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Terminating in Tokyo

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Tokyo & Mount Fuji

all seasons in one day 18 °C
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Leaving our very excitable host in Kyoto, we made our way over to the station to catch the bullet train I had reserved the day before, bound for Tokyo. The Japanese capital would in fact be the last of our bases on this trip, staying here for the final four nights of this East Asian adventure.

Sitting in the reserved part of the train, we had a bit more room around us for bags which made the trip more comfortable, even if it was only for a few hours. The one thing I didn't get to do last time I was in Tokyo, was see Mount Fuji. Unfortunately, the humid summer air meant seeing it from the city was too difficult. This time we had more opportunities, and our first would be on our way to Tokyo - through the city of Fuji.

Seeing the mountain is always difficult, as the weather conditions need to be just right. Having researched when we would be able to gain a view, as we headed through the last hill before the city, we got up and headed towards the window at the door (all of the seats on this side were already booked when I requested our seats the night before). However our luck was not in, and the unseasonably warm humid air blocked the view, with us just managing to catch a glimpse of the snow peak through the haze. Never mind, there would be more opportunities!

Fuji through the haze

Fuji through the haze

Not long after, we arrived in the heart of Tokyo city. With our Japanese rail passes still valid for a few more days, and a good network of local rail in the city, it wasn't even necessary for us to use the metro initially. We got on a local train and headed to our hotel - the same one I had stayed in 4.5 years earlier. After dropping off our bags, we headed back into the city, deciding to visit the central sights, beginning with the Pokemon shop inside the station.

Pokemon Store

Pokemon Store

After taking a look inside the shop, we headed outside the station and made our way around the corner to the Imperial Gardens. It was yet another beautiful hot and sunny day in Japan, and we enjoyed a walk around this idyll in the middle of metropolis.

Imperial East Gardens

Imperial East Gardens

After a lot of travelling already, and ample time in the city, we headed to get some food before making our way back to our hotel for a break. Once it got dark we then headed back out and made our way to the Senso-ji Shrine in Asakusa. By day this a bustling shopping street and active shrine, but by night it's a more peaceful and lit up attraction.

Senso-ji by night

Senso-ji by night

After enjoying views of the beautiful complex, we headed back for our first night's sleep in the city.

Lanterns at Senso-ji

Lanterns at Senso-ji

The following morning the weather had changed completely - after a week and a half of warm summer weather, it was now down 10˚C, feeling much more like early April.

Having not been able to see Mount Fuji very well on the train to Tokyo, we planned to visit the Fuji Five Lakes area for a better view. With our Japan Rail passes ending the following day - giving us free travel on most of the trains to this area, we were trying to make the most of it, as well as using the weather forecasts in order get the best views of the mountain. Annoyingly as the weather had changed, clouds were coming in making the opportunity to view Mt Fuji even more limited.

It now looked very iffy we would get to see the mountain at all, but tomorrow looked more promising and so we gambled and spent today in the city. After having a lie in, we headed out to view some of the sights outside the centre centre - starting with the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese war dead (including war criminals from WWII) are commemorated.

Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine


Takeshita Street

Takeshita Street

We then headed over to the Harajuku area, heading straight out of the station and down Takeshita Street, a popular shopping street full of novelty and small gifts. After buying a few keyrings and doing a loop of the area, we then headed into Yoyogi park and towards the Imperial Meiji Jingu Shrine.

Rice Barrels in Yoyogi Park

Rice Barrels in Yoyogi Park

Heading back out of the park we then walked south towards Shibuya, and the bustling crossing in the heart of the area. We stopped at the Starbucks that looks over the crossing and sat watching the huge amount of people crossing in all directions every minute.

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing


Tokyo Tower overlooking Zojo-ji Shrine

Tokyo Tower overlooking Zojo-ji Shrine

Our last sight for the day was the Tokyo Tower, from the Zojo-ii Shrine, where upon arrival we found a service was being carried out.

Service inside Zojo-ji

Service inside Zojo-ji

After watching part of the service, we then headed to Tokyo Bay, for views over the port area.

Tokyo Bay

Tokyo Bay

We then headed back to our hotel for a rest before we headed out for dinner. Originally we had planned to go for Ramen, and with us wanting to head to Shinjuku we found a few places to visit. However as suspected, even early there were long long queues, and with it being quite chilly, we decided to scrap that and eat at Burger King. We can always have Ramen at home!

Kabukicho

Kabukicho

After eating, we took a tour around the Kabukicho area, which is famous for it's LED lights and billboards, before heading back to the hotel for some well earned sleep.

The following morning we got up early and headed to Shinjuku station for our trip outside the city, to the Fuji Five Lakes area. The weather still looked iffy, but there was a better chance of seeing the mountain earlier. Using our Japan Rail passes for the last day, we spent an hour or so on the train heading outside the city before changing at Otsuki to a private line, that would take us the final journey to Fujiyoshida. As we headed up the valley it became clear that we would see Mount Fuji, as the huge mountain dominated the backdrop.

Mount Fuji - finally

Mount Fuji - finally

We got off at a small local station, that was clearly a tourist draw, as signs led us all the way to the Chureito Pagoda. Making the most of the views, which could be scuppered at any moment by the ominous clouds, we headed up the steep hillside towards the top. Chris paused halfway whilst I continued, in what was one of the biggest struggles I've ever faced! Two weeks of exhaustion against the strong winds in a rush against time almost seemed impossible.

The amazing view

The amazing view

Nevertheless I made it, and the views were worth it. As Cherry Blossom had come early this year, it meant that although there was nothing left in Tokyo, this area was full! Approximately two weeks earlier than normal. It meant we got to see one of the most picture perfect views that are in many of the tourist guidebooks. Our luck clearly was in! And after taking some photos, Chris had also made it to the top and we took in some of the breathtaking views.

We then headed back down to the train station, and eventually back to the city. It was a lot of faffing about, spending about 6 hours getting there and back just for 10 minutes of views, but it was worth it.

Our last thing to do in the city, was head back to the Senso-ji shrine, this time during the day, and grab some souvenirs. After grabbing some dinner we then got some sleep before our last full day on this long trip.

Shopping at Senso-ji

Shopping at Senso-ji

Having overestimated how much time we needed, we had already seen everything in the city, with a day to spare. Therefore we decided to spend out last day at Tokyo Disneyland. It had been years since either of us had been to Disneyland, and so this was a nice experience. With the sun shining, we headed out early to the park early to try and beat some of the weekend rush.

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland

Starting with Westernland, we headed onto Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise before the queues got so long. Whilst we waited in the queue for Thunder Mountain however, the sunshine was masked by clouds, not to be seen again. The wind was picking up, as were the length of the queues.

We continued around, heading inside the Haunted Mansion and the Snow White ride, before we headed over to Tomorrowland. Japan is generally quite warm, and so the park is not built to break the wind - despite this being on a reclaimed island in Tokyo Bay, and with long queues, it meant for a freezing experience, for which we certainly weren't dressed accordingly.

After waiting over an hour and a half for the Buzz Lightyear ride, we went inside the gift shops to warm up and wait for the parade. However just before it was due to start, there was an announcement that because of the wind this would not take place - hardly surprising, but a real shame. We headed back to the Star Tours ride, luckily most of the queue here being inside, before cutting out losses and heading back to our hotel.

After two busy weeks it had been an amazing adventure, we were thoroughly exhausted and now just had the ridiculously long journey back.

With this being the peak time to visit Japan, flights were not cheap. There were two flights each from Tokyo to Beijing and Beijing to London, but taking the combination with just 4 hours to transfer was twice as expensive as that with 7. We therefore took the cheaper option, even if this did mean we would be travelling for 24 hours.

Getting up at 3am in Japan, we headed on the first train to the airport, eventually leaving Japan at 7:20am. We flew west, heading right over Mount Fuji, getting great aerial views of the iconic mountain.

Views over Mount Fuji

Views over Mount Fuji

Eventually, after circling the city for ages, over three hours later we had arrived in Beijing. Originally it was possible that we may leave some things in the city for this return leg, and use the 5 hours to sit about, to explore the city. However having seen everything we wanted two weeks ago, as knowing how much time would be wasted to get down there, we instead decided to stay in the airport.

Airport Lounge

Airport Lounge

Transferring for over four hours meant we also got free access to an airport lounge, which although wasn't the best, did give us free food and drinks. Despite not being able to connect to most of the internet, time went by quite quickly, and before we knew it, it was time to board our final flight of the trip, the long 10 hours back to London.

Having exhausted not only the entertainment, but also ourselves - despite not being able to sleep for fear of worsening our jetlag, this was a tough journey. By the end of the flight eating was a struggle, and so was staying awake. I even napped for an hour with Chris unable to wake me back up.

Sunset over Siberia

Sunset over Siberia

Arriving back in London was a relief, but having been awake for over 24 hours, also a struggle. Waiting for ages to get our bag back evetually we made it out, to find my dad who picked us up and took us home. Eventually we made it to bed - but only after having been awake for 28 hours!

Nevertheless, even with all these struggles the trip was amazing, fascinating and totally worth it!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 13:06 Archived in Japan Tagged park temple mountain airport palace train city shrine themepark eastasia Comments (0)

Shrine City

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Kyoto

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Travelling via Himeji, by mid afternoon we had arrived in Kyoto. After being helped out of the right exit in Kyoto's huge station by some locals, we stopped by the supermarket before heading to our hotel.

Our Ryokan

Our Ryokan

After staying in a hotel with an onsen in Hiroshima, Kyoto was providing us with our most traditional hotel setting - a ryokan, a traditional Japanese style inn. Part of the reason for this wasn't just to add something traditional to our trip, but also because it was much much cheaper.

The trip itself was planned for over a year, and back in June I had had a quick look to see the status of hotels during the peak season. By then, still 9 months in advance, 80% of hotels were already booked. Although sharing a toilet and sleeping on mats on the floor for three nights wasn't ideal, it was £150 more for a Love Hotel in the suburbs, or £50 on top of that for the next cheapest hotel. Therefore we decided to rough it. It would be traditional, the location was good, and it wasn't for too long.

Arriving at the hotel, we were greeted warmly by the owner, who despite not having the best English was very chatty. After grabbing dinner we settled in for the night on our straw mats.

Inside our room

Inside our room

The following morning, after an uncomfortable sleep, we headed out for the first of our two days in the city. After sorting out our two day transport passes, we then headed out of the city to the Daigo-ji shrine, to the south east of the city.

Daigo-ji

Daigo-ji

Kyoto was coming towards the end of the cherry blossom season, and in a few days it would all be gone, but whilst we were here at least we got to see the city of Shrines covered in cherry blossom.

After arriving at the nearby train station, it was just a ten minute walk up the hill to the shrine, with the grounds covered in cherry trees. We started by heading to the Buddhist temple at the end of the complex, which is reflected below into a large pool of water. It was at this beautiful spot that I proposed to Chris.

Engaged

Engaged

After he accepted, we enjoyed the special moment before continuing with our sightseeing. We walked around the shrine itself, before heading to the hall at the entrance, where there was a beautifully landscaped and zen garden.

Zen Garden

Zen Garden

Sitting in the already warm morning heat, we enjoyed the surroundings before heading off to our next sight in the city, the Philosopher's Walk. This old canal is lined with cherry blossom, and thus was a real visual treat during this week.

Philosopher's Walk

Philosopher's Walk

It was full of people, including newlyweds taking photos, but we still managed to enjoy the views and stopped for an ice-cream pudding. Annoyingly for a city this size, there is a very limited metro and train network, with a reliance on buses. With many many people in the city at this time it made the journeys generally quite uncomfortable, but nevertheless we still managed. With it already being early afternoon, we headed to our last area of the day - Gion. We started at the Yasaka shrine in Maruyama park, which was teaming with street food and visitors.

Gion

Gion

We then headed off through the Geisha areas in the heart of Gion, before reaching the Kiyomizu-dera wooden hilltop shrine. Unfortunately it was undergoing renovation, so we weren't able to see it in it's full glory, but there were still grand views over the valley below.

Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera

After a busy day in the heat, we headed back in the afternoon to our hotel for a well earned rest. After sitting down for a while I went into my suitcase to grab some holiday notes. Putting them back ten minutes or so later I noticed a bug inside my suitcase. Flinching I realised it was a massive centipede! How on earth did it get there, when it was locked all day, and how was I going to get it out?

Chris passed me a bag, and we attempted to tip it from my raincoat on which it was laying, into the bag - but as soon as we moved the coat it quickly crawled deeper inside my suitcase. Panicking that it may get lost inside and crawl to lay eggs, I grabbed the coat, wrapped it up and put it in the bag as soon as I could, hoping it was inside!

Running past the hotel owner, I opened to front door and tipped the raincoat out, luckily seeing the centipede drop to the floor, but then crawling quickly towards me. After shaking the coat to remove any eggs from the coat, I quickly headed back inside making sure the door was closed. It later turned out that this bug was the Mukade - a venomous centipede that can eat mice... lovely.

Somehow managing to sleep that night, the following morning we headed out to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for it's torii walk. Unsurprisingly, it was full of tourists, but we still got to enjoy walking beneath the arches.

Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari


Kinaku-ji

Kinaku-ji

We then headed across the city to the Golden Shrine of Kinkaku-ji, which if I'm honest paled in comparison to the similar Golden Temple of Amritsar. Nevertheless it was an interesting sight, and after stopping for frozen cola, we headed towards our next sights in Arashiyama.

Bamboo Forest

Bamboo Forest

Arashiyama is a suburb on the edge of the city, and contains several exciting places. The first was the Bamboo walk, which although pretty was pretty spoiled by so many tourists, which prevent the serenity from being taken in. We then continued our walk by heading through a park, and heading down to the riverside, where the river was full of boats, including one taking tourists for lunch with a couple of geishas.

Geisha Lunch Boat

Geisha Lunch Boat

After grabbing a bit of food we crossed the wooden bridge and headed up a hill to the Monkey Reserve. A long walk, but fun to see monkeys giving death stares and demanding food.

Monkey Park

Monkey Park


Kyoto Castle

Kyoto Castle

After a long day, we headed back to our hotel via Kyoto Castle, but with it having already been a long day we decided not to head in and instead went back to our hotel for a rest before packing our bits, as tomorrow we would be headed to the Japanese capital of Tokyo.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 10:49 Archived in Japan Tagged monkey hostel sightseeing shrine eastasia cherryblossom Comments (0)

Southern Honshu

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Hiroshima & Himeji

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With yet another early morning flight, we checked out of our hotel early and began heading to Seoul's Incheon airport. This was our only flight not with Air China, being with Asiana Airways, and after a short pleasant flight we arrived in the city of Fukuoka, Japan.

We flew via Fukuoka, as it had the best connections to get to Hiroshima, and after getting through immigration, we boarded the short bus transfer to the station, and got hold of our Japan Rail Passes which we would be using for the next week. With everywhere being so busy, it was several hours after we had landed that we finally boarded our bullet train to Hiroshima, but nevertheless we made the train we wanted and got to enjoy the journey on this legendary train.

Bullet Train

Bullet Train

Bullet trains look so futuristic, and felt also very strange, as although travelling exceptionally fast they pivot and thus don't feel particularly faster than regular fast train travel, except the noticeable sensation of ears popping. After just over an hour, we arrived at Hiroshima station, and after buying a few snacks, we headed to our hotel to leave our bags.

Hypocentre

Hypocentre

Our time in Hiroshima was limited to just one night, and this afternoon was our opportunity to explore the city. We began by heading to Hiroshima castle, before making our way to see the sights that are connected to what the city of Hiroshima is most famous for - the atomic bombing in 1945. Starting at the plaque marking the hypocentre of the bomb, we walked around the corner to see the A-bomb Dome, the closest building to survive the bomb, and symbol of the event, surrounded by cherry blossom.

A-bomb Dome

A-bomb Dome

The trip had been scheduled to coincide with the Cherry Blossom Season. However as time was limited, and the cherry blossom takes place in just a few weeks, it was unsure where we would actually get to see it. If it came late, we would catch it in Tokyo just before we left, whilst if it came early we would catch it in Hiroshima as we arrived. This year it came over a week early, and Hiroshima was already at the peak of the blooming.

Eternal Flame within the gardens

Eternal Flame within the gardens

The immediate surrounding area of the A-bomb dome is now a peace park, with monuments and landscaped gardens alongside a couple of museums, which contain artefacts from the bombing as well as other items, such a clock counting the days since the bomb, as well as the last nuclear test.

Peace Watch

Peace Watch

Having taken a brief look around the city, we headed back towards the station to grab food, from a food court on the 11th floor of a department store overlooking the surrounding area, before checking into our room at the hotel.

View from the Food Court

View from the Food Court

The hotel itself had its own Onsen, and after having a bit of a rest, I headed up there to enjoy the heated baths. Although as it was traditionally Japanese, this did mean having to go in naked!

After a soothing bath, it was finally time to sleep before the next day's adventure. However in the morning Chris had not slept well and was exhausted from the week's travel so far. Therefore I left him to get some rest, whilst I headed outside the city towards Miyajima Island.

Taking the train south for half an hour, upon arrival almost everyone got off - evidently full of tourists doing the same, and after a quick walk across the small village I boarded the ferry that would cross the small channel to the island. Upon arrival it was clear the traditional fishing village had now become a tourist magnet, being full of little shops and cafés.

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine

A five minute walk later and I arrived at the magnet of the island, the Itsukushima Shrine and it's torii gate. I had deliberately timed the visit this morning to coincide with high tide, when the gate appears to float in the water.

Floating Torii

Floating Torii

And with the local area also in full Cherry Blossom bloom, it made this one of the most pretty on the trip so far. After popping in the shops, and observing the local pagoda, I headed back to the ferry port and eventually the hotel to collect our bits.

Toyokuni Shrine Pagoda

Toyokuni Shrine Pagoda

Having rested this morning Chris now felt a bit better, and we headed back to the station to continue our journey, now headed for the city of Himeji. Himeji is not exciting enough to warrant a stay here overnight, but it does have one of the most important and beautiful castles in the country. And being just ten minutes from the station we decided to take a look.

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

Arriving at the palace, surrounded in cherry blossom, it was packed full of tourists, but not feeling completely better, Chris stayed outside with the bags, whilst I took a look inside. However the queues inside were long, and it took ages to get around the complex. Queuing to enter the palace took an hour, and I ended up skipping some of the sections altogether. Nevertheless it was an interesting place to visit and did look beautiful.

Inside Himeji Castle

Inside Himeji Castle

Relying on the trains, if we headed back to the station quickly we could make the next train, or otherwise we would have quite a long wait. We therefore decided to hurry and not long later we were back on the bullet train headed for the next city of destination - Kyoto.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 06:37 Archived in Japan Tagged palace train museum castle spa shrine nuclear gate bomb macabre eastasia cherryblossom Comments (0)

The Seoul of Korea

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Seoul

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After a busy few days in Beijing, we were headed on to our second city on the trip - Seoul, capital of South Korea.

Getting up early in order to make our morning flight, we arrived at Beijing Airport to find Air China had seated us in different sections of the plane. Annoying, but at least it would only be for an hour or so. We then found after boarding, that this had happened to numerous people on the flight and we were both surrounded by other people also separated from travelling companions. Ridiculous! Another tick against Air China.

Winter Olympic Legacy

Winter Olympic Legacy

Nevertheless we arrived at Incheon Airport in Seoul by mid-morning, finding it still filled with lots of Winter Olympic merchandise, and enjoyed the free WiFi with our first access to Facebook, WhatsApp and Google Maps in days. After struggling to get cash out from the local ATMs we eventually made it onto the train and headed into the city. Grabbing supermarket supplies we checked into our hotel early, dropped our bits and headed out to explore the first part of the city.

War Memorial of Korea

War Memorial of Korea

Our first sight in the city was the War Memorial of Korea, where military equipment and memorials sit outside the museum. After a wander around the complex, we headed on towards the Bongeunsa Temple in Gangnam.

World Peace Gate

World Peace Gate

After a quick walk around the shrines, we headed to the World Peace Gate, at the front of the Olympic Park. Walking past this gate and the eternal flame, we headed to the flagpoles, where the flag of each country that participated in the 1988 Olympic flies. This is particularly interesting as many countries have since changed their flags or disappeared entirely since the end of the Cold War, which are being kept here as a historic record of the event itself, and thus it was possible to walk past flags of the Soviet Union, Zaire and South Yemen.

Flags from the 1988 Olympic Games

Flags from the 1988 Olympic Games

After a long day, the last place on our list was Dongdaemun, the best preserved of the original city gates into the city. Starting at the modern Cultural Park just to the south, we made the short walk north to the gate itself, where I took a short walk up past the city walls for a vantage point over the area. After a long afternoon we headed back to the city centre, completing our loop of the outer city, and grabbed food before bed.

Dongdaemun

Dongdaemun

Having enjoyed our first lay in in days, we eventually headed out for our full day touring the rest of the city, beginning with the City Hall area. With a train just about to leave I jumped on it, to find Chris had got stuck behind some people and had missed it. Luckily the next train was just a few minutes later, and we eventually reunited not long later.

Emergency Supplies

Emergency Supplies

Leaving the metro station, which like others in the city also serves as an evacuation shelter - with its own food and medial supplies in the corridors, we arrived just in time to see the changing of guards ceremony outside the Deoksugang.

Ceremony at Deoksugang

Ceremony at Deoksugang

We got to watch most of it take place and even had a photo opportunity with one of the guards at the end, before we entered the complex itself to explore.

At Deoksugang

At Deoksugang


Cheonggyecheon

Cheonggyecheon

After taking a look at the City Hall square, walking north, we viewed the gentrified Cheonggyecheon stream, walking past the US embassy where there were a few protests, before arriving at the Gwanghwamun gate of the Gyeongbokgung royal palace.

Gwanghwamun Gate

Gwanghwamun Gate


Bukchon Hanok

Bukchon Hanok

After having a walk around the entrance to the complex we then headed westwards towards the Bukchon Hanok, a traditional Korean village located in the heart of the city. Spending a bit of time walking around the area, we headed to the Changdeokung palace, resting outside before continuing to the Changgyeonggung palace.

Changgyeonggung

Changgyeonggung

We then started heading back, through some side streets in the jewellery area, making our way down to the Jongmyo shrine, before heading to the Insadong shopping street. After having bought our souvenirs, we then headed via the Jogyesa shrine back to our hotel having now toured the city.

Inside the Jogyesa Shrine

Inside the Jogyesa Shrine

The following day was our last in South Korea, and was planned to be spent the DMZ. However a couple of days before we had received an email to inform us that due to the upcoming conference between the leaders of both North and South, in order to prepare, trips to the Joint Security Area were cancelled for the next month or so. A real pity we wouldn't get to see the blue UN huts, but having managed to rebook our tour, we still managed to head to the border zone itself and see some of the other sights.

Heading back to the City Hall area, we checked in for our excursion and boarded the coach. Not long later we headed north, arriving at the first checkpoint around an hour later, and having our passports checked.

Dora Observatory

Dora Observatory

We began at the Dora Observatory, for views from a small hill over the border area. From here we could see not only the border, but the first parts of North Korea on the Kaesong area on the other side - including the North Korean Peace Village, with the huge flag pole. We could also hear the propaganda broadcasts from each side - although when asked, our tour guide stated that due to different dialects she couldn't understand what the North was broadcasting anyway!

Views of North Korea

Views of North Korea

After time to take in the views, we then headed towards the Third Infiltration Tunnel. This tunnel is one of the four that have been found, dug by the North Koreans into the south. Due to its location in this area it is now a major tourist site, being included as part of tours to the DMZ. Unfortunately today the monorail had broken and thus we had to walk down the 350 metres to the bottom before walking the length of the tunnel up to the border line, where it had been sealed with concrete barricades. With Koreans generally being smaller than westerners it was a struggle for myself to walk along the tunnel, and many of the taller visitors hit their helmets on the top of the tunnel.

At the visitor centre

At the visitor centre

After a strenuous climb back to the top, we headed across the road to the visitor centre, to watch a video on the history of the tunnel, as well as see models of the DMZ.

Inside Dorasan Station

Inside Dorasan Station

We then boarded the bus again and made our way to the Dorasan Station, a modern station complex built during the last period of cooperation between both sides in the last 00s. The station in the last on the railway line in the south and if peace is achieved it is hoped that the line will be reconnected to the north. However being located within Civilian Control Area, the only visitors are tourists. The station has a gift shop and many plaques, and we also went onto the platform to see the special DMZ train as well as signs indicating the distance to North Korea.

On the platform

On the platform

After visiting most of the sights, we headed to a restaurant outside the immediate border area in Imjingak for Bulgogi, and then taking a look at the immediate area, include the Bridge of Freedom. This whole experience felt very surreal, as the risk of conflict in this area is so high, and yet it was so touristy, with an amusement park and souvenir shops, this could be a theme park!

Overlooking the Bridge of Freedom

Overlooking the Bridge of Freedom

Heading back to the city, we chilled for the rest of our time before our early morning rise and finally heading to Japan the following morning.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 08:59 Archived in South Korea Tagged temple train memorial city tunnel border shrine war olympic eastasia Comments (0)

The home of Sikhism

The Indian Experience - Amritsar

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After spending three nights in Delhi, I took an early train leaving at 7am from Delhi up to Amritsar. Although this journey could have been done much quicker by plane I decided that it would be more fun and a better overall experience to ride the Indian railways.

The real Indian trains

The real Indian trains


'First Class'

'First Class'

As this was India, it meant that the eight hour journey could be done in First Class with food for just £17. Bargain! And as we passed typical Indian train with locals clinging on to the sides, I didn't even feel like I missed out on the true experience! - despite the fellow travellers in my carriage being tourists and wealthy Indians.

Arriving at Amritsar

Arriving at Amritsar

Arriving at Amritsar station, and trudging my way through some slummy and disgustingly dirty areas I eventually made my way to my posh hotel, where the doors were once again opened for me. I had a lovely modern room and most importantly a western toilet! - Just in case.

For my stay in Amritsar I had only a few bits planned. As I was going back to work the morning after I arrived back home I felt it would be a good idea to take the last few days easy, and so all I had to see was the Golden Temple (both by day and by night), and the border ceremony.

Originally I had planned to see the border ceremony today, and then take my time tomorrow enjoying the Golden Temple, however as my train was delayed it seemed a bit too much of a rush to see the ceremony - for which I would need to arrive in good time, and therefore I thought I would just see the temple by night.

With my head covering at the Golden Temple

With my head covering at the Golden Temple

Leaving towards the temple it was still pretty light and after dropping my shoes and socks off, and donning a head covering, I arrived at the complex in daylight. With a quick walk through the water pool to clean my feet I had entered the complex, and began to proceed around the most holy sight in Sikhism, viewing the truly stunning Golden temple around the holy pool of water. With the chanting of the reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, and Sikhs immersing themselves in the water, the craziness of the outside world had been quickly forgotten.

Close up of the Golden Temple artwork

Close up of the Golden Temple artwork

From the entrance, the temple itself is around three-quarters of the way around the complex, and everyone is allowed to enter it. Although the whole complex is made out of marble, the temple itself is coated in gold, and the intricate design of this gold becomes highly visible as you near its entrance.

The Causeway by day

The Causeway by day

After waiting in a short queue I then made it across the causeway inside the Golden Temple itself, where the Guru Granth Sahib was being read whilst Sikhs sat in prayer. Again, another amazing experience. Returning towards the complex, I avoided the food on offer and made my way back to collect my shoes. I then bought a souvenir model of the temple, before visiting the Jallianwala Bagh memorial park - scene of a deadly massacre in 1919.

Moving topiary at Jallianwala Bagh

Moving topiary at Jallianwala Bagh

With it now being just over half an hour before sunset, I figured I might as well get some food and hang about to witness the temple in night time tonight, rather than coming back tomorrow.

I went to the McDonald's, but found that unlike the others in India that served chicken (of course there was no Pork or Beef), this one was a Vegetarian one! Great for a carnivore like me....Eating the veggie burger I had selected was a most disgusting experience when I witnessed the solid pea inside, and I ended up throwing half of my dinner away, instead just sitting around bored and waiting for sunset. Never did I think I'd be put off of McDonald's...

The Golden Temple by night

The Golden Temple by night

After it had got dark I made my way back to the Temple, and proceeded to repeat the same activities I had done an hour or so previously - including taking photos of the Temple in exactly the same position. With Amritsar being located in the far north of India, and it being a particularly cold snap in mid-January, the temperature this evening had already dropped to just 4˚C. Which when walking around bare feet on cold marble can be quite gruelling. However despite this it was still a magical experience to witness the temple lit up in all its glory.

The Causeway at night

The Causeway at night

After making my way back to the hotel I was absolutely exhausted. Although I made the most of the hot water for the shower and the heating before taking a well earnest rest - all I had left now was the border ceremony...right?

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Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in India Tagged temple shrine war sikhism indianexperience Comments (0)

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