ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “hiking

SHARP PEAK (蚺蛇尖), Sai Kung (西貢), Hong Kong

One thing truly amazing about Hong Kong is the proximity of untouched nature from its bustling commercial downtown and the ease of access by means of public transportation.  At the northeast of Hong Kong, the lush green hills, turquoise water and sandy beaches of Sai Kung is popular for hikers, beachgoers, bikers, kayakers, and all kinds of nature lovers.  The tallest of the three steepest peaks in Sai Kung, Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖, literally translates to Python Snake Peak in Chinese) is often considered the Holy Grail for hikers in Hong Kong.  At 468m, Sharp Peak is not the highest peak in the city, but its steep slopes, prominent existence in the area, and the fantastic views of East Sai Kung’s subtropical coastline from the peak makes it a unique hiking destination.  During weekends, the area can get a little crowded, including the trail that heads up the Sharp Peak.  Though the scenic views from the peak and the reward of chilling out on the pristine beaches below make all the efforts of scrambling up the steep rocky slope of Sharp Peak among groups after groups of fellow hikers more than worthwhile.

DSC_6774Bus 94 from Sai Kung City to Wong Shek Pier dropped us off at the trailhead at Pak Tam Au (北潭凹).

DSC_6776After about an hour on the MacLehose Trail, we passed by the tranquil village of Chek Keng (赤徑) and deviated from the main trail at Tai Long Au (大浪坳), we reached the small trail heading towards Nam She Au (蚺蛇坳), where the ascend of the Sharp Peak officially began.  A few signs were erected between Tai Long Au and Nam She Au to warn against anyone who wished to reach the summit of Sharp Peak due to the treacherous conditions of the mountain trail.

DSC_6782Along the way we could see traces of rain erosion due to recent downpours.

DSC_6783Soon we were on our way walking up the first steep section of the ascend.

DSC_6791The trail was exposed with hardly any shade.  Despite its difficulty and relatively remoteness, the trail up the Sharp Peak was far from peaceful because of the crowds.

DSC_6824It was exciting to see that the summit was get closer.

DSC_6829Looking back down the route we came up, views of the beaches of Tai Long Wan (大浪灣) were quite amazing despite the haze.

DSC_6832There were several sections of the trail that we needed to scramble up the slope using our hands.

DSC_6857After about two and a half hours from the trailhead, we finally reached the summit of the Sharp Peak.  The small summit area was filled with hikers of all sort.

DSC_6835 From the summit of Sharp Peak, the view of Nam She Wan beach (蚺蛇灣) below, and the Peninsula of Ko Lau Wan Tsui (高流灣咀) and Grass Island (塔門) beyond was incredible despite the haze.

DSC_6841Looking east to the four beaches of Tai Long Wan (大浪灣) from left to right: Tung Wan (東灣), Tai Wan (大灣), Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣), and Sai Wan (西灣).

DSC_6875Some hikers prefer to climb the north ridge of Sharp Peak from She Wan beach (蚺蛇灣).  The north ridge is well known for its steepness, especially the last part of the trail where grabbing onto the metal ribbon was essential.

DSC_6850.JPGThe descend down towards Mei Fan Ten (米粉頂) is not a walk in the park either, especially when one is already tired from the ascend.

DSC_6892The route of Mei Fan Ten (米粉頂) was slippery at parts due to loose gravel.

DSC_6894Tung Wan (東灣) appeared much closer when we reached Mei Fan Ten (米粉頂).

DSC_6895The summit of Sharp Peak already appeared like distant memory.

DSC_6912Ahead of us was Tung Wan Shan (東灣山),  a saddle shape hill overlooking Tung Wan.

DSC_6925After about an hour of descend we were approaching the pristine beach of Tung Wan.

DSC_6938The four beaches of Tai Long Wan, literally means Big Wave Bay, are famous for their turquoise water and fine sand.

DSC_6942Due to its remoteness, there are no lifeguards and shower facilities at Tung Wan.

DSC_6969There were hardly anyone on the beach too except hikers.

DSC_6987Swimmers who make the effort to Tung Wan (by hiking or private yacht) may enjoy the beautiful water of South China Sea without the crowds commonly found in other beaches in Hong Kong.

DSC_6996The second beach Tai Wan (大灣) is the biggest of the four beaches.

DSC_6998Few more visitors showed up on Tai Wan (大灣).

DSC_6999At Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣), we finally had a chance to sit down at a beach eatery and washed down a plate of fried rice with beer.

DSC_7009Lying lazily on the sand of Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣) and looking back at the majestic Sharp Peak, it was hard to imagine that we were standing on the summit just a few hours prior.

DSC_7022Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣) is the beach in Sai Kung that we visit the most.  The beach is accessed via a narrow wooden bridge.

DSC_7040In the evening, we were too lazy to walk another hour over to Sai Wan for the village bus.  We decided to jump onto a motor boat for an exciting but bumpy 45-minutes journey back to Sai Kung city.

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DAY 4 (1/3): TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.28

Kamikochi Valley and Hida Mountains or Northern Japanese Alps are the results from a series of geological processes that began 2.6 million years ago, when the Azusa River carved out a deep valley while the adjacent mountains rose abruptly.  Further volcanic and sedimentary activities continued to transform the Kamikochi Valley until recently.  Nowhere can illustrate the dramatic transformations of Kamikochi more evidently than the Taishoike or Taisho Pond (大正池), when the eruption of Mount Yake (焼岳) in 1915 dammed the Azusa River to form the beautiful Taisho Pond.  Today, the tranquil turquoise pond right by the foot of Mount Yake has become the most popular destination in Kamikochi.

After two nights at Kamikochi, it was time for us to move on to Shirahone Onsen for a dip in its famous milky hotspring.  Before leaving Kamikochi by the 8:25am bus, we opted for our last hike to visit Taisho Pond before breakfast. We headed out at 5am.  The sky was grey compared to our previous two days.

DSC_6669Time was still early and the sun had yet risen beyond the mountains, though the air was fresh and filled with a sense of tranquility.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail to Taisho Pond soon led us into a forest.  Bear sighting was an unlikely possibility.  The last time someone saw a bear in the area was three weeks prior to our visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail led us passing through some wet and shaded forest area before reaching a wetland right by Azusa River.

DSC_6683It took us about 45 minutes to reach the Taisho Pond.  Mount Yake (焼岳), the volcano whose eruption in 1915 caused the formation of the famous pond, stood right behind the turquoise water.

DSC_6688Unfortunately, the sky was grey and the early sunlight was still weak.  The colour of Taisho Pond was not as vivid as we hoped.

DSC_6699Nonetheless, the peaceful scenery and the pleasant colour palette of Taisho Pond still looked magnificent.

DSC_6702The beautiful reflections on the mirror like water revealed how peaceful the Taisho Pond was.

DSC_6722Taisho Pond is the ideal place to admire the scenery of Mount Yake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATaisho Pond seemed to provide a desirable habitat for wild ducks.

DSC_6738Fallen logs in the water dated back to the last eruption of Mount Yake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA long boardwalk provides convenient access to the lookout of Taisho Pond.

DSC_6746On our return journey to Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge, we passed by a lush green wetland.

DSC_6747A small detour from the main path led us to the picturesque Tashiro Pond (田代池), a peaceful wetland with crystal clear water.

DSC_6762Along the way, we passed by a stubborn duck that refused to step aside from the middle of the main path.

DSC_6790Back to Nishi-itoya Mountains Lodge we had a close encounter with two Japanese macaque monkeys.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter two hours of hiking, we felt total satisfied for devouring the fantastic breakfast.

IMG_8232After two nights of delightful stay, it was time for us to check out of Nishi-itoya Mountain Lodge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made it just in time to catch the 8:25am bus to Sawando (沢渡) where we would make a transfer for Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉).

* * *

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 3 (2/2): DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.27

After consulting a staff at the Visitor Centre, we decided to take the Dakesawa hike instead of climbing the Mount Yake (焼岳).  According to the national park staff, snow could be an issue even on the Dakesawa (岳沢) trail as we didn’t have snow crampons with us.  Anyhow the Dakesawa trail was still the better bet for us in comparison with Mount Yake.  We decided to go as far as the trail conditions allowed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom Kappa Bridge, we walked northeast in the direction of Myojin Pond (明神池).  Soon we reached the picturesque Dakesawa Marsh (岳沢湿原), where a small path led us towards the trailhead of Dakesawa Trail.

DSC_6492At the trailhead, a sign post indicated that it would take us 2 hours to reach Dakesawa Hut.  Without snow crampons, Dakesawa Hut would probably be our destination of the hike.  From July and September, the Dakesawa Trail would be busy with hikers aiming for Mount Mae-Hodaka (前穂高岳) and Mount Oku-Hotaka (奥穂高岳).

DSC_6508The first hour of the hike was a steady uphill walk in the forest.  At midway, we reached a spot called “Wind Cavern (風穴)”, where chilly wind from uphill came down via a gully.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOut of the forest, we reached an open and rocky ravine flanked both sides by high peaks of Mount Hodaka.

DSC_6523We rested upon a pile of rocks.  The environment was perfect to devour a can of local tomato juice.

DSC_6543Down below, we could see the Kamikochi Valley, the turquoise Taisho Pond (大正池) and the Akandanayama (アカンダナ山).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the last half hour, snow began to appear on the trail.  The snow was slippery but we managed to climb up step by step.

DSC_6576We met several groups of hikers along the way, including a group of visually impaired hikers and their attentive guides.

DSC_6585Finally, after rough 670m of elevation gain, we arrived at Dakesawa Hut.  At 2,216m above sea level, the hut was the highest point for our hike.  Nested in the embrace of the Hodaka peaks, the hut enjoyed fine views of the surrounding mountains and Kamikochi Valley down below.  A few staff were making repairs here and there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe notice board at Dakesawa Hut provided information on trail conditions and other useful notes for hikers.  From Dakesawa Hut, it would be another 4 hours of steep hiking towards the junction of Mount Mae-Hodaka (前穂高岳) and Oku-Hotaka (奥穂高岳).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInside the hut, there was a small eatery and souvenir shop.

DSC_6590We gratefully sat down and ordered curry for lunch.  The menu was simple and slightly pricey, due to the fact that all food up here were transported by helicopter from down below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the desk, chairs and benches offered hikers a lovely spot for rest.

DSC_6605The helipad nearby was essential as most provisions at the hut were transported by helicopter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABehind the hut, reaching the peaks of Mount Hotaka would take another 4 hours of hiking at least.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took the same route for the descend.

DSC_6639Too bad we didn’t encounter any wildlife during the hike.  With the lovely scenery and pleasant hiking experience, Dakesawa trail offered us a decent introduction to the magnificent alpine scenery at Kamikochi.

DSC_6652It took us less time returning to the trailhead at Dakesawa Marsh (岳沢湿原).

DSC_6659A zigzagging boardwalk took us to a small deck at Dakesawa Marsh (岳沢湿原).  We sat down at the edge of the deck to admire the alpine scenery.  A leisure stroll took us back to Nishi-ito-ya Mountain Lodge, where the refreshing hot bath awaited for our return.

* * *

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 3 (1/2): MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.27

Dawn came before 5am.  Taking a walk in Kamikochi before most tourists came out was a charming experience.  Walking southwest along the serene Azusa River before reaching Kamikochi Onsen Hotel (上高地温泉ホテル), a small metal plaque at a small water pond reminded us the early mountaineering history in Kamikochi back in the late 19th century.  Known as the Weston Memorial, the bronze plaque was made in honour of Walter Weston, whom many referred to as the “Father of Mountaineer in Japan.”

Before the late 19th century, the Japanese Alps was largely unknown to the Western world, and climbing mountains just for fun was a non-existence.  Employed by the Meiji government, English surveyor William Gowland became the first foreigner to summit Mount Yari (槍ヶ岳) of the Hida Mountains (飛騨山脈) in 1878.  His adventure started a trend of mountaineering in Japan and was the first person to coin the term “Japanese Alps (日本アルプス)”.  In 1891, English missionary Walter Weston also climbed Mount Yari.  Sometimes referred as the “Father of Mountaineer in Japan”, Walter Weston wrote about his experiences and published “Mountaineering and Exploration in the Japan Alps”, an important travel literature that promoted this part of Japan to the Western world.  He continued to adopt also Gowland’s term “Japanese Alps” in his publications, and established the first Japanese Alpine Club in 1905.  Each year, the Weston Memorial Festival takes place in Kamikochi to commemorate Walter Weston.

DSC_6392Walking at 5am along Azusa River was a lovely experience.  The charming scenery under the early morning sun gave us an uplifting spirit.

DSC_6394The turquoise water of Azusa River led us southwest towards the volcano Mount Yake.

DSC_6403It seemed that our fortune with perfect weather continued.

DSC_6407The rising sun was behind us as we moved along the river in a leisure pace.

DSC_6410The volcano Mount Yake in the distance was our intended hiking destination later in the day.

DSC_6424Before reaching Kamikochi Onsen Hotel, we came across the bronze plaque of Walter Weston.  The memorial could be reached via stepping stones in the pond.

DSC_6435Soon we reached a path that led to the trailhead of Mount Yake (焼岳).  The trail up to Mount Yake (焼岳) can be done in a 6 hour hike (round trip).  It was our intended destination for later today.  But our hotel manager said the snow conditions on the trail was not too convincing, and recommended us to do the day hike of Dakesawa (岳沢) instead.

DSC_6437Continuing south we reached the Tashiro Bridge (田代橋), where we had a fine view of Azusa River, Kamikochi Onsen Hotel (上高地温泉ホテル) and the mountains beyond.  Crossing the bridge, we began to turn back towards Kappa Bridge.

DSC_6454Along the riverside, there were occasional park benches and tables where hikers were enjoying outdoor breakfast.

IMG_6100On our way back, the rising sunlight finally reached the summits of Mount Hotaka (穂高岳).

DSC_6469Before the arrival of tour groups, hikers can enjoy a moment of tranquility in the early morning.

DSC_6476Looking at Mount Yake (焼岳) from Kappa Bridge, we decided to drop by the Visitor Centre to ask for their advice on the trail conditions of Mount Yake.

DSC_6477If the hike up Mount Yake was not possible, we would turn to the Dakesawa (岳沢) trail going up the slope towards Mount Hotaka (穂高岳).

DSC_6486At the Visitor Centre, the staff confirmed that the trail up Mount Yake was still quite snowy at the upper section.  Unless we had snow crampons they advised us not to go for the volcano.  They said even the Dakesawa trail could be covered by snow at the upper sections, so we could go as far as we could accordingly to the trail conditions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack at Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge, we enjoyed our scheduled breakfast at 7am.  It was a tasty and filling meal before we embarked onto the hike up to Dakesawa Hut.


DAY 2 (5/5): ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.26

Sometimes referred to as Japan’s Yosemite, Kamikochi (上高地) in the Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園) is a picturesque valley in the Hida Mountains (飛騨山脈) or Northern Japan Alps.  With an altitude of 1500m and a length of 18km, Kamikochi is bounded by Mount Hotaka (穂高岳, 3190m) to the north and volcano Mount Yake (焼岳, 2455m) to the south.  The turquoise water of Azusa River (梓川) flows through Kamikochi and passed under the famous Kappa Bridge (河童橋) where most tourists gather when they arrive.  Chubu Sangaku National Park was established in 1934 for natural conservation.  As the crown jewel of the national park, Kamikochi sits in the midst of alpine peaks, marshlands and hiking trails.

Most visitors come to Kamikochi from Matsumoto (松本) or Takayama (高山).  A traffic regulation was introduced in 1975 to prohibit tourists to enter Kamikochi in their own cars.  Most visitors arrive in Kamikochi by bus, either directly from a nearby town or from a bus stop next to one of the many parking lots along the main road.  A wide range of accommodation options are available in Kamikochi, from campsites to luxurious resort hotels.  We chose a mid-range mountain lodge called Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge (西糸屋山荘) near the Kappa Bridge.  At the heart of Kamikochi, Kappa Bridge (河童橋) is the most important landmark in the valley.  First built in 1891, today’s Kappa Bridge is the fifth iteration of the original.  There are eateries, souvenir shops and convenient stores at either side of the bridge for hikers to stock up supplies and fill up their tummies.

DSC_6277We were delighted to arrive in Kamikochi in perfect weather.  We immediately fell in love with the crystal clear water of Azusa River (梓川).

DSC_6257Just a few minutes walk from the bus station, we arrived at the famous Kappa Bridge (河童橋).  In Kamikochi, the bridge serves as the most important landmark.

DSC_6252Standing at the Kappa Bridge, the iconic view of Mount Hotaka (穂高岳) and Azusa River (梓川) was quite impressive.

DSC_6253Looking out Kappa Bridge to the opposite side from Mount Hotaka, we could see the mighty volcano Mount Yake (焼岳).

DSC_6283Shops right by the Kappa Bridge carry everything from snacks to souvenir.  We got ourselves local yogurt, juice and beer for the night.

DSC_6331A few minutes walk from Kappa Bridge, we arrived at Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge (西糸屋山荘) where we would stay for two nights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took off our shoes at the vestibule and left them in the shoe storage room.

DSC_6807The spacious lobby of Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge was mainly finished in wood.  A heater near the reception reminded us that it could get quite cool after sunset.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext to the lobby there was a small cafe and souvenir shop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the upper level, we had high anticipation for the common baths, where users could enjoy the hot mineral bath and magnificent views of the snow capped Hodaka Mountains at the same time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince 7am in the morning, we departed from Shinjuku Station of Tokyo, made a whirlwind tour of Matsumoto and hopped onto a train followed by a bus into the Hida Mountains, and at last arrived at our hotel room in Kamikochi in the late afternoon.

DSC_6243The private room in Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge (西糸屋山荘) was clean and spacious.  The setting was relaxing and the room was filled with fragrant of the tatami flooring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt about 18:30, we went downstairs to the dining hall for dinner.

DSC_6338Just like many hotels in Kamikochi, the food served by Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge mainly came from the surrounding area.

DSC_6382After dinner, it was time to shoot some night photos.  Unfortunately, the moon was already up and relatively bright.

DSC_6377Tourists still gathered at the Kappa Bridge despite the darkness.

DSC_6374Standing on the Kappa Bridge, the picturesque view of Kamikochi was enhanced by the lights from lodges along the river.

DSC_6358Despite the bright moon, we could still see some stars at the darker areas in the sky.

DSC_6363I set up the tripod facing Dakesawa (岳沢) and Mount Hotaka (穂高岳) to capture the starry night.

DSC_6347Dakesawa (岳沢), Mount Hotaka (穂高岳) and a bend of Azusa River (梓川) gave us the perfect image of Kamikochi.

 

* * *

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 2 (4/5): FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.26

With a population of less than 250,000, peaceful Matsumoto (松本市) is renowned for its beautiful mountain views, in particular the Hida Mountains to the west.  Coming from Tokyo, we could immediately sense the relaxing air of the mountain city as we stepped out the train station.  We spent 5 hours in Matsumoto, visiting the castle, art museum, and performing arts centre.  All three sites were within walking distance from the train station, and we were able to cover everything on foot.  Near the castle, we passed by small weekend markets where vendors were selling snacks, handicrafts, straw hats, accessories, local produces, artworks, etc.  Our brief stay in Matsumoto provided us a moment of transition between busy Tokyo and tranquil Kamikochi (上高地) in the Japanese Alps.

DSC_5957At 09:40 we arrived at Matsumoto Station (松本駅) by JR East’s Super Azusa.

DSC_5958It was Saturday morning.  Most shops near the station had yet open their doors except this sake store.  Sake, the popular Japanese rice wine, is in fact quite famous in Nagano Prefecture, where clean water, good sake rice and cool weather can be found.

DSC_6062With red polka dots all over, the Town Sneaker bus is undoubtedly designed by Yayoi Kusama (草間彌生), the world renowned artist from Matsumoto.  This inner city loop service is a convenient way for tourists to get around the city.

DSC_5962In front of the newly opened Shinmai Media Garden, a lively street market captured our attention.  Designed by Toyo Ito, Shinmai Media Garden is a shopping centre with an interesting trade mix, including a local beer restaurant, cultural workshops, rooftop cafe, restaurants, apple cider shop, lifestyle store, small exhibition spaces, etc.

DSC_6066At the street market, we could find different local products from handicrafts to snacks.

DSC_6064Even doughnuts were made with local ingredients.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStraw broom (houki) of Matsumoto (松本箒) is a famous traditional handicraft of the city since the late Edo Period 150 years ago.

DSC_5964This minimalist building right by the Metoba River is a small retail complex with a barber shop, restaurants, and fashion boutiques.

DSC_5966Behind the retail complex stands the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum, which hosts a collection of timepieces donated by Chikazo Honda and other local citizens.

DSC_5967Nawate Dori, also called Kaeru Machi or “Frog Street”, is a small street near the castle famous for its traditional shops.  Frog sculptures can be found along Nawate Dori.  Made by students of Tokyo University for Arts, this sculpture of frog samurai is one the most impressive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome say the abundance of frog sculptures at Nawate Dori is a result from the typhoon incident in 1959, which flooded the area and forced the original Kajika frogs of the Metoba River leaving for higher ground and never returned.  The frog sculptures have since become replacements to retain the original spirit of the place.

DSC_6061The streets of Matsumoto were full of surprises.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe abundance of nice boutiques and delightful cafes at downtown Matsumoto reveals the youthful energy and desire for a cozy lifestyle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMatsumoto has a decent student population with its universities, junior colleges, secondary and elementary schools.

DSC_6214At 14:45, we hopped on the Alpico Kotsu’s Kamikochi Line at platform No. 7 at the station.  The 14.4km train ride took us as far as Shin Shimashima (新島々駅) in half an hour, from where we switched to the Kamikochi bound bus for the final leg of the journey.

IMG_6011At Matsumoto Station, we picked up two bento boxes from a convenient store.  They were tasty and decent looking, perfect for a relaxing train ride.

DSC_6227As soon as we stepped out of Shin Shimashima Station (新島々駅), we could see the bus parked outside.  It was a smooth transfer as we boarded the direct bus for Kamikochi.

DSC_6230On the way to Kamikochi, we often passed by picturesque rice paddies.

DSC_6233_01The bus ride took about 60 minutes through mountain valleys and small villages.  All we could hope for was pleasant weather in Kamikochi, where we would make day hikes to explore the mountains.

* * *

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)

 

 


CLEAR WATER AND SEAFOOD COVE, Clear Water Bay (清水灣) and Po Toi O (布袋澳), Hong Kong

South of Sai Kung and east of Tseung Kwan O, the lush green Clear Water Bay Peninsula (清水灣半島) separates Junk Bay (將軍澳) and Port Shelter (牛尾海).  With its natural and relaxed setting, uncounted opportunities for outdoor activities, and a number of low dense residential neighborhoods, Clear Water Bay ( is popular among expats and anyone who loves nature.  Clear Water Bay (‘s two beaches, High Junk Peak (釣魚翁) country trail, the cove of Po Toi O, sleepy villages and the surrounding turquoise water make it a great alternative for outdoor adventures to the more popular Sai Kung.  With just a bus ride away from Kowloon, Clear Water Bay offers the opportunity for a quick dose of nature for Hong Kong’s city dwellers.  It was rather late by the time I get off the bus at the second beach of Clear Water Bay.  I chose to enter the High Junk Peak country trail at Ha Shan Tuk (蝦山篤) and do a short hike to the fishing village of Po Toi O (布袋澳).

 

DSC_1884I entered Clear Water Bay’s High Junk Peak Country Trail at the Tai O Mun Road (大坳門路) entrance.  The Chinese name of High Junk Peak is 釣魚翁, which means “Fisherman” or a Common Kingfisher (釣魚翁鳥).  In reference to the Kingfisher bird, a sculpture is erected at the trail entrance.

DSC_1889On the slope of Ha Shan Tuk (蝦山篤), a visitor was having fun with his remote controlled mini-plane against the scenic backdrop of Clear Water Bay.

DSC_1896To the west of Ha Shan Tuk (蝦山篤) is South East New Territories Landfill (新界東南堆填區) and the new residential developments at Lohas Park (日出康城) and Tseung Kwan O (將軍澳).  Completed in 1993, the South East New Territories Landfill is pretty much filled up.  Waste disposal and running out of landfills is one of the city’s toughest and most urgent issues needed to resolve.

DSC_1900Looking east, the view opened up to Clear Water Bay Club and Steep Island beyond.

DSC_1903Atop the hill above Po Toi O lies the golf course of Clear Water Bay Country Club.

DSC_1904Eastwards beyond Clear Water Bay stand a number of islands close to the shore.  Beyond that is the vast open sea until Taiwan.

DSC_1910Because of There are many fish farms in the area.

DSC_1920In a distance, the mighty High Junk Peak (釣魚翁) stands proudly over Clear Water Bay.  It is one of the three treacherous Peaks (the others are Sai Kung’s Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) and Tuen Mun’s Castle Peak (青山).  It is also considered to be one of the three sharp peaks of Sai Kung, with the other two being Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) and Tai Yue Ngam Teng (睇魚岩頂).

DSC_1929From above, the tranquil Po Toi O (布袋澳) is a lovely fishing village.  Referring to its physical appearance, Po Toi O’s name literally means a fabric sack.

DSC_1949The fish farms and the village of Po Toi O (布袋澳) look neat below the Clear Water Bay  Country Club.

DSC_1956.JPGFounded in 1266 by Lam Tao Yi  (林道義), the Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay (佛堂門天后古廟) is Hong Kong’s oldest Tin Hau temple.

DSC_1968Fish farms are still in operations at Po Toi O, a popular village for seafood meals.

DSC_1972The village of Po Toi O is one of the places in Hong Kong where a laid back atmosphere dominates.

DSC_1976In Po Toi O, two heritage buildings stand out from the rest: the Hung Shing Temple (1663) and Kung So (公所) in 1740.

DSC_1979There are two seafood restaurants in Po Toi O.

DSC_1988The village homes at Po Toi O are simple houses made of bamboos, timber, and metal sheets.

DSC_1997At the village exit, a large neon sign of “Seafood Island Restaurant” is erected near the minibus station.