Postcard from Sarajevo

IMG_6618 copy

Walk free in peace, tolerance & co-existence. Photo taken at Baščaršija the old bazaar, historical & cultural centre of Sarajevo that is located on the north bank of the river Miljacka, in the municipality of Stari Grad.





Bondi to Coogee

IMG_4385 copy

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

IMG_4373 copy

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.

IMG_4369 copy

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

IMG_4365 copy

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.

IMG_4363 copy

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

IMG_4352 copy

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

IMG_4346 copy

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.

IMG_4338 copy

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

IMG_4322 copy

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

IMG_4318 copy

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.

IMG_4309 copy

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!

IMG_4298 copy

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.

IMG_4296 copy

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.

IMG_4292 copy

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.

IMG_4395 copy

Colourful art to enjoy whilst strolling along the beach promenade.

IMG_4397 copy

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.

IMG_4398 copy

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.

IMG_4400 copy

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.

IMG_4402 copy

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

IMG_4403 copy

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

IMG_4406 copy

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.

IMG_4415 copy

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.

IMG_4418 copy

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

IMG_4420 copy

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.

IMG_4422 copy

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

IMG_4423 copy

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.

IMG_4425 copy

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.

IMG_4426 copy

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

IMG_4428 copy

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.

IMG_4429 copy

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

IMG_4434 copy

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.

IMG_4436 copy

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.

IMG_4438 copy

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.

IMG_4441 copy

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

IMG_4443 copy

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

IMG_4448 copy

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

IMG_4450 copy

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.

IMG_4453 copy

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

IMG_4455 copy

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.

IMG_4456 copy

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.

IMG_4459 copy

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.

IMG_4460 copy

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!































IMG_4385 copyIMG_4373 copyIMG_4369 copyIMG_4365 copyIMG_4363 copyIMG_4352 copyIMG_4338 copyIMG_4322 copyIMG_4346 copyIMG_4318 copyIMG_4309 copyIMG_4298 copyIMG_4296 copyIMG_4292 copyIMG_4395 copyIMG_4397 copyIMG_4398 copyIMG_4400 copyIMG_4403 copyIMG_4402 copyIMG_4406 copyIMG_4415 copyIMG_4418 copyIMG_4420 copyIMG_4422 copyIMG_4423 copyIMG_4425 copyIMG_4426 copyIMG_4428 copyIMG_4429 copyIMG_4434 copyIMG_4436 copyIMG_4438 copyIMG_4441 copyIMG_4443 copy

Jizo Trail

IMG_1332 copy

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.

IMG_1336 copy

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.

IMG_1337 copy 2

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.

IMG_1340 copy

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

IMG_1343 copy

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.

IMG_1345 copy

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.

IMG_1347 copy

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.

IMG_1349 copy

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.

IMG_1356 copy

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.

IMG_1354 copy

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).

IMG_1354 A copy

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.

IMG_1350 copy

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.

IMG_1358 copy

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!

Nikko’s Tamozawa

IMG_1191 copy

This is the first hall we see upon entering Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park. A lesser known gem, it is hidden right smack in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture in Japan.

IMG_1193 copy

Tamozawa Imperial Villa (田母沢御用邸, Tamozawa Goyōtei) was constructed in 1899 for Prince Yoshihito (later Emperor Taisho) as a retreat & it was also used by 3 other emperors & 3 princes until 1947. The residence was enlarged into a summer residence & retreat for the Imperial family but suffered great neglect after WWII.

IMG_1197 copy

This is the  largest surviving  wooden imperial residence erected during  the Meiji & Taisho eras. It comprises 3 sections merged together, with representations of the best feature of Japanese architecture  from the Edo, Meiji & Taisho eras respectively.

IMG_1199 copy

These Fusuma-e (襖) are painted-paper sliding doors mounted on Cedar board frames which  were transferred from the Edo-naka-yashiki residence of Kishu Tokugawa family in Tokyo. There are 2 pairs of decorated sliding doors such as these installed at the northern side of the Study area & 9 other pairs found on the 1st & 2nd floors of the villa.

IMG_1206 copy

A beautiful floral motif gold-gilded sliding door holder with the Chrysanthemum Imperial crest or Kamon (家紋) in the centre. Heraldic crests were used widely to indicate one’s origins, family lineage, bloodline, ancestry & status especially  in ancient times.

IMG_1207 copy

This Billard Room was added during the major Taisho-era renovation carried out between 1918 to 1921. It is noted that from the early days of the Meiji era, the Imperial family enjoyed playing Billards & especially the game of “Four Balls” on this very table.

IMG_1210 copy

In restoring Tamozawa Imperial Villa, the Tochigi Prefecture government had a team of experts, modern architects & artisans conduct a study on the techniques of each era, to authenticate & supervise the renovations closely.  Have a closer look at the Roof, the tiles & the stylised eave details.

IMG_1211 copy

This section was added during the major Taisho era renovation & it is the Audience Chamber where the emperor would receive official visitors. Notice the chandeliers & carpeted flooring which is a curious mix of Japanese & Western styles blended together in the interior.

IMG_1215 copy

An interesting Japanese fan-shaped window with gold-gilded ornamentation on the lacquered wooden frame.

IMG_1217 copy

I love the arabesque motifs & the finesse in the workmanship involved in crafting each individual piece & note yet again the presence of the Imperial Seal of Japan the Chrysanthemum morifoilum kamon in the middle.

IMG_1219 copy

In the Lavatory  is an Ofuro – cedar soaking tub & a latrine bucket, in the advent of the flushing system we are accustomed to today.

IMG_1221 copy

A touch of the West here with French Sliding  doors in the Study Room that open up to a panoramic view of the wide sprawling gardens.

IMG_1227 copy

This round feature window is the only one of its kind in the entire villa & it is perhaps the most picturesque with a view of the 400 year old Weeping Cherry Tree (Shidarezakura-Prunus pendula ‘Pendula Rosea’) behind the Dining Room, the stone lantern & the lovely garden in one sweep.

IMG_1235 copy

Looking out of the window from the 2nd floor Waiting Room area & was originally part of the main 3-storey section of the Akasaka Detached Palace, Hana Goten. This Edo Feudal Residence was presented to the Imperial household in 1872 by the Kishu Tokugawa clan & transported from Tokyo to Nikko.

IMG_1239 copy

A long corridor like this links many smaller rooms in Tamozawa which numbers about 106 in total. Japanese Cedar Cyrptomeria japonica,  better known as sugi  is mainly used in the villa’s construction.

IMG_1237 copy

This is the most important room in the villa where the emperor executed his imperial duties & spent the most time  when he was in residence.

IMG_1246 copy

The manicured gardens surrounding the villa makes a pleasant stroll & the maple trees would be blazing in their Autumn hues  come late October & early November.

IMG_1241 copy

This is the Dining Room where the Imperial family had their meals & where banquets were hosted for visiting dignitaries on official visits.

IMG_1249 copy

The Empress’ bedchambers are devoid of furnishing as with all the other rooms throughout the villa, so you would just have to use a bit of imagination when seeing all these living spaces. This room is laid with traditional  tatami (畳) mats which rose to its peak of development during the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Prior to the mid 16th century, only the ruling nobility & samurai slept on tatami or woven mats called goza (茣蓙) whilst commoners used straw mats or loose straw for bedding.

IMG_1265 copy

The remnants of Spring – Delicate single-petalled Sakura. The Cherry blossom together with the Chrysanthemum are considered national flowers of Japan. Mono no aware (物の哀れ) literally “the pathos of things”  is a  wistful sadness & awareness of impermanence & the transience of life which the Sakura is seen by the Japanese, to embody.

IMG_1266 copy

The beautiful garden is full of ancient trees & there is even a winding stream  that flows through the grounds of Tamozawa Imperial Villa.

IMG_1267 copy

It is interesting how most of the other flowering trees & shrubs lay bare, safe for this Weeping Sakura tree characterised by drooping branches that  blooms in its full glory in April.

IMG_1275 copy

This is Training & Study Room No 7 at Tamozawa Imperial Villa which I like best. It has a little private enclosure with a miniature waterfall & landscaping.  I can imagine reading here with birds chirping, gurgling waters & the occasional rustling of the trees in the gentle breeze.

IMG_1276 copy

This little rock tied in twine is called a Sekimori ishi (関守石)I wondered at first if it had any spiritual significance till I found out that it was a boundary guard stone. These stones are usually seen  in Japanese gardens particularly those with teahouses, to guide visitors along a prescribed path. A smallish rock that sits well is preferred & the cord makes moving the stone easier. This is a tacit agreement, not a command or order for one not to enter the grounds & it is really  genteel gestures such as this in the Japanese culture that fascinates me to no end.

IMG_1294 copy

Tamozawa Imperial Villa (田母沢御用邸, Tamozawa Goyōteiwas neglected after WWII & re-opened to the public after extensive restoration was completed in year 2000.

IMG_1293 copy

Tamozawa Imperial Villa is truly impressive in scale & grandeur even though it is only a third the size of the original area. It is now a Museum as well as memorial park with a well-kept Japanese style garden & a wooded area.

We assigned 2 full days to Nikko so that we could  include a visit to Tamozawa Imperial Villa. This beautiful space with clean streamlined architecture holds an interesting place in history that awaits to be discovered & enjoyed by the visitor & it is well worth the ¥500 admission.