ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “sea

ANADOLU KAVAGI, Istanbul, Turkey

2006.05.03

Situated at the mouth of Bosphorus into the Black Sea, Anadolu Kavagi, which literally means Control Post of Anatolia (Asia Minor), has been an strategic outpost and fishing village since Roman times.  Today, a small fishing community remained.  The village also serves as the last stop of the Bosphorus tourist cruise.  Compared to the bustling scenes of cosmopolitan Istanbul, the tranquil village expresses a distinctive ambience that keeps on luring foreign tourists and Istanbul inhabitants to come for a brief getaway.

After getting off at Anadolu Kavagi, the first thing that caught our attention was the street food vendors right by the dock.  We picked a seafood restaurant, climbed the stairs to the upper floor, and ordered fish buns, fried mussels, fried calamari, etc.  After lunch, we ascended the hill behind the village to the ruins of Yoros Castle.  We wandered around Yoros Castle a little bit before finding ourselves at an open lookout overlooking the Bosphorus and the Black Sea.  Some say the towns along the Black Sea coast are quite picturesque and interesting, but we would have to leave them for the next time around.

06ME09-27Anadolu Kavagi appears as a lovely fishing village.

06ME09-28The waterfront of Anadolu Kavagi is occupied a cluster of fishing boats.

06ME09-34During our brief visit, several fishermen were busy fixing their fishing net while chatting causally.

06ME09-35The peaceful fisherman life at Anadolu Kavagi offered a pleasant contrast to the chaotic and busy scenes of Istanbul just 90 minutes of boat ride away.

fisherman at Anadolu Kavagi 1Each fisherman we met seemed friendly and relaxed.

vendor at Anadolu KavagiA handful of seafood stalls and restaurants can be found at the fishing village.

cat at Anadolu Kavagi 1-2Just like Istanbul, we had all sort of cat encounters in Anadolu Kavagi. This cat sat right by the dock looking at the sea.

cat at Anadolu Kavagi 2Even the cats seemed content with their hassle free lives in Anadolu Kavagi.

06ME09-24Located at the hilltop above Anadolu Kavagi,  Yoros Castle guarded the confluence spot of the Bosphorus and Black Sea since the Byzantine times.

06ME09-18From Yoros Castle, we could see the Bosphorus as well as the Black Sea.


RAILWAY BY THE SEA, Galle to Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.16

Day 12 (2 of 3).

Our last train journey in Sri Lanka is one of the most popular railway routes for tourists: the Coastal Line from Galle to Colombo.  In a little less than two hours, our train moved from seaside resort towns near Galle to the old fort and metropolitan area of Colombo. Constructed in late 19th century, the Coastal Line is the second oldest railway line in Sri Lanka.  For much of the journey the train was winding along the southwest coastline of island.  The coastal scenery reminded us of the train scene in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, in which the protagonist Chihiro Ogino boards on a train that runs across water on submerged tracks.  The moving reflections in the water, the tranquil scenery at the far horizon, the evolving lights from late afternoon to early evening, and the melancholy yet romantic train cabin come together to become one of the most remarkable animation scenes ever made.  The train journey to Colombo might not be as romantic as Miyazaki’s scene, and the train was fully packed with standing tourists and locals and could get a bit noisy sometimes, but the late afternoon scenery of the Indian Ocean would live long in our memories.

IMG_8831Galle Station was first established in 1894, and has undergone an upgrade in the 20th century with a modernist concrete building.

IMG_8985The wooden timetable at Galle Station should be an antique that has been around for decades.

IMG_8829The Coastal Line runs between Matara and Colombo Fort via Galle.

IMG_8994Taking a train in Sri Lanka is always a delightful activity and a great way to interact with the friendly locals.

IMG_9006Leaving Galle signified our Sri Lankan journey was coming to an end.  After dinner in Colombo, we would go immediately to the airport near Negombo for our midnight flight.

IMG_9013For the entire journey I was sitting at the opened door between two passenger train cars.

IMG_9017As the snack vendor left the train, it was time for departure.

IMG_9028For the first half of the journey, the train ran along a waterfront road.

IMG_9055Sitting or standing by the doorway on a Sri Lankan train is a pleasant way to enjoy the scenery.  Despite the low speed of the train, certain level of caution should be taken when standing at the opened door.

IMG_9047After the halfway point, the train ran right along the coastline.

IMG_9053Our train passed by a number of coastal resort towns.

IMG_9128These seaside resort towns serve mainly the city dwellers from distant Colombo.

IMG_9114We also passed by a number of impoverished communities by the sea.

IMG_9119The train passed right in front of the houses of the seaside communities.

IMG_9122The southwestern coast of Sri Lanka was badly hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.  Many lives were lost and some communities have never fully recovered.

IMG_9215The Coastal Line was severely hit by the 2004 tsunami.  Known as the 2004 Sri Lanka tsunami-rail disaster, a Matara Express train was running from Colombo to Galle before getting hit by the tsunami at the village of Peraliya.  After two rounds of waves, the village of Peraliya was completely destroyed, and about 2000 people died (including passengers of 8 train cars and villagers who climbed onto the train top to escape the waves).  Out of about 1700 train passengers, only 150 people survived.  The incident is the single worst rail disaster with the largest death toll the world has ever seen.

IMG_9154The Indian Ocean offered us the perfect setting to view the sunset.

IMG_9211We were getting closer to Colombo as the sun was about to set below the Indian Ocean.

IMG_9226After 1 hour and 45 minutes, our train was finally approaching downtown Colombo.  We were ready for the final act in Sri Lanka before flying home.


IN SEARCH OF WHALES, Mirissa, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.15

Day 11 (1 of 2).

Mirissa is known as the best location for whale watching in Sri Lanka.  In recent years, it is also considered as one of the world’s best spot for blue whale sighting.  Doing a whale watching tour was one of the main reasons for us to visit Mirissa.  While marketed as a special place in the world to have a good chance to see the blue whales, there are also opportunity to see fin whales, sei whales, sperm whales, bryde’s whales, orcas, dolphins, flying fish, turtles, manta rays, whale sharks, etc. just several miles out from Mirissa.  There is never a 100% guarantee of sighting, but it is the expectation of seeing these elusive marine mammals that drives the multi billion marine tourism industry to grow rapidly around the world, including at Mirissa.

Mirissa was our second ever whale watching cruise after our wonderful orca encounter in Hokkaido, Japan six months prior.  This time, weather was much warmer in tropical Sri Lanka, but the water of Indian Ocean was significantly rougher, and we spent much longer in the sea.  While we didn’t hit the jackpot and see the blue whale, we did saw a fin whale, several groups of dolphins and a sea turtle in the 7-hour journey out in the sea.

IMG_8465At 5:55, a tuk tuk came to our hotel Mirissa Hills to pick us up.  We were dropped at the office of Raja and the Whales to pay for the tour, and then followed the group to the dock.

IMG_8468At the dock, tourist boats from different companies were getting ready for the sail at 6:30am.

IMG_8490During the first half of the cruise we passed by a number of fishing boats.

IMG_8496The weather wasn’t perfect and the sea was rough at times.

DSC_8774_2Given the occasional rough conditions of the ocean, some fishing boats looked overly simple to us.

DSC_8775_2Apart from fishing vessels, we also saw large container ships in the distant horizon.

IMG_8501At about halfway of the journey, most tourists had their eyes closed to battle seasickness.

DSC_8780_2While we worried that the day might turn out fruitless, we finally had a brief encounter of a fin whale.

DSC_8782_2While it was difficult to determine the actual size of the animal, fin whale is in fact the second largest whale in the world, just after the blue whale.

DSC_8792_2Throughout the day, we had several encounters of dolphins.

DSC_8793_2For most of the times, we saw the dolphins in groups of about a dozen or more.

DSC_8813_2Most dolphins we saw were leaping in and out of the water in high speed.

DSC_8816My own photos were limited by the zoom extent of my camera lens.

Raja & The Whales (2)After the journey, Raja sent us close up photos taken by a staff during the trip.

Raja & The Whales (7)The staff even captured the twisting jump of a dolphin.

Raja & The Whales (6)As well as a sea turtle swimming near the surface.

DSC_8821It was after noontime by the time we returned to the pier.

IMG_8512The day was getting hotter at the dock.

IMG_8515Walking back to the town, we passed by the office of Raja and the Whales again.


PARADISE BY THE INDIAN OCEAN, Mirissa, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.14

Day 10 (2 of 2).

In 1995, world renounced photographer Steve McCurry immortalized the South Coast of Sri Lanka with his iconic photograph Stilt Fishermen, capturing four local fishermen sitting on wooden stilts and fishing at the shore of Weligama.  The mid-1990s also marked the beginning of tourism at the fishing town of Weligama and the adjacent Mirissa.  Mirissa, historically known as the south’s largest fishing port for tuna, mullet, snapper and butterfish, was soon developed into a paradise-like holiday destination.  Between Mirissa and Weligama, there are plenty of pristine beaches, decent seafood restaurants, accommodations of all sorts, good surfing spots, hidden coves for snorkeling with sea turtles, and the world famous whale watching waters.  The Sri Lankan South Coast has all the essentials of a tropical holiday destination except the large partying crowds like Full Moon parties at Koh Phangan in Thailand.  In fact, in Sri Lanka alcohol is prohibited during Uposatha, or the full moon days.  Despite the lack of vibrant nightlife and the destructions and loss of lives caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, tourism in Mirissa and the South Coast continues to thrive solely because of the area’s natural beauty.

Many travelers prefer to stay in the South Coast for days if not weeks, especially if one is interested in surfing.  We didn’t have such luxury in terms of time, but could only spare two days to chill out by the sea, including a 7-hour boat ride out in the rough waters to seek for marine mammals.

01Beautiful, laid back, and has plenty of space to just sit down to enjoy a fresh coconut drink, Mirissa Beach should meet most people’s expectations.

05The quality of both the sand and water at Mirissa Beach is top notch.

02Just months after the terrorist attacks in Colombo and Negombo, the number of foreign visitors might not match the previous year.  Nonetheless, the beach was filled with the laughter of local beachgoers.

06The Parrot Rock Bridge, a rock island accessible by a short walk in shallow water, is an iconic feature in Mirissa Beach.

03Climbing the Parrot Rock Bridge allowed us to have an overview of Mirissa Beach.

04The Mirissa Beach is one of the many resort beaches in the South Coast of Sri Lanka.  In fact, the entire South Coast of Sri Lanka has a series of fine beaches along the Indian Ocean.

07Two bays east of Mirissa Beach, we arrived at Coconut Tree Hill, a small peninsula topped with a grove of coconut trees that was made famous in recent years by Instagram users and online bloggers who post selfies taken from the hill.

08Despite the poor weather, the Coconut Tree Hill was nonetheless a lovely place for us to enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding beaches.

09All tourists chose to stand at the centre of Coconut Tree Hill to take selfies with the sea as the background.

10There is a local old man lingering around the Coconut Tree Hill.  He loves to interact with tourists and showed them good spots for photo shooting.

11In the evening, most tourists sat down at the outdoor restaurants along the beach, while the locals continued to have fun in the waves.

12The last moment of sunlight created a dramatic moment at Mirissa Beach.

13The locals refused to leave despite it was getting really dark.

14A group of locals requested us to take a photo of them.

15In the evening, most tourists would sit down at a beach restaurant for a seafood dinner.

16We picked Zephyr Restaurant & Bar near Parrot Rock Bridge for dinner.

17The staff at Zephyr brought out a plate of catches of the day for us to choose.

18We sat down at a table on the beach.

19One of us picked lobster as the main dish.

20Another main dish we ordered was a grilled spangled emperor fish.  Fresh and great ambience.

 


TOUCH DOWN IN NEGOMBO, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.05

Day 1 (1 of 1).

Almost all foreign visitors coming to Sri Lanka would stop by Negombo, a seaside town less than 10km from Bandaranaike International Airport.  Since many incoming international flights arrive at night, staying the night in nearby Negombo before heading elsewhere is not uncommon.  That’s exactly what we have done, flying in just after midnight and staying the night at Icebear Guesthouse in Negombo.

Situated at the mouth of Negombo Lagoon, Negombo is an important commercial and fishing hub in the west coast of Sri Lanka.  In the 1500’s, Negombo became a Portuguese port for cinnamon trade.  Later came the Dutch who took over the town’s control, and then lastly the British arrived in the 19th century.  The majority of Negombo’s population had converted to Roman Catholic ever since the Portuguese era.  Today, two thirds of Negombo residents still consider themselves Roman Catholics.  With its high concentration of churches, Negombo is sometimes referred to as “Little Rome.”

Unfortunately, St. Sebastian Church in Negombo was under terrorist bombing during Easter service in 2019.  Innocent lives were lost and the town’s tourism was devastated. The negative impact on tourism and other related business could still be strongly felt when we visited in December.  The only souvenir vendor we met on Negombo beach expressed his discontent and anxiety when we politely rejected his offer.  Negombo’s deserted beach, vacant hotels and desperate souvenir vendor reminded me of Dahab in Sinai Peninsula back in 2006 when I visited the famous diving paradise two months after a terrorist bombing that killed 23 people.  Back then, rows after rows of empty beach chaise lounges lined up on the silky sand along the Gulf of Aqaba.  Desperate hotel and restaurant owners waited outside the bus station and approached any foreigner with dirt cheap deals.  Today, there are a whole lot of places around the world solely rely on tourism to generate jobs and sustain the local economy.  Any terrorist attack or natural disaster causing a sudden disruption to tourism would lead to terrible suffering for the locals.  This economic vulnerability may spell unpredictable trouble for any resort town, but can also cause a painful impact for any tourist city like Paris or New York.  Resilience, versatility, social unity and a persisted sense of hope would be vital for recovery and regeneration for any town or city after such mishap.  First came the 26-year civil war and then the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, and now the Easter Bombing of 2019, Negombo is once again on its path of gradual recovery.

01All foreign visitors coming to Sri Lanka have to fill out an arrival card upon landing.

02Our flight arrived at midnight.  The airport passenger concourse was surprisingly busy.  We went through customs, bought some Sri Lankan rupees, and purchased two local mobile SIM cards.

06We stayed our first night at the northern strip of Negombo where dozens of hotels and guesthouses dotted the shore of Laccadive Sea.

05Before breakfast at Icebear Guesthouse, we went for a short walk along the beach behind the guesthouse.

03On the wall of Icebear Guesthouse we could still see markings from the Boxing Day Tsunami 15 years ago.

04With the country’s largest concentration of Roman Catholic population, churches and Christian shrines can be seen all over Negombo .

07Looks like another new church is under construction by the beach.

08Not the most exotic beach in Sri Lanka, Negombo’s beach nonetheless provided us a place for a relaxing stroll before moving on to our Sri Lankan journey.

09The beach is popular with locals coming for morning exercises.

10Dogs also take the beach as their playground.

11After the Easter’s bombing, Negombo’s tourism has taken a heavy toll.  There were hardly any tourists on the beach except a few Western couples.

12A traditional fishing sailboat was the most eye-catching feature on the beach, though we had no idea how Tirol related to Sri Lanka.

13A local man stood by the boat waiting for any tourist interested to take a selfie on the boat by paying him a small tip.

14Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit Central Negombo and any of its churches, maybe next time.


FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.18

Day 4 (2/2).

Whale watching was the final act of our Shiretoko experience.  The 2-hour outing in the Nemuro Strait turned out to be one of the biggest highlights of our trip.  Located at the eastern coast of Shiretoko Peninsula, Rausu is the most popular spot in Japan for whale watching.  Depending on the season, various kinds of whales might be found in the waters just off Rausu, including minke whales, sperm whales, orcas (killer whales), humpback whales (rare), Dall’s porpoises, giant beaked whales, and several types of dolphins.  In the summer months, there would be a good chance to spot Orcas, also known as killer whales.  Orca is the biggest member of the oceanic dolphin family.   They are highly social animals that hunt and wander the sea in pods.

After three days of poor weather, the strong wind and rough sea had finally died down despite the overcast condition over Nemuro Strait.  Returned from Shiretoko Pass, we went immediately to the office of Gojiraiwa Kanko Eco Tour (ゴジラ岩観光) in Rausu to make our cruise payment, get a quick snack near the tourist office, parked our car at the dock, and followed one the three queues to get on our cruise boat.

IMG_6759After three days of stormy weather, the sea was calm as we were about to set sail for the whale watching cruise.

IMG_9249Looking back towards the dock, we could see Mount Rausu rising beyond the village of Rausu.

DSC_4649After seeing several black dorsal fin dolphins popped out of the sea in the first ten minutes, our boat captain received the news that orcas had been spotted by the other cruise boats ahead of us.  Soon we reached cruise boats and had our first encounter with the magnificent orcas of Nemuro Strait.

DSC_4668.JPGWhile the whales roam in the water of Nemuro Strait, Stellar Sea Eagles and White Tailed Eagles rule the sky.

DSC_4688Lies between Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula and the controversial Russian Kunashir Island (国後島), Nemuro Strait is one of the best place in the world for whale watching.

DSC_4724Orcas often appear in a pod.  We were fortunate to follow a pod of around a dozen of orcas, even with a few juveniles.

DSC_4733Sometimes, the pod would get pretty close to one of the cruise boats.

DSC_4874Eventually, the pod of orcas broke up into a few smaller groups.  Our boat followed one of the groups towards the direction of Rausu.

DSC_4949Each boat followed a different group of orca.

DSC_4990Seeing one of the juvenile killer whales in the pod was very exciting.

DSC_5042.JPGIn a few moments, the whales swam really close to our boat.

DSC_5052A few of them even swam under our boat.

DSC_5064From a close distance, we could truly appreciate the true scale of the orca’s dosal fin.

DSC_5098Some scientists can identify different orcas just by studying their distinctive dorsal fins.

DSC_5146For most of the time, our boat continued to follow a small group of orcas.

DSC_5152_01It was the first whale watching cruise that we ever experienced.  We were grateful that the cruise turned out to be a fruitful one.

DSC_5204After about 1.5 hour chasing the whales, it was time for our boat to return to the dock.

DSC_5210The majestic Mount Rausu signified our arrival of the village of Rausu.

DSC_5237Most fishing boats were parked behind the sea wall at the dock.

DSC_5247It seemed that most fishermen were staying away from the sea for another day.  Whale watching offered us the perfect finale to for our Shiretoko journey.  We picked up our car at the dock, had another seafood lunch at Jun no Banya (純の番屋), and left Shiretoko altogether for our next destination: Mashu Lake.

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)

 

 

 

 

 


JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋), Rausu (羅臼), Shiretoko Peninsula (知床半島), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.17

Day 3 (2/2).

Written by Hokkaido playwright Sô Kuramoto (倉本聰), Kita no Kuni Kara 2002 Yuigon (北の国から 遺言) is the final chapter of Kita no Kuni Kara (北の国から), a popular television drama series about a father and his daughter who moved to Hokkaido from Tokyo after divorcing his wife.  The series and its special episodes were first broadcasted in 1981, and ended in 2002 with Kita no Kuni Kara 2002 Yuigon.  Throughout the years, Kita no Kuni Kara and other stories written by Sô Kuramoto have become part of the cultural identity of Hokkaido, while his efforts of promoting Hokkaido have made places like Furano to become well known tourist attractions nowadays.

In Rausu, a seaside timber house that appears in Kita no Kuni Kara 2002 Yuigon has been rebuilt and converted into a lovely seafood restaurant Jun no Banya (純の番屋).  Ran by several local ladies, Jun no Banya serves fantastic local seafood.  During our two-day stay in Rausu, we had two delightful seafood meals at Jun no Banya that ranked among the top highlights in our Shiretoko experience.

IMG_9273Jun no Banya is a popular seafood restaurant housed in a rebuilt timber house that appeared in Kita no Kuni Kara 2002 Yuigon (北の国から 遺言).

DSC_4431The Jun no Banya is managed by several local ladies.

DSC_5255The interior of Jun no Banya is full of colours.

IMG_8977Outside the window, the sea looked calm and relaxing.

IMG_8991We ordered some local seafood after checking out the seafood display in the fridge.

IMG_9277Many decorations in Jun no Banya reveal the restaurant’s strong connection to the fishing industry.

DSC_4433Many Japanese glass fishing floats were handmade with recycled glass from sake bottles.

DSC_4438A cute little lantern.

DSC_5258Dried fish are also used as decorations.

DSC_5265A series of colourful lanterns lined along a timber beam of the house.

DSC_5266A poster in the restaurant reminded us that Shiretoko had been inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage sites since 2005.

IMG_9267Uni (sea urchin) and kani (crab) on sushi rice is definitely a signature dish of Shiretoko.

IMG_9268Super fresh sashimi from the area was another delight.

IMG_9270Shrimps from the nearby waters and oysters from Akkeshi Bay (厚岸) let us experience the true sweetness of fresh seafood from clean and cold seawater.

IMG_8995Located beside Rausu Shiretoko Tourist Information Centre, the Rausu Fisherman Store (羅臼(漁協)直営店 海鮮工房) offers wonderful souvenirs including the famous Rausu kelp and local salmon made from this remote fisherman village.

IMG_8997 A map in the tourist information centre explains the main highlights of Shiretoko and the northeast coast of the peninsula.

IMG_9005At the tourist centre, we tried out the light blue ice-cream inspired by the famous Abashiri (網走) Ryuhyo or drift ice.

IMG_9007Outside the tourist centre, we quietly looked at the sea across the street, hoping the sea would calm down and the sun would come out the next morning.

 

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)

 

 


FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝), Shiretoko Peninsula (知床半島), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.16

Day 2 (3/3).

The weather fluctuated throughout the afternoon.  After lunch, we headed back up to Shiretoko National Park from Utoro to check out Shiretoko Nature Centre, the visitor centre near the park entrance.  The centre houses a large screen theatre showing films of the park, service counters for hikers to obtain trail information, a cafe serving excellent coffee and ice-cream, and a shop selling all kinds of outdoor outfits and souvenir.  After watching a film about a family of Ezo Red Fox at the theatre, we decided to do a short hike.

IMG_6477Only 20 minute of easy walk would bring us to coast of Sea of Okhotsk, where the The Virgin’s Tears or the Furepe Waterfall awaited us.

DSC_4374In the past few decades, efforts had been made to reforest the area after years of pioneer development.

DSC_4382Weather was changing quickly.  At one moment, clouds and mist were moving away from the Shiretoko Mountain Range.

DSC_4383At Furepe Falls, we could only admire the cliff of the waterfall from the opposite side.

DSC_4385A small group of seabirds gathered at the tip of the rock cliff.

DSC_4389From the opposite side, we could see the top part of the Furepe Falls.  The waterfall originates from ground water surfaced near the top.

DSC_4393A wooden pavilion was built across the cove from Furepe Falls as a lookout.

IMG_8828Despite the sun was out at Furepe Falls, clouds and mist continued to cover most of Shiretoko Mountain Range.

IMG_8831We slowly walked back to Shiretoko Nature Centre.

IMG_8850Back at Shiretoko Village Guesthouse, we had another tasty dinner after a pleasant bath at the inhouse onsen.  That evening, we were served with local salmon ruibe.  It had a delicate texture and would melt in the mouth.

IMG_6480Each of us was served with lamb nabe, herring with sea urchin miso, dried flounder, butter scallops, steamed razor clams, etc.

IMG_6487(Foreground) Ruibe, translates as “melted food”, is half-frozen sashimi. It is an Ainu culinary specialty from Hokkaido.  Fresh fish was traditionally stored under snow during winter and eaten without defrost.   (Background) Kichiji is a local fish with red skin and big eyes.  We tasted the deep dried kichiji which was crispy and delicious.

IMG_6488Steamed razor clams were full of aroma of local sake.

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)


UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂), Shiretoko Peninsula (知床半島), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.16

Day 2 (2/3).

While the weather might not be the most ideal for hiking and brown bear sighting, the rain wouldn’t affect our appetite to try out the famous seafood of Shiretoko.  After our morning hike, we drove back to Utoro for lunch.  At the fishing port of Utoro, the fleet of fishing boats below Oronkoiwa Rock ensure the continuous supply of seafood to the area and beyond.  Right by the port, a simple eatery has long been a favorite for both the local and foreign visitors.  Operated by women from Utoro’s fishing industry, Fisherman’s Wives Co-operative Diner at Utoro’s fishing port has been serving fresh seafood rice bowls or kaisen don for 40 years.  Signature seafood of Utoro includes uni (sea urchin), ikura (red caviar made from salmon roe), kani (hair crab, snow crab, king crab), and grilled Hokke or Okhotsk Atka Mackerel, accompanied with pickled radish and miso soup.

DSC_4360The rain stopped after our morning hike.  We returned to the fishing port at Utoro.

DSC_4361Due to unpredictable weather and strong wind, no fishing boats were allowed to head out to the sea.

DSC_4368The fishing port of Utoro was completely empty.

IMG_8791At the fishing port, the Fisherman’s Wives Co-operative Diner has been a popular seafood eatery for 40 years.

IMG_8790The interior of Fisherman’s Wives Co-operative Diner is simple and causal.

IMG_6430The diner is served by wives of Utoro fishermen.

IMG_8785Wild Shirozake Salmon and its roe, crab meat and the legendary Ezo Bafun Uni are the most popular delicacies in Shiretoko.

IMG_8786Feeding on laus kelp, Ezo Bafun Uni (エゾバフンウニ, 蝦夷馬糞海胆) or Short-Spined Sea Urchin of Hokkaido is widely considered as the best sea urchin in Japan.  Known as orange gold, these tasty treat is available from June to August.

IMG_8787Grilled Hokke or Okhotsk Atka Mackerel is a popular local dish.

IMG_6461In Utoro, delicious seafood is also served at the Shiretoko World Heritage Centre (知床世界遺産センター), where simple meals and snacks are offered, as well as souvenirs and dried seafood.  The centre also offers tourist information on Shiretoko.

IMG_8840Housed in another building, a visitor centre offers a comprehensive introduction of Shiretoko National Park to visitors with a number of engaging displays.

IMG_8842Wildlife is definitely the highlight of Shiretoko National Park.

IMG_8844Too bad we didn’t see a real bear during our hike earlier.

IMG_8809In the afternoon, we drove back up to Shiretoko National Park from Utoro.

DSC_4371Looking down from the uphill road that led to Shiretoko National Park, Utoro appeared as a sleepy village guarded by a few huge rocks.

 

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)

 

 

 


ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ), Shiretoko Peninsula (知床半島), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.15

Day 1 (2/2).

In the Northwest Pacific between the Sea of Okhotsk and Nemuro Strait (根室海峡) lies a pointy peninsula extending from the easternmost part of Hokkaido.  Translated as “the end of the world” in native Ainu, Shiretoko Peninsula is often considered to be the last pristine wilderness of Japan.  Because of the famous Oyashio Current (親潮) that brings the nutrient rich subarctic current from Alaska and Bering Sea to the east of Hokkaido, Shiretoko is blessed with magnificent biodiversity and probably one of the world’s richest fishery.  Shiretoko is also the southernmost point in the Northern Hemisphere where sea ice can be formed.  The peninsula is also defined by the volcanic landscape of the Shiretoko Mountain Range (知床連山), and of course the lovely onsens dotted around the peninsula, such as Utoro Onsen (ウトロ温泉), Aidomari Onsen (相泊温泉), Seseki Onsen (瀬石温泉), Rausu Onsen (羅臼温泉) and Iwaobetsu Onsen (岩尾別温泉).  The special natural characteristics of Shiretoko have led to the establishment of Shiretoko National Park (知床国立公園) in 1964 and later enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2005.

Determined to test our luck to check out the beautiful wildlife including Brown Bears, Ezo-shika Deer, Ezo Red Fox, Blakiston’s Fish Owl, Steller’s Sea Eagle, and the Orcas, Sperm Whales and Dall’s porpoise in the sea, Shiretoko was the top priority for our Hokkaido travel itinerary.  From Memanbetsu Airport (女満別空港) near Abashiri (網走), we picked up our rental car from Toyota-Rent-A-Car and began our 1.5 hour drive to Utoro Onsen (ウトロ温泉) in the town of Shari (斜里), the gateway of Shiretoko National Park.

IMG_8638After an hour and 40 minutes, our JAL flight took us from Tokyo Hanada to Memanbetsu Airport in Eastern Hokkaido.

DSC_4257The road from Abashiri to Shari offered us beautiful scenery of the Sea of Okhotsk.

IMG_8642From Shari, we continued driving along the sea up the Shiretoko Peninsula.

DSC_4265Before reaching the onsen village Utoro, we arrived at one of the tourist attractions of Shiretoko called Oshinkoshin Falls (オシンコシンの滝).

IMG_8652Just two minutes up a flight of steps led us to the viewing platform of Oshinkoshin Falls.

IMG_8656From Oshinkoshin Falls, it was just a few minute drive to Utoro, where we would stay for two nights.

DSC_429158m in height, the Oronko-iwa Rock (オロンコ岩) is an iconic feature at the fishing and onsen village of Otoro (ウトロ).  The rock separates the village from the breakwater structures out in the sea.

DSC_4304At the Oronko-iwa Rock parking lot, we had our first fox encounter: a furry fox sneaked behind our black car while we were taking photos of the setting sun.

IMG_6305The Oronko-iwa Rock is a popular spot for watching the sunset.

IMG_8671It was 6pm when we enjoyed a brief moment of the peaceful sunset out in the Sea of Okhotsk.

DSC_4293From the Oronko-iwa Rock, we could see the onsen hotels at Utoro.

IMG_8657The posters at Utoro visitor centre promote the salmon fishery and winter sea ice of Shiretoko.

IMG_8676After the red-eye flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo, the short domestic flight from Tokyo to Memanbetsu Airport, and the drive from Abashiri to Utoro, it was time for us to check in at Shiretoko Village, our onsen hotel in the hills behind Utoro village.

IMG_8682We always look forward the the meals at the onsen hotels in Japan.  At Utoro, we were treated with local seafood, deer meat, local salmon roe, and hairy crab.

IMG_6325It was the time for hairy crabs in Hokkaido.  Each guest was provided with a delicious hairy crab.

IMG_8685Drifting ice is the most popular local feature to promote various drinks and food products from Shiretoko, from sake, beer to ice-cream.

IMG_8687We ended our first day in Shiretoko with a bottle of local grape juice.

 

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)


DAY 1 (6/6): KAIKAYA BY THE SEA (開花屋), Shibuya (渋谷), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.14

Everyone who has visited Tokyo would probably admit that he/she was  spoiled by the abundance of dining options while staying in the Japanese capital.  For us, it was actually quite challenging to pin down a place to eat near our hotel in Shibuya, because there were simply too many options (6,866 restaurants in Shibuya alone listed on the tourist website Tripadvisor).  We began our trip research about two weeks prior departure.  We checked guidebooks, searched travel websites and read online blogs, and came up with a short list of places to visit and eat.  The name Kaikaya By The Sea (開花屋), a popular seafood restaurant at Shibuya, came up multiple times during our research.  Tempted by their highly recommended seafood, we made a table reservation at Kaikaya for our first evening.  After our visit to Ueno and St Mary’s Cathedral, we made it back to Shibuya right on time to Kaikaya By The Sea at 18:30.

 

01Kaikaya By The Sea is located west of Central Shibuya, in a small street west of the shopping centre of Shibuya Mark City.  The “fishy” mural under the shop awning introduces a sense of seaside relaxation to the small urban alleyway of Shibuya.

02The restaurant vestibule is decorated with lots of visitor photos.

03The setting was causal and relax with interesting sea and food related decorations throughout the interior.

04The door handle reminded me of a bowl of seafood soup.

05From his years of surfing, the owner of Kaikaya By The Sea maintains close connections with fishermen working by the sea.  Fish is brought in fresh directly from Sagami Bay (相模湾).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe menu at Kaikaya is quite creative and diverse, from local Japanese sashimi to fusion seafood dishes, and so as the visitors from local customers to foreign tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKaikaya By The Sea is cozy and full of personal touches of the owner.

08An English leaflet introduces a few of their feature dishes.  We ended up trying the Tuna Spareribs recommended by the staff.

09Our first dish was a plate of very fresh assorted sashimi.

10The second dish was broiled live tiger prawns prepared in Hong Kong style.  Again, freshness was the key and we could clearly taste the sweetness of the prawn meat.

11Then came the in-house specialty tuna spareribs.  They are actually baked marinaded tuna jaw.  The dish was quite a pleasant surprise to us as we didn’t know what to expect.

12Six pieces of fatty tuna (maguro toro) sushi, pickled ginger and fresh wasabi root.  A leaf shaped grinder was given for us to DIY the wasabi paste.  The toro was so soft as if melted right after we put it into our mouth.

13Fresh octopus with rock salt and fresh lemon allowed us to taste the freshness and tenderness of the octopus.

14Despite we had already eaten a lot, we couldn’t resist and asked for the dessert menu.

15Outside the kitchen of Kaikaya By The Sea.

16It was already dark by the time we finished our delicious seafood dinner.

17We took a causal stroll in the area and found our way back to Central Shibuya.

18We then walked through the shopping centre of Shibuya Mark City and Shibuya Hikarie to return to our hotel and called it a day.


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.


A REMOTE LEISURE PARADISE, Grass Island (塔門), Hong Kong

Hong Kong has over 200 outlying islands, and only a handful are inhabited.  North of Sai Kung Peninsula (西貢), at the intersection of Mirs Bay (大鵬灣) and Long Harbour (大灘海), the small Grass Island or Tap Mun (塔門) lies across the South Channel from Ko Lau Wan (高流灣) Village in northeast Sai Kung.  At its peak, about 2000 inhabitants lived on the Grass Island.  They were mainly farmers or fishermen.  Today, only about 100 residents stay on the Grass Island, mainly as shopper or restaurant keepers to serve the influx of tourists during weekends and holiday, when the island would turn into a large camp ground for leisure seekers from all around the city.  Simple seafood eateries, a ferry pier, a Tin Hau Temple, an abandoned school, unique rock formations, old village homes, and a few stores catered for weekend tourists, Grass Island is a getaway destination for anyone who is willing to venture this far out from the city.

DSC_4461From Wong Shek Pier in Sai Kung, we took a local ferry out to the Long Harbour (赤徑海) heading towards Grass Island.

DSC_4484Other than a newer cluster of buildings built in 1964 with a charity aid from New Zealand, most village homes on the Grass Island are located near the pier.

DSC_4507Near the pier, we stopped by a simple eatery for lunch.  The local squid is really fresh and delicious.

DSC_4508Sea urchin fried rice is a popular dish in many fishing villages in Hong Kong.

DSC_4511We also ordered the fresh catch-of-the-day: two small sea bream caught in the morning.

DSC_4531A few dragon boats were lying around a small waterfront area.

DSC_4539During Tuen Ng Festival, there would be a dragon boat race at the Grass Island.

DSC_4548A small trail off the main street of the Grass Island led us to a popular open area above the eastern shore of the island.  The space is crowded with camping tents, kite-playing visitors and feral cattle.

DSC_4567The sloped open lawn seemed had endured heavy foot traffic throughout the years.  The silhouette of the iconic Sharp Peak on the Sai Kung mainland provided the best backdrop for Grass Island.  In a clear day, the water should have been blue and Sharp Peak lush green.

DSC_4601From the hilltop overlooking the open lawn, we followed a off the beaten trail that winded through dense woods for half an hour and eventually arrived at the rocky beach of Che Wan (車灣).  This was probably the most difficult hike on the island.  Our aim was to seek for a seaside rock called the Dragon’s Neck (龍頸筋).

DSC_4628The Dragon’s Neck (龍頸筋) is one of Grass Island most famous natural feature.  It is frequented by hikers as well as visitors who come for fishing.

DSC_4639Back to the top of the lawn, we followed another footpath down the east coast of the island.  Along the path, some visitors set up tents and picnic areas, some went for fishing at the rock beaches, some braved the cliffs for rock climbing, some continued to fly their kites on the windy slopes.  The Grass Island is truly a small leisure paradise for all.

DSC_4640Another well known rock feature was the Lui’s Stacking Rocks (呂字疊石).  Two similar stone cubes, one sitting on top of the other, resemble the Chinese character of the surname “Lui”.

DSC_4671Looking at the Lui’s Stacking Rocks (呂字疊石) from afar, it was hard to imagine how the stacking rocks were formed in the first place.

DSC_4688The entire day was cool and grey while we were on the Grass Island.  The wind was a little strong, and so as the waves.

DSC_4706Ko Lau Wan(高流灣) at Sai Kung Peninsula seemed pretty close from the southern tip of the Grass Island.  The sea was a little rough in between, in the 400m wide channel of Tap Mun Mouth (塔門口).

DSC_4716The utilitarian New Village of Tap Mun was erected in 1964 by a charity from New Zealand.  The houses are still occupied today.

DSC_4722After the New Village, we were getting close to the pier again.

DSC_4723We could see the incoming ferry while on our way walking to the pier.

DSC_4731As we boarded the ferry, the sea and the fish farming areas seemed calm and relaxing.

DSC_4782After half a day on the small and remote Grass Island, it was time for us to return to Wong Shek Ferry Pier in Sai Kung.


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.

 


ROMANTIC SUNSET AND SEASIDE RUINS, Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門), Hong Kong

Known as the eastern gateway of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour (維多利亞港), the sea channel of Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門) is the narrowest point of the harbour between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.  During the British colonial era, defending the channel of Lei Yue Mun was seen vital for the protection of Hong Kong Island.  Military defense had been set up on the hills at both sides of Lei Yue Mun, many of which can still be seen today as historical sites.  The area in East Kowloon around the Lei Yue Mun Channel is also called Lei Yue Mun.  One of the most important villages at Lei Yue Mun is Sam Ka Village (三家村) .  Since the opening of Yau Tong (油塘) MTR Station in 2002, visiting the once remote Lei Yue Mun has became just a half an hour metro ride from Central Hong Kong.  While in the old days Lei Yue Mun was well known for its typhoon shelter and villagers were mainly engaged in the industries of fishery, farming and mining, today when people thinks about Lei Yue Mun the first thing comes to mind is definitely the seafood.  With its picturesque seaside village setting, fantastic lookouts for the sunset, and romantic ruins of the former quarry buildings, Lei Yue Mun has much more to offer than steamed prawns and broiled lobsters.

DSC_5429In the afternoon, seafood restaurant staff were busy preparing for their evening business.

DSC_5431The Main Street at Sam Ka Village of Lei Yue Mun has dozens of seafood restaurants.  Most restaurants install large glass tanks at their shopfront to display their catches of the day.

DSC_5440Beyond the cluster of seafood restaurant, Sam Ka Village is a tranquil village by the sea.

DSC_5451The Lei Yue Mun Lighthouse has been standing at the waterfront for over half a century to guide the sea traffic at the eastern gateway if the Victoria Harbour between Sau Kee Wan (筲箕灣) on Hong Kong Island and Sam Ka Village in Kowloon.

DSC_5454Living by the Victoria Harbour has became a luxury feature for Hong Kong’s real estate.  At Lei Yue Mun, living by the sea literally means having a house exposed to the wind and waves at a few feet above the sea.

DSC_5456Fishing is one of the most popular hobbies for local villagers.

DSC_5497Like many other villages by the sea in Hong Kong there is a Tin Hau Temple in Sam Ka Village.

DSC_5504The semi open forecourt of Lei Yue Mun’s Tin Hau Temple is full of hanging incense.

DSC_5506Behind the Tin Hau Temple, there is a popular fortune teller.

DSC_5517Founded for nearly 150 years, Lei Yue Mun was a village known for agriculture, fishery and mining until the 1960’s.  After gradual decline of the three industries, today’s Lei Yue Mun is best known for its seafood restaurants.

DSC_5532The stone quarry site at the southern tip of Lei Yue Mun has been abandoned since the 1960’s.

DSC_5536Mining has been around in Lei Yue Mun since the 19th century.  In the British era, Hong Kong is well known for its fine grained granite stones.  The ruins at Lei Yue Mun are the remnants of Wong Yin Quarry (旺賢石廠), which was abandoned in 1968 after explosives were banned for mining. 

DSC_5538Ruins of the old jetty, sea walls, stone houses and concrete foundations of the former quarry have became a romantic ruin for all to enjoy.

DSC_5570Young people love to come here to take photos, or just chilled out by the sea.

DSC_5545Some visitors like to climb onto the alcoves on the seaside stone cliffs to have some sober moments by the sea.  Beyond Lei Yue Mun and across the Junk Bay or Tseung Kwan O (將軍澳) stand the new residential developments at Lohas Park (日出康城).

DSC_5583While most were enjoying the sunset or taking selfies at the ruins, a young lady came to one of the stone beaches to collect garbage.

DSC_5603In the late afternoon, even the dogs look truly relaxed at Lei Yue Mun.

DSC_5612While Hong Kong has been known for its materialistic way of living, villagers in Lei Yue Mun seem to maintain a relatively simple lifestyle.

DSC_5621Under the western sun, a swimmer enjoys himself swimming in the Victoria Harbour.  Given the amount of boat traffic in the harbour, swimming in Lei Yue Mun is in fact a dangerous act.

DSC_5633Late afternoon or early evening is definitely the best time to visit Lei Yue Mun’s Sam Ka Village.

DSC_5643Watching the sunset is so popular in Lei Yue Mun, especially for photography enthusiasts.  Most would gather near the lighthouse to witness the sun moving behind the skyline of Sai Wan Ho (西灣河).

DSC_5645The super tall residential developments Grand Promenade (嘉亨灣) look absolutely out of proportion.

DSC_5664As the day’s last twilight fades, a distinct ambiance emerges as the neon signs of the seafood restaurants are being lit up.

DSC_5682In the relaxing atmosphere of Lei Yue Mun, even a dog would wear a bow tie to pose for visitors.

DSC_5691The once vibrant typhoon shelter of Sam Ka Village has became a leisure place for busy Hong Kongers to escape from their daily hassles.

DSC_5705Half an hour after sunset, the neon signs of the restaurants have taken over the night at Lei Yue Mun.  Leaving Lei Yue Mun by boat at Sam Ka Village Pier is the best way to bid farewell.

 

 


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.


HONG KONG’S SOUTHERNMOST POINT, Po Toi Island (蒲台島), Hong Kong

While remote Fan Lau (分流) is the westernmost village in Hong Kong, Po Toi Island (蒲台島) is its counterpart at the southernmost point of the territory.  From 2000 inhabitants in the 1950’s down to about 10 today, like many rural communities in the city, Po Toi Island has gone through a rapid decline in population in the modern era.  The remote island with a population of merely 10 would become lively during weekends when a few boat loads of visitors arrive at the dock.  Beautiful granite formations, ancient stone carving, a lone lighthouse, a few simple houses, several fishing boats and nets, and racks of drying seafood and seaweeds, Po Toi Island is a peaceful getaway less than an hour ferry from either Aberdeen (香港仔) or Stanley (赤柱).  A day before Chinese New Year in a fine Sunday morning, we decided to take the 8:15 ferry, the only scheduled departure of the day, from Aberdeen to Po Toi.

DSC_9237There are either one to two ferries on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from Aberdeen going to Po Toi Island.  On Sunday, there are more Po Toi bound ferries departing from Stanley.  For us, we opted for Aberdeen because of the unique scenery of its famous typhoon shelter, the home of Aberdeen Floating Village (香港仔水上人家).  There were once over 6000 inhabitants living on the boats in Aberdeen, one of the most significant port in Hong Kong since the 19th century.

DSC_9268Today there are still a number of boat villagers staying, and so as their fleet of fishing boats, seafood stalls, floating restaurants, and the seafood wholesale business, etc.  At 7:30am on a Chinese New Year’s Eve, local residents were busy shopping for seafood from the fishermen at Aberdeen Waterfront Promenade.  On such an important day of the year, their seafood would be sold out in less than an hour.

DSC_9296Decorations for the Chinese New Year could be seen at piers and boats along the promenade.

DSC_9329Under the soft morning sun, colourful boats of all sizes crisscrossed the waterways among the boats parked between Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau Island.  The Ap Lei Chau Island sheltered Aberdeen from the wind and waves of the open sea, making Aberdeen Channel one of the best typhoon shelter in Hong Kong.

DSC_9346Despite most fishermen have moved onto apartments in Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau, the scenery of Aberdeen is still dominated the channel and typhoon shelter.

DSC_9397The open waterway in the middle of Aberdeen Channel was like a water highway to us.

DSC_9404Our ferry also passed by one of the famous floating seafood restaurants in Aberdeen.

DSC_9433And we also passed by the Ocean Park, the iconic ocean-themed amusement park and aquarium.

DSC_9435From a distance, we also recognized the beautiful Repulse Bay.

DSC_9453Our ferry finally docked at Po Toi’s pier at Tai Wan (大灣).  There weren’t that many visitors around.  We only shared the island with a handful of tourists and the remaining Po Toi inhabitants.

DSC_9473Po Toi remains as a remote, sleepy and simple fishing village.  From the pier, we walked for a few minutes to reach the main beach in the middle of Tai Wan (大灣).  There was a seafood restaurant called Ming Kee, probably the only seafood restaurant on the island.

DSC_9480Dried seafood (fish, squid, and even octopus) were common sights.

DSC_9481There were racks on the main beach Tai Wan (大灣) where villagers dried their fishing nets and other fishing equipment.

DSC_9490Some houses on Po Toi were colourfully painted, presenting a great match to the bright blue sky.

DSC_9518On the other end of Tai Wan (大灣) stood an old Tin Hau Temple, dedicated to the sea goddess of Tin Hau for protecting the fishermen at the sea.

DSC_9506Inside the temple, we saw a number of decorations related to the fishing culture of Po Toi, such as the wooden model of a dragon boat.

DSC_9578Adjacent to the Tin Hau Temple, we followed the metal chain up the granite hill to start our day hike.

DSC_9575On two thirds the way up we could clearly see the magnificent scenery of Tai Wan (大灣) and the public pier below.

DSC_9690Looking south we saw Lighthouse no. 126 and the southern tip of the island.

DSC_9724We leisurely walked down the hill in the direction of the lighthouse.

DSC_9741On our way we passed by some graves facing the sea, quite a scenic resting place for the departed.

DSC_9755Atop another hill we encountered a well known attraction on Po Toi.  Known as the Monk Rock, this rock formation resembled a Buddhist monk when viewed from afar.

DSC_9758A few tents were set up near Lighthouse No. 126.  Po Toi is a popular spot for camping.  Far from the city’s light pollution, those who brave for the night here get a chance to admire and photographing the starry night sky.

DSC_9778We finally reached the No. 126 Lighthouse, a simple white washed structure perched on top of granite rocks, overlooking the southern shore and the vast South China Sea.

DSC_9786Reaching the No. 126 Lighthouse at the southernmost point of Hong Kong overlooking the boundless water in a day of very fine weather was emotional and satisfying.

DSC_9814We then moved on to the real southern tip of the island.  The South China Sea looked surprisingly busy with cargo ships.

DSC_9863Heading back towards the pier, we reached another attraction of Po Toi, the interesting rock formation with large vertical stone strips known as the Buddhist Palm.

DSC_9866More graves appeared as we walked closer to the village.  Like grey boulders, the tombstones looked quite blended in with the overall natural setting.

DSC_9889There are a number of ancient stone carvings in Hong Kong and its outlying islands.  There is a mysterious one on Po Toi, simply known as Po Toi Island Stone Carvings (蒲台島石刻).

DSC_9903Back to the village, we decided to sit down at Ming Kee (明記海鮮酒家), the only seafood restaurant on the island.

DSC_9906We just ordered their set lunch with shrimps, squid, small abalone, sweet and sour pork and stir fry vegetables.

DSC_9925After lunch, we wandered along the beach at Tai Wan (大灣).

DSC_9960Po Toi is the most famous spot in Hong Kong for seaweed and kelp.  We could clearly see the seaweed above the water.

DSC_0001There were drying kelp and seaweed allover the tiny village.  We couldn’t resist but bought a few packs.

DSC_0007A dog lying beside the rack as if guarding the drying kelp.

DSC_0018Before leaving the island, we sat down at one of the simple snack shops and ordered the kelp and green bean soup (海帶綠豆沙), a sweet delight full of aroma of seaweed and herbs that every visitor should try a bowl.

 


OCEAN PARK (海洋公園), Hong Kong

With 7.6 million admission recorded for year 2013-14, Hong Kong’s Ocean Park is considered to be the biggest theme park in Asia.  Since 1977, the Ocean Park had been attracting locals and tourists with its amazing aquariums, zoological facilities, amusement rides, shows and entertainment attractions.  With 91.5 hectares of land, the site is defined by two main areas: Waterfront and Summit, separated by the lush green hills of Nam Long Shan.

It has been 19 years since we last visited Ocean Park.  A revisit of the park after two decades was quite interesting for us.  In the old days, the park was renowned for its amusement rides, and shows of dolphins, sea lions and the orca named Miss Hoi Wai (海威小姐); today there are exotic animals and more cool amusement rides but Miss Hoi Wai was long gone.  Back then, the park served mainly the local Hong Kongers; now over half of the visitors are from mainland China.  As awareness of wildlife conservation grew in recent years, the park has also included educational interpretation for visitors.  However, as documentaries like The Cove and Blackfish which reveal the cruel reality of marine theme parks, visiting a place like the Ocean Park has become a controversial matter. There are increasing concerns over keeping wild animals in captivity while advocating wildlife conservation through its funded programs and educational interpretation throughout the park

We spent the entire day wandering around Ocean Park, first at the lower Waterfront area checking out the splendid underwater world of the Grand Aquarium and the rare mammals including giant pandas, red panda and golden snub-hosed monkey from the Chinese Province of Sichuan pavilion and the Giant Panda Adventure pavilion.  We then took a short cable car ride over Nam Long Shan to arrive at the Summit Area, where the distant scenery of Deep Water Bay and Aberdeen were equally impressive.  Up on the Summit, amusement rides and wildlife exhibitions scattered upon several platform levels.  We managed to see a number of wildlife exhibits before dusk, ranging from marine animals like jellyfish and sharks; freshwater fish like Yangtze sturgeons and Amazonian pirarucu; penguins, seals and walrus from the Arctic and Antarctic, etc.  We took the relatively new Ocean Express funicular back down to the Waterfront area, where we made a brief visit to the children friendly Whiskers Harbour and enjoyed the last moments of the Symbio, a show that featured a 360 degree water screen, lighting effects and fireworks at the Lagoon by the  park’s main entrance.

As we exited Ocean Park, we passed by the near completed MTR station.  After new features have been added in recent years, Ocean Park is soon to go through another phase of transformations: first will come the convenience of the subway station, and second the highly anticipated Tai Shue Wan Water World, projected to be completed in 2018, almost two decades since the last water park closed its doors.  Surviving through difficult economic times and competition from Hong Kong Disneyland Park, the ever-changing Ocean Park proved its resilience and ambitions.  In 2012, it received the Swedish Applause Award, a highly regarded international prize in the theme park industry.

3A Bathed in mysterious blue light, schools of silvery fishes swim in circles in a multi-storey glass cylindrical tank.  It is visually impressive and attracts all visitors’ attention at the Grand Aquarium designed by architect Frank Gehry.

2Red panda and giant panda at the Giant Panda Adventure pavilion.

3BThe cable car which links the Waterfront and Summit areas is an attraction by itself.  The relaxing 15 minutes ride offers spectacular views of Deep Water Bay and South China Sea.

4The Sea Jelly Spectacular pavilion display over 1000 sea jellies.

1Splendid jellyfish glows under the special lighting.

5Visitors walking through the glass tunnel while a rare Chinese sturgeon swims by in front.

6“I’m FINished with fins” – A smart slogan to request people to refrain from consuming shark fins.  Such education is crucial in Hong Kong where shark fin soup is still a luxurious delicacy in the banquet menu, even though there is increasing awareness among the younger generation.  Years ago documentary such as Sharkwater has already explained the devastating consequences to the marine ecosystem on earth as the result of massive demand and consumption of shark fins

7Close encounter with sharks at the Shark Mystique.  Sharks are one of those animals often got misunderstood.

8Amazonian pirarucu in the Rainforest Pavilion.  These giant freshwater fish can grow up to 4.5m long.

9Pacific walrus at the Polar Adventure pavilion.

10The South Pole Spectacular pavilion features king penguins, southern rockhopper penguins and gentoo penguins.

11Amusement rides are popular attractions at the Summit, including the “Hair Raiser”roller-coaster.

12Partial view of the Summit area.

13At Pacific Pier pavilion, a curious sea lion interacts with a spectator by following the visitor’s hand motions on the other side of the glass.

14Ap Lei Chau, Ap Lei Pai and Lamma Island at dusk.

15[left] a moon hanging above the Ocean Park Tower with slowly rotating viewing platform; and [right[ a seahorse decoration at the Ocean Express funicular station.

16“Whirly Bird” chair ride beyond the Ocean Express funicular station.

17Trampoline performance.

18[left] Cable cars bring visitors back to the Waterfront area from the Summit area in the evening when approaching closing time; [right] the light decoration of a small ferris wheel lit up in the evening at Whiskers Harbour.

19When the kids’ zone Whiskers Harbour left alone without kids.

20 A wooden horse of a carousel in Whiskers Harbour.

21 Water, fire, light and fireworks are the main components of the 360° water screen show Symbio.


TUNG PING CHAU (東平洲), Rocky Paradise in Mirs Bay, Hong Kong

Tung Ping Chau (東平洲) lies at the northeastern-most corner of Hong Kong’s territory. The island is much closer to Mainland China than to Mainland Hong Kong. Long before the island was included in the Hong Kong Global Geopark in 2009, foe decades Tung Ping Chau had been a popular destination for visitors who came to see the island’s unique rock formations and wave cut platforms. Tung Ping Chau was once home to over three thousand inhabitants, and also infamously a . Its population went through a continuous decline in recent decades. Today less than ten islanders called Tung Ping Chau their home. Most people come to the island as tourists on Saturday and Sunday, when the island is served with a daily ferry departing from Ma Liu Shui pier at around 9:00 am. 1The ridge of Pat Sin Leng (八仙嶺) and the dam of Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣淡水湖) lie right in front as we left Ma Liu Shui Pier (馬料水) behind venturing out into Tolo Channel from Tolo Harbour. 2After an hour and fifteen minute of boat ride, we finally arrived at the pier of Tung Ping Chau. Immediately we were captivated by the pristine clear water. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnlike other volcanic islands of Hong Kong, Tung Ping Chau is made of sedimentary rocks. 4Apart than geology, Tung Ping Chau is also renounced for its coastal ecology. In 2001, the sea surrounding the island has been designated as the fourth Marine Park (conservation area) in the city, a marine conservation area. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome surviving village homes are used for guesthouses and eateries serving visitors who land on the island every weekend. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocal delicacies of Tung Ping Chau include squid with salt and pepper, and sea urchin fried rice. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADrying cuttlefish. 8Rock formation in Tung Ping Chau is unique down to the smallest details, much owe to erosion caused by the sea waves. 9Crabs of various sizes are common on the island, especially in the tidal pools. 10These tidal pools are completely cut off from the sea during low tide. 11Wandering in the rocky coastal areas on Tung Ping Chau was a surreal experience. 12In many cases, the force of sea waves can be clearly visible from the rocks. 13 Wave-cut platforms. 14 Amazing triangular wave-cut platforms. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Some of the rock cuts look so perfect as if they were carved with a knife and ruler. 16 The layering of sedimentary rocks can be clearly seen. 17Clear water, splendid seashells, fine sand, and charming afternoon sun. 18Close-up of a coral head on the beach. 19 As we waited for the returning ferry, we saw a man sat on the rock contemplating the industrial facilities of Mainland China.


TAI O, Fishing Village on Lantau Island, Hong Kong – Part 1

Remotely situated at the west side of Lautau Island, Tai O is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hong Kong. Despite touristy, Tai O’s iconic stilt houses, shrimp paste factories, pristine wetlands, and its sense of rural community remind us of what Hong Kong used to look like a few centuries ago where the territory’s coastline was dotted with numerous fishing villages. Located at a coastal wetland where shrimps, mudskippers and mangrove forests once ruled, Tai O reveals a delicate balance among humans, coastal wildlife and the mangrove forests. Unfortunately, due to urban development, much of Hong Kong’s precious wetlands are either in danger or completely gone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A short walk from Tai O is the village of Yi O, where farmers reintroduce rice paddies and other organic farming back to Lautau Island a few years ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Between Tai O and Yi O, there are a series of coastal wetlands and pebble beaches open to the mouth of Pearl River.

3 In Tai O, shrimp paste and dried seafood still dominate the souvenir shopping list for many visitors.

4 Without the presence of chain stores and large supermarkets, each local store in Tai O still possesses a distinctive character along the main shopping street – Kat Hing Street.

5 Spontaneous art brut can be found throughout Tai O.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Among the various street food options on Kat Hing Street, traditional charcoal grilled egg waffle is definitely one of the most popular.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Apart from egg waffle, grilled squid is equally tempting.

8 Opposite from their street entrances, many eateries in Tai O have back patios overlooking one of the many canals in the village.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Many villagers remain in Tai O spend much of their lives in the village.

10 Metal sheds of various sorts can be found throughout Tai O, especially after the fire of 2000 when a great number of original timber stilt houses were destroyed.

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> Link to  Tai O, Hong Kong Part 2


HOI HA WAN (海下灣)– Marine Treasure Trove in Sai Kung (西貢), Hong Kong

Hoi Ha Wan, literally means “Under Sea Bay”, is best known for its marine biodiversity and mangrove forests. Prohibited for fishing, boating and collecting marine wildlife, the small bay of Hoi Ha Wan is a marine park frequented by divers, snorkelers and kayakers, as well as families who come for a lesson of natural science.

I came to spend a causal afternoon. Under the mid-afternoon sun, a few groups of children walked out into shallow water searching for starfishes and sea cucumbers. From the shore, I could see rock corals, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, crabs, seashells and fishes of various colours and sizes.  At Hoi Ha Village, banners were hung at a number of places urging developers to stay off the Hoi Ha area.

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DAY 72 (2 OF 2) – SENDA COSTERA & BAHIA LAPATAIA, PARQUE NACIONAL TIERRA DEL FUEGO, TIERRA DEL FUEGO, ARGENTINA

From the post office at Bahia Ensenada, we began the 8km trek Senda Costera west to Lapataia, where the trail meets RN no.3 four kilometres from its terminus.  The 4-hour trek led us through some of the southernmost forests and stone beaches along Beagle Channel.  With snow-capped mountains in the background, the beaches along Beagle Channel were filled with mussels, clams, seaweed, and moss-covered rocks.  After finishing Senda Costera, we dropped by Alakush Visitor Centre to get another “end of world” souvenir stamp on our passport.  From Alakush, we headed southwest along RN no.3 and turned to Mirador Lapataia, a 20-minute shortcut leading to the terminus of RN no.3.  At the road terminus we reached a big cul-de-sac and a sign stating “Bahia Lapataia, Aqui finaliza la Rute Nac No. 3, 3079km from Buenos Aires, 17848km from Alaska”.  We had finally reached the end of the Pan-American Highway!  The timing was perfect for us to catch the 3pm bus back to Ushuaia.  Otherwise we would need to wait till 5pm for the next bus back to the city.
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Read more on Ushuaia in 2013 South America
Day 69.1 – Magellan Straight
Day 69.2 – Arrival, Ushuaia
Day 69.3 – Fuegian Grill, Ushuaia
Day 70.1 – Museo Maritimo, Ushuaia
Day 70.2 – Chiko Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 70.3 – Beagle Channel & Isla H
Day 70.4 – Kalma Resto, Ushuaia
Day 71.1 – Pier, Ushuaia
Day 71.2 – Fuegian Trees, near Estancia Harberton
Day 71.3 – Penguins, Martillo Island
Day 71.4 – Estancia Harberton
Day 71.5 – Kaupe Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 72.1 – Post Office, Isla Redonda, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego
Day 72.2 – Senda Costera & Bahia Lapataia, Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
Day 73 – Stranded in Ushuaia Airport

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 70 (3 OF 4) – BEAGLE CHANNEL & ISLA H, USHUAIA, TIERRA DEL FUEGO, ARGENTINA

Named after the ship captained by Fitz Roy who took Charles Darwin on board to study natural science around the globe, Beagle Channel was one of the three sail routes where ships could go between the Atlantic and Pacific before the opening of Panama Canal.  The Beagle channel is narrow, but the water is crystal clear and full of marine wildlife.  Doing a cruise in the Beagle Channel is a mandatory activity for all visitors to Ushuaia. There are many tour companies in town offering various boat rides up the Beagle Channel.
After the seafood lunch at Chiko, we took a boat tour with Tres Marias.  With only 10 people on board, touring the Beagle Channel on a sailboat is a unique experience unlike most of the other cruise boats that can take dozens or even over a hundred of passengers at a time.  While most boats would take tourists to see the sea lions and sea birds from afar, and reach as far as the Lighthouse Les Eclaireurs, we chose Tres Marias because it allowed passengers to physically land on Isla “H”, a small island in the channel within the Isla Bridges natural reserve.
The sea was calm today.  After leaving our bags in the cabin, we climbed up to the deck and sat under the boom.  The trip to Isla H took about an hour.  After we arrived, we got about an hour to hike around the island with our guide.  The island is largely covered with small plants that can survive the harsh Fuegian winds.  On a stone beach, we passed by a shell mound left by the former canoe people, the nomadic Yamana. There were also various types of seaweed and seashells all over.  On the high point of the island, our guide led us to a colony of rock cormorants nesting on the cliff.
After Isla H, Tres Marias took us to a colony of sea lions on a small island.  Waves were higher on our way back with water splashing onto the deck every so often.  Since we were sitting at the front of the boat, we both got soaking wet as if exposed to a cold shower.  Overall it was a pleasant experience to sail in the Beagle Channel.  It was cold, wet, but the scenery and the wildlife made it worthwhile.
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Read more on Ushuaia in 2013 South America
Day 69.1 – Magellan Straight
Day 69.2 – Arrival, Ushuaia
Day 69.3 – Fuegian Grill, Ushuaia
Day 70.1 – Museo Maritimo, Ushuaia
Day 70.2 – Chiko Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 70.3 – Beagle Channel & Isla H
Day 70.4 – Kalma Resto, Ushuaia
Day 71.1 – Pier, Ushuaia
Day 71.2 – Fuegian Trees, near Estancia Harberton
Day 71.3 – Penguins, Martillo Island
Day 71.4 – Estancia Harberton
Day 71.5 – Kaupe Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 72.1 – Post Office, Isla Redonda, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego
Day 72.2 – Senda Costera & Bahia Lapataia, Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
Day 73 – Stranded in Ushuaia Airport

* * *

South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought