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!

Advertisements

Quirky Silk Route

It was a pleasant journey along the silk route on the treacherous terrain of Sikkim. It was a journey to be cherished 🙂 Sikkim is a gorgeous heavenly place for any nature lover. We went to Sikkim from Darjeeling in a car & by far it was the most cherished drives of my life so far.

It’s a uphill climb all the way as you are gaining altitude, the nature all around is picturesque with gentle calm refreshing breeze blowing and it rejuvenates you from within. The best part is not just the tricky terrain with sharp and unexpected turns, but its the smart-ass signs all along the route 🙂

This road was built by the BRO – Border Road Organisation & they are notoriously famous for the liberty they take in writing some quick-witted one liners all along the way. The treat to the eyes begin with the natural landscape and the view of the 2 river Teesta & Rangeeth meeting, you can view this from high up the mountains. BRO never fails to keep travellers amused along the way, considering the dangerous terrain and they help the civilians by cautioning on road safety.

Even after all these years i still remember few quotes painted all along the highway, few of them are:

  • This is a roadway, not a Runway.
  • Ply, do not Fly.
  • Be soft on my curves 🙂
  • Drinking Whiskey, Driving is risky.
  • Reach home in Peace, not in Pieces.
  • Its not a rally, enjoy the valley.
  • Life is short Don’t make it shorter!

These quick-witted notes all along the way do perk up your life & you cant wait to set foot in Sikkim.

M2 Lifeline of MRU

The national motorway of MRU is one of the most famous stretch for its endless drives, pristine quality  & for connecting the south west – Mahebourg to Grand Baie, all the way up in the North of the country. It is a lifeline for commuters, people rushing to the airport and tourists savouring the visual delights Mauritus has to offer along the Motorway.

  Clear blue skies, perfect backdrop for the floating clouds. Taken on M2

I loved what the tourism department has done all along Mauritius, they have given it some serious thought and it’s one of the best marketing strategies I’ve seen. Subtle but effective. Huge bigger than life billboards talk about the African Fauna, and the connectivity this island country has with the rest of the world. I really appreciated the fact that they displayed an innocent looking sign that says – Connecting Africa to the rest of the world, this would never go unnoticed because the pictures grab the attention of any onlooker.

SA

You could zoom at 110km/hr speed, and this is the legal speed limit 🙂 It was my first experience to drive on roads as lovely as these. The view is great too. The skies are a deep blue, the contrast is sharp, and the foliage an exuberant green. All in all this is a view that you will notice while at this island country.

I love the way the roads are maintained, and the stringent road rules is definitely a necessity. The motorways look like they were inaugurated the day before, pristine black with prominent road dividers, you could be driving on your own just after setting foot here for the very first time.

Government of Mauritius really knows how to treat its citizens and pamper its guests 😉 Was a pleasure driving on your roads MRU!!!!

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.

IMG_2670

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.

IMG_2742

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!

IMG_2810

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. 🙂

Samurai Fiesta!

The most nostalgic experience I had with Japanese food was at the Suzuki Kitchen at a hutong in Andingmen. One of the most quixotic moments with delicacies was at this gourmet resturaunt in Beijing.

I was very fortunate to have my first Dinner in the Orient, at this authentic place. For this honor I am ever greatful to my friends Mauricio & Fen Peng. They chose this eatery and it was a very fine choice. I was overwhelmed with suprise and astonishment when i saw a waiting line as early as 7:00pm!  Luckily we found a table within 20 minutes. 

We ordered starters and salad. The salad was an art in itself. The vegetables were fresh, crunchy and succulent. I decided to go for a steak with mashed potatoes. 



Classic, healthy, Artistic – A japanese salad.

I was still learning to use the chopsticks and i managed to finish my meal with no major drama.😉 The steak was delicious, flavors infused in the meat, it was the most tender i’ve eaten so far. Apparently the texture of the meat helps to easily savour the steak with chopsticks. 

I have been raving about this place to every one! Suzuki Kitchen in Andingmen is THE place to visit while lazing around on a soulful evening while at Beijing.

The flavour & aroma of the gourmet  meal is cherished, the sheer pleasure of savoring this finese, takes center stage admist all the nostalgic memories I have encountered this far. 

I am definitely going back again to relish Suzuki Kitchens romance with food! 

Le Morne 

One of the most fabulous aeriel views while approaching the enchanting island of Mauritus, is the sight of Le Morne. As soon as I heard the announcement, that we approaching the coast of the African continent I ran to find a seat by the window and a very kind Blue eyed Mauritian let me sit by the window to savour the first glimpse of this continent. 

I saw a vast expanse of the Blue ocean below, the color was a deep rich blue. At the horizon I could see the color fade a little to turquoise and that’s when I saw this gigantic rock jutting out of the ocean. Beyond this rock I saw the island country of Mauritus. 

Le Morne is a Basaltic monolith rising to a whooping 1824 mts above sea level. The summit covers an area of about 30 acres. This is a Basaltic rock formed by the rapid cooling of Molten Lava. 

Volcanic islands are a treat to the eyes, you can see various formations across the island country of Mauritius. Beautiful Monlith such as Le Morne, can only stretch your imagination as to how it ended up being the way it is right now. 

The view of Le Morne at the extreme South Western tip of Mauritius is a natural wonder, has a historical significance, treat to a geologist, mountain of fantasy to a botanist as two rare plants are found on Le Morne, and enjoys the grandeur of being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Due to the coral reef and the lagoon surrounding Le Morne, the terrain looks like the perfect illusion of a under-water waterfall…..! This is just a optical illusion 🙂 The various shades of blue and the reef make it look this way. 

 

The view of Le Morne, from Sugar Beach.  

There are a bunch of privately held luxury villas on Le Morne overlooking the bay! What a delight it must be to be living there! While swimming at the Sugar beach – the view of Le Morne is fantastic. You could take a canoe and wade around Le Morne. A visit to Mauritius, a dream destination where the swimming or canoeing around Le Morne is definitely the icing on the cake. 

Tsongmo Lake

While in India, if ever one needs to witness a gorgeous untouched marvel of nature, the place is Sikkim. From the moment you enter Sikkim you will see its a place so different from others. The army administrative folks are organised, your ID and travel documents thoroughly checked, shoes you walk on & the tires of the vehicle are disinfected.

This is a serene place, climate cool and pleasant, I say that because I love it when it’s slightly cold and not too hot. I love places that have a strong Buddhist influence too. People went about their daily routine with a smile, the atmosphere relaxed and calm. The whole area has an aura of positivity.

Tsongmo Lake is one of the delights Sikkim has to offer. Its en route the Natula Pass, the famous Silk Route connecting India to China. The Chinese border is just 5kms away! The terrain to scale the Nathula Pass is an adventure, famously built by the BRO – Border Road Organisation & they are mighty proud of it. The army has a camp at the Nathula and their base camp is at the Lake Tsongmo.

The lake is immaculate, pristine and untouched. I love the fact that it is so damn clean and pure. It is a very famous glacial lake and the view is breathtaking. We were staring at the lake and its beauty despite the biting cold for over an hour. As you wait, there are Yaks you could take rides on, and lovely dumplings to savor just off the streamer.

Sikkim is a beautiful state and its capital Gangtok is very well planned. I loved the main shopping area, MG Road where the traffic is cut off, to enable people to walk about and there are benches installed in the middle of the road, with gorgeous flowers from hanging pots and Gangtok has beautiful parks.

Its a place one has to visit to witness this beauty & to relax your mind.