ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “cat

AN UNDISTURBED WATER WORLD, Nam Sang Wai (南生圍), Hong Kong

Known as the “backyard” of Hong Kong, Nam Sang Wai (南生圍) is an area of tranquil wetlands north of Yuen Long (元朗).  The “Wai” in “Nam Sang Wai” refers to “gei wai” (基圍), an old method mainly for shrimp culture introduced to Hong Kong in the 1940’s. Bounded by man made embankments, gei wai is a shallow pool in a mangrove wetland with 10 to 30 cm of water collected from the Deep Bay (后海灣).   The shrimp farmer would use a water gate to control the amount of incoming water from Deep Bay.  The sea water would also bring in juvenile fish and shrimps.  The shrimps would  then feed on the organic matters from the mangroves.  Gei wai shrimps (基圍蝦), usually steamed, has became a local delicacy throughout the years.  The gei wai method has been mostly phased out nowadays.   The former gei wai pools and fish ponds of Nam Sang Wai have became a semi-manmade wetland where visitors enjoy the serene waterways, reed clusters and pockets of grasslands, and learn more the wetland ecosystem.  It also offers a network of pleasant footpaths winding through waterways and pools, providing the perfect venue for an afternoon stroll, wedding photos, and even filming set for movies, TV shows and music videos.

DSC_1900The passenger boat at Shan Pui River (山貝河) is the last public passenger boat service in Hong Kong operated entirely by hand.

DSC_1902The first impression of Nam Sang Wai for most visitors is its overwhelming serenity of water networks.

DSC_1908The footpaths at Nam Sang Wai are lined with beautiful Red Gum Trees (赤桉樹).

DSC_1911Some old houses in Nam Sang Wai are abandoned, and are sometimes used for filming local movies.

DSC_1918The boardwalk by the old fish ponds are popular spots for photos.

DSC_1937The large lawn at Nam Sang Wai is equally popular for couples, families and pets to hang out.

DSC_1944Nam Sang Wai is a hotspot for both migrating birds and local waterfowls.

DSC_1956Beyond Shan Pui River (山貝河), the urban and industrial developments of Yuan Long seem like they may one day encroach into the wetland territories.

DSC_1981The peaceful water of Nam Sang Wai remains like a flawless mirror.

DSC_1987As a natural system to purify the surface runoff of the city, wetlands are essential in the entire water cycle of the city.

DSC_2002As villagers move out of the rural areas, some old stores and houses in Nam Sang Wai are gradually crumbling into ruins.

DSC_2009A handful of occupied houses remain in Nam Sang Wai.

DSC_2010Though most of them are in need of restoration.

DSC_2020Like pets in other rural areas of Hong Kong, the cats and dogs in Nam Sang Wai also lead peaceful lives.

DSC_2033_01A number of village homes built on stilts can be founded along Shan Pui River (山貝河).

DSC_2031Such serene and picturesque setting are great for photography and sketches.

DSC_2027After a long and relaxing stroll in Nam Sang Wai, the small man-powered boat at Nam Sang Wai Pier is always around to bring visitors back to the city’s side.

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DAY 5 (1/3): FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.07

For several years the famous Shinto shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) has been voted as the favorite tourist attraction in Kyoto on a number of travel websites.  The images of the vermilion Senbon Torii (千本鳥居, thousands of torii gates) winding up the Mount Inari (233m) and the clusters of miniature shrines and private graves hidden in the woods certainly nourish the public imagination of a mysterious old Japan.  We thought of visiting the shrine in late afternoon or early evening when the twilight was gradually fading away, shifting the tone of everything from orange to violet and then blue.  Somehow that wasn’t realized, and instead we chose to explore this highly popular and spiritual place early in the morning of our last day of the trip.  To beat the crowds, getting up before sunrise was crucial.  It was only a short JR train ride from Kyoto Station to Inari Station.  By the time we set foot at the entrance route of the Taisha it was a little before 7:30am.

01To make the most out of the last day in Kyoto, we get up before dawn and carried our backpack and luggage to Kyoto Station.  At daybreak, we bid farewell to the tranquil Shirakawa River in our Higashiyama neighborhood.

02At Kyoto Station, we stored our belongings at one of the many lockers and hopped onto a Nara-bounded train for Inari Station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ride to the peaceful Inari Station took only a few minutes, and the entrance route of Fushimi Inari Taisha was just right across the road.

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Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) was first established in the 8th century dedicated to Inari (稲荷大神), the God of Rice and Sake.  In the agricultural nation, the God of Rice was a powerful figure who governed the fortune of lives.  In the modern age, the power of Inari had been shifted to offer blessing on the prosperity of businesses and people’s lives in general.

04A large torii gate led us towards the Romon Gate (楼門, Lower Gate).

05The Romon Gate (楼門, Lower Gate) was a donation in 1589 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉), the famous daimyō (大名, feudal warlord) who unified a large part of the country.

06There were only a few visitors at the Worship Hall in front of the Honden (Main Building).  After paying our respects, we couldn’t wait longer to begin the hike up to the peak of Mount Inari via the remarkable Senbon Torii.

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On Mount Inari, two features stood out.  First was of course the vermilion torii gates.  Donated by individuals and business companies, there were over 5000 torii gates guiding our way up the Mount Inari.  The second feature was the kitsune (fox).  Uncounted statues of foxes appeared along the trail, usually came in pairs standing in front of the Shinto shrines.  Foxes were believed to be the Kenzoku, the messenger of god.

07We walked past the first pair of bronze fox statues right after the visit of the main shrine.  Many fox statues here carried a key in their mouth (to the rice granary).

08Our hike up the 4km trail began at this cluster of the vermilion Senbon Torii (千本鳥居, thousands of torii gates).

09Only a handful of visitors were there, such a blessing given this place is also famous for big visitor crowds throughout the day.  The record was 2.69 million during the 3 days of New Year period in 2006.

10Soon we arrived at the trailhead of the dual route.  Both route would ultimately converge back to a single path.  We picked the left route.

11From one direction, the Senbon Torii appeared clean and minimal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking back we could see columns of dates and donor’s names along the path as far as the eye could see.

14We stopped at most of the sub shrine along the trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a while, the trail gradually turned steeper with stone steps.

18Half way through the ascend, the view from the Yotsutsuji Intersection was amazing in a clear morning.  Many tourists would turn back from here.

19We continued on the uphill journey, and stopped by a number of miniature shrines and grave clusters.  Mini fox statues, mini vermilion torii gates and candles were often seen as offerings.

20We often made detours from the trail into groups of mini shrines and graves.  We bumped into this what looked like a shrine guardian cat.

21The cat came from behind the shrine and jumped from a a stone stele to another, and finally stayed on a small tablet under the morning sun… just for a few seconds.

22A pair of stone lions and foxes were on guard by the small shrine of God of Rain.

23The early morning sun was nice and warm, and cast a magical highlight onto the torii gates.

24Fallen autumn leaves added an extra sense of solitude to the quiet trail.

26While at certain spots the autumn leaves gave a vivid background to the otherwise greyish setting of stones steles and statues.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the time we reached “Second Peak” we knew we were just minutes away from the peak.

27At around 9:15 we reached the top of Mount Inari, after about an hour and 45 minutes of hike.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 3 (4/7): PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.05

In the early 20th century, philosophy professor Kitaro Nishida (西田幾多郎) walked along the Shishigatani Canal daily to his office at Kyoto University.  Specialized in bridging philosophies of the East and West, Kitaro Nishida considered his daily commute as a way of Zen meditation.  In honor of this famous Japanese philosopher, this canal-side path is named as Tetsugaku no michi (哲学の道) or the Philosopher’s Path today.  This tranquil stone path runs north-south, linking a number of peaceful neighborhoods and temple grounds, from the neighborhood of Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺) to Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺) at the northern end.  In spring, the cherry-lined path is a highly popular venue for hanami or cherry blossom viewing events.  In autumn, the maples transformed the otherwise lush-green path into a colourful passage.  Occasionally lined with cafes, shops, restaurants and galleries, the Philosopher’s Path offers the best way for travelers like us to explore the Northern Higashiyama on foot.

After our visit at Nanzenji, we followed street signage, passed by the well known Eikando Temple (永観堂) before reaching the starting point of the Philosopher’s Path.  We walked rather slowly and spent over an hour on the 2km path.

01We passed by the gate of Eikando Temple (永観堂) enroute to the Philosopher’s Path.  Eikando Temple is another popular spot for viewing of autumn foliage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite online information stated that the autumn foliage at Eikando Temple (永観堂) had well passed its peak, there were still a number of beautiful maple trees in the temple’s forecourt.

03We wandered in the forecourt of Eikando Temple (永観堂) for a bit but decided to move on to the Philosopher’s Path.  We came to Kyoto a week too late for the peak autumn foliage at Eikando, Shinshogokurakuji (真如堂) and Konkaikomyoji (金戒光明寺) in this area, so we rather saved these till next time.

04The residential street with a vista of the Higashiyama Mountains led us to the starting point of the Philosopher’s Path.

05Some kind of red berries by the street added a bit of Christmas mood to our stroll.

06Soon we reached the starting point of the Philosopher’s Path right by the Shishigatani Canal.  Both the Shishigatani Canal and the aqueduct in Nanzenji Temple belong to the Lake Biwa Canal system that brings fresh water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto.

07The beginning portion of the Philosopher’s Path is a tree lined pathway along the Shishigatani Canal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn old abandoned wagon by the path was used as a cozy home for several cats.

08One of the cats was sunbathing near the wagon.

10Autumn leaves in a stone basin by the path.

11Despite autumn was almost over, the vivid foliage was still impressive at many spots.

12The Shishigatani Canal provided perfect reflection of the peaceful scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe air was cool and crisp.  Under the mid-morning sun we walked slowly along the waterside stone path towards Ginkakuji Temple.

15Water channels were everywhere, and some were even lifted up bridging over the Shishigatani Canal.

16The autumn palette made everything seemed so lovely.

17For most of the walk we were passing through sleepy residential neighborhoods.  While most houses looked traditional Japanese, this round one we passed by looked totally out of this world to us.

18After passing by several cafes and eateries, we finally decided to stop by a traditional rice cake shop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered mochi, chestnut rice cake, black-bean tea and amazake(甘酒), a type of traditional sweet drink made with fermented rice.

20Just as we left the Philosopher’s Path to make a detour to the Honenin (法然院), we passed by a private home with a healthy orange tree.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

Leaving Huanglong behind, our taxi drove northwest into the mountains.  The ride to Jiuzhaigou-Huanglong Airport was roughly an hour long.  The mountainous scenery along the way was pleasant under the sun.  The airport was busy with passengers designated to either Chengdu or Chongqing.  Our flight to Xian only operates during peak tourist season.  It was already dark when we arrived at Xian after the 1.5 hour flight.  Stepping out of the airport, we could immediately tell the difference in the air, from the refreshing highland air of Sichuan to the typical urban smog of a Chinese big city.  It was raining heavily and we decided to take a taxi returning to Hantang House, the guesthouse that we stayed at in the first half of the trip.

Hantang House is a simple guesthouse hidden in an alleyway within walking distance from Xian’s Bell Tower.  Given the affordable price, central location, youth hostel ambience, good selection of international beer and local ice pop, we were quite happy with the stay.  We dropped down our backpacks and walked out to a nearby shopping centre for dinner.  Originally we opted for a popular hotpot restaurant, but eventually gave up when we were told that the wait for a table would be 2.5 hours.  We ended up going to a fish based hotpot restaurant in another shopping centre.  In the next morning, we walked across the alleyway to Xiaohe, a street eatery right outside of our guesthouse.  That was our second and the last opportunity to taste the spicy noodles and local burger made with crispy baked bread.  At the lobby of Hantang House, we said goodbye to the friendly cat which always greeted visitors whenever it was awaken.  We sat around the high wooden table in front of the lobby reception and waited for the American lady whom we would share a taxi to the airport.  Our short trip to Xian and Jiuzhaigou had come to an end.  This concludes our record for this trip.

IMG_7942.JPGThe mountainous terrains near Huanglong reminded us that we were at the southern region of Minshan Mountains.

img_7959Enroute to the Jiuzhai-Huanglong Airport from Huanglong.

dsc_0441Ascending to the sky from Jiuzhaig Huanglong Airport, we could see the a series of snow capped mountains in the area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHidden in an alleyway, it took us a little while at our first night to find our way to the front door of Hantang House.

dsc_7256The lobby of Hantang House resembled a pub.

dsc_7258The front desk of Hantang House.

dsc_7769Xiaohe, the local eatery just across the alleyway from Hantang House.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocal burger with fried egg and mixed vegetables in baked bread.

img_8381Spicy noodles were quite delicious, though we had to causally sit on tiny wooden stools at the sidewalk to finish them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAXiaohe Eatery and its table and stools on the sidewalk.

dsc_7752We said farewell to the cute cat at Hantang House.

dsc_7761The friendly cat in the lobby was part of the hospitality of Hantang House.

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Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China