Tag Archives: Travel

Chasing Geishas in Kyoto

While planning our Kyoto itinerary, I made sure that I get to experience Kyoto of old and new. Our first two nights in Japan were spent in Kyoto before heading to Takayama and Shirakawa-go. After these, we went back to Kyoto to explore the city some more and stayed for another two nights. In one of those nights, we decided to eat at a place recommended by the staff at our inn. We borrowed their bikes and off we went to eat a very affordable teshoku meal. I ordered a set of chicken karaage. After dinner, we headed to Gion hoping to see Kyoto’s geisha or geiko as they are known locally.

‘Gei’ means art and ‘sha’ means person. The word ‘geisha’ means, a person learned in the arts, or more accurately, a woman learned in the arts. Seeing a real geisha in Kyoto is very difficult because there are only a few of them. We traveled in February, not really a time for festivals, (Geisha stages dance performances during Gion Festival in summer) so catching them on the streets of Gion in between performances is our best bet.

The Geisha in front of us
The Geisha in front of us

Riding our bikes, armed only with our mobile phones, instant cameras, and an unbelievable resolve to get close to a real geisha, we hoped for the best and we got the best. Our serendipitous encounter with the geisha’s driver feels like we were the best straw in a barn full of hay. When the driver saw us beating the crowds, (I think to him, we looked the most desperate) he told us where the geisha was and which door she’ll use as exit. His limo was parked about a few meters from the restaurants’ back door, in my mind, this was an act of good will on his part even though it may appear like he was squealing his boss’ whereabouts. But I am glad in whatever etiquette he decided to break, because we were able to get close to a real geisha as a result. Ayee hee hee.

The Geisha at the back street
The Geisha her back to us

After tens of blurred shots, I was able to capture this video and get up close.

I console myself that she’s busy and hurriedly wants to get away from us, that’s why she appears not too friendly. But I think this is really asking more from her since we kinda ambushed her. But all in all, this is a great encounter I will always remember when thinking about Kyoto.

The Street Art of Georgetown, Penang

Georgetown, Penang is best known for its jetties and street art. Named after Britain’s King George III, the inner city of Georgetown has been inscribe as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unique architecture and cultural townscape.

A newly painted colonial building in Georgetown
A newly painted colonial building in Georgetown
Old Town, Georgetown
Old Town, Georgetown

Recently the town had a surge of excitement and interest with the emergence of mural paintings on the old walls in Georgetown. Started by Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic, the murals mostly depict children in playful and fun scenes. A trip to Georgetown can now be about finding each of these wall art.

"Little Boy with Pet Dinosaur" Ah Quee Street, by Ernest Zacharevic
Weather beaten “Little Boy with Pet Dinosaur” Ah Quee Street, by Ernest Zacharevic
“Boy on a Bike” Ah Quee Street, George Town by Ernest Zacharevic
“Boy on a Bike” Ah Quee Street by Ernest Zacharevic
"Little Children on a Bicycle" Armenian Street by Ernest Zacharevic
“Little Children on a Bicycle” Armenian Street by Ernest Zacharevic

Other artists followed Ernest’s footsteps and started creating their own work. Deaf-mute freelance artist, Louis Gan has a few of his works on various streets.

"Brother and Sister on a Swing' at Gat Lebuh Chulia by Louis Gan
“Brother and Sister on a Swing’ at Gat Lebuh Chulia
paumural
“I Want Pau!” Mural at Armenian Street

_DSC6373Because walking on 35 degrees Celcius temperature in Georgetown is not very ideal, we decided to rent a bicycle so it would be easy for us to move around.  Bicycle rentals can easily be spotted near the jetties. We got our bikes for 10 RM.

Other mural projects include the “101 Lost Kittens” project, which aims to create awareness on animal care and adopting stray animals. Below are murals along Armenian street.

Cat
Giant Cat Mural
"Giant Rat" Mural
Giant Rat Mural
Cat and Mouse
Cat and Rat

Although some of these murals have already faded, like the boy with pet dinosaur, I am positive that artists will continue to create these kinds of art work in public spaces.

 

 

My ‘The Best of Japan Trip’

NOTE: This post is still being updated.

This entry summarizes my entire Japan Trip from 29 January 2014 to 12 February 2014.

My original plan was to go to Japan in autumn but I decided to postpone my trip to Japan for winter. After all, for someone who live in a tropical country all her life, the thought of seeing snow fall from the sky is a dream. I started to book flights and accommodation as early as October 2013 that by December, a few days after Christmas I was already set and only waiting for my visa.

Places I visited in Japan
Places I visited in Japan

My 15 day Japan trip covered 12 cities, 4 festivals, and about 3, 494 kilometres travelled.  I’m not really big in numbers but saying this puts a lot of things in perspective. This trip is more about having a taste of what Japan has to offer. In my future travels, I would love to come back and stay longer in a few of these places.

We travelled from Manila via Kansai International Airport. We decided not to explore Osaka and headed straight to Kyoto where we are booked for the first 2 nights. In Kyoto, we visited the Toie Eigamura because I love old Japanese films and bike around Shimogyo-ku near Kyoto Station and explored the beauty of nature in Arashiyama.

From Kyoto, we went to Nagoya to visit the Toyota Kaikan and in late afternoon took a bus to Takayama. We stayed 2 nights in Takayama, one of the day trips included a package tour to Shirakawa-go for the Winter Light Up event.

From Takayama, we went back to Kyoto for Setsubun. We were a few hours late on schedule because we missed the bus that would take us back to Kyoto by a few seconds, we later called this event, the Takayama incident.  Back in Kyoto, it’s the first day of Setsubun and we explored the east and northern Kyoto by bike, passing by the whole stretch of the Kamogawa river and reaching up north to Kiyomizu-dera. By night time, we find ourselves exploring the streets of Gion and luckily getting up close with a real geisha (geiko in Kyoto). The next day, we visited Fushimi Inari Taisha and in the afternoon headed to Nara for the Nara Mantoro Festival. Early morning the following day, we headed to Kobe Airport via train, this is our last city in the Kansai region. And because my favorite writer, Haruki Murakami is from Hyogo Prefecture, of which Kobe is its capital; I bought a Murakami book at the airport, TV ピープル  (TV People), a collection of short stories that has not yet been fully translated in English.

At the Sapporo Snow Festival 2014
At the Sapporo Snow Festival 2014

From Kobe, we flew to Sapporo for the Sapporo Snow Festival. We stayed in Sapporo for 3 nights. These included side trips to Otaru and Asahikawa for the Asahiyama Zoo. In Sapporo, we sent our luggage to Tokyo via taihakubin. From Sapporo, we took a shinkansen to Hakodate.  And from Hakodate we headed to Ueno, Tokyo also via shinkansen. In Tokyo, we visited Odaiba, Kamakura, and visited Shinjuku, Shibuya, Omotesando, Asakusa, and even went as far as Chiba to visit a friend. We also spent a day in the happiest place on Earth, Tokyo Disneyland.

We stayed in Tokyo for 4 nights before flying out and heading back to Kansai Airport for our flight back to Manila.

Surabaya – Getting lost is a good thing

I had a short trip in Surabaya Indonesia last July 23-27, 2012. We went there to film a documentary about a person’s success and riches. And as such, I am actually tempted to post photos of mansions and luxurious cars, of which we had the privilege to see and use (cars). But anyway, here’s some so you know what I’m talking about.

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After our shoot, I was able to go around Surabaya, because my flight to Jakarta leaves in the evening. I went to a museum called House of Sampoerna. It’s a museum of a cigarette company called Sampoerna. Old cigarette making techniques can be seen there. At the second floor, one can witness the different stages of making cigarettes, mostly done by hand. I was particularly amazed at how women workers manage to roll 24 cigarettes a minute and pack them with so much speed.

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I wanted to go to the Majapahit Hotel so I rented a becak. But my driver didn’t know the location of the hotel, so my becak ride turned out to be a tour of the city streets.

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