Just looked out of the window (for the Australian Parrots) - and saw this guy instead.
Just looked out of the window (for the Australian Parrots) - and saw this guy instead.
From HK, getting to Macao is amazingly easy. We chose to take the Jet Ferry service from HK Island, but you can take a Bus or Helicopter !!
With the Jet boat we made the 62 km trip in just about 1 hour... which is pretty quick. The boat was quiet, comfortable and a fun experience.
As we had limited time we hired a driver; This was very convenient - and we did not waste any time getting lost or going to places we did to want to see.
With replica buildings from Holland/Belgium as well as a mini Coliseum (you can never have too many of these it seems), this is a tourist mall. But at 08:00 it was still closed.
We had some fun wondering around pretending to be in Europe - although the weather made it feel as though we were there.
I do take an interest in what motorbikes the police ride when I travel ... Alas Macao does not score highly in this....
This was a lovely area, and we could have spent many hours walking and exploring in this area. It was unfortunately very cold this day - so we had to keep moving jus to keep warm.
We visited the new cathedral, which was a little plain inside, and an old merchants house - which reminded us of some old Omani houses with their painted roofs and inscriptions on the walls.
Walking from the old town, we easily found the way to the Ruins of St Paul. What I did not prepare myself for was how many tourists there were here. It was really busy, and we were here at 09:30 on a cold winters morning.
The facade is very famous - it is surrounded by shops mainly selling food and drink - to the right is the old fort.
With mainland China being literally 1.5 kms away - this temple seemed a very popular stop - with several branches of Buddhism at the same site. We enjoyed walking around, trying not to cough with the amazing amount of smoke/fumes that the incense was producing.
Despite all of the hustle and bustle, there were people there praying and doing what people do in temples.
Not a typical on-street parked car you see every day. I guess the cost of real-estate in Macao is similar to HK.
Macao's most famous product - is gambling. So it seemed appropriate that we headed to the Venetian for something to eat, and then to try and loose a small amount of money in the Casino.
I am pleased to report that JB and I made a small profit, Dora alas lost - but at less than a cup of Coffee at Starbucks we are not troubled by this.
Very nice food, served on the floor of the Casino. This gave us a chance to recharge our batteries as we had been on the go for many hours at this stage.
With a few days holiday that we were spending in HK, we were keen to try and se some of the local sights. And the Big Buddha was one of them.
From Central HK, this is a simple first step - take the MTR for 28 mins, past Disneyland (bye bye Mickey), and walk out of exit A - here you have a 5 minute walk to the Cable Car complex.
If you are well prepared and feeling lucky you can buy these online - direct from the Cable Car company, or via Kloop. The advantage of this is you skip the initial line, the disadvantage you need to guess what the weather will be, and you can not be late.
We chose the "turn up on the day" option; And for this we queued for 45 mins, to buy a ticket (Kloop would be there in half this time). After which we had another 50 minutes of queueing to get into a Gondola.
On arriving at the top (I will cover the cable car lower down), you look like you have arrived in some tacky out of town outlet mall (which is exactly what is at the start of the cable car ride).
It felt totally out of place with the surroundings.
As you walk towards the statue, you are reminded not to drink alcohol, or smoke.... no-one pays any notice to this; The bad reputation that Chinese tourists have overseas is evident here in their back-yard.
Walking up aprox 170 steps is not too tiring. Doing so and dodging people who are standing trying to take selfies, gets irritating.
On arriving on the statue seeing signs of "Do not climb" - only to see Indian kids climbing, Chinese men smoking and Filipino's drinking - just makes a mockery out of the whole place. I could carry on - rant over with.
This again appears over-run with the worst type of tourism. Yes the buildings are pretty, and there are some lovely colors - but I compared a visit to a similar temple in Nepal several years before - and this is more like going shopping during Xmas sales.
We chose the "Crystal Floor" - yes it is thick glass - so you get a really good view underneath.
Speeding down the side of the airport, was a HK Police boat.
Seconds later we were crossing his wake....
We kept hearing bird noises out of the apartment window, I was trying to convince myself it was a bird of prey, as we see them high in the sky quite regularly.
But it was too noisy.... it was almost like the green parrots from Oman were here.....
After extensive searching (ok .... they were on the roof-top opposite) .... we tracked down the source of the noise.
They are yellow-crested cockatoos, which are sadly now rather endangered as so many have been captured for the pet trade.
For the moment HK is their refuge, however they are an invasive species - and their effect on the local ecosystem is being watched with interest.
With a special Christmas guest, we headed out to see some of our favorite sights here in HK. The Wetland park is my current favorite place.
I can not ever remember having seen so many of these animals in one place before (or did I not look that closely ?).
They are rather aggressive to each other on land.
From the first hide where we had expected to see Spoonbills, all was quiet except a solitary bird. A nice Pied Kingfisher.
Moving to the next hide, this Kingfisher was around sitting on top of a pole. This is a White Throated Kingfisher.
To keep us entertained a small wabler ? went shopping for a snack.
Walking through the butterfly gardens, whilst the hordes of photographers were chasing a humming bird, we spied this Red-whiskered bulbul.
As we were in the butterfly garden. This seemed appropriate.
At the 3rd hide, we caught up with the Black faced Spoonbills, amongst some other common for HK birds.
As if round off my Kingfisher day, here are 3 sitting on the same pile of branches in the river.
All are Pied Kingfishers.
Under the water Lilly's lurk some fish, with a turtle enjoying the sun.
High in the sky, circled a large raptor. These are difficult to identify in real-time, but on reaching home with looks 100% like a Crested Serpent Eagle - which is apparently common in these parts.
Camera: Nikon D600 Lense: Nikon 300-500 F5.6 Tele-converor: Nikon F1.7
Only some images were using the tele-convertor as it yields an F8 700mm lens.
Hong Kong, does not seem like a very good place to go bird watching, it is a mega city. But there are quite a few places where birds can be easily seen.
From out apartment we regularly see the Eagles and Raptors in the afternoon - rising on the thermals as they circle "The Peak".
We however, wanted to see some other things a little closer.
We nearly went to China ! Err... Ok we sort of are in China (it is a difficult subject here);
Let me try again - we nearly went to the mainland border point to, get to the Wetland park.
The excellent Hong Kong bus system, meant we took a bus 24 kms - followed by a 10 minute walk. The trip was supposed to be bit of a sightseeing opportunity, however my camera for some reason started messing around. Which took about 20 minutes of diagnosis - before it decided to resume normal service.
This looks like a common English-garden bird. So for the moment I will keep it as this.
Around the Wetland park, there were about 4-5 hides. Not the UK single level - some there 3 levels tall. With the top level being fully glassed, but lower layers having ample benches and viewpoints.
Here we see a Great Heron trying to creep up on their breakfast.
I can not remember seeing one of these before - but on the river fore-shore they were quite plentiful.
Another new one to have seen in real life, the legs and the colours make this species quite easy to recognize.
Looking slightly ruffled...
Amazingly widespread birds, which I have seen almost over the world. The fact their plumage needs regular drying, unlike most fowl - yet they remain a thriving species; They must be amazing underwater hunting for fish.
Another new sighting ! What a strange looking bird. They were initially grouped in some white egrets (and I missed them). Dora fortunately with some Binoculars asked for a check on them.
I could not identify these birds, and had to ask one of the rangers. Unfortunately they did not show us their very distinctive beaks ... which would have made their identification much easier.
There is am amazing district to the north of Tokyo centre; Called Akihabara - it used to be the centre of the cheap electronic industry in Japan.
There are still a large number electronics shops, but there are more manga, anime, and games shops.... Oh and a very strange thing called "Maid's Cafe".
The lights are starting to appear ...
Built around a train bridge, the SEGA store is an iconic landmark.
Here are some of the biggest toy, electronic and figure shops.
After a long day in the office/exploring - have some great food, and a decent beer at a small shop like this.
"yosakoi is one of the more flexible Japanese dance forms with teams incorporating contemporary fashion, hairstyles, costumes and dance moves into the traditional art form." ... No that did not mean much to me also, so we headed out to see what the fuss, I mean dance was all about.
I will try and split the photo's into different "teams"/groups - however 90% of them cunningly changed outfits in the middle of the performance...
All images taken by me - enjoy.
We had spent about 20 minutes trying to find the location - which did not appear in Google Maps - mainly as it had been shortened from XXXXXXXX YYYY Street to YYYY Street (sorry I forget the street names) - g
They seem to be in all ages, shapes and sizes. We spotted some very young (under 10), and more mature - some teams seemed to be high school or University ages - others seemed to be adults.
These dances, were not predictable in terms of repetition - this next shot is a deliberate blur (as are a few towards the end).
One of the more mature dancers - but by no means any less graceful. Well done !!
This next team, was very polished indeed. Not much shouting (if any) - but great costumes, with a good chorographer.
There was lots of shouting from the teams - just what they were saying - I am sorry I have no clue at all.
Going one way ...
And then then the other !
As I think you can see - everyone seemed to have a great time.
This clever team did some nice umbrella work - which was becoming slightly more necessary as it was lightly raining at the time.
Another different style - they started off with some martial arts type of jumps.Great costumes and energy.
The images have been deliberately blurred using a slow shutter speed, which worked a little better than I had hoped.
They started off looking like Assigns Creed
This was the only team we saw, where the female dancers removed their hats in the performance.
Very stylish and polish they were too .... Maybe because of the grumpy man who was following them ??
The only really scary looking character we saw - more impressive as he was dancing in wooden clogs.
Each team had a set of flag wavers - who must be strong men, as there were big flags which they waved enthusiastically around.
Same performer - same dance - different costumes - all very clever.
This was a great spectacle to see - right in front of your face.
A very memorable day out.
Images taken - 550 !! The most for a day ever!.
With a weeks work over and done, we wanted to explore the city.
This is our photo montage
We started the day off at Tokyo tower, and sorry to say the park - was very disappointing. Yes it had a few trees - but it had far more cement and concrete.
There were some nice temples - this is one of them.
There was some form of art/music show going on at this place - which lent gave the area a nice carnival atmosphere.
Dora, had visited this earlier in the week with her relatives - so she was the guide for a change.
Amazingly there seemed to be plenty of local ladies dressed very traditionally. Thinking that they would not like their photos taken, I quietly shot this as these two ladies were walking.
Just ask - it seemed that they ladies were happier if my wife asked them for a photo than for me - but I do not think they will be offended.
There are lots of things to see at this site - however it is is very very busy.
People visit the temple and ask for their fortune, this is what you do if you do not like the prediction.....
This was the view from the top of the temple looking back towards the metro station.
In the distance we would hear some drums, and some cymbals - they sounded as they were getting closer....
We happened to be standing in the main temple, as the "White Heron Dance" approached. This was total luck; And for once I was packing some of my lenses, and not using the super east Fuji camera, I have recently tended to use.
These are the old and the young guardians.
They are guarding - the white storks.... who "run" into the temple. Actually they walk - probably due to the very large head-dress they are wearing.
After bowing - they entourage leaves the temple....
Even the police were trying to get a better view ...
Around a small circle the 'Herons' and guarded (young and old), as well have a "feeder"... Plus a male cheerleader (old man waving a stick) .... And there is some music.
The young guardians look on with interest
The "Herons" all look very composed.... and elegant.
I hope these photos portal some of the grace, class and amazing diversity that Japan has to offer.
The "Herons" are now being fed - in this scene. After the dance - there was a rush to pick up these pieces of paper ... Blessings/Luck ?? I have no clue.
The dance continued, with the Herons taking off and "flying"
Being push by 4 or 5 elderly gentlemen, the band, was wheeled back to their starting point as the Storks marched ahead.
Not me - everyone else it seems.
These ladies - really brought a smile to everyone's day, they looked very stylish.
A family day out ....
Making new friends
Remembering the day
Super smiling lady - looking very elegant
Due to a slight rescheduling of where were were going to be living for the next few weeks, I found myself in the City of Tokyo - and as we had the Sunday free - we atempted to see the famous Mount Fuji.
The view from our room on the morning of this trip.
The nearest place to do this is the area called Hakone - which did not seem that far away from Tokyo.
It is easy in essence
But... This is the trap we fell into.
Sure if you have been in Japan for more than 4 days - it would be easy - this was out first trip. We got lost in the train station where the train went from....
Some key points about Japanese train stations
Ok now with some rules, we found the station, eventually found the line which sold the tickets to go to Hakone, and then found a train in 90 mins that would go there....
This is the type of train you will go on
When we set off from the station we had already been running around Tokyo for 4 hours !!..
The "Express" - DreamLiner ... frankly is not that quick. It take 90 minutes to cover 80 kms.... But it is comfortable - and despite you spend at least 50 minutes in an urban sprawl - you eventually see green fields, and some hills. Very suddenly you have reached Hakone.
A new train is needed one that can climb steep inclines. We now needed a new ticket - our Plasmo card paid - and we were off..
What seemed a short distance now took 40 minutes ... With zip-zag up. Driver swapping from front to rear. Then we reached Gora.
Unless you have some pass - you need to queue for a ticket - and you need to pay with cash !! We not have a ticket up the hill. This cable railway takes 15 minutes, and stops at places where literally no-one seems to get on or off.
But at the top ... there is the "Rope Railway" - or cable car to us....
I was lucky to get to the head of the queue quickly, and was able to ask the pleasant lady how long it would take to get to the lake ... she said another 90 minutes !! Our train back to Tokyo left in 4 hours, but we had already taken 1.5 hours in getting this far. She suggested going to the next cable car stop - and looking an Mt Fuji and then coming back. It seemed sound advice.
As we rounded the top of the hill, we could see the Alpine style chalet ahead .... we could also see steam below, and the smell or rotting eggs.... This was a major volcanic gas outlet.
One the top of the hill we looked at the green/yellow landscape - avoided eating the local delicacy of eggs cooked in sulphur-gas ...
Walking across the car park, we found a vista-map which indicated where Mt Fuji was .... behind the clouds !!!
It was a much quicker return trip, and frankly a bit of a relief. We had seats on the 17:25, and we did not want to miss them. The trip had been fun, Japaneses railways are awesome - but I am sorry .... this was a pain to try and accomplish on our first day.
I see bus trips from Tokyo for 6K yen.... that seems a very good deal compare to what we struggled through.