Romancing the Japanese Language

The first memory I have associated with Japan, was when I was a small school girl trying to pronounce Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku & Kyushuu 🙂 my Geography teacher tried her best to get us to say the names of Japan’s 4 main islands. From that moment it was hook, liner, sink for me!
I was enthralled by the stories my father told me about this great country. That it was one of the best countries in the world, that it was the land of the rising sun, that the people had very strong ethics and principles.

Few stories and incidents about the kindness displayed by the Japanese to total strangers left me speechless. I would often wonder – could this be just a tale,
could a person be this kind and offer unconditional service to another?

The first real connection I had with the Japanese was during my backpacking trip to Mainland China. I met 3 Japanese tourists who displayed disproportional levels of
courtesy, manners and offered assistance. These 3 individuals sold the concept of their entire country to me, and they dint even know the impact it had on me.
They were their country’s ambassadors and they did a fine job without even knowing that they were unconsciously advertising their country’s morals, ethics , principles and culture.
They all thought they were just touring as tourists – Wrong! They were samurais in their own way, and the living epitome of the most ideal prototype of how humanity really should be like.

Several other instances finally led me to enroll for the beginners course & I have been studying the Japanese language since August 2016.
Its been a wonderful experience, learning Hiragana, Katakana & Kanji. Everyday I learn something beautiful about the culture and eve the
conversations between characters in textbooks revels how respectful they are of each other.

I have just struck upon an endless reserve of knowledge that can keep me occupied for the rest of my life. Beautiful Japanese Language – Kireina Nihongo!

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A callous hunt

I had heard a story of a smart fish, trying to avoid the deathly gallows of a sharks jaw. Little did I know how beautiful this would be to watch – not the shark eating the fish, but the fish trying to escape and scoot for their lives. When I visited the Maldives, i went there with no expectation because the pictures i saw on the internet looked surreal. I couldn’t imagine if the place I would end up in would look like the pictures on the internet. I dint want to dampen my spirits, so i kept a low expectation all along. When I reached the resort I was definitely bowled over and the smaller details that no one really talks about were in fact the most significant in my experience. I indulged in these small little wonders that brought such a great joy to me. Just to watch.

One among them was the casual yet gorgeous interaction of a school of fish with the reef shark.
All over the island – when you walk by the share you can see a formation and they are really a group of fish drifting and exploring the tropical waters. The formations keep changing and these are a prime hunting spots for the Black tipped reef sharks.
It is really wonderful how beautifully these fish try and escape the attacks from the reef shark. The moves are strategic, and clever. They try to move away from the shark and when the entire group maintains a distance of a few inches away from the shark, it looks like there is a halo around the shark – its gorgeous.

I would sit on the plank most of the time to watch this interaction. It filled me with calm, poise and provided entertainment. One afternoon while i was watching, a small reef shark found it quite hard to hunt, he called his 2 other partners in crime, the 3 reef sharks attacked from different sides and they triumphantly swam away with a bounty in their mouth. It was cleverly planned and I was quite surprised by the strategy on how the payoff was achieved.

If you go to the Maldives, its not just the sun or the sand or the luxury, its these small little experiences that renders you speechless and turns you into a narrator.

Cycling on the City Wall of Xi’An

It was a pleasant morning in early November, when a bunch of travelers – who met at the parlor in the Hangtang Hostel the previous evening – decided to go on a impromptu cycling spree on the famous Xi’An city wall.

Xi’An is an enigma in itself, it has a intense cultural flavor flanked by modern aesthetically designed infrastructure. It is a laid back city, the people warm and courteous and there is a sense of peace and calm in the city.

Luca, Vincent, Micheal and I decided to walk to the City Wall, we navigated effortlessly through the streets with the help of Maps.me and before we knew we were at the City Wall. We bought our entrance tickets, climbed a flight of stairs to reach the Cycling section.I had heard about the cycling activity on the wall, but little did I expect to see these professional bikes lined up – it was a treat to the eyes. One thing is for sure, the cycles displayed will provoke anyone to get on it and go for that ride.

For 45Yuan we rented bicycles and we all were excited to commence our adventure. Luka was the most excited of us all. Micheal suggested that we take a tandem cycle and i was thrilled as i had never ridden in tandem before.

The feeling was exhilarating, it was was a thrill that one can only experience. A cold chilly morning, the sun barely peeking through a thick blanket of clouds, cyclist waiting to start the adventure. The air was filled with a excitement and thrill. The 4 of us cycled and it spontaneously turned to a race for a short whole, with Micheal and I on the Tandem cycle being the undefeated duo.

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Michael & I on the tandem cycle.

The view of the entire city from top of the wall was breath taking. The cruise on the city wall is unforgettable. We had a pit stop for about 20mins, we clicked pictures and spoke about the climate, countries, the movie Transformers, Optimus prime and our famous trek to Mt. HuàShān.

Luca & V – giving us some serious competition 🙂

The whole concept of letting people cycle on the wall is a sign of embracing change and defying the ‘way things were for centuries’. I was pleased about the fact that they were willing to change with time, accommodate to peoples convenience and not be pulled down by traditions and age old customs and let the preservation of architecture inhibit the authorities from letting people harmlessly cycle on this beautiful Historical Architecture.

We all spoke and rode our bikes and it was a pleasant way to relax our sore muscles after the exerting hike to HuàShān. It was a ride to remember.

Christmas in Colombo

The reviews about a place are going to stay just as data points, until you visit it. Now when you land there, it’s a totally different equation, you might warm up to it, like it, love it or just be madly obsessed by the place.

When i first heard of Sri Lanka – i had no expectations whatsoever. I dint know if id like it, i dint even imagine what it would be like. I guess I was more apprehensive of the first day of arrival – the usual jitters about the logistics and how to reach Downtown from the airport.

When I reached Colombo on Christmas Eve – the ride from the airport to the center of Downtown itself was like a small debut to what was awaiting for me at Colombo. On the way there were immaculately arranged cribs all along the path and at the junctions of small walk ways. It was really dreamy, and it was a different approach to what i see in my country. Here I saw cribs decorated so well and only then did i learn that Sri Lanka is actually very famous for its cribs. I felt awesome to be a part of this luxurious festive mode. It was indeed beautiful.

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Every roundabout was lit up & all the streets were alight with festive decorations. It was like being given a VIP pass to Santa’s private party! The weather was at a comfortable temperature, pleasant with cool gentle breeze blowing from the Ocean. We were on the beach side restaurant for the evening fiesta and everybody around us was in a happy festive mood. A young bunch of people dressed impeccably, were taking turns to take pictures with the exuberant lights in the background. It was splendid.

It was indeed a Christmas to remember, I really do hope to visit Colombo again during the Christmas week.

Oriental Peace of Mind

While travelling through the Orient, you cant help but notice the affinity the people have towards inner peace. Nobody needs to tell you about it, for actions do speak louder than words. From the moment you set foot off the subway, all along your journey you will notice the love the people have for nature.

I honestly felt that people in the Orient are far happier than in India. It probably has a lot to do with the climate too I guess. Nobody would prefer to be out at noon in the blistering heat! Whereas the climate in northern China is extremely pleasant during autumn and its literally a paradise.

I saw many people performing Tai Chi, in the gardens with soulful music playing in the background. People were happy to be all by themselves in the lush green lawn. The atmosphere was peaceful and I saw many people smiling and at peace.

I was delighted to be able to experience such a beautiful feeling. I see that the Oriental people do take massive efforts in keeping their traditions and customs alive. I absolutely love that about them. The astounding wisdom they posses about healing themselves from within is admirable. For they practice tai chi with dedication and love, its a transcended lifestyle.

The young, the not so young, almost everyone absolutely enjoys tai chi. It’s a great form of relaxation and I guess that the elixir of peace. For no matter how many hours you spend at the gym, it’s the soul we need to fix in the first place.

Inner tranquility is of prime importance, to be in harmony with our outer self.

Twilight Rendezvous

I am a big fan of fresh air at a serene location. In the middle of the Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometers off the coast of Continental Africa are few islands sprinkled like pebbles in the ocean. The Mascarene Islands are a delight to any nature lover. And if anyone has not appreciated the beauty of nature up until now, then seeing these immaculate islands –  will definitely be an eye opener.

Few weeks before i set off to these islands, I was slightly apprehensive about the fitness routine I was following at the Gym. I read few blogs on the internet and one of the best suggestions was to go running. Excersice after a few months becomes integrated into your lifestyle, it becomes a default part of your regime & feels natural. Sometimes few people feel good only after a workout 🙂

When i read this blog about inculcating running when on vacation it sounded like fun! When you have running shoes – you can run in any vacation spot you are at. You dont need a gym per say – but just a road or field where you could have your daily dose of cardio.

Good for me that i read this – for I saw quite a few historical locations around the place during my morning run! I went to a beautiful river, a nice sugarcane field, a lovely mountain – it was bliss. 

  

 When I was at Vacoas – I was told about this beautiful park named ‘Parcours de Sante Fin’ – I went to see it without any preconceived idea whatsoever, as to how it might look – but when i saw it I was speechless – The lawn was perfectly manicured. The railings a beautiful form of art, and i met very warm people who greeted me with the sweetest sounding Bonjour 🙂

  

 I put on my Asics Running shoes – every single morning and did at least 3x400mts run, crunches and lunges. I savored the sweet pain post my workout & looked fitter as the days went by. I am glad i read that blog about not missing cardio while on vacation and my romance with Dawn at Vacoas is definitely an event to remember.

Looks like I am waiting to go on another vacation to get some cardio 😉

Jiuzhaigou Valley

The picture above does not do any justice, to what you see for real. No camera could capture the exact feel of the place. Jiu Zhai Gou literally means ‘Valley of nine Villages’. These 9 Tibetan villages enclose some of the worlds most scenic landscapes.

Jiu Zhai Gou located in the north of Sichuan province of China, belongs to the Min Mountains. This is geographically located at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, outrageously famous for its multi-level lakes, numerous waterfalls and crystal clear lakes with varying color.

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The famous Mirror Lake

While in China, i dint know about this national park, until about 2 days before I arrived there 🙂 I took a train from Xi’An to Chengdu & that’s when a journalism student said he was travelling all the way from Beijing to Chengdu, and then would further travel to JiuZhaiGou. I wondered what this fantasy place was all about – he showed me an unflattering brochure and said that this is the worst way to advertise the place – I’d have to look it up online & i did! I was flabbergasted when I saw the website of the Jou Zhai Gou national park.

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The crystal clear – 5 Flower lake @ JiuZhaiGou

I took a bus from Chengdu to JiuZhaiGou – the terrain is marvelous. The view from the bus is splendid as you cut through the length and breath of the Min Mountain range and reach the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The small towns along the way have ethnic people serving hot tea and small homemade eateries.

The temperature in JouZhaiGou is extremely low, with a mean temp of -3 degrees C in winter and about 16 degrees C in summer. It could get extremely chilly at night. You have to be at the entry gate to get your ticket to the National Park as soon as 6:45am – the lines are already quite long by then 🙂

I met Makki from Japan for the second time on the trip & she came up to me as asked if i remembered her. We previously met at the Panda Research center and i was glad to see another solo traveller and we took off together to trek the national park. We wore hiking boots and layers and layers of warm clothing 🙂

The lakes were breathtakingly beautiful, the water crystal clear and the waterfalls were splendid. I took a lot of photographs as I dint know what not to click 🙂

The Mirror lake was fascinating as you could see the reflection on the top & the visibility was up to several meters in-depth. The Panda lake was gorgeous with vivid colors, the 5 flowers lake was so transparent – i could see the bottom with logs and all the pebbles on the bed of the lake!

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The waterfall was like a wide curtain of several waterfalls – it’s really like a dream. One has to visit this UNESCO world heritage site. It is classified as a AAAAA scenic area by the China National Tourism Administration.

I am so glad I visited JiuZhaiGou – Would love to go back again.

Tourists dont know where they have been & Travellers do not know where they are going. 🙂