“Sur le Pont d’Avignon…..”

“Sur  le pont d’Avignon, L’on y danse, l’on y danse, sur le pont d’Avignon, l’on y danse tous en rond…”, the lyrics of this beautiful song echoed in my head when I had the first glimpse of Pont d’Avignon. “On the bridge of Avignon, we all dance there, we all dance there, on the bridge of Avignon, we all dance in a ring…”. While I didn’t dance on the bridge of Avignon as I would have fallen in the mighty Rhône River, I was very happy to be there. I had finally made it to one of my favourite regions in France, Provence. The Provence region is renowned for its outstanding beauty, history and culture that has flourished for many centuries. It is one of the top destinations in France. The Luberon region is well-known for its beautiful country side and picturesque villages.

When I arrived from the French Riviera, Avignon was my first destination in Provence. Lavender is grown in abundance in the Provence region and the smell of lavender everywhere awakened my senses as soon I stepped out the train station. The walk from the station was pleasant and this lovely scent accompanied me till I reached my hotel, which was located in the main square. The smell of lavender just didn’t stop outside the hotel, but I could smell it in my room. Even the toiletries were lavender based. I had planned to stay in Avignon for 3 days and made this town my base to explore the beautiful Provence and Luberon regions renowned for their picturesque villages. It was perfect spring weather, but bit warmer than it had been on the French Rivera. I had been waiting to get my first glimpse of Pont d’Avignon (bridge of Avignon) and didn’t waste any time. As soon I checked in I had to decide between a lunch at a fine French restaurant, or to head to the bridge of Avignon. Guess what, the bridge would have to wait, as I couldn’t resist to have a nice lunch in one of the café facing the main square. I managed to get the perfect table facing the square and ordered a beautiful glass of Grenache Gris before I could decide on the food. I slowly sipped my wine enjoying the beautiful scenery and decided to take a break from sightseeing as it was my final week of the 7 weeks I had spent in France. One of the pleasant things about France is that you can stay in the cafe as long you would like, as long as you have ordered coffee or a drink. After a refreshing break, I decided to explore the town. I didn’t bother to pick a map, as I wanted to explore on my own and by this time I had become confident in asking directions in French if I did happen to get lost.  

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Pont d’Avignon

I continued on and finally made my way to Pont d’Avignon. Once again the song started to echo in my head. It was an indeed a great moment to see the bridge up close. The bridge was built-in the early 12th century, on the mighty Rhône River. It was a beautiful evening, the perfect time to enjoy the views of the bridge without many tourists around. Listed by UNESCO world heritage site and only 4 out of 22 original arches remains. It is one of the most popular attractions in France. In years past, the bridge was frequently damaged by the mighty Rhône River and re-repaired many times, only a portion of the bridge remains. Pont d’Avignon does not disappoint one and the views are still clearly etched in my brain.    

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Papal Palace
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View of Avignon from Pont d’Avignon

During the 13th century the Pope no longer wanted to stay in Rome and made Avignon his official residence. There were 6 successive Popes who have resided in Avignon. The city was radically transformed by this and Avignon became one of the largest cities in Europe. The Pope had no longer wanted to stay in Rome as Italy had been ravaged by wars in the 13th century. The Pope’s Palace, also known as Papal Palace in Avignon, is one of the most important monuments in the Provence region. 

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Papal Palace

Another interesting place I wanted to visited in the Provence region was the UNESCO World Heritage site, Pont du Gard, located near Avignon. The Pont du Gard is considered a brilliant masterpiece of art. It’s one of the finest pieces of Roman architecture dating back to the 1st century. It’s a 50 kilometer long aqueduct that once supplied water to the city of Nîmes. The Pont du Gard is 50 meters high and built on the River Gardon. It is a three level aqueduct. Even now to this date, it is a source of inspiration for artists and a model for architects. Continuing along the banks of River Gardon and near the Pont du Gard one will see three Olive trees dating back to 908 AD and still standing strong. 

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Pont du Gard
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One of the three Olives trees dating back to 908 AD

During my visit to Avignon, I also experienced Le Mistral, a strong wind that blows along the River Rhône and towards the Mediterranean sea. At times, it blows continuously for several days and the wind is capable of reaching speeds at 90 km per hour blowing away   everything in its path. Le Mistral is a vital component for the wine growers in the Provence region and without it the wines would not taste nearly as good. The Le Mistral is  known for keeping the skies clear in the Provence region, which is beneficial for wine growers as clouds can generate moisture and proving deterrent to the vineyards. Le Mistral is a much hated and much-loved wind in Provence as it drives the locals mad,  but is rejoiced by the wine makers. The next time you savour Rosé, remember Le Mistral.

I would like to return and spend more time exploring the Provence region, as spending just 3 days isn’t enough to cover this beautiful region. The best time to visit is July when the lavender are in full bloom and the Luberon countryside is turned into blanket of lavender colours. There are many picturesque villages that I visited in the Luberon and Provence regions, we will journey to these in my future blogs. 

It’s times to say Au Revior (Goodbye, until we meet again) and have a great week!

 

 

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The Island of Jeju-do

안녕하세요 annyeonghaseyo (Hello), and thank you for joining me as I  visit the island of Jeju-do . This is Korea’s largest island, and it attracts thousands of tourists and honeymooners. It is a Special Administrative Province of South Korea; Jeju-do (제주도) island is just off the southern peninsula of South Korea. It’s a popular destination for the Koreans as well as neighbouring countries, such as Japan. Jeju-do, located off the mainland, is renowned for its beautiful beaches, volcanic mountains and lush forests. The island’s splendid nature will definitely take your breath away. This island offers easy, moderate and difficult hiking trails so there is something for all ages. The best way to experience the island is to rent a car, as the public transport is very limited. This island has two major cities Jeju and Seogwipo. The capital city Jeju is located on the northern side of the island and is the major hub for international tourists arriving and departing the island. Seogwipo is located on the southern side of the island and is laid back and offers a quiet retreat for the tourists. There are numerous highways and roads that connect to every major tourist attraction that the island has to offer.  Having stayed in both the cities, I personally prefer to stay in Seogwipo,  It’s not crowded and evenings are peaceful, as most of the day tourists return back to the capital city Jeju. If you are going to stay in Seogwipo I highly recommend renting  a car at the Jeju International Airport. An international driving licence is mandatory to rent cars. The rental cars have in-built GPS, but unfortunately they are in Korean and you will need to pay extra to rent  a GPS in English. In most of the western countries the address is used to enter in the GPS as your final destination, but in Korea and Japan the final destination address system works on the telephone number so you will need to have a local map handy as they have telephone numbers listed for each attraction. There are numerous attractions on this small island and it has more than 100 museums that are enticing for all ages from the Loveland and sex museum for the grown-ups to car museums, Hello Kitty and Teddy Bear museums for the little ones.

A Unesco World Heritage site is the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, located on the eastern side of the island. The peak rose from under the sea during a volcanic eruption 100,000 years ago and has a huge crater at the top of the mountain. The crater is 600m in diameter and 90m high. The sunrise is magnificent from the top of the mountain, but one has to be there by 5am. The hike to the top of the mountain takes around 30 minutes and is manageable as there are various rest points along the way. The view becomes more amazing as you start ascending towards the top of the mountain. Once you reach the top of the mountain, you are rewarded with a splendid panoramic views of the countryside.

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View from the Seongsan Ilchulbong peak

Another attraction is the Seongeup Folk Village. The village is located on the foothills of the Hala mountains and is surrounded by a fortress wall.  Inside the walls lie traditional homes with thatched roofs,  alongside volcanic black lava rocks. The only Confucian temple in Korea is located in this folk village, and it is also home to a 1,000 year old Zelkova tree. There is no entrance fee to visit the folk village. There are locals still leaving in this folk village and are welcoming to tourists. Every house has a pole located in front of the house, if the pole is down, you’re welcome to enter and if the pole is up then they are not home. The unique lifestyle and culture of these people is beautifully represented in this village. The houses have been handed down from generation to generation. This folk village has treasures of the bygone era of traditional Jeju. This village also holds a vast amount of culture and the best way to experience is to sit and watch the locals using the old techniques of millstones pulled by horses or ox.

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Seongeup Folk Village
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1,000 year old Zelkova Tree

A second UNESCO World Heritage site located on the island is the Manjanggul cave. It is also known as the lava tube and is located on the eastern side of the island. It is  the 12th longest lava tube in the world. It’s estimated that the lava tube was formed some 300,000 years ago, and only a kilometre is open to the public of the 13 kilometre tunnel. The path is uneven and one needs to be cautious walking inside the cave, as it is wet. At the end of the tunnel is the massive lava column formed when a large amount of lava spilled from the upper level down to the lower level and formed a large lava column. Standing at 70 meters, this stalagmite is the largest known in the world. This lava tube was formed by the flow of basaltic lava when the Geomunoreum volcano erupted. This created numerous lava tunnels finally flowing into the coastline. Some 30,000 common bent wing bats have taken permanent residence inside the tube.

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Manjanggul cave (Lava tube)
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Manjanggul cave (Lava tube)
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70m lava column (Manjanggul cave)

The island of Jeju features three popular waterfalls Jeongbang Falls, Cheonjeyeon Falls and Cheonjiyeon Falls.  The most popular is the Jeongbang falls and is the only waterfall in Asia to fall directly into the sea. The Cheonjeyeon Falls consists of three sections and the views from the Seonimgyo Bridge (arch bridge) are gorgeous.

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Jeongbang Falls

On the southeast side of Jeju lies Sangumburi Crater with a circumference of over 2 km. When seen from above it looks like a man-made circular stadium.  It’s a popular tourist attraction and many of the Korean TV dramas are filmed here. There are many varieties of plant life around the crater and one popular tree is the Gusang tree. It is widely known as the Christmas tree. The Gusang tree is an indigenous species of Korea and has been re-imported into the country after paying a royalty to the Smithsonian museum as the property rights of the tree belongs to the museum.

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Sangumburi Crater

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Gusang Tree (Christmas tree)

To appreciate the natural beauty of Jeju, plan to spend at least 5-7 days to cover the length and breadth of this amazing island. The large parts of the island remain stunningly natural with windswept coastlines, lush evergreen forests, rich flora and fauna.

고맙습니다 Gomabseunbnida (Thank you) for reading this week’s blog.

Coming up next week, travel with me as I visit the  mainland of Korea.

A world class city – Vienna

After flying for more than 19 hours and then being in transit for almost 10 hours in Bangkok I finally arrived in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Vienna the capital of Austria. The flight landed at 5:30am and the captain announced that the outside temperature was -1 degree centigrade or 30 degrees Fahrenheit, I almost felt the chill when I heard the announcement. I disembarked from the plane and arrived at the central station in 15 minutes travelling on the City Airport Train. I then had to wait in the freezing cold to catch the next tram to my accomodation in the heart of the city. Vienna is a city with a well-developed tram network, the fifth largest in the world, this system is a vital part of the transport network for the locals and tourists alike. It’s also the cheapest and quickest way to travel around Vienna, I love the city which has maintained and kept trams as part of their public transport network, while other cities have gotten rid of  trams to make way for more traffic lanes for cars and busses.

During winter in Europe the days are very short, and the day time temperature in most of the European cities are in single digits, night temperatures can reach below freezing temperature. I prefer traveling to Europe during winter since its less crowded and the tourist season for the year is over. It’s also cheaper to fly and stay in Europe during offseason, sometimes the weather may not be great, but there are choices of indoor activities, such as visiting museums or palaces. I always plan an extra day in each city in case the weather gets bad and you have to change your plans.

Despite the low temperatures there are many things going on that will entice you to brave the crisp and chilly cold weather. Vienna is beautiful in winter with Christmas markets and decorations, the city comes alive with festive music and beautifully decorated Christmas trees. The delicate ornaments on the Christmas trees are meticulously hung which is a symbolic gesture of the art and traditions of Austria. It mainly depicts white and red colours which are now a standard tradition for many Christmas trees around the world. The times are changing but the traditional spirit of Christmas in this part of the world is still alive.

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One of the many traditions in Austria and Germany are the Christmas Markets. Vienna has few markets but the biggest and most beautiful is Rathausplatz located in front of the town hall Rathaus. If you are in Vienna between Mid November and Christmas Eve, a visit to the market is a must, it is a beautiful sight to see  families walking around the markets, teenagers walking around in groups and the children running holding all sorts of Christmas chocolates and biscuits. The adults may be holding a red decorated mug and  drinking Gluehwein – a hot wine which contains herbs and spices, it’s a traditional drink in Germany and Austria during the cold Christmas time and has a subtle taste which warms the body in matter of minutes.

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Town Hall Rathaus

The beautiful city of Vienna has lots to offer and one of the classics that must be visited is the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, it is one of the most beautiful palaces and is heritage listed. The palace is self-funded and manages its own restoration and maintenance. In order to appreciate the palace and it’s history, a guided tour will give you the detailed history of the origins of the palace and the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph who was the longest serving emperor of Austria. After his death Austria became a Republic and the monarchy was abolished. Emperor Franz Joseph’s day started at 4am (well before the servants woke up) when he would meticulously planned his day and the affairs of Austria. Every citizen was given a chance to meet him, whether it was to lodge a complaint or to thank the emperor for the issues that he had helped to resolve. Emperor Franz Joseph lived a very modest life and didn’t spend much on luxuries in the palace. Most of the palace restoration and beautification was undertaken by Maria Theresa, who was the only female ruler in Austria during the 1700’s.

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Schönbrunn Palace
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Christmas markets at the Schönbrunn Palace

Another place to visit on the palace grounds is the Gloriette which is located on the hillside and provides a panoramic view of the palace and the city of Vienna, the gardens are a major attraction during all the seasons except winter. The Neptune fountain which is located between the palace and Gloriette is also closed during winter months. The palace hosts Christmas markets from mid-November until Christmas eve.

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Gloriette -Schönbrunn Palace

Another classic must visit is the Belvedere Palace, built by Prince Eugene of Savoy as his summer palace, it is located outside the city walls and houses amazing paintings from the middle ages and also the world’s largest Klimt collection. A highlight of this collection are the golden paintings, “The Kiss” and the “Judith”. The palace also houses a beautiful garden, this  beautifully symmetrical garden is worth a visit with its stunning fountain and statues.

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Belvedere Palace

I love Vienna for its easy access and its laid back cafe and pub culture that has existed for many centuries. The public transport in Vienna is fast, efficient and will whizz you through the city without fuss, I took the opportunity to explore Vienna on the Vienna Ring Tram which takes around 30 minutes, on the journey you will get to experience Vienna’s beautiful boulevard and learn your way around the old city. One of the advantages of having a day pass in Vienna is that you can jump on and off the trains, busses or  trams and switch between the different forms of public transport all day long. If I felt lazy during the day, I would board a tram, sit back and watch the world go by, it was interesting to see people getting on and off the tram, some are in hurry and some are taking it easy just like me.

Danke (Thank you) for reading and following my blog! Your feedback and comments are much appreciated and it gives me an opportunity to tailor the blog to the readers.

 

In Bruges

It’s 5.30am on a cold spring day and I arrive at the beautiful and elegantly designed railway station, Paris Gare du Nord. Paris Gare du Nord is one of my favourite stations in Europe. I could easily spend a day watching the high-speed trains arriving and departing the railway station. It is the busiest railway station in Europe. I developed my love for railways at  a very young age, as I grew up in the steam era. My school was located next to a railway line and frequently saw trains going past. Every passenger train in India has a name and I used to write down the name of the train whenever I would  come across a new passenger train I hadn’t spotted.

Paris Gare du Nord

My train wouldn’t leave for another 3 hours, and one needs to be at the train station 30 minutes before the train departs ,as the platform number is announced only 15 minutes before departure. I stand in place in front of a huge display board so I can  spot the trains arriving and departing Gare du Nord. The next 3 hours go pretty quickly, and soon it was my turn, and I head to the platform to board my high-speed Thalys train to Brussels in Belgium. The train departs on time, and in less than 2 hours and 30 minutes I arrive in a new country, and thanks to one Europe, I didn’t have to show my passport. I had no plans to stay in Brussels but instead headed to a beautiful fairy land town, Brugge or Bruges located less than 2 hours by train from Brussels. Bruges is a UNESCO World heritage site and the slow train from Brussels pleasantly passes through the country side of Belgium and arrives in this modern railway station.  I was bit confused when I saw the modern railway station. The Bruges I had been told about was different. The disappointment only lasted for few minutes when I realized  that I had arrived at the new part of the town, and the hotel I had booked was located inside the old town which was surrounded by an old wall.

Once I entered the old town, my heart pounded, and I felt that I had actually travelled back in time as I walked into this wonderful medieval town. Nothing much has changed in Bruges since the 14th century and it has escaped the modernisation and globalisation. I lost the interest to locate my hotel but rather wandered around like a kid in a candy store. I walked through the cobble lanes through the idyllic canals and passed on the stone bridges and had no idea where I was heading as if I had no worries in the world. I had not seen such a beautiful town and only heard in fairy tales. I spent the next two hours wandering aimlessly on the cobblestones. I had no idea where I was in town, or  where my hotel was. It had been more than 10 hours since I had checked out my hotel in Paris and since breakfast I hadn’t eaten anything. But the thought of eating didn’t even enter my mind. Instead, I enjoyed walking aimlessly around the winding streets of Bruges until the sun started to set, and the chilly wind started blowing through my jacket, reminding  me to start looking for my hotel. I had planned to stay in Bruges for 3 days, and had enough time to explore this beautiful medieval fairly land. I went and located my hotel. Finally, I settled down for the night and fell asleep listening to the horse carriages going past my room and the noise from the horse shoes trotting  on the cobblestone.

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Bruges is often called Venice of the North due to its numerous and tranquil canals.  It mentioned on the brochure of Bruges that this magical town will capture your heart, and definitely it did for me. It was indeed magical, and I had never stumbled across anything like this beautiful, peaceful, picturesque fairy land. Perhaps next you would ask me if I had spotted any fairies in this magical land, but of course not. It is the image of an ideal place, that was prefect in every way. If you are on a diet, I don’t recommend visiting Bruges as its famous for its hand-made exquisite chocolates and there was a chocolatier shop every few meters you walked. I did finish 250 grams of these exquisite chocolates in one sitting.

Bruges gets very busy during the day, with  the tourist buses arriving in the morning around 10am from Brussels bringing loads of tourists. The streets are crowded with tourists and a peaceful stroll along the canals can be challenging. The tourists start to disappear around 4pm,  and then the  town’s quietness is finally restored. Only a handful of tourists stay in Bruges to explore the quietness of Bruges. As the night falls and the wind starts to get chilly, its time to once again explore the cobblestone streets and wander through the alleyways once again enjoying the tranquillity.

The next morning I decided to wake up just before sunrise, and so headed to the historic part of the town to  explore more of Bruges before the tourists arrive. The churches were open for the morning service and was a perfect opportunity to sit in silence and gaze over the medieval building. The architecture in Bruges is beyond belief and they have a unique way of designing the buildings. You can easily spot Bruges if you happen to see a picture of the buildings in a brochure, or in a book, because of its uniqueness.  I found an old cafe , and a perfect spot next to the window and gazed at the Markt (market square) and admired the architecture. I spent few hours at the cafe,  ordering coffee, one after the other. Then the coffee order turned into glasses of wine. I had done most of the sightseeing for the day, and wanted to relax and watch the world go by.

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The best time to take a boat around the canals is during lunch time, when most of the tourists are having lunch or have  already completed the boat trips. The journey through the quiet canals, winding along the streets was very peaceful. There were only few people on the boat, and I  could enjoy the quietness after a very busy morning at the public square. The boat drifted through the quiet waters of the canal, and white swans swam in pairs made it a perfect journey. I still remember this day and takes me back to this peaceful medieval town. Bruges is a place I would go back again and again and should be on one’s itinerary if you are in Paris or Brussels. I had the perfect 3 days and it gave me the chance to unwind after a hectic few days in Paris. It felt that I had taken a break from my 7 week-long  holiday in France.

I left my heart in Bruges and as it was time to step away from this magical place. I walked past the walls of the old city and entered into a different world of chaos.  I said goodbye to this fairyland while finishing my last box of exquisite hand-made chocolates as the train zipped past through the idyllic town and in few hours I was back in the chaotic Paris Gare du Nord.

If you would like to see Bruges through my eyes, click on this link In Bruges.

Now is the time to say Au-revoir (Good-bye until we meet again), I  hope you’ve  enjoyed reading this week’s blog. Your comments and feedback are highly appreciated. Have a great week, and warm thoughts for my friends in Perth who have been experiencing the coldest and wettest winter in decades.

Part II – Memoirs of Japan Kyoto – Japan’s Heartland (Day1)

Kyoto is one of my favourite city and the most visited city in Japan and should be included in one’s itinerary. Kyoto is located in the central part of the Island of Honshu. It’s place where you see authentic Japanese traditional culture, ancient temples, colourful shrines and sublime gardens. Kyoto’s is world’s culturally rich and diverse city. It’s one of the busiest destination for international as well as domestic tourists in Japan. Kyoto is packed during Cherry Blossom season and finding accommodation during this time is impossible. I would suggest booking as early as 3-4 months in advance to avoid disappointment. The best times to visit is during Spring to witness the beautiful Cherry Blossoms and during Fall to experience the colourful foliage. Kyoto has a lot to offer and can be done in 2 days, but four to five days  is about perfect amount of time to spend.

Kyoto is on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen line and there are frequent services available on this line. There is no need to book your tickets in advance as there is a Shinkansen (Bullet Train) every 3 -4 minutes. The fastest is the Nozomi with fewer stops and can cost around 13,200 Yen in Reserved car. If you are travelling from Tokyo, try to get a seat on the right side of the train so you can see Mt Fuji from your train window.

The best way to travel around Kyoto is by Kyoto City Bus and one day pass costs 500 yen and can be  boarded or alighted as many times during the day. A single ticket costs 220 yen and is only valid for one journey.

Suggested Itinerary in Kyoto –

Day 1

Kinkaku (The Golden Pavilion) /  Rokuon-ji Temple 

Kinkaku is located in the Kinkakuji Area in Kyoto and is one of the most visited sites. It’s also called The Golden Pavilion as gold foil on lacquer covers the upper two levels of Kinkaku. It is a representation of Muromachi-period architecture. The temple’s main image is a stone statue of the Buddhist deity Fudo-myo-o. The statue is hidden from public view and the image has long been revered for miraculous power.

The easy access to the temple is by Kyoto Bus and can be accessed by various locations throughout central Kyoto. The buses you need to look out are – Kinkakuji-mae (Bus # 12 and 59) Kinkakuji-michi (Bus # 101, 102, 204, 205).

Try the Japanese powdered green tea at the Tea House for 500 yen which comes with a Japanese sweet. It’s worth the experience.

Ryoanji Temple

This temple is located 20-30 minutes by foot from Kinkakuji Temple or if you feel lazy then take the bus either # 12 (5 minutes walk from the bus terminal) or # 59 goes directly to the temple.

This temple was founded in 1450 and the main attraction is the garden arranged in the kare-sansui style (Japanese Rock Garden) or often called as Zen Garden. The garden is meant to be viewed from a seated position on the verandah. It gets very busy and going early in the morning before 10am is advisable. The garden represents an austere collection of 15 rocks, apparently adrift in a sea of sand, is enclosed by an earthen wall. The wall behind the garden is one of the important feature, pay close attention to the wall; it’s made of clay which has been stained by age with subtle brown and orange tones.

 

Daitokuji Temple

Daitokuji Temple is a collection of Zen temples, raked gravel gardens and wandering lanes. The entire complex contains a total of 24 temples. This temple is not usually crowded by tourists, so it’s worth visiting the temple any time during the day. The temple is of interest who have fascination for Japanese Gardens.  The Rock Garden of Daisen-In Temple is located in the temple complex and costs 400 Yen, but worth the experience to witness the peaceful Zen Gardens. The Spirit of Zen is expressed here through the media of only rocks and sand. At the end of the touring the gardens, experience Japanese style tea for 400 yen along with a Japanese sweet (Photography is not allowed inside the Daisen-In Rock Garden).

Daitokuji Temple can be accessed by Kyoto City Bus # 12, 204, 205 and 206.

Well that’s the end of day 1. I will be writing more on Kyoto and Nara in my furture blogs. Stay tuned, until then Sayōnara.

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An old saying goes “ಕಾಲ ಇದ್ದರೆ ಹಂಪಿ ನೋಡ ಬೇಕು”; translated from Kannada, “If you have legs, visit Hampi” an UNESCO World Heritage site

When I first heard the phrase  “ಕಾಲ ಇದ್ದರೆ ಹಂಪಿ ನೋಡ ಬೇಕು”; translated from Kannada, “If you have legs, visit Hampi” (Author – Anonymous); I couldn’t understand what it really meant until I experienced it  myself  and found the real meaning of the phrase. An UNESCO world heritage site, Hampi is located in Karnataka State in India and 50 km from my hometown Koppal. This is one place I must have visited countless times during my childhood.  Whenever we had relatives and cousins visiting us at Koppal, the first place we would take them for a day trip was Hampi. My mum packed delicious home cooked food and we kids made sure to pack our cricket bat and ball so we could have a quick match after lunch.

The journey to Hampi took more than 2 hours by bus and we changed at Hospet as there were no direct connections from my town. My cousins, brother and I always sat at the back of the bus so we could have a bit of fun along the way so the 2 hour long trip passed quickly. We didn’t have an iPad, or personal audio system nor video games,  the one thing we did was to chat.

The Vijayanagara Kingdom was founded during the early 1330 AD and flourished for more than 300 years until it was destroyed by Deccan Sultanates. The beautiful city of Hampi which was once a rich and vibrant capital city of the Vijayanagara Kingdom was ruined by the Sultanates. They destroyed and defaced the statues and the temples and the damage to these beautiful monuments is still visible. The main bazaar or the market place in Hampi was a vibrant marketplace where one could buy precious gems and stones just like we buy vegetables today.  There was no gap between the rich and poor in this Kingdom and every citizen enjoyed the prosperity of the Kingdom.

After arriving in Hampi, the first place we always visited was Sri Virupaksha Temple, a Shiva temple situated on the banks of Tungabadra river. Once we had paid our respects at the temple and being attacked by monkeys after they stole coconuts and bananas from our basket it was time to head off to the local cafe. We had a nice sumptuous South Indian breakfast and my favourite dish was Idli Vada Sambhar and my brother’s was Puri Bhaji. It was time to start the sightseeing by foot as there were no buses or taxis that took us around the monuments. The only way we could cover all the places was by foot, so the term “If you have legs, visit Hampi” made a lot of sense. We started the long walk along the banks of Tungabhadra river through the rocky terrain as there were no proper paths. It was the only way to see the real Hampi as most of the monuments were not easily accessible by vehicle. The temperature during summer peaked around 40 degrees celsius.

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After walking over 10 km we took a break at Purandaradasa Mantapa which is situated near the banks of the river. It is huge open temple with no walls but beautiful carved pillars built from local stone.  While my mum and aunties were busy arranging lunch, we kids took the opportunity to swim and play in the river. After a heavy lunch it was time for a quick 2-3 overs cricket match while my mum and aunties took some rest before we started the next leg of the journey.  The cricket match always ended in a draw as somehow there was often  a complaint that one of us was cheating, or the umpire wasn’t fair etc., None of us would talk to each other and we maintained a distance between us when we walked. It only lasted for an hour, then we were back to being friends and forgot why we had the arguments in the first place.

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We covered most of the monuments during the day and also learnt about the historical significance of Hampi. I always carried a small book to note down the places we visited  so I could write to my pen friend Mikhael in Sweden about my visit to Hampi.

After a long and tiring day we stopped at a small town near Hampi, Kamlapur where we had tea and snacks at a roadside tea stall. We all sat on the bench outside the stall and watched the world go by. It was the last stop for the majority of the tourists and also the transport hub to nearby towns.  The bus trip back to Koppal felt long and exhausting but the memories of the day lasted a lifetime.

If you like to see more of Hampi photos, please click on the following link https://goo.gl/photos/61uy6JofsY4FsaGZ8 

This article was inspired by my fellow writer and childhood friend Ms. Geeta Canpadee in her article titled ” Hampi, Rome of the East”.