It is famous for housing a very large statue of the Goddess of Mercy surrounded by 1,000 smaller, but nearly life-sized, statues of Goddess of Mercy (bringing the total number of statues to be 1,001). The main hall of the temple is a very long wooden structure and its name literally means ‘a hall with thirty-three spaces between the columns’. When visiting the main hall, visitors have to take off their shoes and change into indoor slippers provided by the temple.
The view of the statues in the main hall is very impressive. Pity photography is not allowed in the main hall.
The picturesque temple grounds were accentuated by cherry blossom trees in full bloom.
Having finally been to the Sanjusangendo, I feel that it should be a compulsory stop in anyone’s Kyoto itinerary. You will be blown away by the sight of the statues.
Gosh, it is almost coming to the end of May and I am still blogging about the Japan trip which ended in the first week of April. I reckon that by the time I am done with all these posts, it would be autumn. You will be seeing photos of the cherry blossoms in Tokyo possibly only in November, just in time to start planning for another spring trip to Japan.
There are soooo many Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Kyoto that you could spend days doing nothing but hop from one temple to another shrine. In our previous visits (this is my third visit to Kyoto and the huband’s second), we had already seen the highly popular Kiyomizudera temple, the Kinkakuji, the Ginkakuji, and some others, we skipped those this round and visited several others that we have not been to. This time, we went to the Chion-in Temple, the Fushimi-Inari Shrine and the Sanjusangendo.
The Fushimi-Inari Shrine, with its stunning orange-red Sen-bon torii gates, was at the top of my to-go list. It is the head shrine in Inari, located in Fushimi-ku, at the base of Mount Inari. What is Inari? Inari is the Japanese Goddess of rice, responsible for protecting the rice fields and ensuring fertility, and foxes are her messengers.
(The Japanese anime, Inari Kon Kon Koi Iroha, has a backdrop in Fushimi-Inari Shrine. The story is about a high school girl called Fushimi Inari who rescues a fox pup belonging to the resident kami of the shrine and is given the powers by the kami to transform her appearance. The artwork of Fushimi-Inari in the anime is beautiful.)
To hike from the main temple complex, through the torii gates, to the top of the Mount Inari takes approximately two hours. I read that the best times to do the hike are during the early morning hours or in the late afternoon. The temple and its surroundings are said to very quiet and magical then, while others have described the place to look rather eerie at that hour of the day. Going by what I see of the temple in Inari Kon Kon Koi Iroha, the temple is stunning when the sun sets.
Together with hoards of visitors, we started making our way up the Sen-bon Torii from this torii gate with the guardian fox statues.
Shortly after, we arrived at the widely-photographed twin entrances to the densely packed torii gates. It was way too crowded for me to take a good photo of the entrances ‘cos everyone had the same idea as me.
The side of the torii gates where the characters were painted on them. Each torii gate bears the name of its donor on one side. The view through these torii gates is really beautiful. The path looks quiet and peaceful in this photograph. From these photos, you cannot tell how crowded the path was. I had to wait for the moments when the crowds have dissipated to click the shutter. I had to be quick ‘cos before you know it, another large group of people would appear…
At the other end of the torii gates. Then we continued to march on through another stretch of less densely packed torii gates, slowing making our way up to the mountain.
Midway point. The Okuno-sha shrine, with many miniature toriis on display. Where we turned back and went down the same route to go back to the temple complex. Then to lunch!
I visited the Suncheon Open Film Set several years back which I have not blogged about and I just feel like doing so now! Lots of my friends like to ask me for recommendations on where to go outside Seoul, besides Jeju and Busan. I always say ‘Go to Suncheon! It is a really nice place’. So far, no one I know has taken me up on my suggestion. Boooo.
After going to the Suncheon Bay, Songgwangsa Temple and Seonamsa Temple, I had a spare morning before heading back to Seoul. I was torn between the Naganeupseong Folk Village and the Open Film Set, and had only time for one. I picked the latter because the city bus schedule to and from the folk village was not good for me. No regrets ‘cos the Open Film Set is one of the most interesting places that I have been to. Highly recommended especially if you are a photography buff.
I took a cab to the Open Film Set (it is just a short ride away from the Suncheon city centre). The location is a little out of the way to hail a cab back to the city centre, so what I did was to ask the staff of the ticket office to call a cab for me when I was ready to leave. I have done this many times while visiting out-of-the-way places in various parts of Korea and the Koreans have always been very helpful in getting me a cab. There is a small entrance fee to the the Open Film Set, though I cannot remember how much it is now.
This film set is fairly huge and very nice. They re-created the streets of Korea from the 1950s to the 1970s in this place. It is akin to being in an open-air historical museum, and a good place for young Koreans and foreigners to learn more about the history of the country. I remember being glued to Sandglass, a highly popular drama set in the 1960s and 1970s, portraying the political situation in Korea at that time including the events around the Gwangju uprising.
There were several groups of photography buffs taking photos with their friends posing with the buildings. I was alone so I tried to snap photographs whenever someone in this group posed for a photo; otherwise, I would only have photos of the buildings and streets.
After spending 5 days in Fukuoka, I took the shinkansen from JR Hakata to Kyoto where I met up with my husband, who had flown into Kansai from Singapore that morning. It was a Friday and the JR stations in Osaka (the transfer station for trains bound for Kyoto) and Kyoto were packed to the brim with people! It was only upon arrival at our hotel in Kyoto that we realized that we had run SMACK into a long public holiday weekend (the Vernal Equinox Day) in Japan. It was not the best time to be in Kyoto.
Despite the long queue for a taxi outside the JR station, I managed to hop into one fairly quickly. We chose to stay at Hotel Mume which seemed to be located in an obscure street somewhere in Gion, given the deep frowns of the rather grumpy taxi driver when I showed him the address of our hotel in Japanese. Muttering the address repeatedly to himself throughout the drive, I got the impression that he did not recognise either the hotel or its address. I was afraid that we would wound up circling the streets looking for the hotel, and eventually burning a hole in my pocket. I whipped out my iPad, looked for the hotel’s location on Google Maps, and monitored the path of the taxi making its way to the hotel. Good, we were on the right track.
Hotel Mume is located in a very quiet street. The hotel has a discreet entrance; so discreet that the taxi driver and I were standing right in front of the main door yet could not see it. More about the hotel later. After checking-in, we decided to find ourselves some lunch. As it was a public holiday, quite a number of restaurants around the hotel were closed, so we ended up eating a fast-food sort of pasta in a cafe after wandering around fruitlessin in a very crowded Gion, trying to find a place to eat. On hindsight, we were obviously looking for food in the wrong part of town. Everyone seemed to be in Gion. The crowded streets were filled with lovely women, elegantly clad in their kimonos with flowers tucked in their hair. I felt like a klutz, as usual.
To avoid the crowds, we escaped to the Kamogawa, strolled along the river before crossing over to the quieter side streets along Teramachi-dori. This street was lined with beautiful traditional wooden houses, swaying willow trees, pretty lighted street lamps and tinkling waters from the canal. Peaceful and zen. A completely different stage compared to the streets of Gion that we had just left behind.
Indie cafes are popping up everywhere on our island. Most of them are seem to be doing a roaring business throughout the week, especially during the weekends, when it is nearly impossible to find a table if you don’t turn up early.
Last Sunday, after visiting the orchid market (this takes place every first Sunday of the month) at the Botanic Gardens, we hopped over to Assembly Coffeejust down the road at 26 Evans Lodge to meet our friends and catch up over coffee. We were shown a table immediately upon arrival as the cafe was not packed. Yet. Thank goodness! Nothing more hateful than to have to queue for a table for coffee on a Sunday morning.
Assembly Coffee occupies a small space in Evans Lodge, with just 7 to 8 tables seating 3 to 4 people and a long high table in the centre which can probably seat another 10 persons. The decor is fairly nondescript, sporting the same design as many of the other indie cafes in Singapore: they either have the raw-industrial-with-exposed-lightbulbs-look or lots-of-dark-wood-look. Assembly Coffee falls somewhere in between.
Sometimes, I wish people would put in more thought in having a stronger personal touch in their cafes. The same type of chairs. The same type of tables. The same lamps. How many times have you seen cafes display a table that has been converted from a used sewing machine? So much potential for creativity untapped.
While waiting for our friends and their baby to arrive, we ordered our coffee drinks and a salted caramel buttermilk waffle with vanilla ice cream. My husband ordered his usual expresso. Even though I don’t like latte (too much milk), I was intrigued by the ‘deconstructed latte‘ shown on the menu and ordered one to try.
The deconstructed latte came in a package comprising a shot of expresso, a glass of foamed milk and a regular serving of latte. That’s three drinks for me! It sounds like a great option for a family with a young child – the parents could have the expresso and latte, and pass the milk to the child. The barista explained that she wanted to let people to appreciate the components of latte by letting them have a taste of an expresso and foamed milk, followed by the latte. I am not quite sure that helped me change my mind about latte; I still don’t enjoy it but I appreciated the expresso shot that came with it.
We thought that the coffee at Assembly Coffee is pretty good. The coffee beans were roasted to create well-balanced aromatic flavors that were neither too bitter or acidic. As for the salted caramel buttermilk waffles, they were AWESOME. Light, fluffy and scrumptious! We wolfed it all down very quickly.
Assembly Coffee is one place that I would keep coming back for the coffee and buttermilk waffles. The menu contains the usual brunch fare which we may try on our subsequent visits, provided I can hold myself back from not eating an entire plate of buttermilk waffles on my own.
We like that the cafe has an un-pretentious and comfortable atmosphere, and it is also great to see how passionate the barista (who is a very attractive, tall, slim-legged, long-haired lady) is about making coffee. It is all written in her body language (as a friend puts it, look at how she cradles the cup so lovingly to her bosom) and it is quite a pleasure to watch her make your coffee.
Visiting Yanagawa, a former castle town approximately 45 minutes away from Fukuoka city by the limited express train, was not originally on my itinerary. As the lady-owner of the o-zenzai shop recommended that I visit Yanagawa to experience the canal boat tours, I decided not to go to Yufuin, the popular onsen town in Kyushu, and spend my last day in Fukuoka at Yanagawa.
Suncheon Bay is an ecological wetland comprising a long stream, a wide tideland and wide fields of reeds. It is the habitat of migratory birds, plants and animals. I knew I wanted to visit this place when I first read about it.
I stayed 3D2N in downtown Suncheon, just enough time for me to visit the Songgwangsa Temple, Suncheon Bay, the Seonamsa Temple, and the Suncheon Open Film Set before taking the bus back to Seoul. Most of the city buses heading to the attractions in Suncheon leave from the city centre, in front or close to the train station. Suncheon Bay is about 20 minutes away by the city bus which stops just across the road from the entrance of the park, and entry to the park is free.
I fell in love with this park the minute I stepped foot into the sprawling park. It was late autumn and the park was bathed in a sea of golden reeds.
Every photo decluttering exercise is an opportunity to reminisce about my trips. This time, I am cleaning up the folders containing photographs of my 5-week trip to Korea in late autumn of 2010. I dugged out some photos of my favourite places to put up here. I have no idea why it has taken me several years to do so, but as they always say, better late than never.
I love visiting Korea, and I have gone back every year since 2007. With the exception of the 5-week trip, the rest of my visits were short trips lasting between 4 days to 10 days. I have been there in all four seasons and autumn is my favorite time of the year to visit because the fall colours are beautiful. Despite having been there so many times, there are still so many parts of the country that I have not seen. I haven’t been to the DMZ, for example; or gone to Andong, or seen the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
I cannot exactly explain what about the country that I am besotted with. I like the scenery. Both the urban and countryside landscope. I like the culture. I like the food. I have no problems eating Korean food three times a day, or kimchi everyday. I suppose it is also largely due the fact that it is a place that I feel comfortable travelling around on my own even though I cannot speak the language.
People have asked how I manage to get around the country, especially in the countryside, when I don’t speak the language. I bring along Korean versions of maps of the city or town that I am in, circle the places that I want to go to on the maps, so that I can show them to cab-drivers or to anyone whom I may be seeking directions from. I also copy down names and addresses of the hotels or motels that I would be staying at, in Hangeul, to reduce the difficulty of getting understood (or misunderstood) by the locals.
My preferred mode of traveling between cities or towns is by coach, and by cab within the area. Getting around Korea by bus is very easy, convenient and affordable even if you don’t speak the language. All I have to do is to take a cab to the city or town bus terminal, buy a coach ticket, stick my suitcase in the luggage compartment, board the bus, go to sleep and wake up at my destination several hours later. I have taken the KTX and comparing the train and coach, I find the coach a much easier way to travel between cities or towns because coach travel rarely requires me to change coaches, or lug my luggage up and down platforms. I never have to worry about missing the connecting train, or getting off at the wrong station.
During the 5 week trip, I started out in Seoul, then travelled to Gangneung, Jeju, Jeonju, Gwangju, Suncheon and Gyeongju. I liked Suncheon alot, especially Suncheon Bay and the Songgwangsa Temple.
Prior to Suncheon, I was in Gwangju. I took an early morning coach from Gwangju to Suncheon, arrived just before noon, checked into the motel, dropped my bags and went out to Songgwangsa Temple.
Songgwangsa is about an hour-half away by bus from the city center of Suncheon. I boarded the bus outside the Suncheon Station, and the scenic bus ride took me along the streets of Suncheon, into the outskirts, then the countryside before climbing up winding roads of a mountain to reach its final destination at Songgwangsa Temple. It is a short walk to the entrance of the temple from the bus stop. I recall paying a small fee – nothing more than 5,000 Won – to enter the temple.
Dotted with tall, beautiful trees, and some of these crowned in fall colors, the grounds of Songgwangsa were beautiful, tranquil and peaceful. The whole place is as pretty as a picture. I imagine how green and lush the place will be during spring and summer.
My father lived in one of the walk-up apartments in this old estate with his family before he married my mother.
As a child, I spent nearly every weekend at my paternal granny’s home in that estate. I disliked going there. The flat that my grandmother lived in was small, dark, noisy and crowded (with at least eight people living together). What traumatised me then was the existence of a spittoon that was placed at the entrance to the kitchen, and in full view of everyone sitting in the living room. My male cousins peed into the spittoon and my uncles spat into it! ARGHHH! That’s how many people lived in those days but still…! I was so freaked out by the spittoon and it made me want to throw up everytime I saw it. I had to make a conscious effort NOT to look at the spittoon.
From the child’s eyes, the rest of the estate was old, boring and surrounded by ugly low-rise buildings that did not come with elevators. There was nothing much for me to do, no interesting stationery shops or bookstores to visit, no playgrounds to hang out at. I was sulky every weekend.
This is the block of flats that my dad and his family used to live in. This block and the surrounding blocks have been converted into service apartments managed by Global Residence. I wondered how the interior of these flats look like now, so I went to check out the website of Global Residence here. OMG.
Who would have thought that this old estate would receive a shot to life twenty decades later by a host of popular cafes and eateries that have set up shop in the neighbourhood. The pre-war buildings that I used to think were ugly are considered charming and are highly-prized by young couples and singles to be hip dwellings. Ha! I wouldn’t mind owning one of these flats myself. There are plenty of open spaces with stone benches with shady trees for one to sit down at, watch people, listen to the birds and do nothing.
From being a place that I tried to avoid visiting, I have now been spending many of my weekday mornings there. I drop the husband off at work in the morning and head to Tiong Bahru to do some marketing at the wet market and have breakfast. Eating a bowl of dry, chili fishball noodles from this stall called Hu Ji (#02-44) is one of the things that I look forward to during my ‘marketing mornings’. I discovered this stall, run by an elderly couple, recently. They give a generous portion for only S$2! With inflation and rising costs, it is almost impossible to find a good bowl of noodles for a mere S$2 now.
Tiong Bahru is a hobbyist photographer’s paradise. One of the mornings when I was at Tiong Bahru, I arranged to meet a friend for coffee in one of the cafes. As I was early, I took a slow walk around several streets in the estate and snapped some photos with my Nikon. I did some post-processing of the photos and decided on a mixture of colour and black-and-white.
Well, a food centre is where the majority of Singaporeans eat their breakfast. It’s not exactly the most healthy way of starting one’s day, but it’s convenient, affordable and delicious.
I have no idea how many people actually return their trays after finishing their meal, as it is not something that is intuitive in our society.
A Taoist altar by the roadside where anyone can just offer incense, and a donation. I consciously avoid going near these altars as my mom used to warn me about incurring the wrath of the Gods should I accidentally upset any of the offerings.
I like these curved staircase balconies. They don’t make buildings with these anymore.
I hung out at one of the staircase balconies in a block of apartments and watched the activity below. These balconies are good spots for photography, quiet and with little human traffic.
There is a really good Teochew braised duck rice/noodle stall in this coffeeshop which I like. They do a very brisk business everyday.
Nostalgia. That’s how gas used for cooking is delivered to some households without piped gas. There is always the risk of running out of gas in the middle of cooking a meal!
Could not get a good shot of this spiral staircase, common in these buildings, from where I was standing. So beautiful. To think I used to consider these staircases ugly. My eye for beauty was clearly under-developed when I was a child.
Modern high-rise apartments in the background. Old versus the new.
We call these incense holders ‘bai bai‘ which means ‘to pray’ in local dialect. My mom’s incense holder is suspended from the ceiling just outside her flat, which I have accidentally bumped my head into several times.
Poor doggie. Secured to a lamp-post by its leash, the owner has probably gone for a bite in the food centre.
A men’s salon. Where they can get waxed, shaved and tweezed.
And I arrived at Tiong Bahru Bakery where I met a friend for coffee. I barely covered one-quarter of the neighborhood!
During last year’s Christmas festive season, I visited Shop Wonderland’s new digs at 37 Haji Lane twice, once with the husband and the other time with my cousin. They moved from their previous shop in Haji Lane to a larger 3-storey unit on the same street. With the larger premises, they have added a cafe to the ground floor, a small cosy space that sits probably no more than 20 people. The second floor consists of a retail space showcasing a curated selection of lovely things for the homesuch as vases, bottles, snuff boxes, cushions, calendars, as well as a studio for conducting workshops and classes. It is great because we no longer have to trek all the way to their warehouse in Bukit Batok for classes like the one that I previously attended. The third floor is an office space for the business.
While the decor of the new shop space has retained the characteristic Wonderland style – whimsical, quirky and romantic – they have also tweaked the look slightly to include a Chinoserie feel to the place. I took some photos of the place using my iPhone and my DSLR, not as many as I would have liked, and mostly of the cafe. I was too busy shopping in the retail store on the second floor to take photographs. I bought some table calendars, a little dish to hold my ear-studs, a vintage lead crystal vase (I think!) and some white enamel plates with a blue rim. I have been looking for these enamel plates like forever and was so happy to see them in the shop.
Pretty vases in different shapes and sizes held stalks of bright-faced sunflowers. Creating a brand, an ambience, a feel? It is in the details. Casual little touches that follow a consistent theme, give the place its character.
Named as ‘The Pantry’, the cafe serves beverages and an assortment of cakes, muffins and pastries from Plain Vanilla, Maple and Market, Patissierie G and Carpenter & Cook. They do not make their own food. This is probably the only cafe in Singapore right now where you can get to taste the baked goods from these popular bakeries in one place. I see from Wonderland’s Facebook page that their all-day breakfast during weekends is served on cake-tiers. I might try that one of these weekends, except that whenever I am in that area, I am tempted to eat prawn noodles and ngor-hiang at Beach Road.
I spotted the raspberry cake, one of my favourite cakes by Maple and Market, on display. That, or the croissants by Patissierie G. I went with a muffin in the end. Well, one of my New Year resolutions (sorta) is to cut down on sugar which means that I have to will myself to eat less cakes, pastries, ice-cream and most desserts really. I do not have a particularly sweet tooth but I do enjoy eating cakes and ice-cream from time to time.
Artfully arranged on pieces of tree stumps.
Iconic Tiffany chairs which are the signature of Wonderland’s styling events, in gold here, provide a eye-catching contrast against the black table-cloth.
Stretch out and grab a magazine while waiting for your food. I chose Frankie.
My breakfast, a flat-white and a muffin (chocolate, I think).
Lovely tea-cups in a cheery berries print. Tea-drinkers, anybody?
Christmas wreaths! We bought one from the shop (not this one though), our first Christmas wreath, which we hung on the back of our door instead of the front. So that we can see the wreath whenever we are at home.
I really like these retro-looking ceiling lamps.
That’s all I have. I will have to try and take some photos of the second floor when I next visit. Hopefully soon. It is a nice stop to rest your feet while exploring the rest of the shops in Haji Lane. Also, it is really nice to see more of these indie cafes popping up all over Singapore.
Shop Wonderland / Wonderland For Detailed Planners
37 Haji Lane
I am in the midst of cleaning up my Instagram photo stream. I currently have over 1000 Instagram photos on the Instagram photo stream, most of which are food photos while some others are trial-and-error photos that I randomly take to play around with the Instagram filters.
I have a series of Instagram photos which I took at the wedding of a couple friend last year. I shared these photos on Facebook with them but I have always wanted to do something nice with these photos so that I could give physical copies of the photos to the couple as keepsake. I was about to use the services of Tiny Tiles and turn these Instagram photos into fridge magnets, then I came across Social Print Studio, a company based in San Francisco that prints Instagram photos.
Social Print Studio makes it very easy for you to order photos online. I ordered the prints online by selecting the photos on my Instagram photostream, having first given Social Print Studio access to the photostream. They offer several print options – squares, greeting cards, posters, stickers, calendars, mini albums. I chose to print my photos on squares so that the prints look like Instagram photos. It costs me US$12 for 24 photos plus another US$12 for international shipping.
The photos turned up by FedEx within a week. On thick, good quality paper in a matte finish. I am happy…and I don’t think this will be the first and last time that I am using their services. It is a super fun way of getting my photos printed.
I have heard good things about the flea market organised by Public Garden. I wasn’t able to drop by the last few flea markets held at the National Museum and was looking forward to visiting the one at Zouk today.
But I was disappointed by the quality of the flea market. It was poorly curated, with very few interesting offerings. Most of the stalls, organised in a terribly messy fashion resembling a Club 21 bazaar, were selling a mish-mash of clothes, shoes and accessories that were not displayed in a visually appealing manner. The venue of Zouk was also a poor choice due to space constraints. The place was small, narrow and poorly ventilated which made it difficult for one to view the things that were on display. I was peering over someone’s shoulder most of the time, there was barely any space for one to move and consequently, quite a fair bit of shoving and pushing around, albeit unintentional.
No good at all. We left after wandering around for 20 minutes. Before I hyperventilate from the bad air.
We then headed to Maple & Market for a cup of joe and some cakes. I let K play around with my Nikon which she used to take photos of the cute bakery (using a 5omm/f1.4 lens). Just use your instincts and when your mind tells you that it likes what your eyes see through the viewfinder, click the shutter.