Travel

Travelling have opened my mind to a wonderful world. Having lived in a few countries with my family for a decade; I have come to appreciate people of different societies and cultures a little better. Their generosity, kindness, patience and perseverance inspires me to live life just as well. Always remembering to pay it forward. 

Aqua World @ Oarai Ibaraki, Japan

Leave No Trace

Was fascinated with this sponge-back crab in the aquarium. It is no SpongeBob SquarePants for sure. A quick search revealed that it is not uncommon for crabs to use sponge like material as camouflage and against chemical or toxin attack by predators. Top right of the photo are similar but smaller crabs using a white sponge like substance as camouflage. 

Am reminded of a 60s - 70s 'Leave No Trace' movement in the United States. Whether it is beaches, food courts, national parks and wherever we visit; it reflect well on oneself to leave no traces after use of or enjoyment of a place. 

Example is not the main thing in teaching

It is the only thing.

Albert Schweitzer

The Pavilion / Far East Square, Singapore

Happiness

Explored Amoy Street, Telok Ayer and Everton Park over the weekend. Along the way I came across this Lim Leong Seng sculpture of children playing 'chapteh'. It is a game we often played as children in the 60s - 70s, pre-television and decades before smartphones. Between Amoy and Telok Ayer, many of Lim's masterpieces were on display with brief description of each art work. 

Ended the 8 kilometres exploration at a quaint cafe called 'The Better Half'. It is run by a young couple Jonathan & HweeYing. This small, charming cafe sits four inside and another four outside. Located near Outram Park MRT station @ 1 Everton Park #-01-43.

Happiness is a good cup of coffee & pastry ... bon appetit.

We know that the best predictor of human happiness is human relationships

and the amount of time that people spend with family and friends.

We know that it's significantly more important than money

and somewhat more important than health.

Daniel Gilbert

Yangmingshan Taipei, Taiwan

921 Earth

Our family first moved to Taipei in June 1999. This old picture of our children and neighbour looking at something 'creepy' on the ground reminded me of the early weeks in September 1999 when I had to get rid of dozen of leeches in our garden daily.

On 21 September, a 7.3 earthquake struck central Taiwan and its tremors were felt throughout the island; including our home in the mountain. Power were cut off for days. While no one was hurt in our family; unfortunately more than two thousands four hundred lives were lost in this Jiji Earthquake, also known as the great earthquake of September 21.  

As for the leeches, strangely it never returned after the earthquake. Which beg the question, what were the children looking at?

I wish I'd the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Bronnie Ware

(The Top Five Regrets of the Dying)

Bruges, Belgium

Passer-by

Situated in the north-west of Belgium, Bruges is a quaint city with cobbled streets and medieval buildings. The city is famous for nougats and sumptuous seafood at the Market Square. Driving into the city is like entering into an old world. Population is only about 118,000 and most of the people we see in the weekends are tourist or passer-by. 

... in the end, all we have are the times that we miss,

and the times that we regret, but regardless,

we must always treasure the moments that we have now.

Drama: Listen to Love

German Girl Shrine, Pulau Ubin, Singapore

Kindness

While looking for hiking location on the island, I came across this place of interest and was curious about the shrine's history.

 

Here is National Parks Board description of the shrine history:

The story began in the 1910s, just before the First World War (1914-1918). There was a German family living on Pulau Ubin who owned a coffee plantation. According to historical research, the plot of land used to belong to two German families, Daniel Brandt's and Hermann Muhlingan's, but the identity of the German girl remains unknown.

When war broke out, the British military rounded up the German plantation owner and his family. His frightened daughter, who was about 18 years old, escaped into the woods. The rest of her family was sent to a detention barrack on mainland Singapore. A few days later, the girl's body was found covered with ants by the plantation workers. It was believed that she had lost her way and fell to her death from a cliff. Her corpse was discovered by Boyanese plantation labourers, who threw sand over her body and offered prayers, flowers and incense as a gesture of goodwill each time they passed her.

Eventually a group of Chinese workers on the island carted her remains to the crest of the quarry's hill and gave her a proper burial.

It is a tragic story. A young girl whose name we know not. Despite the tragedy, the kind villagers on Pulau Ubin gave her a proper burial out of respect. The German Girl Shrine was upgraded at least twice to this present location at the remote West end of the island. Walk from the jetty is a little more than 4 kilometres each way. 

Note: The shrine is currently closed due to Ministry of Health COVID-19 guidelines. 

It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.

William Lonsdale Watkinson,

The Supreme Conquest (likely origin)

Tempozan Market Place, Osaka Japan

This is Water

While exploring Tempozan Market Place near Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, we came across this interesting metal art piece. 

The love for sashimi elevated to a different level. 

There are these two young fish swimming along,

and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way,

who nods at them and says, "Morning, boys, how's the water?"

And the two young fish swim on for a bit,

and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes,

"What the hell is water?"

David Foster Wallace - This is Water

MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore

Contentment

An image captured while hiking deep inside MacRitchie Reservoir just before Singapore implementation of 'circuit breaker' or lockdown. 

Walking is a simple pleasure. An activity one appreciate with age. In a tranquil environment, it allows the mind to find peace and contentment.

In contentment, one learn to turn away from temptation and greed. Focusing our time and energy on relationships and friendships dear to us. 

He who is not contented with what he has,

Would not be contented with what he would like to have.

Socrates

Yunnan Ethnic Village

Old World, High Tech

While tourist were attracted to the ethnics and culture of the old world; the young in the 'old world' were attracted to high tech in the new world. There are 26 ethnic groups in Yunnan Province. Yunnan Ethnic village is about 10 kilometres from downtown Kunming. While mega cities are great for shopping; villages are wonderful places for people watching, the muse and contrast.

You can only be truly accomplished at something you love.

Don't make money the goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing,

And do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you.

All the other tangible rewards will come as a result. 

Maya Angelou

Remember

Christina Rossetti 

(1830-1894)

Remember me when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay,

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you plann'd:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

Jiuxiang Karst Cave, Kunming, Yunnan

Rainbow Reflection

Jiuxiang is a scenic area consisting of hundreds of karst caves stretching about 40 kilometres. It is an enchanting site filled with rivers, waterfalls and rock bridges. The stillness of water against a colourful backdrop was a sight to behold. Besides beautiful landscape, visitors can also observe the customs and culture of the Yi and Hui minorities in this area.  

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters,

Compared to what lies within us.

And when we bring what is within us out into the world,

Miracles happen.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lake Kawaguchiko, Japan

Solitude

In solitude, one begin to realise the enormous joy of freedom. Doing what we enjoy, going to places longed for and be with people we loves. 

Before deciding to visit Lake Kawaguchiko, we were told that Mount Fuji will not be visible due to low cloud. We decided to take our chance. Hop on a bus and towards Wakakusa No Yado Maruei we quickly alighted when we caught a glimpse of a clear Mount Fuji and a man fishing in solitude ... just for a short while before low cloud returns. 

You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen.

But if you are beautiful at sixty,

It will be your soul's own doing.

Marie Stopes (1880~1958)

East Coast Park, Singapore

Social Distancing

The recent Bloomberg opinion piece, "For introverts, quarantine can be a liberation" by Andreas Kluth is a interesting read. 

However, whether we are introverts, extroverts or ambiverts; the call to stay home and exercise social distancing is perhaps a good opportunity for us to reflect on life's priorities. What is important to us in the pursuit of happiness.

This picture reminds us that as we contemplates; life goes on. Folks are working hard to ensure goods are moved to where demand is needed; as professionals and medical staffs work round the clock to tame the epidemic. 

You begin your journey not knowing where it will take you.

You have plans, you have dreams, but every now and again

You have to take uncharted road, face impassable mountains,

Cross treacherous rivers, be blocked by landslides and earthquakes.

That's the way my life has been ...

Lee Kuan Yew @ 80

Cheong Fatt Tze (The Blue Mansion)

George Town, Penang Malaysia

Life Goes On

This heritage mansion was built by Cheong Fatt Tze in the 19th century. It has 38 rooms and 5 courtyards. A lovely place to spend a couple of nights if you are visiting Penang. It was the home of his favoured seventh wife and also acted as Cheong's commercial enterprises as well as housing the Chinese Vice-Consulate. 

The building fell into disrepair after Cheong's passing in 1916. Restoration work by conservationists eventually brought the building back to life in 1995 and outfitted as a boutique hotel since.

Imagined these trishaws were at one time the livelihood of its owners. Life must have been hard ferrying passengers to destinations under the tropical heat. Eventually, trishaws gave way to mechanised transportation and life goes on. 

 

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces,

I would still plant my apple tree.

Martin Luther

Marina Bay, Singapore

Memories

This picture was taken on 8 August 1991. On the top left is the Benjamin Sheares Bridge and on the right is the present day Gardens by the Bay. The city state have come a long way; braving the elements and much uncertainties. Adapting and changing with the times. 

Recent novel coronavirus epidemic have caused much fear to some individuals. Strengthening immune system with good hygiene, healthy eating and sufficient rest will go a long way in keeping oneself and loved-ones safe. Consideration for healthcare professionals and looking out for those within our reach will enrich our lives. In time, this will come to pass like many calamities.

No fear, no blaming, no discrimination. 

 

Perspective: "Worldwide, ... annual epidemics are estimated to result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and about 290,000 to 650,000 respiratory deaths."

Source: World Health Organisation

 

The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them;

a man may live long, yet live very little.

Whether you find satisfaction in life depends not on your tale of years, but on your will.

Michel De Montaigne

Moomin Bakery & Cafe, Tokyo

Never Alone

A cafe located next to Tokyo Dome. Pleasant place to take a break after a tiring day. If a customer visiting the cafe is alone, the staff would ask if they like to have Moomin sit with them. Moomin is a Scandinavian comic strip character by illustrator Tove Jansson. It was originally published in Swedish by Schildts in Finland. Quite a long way to eventually find global fame in Tokyo. 

Twenty-nineteen was an eventful year and am reminded of a conversation

John Cage had with Ally McBeal in the comedy-drama Ally McBeal

 

"If you think back and replay your year,

if it doesn't bring you tears of joy or sadness,

consider the year wasted."

Den Haag, The Netherlands

Winter

Where we used to live in Den Haag, The Netherlands, there was a pond in front of our house. Come winter, the pond would freezes and residence and neighbour would come to skate. Beyond the pond is a small sheep farm and then the woods; a blissful place for walks and cycling. Huis ten Bosch sits within the woods. It was Queen Beatrice residence until 2014 and now the official residence of King Willem-Alexander and his family. Shops closes early in the city centre; which is good for a balanced family life.  

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap

but by the seeds that you plant.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Edfu, Egypt

Peacock

Compared to the much larger shops selling hats, dresses, scarves and shoes; this boy made up for his lack of scale by fanning out his merchandise like a peacock to attract customers and tourist. His creativity caught my attention while strolling along this busy street. 

To be satisfied with a little, is the greatest wisdom;

and he that increaseth his riches, increaseth his care;

but a contented mind is a hidden treasure, and trouble findeth it not.

Pharaoh Akhnaton

Edfu, Egypt

One Horse Power

Sphinx and pyramids usually comes to mind when we think of Egypt. A place where there past seems more prominent than the present. Located in this city is the famous Temple of Horus. Edfu is a fascinating, busy city with numerous house carriages and shops. In summer, temperature reaches a high of 40 degree Celsius or 104 degree Fahrenheit. Photo was taken while riding a 1-horsepower carriage; not a good idea to stand in the middle of the road. 

The grand essentials to happiness in this life

are something to do, something to love

and something to hope for.

Joseph Addison

Koma Station towards Kinchakuda, Saitama Japan

Trust

The journey from Tokyo to Koma took us about 90 minutes. It was a rather hot and mildly humid walk to Kinchakuda which is famous for millions of red spider lilies in mid to late September. Along the way, we came across this unmanned, self-service vegetable store. Pick what is needed, place money on the table and one is good to go. 

You're looking for three things in a person:

intelligence, energy and integrity ... and if they don't have the last one,

don't even bother with the first two.

Warren Buffett

Shiraito Waterfall and Kita-Karuizawa Japan

'Lost'

A great pleasure of traveling is to find oneself lost in the beauty of nature. Shiraito Waterfall is such a place. 65 minutes shinkansen ride from Tokyo plus another 30 minutes bus trip. Got there early to enjoy the tranquility, before visitors arrives. 

 

Next destination was an hour bus ride to Yubatake at Kusatsu Gunma which is 1200 meters above sea level. It is one of Japan most famous onsen. Unfortunately, I missed the bus by 2 minutes. An hour later, caught a bus which took me only half way up the mountain and was momentarily 'lost' in Kita-Karuizawa, a quiet town with the next bus an hour away. While writing my journal at the bus stop (only person throughout the one hour wait), I noticed a lady driver with a large white dog alighting from her car, taking pictures of the area in haste. Curious, I later discovered that this was a former railway station until 1962 where tourists visit for summer holiday.

 

Eventually caught the next bus to Yubatake and the place did not disappoint. On my return journey, there were only three persons in the bus. The driver, a friendly local and myself; as we attempted to converse in English-Japanese and sign language (think Merlion). We eventually bid each other goodbye as she alighted at her hometown, Kita-Karuizawa. Wherever we are, there is a friend to be found and a story to be told. 

Possessions dwindle. I mourn their loss.

But I mourn the loss of time much more, for anyone can save his purse,

but none can win back lost time.

Latin Proverb

Guilin Park Shanghai, China

Checkmate

Guilin Park is an old charming garden about 30 minutes drive from city center. Entry to the park cost 3 yuan and is free for senior citizen above 60 years old. Visiting early in the morning is highly recommended. Beside a cooler summer weather, one could enjoy caged birds singing, Chinese tea, listening to Erhu & trumpets playing, tai-chi, elder couple learning ballroom dancing and Chinese chess. 'Ronaldino' in this picture is one move from checkmate.

Champions keep playing until they get it right.

Billlie Jean King

Xintiandi Shanghai, China

Fleeting Moment

While having a cup of coffee, waiting to meet an old friend; the busy waitress on the right briefly stood still near the cafe entrance. For a fleeting moment an image of old Shanghai came to mind. Some quick fiddling with the camera, then a satisfying image captured. 

True friendship multiples the good in life and divides its evils.

Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island ...

to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune;

to keep him (or her) is a blessing.

Baltasar Gracian

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Anguish

We were told that life in the wild is about survival of the fittest. Yet to witness such an event, it still pains the heart.

The park ranger explained to us that impala and baboon generally cooperate with each other in the jungle. Whenever a predator is near, they would 'warn' each other of imminent danger. 

 

However, it was not so on this day. By the time we arrives, this baboon had already killed the calf. While the ewes stood by throughout this time watching over her calf from a distance. The immediate thought was the ewe's anguish.

Yet we judge not, simply because we are a part of nature's circle of life. 

Nature hides her secret because of her essential loftiness,

but not by means of ruse.

Albert Einstein

Singapore

Family

I first noticed a nest being built on our bougainvillea plant.

 

Before long, came this Scarlet-back Flowerpecker and its female companion, busy feeding their two ever hungry hatchlings.

Life in the wild is tough. Two hatchlings in a nest hanging precariously on a branch. Wind, rain and shine. The ever present danger of larger birds searching for preys. 

Yet nature dictates both hatchlings must believe that their dad and mum will constantly return to feed them with berries. That they are well protected. 

In the evening, mum would return to stay with her young. Not too sure about the male bird. Suppose it is chilling-out with its buddies until sunrise. 

Quietly they came. Quietly they flew away.

Interestingly, not long later; a olive-backed sunbird came to clear the nest for its own home.

Humans are behind the curve when it comes to recycling. 

I don't know anything with certainty,

but seeing the stars makes me dream.

Vincent Van Gogh

Hammond Castle, Gloucester, MA, USA

A Beautiful Wedding

After eight years of courtship, our daughter married the love of her life. A wonderful man. 

Their wedding was held in Hammond Castle north of Boston with a tinge of Harry Porter theme. Vows was exchanged at the manicured lawn with North Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop and attended by a hundred guests from around the world. 

Located on the Atlantic coast, the castle was constructed between 1926 and 1929. It was the home and laboratory of John Hays Hammond, Jr.; an inventor who pioneered the study of remote control and held over 400 patents.

The simplicity of the ceremony, wonderful friends and beautiful location made this a joyful & memorable wedding. 

A month later, we celebrated the occasion with relatives and friends at CHIJMES Singapore. Traditional tea ceremony, wedding door games and good food adds merriment to the day.

CHIJMES was founded in 1852 as a Catholic convent. The acronym stands for Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Middle Education School. 

An immensely joyful occasion, forever treasured in our hearts.

A tree is known by its fruits;

A man by his deeds.

A good deed is never lost;

He who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and

He who plants kindness gathers love.

Saint Basil

Photo by Gareth from Pixioo

Hakone Open-Air Museum

La Pleureuse by Francois-Xavier & Claude Lalanne

Train journey from Yokohama to Hakone-Yumoto is slightly more than an hour. From here, the old Tozan Railway took us to many interesting places. On arrival at Chokokunomori Station after a 30 minutes ride, we decided to hop out to explore this museum. Opened in 1969, this is the first open-air museum in Japan. The 70,000 square meters site is surrounded by beautiful view of mountains. Art pieces displayed includes Picasso among other works. Though am not knowledgeable about arts; I still find the visit refreshing and inspiring. Sculpture like La Pleureuse (The Weeper) leaves a lasting impression in one's mind. 

People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.

Epictetus

East Coast Park, Singapore

Sunrise - Sunset

Traveling do not have to be far away. There are many beautiful and interesting places in Singapore. For these, we thank the city planners and many hardworking folks both local & foreign.This photo of an imminent sunrise was taken at 6:36 a.m. with an iPhone, on my way back from Changi airport.

 

On this day in 12th April 1633, began the inquisition of physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei for holding the belief that the Earth revolves around the sun. He denied that he “held” belief in the Copernican view. Rather his writing was about issue and evidence as a means of “discussion” rather than belief. On 22nd June 1633, Galileo was judged and declared guilty of heresy. He agreed not to teach heresy anymore and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

More than 300 years later, the prevailing authority admitted that Galileo was right and his name cleared for heresy. 

Source: History.com - This Day in History, April 12.

 

It is interesting that SUNRISE and SUNSET is still so-called today.

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.

Confucius

Kishi Station, Wakayama Japan

A Man, A Stray Cat and Nekonomics

The plan was to stay a day in Wakayama, enjoy seafood and then begin our train adventure to Kanazawa, Takayama, Nagoya & Toba. On arrival, while figuring where to go, I recalled reading about a stationmaster cat in The Wall Street Journal.

From JR Wakayama Station, the ride was about 30 minutes to Kishi Station, also the last station in this old train line. In 2004, the station was near closure due to financial problems. Toshiko Koyama, the informal station manager at that time, adopted a stray calico cat named Tama. Koyama was selected as the official station manager in Apr-2006 and in Jan-2007, railway officials named Tama as the stationmaster. Her primary duty was to greet passengers. She has an office and like regular staff, worked Monday to Friday. 

During her tenure, Tama publicity contributed about 1.1 billion yen to the local economy and is a phenomenon known as Nekonomics.

She was promoted to super stationmaster, knighted and awarded title of Wakayama de Knight, promoted to Operating Officer, then Managing Executive Officer (after President and Managing Director). In 2013, she was elevated to Honorary President of Wakayama Electric Rail for life. 

Tama died in June 2015 at age 16. A memorial was built within the station, next to the train track. Nitama (second Tama) another calico stray cat now replaces Tama as the new stationmaster. 

While it was curiosity that led us to this interesting place and story; on our return journey in a wood panelled strawberry train, I learned about a community's gratitude and Koyama san ingenuity in bringing life back into this little town.

Life is not holding a good hand.

Life if playing a poor hand well. 

Danish Proverb

Old Market Zhongdian, Yunnan

Mother & Child

 

The place is now renamed Shangri-la to attract tourism.

 

By the time we arrive, a few shops were in the midst of closing for the day. That in itself has its charm; as some take a moment to rest while others converse about the day. 

While looking around the market, I notice from some distance a mother & child sharing a quiet moment and a piece of bread.

“For age is opportunity no less 
Than youth itself, though in another dress, 
And as the evening twilight fades away 
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Somewhere in Tibet

Bless the Children

 

We were supposed to view a scenic mountainous attraction, but due to icy road condition, were 'stuck' in the plain for an hour. The trip was eventually cancelled as it was too dangerous to visit. Yet among the many interesting places seen, this was a memorable moment.

 

Foreigner are only allowed to visit Tibet via tour groups and permit is not available for independent travellers.

 

So the chance to interact with the children on this plain was a rare opportunity. The kids were lively and unpretentious, ideal for taking candid photographs. They were generally well behaved and agreeable to have pictures taken.

 

Portrait of two Tibetan girls. I remember the younger one was shy, staying close to her 'older sister' at all times. 

Lost time is never found again.

Benjamin Franklin

Jokhang Temple, Tibet

Prostration

Prostration is a gesture to show reverence to the triple gems of Buddhism: Buddha, Dharma - his teaching and Sangha - the spiritual community. The pilgrim seen here was finally reaching his destination at Jokhang Temple. The oldest part of the temple was built in AD 652, more than 1,300 years ago. There are three forms of prostration: standing, short distance (hours to months) and long distance of up to two years. The pilgrim in this picture was wearing a leather piece in front with thick cloths to protect his elbows. This indicate that he originated from quite a distance. While prostrating the pilgrim would recite mantras. For every third pace, the pilgrim would follow specific movement before lying face down flat on the floor. Dedication and perseverance at a totally different level. 

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.

Chinese Proverb

Note: Lhasa is about 3,500 metres above sea level. Highest site visited was 5,000 metres. Visitors usually need 1-2 days to acclimatise. Symptoms like persistent headache, shortness of breadth due to reduced oxygen at high altitude is common. Those with heart diseases should not visit Tibet.

Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan

Walking Up

 

Walking up from Tiger Leaping Gorge; I caught sight of this little girl reading while her mother was selling trinkets. 

One observation and lasting impression I had living in Shanghai was the people deep desire to learn. It was not uncommon to have colleagues requesting for coaching on specific skills from their managers. No wonder their society progressed so fast in the last few decades.

The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think. 

Albert Einstein

Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan

Walking Down

 

Although I have lived in Shanghai for a number of years, there was a deep desire to get a glimpse of China past. I found that place in Yunnan.

While coastal cities were modernising quickly; Yunnan was still transitioning towards a modern city. 

The opportunity to get a glimpse of the old world was immensely satisfying.

While walking down to view the touristy Tiger Leaping Gorge; I noticed this boy keeping himself warm with fire; while his mother was selling trinkets close by.

The mere sense of living is joy enough.

Emily Dickinson

Itsukushima Floating Tori Gate

Peace

The day was coming to a close. While exploring Hiroshima map, we chance upon this recommended place. 

A short train and ferry ride later, we arrived on this tranquil island where deers freely roam. The weather was cool, the stroll along the beach was refreshing. Found a nice resting spot to enjoy this view for some time. 

A memorable visit and the journey back to Tokyo completed a wonderful day.

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