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Scenic

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Amazing Sights at Batu Caves (plus: monkeys!)

Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaI’ve seen a lot of impressive things over the course of this trip, but the entrance to Batu Caves — featuring a towering, 140 foot golden statue — is right up there.

I mean, look at that thing.

Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Then you climb up all those stairs (it’s a lot of stairs), and there’s an enormous cave with multiple temples inside.

Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It’s pretty incredible.

Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

That’s not to mention the monkeys!

Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

There are dozens of monkeys that just hang around on the steps and near the entrance to the cave.

Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

As you can see, they were pretty much the best.

Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Even if the caves themselves weren’t spectacular (which they were), it would be worth coming here just to see the monkeys.

Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Plus, here’s some video I took of a monkey eating a banana.  Yes: I got to see a real-life monkey eating a banana, so I think it’s safe to say that my life has peaked and that it’s all downhill from here.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho in Bangkok, ThailandOne of the more memorable things I’ve seen so far in Bangkok is an enormous temple complex dating from the 16th century called Wat Pho.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

There are so many amazing buildings here.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

Not to mention the statues.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

And these weird pointy… things… I have no idea what these are.  They look quite nice, though.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

Then of course there’s the most famous thing here: the reclining Buddha statue.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

I don’t think the photos quite give you a sense of how big this thing was, but it was absolutely enormous.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

They also had this thing in the same room with the statue where you could buy a small bucket full of coins, and then individually plunk them into various pots lined up along the wall.  I had no idea what this was for, so I didn’t do it.  I’m sure I missed out on a potential good luck bonanza.

A couple more pictures:

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

Frozen in Time

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, VietnamOne of the more interesting things I’ve seen in Ho Chi Minh is the Independence Palace, the former home of South Vietnam’s president, right up until it was taken by North Vietnamese forces in 1975.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

You can basically just wander around the enormous building, where everything has been left the way it was in the ’70s.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

It’s a fascinating piece of history.  There’s an old movie theatre.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Including the projection room.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Plenty of offices.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

People lived here.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

It’s a bit eerie, and absolutely worth spending some time wandering around.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

 

Hiking the Dragon’s Back in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back hike in Hong KongIf you’re going to give your hiking trail a name like “the Dragon’s Back,” then that trail had better be pretty majestic.

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

And yeah, the Dragon’s Back definitely lives up to its name; it features some absolutely jaw-dropping views.

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

The amount of satisfaction that I get from hiking is something that has really surprised me on this trip.  I sort of figured I’d be sticking completely to cities — and that is pretty much what I’m doing — but being able to get out and see nature every now and then is actually really nice.

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

Of course, it helps when the sights are this spectacular.

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

I think we’ve reached the point where I’m just going to let the pictures do the talking.

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

Sengan-en

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, JapanAside from Sakurajima, Sengan-en is one of those things that comes up a bunch when you’re looking for things to do in Kagoshima.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

It’s a former residence dating back to the 1600s that’s been turned into a pretty amazing garden.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

It costs 1000 yen to get in (about 11 bucks Canadian), but it’s totally worth it.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

Just getting there is pretty spectacular.  It’s about two kilometres from the city, and you could take a bus, but the walk is impressively scenic; it’s clearly the way to go.  I mean, I think this video speaks for itself.

Then you get there and it’s enormous and seriously impressive.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

That’s not to mention the hiking trail that leads to a spectacular view of the surrounding area.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

It’s pretty much just endless steps going up, so it’s crazy exhausting, but once you get up there it’s totally worth it.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

That’s not a bad view at all.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

Volcano Walk

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, JapanOne of the things Kagoshima is best known for is its proximity to Sakurajima, an active volcano on a nearby island (or what used to be an island — the lava from a 1914 eruption actually connected it to the mainland).

There’s a ferry that goes from Kagoshima to the island every ten minutes or so.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

It’s a quick, but scenic, boat ride.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

Once you get to the island, there’s a path that goes along the shore where you can see some volcanic rocks, and a pretty great view of the volcano.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

There’s also a surprising number of cats, for some reason.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

But mostly, some amazing views.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

I mean, come on.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

Deering it up at Nara Park

Nara Park in Nara, JapanThere’s a city called Nara that’s about an hour away from Osaka by train; its claim to fame is Nara Park, an absolutely enormous park that’s populated by over a thousand exceptionally friendly deer.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

These deer have been co-existing with people in this park for hundreds of years, so they’re not afraid of people at all.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

I sort of figured they’d be in one small area of the park, but nope — everywhere you go, hey, there’s a deer.

Some of them are just wandering around.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

Other’s are just chillin’.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

A lot of them are hoping for food.  There are several vendors throughout the park that sell a bundle of special deer crackers for 150 yen.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

There’s pretty much always a deer hanging out nearby, hoping for a quick snack.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

Once you’ve got these crackers, hungry deer will come right up to you.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

What’s this?  A cracker?

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

One please.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

Nom.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

This never gets old.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

Just stick a cracker out and within seconds, here comes a deer.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

I have a video of this, too.  Note: these deer are so Japanese, they’ll sometimes bow to you before or after you give them a cracker.  You can see it a couple of times in the video.

You also occasionally see deer getting into fights.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

These guys butted their heads together until one of them gave up, bowed to the other, and backed off.

There’s also a couple of temples in the park.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

And yeah, of course there are deer hanging out there, too.

It’s a pretty amazing place.

Wacky Sights at Dotombori

Dotombori in Osaka, JapanThere’s an area in Osaka called Dotombori that’s pretty much tourist central, and when you go there, it’s easy enough to see why.  The main street here is absolutely festooned with restaurants, each with a zanier and more elaborate sign than the last.

There are any number of animals, including a crab (I probably should have taken a video of that one — its legs move up and down)….

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

…a blowfish…

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

…an octopus…

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

…and another crab (which also has moving legs).

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

And the wackiness doesn’t stop there.

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

Or there.

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

I think you get the idea.

Plus, if you go around the corner, there’s a bunch of elaborate ads overlooking the Dotombori canal, including the iconic Glico Running Man, which has been an Osaka landmark since 1935.

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

Plus, there’s this location of Don Quijote, a Japanese chain of discount stores.  Yes, that’s a ferris wheel, though it’s no longer in use.

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

Thousands of Orange Gates

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, JapanI mentioned in a recent post that the under-the-radar temples and shrines in Kyoto are where it’s at; well, on the other end of the spectrum is the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is famous for its seemingly endless pathways of orange gates.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

It’s a stunning sight, but it’s also as insanely packed with tourists as you’d fear, especially at the beginning of the trail.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

Thankfully, it’s about four kilometres long and leads up into Mount Inari, and as you get deeper inside, it becomes less and less crowded.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

Towards the end, it was finally empty enough for me to take a picture like this:

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

And, because I have a hard time writing a blog post without talking about food, there’s a little cafe about halfway up that sells soft serve ice cream cones.  One of them was “soy bean flour” flavoured, and of course, I had to try it.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

It wasn’t bad — it had a mildly nutty flavour, and was a nice treat after a long uphill walk.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

You also get a pretty good view of the city from up there (which would have been better if it weren’t so hazy out).

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

Temple Cemeteries

Temple cemeteries in Kyoto, JapanI know, more cemeteries?  Weird, right?  Well what can I say, they’re entrancing.

Temple cemeteries in Kyoto, Japan

Many of the temples in Kyoto have a cemetery attached, and some of them are quite striking.

Temple cemeteries in Kyoto, Japan

I took a brief video at one of them.  It doesn’t really capture it (it’s mostly wind noise from the tiny built-in microphone on my camera), but there was something weirdly serene and kind of eerie about the sense of quiet here; just birds chirping and boards clacking.

Then there was this odd pyramid of sorts at one of the cemeteries; I don’t know what it was, but it was certainly memorable.

Temple cemeteries in Kyoto, Japan

I am, however, always vaguely paranoid that I’ll accidentally knock over a tombstone or something and wind up with a Grudge-esque curse, so if I die under mysterious circumstances here, you’ll know what’s what.

Temple cemeteries in Kyoto, Japan