07 June 2018

Tokyo (Japan) - Splendours of Sakura at Shinjuku Gyeon

Date of Exploration : 25 Mar 2016

One of the best places in Tokyo to immerse in the floral parade of cherry blossoms is Shinjuku Gyeon, a seemingly endless park at the heart of the city's commercial cum administrative district.

Wooooooow... My t-shirt is all wide-eyed basking in the glory of explosive blossoms.
Sendagaya Gate... one of the 3 access gates to of Shinjuku Gyeon. Getting here took quite a bit of asking our way from Shinjuku Station as there weren't clear directional signs.
Sunshine during a morning of spring, it's a beautiful meets wonderful kinda day.
Looks like an avenue of overturned octopuses with their arms twisting wildly in the air.
The trees should receive Tony Awards for being so theatrical.
Feels romantic and magical. Best to visit with a special someone :)
Blossoms and bottoms... lots of photogs exhibiting their posteriors for a special shot.
Akan datang (coming soon).
A big branch of joy!
Time to monkey around and enjoy!
Enchanted forest creature spotted...?
Shinjuku Park has several species of sakuras that blooms from March to April. Actual blooming period depends on weather conditions and announcement of the predicted period is released by the Japan Meteorological Corporation (JMC).
Pale pink blossoms of the Somei Yoshino cherry. It is one of the most popular cherry trees grown all over Japan.
There are several thematic gardens (Japanese, French and English) within Shinjuku Gyeon and a greenhouse with a collection of tropical and subtropical plants. We didn't get to see them all as took too much time to photograph sakuras.
First time encountering so many different sakura species in one place.
The most dramatic has to be the Shidarezakura, a.k.a. weeping or fountain cherry due to their drooping branches filled with blooms.
A few of the weeping cherry staggered together can resemble a waterfall.
The weeping cherry tree explodes in a firework of pink.
With the distraction the cherry blossoms create, the other flowers are neglected, such the brilliant yellow dandelion bloom peeping out of a crack.
The tress fall in... hope they don't fall down.
Two of a kind.
看到眼花花。
变成花痴了。Can really OD on sakura at Shinjuku Gyeon.
Great memories have been made :)
But they can wither and fade quickly like flowers. Cherry blossoms usually last about a week.
Spent more than half a day at the park without us realising. I've read on several online sites that Shinjuke Gyeon is a good place to enjoy sakura and it truly is. In fact, compared to the few other places I've been to in Tokyo while chasing sakuras, Shinjuku Gyeon is still the best!

28 March 2018

Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) - Get on the Shoo-Shoo Train at Sentul Park

Date of Exploration : 15 Jan 2017

Continuing my hunt for off-the-beaten-track things to do in Kuala Lumpur, I stumbled upon Sentul Park and decided to follow the recommendations of some blogs to come here for a photo shoot. It is very Instagram-worthy. They say. And having made it here, I totally concur.

Except.

They failed to mention that PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT WELCOMED in the park! That's because Sentul Park is owned privately by YTL Corporation Berhad to serve its gated community of condominium residents. However, the public is allowed to enter Sentul Park because the park is also home to the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC). A privately-owned residential development housing a public entity, that's like wearing your underwear on the outside... it is something private, yet the whole world is invited to see.

But no pictures please.

A tranquil oasis located slightly off the grid of Kuala Lumpur's choking urbanity, Sentul Park is in a little world of its own.
 Getting to Sentul Park

If I knew that Sentul Park does not welcome photography, I wouldn't have made the trip. Thankfully, getting here wasn't too much trouble as it is just a 15-minute cab ride from the famous Bukit Bintang district (where our hotel is located).

Sentul Park can be reached from the park's West entrance, which is accessible via Jalan Strachan. Jalan Strachan is located off Jalan Ipoh (which is parallel to Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah). This directional information is important if you're planning a visit because this place is tourist-unfriendly so not many taxi drivers know how to get here.

We had to direct our driver using Google Map to get to Sentul Park (West entrance) as he had no idea where the park is. If you come from Bukit Bintang, you will hit Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah. At a junction that joins Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah to Jalan Ipoh, make a U-turn to Jalan Ipoh and you'll come to an off road marked Jalan Strachan, which is the West entrance of Sentul Park / KLPAC.


If you have local data SIM card, simply use Google Map and search for "Bukit Bintang to Sentul Park". Then show the directions to the cab driver.

Getting out from Sentul Park can also be a problem as cabs don't casually drive in. To get a ride out, ask the ticketing personnel to help you call for a cab or dial the number listed at the counter if you have a local SIM card to get a cab.

Remnants of an Old Train Depot

As we drove passed the security sentry that guarded entry into KLPAC / Sentul Park and further down Jalan Strachan, we were greeted by a stately construct of red bricks that has gone beautifully neglected...

No idea what this concrete shell used to be, probably a bygone administrative building, but it is enchanting.
The skeleton that time left behind.

The empty arched hallways create an atmospheric setting that pleases the lens.


Before long, a security guard hollered at us to stop taking photos and shooed us away. He's probably concerned for our safety as ruins can harbour hidden dangers.


Lines & Circles

Moving along, we followed a path that led towards the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre and Sentual Park. The next curious building that greeted us was a nature-inspired minimalist low-rise that presented a sharp contrast to the abandoned red bricked ruins we just saw.

Simple lines but eye-catching exterior.

The exterior facade of wooden bars makes for a dramatic backdrop for some camwhoring.

Making the most of the line works while indulging in narcissism. LOL. Surprising, we weren't chased away. Maybe the security guards didn't see us.
Exploring further, we came across this concrete cylinder that could very well be a time tunnel.

Totally feeling the retro vibe of this portal from the yesteryears.

Unique photo-op with the unusual tunnel.

But we weren't trigger happy for long. Shortly after a few shots, a security guard marched over to shoo us away.
Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre

Opposite the concrete circular tunnel is the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC). From the red bricked ruins earlier, it's about a 10 minutes walk to KLPAC, if one could resist stopping for photos along the way.

Curves of the old juxtaposed with the order of modernity.

Only managed to get a few shots of the interesting profile of KLPAC before... you guessed it... a security guard came over and shooed us away.

An original spiral stairway that was salvaged from the area's history I suppose.

It was a quiet afternoon during our visit, allowing us the peace to mellow in the shadows of the past while soaking up nature.

Sentul Park lies beyond... We didn't cross over to explore the park as the sweltering heat quickly drained enthusiasm. Plus we weren't sure if photography will be prohibited over at the other side.

Sentul Park... a reclusive reflection of KL's past.


Having made it here as a tourist, despite the relatively secret location and photography restrictions, I'm actually glad that this place is not developed for tourism although it has the makings.

For a getaway from the hyper urbanisation of Kuala Lumpur to a place where history and greenery connect, Sentul Park is a tranquil little pause button.

14 February 2017

Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) - Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon

Date of Exploration : 29 Jan 2017

Completed in 1880, the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon is perhaps the oldest major monument of its standing in Ho Chi Minh City. It is conveniently located within the heart of the city in District 1, just opposite the main entrance of the Reunification Palace (the two attractions are separated by a park).

I did a half-day self-guided walking tour of the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, the city's Old Post Office next to it, and ending off at the Reunification Palace.

As the foliage of the park that separated the Reunification Palace and Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon parted, the cathedral's transept made its stately presence felt.

I had wanted to start my day's exploration at Reunification Palace first but it was closed during lunch (11am - 1pm) so I came to the cathedral instead.

While I was at the closed gate of the Reunification Palace, a motorcycle taxi rider came up to me and offered to bring me on a ride to show me where the various attractions are located for US$5.00 (duration of ride is about 30 minutes). I did not take up the offer and pointed towards the park in front of the palace's main gate and indicated that I'm going to the cathedral. He told me that the cathedral is not located in the direction which I pointed and offered to take me there. So I consulted Google Map and it showed that the cathedral is very near.

With the staggering amount of traffic in Ho Chi Mink City, getting a clean shot without any vehicle in it is good training for patience. God knows how long I waited to get this shot without any vehicles in it.
I was a little baffled, wondering to believe him or not but I declined his offer anyway and decided to cross the park to find out. As it turned out, the motorcycle taxi rider hadn't been truthful. The cathedral is located exactly in the direction that I pointed and it took me under 3 minutes to cross the road from the gate of the Reunification Palace, cut across the park, and arrive at the side transept of the cathedral!

Personally, I feel that the attractions (Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City Old Post Office, Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market, the French Quarter and Bitexco Tower) are located within a reasonable walking radius. That's if you stay at the centre of District 1 which is near Ben Thanh Market. So it is not necessary to take the motorcycle taxi ride. Moreover, US$5.00 (approx. 115,000d.) is rather expensive to just ride past the various sites. Anyway, there are a lot of taxi scams and other money rip-offs in Ho Chi Minh City so be very careful. Click here for some of the unpleasant encounters I experienced.


Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon is right next to another of the city's historical gem - the Ho Chi Minh City's Old Post Office that was completed in 1891. It is also listed as one of the city's attractions to visit.

My visit coincided with the Chinese New Year period so while I was crossing the road to Saigon Cathedral, I caught sight of this CNY decoration on wheels. Talk about flower power! LOL

Facade of the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. Officially known as the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception. I shall call it "Saigon Cathedral" for short.

Building materials for the cathedral were brought over from France with the marble statue of the Virgin Mary fabricated in Rome. "Notre Dame" means "Our Lady" in French.

Getting that essential "I am here" selfie shot :o)

In 2005, this statue of the Virgin Mary apparently wept tears from her right eye with a tear trail running down her right cheek. Is it a miracle?

The weather quickly turned gloomy with light rain during my visit but thankfully, the full blooming sunflowers planted around the statue added a smile to appreciate the cathedral with.

The two bell towers housing 6 bells each stands at a height of 58m.

Getting upclose with the Saigon Cathedral.

The cathedral was closed during my visit so I didn't get to see the interior.

Reflection of a star attraction from the French era of Ho Chi Minh City.

I stayed about an hour snapping photos of Saigon Cathedral's facade, most of the time spent waiting for traffic or people to clear the scene for cleaner shots of this historic religious monument.

Saigon Cathedral may not be as elaborate or atmospheric as the gargoyles-laden and medieval Notre Dame de Paris, but it offered a glimpse into the early Europeanisation of Vietnam. The "invasion" of France into Vietnam's politics started because a Catholic priest asked the French government to provide military support and help to Vietnam's Emperor Gia Long in reclaiming lost lands from the country's rebelling peasants.

So, always be careful when asking for help. Or one may end up losing much more.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...