Ryoanji Temple and Golden Pavilion of Kyoto

Zen garden of Ryoanji Temple

Zen garden of Ryoanji Temple

If you write “zen garden” to google, many of the images you will see is from Ryoanji Temple, where you will dream of the famous Zen Garden scene, sitting and watching the waves of stones in harmony with the huge ones, symbolizing the mountains and the contrast of life. This simple rectangular garden has no trees at all, but have 15 rocks and white gravel. The garden was created at around 1500, by a respected Zen monk.

However, at the touristy season of Sakura time, if you need to skip one temple, it should be this one. First, the “calm” zen garden is not calm at all, with loads of tourists, making noises and taking photos, secondly, the temple itself is not as big as some other ones. However, if you have time and would like to spent some of it here, you can enjoy a nice walk around the pond and relax watching the Sakura trees, sitting on the bench.

Some flowers from the garden

Some flowers from the garden

Enjoy the pond

Enjoy the pond

End of March is the best time to be there

End of March is the best time to be there

Another very typical scene of Kyoto is the Golden Pavilion.

The Golden Pavilion

The Golden Pavilion

A must see in Kyoto is the Rokuon-ji Temple, commonly known as the Golden Pavilion, which is a Budist hall containing relics of Budha. Just like Kyomizu Dera, I returned here last autumn and had chance to see this lovely place in two totally different season.

The Golden Pavilion in Autumn

The Golden Pavilion in Autumn

Like many other temples in Japan, a pond in front of the Pavilion creates a lovely scenery of nature. The rocks in various places of the garden are donated by different lords. The pavilion is covered with gold foil. 3 different levels are designed in 3 different periods of styles. Together with many young girls, visiting the temple with their traditional costumes, you can be sure that you will have lovely photographs from your visit.

 

 

Ocean spirit at great barrier reef, Australia

Ocean Spirit

Ocean Spirit

An ocean spirit tour to great barrier reef is a must if you come to Australia, which is the worlds largest coral reef system. But be prepared, as it is a long and tiring day out with children.

Our day started very early in the morning, with the pick up of the tour company from our hotel for ocean spirit. However, we found out that, we were not the only one to be picked, and the bus that took us, would also visit another dozen of hotels and look for the other attendees of the tour. So it took us more than an hour to reach the harbor-not a nice start. Than we queued at the harbor for check-in, which meant another half hour or so waiting everyone to come. Finally, it was about 10:00 when we started our journey.

Looks like a wonderful boat

Looks like a wonderful boat

Our boat was a nice, big, white catamaran with enough space inside and outside. We preferred to settle down on the top deck, at a rather secluded corner to keep away from the wind.

Michaelmas Cay

Michaelmas Cay

It took us another 2 hours to reach our destination-Michaelmas Cay. So it was already noon and everyone was already tired when we finally got there. After listening the safety information in the most attractive and fun way, presented by the staff, we were told that we had 3 hours there, to eat, swim, snorkeling, explore the coral reef with the glass boat and enjoy the sand.

First we decided to get off on the beach, for our son to swim and for us to enjoy the birds and the sand.

Lovely beach?

Lovely beach?

No need to be jealous of me. First of all, there was a rope around a very small part of the beach, and it was forbidden to go beyond, in order to protect the wildlife, especially the birds. Secondly, when I say “the birds” I mean an Alfred Hitchcock film-like birds, zillions of them shouting all the time, but more importantly smelling really really awful.

No passing the rope

No passing the rope

You should hear them and smell them

You should hear them and smell them

So it took our son just a few minutes to swim and we returned to our boat immediately to have lunch. The lunch was not bad. Sushi for our sushi-monster-son, nice seafood and vegetables. After lunch, we took the glass boat, where about 50 people sit in a boat-let me say a semi-sub-marine, where the majority of the boat is under the sea. A bit depressive if you are claustrophobic, but you can sit at the very back of the boat and have some fresh air over there.

Coral Reef

Coral Reef

This is a really enjoyable experience for the children. You can both explore the underwater beauty and stay dry at the same time. Moreover, there is a guide, telling about the fish and the reef and you can search for Nemo, for sure you will find him.

Our return to our hotel was about another 4 hours, 2 hours on boat, 1 hour for everyone to find the right bus back and 1 hour to the hotel, with many stops on the way. So as I said, it is a nice experience, but there should be an easier or leaner way to do this tour. The main activity of the day takes just a few hours, but it takes all day, so make sure to take enough books or whatever to kill time on the way.

Feeding the fish

Feeding the fish

 

Australian Reptile Park

Remember our tour to Blue Mountains and where we stopped was Featherdale wildlife park. A nice park that impressed us all. However, the Australian Reptile Park we have been the day after was much more better, clean, interesting, hands on and fun to go.

Learning the difference between crocodile and elegator

Learning the difference between crocodile and alligator

As soon as we entered the park, a cute baby crocodile (or was it alligator? I guess I still do not know the difference) was introduced to us by a very polite and patient caretaker. While we were listening the information about the alligator (or was it crocodile?), another cute animal of Australia came to join us:

Koala

Koala

A baby Koala I loved to hug and smell eucalyptus. So clean and so happy, that you would like to take home to keep on your bedside. I’ve never thought of it that it would be smelling so nice.

Sleeping Koalas

Sleeping Koalas

In the mean time we were served some tea with delicious cookies, while we were enjoying to touch and take close photograph of  alligator and koala.

Than we took a walk around the park. Every corner was very clean and all the animals were carefully taken care off. Another interesting corner of the park was the spiders hall, where various kinds of spiders from all over the world were kept and exhibited. Finally, we did some shopping at the gift shop and headed to Hunter Valley, to explore the fine wines.

See you later, alligator.

Blue Mountains Bush Walk day in Australia

On our second day in Sydney Australia, we woke up on a nice Sunday morning, to have a lovely breakfast at our hotel Quay West Sydney. Today our plan was to visit Blue Mountains, a world heritage and a lovely natural area, sure to be visited in a trip to Sydney. Once more, we were picked up by a car and a driver, this time from Mount ‘n Beach Safaris company of Sydney.

Our first stop was Featherdale WildlifePark, to be introduced to the famous wildlife animals of Australia. First impression was very good for all of us. As you may have guessed, we have never seen any kangaroos, koalas or any other Australian animal before. So it was nice to feed them, touch them and get so close to them. However, the park we went a day after was much more interesting, clean and enjoyable to visit. So, wait for my next posts, before deciding to go!

Before wind

Before wind

After wind

After wind

Before reaching to Blue Mountains Scenic World, we did a short break to enjoy some view of the valley on the way. Lovely view, with infinite forest and a very dangerous wind.

Lovely nature

Lovely nature

Our final stop of the day, where we were gonna spent a half day was the Blue Mountains Scenic World, which includes skyways, railways, cableways, and a comfortable walkway in the forests of Blue Mountains, together with some shopping opportunities to do and some picnic tables, to enjoy our sandviches.

Skyway with glass floor

Skyway with a glass floor

Among these, Skyway was by far the best view and the best experience to offer, with a glass floor to step on.

View from Skyway

View from Skyway

View of the mountains

View of the mountains

Me

Me

What is Switzerland doing here?

What is Switzerland doing here?

Have you been to Swiss Alps? We did a lovely holiday about 5 years ago to Luzern and visited Pilatus with the vehicles very similar to here. I may write about it too sometime later. So here is the reason. All rides were made by Swiss and this bell was a present to the park.

Children sure will enjoy this trip

Children sure will enjoy this trip

Our son loved the day

Our son loved the day

 

Jonah’s Whale Beach, Sydney

Jonah's restaurant

Jonah’s restaurant

Remember our seaplane adventure with Sydney Seaplanes from my previous post. Well, Jonah’s was the restaurant we arrived in 20 minutes, not on an island, but on an island-like part of Sydney, which takes about an hour, by car.

Jonah’s was more than we expected with a good variety in menu and a nice wine list. Moreover, every plate looked like a piece of art.

A taste to start

A taste to start

Wine of the day

Wine of the day

Australia has really good wines. I will be writing another post soon about Hunter Valley, a wine paradise. Today we chose a Pinot Noir of Tasmania.

Scallops, gooood

Scallops, gooood

Piece of art

Piece of art

In many day trips in Europe, if lunch is included, you come across with ordinary local dishes, sometimes really good and tasty ones but never so elegant.

The deserts...

The deserts…

...and another desert...

…and another desert…

...and another. Yummyyy

…and another. Yummyyy

So, finished with our three course meal in 3 hours, enjoyed the view of the whale beach and watched a local wedding next room, we were taken back to the beach to return with our seaplane back to Sydney.

Sure I can live here

Sure I can live here

 

A Seaplane Adventure Around Sydney, Australia

Before take off

Before take off

While getting ready for our Australia trip and working on the schedule, one dear Australian friend advised me to take a helicopter trip on Sydney harbor. So I searched for it with the help of Saint Google and my travel agent, and I came across with a good alternative of seaplane trips with Sydney Seaplanes. I’ve experienced a helicopter trip twice. One in Samara, Russia, a business trip, so beyond the limits of this blog and second at Grand Canyon, a few years ago with our son. So I thought a seaplane would be a more interesting experience for all of us.

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

The trip we booked was the “Fly & Dine” trip, which very well suited with our travel values. A 20 minutes fly to Whale Beach area, 3 hours-3 course fine dining for lunch and a 20 minutes fly back to Sydney, with a route over Sydney harbor. Well, let the photographs talk:

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

Walking to the beach

Walking to the beach

We were about 12 people on the plane, 5 our group, 3 more couples and our pilot. We started the tour with a little safety training, and took our seats, buckled up and took off. Riding on the sea and the first take off was a bit exciting, but than we enjoyed the view and the calm nature of the environment.

The beach

The beach

We got off the plane on a little pier on a very nice beach of an island. The sea we landed was not an open water but an inside area, where people were enjoying many water sports like canoeing, sailing, diving or enjoying the sun on the beach.

A walk on the beach

A walk on the beach

We were welcomed by a lady from Jonah’s restaurant, who drove us to the restaurant with a van and after lunch (which I will write in my next post) we returned to the same beach to find out that our seaplane was gone. So we spent about half an hour more to enjoy the beach and take photograph around.

Resting on a bench

Resting on a bench

Finally our seaplane arrived to the beach and we took off to return where we started.

Waiting our seaplane to arrive

Waiting our seaplane to arrive

Over Sydney Harbor

Over Sydney Harbor

Sydney Seaplanes

Sydney Seaplanes

Lovely area

Lovely area

 

Sydney Royal Botanic Garden

Botanic Garden

Botanic Garden

The first day of our 10-days-trip to Australia, started on a nice Saturday morning with our driver and a car provided by Angelo Riccio Tourist Services in Sydney. After a short drive around the main areas of the city and a short stop at Sydney Opera House, to buy tickets for the evening, we headed to Bondi beach area but my mother-as a nature lover- insisted on to visit Botanic Garden first. So we spend about an hour in the park with a fast walking.

Lovely flowers and natural life

Lovely flowers and natural life

My facebook friends will recognize this photo from my facebook page. Sydney botanic garden is a very well kept garden with lovely flowers, birds, large trees, fresh air, people doing sports and some art installations.

A piece of art of sight and sound

A piece of art of sight and sound

An interesting piece of art is the one above, all sticks have different sounds, forming a nice music with the wind.

Short walk in the garden

Short walk in the garden

Interesting plants

Interesting plants