Hong Kong & Macau 2014: Day 5 Macau Spectacular Part 3

DAY 5 (CON’T)

Back with more travel entries after a short break in writing over the festive season.

Picking up from where I last left off, we continued our stroll. Very crowded as it is a Sunday. I also noted mutiple branches of Koi Kee (where we brought our almond biscuits from earlier before lunch) alongst the street. From google, I found out also that apart from Lord Stow’s, there was also another famous egg tart shop – Margaret’s Cafe e Nata that is supposedly located within the vicinity of Senado Square …… but I did not see any visble signage, so continued the walk amongst the crowds.

(Note: As I write this now 4 months down the road, found out that its located nearer to Grand Lisboa)

Another old style Portuguese architecture ……

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As SM went to quene for a drink (its really hot) …… we spotted our next destination in front of us – Ruins of St Paul’s.

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After which, we walked right up to the top step of the monument itself.

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You can read more in detail about Ruins of St. Paul on wikipedia and here. Just like Senado Square, Ruins of St Paul’s is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the Historic Centre of Macau.

As part of the Macau Government’s restoration efforts, there is a museum located at the Ruins itself (behind the structure). Did a brief walk through of the various exhibits.

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We also spotted the towering structure of the Stanley Ho owned Grand Lisboa from the top of the Ruins.

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There are a couple of attractions around the Ruins as well that are worth exploring, such as the Monte Fort, Macau Museum. However it was really really hot + we decided that its a better idea to reach Cotai Strip earlier to explore the casinos πŸ˜› …… Thus we decided to take a taxi direct from the Ruins to Cotai.

Some scenery along the way – managed to get a close up shot of the Grand Lisboa and the Macau Tower located right at the edge of the Macau Peninsula.

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A quick 20 min journey later which cost about MOP 75 (taxis in Macau are not that expensive after all considering the distance from mainland to Cotai where we have to cross a long bridge) – we reached City of Dreams. Just like in Hong Kong, the taxi drivers only know places by their cantonese terms. The taxi driver did not understand City of Dreams until I had to specifically tell him we wanted to go to the property opposition Venetian to watch a show. Then he said ζ–°ζΏ ε€©εœ°!

No picture of the overall property – that consists of Hard Rock Hotel, Crown Towers Hotel, Grand Hyatt Hotel and the main entertainment/shopping area as we were dropped off right at the reception leading into Hard Rock Hotel. From the hotel, we walked straight into the shopping boulevard and casino entrance!

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No pictures inside the Casino but since we were early (reached around 345pm) and had some time to kill before our show at 5 … it was Casino time!

Hong Kong & Macau 2014: Day 5 Macau Spectacular Part 2

DAY 5 (CON’T)

Officially stepping foot into Macau territory.

We got a bit confused/dis-oriented upon reaching Macau due to having to go through Customs. At the Ferry Terminal, there are separate counters and quenes for HK/China Residents and Other Overseas Visitors (like myself). The Customs check did take a while due to the large weekend crowds (I see mainly Mainland Chinese) …… and upon leaving the Customs, there were quite a few drivers/guides touting to get you to engage their services. Grabbed a map from one of them and then we quickly ran to the taxi stand πŸ˜›

It was already close to 1 when we left the ferry terminal. Given that we landed at the Outer Harbor Ferry Terminal on Macau Mainland – we took a taxi from the terminal to Senado Square – our next target destination. Taxis in Macau are not expensive. The short 10 min journey cost us HKD30, which is around SGD5. Only glitch is that the taxi driver dropped us along the main road …… and we had to figure out directions which we eventually managed to do so with the help of passer-bys.

A bright sunny (and pretty warm) Sunday afternoon in Senado Square.

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The fountain itself is the distinctive landmark and right smack in the centre of the town square itself. Interestingly, there was a red structure errected right behind the fountain – probably for the mid-autumn festival celebrations (although it does look spoiler-ish :P) ……

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As I write this, also just found out that Senado Square is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage List, as part of the Historic Centre of Macau. Another UNESCO World Heritage site ticked off my ‘to-see’ list!

Decided to get some lunch first ….. and so we headed to Wong Chi Kei located in the row of shops right in Senado Square. Did some last min googling on the ferry ride and Wong Chi Kei popped up in most of recommended searches, thus an unplanned choice πŸ™‚

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True to its reputation as a established old Macau eatery (opened since 1946), we were greeted by throngs of people right at the narrow entrance and had to take a quene number. Our number was 25 …… which we figured will be quite a long wait of around 1/2 hour and so we decided to go to the money changer to change some money into MOP (local Macau currency) and do some gift shopping at the Koi Kei outlet in Senado Square.

20 min later (around 150pm), we got back to the shop front and saw that the number is already at 23. There was a minor confusion as the number board was not updated and they already ticked off number 25. Nevertheless it was all sorted out and we managed to get a table. The shop itself is 3 stories high, very simply decorated so minimal pictures of its interior πŸ˜›

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Here comes our food!

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Wong Chi Kei is well known for their signature bamboo pressed noodles and congee. Thus we ordered 3 of their main siganture dishes – Braised Noodle With Shrimp Roe (Dry), Crab Congee and Fried Wantons. Out of the 3 – we were MOST impressed with the braised nooddle. The saucing was done perfectly (not too heavy and not too light), the noodles thin and springy and with a firm bite and + generous amount of shrimp roe! We were saying that with some wontons together with the noodles, it will be even more shiok πŸ˜› But still, this is definitely the best one I have ever tasted to date πŸ™‚

As for the congee, we still found Chee Kei’s version better and more flavourful (this one was a bit too thick) while the friend wantons were not bad, but definitely didn’t have the wow quality of the noodles. SM says she will check out their other branch in Hong Kong (at Stanley Street) to see if the quality remains consistent across the board …… All in all, another satisfying meal! I also wrote a glowing review on tripadvisor as well, heh!

And it was more walking post meal …… The next monument we came across was the St. Dominic’s Church – a old style Portuguese Catholic Church. Loved the neo-classical yellow facade but we didn’t go in to explore …..

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The very busy St. Dominic’s Square (part of Senado Square itself) further down from St. Augustine’s Church with throngs of people on a Sunday ……

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Along the walk, we adjourned to a small corner where we spotted this old lady selling a type of salted egg pancake. Admire her strength and resilience in doing this indeed (as highlighted in a previous weekly photo challenge entry here). Managed to get a close up of the ‘money-shaped’ pancake as well ……

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We also spotted bak kwa at one of the local shops along the way. We took a bite to try and unlike our Singaporean version, the pork used in the Macau style bak kwa is much thicker and oiler, greasier. They do not do compressed packaging, otherwise I would have bought one box back to Singapore to try ……

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Japan 2013: Day 8 Last Moments In Kyoto & Back To Tokyo Part 2

DAY 8 (CON’T)

Stepping into the main hall and the autumn foliage that overlooks from the verandas at the main hall.

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A view of the famed veranda. You may be able to spot a tiny speck right amongst the clear blue sky – that is Kyoto Tower in the distance!

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Close up of the buildings right below the temple / main hall itself ……

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Worshippers at the main hall ……

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Looking down the veranda on the Otowa Waterfall right at the bottom of the main hall with its 3 streams which represent success at school, longevity and a forunate love life. However one should drink from one and not be greedy to drink from all three ……

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Zoomed in onto the veranda and did not ‘see’ any nail in its construction. Indeed Kiyomizudera is the temple ‘without nails’ ……

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As versus the earlier autumn foliage I saw over the past 2 days in Kyoto, the leaves here look dried and peaked ……

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Finally some nicer autumn foliage as I walked to the end of the main hall/veranda ……

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Huge crowds indeed. In addition to being peak season (for tourists), there were many school children on excursion too (centre picture – one of my favourite shots). Also accidentally got 1 shot of 3 ladies in a kimono when I was picking up something on the floor ……

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Would have loved to write a wish on the wooden ema (like what I did back at Meiji Jingu during my last trip) but the crowd detered me from doing so …… A bit regretful now ……

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There is a small shrine right beside the main hall …… at the corner as I walked towards the veranda right across the main hall (while on the way down to the basement – Kiyomizudera is perched righ on top of a mountainous range) ……

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Jisu Shrine is also known as a ‘love’ shrine, as it is a shrine specially dedicated to the deity of love and matchmaking.

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The famous ‘love stone’ – where it is said that you will be successful in finding love if you can walk across/find your way from one stone to the other (with your eyes closed). Nope, didn’t try that πŸ˜›

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There are also a few other deities that you can pray to for general good luck as well ……

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You can read more in depth about Jisu Shrine here as well ……

Left Jisu Shrine and walked back onto the veranda overlooking the main hall of Kiyomizudera. This is also the spot where you can get the postcard looking images of Kiyomizudera (similar to those you’ll see in magazines/blogs/articles) πŸ˜€ ……

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More autumn foliage …..

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It was almost 1pm when I finally reached the base of the main hall (this means I have spent a really long time taking pictures earlier at the main hall and Jisu Shrine :P) ……

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And finally to the waterfall, where I took a few sips from one stream (and prayed for blessings) ……

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The main hall looks really high up, as I wait in line for my turn at the waterfall ……

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One last look at the pond right below the main hall and Kiyomizudera itself ….

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One of my favorite set of photos. Looked out to the clear bright blue sky with the nice fluffy clouds decorating the sky as I leave Kiyomizudera. No selfie at the entrance as it was full of tourists taking their group photos ……

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Japan 2013: Day 7 Kyoto Part 2

DAY 7 (CON’T)

Having the JR Pass meant that I was able to take the JR Sagano Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station (6 stops from Kyoto Station) without having to buy addtional subway and bus passes. Being the peak season, plus Arashiyama being a popular autumn foliage spot, the trains were all packed to the brim.

Reached Saga-Arashiyama around noon. Once again, same as what I did the day before, decided to follow the itinerary set out in Japan Guide for Arashiyama. So the first place on the agenda was Tenryuji Temple. Unlike what the maps indicate, Tenryuji was not so easy to find. Had to walk into a Lawson’s to ask for clearer directions before finally reaching Tenryuji around 1230 Hrs.

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Beautiful autumn leaves along the long walk to the temple’s main buildings ……

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Fallng maple leaves (close-up) along the way ……

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There’s a Zen Vegetarian restaurant located on the temple grounds. Also spotted the main hall being barricaded (under renovations till year 2014). Tenryuji is also registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and part of the Historical Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

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Not able to go into this buildng but spotted a photo taking opportunity when I saw 1 or 2 photographers taking photos of the autumn view through the door/window – which serves as a frame for the photo itself. (Note: Edited the original by doing some cropping and colour saturation via snapseed to bring out the colours) ……

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Right in the middle of the temple buildings is a garden with a beautiful pond. The landscape garden has gorgeous autumn colours!

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The Zen Vegetarian restaurant with its entrance adorned by autumn leaves ……

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Venturing off to a footpath on the hilly side of the temple (as the temple is surrounded by the Arashiyama mountains) ……

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One small little tibit about the above collage. There was a woman who put her son (in stroller) at a spot while she went down to below the footpath to take a picture of him. Luckily Japan is a pretty safe country.

Colourful autumn leaves admist the bamboo trees on the Arashiyama mountains ……

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Juxtaposition ……

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Guan Yin Statue and wishing well ……

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Finally back one round to the other end of the pond ……

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Am grateful that it was a bright and clear day, and yet cooling …… which made the walk around Tenryuji a pleasant one (despite the crowds) ……

Japan 2013: Day 6 Next Up – Kyoto! Part 2

DAY 6 (CON’T)

Did not manage to find a nice place anywhere for a post lunch drink/dessert. Popped my head out of level 10/11 of the building (The Cube) and saw that there was an outdoor area with escalators leading right back down to the train station ……

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Decided to head up to the observation deck right on top of the building 1st, before coming back down again. Views of Kyoto City (Hachijo side south of the station) ……

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Enjoyed the cooling walk down the escalators back into the train station (temperature was around 12 to 15 degrees). Still feeling slightly dis-orientated as I tried to locate the bus terminal just right outside the station (north side) …… followed by another 10 to 15 minutes spent looking for the correct bus number (and berth) in order to take Bus 100 to my next location – Ginkakuji Temple!

Located the berth and hopped onto Bus 100. 40 min later, finally reached Ginkakuji, or rather the bus-stop near Ginkakuji! It was only 210pm, and already feeling the lethargy (a combination of an early start + the long and winding bus ride) – and my brain was calling out to me for coffee! No cafes along the road except for this small little restaurant right beside the bus-stop.

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Went through the menu (at the door) and saw that they do serve coffee, thus went in.

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My 400 JPY coffee. Believe it was instant coffee at best. Looked around and saw a few patrons having lunch. Despite the cheapest lunch set being at 1800 JPY, however the food seem pretty exquisite (from the picture that I managed to snap of the table next to me), and it would have been a great experience to have enjoyed a local Kyoto style lunch here …… but since I have already taken my lunch earlier at Kyoto Station, no chance to check out the local Kyoto cuisine here. What a pity indeed!

After the quick coffee, proceeded to quickly walk towards Ginkakuji.

Street lined with autumn trees and a row of taxis waiting in line ……

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Small street leading to Ginkakuji ……

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Shops along the street selling various streetfood and even postcards to send back home (like the olden times when there was no internet). Saw a cafe selling UCC coffee also. Damn! Could have had a nice coffee here ……

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Finally reached after a short 5 min walk ……

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Ginkakuji, also known as Silver Pavilion is a Zen temple along Kyoto’s eastern mountains (Higashiyama). Apart from the main building (silver pavilion itself), Ginakkuji is also well known for its beautiful moss garden and unique dry sand garden. Ginkakuji is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site – under Historical Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji & Otsu Cities). You can read more about Ginkakuji from Japan Guide and from wikipedia as well, on how it started as a retirement villa (as a sort of cousin to the famous Golden Pavillion), become it became converted to a Zen Temple.

Unique dry sand garden on the temple compounds, also known as ‘Sea of The Silver Sand’ ……

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Sand patterns close up ……

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The Silver Pavilion surrounded by the moss garden and pond. And finally, autumn leaves coming nicely into bloom ……

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Walking path leading to the hill behind the temple buildings. Saw some nice shades of red and yellow leaves ……

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Some interesting sightings on the walk …… first, a 500 year old tree.

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A small waterfall, followed by a wishing pond ……

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More steps to climb ……

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Bamboo groves ……

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View of the temple grounds from the hill (where the walking path is) ……

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More beautiful autumn foliage ……

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Last look at the Silver Pavilion ……

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At the end of the tour of the temple and its surroundings which took around 45 min in total, I realised that there was no silver at all on the pavilion. The buildings probably form a very small part of the entire surrounding, and the main highlight is definitely the dry sand and moss gardens, and the autumn leaves/koyo surrounding it ……

Came across a matcha ice-cream & cream puff stall when walking out of the temple and back to the street I came from …… Would be nice having an ice-cream while taking a walk down my next destination – Philosopher’s Path. But ended up not getting it πŸ˜›

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Japan 2013: Day 4 Osaka & Nara Day Trip Part 4

DAY 4 (CON’T)

Cutting through the Naramachi district whilst on route to Gango-ji.Β  Actually the map does not state Naramachi, it only indicates to keep walking straight. Only realised when writing this now that the district that I passed through was actually Naramachi πŸ˜›

More on Naramachi here – http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4108.html. The former merchant district of Nara, as characterised by the traditional machiya (long, narrow townhouses) along the narrow streets ……

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Got lost a little bit before managing to get more accurate information from the passer-bys on the road, and finally managed to locate Gango-ji Temple – which is inside a small street.

Just like Todaiji & Kofukuji, Gango-ji is also a UNESCO World Heritage designated site, as part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara. It is also a Buddhist temple, under the Shingon School of Japanese Buddhism, and the oldest buddhist temple in Japan (refer back to my Part 1 entry). Entrance fee is 400 JPY ……

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Ganjo-ji is a much smaller temple than Todaiji (or even Kofukuji) as only 3 halls remain preserved (out of the original 7). In terms of architecture, it is more zen-like and serene as compared to Todaiji. There were hardly any visitors as I reached at 4-plus, pretty near the 5pm closing time. Got from a friendly uncle at the entrance counter some directions on how to walk the recommended course round the temple ……

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The Gokurakudo (i.e. Main Hall) and the Zen Room. Very nice wooden exterior and very well-preserved.

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The stone buddhas outside the compound ……

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One of the key features of the Gokurakudo and the Zen room that are National Treasures is their beautiful roofs. Japan’s oldest tile roofing called “Gyokibuki” is constructed by partially overwrapping roof tiles of folding-fan shape, which creates varied and quaint expressions.

Source: https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/spot/shritemp/gango-ji-temple.html

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Had intended to do some editing to the shots but decided to present it as originally taken in the end as the grey-ness of it makes the tile roofing and the autumn leaves adorning it look more authentic, given that it is already 430pm, where the sky is starting to turn dark ……

Nice temple it may be, but really lush compound which is very well maintained (I guess the entrance fees charged by these UNESCO sites go towards maintenance of such cultral and historical relics) ……

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That marks the end of my visit to Ganjo-ji!

Made the walk back to where I came from (i.e the pond as landmark) as the Nara Kotsu bus doesn’t seem to run into the Naramachi district. Saw the shopping street that I took a picture of earlier, and turned into that street. Otherwise known as the Higashimuki Shopping Arcade which leads back to the Kintetsu Nara Station.

Not really in the mood for shopping, but did pop in to one of the drugstores along the arcade to check out the Shisedo Perfect Whip prices. They were selling it for 640 JPY. Total rip off!! (I got it the day before at Osaka Station for 299 JPY only) ….,,

Thank god there were bus stops right beside the Kintetsu Nara Station, and a stop included for the Nara Kotsu bus line. Yes, it’s really near to JR Nara (around 10 min walk) but as mentioned earlier, wasn’t in the mood to do much walking that day + not wanting to let my day pass go to waste …… So took the bus back to JR Nara station.

Reached JR Nara Station a little after 5. Rushed straight to the washroom (and forgot all about getting the leaf sushi :P) …… Walked out of the station to take some pictures before the train comes ….. There are hotels, a huge bridge (leading to some halls and sports facilities I think) around the station area.

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1 hour later, back at Osaka Station. Walked around a bit, changed my mind about going back to the Umeda Sky Observatory for the night views as once again, I was really in the don’t feel like walking mode πŸ˜›

Checked out the Christmas Illumination light up instead at Osaka Station City which starts from the North exit (facing Yodabashi and Grand Front Osaka). Nothing spectacular ……

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Changed my mind about checking out the Sweets Museum at Yodabashi Umeda Building (the don’t feel like walking mood at work once again). Saw that there was a Wired Cafe so went up, saw that there was a quene and went back down again …… Ended up window shopping at Daimaru Umeda since there was still time before the food hall closing sales start around 730pm. And walked into the Tokyu Hands Outlet inside Daimaru. Time to do some recee (before I buy whatever I’ve set my eyes on back in Tokyo later in the trip) ……

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No photo taking was allowed inside Daimaru/Tokyu Hands, but the cashier and sales assistants were kind enough to let me take the pictures πŸ™‚ …. Really interesting items, such as a plastic steamer, great variety of kitchen utensils, stationery, handphone accessories, beauty products etc. …… Truly a lifestyle store in every sense of the word. I guess the variety will be even more humongous back at its flagship store in Shibuya πŸ˜›

Made it this time round for the closing food hall sales and got what I need. Decided to pack dinner from the food hall to eat in the comfort of my hotel room.

It became the day where I left hotel the latest and came back the earliest (reached around 815 to 820 pm) to ‘re check-in’ to my semi-double western room. Finally a bigger and more comfortable room on a higher floor (less noise from the Karaoke pubs opposite the hotel) …. more space and a bigger bed! Yay!

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My eat in dinner! Packed the Rice With Fish (can’t remember what fish) from Hanshin which cost 480 JPY only …. And grabbed the calamari from Hankyu at 180 JPY as the rice was 1 normal bowl rice (rather than being a huge bento) …… Decent meal considering the cost (closing sales) but would have tasted really great if there were microwave facilties in the hotel ……

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Last night in Osaka, so got a dessert from Hanshin to round off my meal. The cheesecake should be around 380 to 400 JPY, from a Kobe-based bakery counter called Bocksun. Loved the packaging + it was so nice of them to put in the dry ice to ‘cool’ the cake whilst I walk back to my hotel ……

Very delicious cheesecake that has the exact right texture, yet its light and not too cheesy! Went to google and made a mental note to look out for Bocksun Bakery/Cafe when I get to Kobe the next day, heh …..

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Japan 2013: Day 4 Osaka & Nara Day Trip Part 3

DAY 4 (CON’T)

Finished my tour on the main hall in around 1/2 hour. A picture from my Instragram – fortune papers tied to the wooden rail right outside the main hall.

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Leaving Todaiji behind ……

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A side gate that supposedly leads to Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Seemed like a long walk and so decided to go back to the entrance where I came from ……

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Crazy crowds ……

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Another cute boy feeding a deer ……

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Decided to rest and chill a bit at Nara Park before deciding my next move. Feeling very stoned after the crazy crowds at Todaiji. Munched to a bread that I bought earlier at Hanshin while looking at the sights around me ……

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** Particularly like the one where the father was playing ball with his children.

Turned the other direction towards my right (inside the park) and spotted a row of trees in nice shades of red and yellow for the autumn season ……

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I need to specifically highlight the next photo. Had eyed this spot right below the tree for a nice autumn selca (or rather selfie as more popularly used these days) but this lady kept hogging the spot for a long time – posing left, right, centre, and repeating the same poses again and again. So no selca for me :S

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Time to decide where to go next after chilling at Nara Park for a good 1/2 hour

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Intended to go to Kasuga Taisha Shrine next (famous for its lanterns and an autumn leaves spot) but missed the Kotsu Bus that will bring me there. Based on the map, the temple seemed way further than the 0.8km to 1km indicated on the road signs. Still in the lazy and don’t feel like walking mode, so decided to skip Kasuga Taisha and head straight next to Kofukuji Temple further down the road.

The roads/streets in Nara are really narrow. There is only enough space for 1 vehicle on each side of the road.

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Passed by the Nara National Museum on the walk to Kofukuji. It was a free entry day!

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Walked into a tunnel (guess its a way to reduce traffic on the roads above) …..

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Turned back and spotted yet another clear blue sky!

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Note: The picture on top was the original taken when in the tunnel (thus that block of black on the top of the picture). Was wondering if the picture would look better if the black part was cropped off – so used Snapseed to crop and also enhanced the colours via saturation. See the difference ……

Reached Kofukuji Temple.

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Just like Todaiji, Kofukuji is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as one of the Eight Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara. And a Buddhist Temple as well.

Kofukuji’s main building – the Central Golden Hall, is in the process of being rebuilt. Looks like we will only get to see this in its full glory in year 2018. That’s a long time ……

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The Eastern Golden Hall and the 5 Storied Temple Pagoda by the side ……

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Close-ups. Elected not to go in to the Eastern Golden Hall (which requires a separate admission fee) ……

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Nice autumn colours by the side ……

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Ended up spending very little time at Kofukuji given that the main hall is under renovation/being rebuilt. It was about 4pm. Rather than going back to JR Nara Station to take the train back to Osaka, decided that there is enough time to head down to Gangou-ji (last temple of the day!). Might as well take the opportunity to cover 1 more place as I forsee myself that it would be a long time before I would visit Nara again.

Rather than walk back towards the main road (that I came from originally), went to the back entrance instead (based on the map) and saw the below sign that indicates the pond – which means I’m on the right track to Gangou-ji ……

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Koyo (autumn leaves) lined street of Nara on the right (the direction towards Kintestu Nara station and JR Nara station).

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The pond right behind Kofukuji Temple, and within Nara Park grounds – Sarusawaike Pond.

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