Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hello Nara - Planning and Welcome

Day 4: Shinkansen Bullet train ride - HELLO NARA - Nara: An introduction - Horyuji Temple - Jikoin zen temple
 
N. A. R. A.

Nara was a place I had partially seen... albeit virtually. 5 beautiful blogs by 5 bloggers from Nara, blogging about the places in and around Nara had always inspired me to be there and actually see the this ancient town of Japan in person someday. So when the opportunity to visit Japan came knocking, there was no way I was letting it go. The day I came to know I will be visiting Japan, the first thing I did was mark Nara as one of the places I’d be visiting in Japan and the second was send out multiple mails to all my blogger friends informing them about the same!

3 Day Planning for Nara and Kyoto:

Planning for the 3 days in Nara and Kyoto was pretty simple, for me at least! It involved me doing nothing except shooting out hurried mails to 5 of my resident blogger friends – snowwhite, stardust, cosmos, sarah and Red Rose and notifying them of my proposed travel dates which were very near and fast approaching. That was it!

Everything else was taken care of, by all my Nara blogger friends! Thus, my 3 day travel itinerary for Nara and Kyoto was prepared, a home stay offered in Nara, a medium budget hotel was booked in Kyoto and complete guidance ensured within a matter of a few days of my notification. What helped matters further was that all of us were mutual friends to each other via blogging and that made working out things and correspondence a lot easier.

Finally, my 3 day itinerary arrived in my mailbox and it looked something like this – 

Day 4, Day 5: Ancient temples of Nara + homestay (courtesy cosmos) + A Tea ceremony + home cooked meals + loads of fun and laughter.

Day 6: Exploring the ancient temples of Kyoto + back to Tokyo.

The Welcome

As I stepped out of my Bullet train in Kyoto, two wide smiles were hard to overlook in the crowds. A big placard was peeping out through their hands.

Cosmos and Sarah receiving me with a welcome placard at the Kyoto station
from where we caught a one hr local train ride towards Nara

Coming face to face with bloggers from a different land... It simply felt special. Those few moments of welcoming were truly overwhelming to say the least. And all this was just the beginning of all the hospitality and warmth that was to follow. The unraveling of the beauty of the world that we all live in – Blogging - had only just begun!

Previous Posts from the Japan Trip -




Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turning 3 - Our Yatra Continues...

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow. -- Melody Beattie

Life is magical... fleeting, slipping by, momentary. Nothing is permanent... times move on, things change. And it is these changes that make this life what it is – A journey, an expedition... A pilgrimage... A Yatra...

The journey of Life: A Yatra

Life isn't a matter of milestones but of moments ~ Rose F. Kennedy

3 years... Today marks the 3rd anniversary of My Yatra Diary and by the grace of God and all your care, not only have I enjoyed every bit of my blogging but also learnt a lot out of it. But before I gear up to step into my 4th year, I pause for just a moment... to reflect on the years gone by, to contemplate on all those things for which I’m thankful for...

The burning flame: Counting my blessings

We need deliberately to call to mind the joys of our journey.
Perhaps we should try to write down the blessings one day.
We might begin; we could never end;
there are not pens or paper enough in all the world. ~ George A. Buttrick

... Your warm wishes that took me places, your support that helped my creativity, your motivations that built my confidence, your thoughts that helped me learn... your love that enlightened my soul... my mind jumps up with so many more. As I write this piece and try to savor all these memories anew in a moment, I can feel my heart pouring with heartfelt gratitude for all the love that you have showered on this little diary of mine.

Thank You, Friends

We can only be said to be alive in those moments
when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~ Thornton Wilder

Thank you for helping me grow. Thank you for staying by my side, sharing my hopes and dreams, and just being you. I love my yatra diary, yes it does reflect a lot of my hard work but I just want to let you know that it’s your blessings and heartfelt wishes that will always keep this going.

It is Your footprints that will always make My Yatra Diary... complete.

Your footprints - Your blessings

Those blessings are sweetest that are won with prayers and worn with thanks 
~ Thomas Goodwin

THANK YOU, friends!

Update:  My dear friend Mohini Puranik from Chaitanya Puja has sent her wishes in the form of a lovely hand made poster for My Yatra Diary!


Thank You, Mohini :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Of... Love, Lights and Joy: Diwali Diya Memories

Starting today, the eagerly awaited 5 festive days of Diwali - the festival of lights have commenced! On this merry occasion, I’m delighted to share with you something that has added a lot more glow to my Diwali this year!

My Yatra Diary is off to do a nostalgic guest post for someone who, with the radiant splendor of her persona, can light up anyone and anything she touches by her gaze. An exuberantly spirited granny of the Indian Blogosphere and one of the bloggers I highly admire, She is Zephyr from The Cyber Nag - who with her eloquent writings, friendly camaraderie and infectious smile is only capable of diffusing love, life and joy all around her – a perfect epitome of the very spirit that the festival inspires us to be!

Sure enough then, I feel blessed to see my post going live on her blog on this special occasion!


Here is a small snippet ->

Diwali Earthen Diya plate

" The Arti of the big Diwali night has just concluded and the night air outside is rent with noises. But inside the silent confines of my home, there is a divine calm as the big diya exudes its light.I am staring at the flickering flame; this diya has to glow all night. ‘Divine’ I say, because in its radiance I can hear voices that have a deep resonance and unlock many a door of memories in the corridors of my heart… "
... And the link ->


Please do read the post and do join in the celebrations as this post is a very special one for me. I will be eagerly waiting to hear from you :-)

Thank you!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Riding the Bullet: My Ticket to Kyoto

Day 4: SHINKANSEN - Nara: Planning and Introduction - Horyuji Temple - Jikoin zen temple

The first thing of the Bullet to hit me, a budget traveler to Japan, surprisingly, was not it's speed but it's cost! With the tickets priced at 13500 Yen per person from Tokyo to Kyoto, traveling in the world’s fastest train - the Shinkansen also known as the Bullet Train – was always going to be a costly affair. But I was the last one complaining and I had some very good reasons for it!

Shinkansen tickets of Nozomi Bullet train, Japan
My tickets from Tokyo to Kyoto

'Riding the Bullet or the Shinkansen' was something I had excitedly waited for, ever since I had won the all expense paid Japan trip (courtesy IndiBlogger and Expedia). One, because it meant experiencing a ride in the world’s fastest moving trains and two, because it meant an exciting meet with 5 special people who had, until then, shown me the beautiful world of Japan via this amazing world of blogging.

Riding the Bullet: The Shinkansen Train

Interiors: As I stepped into the world’s fastest train, the feel was thrilling to say the least. The interiors were such that they could have easily passed off as that of an airplane complete with neat and clean spacious seats and aisle area, together coupled with a peaceful soothing ambiance.

The inside of the Shinkansen Bullet train to Kyoto, Japan
An inside view of the Shinkansen: Doesn't this remind you of an airplane?

Speeding views: I jumped at my pre-booked window seat and excitedly waited for things outside to begin zipping. I imagined them to just go whoooooooosh but was pretty disappointed when I saw that things weren't that fast as I initially pictured them to be.

A tall skyscraper as viewed from the Shinkansen Nozomi Bullet train of japan
Amazing views of Japan from the Shinkansen Nozomi Bullet train
Wonderful views of Japan from the Shinkansen Nozomi Bullet train
The views from my window seat

Even though the bullet moves at very high speeds (240–300 km/h), you never really feel it while traveling and you can actually ‘see’ all the views and enjoy the passing landscape outside.  If you are interested in enjoying it's speed, then you need to step out of the train, stand on the platform and watch it zoom. That is when you get an idea on why exactly the train must have been named as ‘The Bullet’.

The Shinkansen Nozomi Bullet train of Japan
The Shinkansen leaving the station

The Shinkansen has a protruding nose and a rocketing machine that vanishes out of your sight in a matter of a few odd seconds when triggered. It may sound a bit strange but the fact is that I found it much more interesting to watch the bullet zoom by rather than zooming on it myself, which ideally speaking should have been the case!

The Ticket Checker:

The Smiling Ticket Checker of Shinkansen
The Smiling Ticket Checker of Shinkansen

The Ticket Checker was one of the highlights of the train - He comes, he smiles at you, he punches your ticket and wishes you a good journey ahead. He followed this same particular pattern for each and every passenger still it never looked mechanical or a part of his job, such is the gentility embedded in the very character of Japan.

Reaching Kyoto

Stepping out of the train was thrill too! And to add something more, I had butterflies raging in my stomach! I was nervous, anxious and excited... all in equal measures. And why not?

After all, my ticket to Kyoto was not just a simple ticket to Kyoto but it was my entry to a world of a different kind,


Window to the outside world, Shinkansen Bullet train

A world which was waiting to welcome me with open arms, it's people all geared up to illumine the heart of one sunshine face they had met virtually with their tender love, kind affections and beautiful smiles.

Travel Tips for the Shinkansen:


1. If you aren’t sure of your time of travel, only then go for an unreserved ticket. Otherwise, it is always good to reserve your tickets even though the charge might be slightly higher than its unreserved counterpart.

2. Seat reservations can be made in person at ticket offices of all major JR stations across Japan. Any shinkansen can be reserved from any JR ticket office in Japan. We booked our Nozomi bullet train ticket for Kyoto a day before from Shinagawa railway station and caught it the next day from the Tokyo railway station.

3. Green cars are luxurious vis-a-vis first class of air travel. Go for the ordinary car if you wish to travel cost-effectively. Ask for a window seat while making your bookings. The frequency of trains is very good with one train running almost every half an hour.

4. Remember, the trains are known for their punctuality and leave the station dot on time! But in worst cases if you miss your scheduled train, do not panic. Tickets can be easily cancelled for a full refund.

5. Reserve your tickets a day before so as to ensure availability of a seat and also to avoid any last moment hassles on the travel day.

6. If you take the Shinkansen from Tokyo in direction of Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka, do not forget to check out for Mount Fuji. It can be viewed from around Shin-Fuji Station on the right hand side of the train, about 40 to 45 minutes after leaving Tokyo. We weren’t aware of this fact and missed it altogether.

For more detailed information: Please visit http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2018.html


Previous Posts from the Japan Trip -

13. Epson Aquarium, Shinagawa in Tokyo

Thursday, November 1, 2012

10 Impressions from the City of Tokyo

I always imagined Tokyo as crowded, noisy, fast paced and expensive – the urban city life that we look to run away from.  However, the 3 days that I spent in Tokyo changed that perception of mine.

Tokyo - The capital of Japan
Tokyo - The Capital of Japan

Although 3 days are never enough to outline the complete character of a city yet they can sometimes leave you with impressions that are more than enough to delight your travel bone and tease you for more. So then, here go my impressions for the city of Tokyo -

1. Zebra crossing

As a child, I was always taught the importance of zebra crossing. But having grown up on the reckless traffic scenes of Mumbai, I never quite understood what it meant till I made it to my first international destination - Japan defined it for me.


People never cross the roads before the signal turns green
even in the absence of any vehicle coming

I turned right and I turned left, no vehicle in sight. Generally I wouldn't care of the color of the signal and simply cross. But not when I was in Tokyo. Traffic Signals are given their due respect and adhered to, both by the vehicles as well as the people.

2. Love for Nature

Pedestrian pathways and roadways full of flowers, Tokyo - Japan
Pedestrian pathways lined with lovely flowers

Nature was ingrained in the very lanes and by lanes of Japan. The pedestrian pathways were lined with beautiful flowers that made me feel as if I was walking in some garden and not on the roads.

3. Dearth of space

I don’t know if my analysis holds any good ground but I did apply my own logic to figure out the reason behind Japan's 'Lack of Space'. It's because people here do not encroach upon the space of nature and remain satisfied with their share, even if that means creating a shortage of space for their own houses and homes.


Pedestrian pathways and roadways, Tokyo - Japan

Otherwise, tell me - how can one come across beautiful and spacious gardens and well laid out pedestrian pathways like these in a space crunched city like Tokyo?

4. Good English speaking skills

Contrary to their image of poor English speaking skills, Japanese (in general) can speak and understand English very well. Just that we need to be slow and give them their time to take our words in. And then, what do I say of their zeal to help? It is such that it can surpass any language barrier!

5. Fashion conscious youngsters


I found people here to be very fashion conscious especially the young generation.

6. High civic sense woven in the culture

Polite staff officers of Japan
This kind station officer came running to me outside
to return my camera which I had forgotten at his place

There is a great sense of civic duty and they are not thinking of ways to pounce on each another. Hence, people go out of their way to help, your things never get lost as they are quickly returned back to you and people generally don’t interfere in other's business.

7. Cellphones: Handy toy

People cannot live without their cellphones, if I can say so.


People stuck to their cell phones - Tokyo, Japan

I saw the Japanese constantly sticking out with their phones while my stay in Tokyo and was often left wondering, what exactly they were doing - chatting, reading anime, texting or playing a game?

8. Supermarkets: One of the best places to shop


A mineral bottle from a super market - Tokyo, Japan

A bigger sized mineral water bottle in a supermarket store is a lot cheaper than a mini water bottle that you get in a vending machine. We were very happy to discover this bit by ourselves, as it did save us quite a lot of bucks at the end of our trip!

9. Lack of pure vegetarian eating options

Pure vegetarian restaurants are hard to spot in the city. But there is a lot of variety in fruits that you get in the supermarket stores all over the city.

Fruits at a supermarket store in Tokyo
Delicious fruits at the supermarket store

Apart from Govinda’s in the ISKCON temple, someone told us of one pure vegetarian restaurant standing in the Ginza district but unfortunately, we could never make it there.

10. Silent subway trains

One amusing thing that I noticed during my subway train rides were that the trains were generally eerily silent at most of the times.


Trains silent most of the times - Japan

But there was less of oral communication and people preferred sticking to their mobile phones, reading a book or a newspaper. It looked a bit weird at first but gradually I found it charming.

Tokyo, being a cosmopolitan city, had it all – tall sky scrapers, big offices, blitzy malls - yet for me, the city was different. Tokyo was about many things that I never imagined it to be. The city had many faces to it and it gave me the liberty to choose my own window of vision. I chose mine and all I can say is that I have come back only longing for more!

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