Thursday, August 13, 2015

50th National Day Singapore

We were at the Merlion Park to catch the aerial display and fireworks during the National Day Parade (NDP) NE (Nation Education) Show on 25 July 2015.  We were glad that we made a trip down to Merlion Park for the little man. To bring my boy to watch the NDP was something close to my heart especially this year marks our Nation's 50th birthday.  Unfortunately, we were not successful in balloting the NDP tickets.   We stood and waited patiently at the end of the Jubilee bridge at Merlion Park. A pity we missed the Red Lions.  Nevertheless, the Black Knights were awesome!  We soaked up the atmosphere as we watched the Black Knights thundered past with their stunts.

The night ended with electrifying fireworks right in front of us.  It was an unforgettable and memorable day.

We love Singapore! 

P.S. It was a late and short post though. But I seriously need to write here because firstly, it was Singapore's 50th Birthday, the Jubilee year.  Secondly, it was rare opportunity that Papa agreed to bring us to watch it without complaining the heat and crowd.  Thirdly, I would not be able to out live another 50 years for the next 100th National Day.

LKY 5 Star Salute

State Flag flypast
Salute to our Nation

Black Knights salute to the Nation

Black Knights Criss Cross formation

Left: Lego cable car, Singapore flag,
a lion and an origami sampan craft made by my boy
as part of Nation Education in his school

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Japan trip during June 2015 holidays - Arrive in Kyoto/Day trip to Nara Park (Part 2)

This is the second part of our Japan trip during June 2015 holidays. I wrote the first part of the trip in Tokyo here.  

8 June 2015 JR Kyoto Station/Rihga Royal Hotel Kyoto

We bid farewell to Tokyo in the morning after a hearty Japanese breakfast.  Check out at the Shinjuku Washington Hotel was a breeze because we did it over their self-checkout machines in minutes!  To get to Kyoto station, we first has to take a subway (Chuo line) from Shinjuku to Tokyo station.  From there, we had to get to Tokaido Shinkasen; the route for Tokyo-Nagoya-Kyoto-Osaka.  Then, find our car number and locate our reserved seat when onboard.  So we did lots of walking and climbing up/down short flights of stairs in the underground passages that lead to Shinjuku station.  Luckily, we only have one large luggage and one small luggage plus each of us carried a sling bag/backpack. 

At Tokyo station, it was nerve racking when we got quite confused and lost there especially we have to catch the bullet train. Nevertheless, we asked for directions from JR information counter and with help of signage, we managed to get to Tokaido shinkasen, still with some time to spare and wait comfortably at car number 11.  We bought ekiben (Railway station lunch box) from the platform and ate our lunch onboard. We were sitting on the left side of the train and thus, unable to get a glimpse of Mount Fuji (which could be viewed from the right side of the train from what I read on other's travel blog). Our first experience taking a bullet train was exceptionally smooth and quiet ride!  Really marvel at Japanese transport system!!  To be exact, the journey took about 2 hours and 17 minutes to reach JR Kyoto station. 

Eating ekiben

From JR Kyoto station,  a futuristic looking building, we walked on foot to Rihga Royal Hotel which, from the map, appeared to be close in proximity. But it was quite a distance though.  The planner, our Papa, did not know that the hotel provides free shutter bus to/from the station until much later when we stayed there.  Luckily, it was not raining. In fact, it was such a nice weather that we enjoyed the walk (with two luggage).

Accommodation we booked was a twin bedroom.  The hotel was kind enough to add another extra sofa bed for the three of us.  The room was so spacious and double the size of Shinjuku Washington hotel in Tokyo.  We would be staying at Rihga for 8 nights.  Yippee!  I would be able to have better and restful nights with no snoring (from the two boys) right next to my face ;P

Rihga Royal Kyoto Hotel

JR Kyoto Station

We headed back to JR Kyoto station where we bought a 4 days JR Kansai Area Pass from 8 to 12 June 2015 at the Tourist Information center.  And then, another 4 days pass from 13 to 16 June 2015 separately at the end of the validity of the earlier pass.  The pass was particularly flexible and ease for us making day trips from Kyoto to/from Nara and Osaka at our own leisure time and pace.  And it also covered Haruka limited express train to Kansai International airport which we needed on our last day of Japan trip.   It might not be the most economical means to travel.  So do you own calculations!  Papa used Kyoto as our 'base camp' where we returned for every day trips.  Reason being, he did not want to move places to places carrying the luggage. 

Thereafter, we had a soba dinner at its porta area.  With so many variety of food, we were spoiled for choice definitely.  The sheer size of the building amazingly housed Hotel Graniva, Kyoto Theatre, museums, an eleven-storey high Isetan department store, restaurants, café and many more shops.  Impressive!  On the way back to our hotel, we passed by a café which we thought would be nice for our coffee fix for tomorrow's breakfast before leaving for our next destination, Nara the next morning. 

Although we walked a lot, our little man was too excited to sleep early.  Back in the hotel room, he put on the adult yukata and played for a while till he tired out. 

It was a long day spent most of the time travelling, errant and familiarising the new place. 

9 June 2015 Nara Park - Kofukuji/Todaiji Buddhist Temples

We woke up fresh and energetic early in the morning.  After a light breakfast with some pastries and coffee at Caffé Veloce, we took a train (Miyakoji Rapid Service ) to JR Nara station which was a 45-50 minutes ride.  From JR Nara station, it was 15 to 20 minutes walk. This also kicked start our journey of multiple visits to temples and shrines in Japan starting with Nara.  The latter, formerly, was the first capital of Japan, established in 710.

On the way leading up to Kofuku-ji  (興福寺) Temple,  Nara Park's  (奈良公園) free roaming deers residing around the temples and parks were spoted everywhere. The deers was said to be the messager of god.  Deer cookies were sold in the park for feeding. Expect to be swarmed, stalked and followed by the deers if you have the crackers in your hand.  Papa experienced a little aggression because the deers licked his shirt, chewed his bag and some even nudged with his antlers demanding the cookies.  My little boy, however, enjoyed every moments from feeding, and touching the deers' (velvety antlers).  Needless to say, this day trip was specially planned for my boy who was an animal lover.   Although the deers were used to people and crowds, they were still wild animals.  Exercise with cautions when approaching these animals because we had witnessed a child being kicked by a deer.

Kofuku-ji  (興福 寺) Temple, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Flanked by a five-story pagoda, the second tallest pagoda in Japan. Its history dated back as early as in 710.  It was an eye opener for us and totally in awe with the first temple we stepped into.  We also checked out Kofukuji's National Treasure Museum where some Buddhist art and statues exhibits before we stopped to have lunch.  
Kofuku-ji  (興福寺) Temple and Pagoda
There were plenty of rest places and restaurants around.  Check out his cute kid's meal at Yume Kaze Plaza - Kurokawa Honke 吉野本葛 黒川本家 !


Next was Todai-ji temple (東大寺), another UNESCO World Heritage site.  It's hall of great Buddha housed the world largest bronze statue of Buddha.  School children queued up to get a chance to squeeze through pillar with the hole in the middle for enlightenment. We gave it a miss as it was too crowded.  

Nandaimon Gate

Todai-ji temple (東大寺)
Daibutsu (Great Buddha)

With a map on hand, we made our way out and pretty enjoyed the serene surrounding.  The  deers were tamed and quiet in the afternoon as most of them were resting in the lush green forest.  We passed the Great Bell which was still in use,  climbed the steep stairs up to Nigatsu-do Hall (二月堂) for a good view of Nara city and covered the Sangatsu-do Hall (三月堂). .

Great Bell
Steep steps leading to Nigatsu-do Hall (二月堂)

City view from the top

Sangatsu-do Hall (三月堂)

We were quite tired from walking when we came to the base of Wakakusayama Hill.  But our mood was immediately brightened up as soon as we saw more deer munching the crackers at the foot of the hill.    My son was fortunate to meet an elderly Japanese couple who had a bag of fresh leaves they prepared for feeding the deers.  They offered the leaves for him to feed the deers.   (Papa rejected my boys' request for more deer crackers to feed earlier.  Thanks to this kind couple that made his day).  Ahead was Kasuga Taisha Shrine (春日大社) which we briefly stopped as our legs could not ventured any further.

Base of Wakakusayama Hill

Exhausted, we walked to the main road and waited at a bus stop.  Unknowingly we waited on the wrong side of the road!  Yet Nara bus stopped and waved at us to hop in (without a pass/ticket.  Oops!).  It was a blessing to experience such kindness although we could not understand a single Japanese words the passenger/bus driver was trying to tell us.  We simply nodded, bowed and said thank you :P 

Back in Kyoto, we had Kyoto style ramen at Honke Daiichi-asahi 本家 第一旭 that cost us 800 yen for a regular bowl and a mini bowl 450 yen. We queued and waited at least 30 minutes along the roadside.  It was soya based ramen with char siu and plentiful of green onions (mind you, it was like a mountain of it).  Tasty and yummy but too much noodles for the size of regular bowl.  It was rude not to finish it so I gobbled all of it.  My boy, however, polished off a mini bowl of noodles! Burp!!

It was 7.25pm when we walked back to our hotel.  The iconic Kyoto Tower was all lighted up.

Kyoto Tower
Nara's rich cultural legacy seemingly transported us back to history.  It was awesome to view some of the best preserved temples and shrines. And, we truly enjoyed every bits of it.  The sights of so many deer certainly a child's delight as well as adult.  Great weather amid a little drizzle in the evening when we queued for the ramen. 

Coming up next will be my favourite post about Kyoto.