Bits and Pieces of #Japan: Hakone Museums


Hakone Open Air Museum

At the Hakone Open Air Museum

(Before I begin my post- a word on The Tree of Life Collaborative writing project to which I was invited. Lovely story by 26 authors, written based on a song each. Here’s my episode. Comment for a choice to receive your copy of a CD.)

This time in Japan was more about reflection, not like earlier, when everything seemed strange and distant.

Familiarity hasn’t brought contempt, but it has certainly brought a degree of comfort.

I walked through a bunch of museums in Hakone, taking one spectacularly verdant bus ride after the other (so much greenery and everywhere the long-drawn-out, harsh cacophony of crickets, which sound like adamant tuneless birds), but the only ones I could take pictures at were the Hakone Open Air Art Museum and the Glass Museum.

Hakone Open Air Museum, Golden Sphere

Hakone Open Air Museum, Golden Sphere

The Open Air Museum impressed me more. I couldn't get enough of the huge outdoor sculptures. especially the metal spheres. en Air museum Sculptures

The Open Air Museum: Elephant Sculptures

The Open Air Museum impressed me more. I couldn’t get enough of the huge outdoor sculptures, especially the metal spheres.

A beautifully tended garden with all kinds of sculptures, from historical to scifi. What’s not to like?

The Hakone Glass Museum

The Hakone Glass Museum

The Hakone Glass Museum

The Hakone Glass Museum

The glass Museum was too pretty by half out of doors, and fragile, shiny things from Venice filled the indoors. Glass crystals everywhere, as you will see if you click on the picture above for a bigger version.

The highlight of the Glass Museum was a performance by the unusual Russian musicians playing on customized glass instruments, who call themselves the Crystal Trio.

My a-ha moment came when the usually staid and proper Japanese broke out into full-throated song in accompaniment.

Natural beauty in Japan is outstanding, very zen even when casual and wild in the surroundings of a hilly brook. The more of Japan I see, the more I want to just contemplate it without any inane attempts at description.

Natural beauty at the Hakone Glass Museum

The stream behind the Hakone Glass Museum

Bits and Pieces of #Japan: Hakone, Odawara


Hydrangeas in Hakone, Japan

Hydrangeas in Hakone, Japan

Been out and about in Tokyo and Hakone the past few days. Having been here before (blogged about it here), I can look at Japan with eyes that aren’t dazzled by newness. The natural beauty is as usual stupendous, as is the deliberateness with which it is curated by the

ANcient Cedar Walk Japan Hakone

Ancient cedar walk Hakone

Japanese whenever and wherever they get the chance. This being summer, hydrangeas throng the countryside, and some of them have found their way into my blog header above.

I particularly loved them along the Ancient Cedar walk between Moto-Hakone and Hakone-machi– 420 cedar trees planted by Tokugawa Ieyasu around 1618. So the trees are almost 400 years old. This was the view of Tokaido (click on the pics for larger views) as it used to be when famous Samurai traveled down this road between Edo and Osaka, resting under the shade of these very trees.

Donjon Castle, Odawara Hakone

Donjon Castle, Odawara, Hakone

It was so lonely and quiet, and walking down, I felt I had stepped across time, especially when I had images in my head from the museum of arms and armor at the Donjon castle in Odawara.

I’ll try and add odds and ends of what I see in Japan this trip– but I’ve learned to let go and just experience and enjoy a country without trying to photograph and write about it, so I might even do just that.

Of Blue Whales and Turtles: A Slow Hourglass in Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka is a well-kept secret. In the space of a few days, I helped a baby turtle hatch, watched some of the most venomous snakes in the world up close, (without a glass pane in between!), and got to see not only a a huge pod of dolphins, but also the planet’s largest animal– a blue whale.

We stayed at Mirissa over the weekend, and if you ever find yourself there, I recommend the Mandara resort. After you get over the slightly run-down rooms and slow service (they do try hard to make your stay comfy, but at a holiday pace), you'll enjoy the gorgeous views (the sunsets are incredible), the quiet beach, and local cuisine catered to your taste.

Mirissa Sunset snapshot, taken from my Balcony at the Mandara Resort

We stayed at Mirissa over the weekend, and if you ever find yourself there, I recommend the Mandara resort. After you get over the slightly run-down rooms and slow service (they do try hard to make your stay comfy, but at a holiday pace), you’ll enjoy the gorgeous views (the sunsets are incredible), the quiet beach, and local cuisine catered to your taste.

The staff also takes care of the night-time guests on their beach-- turtles. If a turtle lays eggs on the Mandara beach, the eggs are protected for 45 days, and then once they hatch, the baby turtles are sent off to the sea, thus protecting them from various predators. I got to pick up the babies, and watch them scramble into the sea.

Holding a baby turtle, just hatched

The staff also takes care of the night-time guests on its stretch of the beach– turtles.

If a turtle lays eggs on the Mandara beach, the eggs are protected for 45 days, and then once they hatch, the baby turtles are sent off to the sea, thus protecting them from various predators.

I got to pick up the babies, and watch them scramble into the sea!

Newly Hatched Baby Turtles

Newly Hatched Baby Turtles

Dewmini's Roti Shop

Dewmini’s Roti Shop

If you eat at only one place in Mirissa, make it the Dewmini Roti Shop. Despite their rather unglamorous name, their food is definitely something to write home about.

The range of their scrumptious roti is simply amazing. Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor know what they’re talking about when they recommend this tiny place.

We also went to a snake farm: and here are some of the occupants we met:

The video is shaky because I kept running away– the snakes were not defanged (the handler showed us the fangs on a Russel’s Viper), and I’m not brave.

An angry white cobra at Mirissa, one of the most beautiful snakes I've ever seen

An angry white cobra at Mirissa, one of the most beautiful snakes I’ve ever seen.

I’m not a fan of snakes kept in captivity, but it is better than killing them outright — which is what most people around the world do. The farm is in a village on a hilltop, where tiny farms and homes jostle against each other– snakes are so plentiful that I saw one on the way up, and another came swirling by as the handler was showing us the regulars. Both were non-venomous, thank God!

But the best was for the last: the blue whales. We could see the spouts at a distance of almost a kilometer, and as we drew closer, we could see their glistening blue-black bodies ease gently into the sea and the humongous tail followed right after. The blue whales are shy creatures, not curious like greys — but the thought that something so huge, intelligent, and alive was right next to our boat brought tears to my eyes. It is amazing that they do not overturn even the smallest of fishing boats by accident.

Our captain was a whale-lover, and if you go to Mirissa, I would recommend you go with Raja and the Whales-- knowledgeable crew, who did not harass the whales like I saw the other boats do, but still got us as close as 20 feet to the planet's largest animal. Blue whales get easily stressed, are endangered and reproduce at a slow rate. They need all the consideration they can get.

This Blue whale was within 30 feet of our boat!

Our captain was a whale-lover, and if you go to Mirissa, I recommend you go with Raja and the Whales– knowledgeable crew, who did not harass the whales like I saw the other boats do, but still got us as close as 30 feet to the planet’s largest animal. Blue whales get easily stressed, are endangered because they were hunted to near-extinction, and reproduce at a slow rate. They need all the consideration they can get.

Sri Lanka definitely makes the hourglass turn slow. I was so dazed and awed most of the time, I took very few pictures. All the pics above are from my husband’s camera. If you live in Asia, or are planning on traveling here, please don’t miss Sri Lanka. It has so much more to offer, in terms of beautiful beaches and jungles, awesome fauna, gastronomy, ease of travel, and friendly, smiling hosts, we plan to visit Sri Lanka again.

What I Saw in Siem Reap


Daily (W)rite has been silent the past week. I’ve been in Siem Reap, Cambodia, mostly offline– climbing temple steps, tinkering with my camera, sampling local cuisine, listening to myths and legends, generally taking part in the tourism circus.

Back to regular programming in a while. In the meanwhile, here are some of the images from my camera:Siem Reap Snapshots

Siem Reap Snapshots

When Your Shoes Want to Take a Walk


Singapore Skyline

Singapore Skyline

I live in a country I could walk across, end to end, in less than a day. All twenty-two kilometers of it. If I were fitter, I’d probably do the other way across: 44 kilometers.

Living in a tiny young country like Singapore makes me want to step out every so often, take a flight to a place where the beaches are not man-made, where the history is longer than 200 years, where culture is not a mishmash, where the food is cooked with more emphasis on the quality ingredients than the procedure of cooking.

Travel is irreplaceable when you’re looking for a certain buzz of the body and mind, when you want to be relaxed and enriched at the same time.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

How often does the travel bug bite you? Do you go on yearly breaks, or take a vacation whenever the mood takes you?

Temples, Tigers, Writing in My Head


Floating Market, Bangkok, Thailand

Floating Market, Bangkok, Thailand

Life the last few days has had very little writing, cos I have been surrounded by sights that are at once strange and familiar, a language that has five tones  and every word and sentence seemingly ends in kha, khap, khrap….

Yes, I’m in Bangkok.

If I ever sort out my life enough to post about this place, I will….because, for now, patting tigers, watching tattooed, cigarette-smoking,  mobile-toting monks kiss tigers, speaking to men who are not men (long eyelashes and hoarse voices but pretty faces), eating all kinds of spiced-up noodly-wriggly fare, walking through streets crowded with Arab women braving the humidity in black burkhas, getting my eyes dazzled by the multi-colored, occasionally gold-plated temples, seeing a humungous,  5500 kilogram solid-gold statue of the Buddha (a prophet who followed renunciation!), has addled my brain.

I’ve been writing, all of it in my head…but who knows some day it will all flow out someplace.  I’m hardly online much, cos I’m hardly indoors much. So, for the moment, I’ll leave you with (very few) pictures. I’ve taken about a 1000 so far, and I’m yet to visit Ayutthaya, the historic Thai capital.

Pictures and Words: Rains in August


A lot of rain, a green-washed village, a storm, rain, a walk on metaled roads amid lush fields, no internet, no electricity, no phone calls…the clock turned into an hourglass…this was my day yesterday. I leave you with a few photos taken by my husband as he walked out and about. I know they’re not enough to bring you with us on the journey, which I’ll do some other time.

Kuching Snapshots: Sarawakian Tribal Dancer


Sarawakian Tribal Dancer, Kuching

Sarawakian Tribal Dancer, Kuching

Another Kuching snapshot, uploaded in the time I should be rushing to finish my story for the day, so here I go, back to my daily writing!

Kuching Snapshots: Carnivorous Plants


Kuching Carnivorous Plants

Kuching Carnivorous Plants

I’m wondering if I should use this photo as a writing prompt. But then today is the sort of day when I don’t need any prompting, stuff would flow if I put pen to paper. Colour of the ink I’m using: green.