Not quite the mid-Autumn-coloured madness that everyone hopes for, but some nice colours despite the dreary weather.
The forecast said that it was going to rain in the afternoon but it turned out that when they said afternoon, they actually meant morning. So that was that, still a nice meander through the gardens even though it was cold and wet, at least it wasn’t windy!! Actually most of the pictures I took had people in them and I didn’t want to post them here, so there you go, you don’t get the best ones, my apologies. I’ll have some more awesome news coming up soon, which will also mean more awesome pictures in the next few months, woohoo! Also I get to spend more money, although actually, I don’t have any, shoot!
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Originally I was going to post a few separate posts of our trip to Japan but having completely lost the motivation, I’m just going to post one overview with the whole gallery of photos selected for this site (photos for Flickr will continue to go up at the normal rate). Tokyo was crazy, just consumerism gone mad, millions of people going everywhere all the time, endless concrete and steel, girls in short skirts/shorts (though not revealing tops), millions of umbrellas (different coloured), shops with absolutely every thing you could ever need (and a million different colour and style options), no rubbish bins, weird and unusual shops, and an amazing train system. We spent most of our time in Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Harajuku, though we did make our way to the Tsukiji fish market for lunch one day where we had some amazing sashimi. We also visited Roppongi Hills to go up the Mori Tower, went to Meiji Jingu, but didn’t see too much else in Tokyo. We decided not to try and climb Mount Fuji and instead just stayed nearby at Kawaguchi-Ko before heading to Hakone for a night in an onsen ryokan (which was bloody great) that included a kaiseki dinner. Hey, we also got some clear views of Mount Fuji so that’s something.
So after two days of country-ish life we headed for Kyoto where we would spend the majority of the next six days, this was certainly a very good decision in hindsight. Kyoto is a reasonably small city with an abundance of world heritage listed sites and a great selection of food options, and is also near many other beautiful and significant tourist sites. We loaded up our JR passes and used them every day we were in Kyoto (except one when we travelled around on the bus), visiting a bunch of temples and shrines including Kinkaku-Ji, Ryoan-Ji, Tofuku-Ji, To-Ji, Kiyomizu-Dera, Fushimi Inari, we spent a day in Nara wandering around the sites there and saw the Daibutsu at Todai-Ji as well as a few others. We also went to Osaka for a day trip as well as Kobe, where we sampled Kobe beef teppanyaki style, which was bloody sublime! Osaka wasn’t particularly interesting, like a smaller Tokyo, while Kobe was at least a bit less frantic. After all that, and some shopping, we headed back to Tokyo for one more day before flying back home (via Singapore where we visited the Gardens by the Bay near Marina Bay).
The weather was as you would expect at the end of Summer, start of Autumn, pretty warm and a bit humid, it seemed like every second day it would rain (even though the rainy season had already passed), but it was at least warm. The bullet train was something else, fast and comfortable to sit in, and exhilarating to watch fly past. The food was amazing, I think we had one bad meal during the whole trip which is a pretty amazing hit rate, the portions weren’t as small as everyone (not sure who, but that seems to be the stereotype) says, and you gotta love the plastic food displays outside the restaurant looking exactly like the meal that was served. Favourites? I don’t know, udon of any kind, sashimi (super fresh), Mister Donut custard donuts, tempura, katsu don, white peach sorbet, they don’t seem to eat any vegies we noticed, next time I think I will try some different stuff, non-traditional stuff like Japanese burgers, pizza and/or pasta, just to see what it’s like there, as we ate (except for one meal where we were tricked into Korean Nabe) Japanese food for every meal. I would be remiss not to mention the amazing people, so polite and so neat and so nice, I have to add strange as well, but I’m sure that comes from living on a remote island, and it’s not like they’re really strange, just a bit peculiar, very funny. Any way, I’m sure I’ve missed a million things here, but let’s let the pictures speak for themselves, I wish I had more pictures of food to post here, but I already put them on facebook.
In Tokyo for our first go-round, we stayed at Hotel Villa Fontaine in Shinjuku, we booked it online before going, I think it was a book early special price, and because we booked for four nights we got a discount for that too, it was ok, had breakfast included (a sandwich delivered by the staff), an awesome bathroom, and a nice enough bed, a cosy room. We stayed at K’s House in Kawaguchi-Ko for just one night, and stayed in a private tatami room which was nice, and had free wifi so that was good, nice enough place and it’s a chain throughout Japan so I think you’ll be safe with them throughout Japan. We stayed at Fujimi-en Lodge (the onsen ryokan) near Hakone for one night, the onsen was hot, but had a view of Mount Fuji (when it was clear), every room had a view of Mount Fuji, no breakfast but I would recommend to book with the kaiseki dinner option as the dinner was absolutely super! In Kyoto we stayed at Capsule Ryokan, pretty close to the train station as well as the two (free admission) big temples (Nishi Hongan-Ji and Higashi Hongan-Ji) near the station, pretty reasonable pricing, with free wifi in the lobby and a nice shower :D. Also had a nice free kimono dress up which is nice for the ladies :). We didn’t stay in any ultra-budget places, and I’m not sure there is anything that is really cheap in Japan, but all the places we stayed were very clean, neat and tidy.
We used the train system in Tokyo solely (as well as walking), and fount it pretty easy to work out after our initial apprehension, although not super cheap to be buying tickets all the time, perhaps the SUICA card might have proved better value. We got a bus from Tokyo to Kawaguchi-Ko, and then a bus from there to Hakone, from Hakone, we got a bus to Gotenba, and then one more bus to Odawara station, before we pulled out our JR passes to use the train for the next week. With a JR pass travel is reasonable between big cities (and fast), and also on the JR services within the cities it is very useful. Transport is super safe and clean in Japan so you never have to worry about any of that, just making sure you get on and off at the right stops/stations and on the right buses/trains of course.And that’s it for my lame Japanese overview, now for the pictures, also remember to keep an eye on my flickr stream as I’ll be uploading (around 70-80 I’m guessing) pictures there over the next few months.
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Good Friday was a warm day down here in Melbourne so we decided to use the day to go for another training walk around the Dandenong Ranges National Park. This week we went for the Olinda Falls and Cascade Track walk, it’s not a long walk by any stretch of the imagination, a bit less than 3km, but it does go through some bushy forest where the trail is quite narrow and the ferns and other plants encroach all over the path. There were even a couple of trees that fell down and blocked the path, the falls aren’t really a part of the trail, but that’s where the Cascade Track starts so we had a look at the falls as well as I’m always interested in taking photos of waterfalls.
The waterfalls themselves aren’t particularly big or spectacular but with a bit of work, any running water can be made to look quite beautiful. We spent about half an hour admiring the falls from both the upper and lower viewing platforms before venturing on to the trail. It’s probably only about 2km, half of it being downhill, but it’s not the friendliest trail I’ve ever walked on. I guess the threat of leeches was the main issue during our walk, and with two girls and one guy (the other one hah!) carrying on about the cockatoos screeching and the horrible leeches, it probably took a while longer than it needed to :D. I didn’t stop and take any photos of the dense bush that inhabits the trail but rest assured, the trail is not wide enough to walk two abreast (especially with the fear of leeches attaching to your body if you come into contact with any of the vegetation). After you finish going down hill and leave the Cascade Trail, it’s a short up hill walk along the road back to the Olinda Falls Picnic Ground, the trail is pretty much exactly as described in the link above just follow Doughty’s Road when returning to the picnic grounds. With knowledge of the leeches it’s probably a good idea to wear pants when walking this trail, especially if it might be wet at all, we went when it was probably at it’s driest (without there being a drought) and saw a few tiny leeches, but the down hill trail and amount of vegetation would make me think that a very treacherous and slippery walk would be waiting after some rain.
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