Saturday, May 30, 2009

Havasu Creek Waterfalls Altered

Change induced by Mother Nature is nothing new in the Havasupai Reservation. The recent monsoonal floods last Summer that closed the area for several months is re-opening, but it has also altered some waterfalls, impacted the access of others, and did away with one major one.

The waterfalls in question are Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, and Navajo Falls.

For more information, read this article.

Japan's Twin Towers

Today seemed like a very long day of trains, trains, and more trains. Plus a 40-minute round trip bus ride. All this was to go from Matsumotooooo to Toyama, and then to Tateyama, and ultimately Shomyodaki and Hannokidaki.

Both Shomyo and Hannoki Waterfalls are probably Japan's tallest pair of waterfalls.

And we definitely had to earn this one first with all the logistics, and then enduring some drenching rain (so just about everything's soaked despite having our ponchos on) during the walk to the falls. But at least the clouds didn't cover the falls when we got right up to it, and we managed to take some decent photos despite rain, wind, and mist.

On the way back to Toyama from Tateyama, we narrowly missed a connecting train (it's tough when everything's in Japanese and you don't speak the language). Had we not taken that connection, we would've missed the Toyama Station completely and gone somewhere far away.

I don't know what it is about the non-JR lines, but it seems we always have some sort of drama...

Well now that that's over with, we're taking a quick breather from waterfalls en route to Kyoto and Nara for the next couple of days...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Matsumoto Mishap

Today, we went into the Norikura Highlands just to the southwest of Matsumoto in the Japan Alps of the Nagano Prefecture.

The intent was to see three waterfalls (Bandokoro-no-taki, Zengorou daki, and Sanbon daki). But we only ended up seeing one along with a bunch of headaches concerning whether we were getting ripped off and whether we'd even make it back to Matsumoto with all the confusion around bus schedules (service here is very infrequent).

It turned out that we ended up paying about 8000 yen (around $88USD with our crummy exchange rates) for the both of us on this out-and-back trip. And I'm not sure a waterfall trip should really cost that much money unless it was a big ticket waterfall, which this one is not (though it is pretty nice in its own right). Perhaps hiring a car for a day from Matsumoto would've made more sense (though I didn't recall seeing a rent-a-car place in town).

Even though we've had some difficulty with logistics and communication in the past week in Japan, I think today was the first time that our lack of knowledge of the Japanese language really hurt us. Julie wonders why they don't have a tourist info center at the Shin-shimashima Station instead of the Kanko Info Center way up in the Norikura Highlands after some steep bus fares to even get there.

In any case, I didn't have time to try to pick up some basics of the Japanese language prior to this trip (something I try to do for just about every place we visit), and it was fitting that we got burned the one time I couldn't get around to taking the time to learn in the one country where we needed it most.

Oh well, you live and learn...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Waterfall of the Week

Fuji Waterfalls

We went a little out of the way to the western side of Mt Fuji today in search of a pair of waterfalls called Shiraito-no-taki and Otodome-no-taki.

Indeed it was a little pricey and inconvenient because it requires about an hour long bus ride from Kawaguchiko which is very infrequent. Even the info center at Kawaguchiko Station didn't recommend going there.

But being as waterfall obsessed as we are, we went anyways and boy we're glad we did it. Mt Fuji was a bit blocked and hazy anyways from its Western and Northeastern face (but strangely not the Northwestern face) so that kind of made our decision easier I guess.

Anyways, more details and photos to come once we get the website updated when we get back in another 2 more weeks. Stay tuned...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nikko Waterfalling

Today, we managed to visit 5 significant waterfalls in the Nikko area. This can be considered a waterfall bonanza considering we were completely dependent on bus schedules and doing a bit of legwork.

Among the falls we saw were Kegon-no-taki, Yu-taki, Ryuzu-no-taki, Urami-no-taki, and Kirifuri-no-taki.

It has actually been quite a while since we had a waterfalling day like this (as it was certainly lacking in China). Hopefully, we can have similarly successful days while we're in Japan...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Nikko is Nippon

We have made it from Akiu Onsen to Nikko today. We managed to get to Nikko in time for some afternoon temple visiting, which are World Heritage quality.

We had to endure some rain while visiting the temples here, but it was a nice way to cap off an otherwise tough logistical day since we did initially have trouble finding the Turtle Inn Annex as it involved navigating through various small streets with no real clear indication we were going the right way (unless you could understand Japanese script).

While we were in Akiu Onsen yesterday, we finally got to see our first Japanese waterfall at Akiu Otaki. This one had pretty good flow, but instability in the cliffs kept us from finishing the path that would lead to its base. I guess it wasn't meant to be, but the views from the upper overlook behind the shrine were quite good anyways.

Tomorrow, rain or shine, we're headed to Chuzenji-ko and the Kegon Waterfall as well as Yumoto Onsen and the Ryuzu Waterfall and Yudaki. If we're doing well on time (and Mother Nature is kind to us), we might be able to see the Kifuri Waterfall as well. We'll see how this all plays out...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Back to Freedom in Blogging

In the last weeks or so in China, we ran into some difficulties being able to blog there. If you'd been following our exploits, you would have noticed that it was working. But that was until we wrote about a disappointing experience at the Diaoshuilou Waterfall. After that, Blogger stopped working. Moreover, wasn't working either!

Anyways, after a long day of planes and trains, we went from the North Capital (i.e. Beijing) and made it to the East Capital (i.e. Dongjing if you're Chinese and more famously known as Tokyo).

At least now, freedom of speech is restored and we're back in business so long as internet service is available.

So what did you miss in the last week of China?

Well, after a waterfalling drought since Hukou Waterfall because we didn't get to see the Yuanyang Waterfall in Zhangjiajie and the Baofeng Waterfall was fake, plus the Diaoshuilou Waterfall was essentially dry, we finally got to see a real waterfall in Changbai Shan.

Even though it was too early in the year to visit this area (Heaven Lake was frozen), there were some waterfalls we did get to see such as the Changbai Waterfall, the Green Deep Pool Waterfall, and the Dongtian Waterfall.

After that, we went to Beijing which was surprisingly cleaner than expected and perhaps even cleaner relative to all the other places in China we've been to except maybe Hong Kong. The subway system there was excellent and convenient, and we were able to see all the major sights from the Forbidden City to the Temple of Heaven. We were also able to see the out-of-town sights like the Great Wall and the Summer Palace.

All in all, China was varied and educational. It definitely has World Class Nature though we do fear that its environment is deteriorating rapidly. We also learned more about who we are as Chinese-Americans and got a heavy dose of Chinese culture and way of life.

But now, we're in for another 3 weeks of Japan. And unlike China, we're completely on our own here. Since we don't speak or read/write Japanese (aside from a few kanji words, which are traditional Chinese characters), there's a lot of anxiety about whether we'll be able to execute on this trip. Still, this is what the travel experience is all about, and sometimes the unexpected and uncertain moments yield the highest of highs that can only be experienced if you put yourself out there...

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Waterfall of the Week

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mistimed Trip

Today, we encountered our first real waterfalling disappointment. The Diaoshuilou Waterfall was for the most part dry (except for a little bit of trickle at its base). The breadth and height of the cliff kind of shows how impressive this waterfall would've been, but these days, you only get to see the falls in the height of the rainy season (mid to late Summer) and diminishes in flow until the October time frame.

Indeed, my miscalculation that Spring would be a good time to go waterfalling in the Northern Hemisphere only holds for North America and Europe. In Asia, it seems that Autumn is the best season. And this is something that we have noticed throughout this trip from the alpine scenery of Jiuzhaigou/Huanglong to the tropical karst scenery at Detian Waterfall and even up in the frigid Heilongjiang Province.

I guess you live and learn. Perhaps in the future (not sure when), we'll come back to China in the Autumn or late Summer. There are still places like Yellow Mountain (Huang Shan), Tibet, Hainan Island, Taiwan, and Lijiang (in Yunnan Province), etc. that we haven't touched on this trip. Perhaps some return visits to Jingpo Hu (Mirror Lake) and Diaoshuilou Waterfall as well as Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong as well as the Detian Waterfall might be on the agenda in some future trip. We'll see...

In the mean time, we're now in Dunhua. Tomorrow, we're heading up to Changbai Shan (Everwhite Mountain). The weather has been surprisingly mild and even warm in these parts so far. Perhaps we might get lucky with the weather and see Heaven Lake (Tianchi). We'll see how that plays out...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mudanjiang Stopover

After enduring a rather uncomfortable, smoky, and crowded 5-hour train ride from Haerbin to Mudanjiang (still in the Heilongjiang Province of far northeast China), we've finally managed to get to our hotel for a quick stopover. Thank goodness (knock on wood) this is our last hectic train ride in China. We sure hope Japan's Railway experience is much better than this...

On tap tomorrow is a rather long drive with a stopover at Jingpo Hu (Mirror Lake) and the Diaoshuilou Waterfall. Unfortunately, we've been told by two different locals that there isn't going to be water in the falls because the feeding stream had been dammed since the 1980s. Funny how this type of info only pops up after you've made bookings. Anyhow, we can't cry over spilled milk and the show must go on. Perhaps Changbai Shan (Everwhite Mountain) featuring Heaven Lake and a waterfall of its own might make up for this bit of a misstep.

Stay tuned...

Waterfall of the Week

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Up In China's Northeast

It had been a while since we had last seen a waterfall or made a blog update.

In fact, the last legitimate waterfall we had seen remains the Hukou Waterfall on the Shaanxi/Shanxi Provincial Border along the Yellow River. The Baofeng Waterfall in Zhangjiajie is manmade and doesn't count. The other waterfalls we've seen in Zhangjiajie are probably too temporary to really count.

Since our last blog update, we've visited the canals of Suzhou - namely Tongli and Zhouzhuang. We've also caught up with one of Julie's dearest friends who's currently working in Shanghai. She (and her sister) showed us around despite the unusually stifling heat.

Finally, today we arrived in Haerbin in the Heilongjiang (Black Dragon River) Province in the far northeast of China. There, we saw Siberian Tigers as well as the Church of St Sofia, which is one of many things in this town with a distinctly Russian influence. The day ended off with a stroll in Central Avenue (after having some Russian food in a charming little cafe). At the end of the promenade near the Songhua River, we ran into a candlelight vigil complemented with performance by guests; all of this commemorating the victims of the May 12th earthquake in Sichuan Province.

Sometimes days like today where not much is expected yields the greatest and most memorable surprises. And this was especially true of the little Chinese-Russian cultural exchange on display here. Only when you get out and travel do you experience things like this and for sure we'll remember today...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chinese Watercolor Landscape Paintings Come To Life

Today, we just spent a whole day amongst the sandstone peaks of Zhangjiajie in the Hunan Province of China. The day was mostly drizzly and raining lightly and some of the landscape views were either completely fogged up or they revealed misty, mysterious vistas.

In fact, it was totally easy to see how the famous Chinese watercolor paintings usually on scrolls got their inspiration. Sure, some of the drawings/paintings looked to have temples in impossible places, but hey, it's art. They have artistic license to do whatever they want.

But with the landscapes we saw amongst the swirling mist, we couldn't help but think about how close those paintings are to the real thing...

No waterfalls on this day (a slight disappointment), but we do expect to see one tomorrow. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Waterfall of the Week

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

China In The Past Week

It had been a while since we were last able to access the internet (I think we were last in Leshan, Sichuan Province to be exact).

Lots has happened since then.

Here's a quick update.

We headed to northern Sichuan Province which happened to be a little further than Chengdu (epicenter was closer to Wenchuan just NW of Chengdu) to the May 12th earthquake that ravaged this province last year. But in the touristed areas of Jiuzhaigou (9 Village Gully) and Huanglong (Yellow Dragon), you couldn't tell there was an earthquake at all. Anyways, we went there looking for waterfalls (which we saw), but came out of there dreaming about lakes and mountains...

Next, we headed to Xi'an, which is pretty much a haven for historical buffs. It's also internationally reknowned so you see more than just Chinese tourists here (more like the United Nations of tourists). Anyways, we did do a marathon trip out to see the Hukou (Teapot) Waterfall and of course the obligatory Terracota Warriors. But what caught us off guard was the multitude of markets and the vibrance of the city center.

We're now waiting out (more like doing some more last minute touring) of Xi'an before going to Zhangjiajie in the Hunan Province (Chairman Mao's home province). But it's not about the history we're there for. It's more about mountains and waterfalls. What else?