Mysterious Penglai

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Penglai belongs to Yantai County in Shangdong Province of the People’s Republic of China. Penglai Pavilion which sits atop Danya Mountain is crowned one of the “Four Famous Pavilions in China”

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This is recorded that Emperor Wu from the Han dynasty came to Shandong on several occasions seeking the ‘fairyland of Penglai’ as legend has it that this is where the 8 immortals of Chinese mythology cross the sea. 


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 This photo is taken near the West Gate leading to Penglai Pavilion which is part of a large complex of ancient buildings, palaces & temples which covers about 18,900sq km.

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Depicted here in a small temple are the 8 Immortals who got drunk at Penglai Pavilion before using their special powers to cross the sea.

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Numerous calligraphic works by famous writers, stone inscriptions & couplets hung on the columns of halls can be seen everywhere as it was once the literary gathering place for renowned scholars & poets.

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Not only is Penglai Pavilion a good place to witness a magical mirage, it is also a good place to catch a magnificent sun rise. 

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This charming side of Penglai Water City with the ancient fishing boats is sadly no more, instead modern motor boats & yachts which take tourists out to sea are moored here. This ancient naval base built around 1376 during the Ming dynasty is most complete & was designated a national cultural relic in 1982 along with Penglai Pavilion.


Postcard from Naha

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A kaleidoscope of colourful glass bits & baubles at the Glass-blowing pavilion at Okinawa World.

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A cute piece of art depicting the teeny-weeny Garden eels (Heterocongrinae) part of the Conger eel family which can be seen live at Churaimi Aquarium, Motobu Beach Okinawa, Japan

Mine’s Hidden Treasure

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I did not get accurate information on how to get to Akiyoshido Cave & the telephone no. I keyed into the GPS brought me to the Mine Tourism office instead.  Fortunately I met a young man fixing his jeep nearby & asked for directions. He went out of his way & led me to the cave’s entrance which was nearly 20mins drive away. I met a good Samaritan today!

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The distance from the parking area to the cave entrance is about 1 & a half km walk. Entrance fee to the cave is JP¥1,200 & it opens from 8:30am till 4:30pm daily.

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Emerald green waters,  beautiful moss covered rocks, a smallish waterfall & autumn colours in perfect harmony  adorning  the entrance of Aikyoshido Cave (秋芳洞).

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Akiyoshidai Plateau (秋吉台) & Akiyoshido Cave (秋芳洞) is notably Yamaguchi’s premier scenic spot & they are designated as a special natural treasure by the Japanese government. This area is a limestone plain & also a karst plateau that was formed by the movement of submarine volcanoes & the ocean plates over a span of 350 million years.

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The ground changes which formed Aikyoshidai Plateau (秋吉台) also created a huge limestone cave known as Akiyoshido Cavern (秋芳洞).  It is the largest limestone cave in Asia & it is an amazing experience as we enter here, the cave entrance Akiyoshido Iriguchi (秋芳洞入口).

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This section is known as  “One Hundred Saucers” Hyakumaizara (百枚皿) & it does resemble a whole lot of plates stacked up.

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This underground network stretches over 10km & branches out shaped like a Y,  but the route that we took was about a km long.  “The Big Mushroom” Omatsutake (大松茸).

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“Subogaki”  Straw wrapped Persimmon (苞柿) – the flowstone form what looks like strips of ‘khaki ribbons’ hence the descriptive name.

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“Thousand Rice Fields” Chimachida (千町田) where the cave takes a gradual bend bearing right & going up slope. LED lightings line the paved walk & there are sections where you have to negotiate stairways.

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The cave widens & opens up to a larger cavern which is about 100m in width & 80m in height at its highest ceiling point. The hanging stalactites in this section is known as “Hanging Umbrellas” Kasazukushi (傘尽くし) & they supposedly look like closed-up parasols hanging overhead.

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“Dry Falls” Karataki (空滝) – the semblance to a real cascading waterfall is uncanny here!

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“The Golden Pillar” Koganebashira (黄金柱) is really a sight to behold as it glows in the dark, perhaps with a little help from the lights. There is a myriad of colours at different angles of the column & it is evidently  minerals deposited over a long  time.

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A subterranean river runs through the cave & the sound of gushing waters can sometimes be heard & not seen & at this juncture a mini waterfall can be seen clearly  cascading downwards.

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We had a pleasant surprise as the Night Illumination of the Cave began just as we were about to leave when evening approached.

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“Mt Fuji of the Cave” Dounai Fuji (洞内富士). Water dripping from the ceiling formed this mount like stalagmite that resembles Mt Fuji. The vista is both beautiful & bizarre & it emanates an other-worldly vibe.

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“One Hundred Saucers” Hyakumaizara (百枚皿) awashed in rainbow hues which I like but some may find outright garish & prefer it “au naturel”. What is your take?

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Pretty reflections on the still water surface at the “Long Abyss” Nagafuchi (長淵).

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I was mesmerised by the changing hues & drawn by the peaceful atmosphere that made me  linger just a little longer – “Long Abyss” Nagafuchi (長淵)

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Exiting after spending about 90mins inside the cool cave which maintains an average temperature of 17°C throughout the year.

I thoroughly enjoyed this visit to Akiyoshido Cave to have a closer look at the speleothems which sometimes is strangely beautiful & at other times grotesque but they never fail to evoke some kind of reaction & a sense of wonderment at the beauty of nature.

Bondi to Coogee

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The reward for climbing the rocks to get to Ben Buckler’s Point.

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I have been to Sydney  many times before but strangely the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk had never been on my ” To do List”  in New South Wales.

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I have heard so much about Bondi Beach & have driven there for a look-see but honestly, nothing beats getting up close personally.

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To gather strength to do the Coastal Walk which stretches about 5km,  I had a hearty Char-grill Ribs lunch at Hurricane’s just off Campbell Parade on Roscoe Street.

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On an exceptionally good day such as today, it is no wonder that the beach loving Sydney-siders are out to play.

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A group of surfers paddled further out to sea, waiting to catch the next swell.

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Bondi Beach is one of the most visited tourist sites in Australia today. During the earlier days around 1855 to 1877, the beach & part of the surrounding land belonged to the privately owned O’Brien Estate. Later in 1882, the beach was made a public reserve & opened  to everyone.

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The turquoise waters are so inviting & this iconic stretch of fine sand can be enjoyed at any time of the year.

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The water at the Northern end of Bondi is safer & novices can learn to surf at one of the accredited surf schools.

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These yellow-red flags delineate the safe swimming zone & visitors are advised to swim between them. There are underwater shark nets in overlapping sections but it does not cover the entire stretch of beach.

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Curious to know a little more about Bondi Beach & its history? Join the “Let’s Go Surfing’s” Discover Bondi Walking Tour which allows you to interact with a lifesaver, learn how surf lifesaving began & enter Australia’s oldest surf lifesaving club!

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Bondi Beach is the end point of the annual “City to Surf Fun Run” held in August which attracts over 60,000 participants. The 14km marathon starts from the Central Business District of Sydney.

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Bondi Pavilion was opened on 21st Dec 1929 with extensive changing cubicles for bathers & was well utilised for about 2 decades until the mid 1950s when lightweight nylon swim wear reduced the need for changing rooms. Some alterations were done in 1977-1978 & the renewed building is now home to many homegrown artists & performers & the hub of community life & celebrations.

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Spotted a film crew at work across from Hotel Bondi along Campbell Parade. Bondi Beach has been used as a location for numerous films, television series, music videos & a mobile game. One notable factual TV programme I watched whilst there was ‘Bondi Rescue’ on Channel Ten which follows the daily lives & routines of the Waverley Council professional Lifeguards who patrol Bondi Beach. They perform up to an astounding 5000 rescues  over the summer months.

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Colourful art to enjoy whilst strolling along the beach promenade.

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Bondi Beach hosted the Beach Volleyball competition of the 2000 Summer Olympics & no expense was spared to erect a temporary 10,000 seat-stadium, a smaller stadium, 2 warm up courts & 3 training courts to facilitate the games.

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Bondi Skate Park was opened to the public in 1991 with just 2 skate ramps. In 2004 the skating community was consulted on how best to improve the site & voilà a 12 foot deep with a 5 foot shallow bowl rated 4 out of 5 stars by Skateboard Australia was put in place. The ‘Bowl-A-Rama’ skating competition has been staged here since 2004.

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The southern end of Bondi Beach is rated about 7 out of 10  as compared to the northern end which is about a 4 on the scale. Beneath the flat, smooth water is a dangerous rip nicknamed the “Backpackers’ Rip” because many tourists & backpackers hop off the bus nearby & choose to swim here instead of walking a long distance to the safer northern end. Bondi Baths & Bondi Icebergs dominate this end of the beach.

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A magnificent view of the 1km long, crescent-shaped beach from Bondi Icebergs.

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I am beginning to appreciate why Bondi  Beach made it to the Australian National Heritage List in 2008!

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Bondi Baths located at the southern end of Bondi Beach is managed by the Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club which was established in 1929 by a dedicated group of local lifesavers who wanted to maintain their fitness during the winter months.

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Bondi Beach is flanked by sandstone headlands which are popular for walking, golfing & even  whale watching. The 4.4km Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk starts near the Bondi Icebergs.

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Looking across to Ben Buckler Point & the South Pacific Ocean from Bondi Icebergs.

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This amazing cliff top walk brings you through beaches, parks, cliffs, bays, rock pools & even a cemetery. It is a medium grade urban walk  but be mindful that there are sections with stairs & steep-gradient paths to negotiate.

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From Bondi Icebergs to Tamarama the walk stretches about 1.2km & takes about 30mins.

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In November, the Bondi to Tamarama Walk hosts  the annual “Sculpture by the Sea” outdoor exhibition which features over a 100 artworks  along the coast.

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Mackenzies Bay with its  rocky outcrop “the Mackenzies” is  popular with surfers, fishers, sunbathers & waders.  The smallest beach in the whole state of New South Wales appears here at low tide but it is un-patrolled & there is at least one rip in this area, so swimmers beware.

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A glimpse of Tamarama Beach as we climb around the headland of Mackenzies Point.

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Tamarama Beach aka “Glamarama” where the beautiful people like to hang out. The beach is smallish but the surf is great & it is reassuring to have the Tamarama Surf Life Saving Clubhouse & lifeguards close by.

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Bronte Beach is attractive, easily accessible by public transport & is a good spot for swimming & surfing.

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Bronte Park has a refreshment kiosk, sheltered picnic tables & free electric BBQ plus a large playground complete with swings, slides, rope courses, jungle gyms & climbing forts to keep the kids happy.

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Enjoying the pancake like rock pool at the southern end of Bronte Beach where it is safer to swim compared to the open sea where there is a dangerous rip called the “Bronte Express” lurking.

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The folks here seem happy to be swimming at the 30m long Ocean Pool & also watching the rhythmic splashing of the surf on Bronte Reef.

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A magnificent view of Bronte Beach, the Rock Pool & the Ocean Pool which is one of the best known in Sydney.

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Beautiful Sandstone cliffs tainted over time & a surprise find…. my initials scribbled on the face of the rock wall.

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We took a slight detour from the Coastal Walkway & cut through historic Waverley Cemetery which had a serene atmosphere.

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This 500m Cliff-top Boardwalk was closed off after part of it was damaged in a storm. It transverses the edge of Calga Reserve & spans the length of the cemetery on top of sandstone cliffs & rock platforms with several rest stops & lookouts along the way.

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Burrows Park marks the beginning of the Eastern Beaches Coastal Walk & at this cliff top we can see part of Clovelly Beach.

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Standing at Clovelly Beach where the Geoff James Pool (also known as Clovelly Ocean Pool)  & the Clovelly Surf Life Saving Club are both on the right.

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Clovelly Bay opens out to Little Coogee Bay & eventually the South Pacific Ocean. It was just sheer magic  catching the setting sun from Tom Caddy Point.

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Gordons Bay is limited to pedestrians & accessible via the surrounding streets or the Coastal Walk. It is protected by an offshore reef & is a popular dive spot.

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The calm waters at Gordons Bay hide a unique underwater nature trail & it lies about 3km north of Coogee Beach. I unfortunately did not make it to Coogee Beach on time as it was already dark, so I walked to Arden Street & caught the bus back to Circular Quay where I was staying.

I must confess that I am not one who exercises frequently, so this walk was quite a long stretch to cover. It is however really interesting & worth every single step of the way because the surroundings, beaches & ocean view is truly amazing & the photo opportunities fantastic as you can see!































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Jizo Trail

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Finally crossing the formal gateway to Kanmangafuchi Abyss (憾満ヶ淵);  my curiosity was piqued when I first read about it.  I visited Tamozawa Imperial Villa which was close by before coming here.

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I did not have Google maps & that would have been very helpful but fortunately  I was able to ask for directions  with my smidgen of Japanese. We walked down the street through a quiet neighbourhood behind Tamozawa Imperial Villa  & turned right after the 4th lamp-post, descending gradually down the alleyway before turning right once more, crossing a bridge & walking another 200m before we spotted  the entrance to Kanmangafuchi Abyss.

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What a curious sight indeed! I guess I have seen Jizos within various temples in Japan before but not in single file formation & in such proliferation. Kanmangafuchi’s Jizo are popularly known as “Bake Jizo” or Ghost Jizo as the numbers seem to change when seen from different spots.

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So what exactly is a Jizo & why the profusion of them at Kanmangafuchi Abyss?

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Kanmangafuchi Abyss is a  gorge that was formed when an eruption of nearby 2486m high Mount Nantai  occurred around 20,000 years ago. It is situated in central Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture of Japan.

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A walking trail that is just a few hundred metres long run alongside the Daiya River & you are surrounded by nature,  the sound of birds & gushing waters – a natural perk me up for the body & soul.

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Apart from natural beauty, Kanmangafuchi Abyss (憾満ヶ淵) is also well known for its row of about 70 Stone Jizo statues of Bodhisattva which in Mahayana Buddhism points to one who delays attaining nirvana because of compassion & to aid those suffering.

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The Jizo Bosatsu (地蔵菩薩) statues have a red cloth tied around the neck and knitted red hats covering their heads. The colour red represents safety & protection & local womenfolk often dress the Jizo with hats, robes or anything they wish to adorn the Jizo with as a way to accrue merit for the afterlife.

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Jizo is one of the most popular Buddhist divinities & in Japanese mythology he is believed to help stranded children who were stacking stones on the river bed of souls because they did not have a chance to build a good karma, to cross over in the sleeves of his robe.

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Daiya River flows out from the eastern side of Lake Chuzenji, passing through Kanmangafuchi Abyss (憾満ヶ淵) & reaching Shinkyo Bridge which is part of Futarasan Jinja (二荒山神社).

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Rock stacking along the river bed. In Buddhism it is a form of worshipping & a wish of the stacker for good fortune for family & self. Each stone represents a particular wish or family member.

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Jizo is always smiley & is a defender of children, travellers & the weak. He is said to especially heal women who have lost their children to death.

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When you next visit Japan, keep a look out for Jizo who is popular & found at most shrines or temples in this intriguing Land of the Rising Sun.

So what exactly is a Jizo & why the profusion of them at Kanmangafuchi Abyss? I hope you have found the answer!