Tokyo Sensoji Temple (Asakusa Kannon) | Nakamise Shopping Street

If you recall from my earlier installment, Sensoji Temple which is also known as Asakusa Kannon is the oldest temple in Tokyo. It is a Buddhist temple and houses a golden statue of Bodhisattva Kannon – Goddess of Mercy.
Asakusa Nakamise-dori
After passing the KaminariMon or Thunder Gate of Sensō-ji, next ahead is a lively shopping street called Nakamise Street. Despite the fact that this is busy street, it only stretches about 250 m in length and occupies a width of 4 to 5 m. Two rows of Momoyama-style merchandise premise were built with integrated electric sign boards and decorated with row of red lanterns in addition to cherry blossom against blue sky indicating the current season to welcome the spring. The atmosphere indeed creates great excitement for visitors to shop!
One of the best spots to buy souvenirs in Tokyo
Japanese traditional lanterns
Far behind is Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) - where we came from
Lies between KaminariMon (Thunder Gate) and HozoMon (Treasure-House Gate), both sides of the street are lined up with enormous selection of traditional snacks for instance red bean cakes, edible seaweed, rice biscuits and a huge
array of souvenirs including kimono, traditional clothing/shoes, fans, key chains, folk crafts like Japanese sword/knife, Japanese dolls, lanterns and toys. Some claim Nakamise is one of the best places to shop for souvenirs in Tokyo apart from Oriental Bazaar in Omotesando.
Heading to Hozomon (Treasure-House Gate)
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Tokyo Oldest Temple | Sensoji Temple (Asakusa Kannon) – Kaminari Mon (Thunder Gate)

Temple of Senso or Sensō-ji is an ancient temple in Tokyo. Located a stone throw away from Asakusa subway station, Sensoji Temple was completed in 645. Also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple, it is a Buddhist temple that houses a golden statue of Bodhisattva Kannon – Goddess of Mercy or Guan Yin.
Sensoji or Asakusa Kannon - The oldest temple in Tokyo
A masterpiece
According to the sign post that stands at Thunder Gate, history was created when one day in year 628, a statue of Kannon was fished out from Sumida River by two brothers, Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari. The headman of their village, Haji Nakatomo later decided to enshrine it and took a vow as a Buddhist priest, which remade his home into a temple to practise Buddhism.
Two characters on the lantern read (from top to bottom) as Thunder Gate
The temple precinct is accessible from a few gates. Yet the best spot to reach Sensoji Temple is from Kaminari-Mon
(Gate). From Asakusa subway station, one is standing at the intersection of Edo Street and Kaminari Mon Street. Walk along Kaminari Mon Street towards west (opposite of river side) and Kaminari Mon or Thunder Gate will appear on your right after about 100 m. The giant red lantern is the landmark.
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Tokyo MetropolitanTransportation | Sightseeing and Getting Around with Subway/Train

Looking at the below subway route, I believe you would agree that Tokyo Metro Subway Route is the most complex rapid transit in Asian’s metropolitan. Taipei’s subway system is far simpler and Singapore’s MRT route isn’t that complicated as well. Hard to believe but combining all the Tokyo subway networks, they carry an average of eight million passengers daily.
Tokyo Metro Subway & JR Train Route Map
Having said that, I found subway is the most efficient means to move around in Tokyo for self-explorers or tourists. These subway lines practically can take you anywhere within Tokyo metropolitan. Of course plus some walking, you would be surprised how efficient and convenience it would be to reach your destination. Same applies to the local folks, they use it heavily to commute to work place.
Be prepared to stand during rush hour
I would not call myself an expert subway user but every ride we took in Tokyo went pretty well. It must be the beginner’s luck! Even there was an incident whereby my Significant Other (SO) and I were accidentally parted at Akibahara station during rush hour. I didn’t manage to enter the coach before door closing. In less than 5 minutes, the next train arrived and we were reunited at our destination platform.

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Tokyo Adventure | Keisei Ueno Station to Narita Airport – Saved By Good Samaritan

Imagine this situation whereby you are competing with time to catch a plane. And your instinct told you that you are actually riding on the wrong train to the airport? Sounds like an exciting scene in a movie yeah! And believe it or not, my Significant Other (SO) and I were the stars of the day!

Ueno-Kensei Train Station to Narita Airport
Keisei Ueno Train Station to Narita Airport

After 3 days lesson of Tokyo subway and train, we thought we had graduated. On our last day, we dragged our luggage to Keisei Ueno Station and bought the cheapest ticket (1000 yen per adult) to Narita Airport and expecting everything to be as perfect as how we reached Ueno from airport. This time it was just in reverse order.

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2010 Spring in Tokyo | Cherry Blossom Viewing – Hanami and Sakura

Hey! I am back after two weeks of silence. Away on a long vacation, traveling back to my home country – Malaysia and caught a couple of short holidays in Taipei and Tokyo with my Significant Other.

Talking about Japan, I had transited more than a few times yet never explored the country of ‘The Rising Sun’ until recently. Firstly, I somehow perceived Japan as a planet of itself. What I used to have in mind was the locals only speak Japanese, read Japanese and write Japanese. They practically live in their own world. For a self-explorer like me, I might face huge obstacle to survive and getting around. My second verdict was the high cost which is much of my concern since I survived on shoes string budget.
Welcome to Ueno Park (pronounced as U-E-No)
Cherry trees are lit up in the evening
After spending 4 days in Tokyo, I guess my hypothesis were no longer true. This is indeed the beauty of ‘experience’. Yes, no doubt some of the locals do speak to me in Japanese (since I look like one of them!), but when I probed them in English, they understood and managed to help. Ignored the grammar and every point they gave me was flawless. The next thing I like about Tokyo is safe, clean, the “plastic food” or fake food samples display (this is cool, will share about this soon!) and clear self-explanatory sign post/leaflet. Transportation and food wise, the cost is similar to United States. For a decent meal in Ueno neighborhood, it may cost between 350 to 800 yen. Needless to say, I enjoyed the authentic Japanese cuisine in Tokyo. The only drawback was the hotel room’s size. Tiny and the semi-double bed is smaller than the standard queen size bed. For a petite couple, it was not really a hassle. Guess I was being pampered too much with the luxurious of space, so this is pretty hard to accept and became the downside relatively.
You could be surprised to see the effort placed to capture the best shot of cherry blossom!
The bonus of our trip was the inspiring sight of cherry blossom or what the Japanese called ‘Sakura’! In Japanese culture, cherry blossom is an omen of good fortune. As an emblem of love and affection, it also represents spring. Cherry blossoms are an enduring metaphor for the fleeting nature of life and often depicted in art, manga, anime, film, performance, souvenirs and consumer goods.
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Texas Austin | McKinney Falls State Park

For Austin city folks, McKinney Falls State Park is the nearest state park to their home. Located 13 miles southeast of State Capitol in Austin Downtown, the park can be reached via U.S. Highway 183, followed by McKinney Falls Parkway.
Scenic Upper Falls in McKinney Falls State Park near Austin

Onion Creek near McKinney Upper Falls
Onion Creek near McKinney Upper Falls

The Upper Falls at McKinney Falls State Park
The bald cypress trees line along Onion Creek
As the name calls, the focal point of the park is McKinney Falls. Although this is the shortest traveled state park from home, we decided to spend a full day at McKinney Park in order to put our newly bought mobile gas stove for good use. Weather was cold in winter, wind chilled on average reaching 50 plus degree Fahrenheit, so guess it would be great to have a ‘steamboat’ (or hot pot) picnic for lunch to welcome New Year 2010!
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Texas Prairie Lights | Drive Through Millions of Christmas Lights

Christmas is the holiday time of year that we wish to see colorful lights brighten up the nights. Folks usually decorate their homes, hang ornaments and displays, put up the blinking lights to welcome Santa and a magical Christmas. Christmas lights are indeed a must-have and a big tradition in The States.

The booth to pay entrance fee
The booth to pay entrance fee

Welcome to Prairie Lights at Lynn Creek Park
Welcome to Prairie Lights at Lynn Creek Park

Garden of the lights
Garden of the lights

Lights of various shapes and figures
For us, the last Christmas was an unforgettable experience. Our plan on Christmas eve was to see millions of lights at Prairie Lights, which was held at Lynn Creek Park by Joe Pool Lake, south of Grand Prairie Downtown on Lake Ridge Parkway. It turned out that God had a better plan for us, snowing the whole afternoon and below freezing temperature at night and we had a wonderful white Christmas on the following morning!
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Texas Grand Prairie | Cedar Hill State Park

Located minutes away from twin metropolitan Dallas-Fort Worth, Cedar Hill State Park is a popular state park among the urban folks to escape into nature without spending too much time on the road.

Escapade to Cedar Hill State Park
Escapade to Cedar Hill State Park

Arriving in evening
Joe Pool Lake - favorite among anglers
Prairie Grass
Encompassed an area of 1,826 acre of nature preserve on the east of Joe Pool Lake, this park features 10-lane boat ramps giving access to the water. Tonnes of picnic tables ranging from shade shelter or open outdoor are provided within the park, majority overlooking the scenic view of Joe Pool Lake. More than 300 campsites are developed in the wood, with basic facilities such as water, electricity, rest room and hot shower. If you are interested for primitive camping, there easily 30 sites to choose from.
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Texas Dallas Attraction | Pioneer Plaza – World Largest Bronze Sculptures

It is always never too late to discover something new. My recent trip to Dallas brought me to learn about Shawnee Trail – an early cattle drive trail established before Civil War and prior to the famous Chisholm Trail. Shawnee Trail gathered cattle from east and west Texas, which passed through Austin, Waco, Dallas and ended at Kansas.

Pioneer Plaza - famous attraction in Dallas
Pioneer Plaza – famous attraction in Dallas

Man-made fall, ridge and stream
Man-made fall, ridge and stream

In the heart of Dallas Downtown
In the heart of Dallas Downtown

Bronze sculpture of Texas Longhorn
Bronze sculpture of Texas Longhorn

Cowboy attentively watching his steer
Cowboy attentively watching his steer

Pioneer Plaza - World's largest bronze sculptures
Pioneer Plaza – World’s largest bronze sculptures

Cattle drive passed through Dallas in Shawnee Trail
Cattle drive passed through Dallas in Shawnee Trail

To commemorate the legacy of 19th century cattle drive that passed via Dallas, a 4.2 acre plaza was built with a herd of Texas longhorn steers and cowboys on horseback sculptures. Each bronze steer is taller than me, about six-feet high and so does the cowboy, perhaps double of my size. A dramatic feature composed by the designer is amazingly whereby the real scene of cattle drive was mimicked, descending an artificial ridge then crossing the stream in a park with one cowboy driving a stubborn steer and another cowboy watching attentively on top of the hill.
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Texas Dallas Attraction | John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial Plaza – JFK Cenotaph

One block away from Dealey Plaza, behind Old Red Museum lies an open space with four white walls holding a shape of square. Some called it JFK Cenotaph or an open tomb as the design symbolizes the freedom of Kennedy’s spirit. Others may refer as John F. Kennedy Memorial Monument. Ultimately, both talk about the same entity, same object.

JFK Memorial Monument from Main Street in Dallas Downtown
JFK Memorial Monument from Main Street in Dallas Downtown

John F Kennedy Cenotaph is located within West End Historic District of Dallas
John F Kennedy Cenotaph is located within West End Historic District of Dallas

Erected in 1970 and entirely funded by Dallas citizens, the monument is a simple roofless room with 4 walls of 30 feet high and 50 feet wide. There are two narrow openings facing north and south. Ornamented with identical circles that runs from bottom to top at each corner, the monument does resemble a mammoth LEGO block in a way.
Simple yet profound
Simple yet profound

Low granite square sits in the center
Low granite square sits in the center

A narrow opening into the monument
A narrow opening into the monument

Only 3 words - John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Once we entered into the white square, we were greeted by a low-hewn granite square carved with the name John Fitzgerald Kennedy in gold. Only that and nothing else.
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