ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “rock

BRIEF TASTE OF MOUNTAIN AND SEA, Pottinger Peak (砵甸乍山) to Shek O (石澳), Hong Kong

When we are short of time but still want to have a brief getaway from the city of Hong Kong, we often hop on a bus to Siu Sai Wan (小西灣), a relatively new residential district at the eastern end of Hong Kong Island for a short hike over Pottinger Peak to the cozy surfing beach of Big Wave Bay (大浪灣) and Shek O (石澳).  The hike takes a little over an hour, and is relatively simple, involving two sections of stepped path, one going up the Pottinger Peak and one descending down to the beach.  No matter how many times we have walked this route, it was always a pleasant surprise to reach the top of the Pottinger Peak and have the first glimpse of the turquoise water south of Hong Kong Island.

DSC_2899The trail begins in Siu Sai Wan (小西灣), a residential neighborhood at the eastern tip of Hong Kong Island.

DSC_2917Looking north during the ascend to the Pottinger Peak, the Victoria Harbour outside of Junk Bay (將軍澳) is busy with cruise ships and boats of all sorts.

DSC_2919Looking down from the uphill trail, the residential area of Siu Sai Wan looks quite densely populated.

DSC_2924 croppedWatching beautiful butterflies hopping between flowers is a pure delight.

DSC_2931Looking south from Pottinger Peak, the peninsula of Shek O and Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲) lie right ahead.

DSC_2933A ruined shelter on Pottinger Peak has been used as a temporary shrine.

DSC_2934It seems that the temporary shrine is dedicated to Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy.

DSC_2936Walking ahead, one can clearly see that much of the seaside land between the Big Wave Bay and Big Wave Bay.

DSC_2944On the downhill route, there are several Camellia trees (茶花) by the trail. 

DSC_2947The stepped path continues to the hill adjacent to the Big Wave Bay.  The noise of the crowds and public announcement from speakers can be heard long before we reach the beach.

DSC_2948.JPGBig Wave Bay (大浪灣) is a decent little beach at the southeast of Hong Kong Island.

DSC_2949The natural rock formations around the area of Big Wave Bay are quite interesting.

DSC_2955Though the beach can get a little crowded during summer weekends.  For the rest of year, it’s popular for surfers.

DSC_2967Some prefer to stay away from the crowds on a rocky slope near a BBQ site.

DSC_2985For families, small streams out to the sea can be an interesting playground with small fish and seaside creatures.

DSC_7696About half an hour of walk south of Big Wave Bay, there is a Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲), a tied island linked to the mainland of Shek O Village by a tombolo.  On the tombolo, a narrow blue bridge is built for pedestrians who wish to visit Tai Tau Chau.  The area is popular for couples taking wedding photos.

DSC_8048At one side of the tombolo, a peaceful tidal pool acts like a perfect mirror.  The colours of the rocks around the pool reveal the varying water level from time to time.

DSC_7698The coastal granite of Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲) are quite interesting after so many years of natural erosion and carving by the waves.

DSC_7740Despite the occasionally scary waves at this part of Hong Kong, many still brave the danger and climb onto the uneven coastal rocks for wedding photos.

DSC_7816The waves at Tai Tau Chau are beautiful but also terrifying sometimes.

DSC_7885Like the Geoparks in Sai Kung and Northeast New Territories, the coastal rocks at Tai Tau Chau are quite unique.

DSC_8856Just a stone throw from Tai Tau Chau lies the bigger beach of Shek O, a really popular outdoor destination for city dwellers of Hong Kong.



Ma Shi Chau (馬屎洲), which literally means “horse excrement island”, is a tidal island off a traditional fishing village Sam Mun Tsai (三門仔) at the northeastern New Territories near Tai Po (大埔).  Facing the Tolo Channel opposite from the dam of Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣淡水湖), Ma Shi Chau belongs to the UNESCO Geopark network in Hong Kong.  The remote tidal island is famous for its unique rock formation and outcropped strata dated back to the Permian Period (280 million years ago).

Ma Shi Chau is accessible via Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar (馬屎洲橫水渡).  A short hike on known as Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail will bring visitors to walk along the southeast coast of the island.  Along the coastal areas, unique and colourful rock formations are visible everywhere.  Millions of years ago, Ma Shi Chau was a basin in which surrounding waters continuously to deposit sediments such as sand and gravel.  Over the years as water level changed and so as the kinds of sediments accumulated.   Sedimentary rocks were formed after the process of lithification.  Vaults and folds are also visible on Ma Shi Chau as tectonic movements caused by volcanic activities transformed the rock surface.  Like many parts of Hong Kong, granite is also present at Ma Shi Chau as a result of magma intrusion during the Jurassic Period.  Other than rocks, views of the Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺) to the north, and the new town of Ma On Shan to the southeast across the Tolo Harbour (吐露港) are equally impressive.

DSC_3191Sam Mun Tsai (三門仔) is a small fishing village inhabited mainly by former boat people (fishermen families who lived on their boats in typhoon shelter).

DSC_3195From Sam Mun Tsai, a short walk brought me up to a hill dotted with graves.  On the high point, fish farming nets in the waters of Plover Cove.

DSC_3197The trail continued to wind through the ridge of a hill dotted with graves.

DSC_3202The trail then went downhill to the Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar (馬屎洲橫水渡), a natural sand bar that originally would be submerged in water during during high tide.  Over the years, villagers put boulders and sediments on the sand bar, so that it would be exposed above water even during high tide.

DSC_3205Today, the Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar is a convenient venue for a leisure stroll and water activities such as sea kayaking.

DSC_3204The Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar is also the gateway to the Ma Shi Chau Special Area, part of the Hong Kong Geopark.

DSC_3247On Ma Shi Chau Island, there is a short trail called Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail (馬屎洲自然教育徑) bringing visitors to a number of coastal woods and rock beaches.  Giant Golden Orb Weaver, one of the largest kinds of spiders in the world, are quite common in the woods.  Some of these are about the size of a human palm.

DSC_3267Visitors are usually fascinated by the rock formations when arriving at the first open coastal area.

DSC_3295Vaults and folds are visible at Ma Shi Chau due to prehistoric tectonic movements caused by volcanic activities.

DSC_3299Many of the outcropped strata and rock formations are colourful and eye catching.

DSC_3310Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.

DSC_3319Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.

DSC_3331Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.

DSC_3347To the northeast of Ma Shi Chau across the Plover Cove (船灣海), the 2km dam of Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣淡水湖) is only a few hundred metres away.

DSC_3352To the southeast across Tolo Harbour (吐露港), the new residential developments below Ma On Shan (馬鞍山) look like a bunch of toy blocks.

DSC_3359Construction of the new town of Ma On Shan began in 1980s, including private residential developments and public housing estates.


DSC_3366Fishermen may still test their luck in the Tolo Harbour.

DSC_3371In late afternoon, Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺) north of Ma Shi Chau looks gorgeous.

DSC_3374Under the shadow of Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺), the tiny island of Yeung Chau and the fish farms in the Plover Cove (船灣海) look like a peaceful picture.

NATURAL vs. MAN-MADE WONDER, High Island Reservoir East Dam (萬宜水庫東壩), Sai Kung (西貢), Hong Kong

Completed in 1978, High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫) is the largest reservoir in Hong Kong in terms of volume.  Situated at the southeastern end of Sai Kung Peninsula, High Island Reservoir is surrounded by some of the city’s most scenic country parks and pristine beaches.  Designated as an UNESCO geopark, the coastal areas near the East Dam (東壩) of the High Island Reservoir is filled with hexagonal volcanic columns unseen anywhere else in Hong Kong.  140 million years ago, catastrophic volcanic eruption covered much of the area in layers of tuff.  The tuff cooled throughout time and gradually solidified to form rock.  The hexagonal columns were formed from contraction during the cooling.  Today, remnants from the highly active volcanic era become one of the most spectacular natural sights in the city.  Equally impressive at the East Dam are the concrete dolosse blocks at one side of the Dam along the coast.  Each dolos block weights up to 20 tons.  They are used as wave breakers to protect the dam against the rough sea.  To complete the beautiful picture, there are also sea caves and stack islands dotted around the coast, and the azure sky and boundless South China Sea.

01From Sai Kung Town, the taxi ride to the East Dam, the furthest point of High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫), takes about 45 minutes.

02The spectacular High Island Reservoir East Dam separates the buffer lake of the reservoir and the boundless South China Sea.  Known as Po Pin Chau (破邊洲), the magnificent stack island outside of the East Dam is famous for its tall volcanic columns on one side of its cliff.

03The concrete East Dam structure that separates the two sides of blue water is really photogenic.

04The dolosse blocks pile up on the seaward side of the East Dam, creating a chaotic yet beautiful barrier.  Walking on the dam, we could hear the waves but weren’t be able to find an open view of the sea unless we climbed on the dolosse blocks.

07Once we climbed on the dolosse blocks, we were immediately overwhelmed by the sight of the powerful waves hitting against the coastal volcanic hexagonal columns.

05We climbed down the dam, sat on one of the step and had a quick picnic lunch.

06Looking inland, we could see the inner East Dam that separating the buffer pool with the main reservoir above.  The massive dam structure looked to us as if merged with the adjacent natural landscape.

08Sea caves are common features near the East Dam.

09At the East Dam, natural volcanic hexagonal columns appear side by side with the manmade dolosse blocks.

10To explore a bit of the surrounding coastal landscape, we decided to walk further into the trail heading to Fa Shan (花山) and Pak Lap (白臘).  The trail was not very well defined, but we managed to find our way in the hill of shrubs reaching waist height.

10aOur goal was to at least to have a closer look at the cliff of volcanic columns of the stack island of Po Pin Chau (破邊洲).

11The coastal landscape in the area was truly spectacular.  Some like to explore the area by sea kayaking.

12Passing by the stone beach of Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘), we saw a few hikers watching the powerful waves.

13Some visitors didn’t mind to get wet and chose to explore by boat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, we reached the closest lookout overlooking the magnificent Po Pin Chau (破邊洲).

14The stone columns of Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) appeared like a gigantic church organ.

16We then found our way down to the Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘) to get a even closer look and even touch of the volcanic columns.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll cliff sides at Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘) were covered with stone columns.

17After the hike out to Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) and Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣), it was already late afternoon by the time we returned to the East Dam.

18.JPGInstead of calling a taxi, we decided to walk back out to the main road where we could take a public bus.  The route led us to go along a little over half the perimeter of High Island Reservoir and took about two hours.

19Beyond the haze we could see the Sharp Peak or Nam She Tsim (蚺蛇尖) in a distance, a popular challenge for hikers in Hong Kong.

20Soon the full moon was up over the tranquil water of High Island Reservoir.

21The scenery of High Island Reservoir was serene and calm.

22We enjoyed a few minutes of perfect sunset when we reached the West Dam (西壩).  Beyond the West Dam was Port Shelter Sea (牛尾海) and a series of islands.  The closest island was Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲).

23As the sun gradually set, we picked up our pace of walking.  Known as the Maclehose Trail Section 1, the trail surrounding High Island Reservoir was long but relative flat and easy.  By the time we reached the bus stop at Tai Mong Tsai Road it was almost dark.

DAY 3 (2/7): NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.05

After the peaceful stroll in the nearby neighborhood, we approached the Sammon Gate (三門) from its side.  Built in 1628, the enormous 5-bay Sammon Gate stood proudly at the entrance plaza of Nanzenji Temple.  The timber structure of the Sammon Gate darkened as it aged.  The reddish tone of the wood matched well with the autumn foliage.  Sammon, or triple gate, is a common feature of a Zen Buddhist temple.  It is the short form for sangedatsumon (三解脱門) or gate of three liberation.  To obtain liberation and achieve enlightenment, Zen Buddhism believes the three liberation: to understand that nothing in this world has a distinctive character, therefore there is no fixed form, and as a result there is nothing in this world to be sought after.  The staff wasn’t there so we didn’t get a chance to climb up to the upper deck.  From the Sammon Gate, we walked straight into the middle courtyard where a number of pine and beautiful maple trees stood.  In the middle, the Hatto or Dharma (法堂) was not open to the public.  We could only circle the building from the outside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Sammon Gate (三門) of Nanzenji is one of the biggest in temple gate in Kyoto.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClose up of a timber column of Nanzenji’s Sammon Gate (三門).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are five bays in Nanzenji’s Sammon Gate.

04The majestic Sammon as seen from inside the compound.

05Hatto or Dharma (法堂), the large lecture hall, was not open to the public.

We then made a turn to the right side of Hatto, reaching a uniquely long structure, Suiro-kaku Aqueduct (水路閣).  The arched brick structure was built in the Meiji Period (1889) as part of the water infrastructure that brought water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto.  Today, the Suiro-kaku still maintains as the only Western style aqueduct in the city.  Standing 93m in length, 4m wide, and 14m high, the aqueduct bisects the temple complex into two.  Originally seen as a clash with the Buddhist structures, the skeptical Kyoto citizens soon became fond of the new addition to Nanzenji.  Today, the Suiro-kaku Aqueduct has been designated a national historical site, an integral component of the temple ground of Nanzenji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConstructed in late 19th century, the Suiro-kaku (水路閣) Aqueduct passes through the compound of Nanzenji.

08The red brick archways of the Suiro-kaku (水路閣).

09The magnificent design details of the Suiro-kaku (水路閣).

Behind the Hatto stood the Hojo (方丈) or abbot’s quarter.  The Hojo turned out to be a great place to check out karesansui or dry rock gardens.  Ohojo Garden, the karesansui or dry landscape rock garden of the Hojo, contained six stones of various sizes, abstractly depicting a tiger cub crossing a river.  The garden was created by Enshu Kobori in the Kanei Era (1624-1644).  Another dry garden in the Hojo was Kohojo Garden (小方丈庭園).  Constructed in the model times (1966), this dry garden aimed to illustrate the Chinese character of “heart”.  Further into the complex we arrived at Rokudo-tei Garden (六道庭), a series of Zen gardens created by Ueyakato Landscape Co,. Ltd.in 1967.  This garden was much larger and aimed to conceptualize the Buddhist concept of “reincarnation in six realms” into the garden design.  We wandered in the gardens a bit and moved on to visit other sub-temples in the compound.

11One of the rooms in the Hojo (方丈) or abbot’s quarter with screens open to the attractive Zen garden.

12Timber screens and veranda of the Hojo.

13 Kohojo Garden (小方丈庭園), created by Ueyakato Landscape (植彌加藤造園) in 1966, depicts the Chinese character of heart.

14Detail of a stone and the ripple gravel pattern in the Kohojo Garden (小方丈庭園).

15Ohojo Garden (方丈庭園) was created by Enshu Kobori (伝小堀遠州) in the 17th century.

16Vivid maple and moss covered rocks at the Ohojo Garden (方丈庭園), a dry landscape rock garden that abstractly depicts a tiger cub crossing a river.

17Rokudo-tei Garden (六道庭), by Ueyakato Landscape Co,. Ltd.(植彌加藤造園) in 1967, expresses the Buddhist concept of “reincarnation in six realms”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARokudo-tei Garden (六道庭)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARokudo-tei Garden (六道庭)

20A tea ceremony house was called Kyushin-tei.

21Rain chain at the veranda of the Hojo.

dsc_2533The tea room of the Hojo was not open yet when we left the building.


Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
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: 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: 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 1 (2/6): RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

We first learnt about Ryoanji Temple and its world renowned garden of zen dry landscape or Japanese rock garden, karesansui (枯山水), back in our university years from the lectures in our class ARCH 249 – The Art and Architecture of the East.  Since then, we had longed for visiting this legendary zen garden.  Our chance had come at midday in a fine late autumn day.  The Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple is situated within a garden compound, consisting of a water pond, woodlands, gardens, pavilions, and the main building complex where the Abbot’s Chamber, Tearoom, Buddhist Hall, and the famous zen garden can be found.

It was a short walk from the San-mon (山門), or the main entrance, to the main building complex.  We took our time to admire the magnificent autumn foliage along the way.  Once inside the main building, we took off our shoes and purchased admission tickets.  First came a dim exhibition hall showcasing artefacts, calligraphy, and artworks related to the temple.  Beyond the exhibition hall was the bright wooden veranda where most visitors gathered.  On one side of the veranda was the Hojo (方丈), or Abbot’s Chamber, while on the other side lay the famous zen garden: 15 rocks of various sizes abstractly arranged in a 248 s.m area of dry pebbles.  Since the 15th century, there were various interpretations regarding the design and meaning behind the rocks, from symbolism of ancient Chinese mythologies to representation of traditional character.  It is open for everyone’s imagination and interpretation.  We sat down at the veranda to contemplate the rocks and pebbles.  The garden was too crowded with visitors for any decent meditation or tranquil moment in heart.  Against the centuries-old oil-earthen wall and the autumn foliage beyond, the garden still captured our eyes visually despite the undesirable midday sun.

After putting back on our shoes, we followed another path that meandered through a small woodland of amazing autumn foliage, passed by Yudofu (西源院) – a traditional restaurant serving tofu meals, and strolled along Kyoyochi (鏡容池), or Mirror Pond, where we enjoyed a picturesque scene of reflections, water plants and autumn foliage.  Before setting off for our next destination, we had a quick skewer of sweet rice balls near the entrance of Ryoanji.

01A sense of autumn immediately beyond the San-mon (山門) or the main gate of Ryoanji.

02An illustration of the Ryoanji Temple compound with the famous rock garden at the centre back location in front of the orange roof Abbot’s Chamber.

03We were just in time to see the last bit of amazing autumn foliage of Kyoto.

04Tree-lined path leading to the Chokushi-Mon Gate (勅使門).

05Steps leading to Chokushi-Mon Gate (勅使門).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike many temples in Kyoto, we had to take off our shoes before entering the temple building of Ryoanji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATraditional illustration of the rock garden, which is believed to be constructed in the 15th century.  Who was the original designer remains unknown.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first view of Ryoanji rock garden under the unforgiving midday sun.  It would be much better off if it was overcast and gone with the shadows.

10Rock clusters, moss, pebble patterns, earthen walls and red foliage coincided to form a harmonious imagery.

11Patterns of the pebbles are carefully maintained by temple staff,  a daily duty for Zen Buddhist monks in the past.

12The timber floor decking and supporting members were soft and warm to walk on and appealing for touch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATimber details of the eaves and column.

14Interior of Hojo (方丈), Abbot’s Chamber, in which the centre point should be the ideal viewing spot of the entire rock garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe timber veranda continued to wrap around the courtyards into the temple sections not open to public.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA wonderful pine tree against autumn foliage in front of the main temple building.

17A side door of the rock garden remained closed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way out we walked through a small woodland of magnificent colours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe autumn foliage in Kyoto is quite different than the ones we used to see in North America, in terms of leaf sizes and colour ranges.

dsc_1000Yudofu (西源院) – a traditional restaurant serving tofu meals.

dsc_1014Duck and autumn foliage at Kyoyochi (鏡容池), Mirror Pond.

dsc_1027Despite the amount of visitors alongside, it was a nice walk along the Mirror Pond.

dsc_1032After a pleasant visit of Ryoanji, we were ready to see the other temples in the area.


Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
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: 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: 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


Another UNESCO World Heritage enlisted Suzhou garden, the Lion Grove Garden (獅子林園) is much smaller in scale compared to Humble Administrator’s Garden.  The garden is famous for its artificial Taihe rocks, where visitors can meander through a labyrinth of rocks that were grouped and constructed into miniatures of mysterious landscapes.  Originally built in 1342 during the Yuan Dynasty, the Lion Grove Garden had been famous for centuries.  Throughout history, the garden had gone through several cycles of restorations and declines.  In early 20th century, I. M. Pei’s grandfather became the owner of the garden, and put great effort to restore the garden to its former glory.  Today, the garden is owned by the state, and has become an icon of Suzhou.

After Humble Administrator’s Garden, we only had time for one more gardens before our return train to Shanghai.  We chose Lion Grove Garden over the others because of its famous rocks.  By the time we entered the garden, the afternoon sun was casting neat shadows and a yellowish glow to the rocks and pavilions.  Many local tourists were around, but we managed to enjoy ourselves much better at Lion Grove Garden than the Humble Administrator’s Garden.  The scale of Lion Grove was more intimate, and the dozens or so pavilions were neatly placed at strategic locations ideal for framing interesting views of the garden.  Seeing some of the traditional design elements of the Lion Grove Garden made us realized that some geometric motifs of I. M. Pei’s architecture might have come from his childhood’s experience of this magnificent Suzhou garden.

Before heading back to the train station, we dropped by the restaurant Wu Men Ren Jia (吳門人家) for a quick afternoon tea.  Made its name by hosting a number of international guests and famous individuals such as I. M. Pei and local politicians, Wu Men Ren Jia wrapped up our brief Suzhou visit with a memorable taste of the regional cuisine.

DSC_0453An exquisite sculpture in the drawing room at the first courtyard of the Lion Grove Garden.

DSC_0458_02An octagon and then circular gateways greeted our arrival to the inner garden area.

DSC_0492The scene of a tree standing behind a series of stained glass windows was one of our favorite images of the Lion Grove Garden.

DSC_0496The abstract rock design of Lion Grove Garden serves as a visual attraction when viewing from afar, and also stands as an intimate labyrinth in which a network of hidden paths allow visitors to meandering through the rock clusters at different levels.  Unfortunately it was simply impossible to appreciate the rock garden without the crowds.

DSC_0529Pavilions, artificial rocks, zigzag bridges and reflective pools are the common elements of a traditional Chinese garden.

DSC_0554Like the Summer Palace in Beijing, a stone boat offered a special attraction to the garden complex.

DSC_0555For some reason, ancient Chinese were very fond of the abstract looking rocks.

DSC_0561Water gave a sense of coherency and softened the atmosphere of the rocks.

DSC_0573A young woman was making Chinese water colour drawings at a pavilion.

DSC_0583View of the garden through the stain glass window of the stone boat.

DSC_0588The main zigzag bridge of Lion Grove Garden.

DSC_0600Most visitors were wandering only in the central pool and rock garden areas.  Here at a quiet corner at the side, we found a moment of serenity under the late afternoon sun.

DSC_0605Bamboo grove and wooden veranda provide a good buffer between the interior and the exterior.

DSC_0607A window opened to the small courtyard, framing the tree and an ornate screen motif like a painting.

DSC_0616After the visit to the Lion Grove Garden, we had about a bit of time left before our scheduled train back to Shanghai.  There was a local restaurant called Wu Men Ren Jia just a stone throw away.  The restaurant was tucked inside a narrow lane way which took us some time to find.

DSC_0614At Wu Men Ren Jia, we sampled two local dishes: the slow-cooked braised pork and the river shrimp stir fry with green tea leaves. The dishes were on the oily side for us but they were well cooked with the right balance of flavors. Having the opportunity to taste the authentic traditional dishes from South of the Yangtze was a bonus for our brief visit to Suzhou.

DSC_0621The sun was setting behind a willow by a canal.  Given the dusty construction sites all over the place and the busy traffic in the city, today’s Suzhou must be very different than what it used to be.

DSC_0627We bid farewell to Suzhou as we entered Suzhou Station under its gigantic canopy.


Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China


Once there was a legend…

Before the creation of land there was only the expanse of boundless water, on which a large floating raft carrying all kinds of animals searching for land.  Great Hare, the chief among them all, urged the beaver to dive into the water and bring back a particle of earth.  The beaver went reluctantly into the deep deep water but after a long time came back exhausted and empty handed.  The animals then turned to the otter for the request but it too failed reaching the bottom.  The animals fell to despair amid fears of floating in the endless water eternally, then came the small and weak muskrat who was willing to give another go.  Off it went for a day and night and finally resurfaced unconsciously with belly up and paws closed.  The animals pulled the muskrat onto the raft, and opened its paws one by one.  Not until the last paw was opened then they found a single grain of sand.  The Great Hare dropped the sand onto the raft and the magic began.  On the raft, the sand started to grow larger and become rocks and then mountains and then the entire world where all animals could thrive and find their own food.  The first generation of animals lived happily since then and died peacefully.  The Great Hare then created humans out from the various animal corpses, such as the elk, bear and fish, each with their own dialect and tribal origin related to the deceased animal.

This version of a cosmogonic legend was passed down orally throughout generations of the Algonquians, the people who dominated pre-colonial Eastern Canada including the Atlantic Coast, Quebec, Ontario and the Great Lakes regions.  Their ancestors roamed over these lands since thousand of years ago, leaving vivid evidences of their beliefs with pictographs and petroglyphs discovered throughout the Canadian Shield.  The tale combining water, animals and Algonquin pictographs is the story of Bon Echo Provincial Park.  With the exact etching dates still unknown, the 250+ pictographs on over 65 cliff surfaces along Mazinaw Lake at Bon Echo Provincial Park is widely recognized as one of the oldest First Nations pictograph sites in the Canadian Shield region.  Etched with red ochre (a natural mineral of silica and clay with iron oxide), these pictographs of human, animal and abstract figures were applied onto the cliff surface by people on canoes.  Most of these rock art were used in search for helping spirits, or in rituals of shamanism, when the shaman used these pictographs for healing, prophesy and vision quests.

On a Friday evening in early summer 2013, we headed off to Bon Echo Provincial Park after work.  After over a decade since Angela first explored the park in a canoe trip, we decided to revisit this beautiful provincial park for its starry sky, pristine lake scenery, and mysterious pictographs on the 100m Mazinaw Rock cliffs.   After almost three hours of driving from Toronto, we arrived at Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area south of Bon Echo.  Unfortunately half the night sky was covered with clouds.  We left disappointingly and headed for our accommodation at Northbrook’s Pine Grove Motel, about 15 minutes drive south of Bon Echo.  After midnight, the sky cleared up and we had some fine moments of stargazing outside the motel.  Early in the next morning, we drove north on Highway 41 and entered Bon Echo Provincial Park.  After a short walk along the shore of Mazinaw Lake, we rented a canoe at Bon Echo Outfitters to explore the lake.  We left the small cove at Lower Mazinaw Lake, passed the unique channel The Narrows, and paddled along the cliffs of Mazinaw Rock at Upper Mazinaw Lake looking for the Aboriginal pictographs.  At one point, we docked our canoe by the shore and hiked up to the summit of the rock cliff for a birdeye view of the park.  After canoeing, we returned to the Narrows where a bench and a lamp post offered a magnificent spot to enjoy the scenery of Mazinaw Rock.  We stayed at the Narrows for the rest of the afternoon, braving the cold water with our feet, taking time-lapse photography of the scenery, watching boats coming through the Narrows every twenty minutes or so, listening to the sound of gentle waves and occasional songbirds, and enjoying every tranquil moment of daydreaming under the warm afternoon sun.   It was the perfect picture of Ontario landscape, the legendary homeland of Aboriginal Algonquins, and one of the splendid settings of our delightful Canadian memories.

17That night, we were the only visitors staying at Pine Grove Motel in Northbrook.

18The sky cleared up after midnight, and we indulged ourselves with some splendid moments of stargazing under shooting stars and a faint Milky Way.

19That night was cool with mild wind. The dark sky was not entirely clear but we still got a glimpse of the Milky Way with naked eyes.

1The next day, we entered Bon Echo Provincial Park under the morning mist.

2We decided to rent a canoe to explore the vast Mazinaw Lake.

88_01Canoeing is the best way to enjoy Mazinaw Lake.

4Given the cliffs of the 100m Mazinaw Rock, Bon Echo is also popular for rock climbing.

9Aboriginal pictographs on cliff surface.

10We docked our canoe and walked up to the top of an island for its amazing view.

7We paddled by this quiet lone bench and lamp post at the shallow channel called The Narrows..

5The bench at The Narrows was the perfect spot to spend the afternoon.

6When there was no wind and boat, the lake was like a perfect mirror for Mazinaw Rock.

3We tried a few times walking into the shallow water in front of the bench at The Narrows as it seemed temptingly clean.  Despite less than a foot deep and the warmth of early summer, We couldn’t stand the freezing water for long.

11We stayed at The Narrows till late afternoon.

12The tree roots by the water at The Narrows looked sculptural.

13Peaceful Mazinaw Lake represents the beauty of Ontario landscape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe low sun reminded us that it was almost time to leave.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATripod, lamp post and Calvin.

15Final view of Mazinaw Rock at The Narrows through the viewfinder.

* * *

Read other posts on Parks of Southern Ontario
1.1 Land of Water and Forest, Algonquin Park, Ontario ( 1 of 3)
1.2 A Tale of Rocks and Maples, Algonquin, Ontario ( 2 of 3)
1.3 When Moose Meets Beaver, Algonquin, Ontario, (3/3)
2. Ancient Reef and Escarpment, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
3. Algonquin Legend and Mazinaw Pictographs, Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario