ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “farm

ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.20

Day 6 (3/3).

A sudden downpour greeted our arrival to the farming community as we left Hoshino Resorts Tomamu and entered Minamifurano  or South Furano (南富良野).  A long and winding road cut through fields of rice paddies, wheat and corn, and passed by rows after rows of farming greenhouses against the backdrop of Tokachi Mountain Range (十勝岳).  Further afield, rolling fields of summer flowers had yet reached their peak moment of summer blossom.  We could imagine that at its peak in mid July, these fields could well be covered in rainbow colours: sunflower, poppies, lilies, and most famous of all, different types of lavender.  At one point, we stopped the car right by a small country road, just to taste the sweetness of nature and feel the mountain air after the rain.  Mist rose from the distant mountains beyond farming fields, making a perfect and dreamy picture of Hokkaido countryside. Welcome to Furano!

Located in the heart of Hokkaido Island, Furano is (富良野) a sleepy town about 100km inland from the sea, enjoying a continental climate that sees heavy and powdery snowfall in winter.  Like Niseko, Furano is a popular skiing resort in winter.  During summer, Furano is a rural wonderland famous for its farmlands and vineyards, especially its rolling hills of flowers that includes the iconic lavender.  Drawing large amount of Japanese and Chinese tourists, summer flowers, especially lavender, have imprinted a vivid postcard image in visitors’ mind even before they arrive in Hokkaido.  For the Japanese, the works of scriptwriter Sō Kuramoto (倉本 聰) have presented the beauty of Furano to everyone in the nation in the past 40 years, marking the relative sleepy town in Central Hokkaido onto Japan’s tourist map.

DSC_5751We stopped the car at a small country road to inhale our first breathe of fresh air from Furano.

DSC_5752Furano is well known for its fine agricultural produce.

IMG_9734Large plastic greenhouses could be seen in many areas around Furano.

IMG_9743No matter where in Japan, rice paddies is often the dominate landscape.

IMG_9746In Hokkaido, wheat is also a main staple food for noodles and bread.

IMG_9749In Central Furano, a complex of four retail buildings known as Furano Marche introduces local produce, snacks and souvenir for visitors and foreigners.

IMG_9750We got ourselves some food for a light dinner.

IMG_9753We got ourselves potato fries, hamburger and fried chicken (all ingredients from the region) for dinner.

IMG_9758From Furano Marche, we had the opportunity to try the local sweet white corn, which could be consumed raw.

DSC_5754In Furano, we stayed at Pension Yamasan in the village of Nakafurano (中富良野), the home of the famous lavender farms like Farm Tomita and Saika-no-Sato.

IMG_9762Dried lavender is used as decorations and natural air freshener.

IMG_9763We were free to use the dining hall for breakfast and evening television.

IMG_9764The common area of Pension Yamasan is full of the owner’s character.

IMG_0040Situated on a hill across from Mount Tokachi, Pension Yamasan offered us pleasant view of the mountain range and fields of Nakafurano.

DSC_5796For visitors without their own wheels, railway is their best bet for reaching the lavender farms in Nakafurano.

DSC_5798After the rain, Furano River was a little muddy at Nakafurano.

DSC_5797Despite we were a month too early to see the lavender in full blossom, other summer flowers were indeed everywhere in Nakafurano.

 

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HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, June 15-25, 2019

Tsuyu (梅雨), the rain season, begins to hit Okinawa in May and gradually makes its way north to the rest of Japan until the end of June.  During the wet season, rainy and cloudy weather affects the entire country except Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island north of the main Honshu Island.  The seismic active island is 3.6% smaller than Ireland, with a climate significantly cooler than the rest of Japan.  Seeking for a pleasant getaway from Hong Kong’s humid and hot summer, we picked Hokkaido as the destination for our 11-day vacation from 15th to 25th of June.  Traveling in the remote national parks and rural countryside of Hokkaido, hiring a car was a necessity.  The Hokkaido journey was our first road trip in Japan.

Known as Japan’s last true wilderness, Shiretoko National Park (知床国立公園) is the natural haven where Brown Bears and Blakiston Fish Owls ruled the primeval forests and Orcas, Minke and Sperm Whales roamed the waters of Nemuro Strait.  With fantastic natural scenery, wildlife and seafood to offer, this easternmost part of Hokkaido topped our priority list in the travel itinerary.  Next in the journey took us to the spectacular volcanoes of Akan Mashu National Park (阿寒摩周国立公園), where we came close to Japan’s clearest water at caldera Lake Mashu (摩周湖) and the fantastic onsen and fly fishing hot spot of Lake Akan (阿寒湖).  While the lavender fields of Furano (富良野) and Biei (美瑛) had yet reached the peak bloom moment, the ultra fertile soil below the Tokachi Volcanic Group (十勝火山群) treated us with some of the best bread, corn, potatoes, asparagus, melons and milk that we ever had in our lives.  Despite far away from Tokyo and Osaka, the architectural magic of Tadao Ando (安藤忠雄) in Hokkaido satisfied our thirst of contemporary design and aesthetics.  Back in Obihiro (帯広), Otaru (小樽) and Sapporo (札幌), historic traces of early pioneers and contemporary dessert shops and local eateries brought us back to delightful charm of urban Japan.  What’s more?  Day after day of mouthwatering seafood, fresh produces, good coffee, and lovely patisseries reminded us how wonderful our world could be, when the water is clean, soil is rich, forests are healthy and people are friendly.  Thank you Hokkaido.  You have truly touched our hearts.

maps 2Located north of Honshu Island, Hokkaido is the second largest island in Japan.

maps 1Flying in from Tokyo Haneda, our Hokkaido journey began from Memanbetsu (女満別空港) near the Shiretoko Peninsula.  After more than 1,181km of driving, we arrived at Otaru and Sapporo at the western side of the island.

DSC_4258This black hatchback hybrid Toyota Prius c (Toyota Aqua in Japan) provided us the means of transport from east to west across Hokkaido.

DSC_4490After 2 days of rain and wind, we finally had a glimpse of the active volcano of Mount Rausu (羅臼岳), the tallest peak in Shiretoko Peninsula.

DSC_5154The greatest experience we took away from Shiretoko was the close encounter with a pod of orcas in the Nemuro Strait.

DSC_5307The Mashu Lake (摩周湖) offered us a peaceful sunrise at 3:30am.

DSC_5666Under the shadow of Mount Oakan (雄阿寒岳), dozens of fly fishermen stepped into the crystal water of Lake Akan (阿寒湖) to test their luck.

DSC_5751Farms and greenhouses were washed with heavy rain as we entered into Furano (富良野).

DSC_5893Still at least half a month to go before the peak season of lavender blossom, visitors were enjoying themselves at a relatively less crowded Farm Tomita in Nakafurano.

DSC_6040Compared with rainbow flower fields, we loved the wheat fields at Biei the most.

DSC_6183Tadao Ando’s Chapel on the Water has been famous in the designer’s world since the 1980s.

DSC_6282The Hill of Buddha is the latest addition in Hokkaido by Tadao Ando.

DSC_6466At Yoichi Distillery (余市蒸溜所), whiskey has been produced since 1934.

DSC_6538Saturdays Chocolate in Sapporo is one of the many excellent local eateries and cafes that we visited in the journey.

IMG_9267Last but not least, Hokkaido offered us the best seafood and dessert that we ever had as far as we could remember.  Let’s begin to tell the story of our journey!


DAY 6 (6/6): CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山), Toyama Prefecture (富山県), Japan, 2018.05.30

The stay in Ainokura proved to be more than worthwhile.  We got the chance to take refuge in a 350-year old gassho-zukuri house and dine right by a traditional Irori (囲炉裏) hearth in the atmospheric dining room.  The stay also allowed us to experience Ainokura in the evening, when most tourists were gone.  After dinner, it stopped raining.  We went out to take in the tranquil atmosphere under the silver moonlight and shimmering stars.  Wandering on the winding paths, we were totally surrounded by rice fields and the croaking sound of frogs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe owner of Gassho Minshuku Nakaya used the traditional Irori (囲炉裏) hearth in the dining room to prepare the smoked ayu fish for our dinner.

DSC_7999Seasoned with sea salt, the smoked ayu fish were the star delicacy of our dinner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPickle, deep fried, and soy sauce veggies, carp sashimi, local rice, and smoked ayu fish left us more than satisfactory after a long and wet day in the Japanese countryside.

DSC_8048Outside of Gassho Minshuku Nakaya, the village path was lit with dim street lamps.

DSC_8016The mirror-like rice fields reflected the beautiful gassho-zukuri houses.

DSC_8020With clouds and moonlight, it wasn’t the best time for stargazing.

DSC_8021Loud croaking sound of frogs came from rice fields in all directions.

DSC_8024The village paths were pretty much deserted after dark, except a handful of tourists and local villagers.

DSC_8027The sky was getting darker as we wandered around the village.

DSC_8028We could see a bit more stars as the last twilight faded.

DSC_8031In the dark, we walked uphill a little bit to a lookout that we visited earlier in the day.  From there, we took a photo of the night sky over Ainokura just before the moon emerged behind the mountains.

DSC_8037Across the rice fields and river valley, the moon was about to emerge beyond the mountains.

DSC_8039The silhouette of mountains and silver moonlight depicted a lovely reflection in the rice fields.  We were grateful to enjoy a moment of absolute peace just before moonrise.

 
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CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 6 (2/6): OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.30

The illuminated Gassho-zukuri village houses blanketed in thick layer of snow make a fairy tale like postcard scenery have attracted visitors from close and afar, making Shirakawa-go an extremely popular tourist attraction at specific winter weekends.  Situated in the remote snow county of the Japanese Alps, gassho rural regions such as Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山) have been historically isolated from the outside world.  A unique rural lifestyle and special vernacular architecture have been developed in the past few centuries to tackle the snowy and wet climate of the mountains.  Gassho-zukuri (合掌造り集落), which literally means “hands in prayer”, refers to the exceptionally steep thatch roofs of the regional farmhouses due to the heavy snowfall of the area.  These steep roofs have become a unique symbol of the region.  In 1995, three of these remote Gassho-zukuri villages: Ogimachi in Shirakawa-go (荻町), Suganuma (菅沼) and Ainokura (相倉) in Gokayama were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Due to its proximity to Hida-Takayama, most visitors opt for a day trip (or half-day trip) to visit Shirakawa-go.  Few would venture farther into Gokayama and even less so would stay the night at one of the mountain villages.  In recent years, a number of the centuries old Gassho-zukuri farmhouses have been transformed into guesthouses, allowing visitors to experience the villages’ unique beauty and tranquility after the departure of the daytrippers.  Being the largest and most accessible Gassho-zukuri village, Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go is the most developed in terms of its tourist facilities.  A number of its old farmhouses have been converted into museums, restaurants and souvenir shops.  There is even an area called Gasshozukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum, where historical farmhouses have been relocated and grouped into an open air museum.  Taking the 8:25am bus from Takayama, we arrived at Shirakawa-go bus station in about an hour.  When we arrived at one of Japan’s most picturesque farming village, steady rain kept on coming down with no end in sight.  We stored our backpacks in a locker at the bus station, picked up a village map and bought a transparent umbrella from the tourist office, and off we went to explore touristy yet charming Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go.

DSC_7465Just outside the bus station, we had our first peek of the rural charm of Shirakawa-go.  Rhythmical rain drops rippled across the flooded paddy field of lush green rice seedlings.

DSC_7471Despite the rain, we were delighted to enter the tranquil world of Ogimachi.

DSC_7477It was 9:20am.  Not too many tourists were around.  We stopped by the pond of waterlilies in front of Wada Residence, one of the largest gassho style house in the village.

DSC_7478Ogimachi has a extensive network of irrigation channels.  Visitors may occasionally find carps in the water.

DSC_7518A row of cute scarecrows offer an amusing background for photos, and a friendly reminder of Ogimachi’s rural past.

DSC_7493Straw from farm crops are harvested in the autumn, dried as a snow fence around the gassho style house, and used to repair the thatched roof in the spring or autumn.  Due to the need of a large labour force, neighbors in the village would come over to help on repairing the thatched roof.

DSC_7621Many gassho style houses, including the Yamaainoie Residence (山峡の家), have been converted into cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops or guesthouses.

DSC_7635The small gassho style house serves as a charming little cafe with splendid views of rice patties.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance of the cafe is decorated with plant pots, wood lattice and a “thinker” statue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 1961, the construction of Miboro Dam at Sho River in Takayama was completed.  several villages and shrines were submerged, along with about half of the surviving Gassho-zukuri houses.

DSC_7622Today, the biggest concentration of Gassho-zukuri houses are found in Ogimachi, Ainokura, and Suganuma.  Important structures, such as the Myozen-ji Temple in Ogimachi, have become rare survivors from the bygone period.

DSC_7628Thatched roof repair works can still be seen in Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go.

DSC_7627The steep angle of the thatched roof of the Gassho-zukuri houses help to prevent snow accumulation, though people, especially outside visitors, have to be cautious of the falling snow below the roof.

DSC_7624A number of Gassho-zukuri houses in Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go have been turned into guesthouses.

DSC_7755Fire hydrants are important in the farming village because of the combustibility of the Gassho-zukuri houses.

DSC_7754Because of the rain, the mountains beyond Ogimachi were covered in beautiful mist while we were there.

DSC_7749Newer houses in a distinct architectural style can also be found in the village.

DSC_7631Due to the unique appearance of the Gassho-zukuri houses and it natural setting, Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go is often considered one of the most picturesque farming village in Japan.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)

 

 


DAY 8 (2/2): PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road (珠峰路), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.23

After some good rest in the Tent 21 of the Tent Village, we get up at around 7:15am.  The plan was to return to Shigatse (日喀則) for the night and visit the Sakya Monastery along the way.  Outside the tent, many drivers were getting their cars ready for departure. Some travelers would return to Shigatse just like us.  Some would continued heading west to Ngari (阿里) for the sacred Mount Kailash, while others would travel southwest to Zhangmu (樟木) and continued their journey into Nepal.  No matter what destination one chooses to go, every car would require to take the Zhufeng Road (珠峰道) and pass by the spectacular Pang La Pass or the Kya Wu Lha Pass (加烏拉山口).  At about 5200m, the mountain pass is one of the best spots in the world to enjoy the panoramic scenery of Mahalangur Himal, the section of Himalayas that includes four 8000m+ peaks: Everest (8848m – 1st, ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ 珠穆朗瑪峰), Lhotse (8516m – 4th, ལྷོ་རྩེ 洛子峰), Makalu (8485m – 5th, 馬卡魯峰), and Cho Oyu (8188m – 6th, ཇོ་བོ་དབུ་ཡ 卓奧友峰), plus Gyachung Kang (7952m – 11th, 格重康峰).  We wish we had stayed longer at Pang La Pass, but even just a brief stop has already made the journey to Pang La Pass one of the most beautiful roadside lookouts we have ever been to.  The scenery was so dramatic that it truly touched our hearts.  The thrill of seeing all these world famous mountains was hard to describe in words.

01At the Tent Village, the first place every tourists visited after they woke up was of course one of the two toilet facilities.  Headlamps were very helpful even in daytime.

02Unlike the night before, it was foggy and grey at the Everest Base Camp in the morning.

03At 7:45, we took out our backpacks from Tent 21 and prepared for our departure from the Tent Village of the Everest Base Camp.

04It was foggy everywhere.  We were lucky to had such fine weather the evening before to enjoy the scenery of Mount Everest.

05From 5200m at the base camp, our car drove on Zhufeng Road and gradually descended.

06Along the way, we passed by highland pastures…

07…occasionally farming villages in a arid context;

08…fields of Highland Barley where farmers were busy harvesting.

09Most areas along Zhufeng Road were dry and rocky.  Ruins of abandoned houses along the way revealed the harsh survival conditions on the arid Tibetan plateau.

10At 9:30am, we were approaching Pang La Pass.  The first glimpse of the Gyachung Kang (7952m – 11th, 格重康峰) and Cho Oyu (8188m – 6th, ཇོ་བོ་དབུ་ཡ 卓奧友峰) excited us.

11The section of Zhufeng Road at Pang La Pass includes 64 switchbacks climbing gradually from 4100m and to 5200m.  The panorama includes four of the world’s six tallest mountains, including Makalu (8454m), Lhotse (8516m), Everest (8848m), and Cho Oyu (8188m).

12A closer look at Gyachung Kang (left: 7952m, 格重康峰) and Cho Oyu (right: 8188m, ཇོ་བོ་དབུ་ཡ 卓奧友峰) was breathtaking.

13Left of Gyachung Kang and Cho Oyu, the spectacular panorama continued to Mount Everest (8848m, ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ 珠穆朗瑪峰) and Lhotse (8516m, ལྷོ་རྩེ 洛子峰).

14At Pang La Pass, we bid farewell to Mount Everest and the rest of the Mahalangur Himal peaks.

15Turning our back to Pang La Pass, we continued the journey on Zhufeng Road towards National Road 318 (China-Nepal Friendship Highway).

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


PIONEER OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE AND NATURE CONSERVATION, Kadoorie Farm (嘉道理農場), Hong Kong

On the northern slope of Tai Mo Shan (大帽山) at a place called Pak Ngau Shek (白牛石) in the area of Lam Tsuen (林村), 148 hectare of organic farms, botanical gardens and mature forests terracing up to the summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) reveal over half a century of efforts by the Kadoorie Farm (嘉道理農場).  Established in 1956, Kadoorie Farm has always stood at the forefront of Hong Kong’s agriculture, experimenting on new techniques and providing agricultural aid to farmers in need of support.  In 1951, the Kadoorie brothers (Horace and Lawrence) established the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association (KAAA) in an attempt to help the sudden influx of Mainland farmers into Hong Kong during the Chinese Civil War in the late 1940’s.  They picked Pak Ngau Shek (白牛石) near Lam Tsuen (林村) to establish an agricultural facility engaging in experiments on profitable and effecting farming and animal breeding, and training the new farmers with their developed techniques.  Today, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (嘉道理農場暨植物園) diversifies their effort to promote organic farming, sustainable living, nature conservation and education.  They also run extensive rehabilitation program for wild animals in Hong Kong.

DSC_8597Linked by 9 km of roads and 8 km of trails, various highlights of the Kadoorie Farm spread over the slope of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山).

DSC_8603One of the big highlights at the lower section of Kadoorie Farm is the “Eco Garden” (生機園), exhibiting different types of self sufficient and compact farming in a community scale.

DSC_8607The garden presents natural and organic ways to maintain soil’s nutrients and insect control, and the best combination of vegetables for each season.

DSC_8611Other than its freshness and taste, the organic vegetables such as the purple cabbages are also beautiful.

DSC_8618Spherical bird scarers are hung over a cluster of rainbow chards in the Eco Garden.

DSC_8658A wavy fence separates the Eco Garden with the other terraced farms and botanic gardens.

DSC_8599Other than organic farming, more innovative planting techniques are also examined at the Eco Garden.  Some farming techniques that requires less space or soil may suit urban living well.

DSC_8631At the Piers Jacobs Wildlife Sanctuary, native mammals such as a Barking Deer or Muntjac (麂) have been rescued as an orphan and raised in the sanctuary.

DSC_8641The wild boar is also another rescued orphan at the sanctuary.  Both wild boars and barking deer can be found in the forests in and around Kadoorie Farm.

DSC_8659In the old days, pig breeding was an important work at the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association (KAAA).  Today a few Da Hua Bai Pigs (大花白豬) are kept at the farm for educational purposes.

DSC_8671Amphibians and reptiles are both vulnerable groups of wildlife in Hong Kong due to habitat loss.  Kadoorie Farm has a few of the native species at the Amphibian and Reptile House and Reptile Garden.

DSC_8674Interesting pavilions and artworks are all over the farm, including a dragon boat pigeon house.

DSC_8687And also the fish mosaic at the Cascade Garden near the Chicken House.

DSC_8709As the farm terraces up the hillside of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山), the view to the surrounding landscape becomes more spectacular.

DSC_8721The Butterfly Path winds up the hill through dense forests and open terraces, following part of an old trail which led the locals up the hill of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) for a religious blessing.

DSC_8700In order to preserve the natural feel, there is minimal modern safety infrastructure provided at the Butterfly Path.

DSC_87329 km of roads circulate up and down the Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山), going through some densely forested areas, the habitat for some native species in Hong Kong, such as the barking deer.

DSC_8714… and the wild boar.

DSC_8750At 550m above sea level, the summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) is the highest point in Kadoorie Farm.  For centuries, farmers came up to the summit to seek blessings from the goddess of Kwun Yum.

DSC_8752The summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) allows visitors to have fine view of the New Territories and even Shenzhen on a fine and clear day.

DSC_8757The summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) is at 1812 ft, or 550 m.

DSC_8759Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) is sandwiched between Tai To Yan (大刀屻) to the north and Tai Mo Shan (大帽山) to the south.

DSC_8767Heading downhill, visitors can either take a shuttle bus or walk down a winding road.

DSC_8829Along the downhill road, sounds of monkeys can often be heard.  Occasionally visitors may spot monkeys jumping from one tree to another.


YI O (二澳) & TAI O (大澳) AT NIGHT, Western Lantau Part 2, Hong Kong

The trail from Fan Lau to Yi O was less well maintained than the path we walked in the morning.  It took us about 40 minutes to walk from Fan Lau Sai Wan (分流西灣) to the farming village of Yi O (二澳).  This was our second visit of Yi O.  A little over two years ago, we came to Yi O and found a beautiful valley where a few farmers trying hard to reintroduce rice farming back to Lantau Island.  Yi O, a farming village with over two hundred years of history and over a thousand villagers in its heyday, became an abandoned village in the 1970s when the last of its inhabitants moved out to the city.  In 2013, a farming cooperative secured a 30-year lease after negotiations with the original four clans of villagers to re-cultivate the land of Yi-O for organic rice paddies.  Since then more lands were cultivated and more helpers were hired each year.  Over 10% of Yi-O’s land had been worked on to develop the farm-to-table business.  In the past, growing rice in a constantly lightly flooded plot in front of village homes was a self-sustainable way of living for Yi-O inhabitants.  Nowadays, the cooperative tried to revive this method, but were still experimenting with more efficient ways to yield more crops.  Under the late afternoon sun, the golden rice paddies revealed a lovely rural dream.  In the era of enormous concerns regarding food safety, the farming experiment of Yi-O might prove crucial for Hong Kong to reduce some degree of reliance on food imports.

DSC_6031Yi O lies in the embrace of lush-green mountains from both sides.

DSC_6036The golden rice paddies looked promising.  Perhaps it was almost harvest time for these fields.  Because of its small output, it isn’t easy to buy a bag of rice from Yi O.  The farming cooperative has a small shop in Tai O to promote their products.

DSC_6045We found our way to the main path in the middle of Yi O, and continued to walk north towards Yi O Bay.

DSC_6049Winding through the village of Yi O, we could still encounter a number of abandoned homes and construction equipment.

DSC_6064The sun was low and so as the tide when we reached Yi O Bay.  The tidal flat is the ideal place for mangrove trees to thrive.

DSC_6073As we left Yi O Bay and headed towards Tai O, a few dogs came the opposite direction towards Yi O.  One by one the dogs walked across the mudflat and disappear into the village of Yi O.

DSC_6075The mudflat of Yi O Bay faces north towards Pearl River Estuary.

DSC_6084Reflection of the western sun and distant mountains and the incoming tidal water on the mudflat of Yi O Bay was quite picturesque.

DSC_6116The sun was fading fast behind the silhouette of mountains adjacent to Yi O.

DSC_6140The flag of Yi O flew high at a nearby concrete pier.

DSC_6173Despite the hazy weather, the sunset over Pearl River Estuary was quite spectacular.

DSC_6188About an hour after we left Yi O, we arrived at the small village of Fan Kwai Tong (番鬼塘), across the bay from Tai O.

DSC_6194We walked across the Tai O Promenade from Fan Kwai Tong (番鬼塘) to Tai O (大澳).  The tide was coming in as the last twilight faded.

DSC_6205In early evening, the popular Tai O wasn’t as busy as we thought.  Without the tourist groups, it was our first time to experience the charm of Tai O as a tranquil fishing village but not a busy tourist trap with vendors trying to sell you all kinds of souvenirs and snacks.

DSC_6206Without the tourists, we could leisurely admire the beauty of the fishing community.  After a long day of hike, we decided to have dinner in Tai O before returning to the city centre.

DSC_6209As we entered Tai O, vendors selling dried seafood to tourists were about to close their stalls.

DSC_6215We soon reached the iconic suspended bridge of Tai O.  The festive lights from the Chinese New Year were still up.

DSC_6227We crossed the suspended bridge to enter the main part of the fishing village.

DSC_6231Without the noise from tourists, Tai O was quite peaceful.  Many inhabitants were preparing dinner in their stilt houses.

DSC_6233We passed by an interesting shrine dedicated to the deity of the local land.

DSC_6237Tai O Community Centre is the main venue for cultural activities at the fishing village.

DSC_6240We passed by a number of shrimp paste shops and manufacturers, an industry that Tai O has been famous for many generations.  Many of the shops were already closed for the day.

DSC_6251After wandering through Tai O, we ended up at Tai O Heritage Hotel.  The hotel was established in 2009, after extensive renovations were carried out for the historical police station built in 1902.  We dined at the glass roofed restaurant Tai O Lookout in the hotel.  The food was nothing spectacular but the historical setting of the complex and the airy atmosphere of the glassy building offered us a pleasant experience to finish the day.

DSC_6266After dinner, we strolled through the village once again heading for the bus station at the village entrance.

DSC_6282The tide was much higher than an hour or two ago, and so as the moon.

DSC_6296All the stores near the bus station were closed.  We waited for about ten minutes before boarding a Lantau bus for Tung Chung at North Lantau, where we would switch to the MTR, Hong Kong’s super efficient metro system, to return home.