Tag Archives: travel

Travel Diaries – Tokyo, Japan

I visited Tokyo, Japan in March 2017. It’s a huge, beautiful city and you cannot cover everything  awesome in few days. I spent 4 nights in Tokyo and 5 nights in Kamakura.

Travel Tip: Tokyo has a great train network. But they are operated by different companies like JR, Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway. Make sure you buy a prepaid IC card like PASMO or Suica at the airport to avoid wasting time at ticket booths every time you transfer between lines. Also, make sure you are looking at the correct train network map when you’re planning the trip.

In Tokyo, I stayed in a hostel near the Asakusabashi station because it’s in the center of several attractions such as Asakusa, Ueno, Akihabara and Ryōgoku. In Asakusa, I visted the Sensō-ji Temple. It is a colorful, ancient, Buddhist temple.

If you’re a fan of anime, manga, board games and electronics, you should visit Akihabara, the geek town of Tokyo. In Shibuya, you’ll find the busiest intersection in the world, the Shibuya crossing, and the Hachiko memorial.

Edo-Tokyo museum, situated near the Ryogoku station, provided me with a concise view of the Edo period and the recent history of Tokyo. The kids will love the hands-on exhibits and photo-ops as well. There are free traditional magic shows and other cultural events in the weekends as well.

If you are interested in a more in-depth tour covering the history of Japan and Buddhism in Asia, make sure you check out the Asian gallery of Tokyo National Museum, in Ueno. The highlight for me was the large collection of Buddhist sculptures from the Gandhara, Mathura and Gupta periods. Tip for the history buffs: Ueno area is the home to several other museums as well, National Museum of Western Art, National Science Museum, and the Shitamachi Museum.

In Kamakura area, the highlight for me was the Great Buddha Statue (Daibutsu) at the Kotokuin temple. I also visited the Hase-kannon Temple and the Hachiman-gu Shrine in Kamakura. In Japan, shrines are built to worship elements from both Shinto and Buddhism, while temples are dedicated to Buddhism.

I tasted some special food items in Tokyo as well. I tried Kibi dango and Ningyo-yaki (snacks made out of rice flour and redbean paste) at the Nakamise shopping street in Asakusa. Then there were delicious sushi and sashimi at some local restaurants. Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake that can have a mix of ingredients. Travel Tip: If you want to taste some authentic Japanese food for cheap for one last time before leaving Tokyo, there are some good restaurants at the Narita and Haneda airports.

Travel Diaries – Auckland, New Zealand

I visited Auckland, New Zealand in March 2013. Although it’s the largest and most populous city in the country, I found it to be a very relaxed city where everyone closes shops early and goes to sleep around 6pm and even a cat lost at sea makes headlines in the local newspaper. It’s situated in the north island of New Zealand and straddles the Auckland volcanic field. So here I got to visit Mount Eden, a volcanic crater (specifically a scoria cone) one of many formations created due to the merely dormant volcanic field. I also got another rare chance to visit Eden Park, the city’s primary stadium where the 2011 Rugby World Cup matches and many famous cricket matches were held. Other attractions in the city include the Harbour Bridge (and Harbourfront at night), Sky Tower (the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere) and the Auckland museum.
Later in the trip, we drove 260kms down south to the geothermal wonderland of Wai-O-Tapu in Rotorua. It’s a protected reserve of stunningly colourful geothermal activity, with many hot springs, Sulphur caves noted for their colourful appearance, in addition to the Lady Knox Geyser, Champagne Pool, Artist’s Palette, Primrose Terrace and boiling mud pools. The absurd and volatile conditions of the area should not be missed by anyone interested in studying Geology.
On a side note, Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in canoe voyages. Each Māori tribe has a sacred tree and a mountain. Mt. Eden is the ‘Mountain of the Whau tree’ or ‘Maungawhau’ in Māori language. Wai-o-tapu is Māori for “sacred waters”.
If you a wondering who’s Moa while going through the photo gallery,  they were nine species of flightless birds endemic to New Zealand, driven to extinction by hunting and, to a lesser extent, by habitat reduction due to forest clearance.
The delicacy not to be missed in New Zealand is Hāngi or Umu. They are meats and vegetables, wrapped in leaves, cooked by traditional New Zealand Māori method of using heated rocks buried in a pit oven.

Thanks Madhuka for the pics.

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Travel Diaries – Örebro, Sweden

I visited Örebro, Sweden in February 2012. Sweden, the home of IKEA, Electrolux, Volvo and Sony Ericsson, is a very beautiful country. Everybody understands English here. But you will be very comfortable making new friends, reading signs, finding your way if you know a bit of Swedish. We had a 3 hour train ride from the Stockholm Arlanda Airport to Örebro. The highlight of the city is the ancient castle at the centre and the magnificent Scandinavian architecture. We stayed at the nice hotel, Scandic Grand which is very close to the Örebro Castle and Hjalmar Bergman Theater. I also got to taste very sweet Tjillevippen, or Killevippen. As discussed here the word “Tjillevippen” comes form Astrid Lindgren‘s story about Nils Karlsson Pyssling. “Tjillevippen” is what the boy Bertil says to become as tiny as his little fellow friend Nils. It’s meringue with vanilla cream inside and chocolate butter cream on the outside, dusted with powdered sugar and sometimes served with shaved chocolate.

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