !

i tell u, it's no wonder i've been putting on weight....... i lurrrrrrve to eat. ;p

The HIDA beef (it's a specialty of the region).... it's a marbled beef ... looks like kobe beef u know ..... but not as expensive -- literally melted in my mouth. and they have this special miso, called Houba-miso used to grill this beef and it was excellento! houba -- i think refers to the leaf which the miso is so served on .. which apparently enhances the taste of the miso! even though, first taste of the miso i felt a bit weird ..... not used to the taste but after a few bites, i can see why they usually serve the beef with this miso .... it's yummmmie. according to an american we met on the trip, the houba -leaf, is actually magnolia leaf.

this trip we didn't eat much sashimi cos the area we went is more inland ..... so the focus on chicken, beef and wild vegetables. :)

will post pictures soon!

a month since i last wrote ......

so many beautiful images i want to share ..... of shirakawa-go in japan, of lijiang in china ... so, get ready for images galore!!! :)