ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “scenery

LAKE CHUZENJI (中禅寺湖), Nikko (日光), Japan

The sky wasn’t as clear as the morning when we arrived at Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖).  In our Nikko day trip from Tokyo, Lake Chuzenji was our last destination of the day.  The scenery of Lake Chuzenji is dominated by the magnificent Mount Nantai (男体山 or 二荒山), an active stratovolcano that had erupted 7000 years ago.  If visiting in the autumn, we can take the Tobu bus up to the lookout of Mount Hangetsuyama (半月山) to enjoy a fantastic view of the conical volcano and its perfection reflection in the lake.  Since the bus only operates in the autumn months and we didn’t want to hire a car just for the lookout, we decided to enjoy Lake Chuzenji by doing a short walk along the southeastern shore to the former British and Italian Embassies.

01From the bus station, it was only a five minute walk to the shore of Lake Chuzenji.

02We walked along the southeastern shore of Lake Chuzenji and passed by many swan pedal boats.

03Soon we reached the entrance of Chuzenji Temple (中禅寺), the Buddhist temple that gave the name to Lake Chuzenji.

04Another short walk from Chuzenji Temple brought us to our destination of the afternoon, the former Italian Embassy.  Designed by American architect Antonin Raymond, the villa was built in 1928 as the summer villa for the Italian Embassy in the past.  Antonin Raymond cladded the entire building with Japanese cedar bark, a local material from the area.

05Today, the building becomes a museum for the public.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Viewing Hallway on the ground level allowed a magnificent panorama view of the lake.

07There are three bedrooms on the upper floor.  The decor is simple and elegant.

08After touring the Italian Embassy Villa, we walked down to the landscaped area by the shore.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA timber jetty outside the Italian Embassy Villa brought us closer to the lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the jetty, we could see the sacred Mount Nantai (男体山 or 二荒山).  The lake was extremely peaceful with super clear water.

11We walked back towards the starting point of our short walk.  Soon, we reached the jetty of another old western villa, the former British Embassy Villa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASimilar to the Italian Embassy Villa, maximizing the panoramic views of the lake seemed to be the main concept of the house design.

13The viewing hallway of the British Embassy Villa was equally impressive with the beautiful scenery of the lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the embassy villas, we walked slowly back to the village of Chuzenji where we got off the bus.

15We were way too early to see the fall colours, but instead we saw some beautiful flowers along the way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe also saw several people recreational fishing in the lake.

17Back to Nikko town, we still had about an hour’s time before our train departed for Tokyo.  We dropped by Komekichi Kozushi, a small sushi restaurant just a stone throw from the train station, for a quick and decent dinner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe father and son owners of Komekichi Kozushi were quite serious about the correct way to eat sushi.  The food was very delicious and we highly recommend Komekichi Kozushi to any Nikko visitor.

19After dinner, the sky was getting dark, and we could see the dramatic silhouette of Mount Nantai backed with vivid skies.

20As we stepped into Nikko Tobu Railway Station, our one-day visit of Nikko was coming to an end.  We hopped on the limited express train for Asakusa Tokyo.


AKECHIDAIRA (明智平) & KEGON WATERFALLS (華厳の滝), Nikko (日光), Japan

Apart from the UNESCO World Heritage temples and shrines, Nikko is also well known for its natural scenery.  The bus ride from Nikko to Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) took about 40 minutes.  The journey passed through the town of Nikko along the river.  After about half an hour, the bus began to climb up the Irohazaka Winding Roads (いろは坂) west of Nikko.  As the bus zigzagged up the 48 turns of Irohazaka Winding Roads (いろは坂), we decided to get off one stop before Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) at Akechidaira Ropeway Station to visit the Akechidaira Lookout.  Akechidaira (明智平) can be reached by a two-hour uphill hike from Lake Chuzenji, or a 3-minute gondola ride.  Akechidaira offers an spectacular overview of three iconic scenic features of Nikko: Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖), Mount Nantai (男体山), and Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝).  We stayed at the lookout for about 15 minutes to appreciate the peaceful scenery, then took the ropeway back down and continued the last bit of our bus journey to Lake Chuzenji.  From the bus station, we followed the road signs to the nearby lookout of Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝).  Almost 100m in height, Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝) is the most spectacular waterfall in Nikko, and one of the most famous falls in the entire Japan.

12We hopped off the bus at the ropeway station below Akechidaira (明智平) Plateau.  Unfortunately the weather was not as beautiful as earlier in the morning.

03The Akechidaira Ropeway was first operated in 1933.

05The lookout is about 86m above the ropeway station.

11The ropeway ride took about three minutes.

02During the Autumn, Akechidaira (明智平) is a highly popular spot to see the fall colours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lookout offers an almost 360 degrees view of the surrounding scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) lies right in front of us at the lookout.

08In front of Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) and at the foot of Mount Nantai (男体山), we could see the beautiful Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnfortunately the top of Mount Nantai (男体山) was hidden behind the clouds.

10We stayed at the lookout for about 15 minutes.  There wasn’t too many people and we had a brief and peaceful time to admire the scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen we took the ropeway back down to the station, and hopped on the next bus for Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most important sight near the bus station of Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) is undoubtedly Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝).

13With a drop of almost 100m, Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝) is an impressive waterfall.  It serves as the only exit for Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖).



We walked down the grand staircase of Jama Mosjid that led to a busy street intersection adjacent to the mosque. We hopped on a tuk-tuk and asked the driver to take us to Chandni Chowk metro station.  After a brief visit of Old Delhi, it was time for us to return to New Delhi, where we would find a place for dinner and then take the express train back to the airport.  It was late afternoon and the traffic at Old Delhi was quite congested, allowing us a little more time than expected to witness the street scenery of the old city one more time.

Before our Indian trip, we came across a book by Japanese author and stage designer Kappa Senoo (妹尾河童).  The book was called Kappa’s Peek at India, in which Kappa used hand sketches and diary text to record the people, buildings, street scenes and sites that he saw and experienced during his trips to India back in 1980s.  The Indian street scenes that he depicted with his pencil sketches: the shops, the vehicles, and most important of all, the myriad different people doing various things for living echoed vividly to what we were seeing outside the tuk-tuk.  For us, the half hour tuk-tuk ride through the narrow and chaotic streets of Old Delhi was a remarkable journey allowing us to understand another facet of this complex and visually fascinating nation.

dsc_6871Small streets in Old Delhi were swamped with vehicles of all sort, all of which were moving slowly.

dsc_6868Motorcycles were pretty common in Delhi.

dsc_6870Vendors selling samosa-like snacks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABicycle rickshaws were still pretty common.

dsc_6876Given the traffic and sometimes poor conditions of the sidewalk, it wasn’t the easiest city for pedestrians.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe rickshaws revealed the difference of social status of different local people.

dsc_6875A bicycle rickshaw driver resting.

dsc_6879Streets were full of vendors selling different merchandises.

dsc_6880Public water sourse for washing and cooling.


dsc_6888Water drinking was essential under the hot temperature.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStreet vendors doing all sorts of trading and bargaining.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEach person on the street looked as if there was an interesting story behind.

dsc_6890Bicycle rickshaws were very common on Delhi streets

dsc_6901Coconut vendor.

dsc_6908Under extensive globalization, international brands such as canon and Sony appeared everywhere.

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Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi

WEST SEA CANYON (西海大峡谷), HUANGSHAN (黃山), Anhui, China

Peculiar granite peaks, ancient pine trees, and the majestic sea of clouds, Huangshan (黄山) is considered by many as the most picturesque mountain range in China.  Throughout history, the scenery of Huangshan has long been a popular subject for Chinese literature and paintings.  What so special about Huangshan is its frequent foggy days during which the entire summit area is concealed behind moving mist, revealing only small fragments of its rocky silhouette at certain moments.  This mysterious scenery has become a major inspiration for the pursuit of yi jing (意境).  Yi jing refers to a way to see beauty through poetic revelation.  The pursuit of yi jing is common in Chinese artwork and poetry.  Artists or poets often find ways to express yi jing in their work through abstract depiction or selectively not showing something in order to convey the hidden beauty of the whole picture.  To put it in other words, yi jing is about conveying the essence of something without depicting it fully, just like the scenery of Huangshan, whose real beauty is often hidden from view.

At 1,864m, Lotus Peak (蓮花峰) is already the tallest peak in Huangshan.  While the height of 1,864m is hardly the tallest mountain in China, the granite peaks shaded first by an ancient sea and then retreating glaciers had inspired ancient poets and painters and modern photographers and movie directors (James Cameron cited Huangshan as a major inspiration for 2009’s Avatar).  With its unique scenery and endemic pine trees, in 1990 Huangshan was enlisted on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.  Today Huangshan is a top tourist destination in China.  At the summit area there are several hotels and guesthouses, cable car services at four different locations, and extensive paved trails crisscrossing the famous peaks and scenic lookouts, capturing the imagination and hearts of visitors from dynastic era to the contemporary.

At around 6am, we left the youth hostel at Tunxi’s Laojie and hopped on a tourist bus heading to Tangkou (湯口), the base town at the south entrance of Huangshan’s scenic area.  The bus journey took about 1.5 hour.  At Tangkou, we got to transfer onto a shuttle bus designated for a specific cable car station; but beforehand, we had to decide which path to take. There were a few options to climb to the summit area of Huangshan, either by cable car or by half-day hike.  Since we preferred to spend more time at the summit so we decided to take the cable car.  There are two cable car stations accessible by shuttle bus from Tangkou, the Yungu (雲谷) and the Yuping (玉屏).  We picked the Yungu cable car for its close proximity to our hotel Xihai Hotel (西海飯店) at the summit area.  The cable car journey only took about ten minutes.  It was drizzling when we arrived the submit area.  In light rain, we found our way to the hotel in light rain, checked in, dropped off our bags, and headed out again to the trail head of West Sea Canyon.

The summit area of Huangshan host a series of hiking trails.  The area is large enough to keep any visitor busy for at least two days.  Given the unpredictable weather of Huangshan (over 200 rainy days per year), staying a night on the summit area of Huangshan is the minimum.  Most local visitors and tour groups favour the Yuping scenic area, where the Welcome Pine (迎客松), Heavenly Capital Peak (天都峰) and Lotus Flower Peak (莲花峰) are located.  We opted for the less crowded West Sea Canyon (西海大峡谷), where a narrow cliff-side footpath zigzagging its way down the steep canyon.  Despite the rain, the cliff-side footpath down the canyon was manageable.  Just as we started our descend, the mist suddenly came and concealed much of the mountain scenery.  The famous mist and sea of clouds prevailed.  Occasional moments when the granite peaks emerged from the clearing mist were purely magical.  We took our time finding our way surefootedly down the steep steps until we reached a pavilion at the canyon’s bottom.  We stopped several times along the way watching the moving mist and photographing the picturesque Huangshan scenery as if meandering through a mysterious Chinese painting.

At the bottom of West Sea Canyon, we took the new West Sea Canyon Funicular back up to the summit area.  The rain got heavier and the visibility got worsen by the time we returned to the submit.  We hiked across the west side of the summit area, passed by the Flying Rock (飛來石) and Bright Summit Peak (光明頂) before returning to the Xihai Hotel.  It was rainy and foggy all the way.  By the time we arrived at the hotel, we were soaking wet.  At the hotel entrance deck, we could hardly see beyond a few meters in the fog.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first glimpse of West Sea’s scenery as we were heading to the trail head of West Sea Canyon from the Xihai Hotel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExpression of love is universal. Huangshan is also a popular place for lovers leaving their love padlocks onto the fences as a manifesto of love.

3Mountain scenery varies in different seasons, weather and time of day.  At Huangshan, it was all about the mysterious scenery in the mist.

4The Chinese named this granite formation, “the Flower Blooming on a Brush Tip” (夢筆生花).  It is one of the most popular views at the North Sea area.

5Looking down to the West Sea Canyon, the mist was gathering at the valley.

6We were amazed by the engineering of the extensive cliff-side footpath with stone steps held by horizontal supports attached to the rock cliffs of the mountain.

7Mysterious mountain view of the West Sea Canyon.

8Visibility was low and everyone was paying extra attention on the trail.

9The sea of clouds at the West Sea Canyon.

10The pine trees and the winding footpath attached to the sheer cliff.

11This picture was taking when we paused and took a break at the mid level of the West Sea Canyon. We were enchanted by the changing mist in front of us.  We patiently waited for the magical moments when the granite mountain emerged from the mist for a few seconds.

12Embraced by the mighty peaks of Huangshan, we cherished the moments when we were alone on the trail.

13We marveled at the pine trees growing from tiny cracks in the rocks. Before we often saw pine trees being depicted in strange gestures in Chinese paintings.  Now we finally saw the real thing and realized where their inspiration originated.

14Changing scenery of the mist-encased granite mountains.

15Approaching the bottom of the West Sea Canyon.

16Before the West Sea Valley funicular came in service in 2013, the West Sea Canyon trail was like a secret paradise for individual travelers who wanted to seek moment of tranquility away from the horrendous crowds in the summit area. We had mixed feelings for the new funicular.  We cheered for its convenience (without doing the return climb via a treacherous cliff-side path and thus saving 2.5 hours of time) but we feared that the West Sea Canyon would eventually lose its serenity.  During our visit, we opted for the funicular to save us from the knee and thigh-killing return climb.

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Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China

HISTORY, SCENERY, ARCHITECTURE, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China


In Mid-September, we made a short trip to the province of Anhui Southern China. It has been over a decade since we last backpacked in China. Compared to the culture of arid yellow earth, mighty military history and ancient Buddhist temples in Shanxi and Hebei that we visited in the past, Anhui and the surrounding areas belong to a landscape of green teas, lotus ponds, and misty mountains.

From Hong Kong, we first flew to Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, from where we took a bus to the town of Tunxi. Also known as Huangshan City, Tunxi is the transportation hub for most travelers visiting Huangshan. A stroll on the Laojie (Old Street) in Tunxi prepared us to the crowded experience that may happen in any tourist spots frequented by local visitors. We took Tunxi as the base to visit Hongcun and Xidi, the famous ancient villages nearby that captured the imagination of many movie directors and local painters. On Huangshan (Yellow Mountains), the magical mountains renowned for the mysterious scenery, we spent two days braving the centuries old stepped trails awaiting for magical moments when spiky granite peaks revealing themselves under the veil of mist and fog. Returning with burning knee pains and muscle ache from Huangshan, we had a dose of China’s contemporary architecture at the National Academy of Art in Xiangshan, near Hangzhou. While this brief visit reminded us our fond travel memories in China, it may well reignite our interest in making longer journeys in other parts of China in the near future.

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Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China