Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Explore Hokkaido with our folding bicycles 2019 - Day 1

The plan to visit Hokkaido has eventually realised as we arrived at New Chitose Airport Terminal of Sapporo, Hokkaido on 26 April 2019 at about 9 in the morning and the temperature was pretty cold 5°C. We travelled via Air Asia and it took about 7 hours plus from Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2.
The Japanese officials were efficient and fast in their ushering of tourists through the checkpoints such as thermal checking, customs and immigration. All went well without any hitch. We have officially landed and cleared for a holiday in Hokkaido.
The JR train tickets from the Airport to Sapporo Station with 5 stops in between. The fare as seen was 1,070¥ which I always divide it by 26 for Ringgit equivalent which was about RM41.00.
A traveller with a Brompton bicycle inside an Ikea Dimpa bag and her luggage in a Brompton "T" bag up in a JR train for a onward ride to Sapporo Station.
Next to Sapporo JR Station there is this big IT store at the annex which you can got your SIM card and other IT stuff. I ended purchasing IIJMIO SIM card and got the staff to install it for a fee.
At one of the several entrances of JR Tower after setting up our bicycles and were ready to pedal on the streets of Sapporo. 
Our next concern was to keep permission to keep some of our bicycle bags at the the last hotel which we will be coming back after our round of Hokkaido. Thanks to Relief Sapporo Hotel for allowing us to keep it at the hotel for 11 days before we back on a later date.
As we were passing by this shop I told myself to stop by and try the food. Somehow it had attracted my attention. It's called Kaisembaru Uonosuke located at GPS : 43.052629, 141.354161.
The lunch was good pick, the operators were friendly and most importantly the food was awesome. Our first meal in Sapporo.
It was back to Sapporo Train Station (JR Tower) for next stop at Otaru. Gradually we were getting the groove into buying train tickets from the vending machines.
Our next thing on the list was to get to Otaru. We have to be there as the accommodation for the night has been booked. The train ride from Sapporo Train Station to Otaru with a fare of 640¥ per person.
This effort of putting reading glasses for travellers to use while filling theirs forms at the writing counters is such a brilliant idea.
The distance between Sapporo and Otaru is only about 40km apart which is basically going westwards and along the Sea of Japan. The sea was slightly rough and windy.
Finally we arrived at Otaru Station and rode to Smile Hotel Otaru.
An accommodation that is lightly partitioned with sliding curtain instead of entrance door a double decker bed for two persons in a cubicle. Bathroom is on a shared basis. The place is quiet and clean.
These days it is easy to hunt for a good food with the help of Uncle Google and we managed to find this restaurant at a dark alley called 伊勢鮨壽司Isezushi.  We were lucky to get a slot as we did not make any prior reservation. It has no shop front, just a door and a simple signage but this joint is surely cosy in the inside. The GPS location is 43.200557, 140.995466.
Though we had some communication problem but we were able to convey our request for the food we wanted to try and enjoyed his art of making sushi and sashimi.
The seafood was fresh and delicious, meticulously prepared and presented. Of course not forgetting my "Biru" or beer.
A hectic day indeed for the first day of this Northern Japan adventure. Til then we see again in my next posting. Good night or in Japanese .... Oyasuminasai.



Friday, March 08, 2019

Hunan Day 6 Explore Fenghuang Ancient Town 鳳凰縣

What a morning rise. I was astounded and excited when I saw snow falling from the sky the moment I peeped through the window from our room. I quickly let Jo know about it. It was a rare experience of witnessing a snow fall from a person from a tropical country.
Quickly we went out to the balcony to experience the snow fall. 
Fenghuang (Phoenix) Ancient Town is an old town built during the Qing Dynasty, it is still well kept to its original appearance even after 300 years of existence. The ancient town is located in the southwest of Hunan Province, bordering Huaihua to the southeast and Tongren (Guizhou) to the west.
Breakfast in the hotel was simple, good and suited our taste very well.
'Fenghuang' is Chinese for 'Phoenix', the mythical bird of good omen and longevity that is consumed by fire to be re-born again from the flames. 
Phoenix Ancient Town has a legend that two of these fabulous birds flew over and found the Fenghuang Town so beautiful that they were reluctant to leave.
As usual the crowd was thin during winter. Last night when we arrived the place was alive with beautiful lights along the river and some places with loud music at the pubs and of many youngsters. It was a beautiful day as we were on our way for a day tour in this magical town.
I love capturing images of the snow on the flowers, plants, houses and whatever things that were looking good with it.
The weather was cold with a bit of drizzle and it was a nice stroll going through the narrow alleys of this ancient town. By the way this ancient city is a gathering place for Miao and Tujia ethnic minorities.
The food here is different from other parts of China. There were a variety of traditional foods such as pickled red peppers, peanut candies and fresh food with appetizing smell fuming out from the small family run eatery shops.
A traditional peanut candy with many stalls offering samples to try. It really tasted good.
The ancient town of Fenghuang has been added to the UNESCO World HeritageTentative List on March 28, 2008 in the Cultural category.
Spending some time at the Museum of Ancient Town.
At one of the many winding and narrow cobbled alleys.
The exploration of the ancient town continued and more exciting places to see.
One of the books written by writer Shen Congwen 沈从文 (1902-1988) who contributed greatly to the development of modern Chinese literature. 
We visited the home of Shen Congwen and I was feeling good to have carry the same surname "Shen 沈" like him. Kind of feeling related .....
Fenghuang is also the hometown of other country's great minds, including the first premier of the Republic of China (1912-49) Xiong Xiling (1870-1937) and the famous contemporary painter of Chinese traditional painting Huang Yongyu.
A newly renovated city wall, unfolding from the gate and connecting with the East Gate, has created some new angles for visitors to enjoy the riverside views of the town.
East Gate Tower was built in 1715 is a two-storied architecture with a height of 8 meters and one of two Qing Dynasty towers in Fenghuang. The East Gate was a solid barrier of the ancient city with military defense and urban flood control function.
I love seeing the beautiful sight of snow on the many old ancient rooftops and it is everywhere in the town. This is a winter beautiful and it happens only during winter.
We had the opportunit to visit Xiong Xiling’s Former Residence. 
Mr. Xiong Xiling (熊希龄) was called ‘the wonder child of Hunan province’ and he was elected as the first elected Prime Minister of the Republican period in 1913.  
The ladies also visited several silverware shops while the guys tagged along in their shopping quest.
The local daily life seems simple with basic old trading method, walking on the cobbled alley.
It was near lunch time Little Duck took us through more interesting places, going through bridges and capturing more beautiful scenery.
Here we were in another traditional eating house for another Xiangxi indulgent before we proceed with the second half of our exploration.
We took our bus to Southern China Great Wall (中國南方長城; Zhōngguó Nánfāng Chángchéng) which was about 14km away from the town. South China Great Wall is a fortification built by the Ming dynasty to protect the local Han Chinese from Miao attacks. Reluctantly we climb the steps of the South China Great Wall to to reach the platform.
We had the entire space by ourselves and had fun throwing snow balls against each others.
The group trying to lift the gigantic spear from the rest.
And all gave up after a good try.
It was time to descend, get to the bus and back to the Ancient Town for more activities.
Coming back from the South Great Wall and walking towards to town we saw this man with his pull cart full of collection.
It was back to the town and another interesting narrow alley with red lanterns hanging along the moist cobbled street.
Little Duck getting tickets for us to take the boat ride and also the same place where we boarded on the boats at Tuo Jiang River 凤凰沱江 wharf.
12 of us were to many for a boat hence we had to split into 2 boats. 
All seated and ready to cruise on the greenish water of Tuo Jiang River.
Tou Jiang River stretches diagonally from the northwest to southeast of the Fenghuang Ancient Town and is the life line of the local people. 
The river also provides a means for boatmen to support their families by ferrying visitors up and down stream for sightseeing. Barry & Chan were on the other boat.
The iconic sight of these stilted houses along the Tuo Jiang River, looking flimsy but have been there for ages. And I long for a perfect reflection on the water surfaces.
The guided boat ride going underneath of the bridges as part of the river cruise.
We could see women washing their clothes and the men fishing with their nets which was a common affair since centuries ago. 
End of the day the local finish their chores and will go back to their respective homes to rest.
Lastly we visited an Art Gallery Building for the day and had a truly amazing exploration of the Phoenix City.