ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “train

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.


NINE ARCHES BRIDGE, Ella, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.13

Day 9 (2 of 4).

Also called the Bridge in the Sky, the Nine Arches Bridge in Demodara near Ella is the most well known colonial railway viaduct in Sri Lanka.  The 300 ft long viaduct was built in 1921 by a Ceylonese builder with consultation from British engineers.  Rumours said that steel was not available during construction because of the broke out of World War One.  As a result, the construction was completed using only solid stone and cement.  Today, the Nine Arches Bridge has become a popular tourist attraction thanks to its dramatic setting and its proximity to Ella.

01We followed a sign and reached a quiet path.  A cafe owner came for help and pointed us to a narrow descending path that led to the famous railway bridge.

02Before finding our way down to the bridge, we stopped at a lookout for photographs.  The rumbling sound from afar and the gathering of tourists near the bridge signified that a train was approaching.

03A few times each day, tourists would gather by the bridge to welcome the approaching train.

04At one end of the bridge, we found ourselves taking photos from a tea farm among many other tourists.

05Obviously the bridge spans over the valley with nine arches.

06On top of the Nine Arches Bridge, tourists take pictures from the tracks.

07From the other end of the bridge, we walked uphill to reach another lookout and get a nice look of the bend of the bridge.

08Everyone to and from Ella would need to walk through a railway tunnel.

09Many tourists see walking through the tunnel as a unique experience and a photo opportunity.

10Despite there were only a handful of trains passing through each day, we still had a slightly uncomfortable feeling while walking through the tunnel, as if a train could appear suddenly from the other end.

11Beyond the tunnel, we continued to walk on the tracks for about half an hour.

12Passing by a number of railway signage as we approach Ella.

13At last, Ella station was in sight.

14After all the track walking, we finally saw the sign that everyone, both locals and tourists, ignored, “Walk on the Railway Line is Prohibed.”


SLEEPY TOURIST TOWN IN THE HILLS, Ella, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.11

Day 7 (2 of 2).

In the midst of tea plantations and cloud forests, the town of Ella situates at an elevation of 1000m above sea level and maintains a relatively cooler climate than the surrounding lowlands.  Well known for its scenic valley view of Ella Rock at the Ella Gap, and a laid-back backpacker’s atmosphere, there is no surprises that the hill town has developed into the most popular tourist hub in the entire hill country.  Almost all businesses in Ella are somewhat related to tourism.  Because of its decent guesthouse and restaurant selection, convenience of transportation, and pleasant surrounding scenery, many travellers including us chose Ella as their base to explore the area’s hiking trails and tea plantations.

01Since July 1918, Ella railway station has been an important stop on the Main Line, the oldest railway line in Sri Lanka running from coastal Colombo to Badulla in the hill country, via Kandy.

02Just like other railway station in the country, curious dogs were often the first to greet us on the platform, especially when we had breakfast in our hands.

03Depending on the time of day, visitors would either get off at Ella from the red or blue train.

IMG_7268We stayed at Zion View Ella Green Retreat for two nights.  A number of guest houses, including Zion View, are erected on the valley slope facing the Ella Gap, one of the most scenic spot in town.

05Every room in Zion View has a terrace overlooking the Ella Gap.

06The terrace was the perfect spot to watch the sunrise over Ella Gap with the silhouette of Ella Rock.

07It was also in Ella that we had our first Sri Lankan egg hoppers for breakfast.

08The two German Shepherds at Zion View always welcomed us at the hotel entrance.

09Walking on the railway tracks is often the the most direct routes to go between attractions.  Because only a few trains would pass by Ella daily, both the locals and tourists would use these tracks as footpaths during the rest of the day to reach their destinations.

10From our guesthouse we walked half an hour on the tracks to visit Kithal Ella falls. We reached the falls just before nightfall.

12Just a few kilometres away from Ella, Halpewatte Tea Factory is a popular tea plantation that offers factory tours for tourists.  The factory can easily be reached by tuk tuk.

13 Halpewatte is one of better known tea plantation in the UVA Ceylon tea region.

14Founded in 1971, Halpewatte is a family run business.

IMG_7600Visiting a tea factory is a good way to learn more about the variety of Ceylon tea.

15From the factory, we enjoyed a panoramic view of the tea terraces and surrounding scenery.

16Among the many restaurants, we picked AK Ristoro in a quiet neighbourhood off the main road for dinner.

18 We chose to dine at the lovely veranda area at AK Ristoro.

IMG_7649AK Ristoro serves good fusion food with Italian, Japanese and Sri Lankan touches.

19We couldn’t resist but to order a can of the local Lion beer to wash down our delicious dinner.

IMG_7659At night, the Main Street of Ella is flanked by lights and signage of restaurants and souvenir stores.

 


THE WORLD’S MOST SCENIC TRAIN RIDE, Kandy to Ella, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.11

Day 7 (1 of 2).

Established in 1864, the railway system of Sri Lanka was constructed by the British colonial government for tea transportation. While not the fastest way to travel, making intercity journeys by train was a unique way to absorb the history of Sri Lanka, and enjoy the beautiful scenery in a relaxing pace.  Some journeys are particularly more popular than the others because the beautiful scenery they offer.  The journey from Kandy to Ella is one of the most popular routes, and is often referred to as one of the world’s most scenic train journey.

Getting a reserved ticket (1st class or 2nd class) from Kandy onward to the hill country is a challenge for many tourists, including us.  We tried purchasing through online agent 1.5 month prior to our departure, but failed to land on any reserved tickets for our desirable date.  We planned to try our luck to buy unreserved tickets and get on at an earlier stop.   At worst we might need to stand for a period of time until someone get off during the 7-hour ride.  The staff at Villa Rosa heard about our situation, and helped us to obtain two 2nd class tickets with reserved seats from a local agent on the day before our departure.  We were grateful for his help.

01The wooden timetable board at Kandy Station looks like it has been around since the colonial time.

02As the train slowly left the train station, we bid farewell to Kandy and moved on into the hill country.

03Soon we arrived into the tea plantation country.

04Hindu temples are often erected in tea plantations as many Tamils working in the plantations are Hindus who came from Southern India.

06The entire hill country is lush green and dotted with houses of pitched roofs.

07Our train passed by one village after another.

08On occasions, our train would get close to a sloped tea farm.

09It was amazing to see so much land have been converted into tea plantations.

10The tea farms seemed never ending.

11Some tea farms seemed to receive poorer maintenance.

13Since the train was relatively slow, many tourists chose to sit at the doorway with their legs hanging out of the train car.

14Tourists took turns to lean out of the doorway of the train to take selfies and enjoy a moment of “flying” over the tea farms.

15Many villagers stood near the railroad to watch our train passed by.

17Many locals walked on the train tracks.

19And so as dogs wandering around the railway stations.

16Near the end of the journey, the weather suddenly turned breezy and foggy.

18 Fog covered much of the area near Ella.

20After 6.5 hours, we finally arrived in the area of Ella.  We would stay in Ella for two days before moving on to the south.

 

 

 


DAY 10 (1/3): TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi, India, 2018.12.03

After 9 days in the desert state of Rajasthan and historical capital of Agra, it finally came to the last day of our short Indian holiday, the moment of returning to Delhi to complete the Golden Triangle.  For 2372 rupees, we purchased two tickets and seat reservations on the Karnataka Express 12627 through an online agent, leaving Agra Cantonment Railway Station (Agra Cantt) at 6:45am and arriving New Delhi Railway Station at 10:30am, bringing us back to the Indian capital in under four hours.  It was a sleeper train and we didn’t bother to pull up the sleeper units back to their original upright positions, but just sat down on the sleeper unit for the journey.

IMG_2995As a premium tourist destination in the country, Agra Cantt Station looked rather simple and chaotic.

IMG_3172During the four hour train ride, we passed by a number of shanty towns along the railway tracks.

IMG_3173People were everywhere.  Often, the railway tracks served as a gathering place.

IMG_3195At other instances, the tracks had become a pedestrian passageway.

IMG_3248Many houses along the tracks were painted in vivid colours.

IMG_3337Many suburban trains were fully packed with commuters.  Most third class train cabins would not limit the number of passengers.

IMG_3342Indian trains are not particular fast in speed.  As a result, commuters could stand right next to the door openings.

IMG_3359Our train ride hit the rush hour of a Monday morning when local students and workers headed out for their routine destinations.

IMG_3410Time to go to work.

IMG_3498Simple shelters between train tracks formed a small community for the underprivileged.

IMG_3422Close encounter with the morning commuters.

IMG_3504A final look at our train car before getting off.  The front right hand unit was our sleeper unit for the short journey.

IMG_3512After 9 days, we finally returned to New Delhi.

IMG_3513Upon arrival, we found our way out of the station.  We had a full day ahead of us in Delhi before our flight back to Hong Kong.

IMG_3514We stepped out of New Delhi Station and found our way over to the Airport Express Station next door.

IMG_3515We decided to left our big backpacks at the storage at the Airport Express Station for the day.

IMG_3528After leaving our bags, we headed over to Khan Market, a well known shopping district in New Delhi.  We picked up several souvenirs (local handicrafts) and searched for a place to eat.

IMG_3522For lunch, we selected SodaBottleOpenerWala, an interesting Bombay Iranian style restaurant serving Parsi and Bombay inspired Indian food.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi

 


DAY 6 (1/3): SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.29

At 6:30 in the morning, we returned to the ghats of Pushkar Lake.  The eastern horizon was about to turn yellow.  We came to have a final stroll along the sacred water.  We regret that we couldn’t spend more time in Pushkar, a place that is meant for slow indulgence for its spiritual qualities.  We, however, were making a brief loop of Rajasthan in a rather limited time.  Situated between Jaisalmer and Jaipur, Pushkar was a convenient stop in our itinerary.  We didn’t come in time to attend the famous camel fair, nor did we hike up the nearby hills or visit the Brahma Temple (no cameras, shoes, leather).  Just spending several hours strolling on the ghats turned out to be more than worthwhile for us.  Among cities and sites that we visited in Rajasthan, Pushkar stood out as a charming and peaceful destination that truly touched our hearts.

IMG_0282At 6:30, some locals were already lingering at the ghats.

DSC_1653It was interesting to see how a local interacted with a cow.

IMG_0309The forever presence of pigeons at Pushkar Lake.

IMG_0333The sun rose beyond the hills while a dog rested on a ghat with marked 2018.

DSC_1667The adjacent temples had yet come to life.  Scattered temple staff and pilgrims arrived at the ghats.

DSC_1675Once again the ghats were covered with a coat of orange glow.

DSC_1688The setting looked magnificent with the morning reflections.

DSC_1696Following the sunlight, we walked over to the west side of the lake.

IMG_0360Every moment could be captured as a peaceful painting of the old India.

DSC_1709Some worshipers were listening to the priest’s teaching at one of the ghats.

IMG_0372At the northwest corner of Pushkar Lake we bid farewell to the sacred water.

IMG_0382We stopped by a tiny cafe called Honey Dew for morning coffee.

IMG_0385Brahma Temple in Pushkar is one of the very few Hindu temple in the world dedicated to Brahma, the creator god in Hinduism.

IMG_2588Robin Jewels is a nice jewellery shop we found online.  Before leaving Pushkar, we dropped by the shop and picked up a few pieces.  Robin is specialized in silver, brass, gold and gemstones, with their own manufacturing workshop in town.

IMG_0388We took us a while to narrow down to a few pieces to bring home.

IMG_0396After Robin, we followed the main market street along the north side of Pushkar Lake back to Inn Seventh Heaven.

IMG_0402For a little less than 24 hours, we had a taste of the spiritual side of India in the sacred town of Pushkar.

IMG_2591We checked out the lovely Inn Seventh Heaven and get on a hired car to Ajmer Junction Railway Station.

IMG_0423In an hour or so we would arrived at the bustling city of Jaipur, the capital and largest city of Rajasthan.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi

 

 


DAY 5 (1/3): RANIKHET EXPRESS, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.28

Every day, the mail express train Ranikhet Express covers 1,263km from Jaisalmer in the Thar Desert to Kathgodam in the foothills of the Himalayas.  The express train was also our most convenient way to go from the Golden City of Jaisalmer to Ajmer, where we would transfer to the sacred city of Pushkar.  Worrying that sleeper seats would sold out days before we arrived in India, we purchased our train tickets and seat reservations days before we departed for our journey.  Like many fellow travelers, we had a hard time trying to register at the official Indian Railways website.  We had no choice but to buy the tickets through an online agent.  We chose 12go.asia after some online research.  The ride on Ranikhet Express was our first train experience in India.  We weren’t sure about the validity of our reservations until half an hour before the train departed, when our seat assignments finally appeared on the official website.

The 12-hour train journey was rather smooth.  We met a local couple from Bangalore.  They had just finished touring Rajasthan and were heading to Jaipur for their return flight down south.  We four shared a First Class compartment for 12 hours until we got off at Ajmer.  In the compartment, we locked the door, took off the lights, and wrapped ourselves in our own cocoon liners beneath sheets provided by the train.  Not sure if it was the rumbling noise or the steady movement of the train, we felt a little sleepy and soon fell asleep.

IMG_9952The manager 1st Gate Home Fusion Hotel arranged us free transport to the railway station.  We arrived at the station about half an hour before departure.

IMG_2279Our online seat numbers finally came out when we arrived at the station. We were a little excited as it was our first time to take the train in India.

IMG_9951The train seemed infinite at both ends.  But first we had to find our 1A car.  We met a young local couple who were looking for the same car as ours (it turned out that they were sharing the same compartment with us).  It took us a while to find the right car.

IMG_9957At about 12:30am, we finally settled at our compartment.  It was a First Class 1A car, with four beds in each compartment.  We took up the beds at one side, and the young local couple took up the opposite side.

IMG_9958The train car was neat and quiet.  We were ready to get some rest during the 12-hour train ride.

IMG_9964The Ranikhet Express ran at an average speed of 42km/h. The journey was rather smooth and we arrived at our destination Ajmer Junction in approximately 12 hours since we left Jaisalmer.

IMG_9968We had some sleep during the night.  In the morning, a young hawker came to our compartment to offer breakfast.  We asked for two cups of chai tea to start our day.

IMG_2333We arrived at Ajmer Junction 15 minutes later than scheduled.  Our “12-hour roommate” bid us farewell before heading back into the train, while we looked for the station exit.

IMG_9972Outside of Ajmer Station, we met the driver from our hotel in Pushkar.  Soon we embarked on our half hour journey from Ajmer to Pushkar, the thousand-year-old sacred city for Hindu pilgrims.

IMG_997313km separated Ajmer with the peaceful sacred city of Pushkar.

IMG_9981We left Ajmer and entered Pushkar Valley in the Aravalli Mountains.  Before leaving Ajmer, our eyes were caught by a group of people carried religious or ceremonial tools heading uphill.

IMG_0014In early afternoon, we finally arrived at Inn Seventh Heaven.

IMG_9999Inn Seventh Heaven centers around a refreshing courtyard.

DSC_1434Our spacious room at Inn Seventh Heaven turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

IMG_9997Outside the window, a festive ceremony was taking place across the street.

IMG_0026After settling in, we walked up to the rooftop terrace of Inn Seventh Heaven.

IMG_0010Relaxing seating were provided all over the common areas of the hotel.

IMG_0017On the top floor, a spiral staircase led us to the rooftop restaurant.

IMG_0022A rooftop restaurant in the midst of the sacred Pushkar was the perfect place to chill out and do nothing.

IMG_0027As no meat was allowed in Pushkar, we had a hearty vegetarian lunch before heading out to the sacred lake.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi


DAY 8 (6/6): AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.06.01

To end the magical night of Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi, we decided to have a bowl of local ramen.  Through online research, we learnt about a popular ramen restaurant near the train station.  The walk from Asano River to the station was full of surprises as we encountered groups of school children parading the streets with traditional lanterns.  The entire city was turned into a festival ground.

DSC_9174Groups after groups of school children parading on the streets of Kanazawa during the night of Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi.

DSC_9184It was delightful to see traditional rituals are being passed down to the young generation.

DSC_9189Movable carts were also seen with young traditional drummers.

DSC_9211We passed by Kanazawa Train Station on our way to Menya Taiga (麺屋大河).

DSC_9208Some bloggers suggest Menya Taiga (麺屋大河) in Kanazawa offers the “best miso ramen in Japan.”  That’s a rather bold statement given the uncounted numbers of ramen restaurant in Japan, each has its unique recipe and ingredients.

DSC_9206After a little over half an hour in the queue, we finally got into the restaurant just before 10pm.

DSC_9200The ramen restaurant was full of little decorations.

DSC_9203Menya Taiga (麺屋大河) offers shorter and thicker noodles, with an extra touch of ginger and citrus fruit in the soup on top of the typical pork bone soup.

DSC_9205The uni (sea urchin) ramen was a delicious seasonal ramen we ordered.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the next morning, 2.5 hours before the main parade of the Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり) began, we walked along the main street leading to the train station.   The street would soon become the main parade venue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany local residences had already marked their spot on the sidewalk.

DSC_9216 In front of Kanazawa Train Station, the Tsuzumi-mon Gate (鼓門) would serve as the symbol city gate for the annual parade of the Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり).

DSC_9218 Parade participants would dressed in 16th century costumes to act like the army of Lord Maeda Toshiie entering the symbolic Tsuzumi-mon Gate (鼓門).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe banner of Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり) was hung at the entrance atrium of the train station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the station, we bought a few onigiri or Japanese rice balls for breakfast on the train.

DSC_9230Moving up to the platform of shinkansen or Japanese high-speed railway, our journey of Kanazawa and Chubu Region (Central Honshu) was coming to an end.  In 2.5 hours, we would arrive in Tokyo.

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


DAY 7 (1/7): DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢), Japan, 2018.05.31

After a good night’s sleep, we woke up to another misty and rainy morning in Ainokura.  It was time for us to move on.  In order to catch a direct bus to Shin-Takaoka Station (新高岡駅), we had to catch the 7:45 bus from Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop.  Before breakfast, we took a final stroll around the village.  Walking around the tranquil rice paddies and fields of drying reed, and breathing in the moist mountain air fixed with the fragrance of the woods and soil gave us a peaceful finale of our sojourn in the Japanese Alps.  The breakfast at the minshuku was once again a hearty feast of small dishes in the traditional dining hall.  After breakfast, the minshuku owner gave us a ride out to the Ainokuraguchi bus stop, sparing us for braving the elements with our backpacks.

The hour long bus journey north to Shin-Takaoka was as peaceful as our stay at Ainokura.  Only four passengers including us were on the bus.  The bus took us past the villages and towns in Toyama, including Johana Station (城端駅) where most buses throughout the day would end the journey for tourists to transfer for a local train.  Soon our bus went up the expressway over to the city of Takaoka.

From Shin-Takaoka, it was just a 15 minute train ride on the Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線) to Kanazawa (金沢), our final stop of this Japan trip before heading back to Tokyo. We felt a bit strange stepping out of the modern Kanazawa Train Station after staying several days in the mountains and countryside.  Designed by architect Ryuzo Shirae in 2005, the century old train station of Kanazawa received a modern makeover, including a wooden gate inspired by a traditional Japanese torii.  We took one of the many buses leaving the station for Omicho Market (近江町市場) at the city centre.  Our hotel was just a block away from the famous market.  With a small ground floor cafe, the sleek and modern Pacific Hotel was like a world away from the Gassho-style thatched roof minshuku of Ainokura.

DSC_8079We woke up to another wet day in the mountain village of Ainokura in Gokayama.

DSC_8104Before breakfast, we made a final stroll around the tranquil rice paddies of Ainokura.

Passing by the fields of drying reed reminded us the traditional way of living in Ainokura is still going strong.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABreakfast at Gassho Minshuku Nakaya (合掌民宿なかや) was again a delightful feast for us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was very kind for the owner of Gassho Minshuku Nakaya to drive us out to Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop in the rain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bus ride to Shin-Takaoka took a little over an hour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOpened in 2015, the Shin-Takaoka Station (新高岡駅) in Takaoka (高岡) is a modern  interchange station for the Hokuriku Shinkansen high speed railway.

DSC_8132There are Hokuriku Shinkansen high speed trains coming from Tokyo stopping at Shin-Takaoka on the way to Kanazawa.

DSC_8134In less than 15 minutes, we arrived at Kanazawa Station.

DSC_8138The wooden torii gate at Kanazawa welcome every visitors entering the city by train.

IMG_6753The modern and clean Pacific Hotel near Omicho Market offered us a comfortable resting place for our stay in Kanazawa.

IMG_6751A small reception counter of Pacific Hotel also doubles as a coffee bar.

 

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_6064Even doughnuts were made with local ingredients.

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_6061The streets of Matsumoto were full of surprises.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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

In June 2017, we made a 5-day trip to Tokyo for a short getaway.  Last time, we spent most of the time in the bustling capital, with only a full day excursion to visit the World Heritage temples and Alpine scenery of Nikko.  A year had passed.  In late May 2018, we embarked on another Japanese journey to explore parts of Chubu Region (中部地方), the central region of Honshu (本州) between Kantō Region (関東地方) and Kansai Region (関西地方).  The journey took us to the Prefecture of Nagano (長野県), Gifu (岐阜県), Toyama (富山県), and Ishikawa (石川県).  We picked Kamikochi (上高地), a picturesque hiker’s hub in the Japanese Alps, and the charming city of Kanazawa (金沢) as main destinations, stopping by Matsumoto (松本), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Takayama (高山), Shirakawago (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山) along the way.  We planned for five days in the city and five in the countryside, aiming for a balance between cosmopolitan and nature fascinations.  It turned out to be a delightful and diverse experience with mouth-watering seafood, refreshing Alpine hiking, invigorating hot-springs, romantic Gassho-style villages, cozy morning markets, and a magical floating lantern festival.

Once again, our journey began in an early morning in Tokyo (東京), after our red-eye flight landed at Haneda International Airport (羽田空港) a little after 6am.  At the airport, we first went to pick up our railway tickets and seat reservations at the JR office.  It was convenient to make online reservations to ensure seat availability on trains of our desired schedule, but that didn’t save us from queuing for an hour before we reached the JR counter and finalized our purchases.  We then braved the rush hour taking the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsuchō (浜松町駅), and switched to the JR Yamanote Line (山手線) to Shinjuku to drop off our backpacks at the hotel.  After all the sweat of moving through the jammed platforms, cramped train cars and busy streets of Shinjuku (新宿) with our backpacks, time was perfect for a hearty breakfast to kick start our first day.  We decided to take the Marunouchi Metro Line to revisit Tsukiji Market (築地市場), the legendary fish market that was about to be relocated later this year.

map japan 2018 finalOur journey took us from Tokyo (東京) to parts of the Chubu Region (中部地方), staying overnight at Kamikochi (上高地), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Takayama (高山), Gokayama (五箇山), and Kanazawa (金沢), and passed by Matsumoto (松本) and Shirakawago (白川郷) along the way.

IMG_8054Our plane flew over the iconic Mount Fuji (富士山) before landing at Haneda International Airport of Tokyo.

DSC_5785We hopped on the Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsuchō (浜松町駅).  The train was soon packed with morning commuters after a few stops.

IMG_8061We arrived at the packed Hamamatsuchō Station (浜松町駅) and switched to JR’s Yamanote Line (山手線) heading for Shinjuku (新宿).

DSC_5788It was such a relief after dropping off our backpacks at the hotel in Shinjuku (新宿) and ventured out to Tsukiji Market (築地市場) for a seafood breakfast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


CRAFT MARKET UNDER THE VIADUCT, 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan, Tokyo, Japan

When most people hear Akihabara (秋葉原) they would immediately think of electronic shops.  One railway stop to its north, Okachimachi (御徒町) is known for its wholesale stores selling jewelry and ornaments.  Since 2010, between the two stations emerged a new hotspot dedicated to everything that is made by the artisan hands.  Situated under the railway viaduct, this hidden gem offers an alternative shopping scene for anyone who admires the skillful hands of devoted Japanese craftsmen.  Merchandises range from umbrellas, shoes, housewares, jewelry, leather products, naturally dyed clothing, artworks, souvenirs, etc.  The name “2k540” is a reference in railway’s terms, which refers to the 2.54km distance from Tokyo Station.  “Aki-Oka” refers to Akihabara and Okachimachi, indicating the craft market is situated between the two stations.

9At the underside of a railway viaduct, the entrance to the “market street” 2k540 expresses a community friendly and low-key atmosphere.

1The logo of “2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan” is painted like a road mark on the asphalt floor.

2The pre-existing structure and the shop buildings on the market street of 2k540 are painted in white, revealing a coherent environment.

6One of the shops at 2k540 manufactures clothing with dyes from the natural world, such as sakura flowers.

3Natural light spills in from the gap above the stores and the artificial uplights at the column bases create a poetic atmosphere as if walking in the nave of a cathedral.

4While some shops are housed in minimal white boxes, some are actually set up in the main space in the colonnade.

5We stayed longer than what expected strolling around 2k540.

8At the end of the market street stands a larger store called Japan Department Store, a shop that sells household items and souvenirs from different areas across Japan.

10Like many big cities around the world, creative industries have given different urban spaces, such as old factory buildings and underside of railway viaducts, a second life to thrive.

 


DAY 1 (1/6): ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

Our departure schedule to Kansai International Airport (関西国際空港) was far from ideal.  It was a red-eye flight departing from Hong Kong at 1:50am and arrived in Japan at around 6:30am.  At the airport, we picked up our pre-ordered Haruka Express ticket from the JR ticket office and rushed to the platform for the Kyoto bound express train that was about to leave.  The train sped past towns and suburbs along Osaka Bay and reached Osaka in about 40 minutes.  From Osaka, the train took another half an hour to reach Kyoto.  Opened in 1997, the current Kyoto Railway Station is a futuristic building made of glass and steel trusses, with an enormous atrium and a huge stepped plaza reaching multiple storeys up to the sky garden 70m above ground.  We stepped out the station for a quick peek of Kyoto Tower, the city’s tallest structure opened in 1964 coinciding with the Tokyo Olympics.  Together with the modern railway station, the tower often comes as a surprise for tourists who come to Kyoto expecting to see an 1200-year-old ancient city.

We took the escalators down to the subway, topped up our Icoca cards that we kept from our previous Kansai trip, and managed to board the train with our suitcase and backpack.  Our designation was Higashiyama Station (東山駅) on the Tozai Line.  We reached Higashiyama Station at a peaceful residential neighborhood sandwiched between two of Kyoto’s popular tourist areas: Northern Higashiyama (Nanzenji, Ginkakuji, etc) and Southern Higashiyama (Gion, Kiyomizu-dera, etc).  At Higashiyama Station, we purchased a city bus pass for the day and picked up a handy bus map.  We crossed the street and walked into a quiet alleyway right beside the crystal clear Shirakawa River (白川).  We reached Eco and Tech, a 2-star budget hotel that we would call it home for the next five days.  After checking in, we immediately headed out to the bus stop near Sanjo Station (三条駅) and Kamo River (鴨川).  Before arriving in Japan, we had already decided to begin our Kyoto visit at the northwest part of the city where the cluster of three famous temples Ryoanji (龍安寺), Ninnaji (仁和寺) and Kinkakuji (金閣寺) are located.  According to online updates of the autumn foliage at Kyoto’s main attractions, Ryoanji (龍安寺) and Ninnaji Temple (仁和寺) were two possible places where we might still encounter peak autumn foliage.  Because of the recent cold weather, the autumn foliage of 2016 came earlier than usual.  By the time we arrived on Dec 3rd, the fall foliage at most places had already passed the peak.  The bus ride took over half an hour.  It was sunny and we took a brief rest on the bus under the late morning sun.

01Our plane landed at Kansai International Airport (関西国際空港) at about 6:30am.  Despite a sleepless night, we were very excited upon arriving.

02We left the airport and over to the railway station for JR’s Haruka Express train.

04Upon arriving at Kyoto, we were overwhelmed by the steel trusses and overhead catwalks at the huge atrium of the futuristic Kyoto Station.

03A large Christmas tree on the organic shaped platform looked small under the huge atrium roof.

05Across the street from Kyoto Station stood the tallest structure in the city, Kyoto Tower.

06Advertisements on the subway train reminded us that the special night visits to a number of temples were available during the autumn foliage season until 4th of December.  Arriving in Kyoto on the 3rd of December, we made just on time for the night visits.

14-kyoto-bus-mapMany Kyoto’s attractions can be accessed only by public bus.  We picked up a bus map from the ticket office at Higashiyama Subway Station, which proved really handy over the next few days.

07We managed to carry our suitcase up the stairs and finally reached the exit of Higashiyama Station.

11Following online instruction, we crossed a bridge at Shirakawa River (白川) on our way to our hotel.

08aA local couple dressed in traditional costumes were taking photos on a stone bridge at Shirakawa River (白川).

09Eco and Tech Hotel is located in a quiet residential neighborhood away from the tourist crowds.

10Eco and Tech Hotel.

15-websiteWe checked the website http://souda-kyoto.jp/travel/koyo/ for the autumn foliage at Kyoto’s main attractions almost daily for at least a week before departure.  We decided to head to Ryoanji Temple on our first day because of its peak colours.

13We walked to a bus stop near Kamo River (鴨川) and Sanjo Station (三条駅) for Bus 59 heading towards Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺).

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 41 (5 OF 5) – TRAIN CEMETERY, UYUNI, SOUTHWEST CIRCUIT DAY 4, BOLIVIA

Before we had our farewell lunch, we stopped at the last attraction of the tour, the Train Cemetery in Uyuni.  Before the mining industry collapsed in 1940s, Uyuni was a major railway hub from the mines of the interior to the Pacific coast in Chile.  After the collapse, the cargo trains and locomotives (mainly from Britain in late 19th century) were abandoned.  Today it is one of the major tourist attractions in Uyuni.

After the Train Cemetery, our group had our farewell lunch at a hotel in Uyuni.  We were the only two in the group returning to Tupiza.  The rest of the group would depart from Uyuni for La Paz.  The end of the Southwest Circuit also marks the end of our journey in Bolivia.  Tomorrow, we would head south to Argentina.

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Read more on Southwest Circuit, Bolivia in 2013 South America:

Day 36.2 – Cerro Corazon de Jesus, Tupiza
Day 37 – Quebrada Hike, Tupiza
Day 38.1 – Departure Southwest Circuit Day 1
Day 38.2 – Highland, Southwest Circuit Day 1
Day 38.3 – Ruinas, Southwest Circuit Day 1
Day 38.4 – Quieten Chico, Southwest Circuit Day 1
Day 39.1 – Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Southwest Circuit Day 2
Day 39. 2 – Laguna Verde & Blanca, Southwest Circuit Day 2
Day 39.3 – Desierto de Dali, Southwest Circuit Day 2
Day 39.4 – Geysers Sol de Manana, Southwest Circuit Day 2
Day 39.5 – Laguna Colorada, Southwest Circuit Day 2
Day 40.1 – Huaylliara, Southwest Circuit Day 3
Day 40.2 – Arbol de Piedra, Southwest Circuit Day 3
Day 40.3 – Flamingos, Southwest Circuit Day 3
Day 40.4 – Ollague Volcano, Southwest Circuit Day 3
Day 41.1 – Salt Hotel, Southwest Circuit Day 4
Day 41.2 – Sunrise at Uyuni Salt Flat, Southwest Circuit Day 4
Day 41.3 – Isla Incahuasi at Uyuni Salt Flat, Southwest Circuit Day 4
Day 41.4 – Salar de Uyuni, Southwest Circuit Day 4
Day 41.5 – Train Cemetery, Uyuni, Southwest Circuit Day 4
Day 42 – Border Crossing, Villain, Bolivia / La Quiaca, Argentina

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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 26 (4 OF 4) – LUZ STATION AND AREA, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

The Luz area was once an important commercial area of Sao Paulo during early 20th century when coffee was still the single most dominating business in the city. Since then, most of the commercial activities, including the coffee barons, had moved elsewhere in the city. Today the Luz area awaits for its turn of revitalization after decades of decline. Historical buildings and churches in Luz all seem a little neglected and most were vandalized with layers of graffiti. In recent years, the municipal government began to regenerate certain spots in Luz, including renovating the Luz Station, the Pinacoteca do Estado, and the Jardim da Luz.
Before heading to Luz, we stopped by the newly built Praca de Arte, a cultural complex in the heart of the old downtown Sao Paulo. The project represents another effort to revitalize the downtown of Sao Paulo. 15-minute walk from Praca de Arte got us to the Luz Station. The Luz Station was the most important railway station in Sao Paulo when the coffee industry dominated the area of Luz. Now, it houses a museum and serves a few commuter trains to the suburbs. Designed and fabricated in England, the Luz Station and its clock tower was an icon of Sao Paulo in early 20th century. Across the street from the station stands the Pinacoteca do Estado, Sao Paulo State’s oldest art museum that underwent a renovation by architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha in the 1990s. The adjacent Jardim da Luz also went through a significant transformation in recent years from a seedy area where drug dealers and prostitutes hang out to a relaxing sculpture garden adjacent to the art museum.

Praca de Arte and area (below 4 images)DSC_8770Image
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Luz Station (below 2 images)
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Pinacoteca do Estado (below 2 images)DSC_8784DSC_8777

Jardim da Luz (below 4 images)
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Read other posts on Sao Paulo, Brazil
Day 25.1 – SESC Pompeia, Sao Paulo
Day 25.2 – Liberdade, Sao Paulo
Day 26.1 – MASP, Sao Paulo
Day 26.2 – the X Architecture Biennale, Sao Paulo
Day 26.3 – Zombie Attack, Sao Paulo
Day 26.4 – Luz Station and Area, Sao Paulo
Day 27.1 – Farewell Sao Paulo, Goodbye Brazil

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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