Travelogue Japan: Rail Mountain Bike @ Gattan-Go! in Hida City

They say that once you know how to balance yourself on a bike, you’ll never forget how to ride it. While that’s partially true, the last time I tried re-riding one after 10+ years almost ended up in me being flattened into a pancake (read  story HERE). I was understandably wary when our guide in Japan, Mariko-San, announced in the car that we’d be heading to a ‘mountain biking’ place next. I mean, it’s already difficult for me to ride on flat ground, and now you want me to bike on a mountain!?

image credit: Japan National Tourism Organisation

…… Oh. 

Turns out it was ‘sort of’ flat land after all, and the bikes she was referring to were railroad mountain bikes – basically bikes that have been attached to a railroad track on rollers! 😀

This unique activity in the Hida region of Gifu was the brainchild of illustrious locals, who decided to convert part of the disused 2.9km track (which formerly served the Okuhida-Onsenguchi station in Hida and Inotani Station in Toyama) into a tourist attraction. And so, in 2006, the Rail Mountain Bike Gattan Go (a Japanese term similar to ‘clickety clack’ in English) was born.

Hida Takayama & Hida Furukawa

There are several ‘models’ to choose from, including family-friendly ones that have a carriage at the back for the little ones.

Since we were a group of four, I took the front with Mariko-san, and the two guys followed from the back. A safe distance needs to be kept between the bikes so the instructors let us gain some ground before releasing the next set.

Before we set off, there was a safety briefing and a brochure to read (in simple English, if you can’t understand Japanese). We also had to wear protective safety helmets. Loose items need to be stored as it will be difficult to retrieve if they fall onto the track. You CANNOT jump off or stop during the ride (kind of like the motorised jeeps in Jurassic Park – and we all know what happened when they stopped lol).

Hida Takayama & Hida Furukawa

And… off we went!

The bikes rolled faster than I anticipated! Every now and then there was a loud “CLANK!” as it went over a notch in the railroad track, but the ride was anything but bumpy. If you’re lazy to walk but would still like to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery of Hida, I 100% recommend riding the Gattan-Go. As the wind rushes through your hair, you’ll see verdant green landscapes on both sides, sometimes passing through high ledges that offer sweeping views of the quaint rural Japanese towns below.

Hida Takayama & Hida Furukawa

A vivid red bridge spanning across a roaring river. I couldn’t stop the bike so I precariously balanced the DSLR on my arm while taking 10x shots hoping one will turn out good lol (don’t try this at home kids).

Hida Takayama & Hida Furukawa

Riding past the backyards of some homes.

Hida Takayama & Hida Furukawa

Some parts of the track passed through tunnels that cut across the mountains. The tunnels were pitch black, and I could hear rushing water in the darkness even over the loud clanks of the bike roller against the rails. We also passed by several disused stations, some of which have small shrines next to them dedicated to local deities.

Kanazawa, Japan

End of the line! We had to stop so that the staff could turn the bike in the other direction. There was a basin nearby which was filled with fresh mountain water. Cool, refreshing and sweet!

Hida Takayama & Hida Furukawa

Heading back to the starting point with more gorgeous scenery.

The entire trip took us about an hour, but it sure didn’t feel like it!

Kanazawa, Japan

This ‘tunnel’ cookie was almost too cute to eat.

Almost.

Due to Japan’s changing seasons, RMTB Gattan-Go! only operates from April to September from 9AM – 4.30PM (8 slots per day) and October to November from 9AM-3.30PM (7 slots per day).

Price is at 1000 yen per pax.

RAILROAD MOUNTAIN BIKE GATTAN GO 

〒506-1147
Azumo, Kamioka-cho, Hida City

Getting There 

The attraction is accessible via buses and taxi from JR Takayama Station or Okuhida Hot Spring Villages (55-60mins).

Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Blog: Attractions in Jenjarom, Selangor – Fo Guang Shan Dong Zhen Temple, Jenjarom

Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t been updating much – been trying to finish up work before I go off for the long weekend. 🙂

Speaking of weekends, what do you usually do? Most days I just want to lie in and sleep/read a book at a cafe, but the parents are always raring to go on day trips so occasionally,  I join them for sightseeing (and for blog material lol).

Last Sunday was one of those days. Our destination: Jenjarom, a small town located in the Kuala Langat district, on the fringes of Selangor. From where I live, it takes just 40 minutes by highway.

Sorry didn’t manage to take pic of the town gateway 😦 but here’s one from (Image credit): Buddha’s Light International Association @myblia.wordpress.com

Jenjarom started as a Chinese New Village (the British wanted to prevent the Malayan-Chinese populace from helping the communists, so they lumped everyone into these settlements and imposed curfews to monitor their movements)  in the 1950s,  so it’s not surprising that the town has a large Chinese-Buddhist population. In recent years, the place has become known for its tourism, mostly to the Fo Guang Shan Dong Zhen Buddhist Temple. Built in 1994 and spread over 16 acres of land, the Taiwan-style temple has several prayer halls and nicely landscaped gardens. It is especially popular during festival days, such as Wesak and Chinese New Year.

Ahem. So here’s a video that I put together for your viewing pleasure ! It was a good chance for me to test out my new phone (a Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro, also recorded the voiceover on it). 

I’m aware that it isn’t professional, but I tried my best (my best being four hours T-T) . Would be great if anyone has tips on what I could improve on + software to use for easy editing (currently using Adobe Premiere Pro CC). 

Entrance to the temple. There is a helpful map on the right, displaying the different sections within the temple grounds.

Well maintained front garden, featuring stone statues of Arahats and their respective descriptions.

On the right from the entrance is Lumbini Garden, a tranquil green space with more statues and decorations, flowers, small streams and ponds full of fish.

The centrepiece of the area are two Buddha statues – one of Buddha sitting cross legged on a lotus under a shady Bodhi tree, the other with his warms spread open in a welcoming gesture.

It was under a Bodhi tree that the Buddha achieved enlightenment. The tree has beautiful heart-shaped leaves.

  

Gazebos sat next to small ponds stocked full of fish, while weeping willows bowed their branches over the water and swayed gently in the wind. A picturesque mix of Buddhist Zen and Chinese architecture and landscaping.

A bit of history: Fo Guang Shan is a large Buddhist monastic order and new movement based in Taiwan; one of the country’s four major Buddhist institutions. Founded in 1967 by Hsing Yun, it promotes Humanistic Buddhism and a modern approach to religion. The branch in Jenjarom, for example, has many youth-centric activities such as Sunday dharma classes and charity events in order to attract more young devotees. In Taiwan, they have over 300 branches all over the country, as well as centres around the world.

The garden not only has religious fixtures but also cultural stuff like this kampung style hut.

Next to the main prayer hall is a three storey building which houses the Buddhist Cultural Centre and art gallery. During our visit, there was an art and photography exhibition.

We paid respects to 9 pieces of Buddha’s relics on the top floor (no photos allowed), before moving back down to the second floor, which had a huge classroom like setting. All the windows were open and it was bright and airy, with neatly arranged wooden tables and stools facing a Buddha statuette. Visitors can stop by for sutra writing, which helps to calm the mind whilst spreading the teachings of Buddha.

The pops in action

My piece of sutra, which essentially tells me to be humble. Sorry for the bad calligraphy, family of bananas.

Moo was on about it being so relevant to me because I have a problem with taking a step back/saying sorry when I think I am in the right. Heh. Gotta work on that I guess.

Spacious and opulent main prayer hall.

The sides of the hall were decorated with scenes of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death, expertly done by hammering and shaping sheets of metal. (Above) Buddha and his disciples in the forest, surrounded by various animals.

Buddha achieving enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.

A brief stop to the souvenir shop which sells prayer beads, sutras, dharma books, deity statues and other items.

GETTING TO FO GUANG SHAN TEMPLE JENJAROM

Address: PT 2297, Jalan Sungai Buaya, Kampung Jenjarom, 42600 Kuala Langat, Selangor, Malaysia

For those driving, it’s pretty easy to get there as the location is on Waze. Just head straight from the arch at the town entrance and you will see the temple on your right.

Opening hours: 10AM – 6PM

Phone: +60 3-3191 1533 

Admission: Free

 

 

 

Attractions in Bukit Jugra, Kuala Langat

The historical town of Jugra in Kuala Langat, bordering the far reaches of Selangor, was once the state’s royal town in the late 19th century. Today, it’s a far cry from its glory days, ever since the center of administration shifted to Klang, and then Kuala Lumpur. Now a sleepy backwater town, many of its once magnificent palaces and buildings have fallen into ruin. There are still a few attractions for the curious traveler, though.  

It was roughly an hour’s drive from KL, most of it through small trunk roads that pass by quaint villages. While heading up to Bukit Jugra, or Jugra Hill, we were ‘ambushed’ by a herd of cows ambling down the road. 😀

Jugra Hill is now a hotspot for cyclists, hikers and paragliders, but it was once a landmark for travelers and sailors navigating the Straits of Malacca. A short drive up and we came to the lighthouse at the top of the hill. Unfortunately it was closed for the weekend coz of the Raya holidays.

Breathtaking views of the river and the surrounding palm oil plantations! There are a couple of benches up here for people to sit and enjoy the view, but do beware of monkeys. I got bitten by mozzies in a record 0.05 seconds.

Aside from the hill, there are a few other places to visit in Jugra such as the Royal Mausoleum, a museum and two old Palaces (one in ruins, the other was closed, again, for the holidays) but we weren’t able to visit any of them due to bad timing. Warrants another trip here next time 😀

 

Fluffy Sheep & Beautiful Mountain Views – Cing Jing Farm, Taichung Taiwan

There are two must visit places while at the Nantou district in Taichung, Taiwan. One is Sun Moon Lake (check out my previous blog post!) , and the other is Cingjing, or Qing Jing Farm – a sprawling farm and tourist attraction high up in the mountains. The weather is chilly due to its high altitude, and a visit here in the different seasons yields a unique experience each time, as the landscape and surrounding greenery changes in spring, summer, autumn and winter.

20170214_155032-tileThe entrance is rather gimmicky – I’d do away with the castle and focus more on the whole rustic farm experience. 🙂

20170214_160120-tile

We got here late and the farm was closing in an hour (!) so we made a beeline for the sheep pasture to catch them grazing before they were herded back to their pens. The landscape was breathtaking, with beautiful mountains shrouded slightly in mist, gentle rolling slopes and orange/red tinted trees all around (our visit was at the end of winter, so vegetation was still sparse and yellowish).

20170214_160534-tile 20170214_161212-tile

There was a show area with ponies and horses.

20170214_161315-tile 20170214_161508-tile

Early cherry blossoms, just beginning to flower. In Spring, the farm plays host to dozens of these beautiful blooms.

20170214_164135-tile

20170214_161651-tile

Finally got to the grazing area! There were a dozen or more sheep, their fluffy beige coats giving them a puffy, fat appearance. Guests can feed them with pellets from a vending machine.

20170214_162121-tile 20170214_162659-tileA couple was there doing a wedding photoshoot. While the view was picturesque, I can’t imagine trudging through the mud and grass for those shots. When the bride was told to sit down and fan her skirt out behind her, I could see her wincing when a curious sheep sat right on her train, while others tried to nibble the hem of her gown! 😛

At 5pm, the shepherds came to get the sheep back to their pens. They whistled from the fence, and the sheep immediately fell into a ‘line’, trotting to the gate. Fascinating. 
20170214_164822-tile

More pink cherry blossoms…

20170214_165200-tile

And white ones!

20170214_165700-tile

Tried out ‘Sheep’s milk ice-cream’. It was more ice than cream, less sweet and more milky.

 

20170214_170028-tile 20170214_170548-tile

While you might not be able to see the sunset properly, the view in the evening is lovely. it gets cold so remember to bring a windproof jacket.

Getting There 

From Taichung City, take a 2-hour Nantou bus from Taichung Gancheng Bus Station, or board the bus from Taichung High Speed Rail Station. Bus schedule here:

ntbus.com.tw/cjfm.html 

 

Travel Diaries: Floria Putrajaya 2014

The annual Floria Putrajaya event has become a signature event in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, Malaysia for the past seven years. This time around it’s a bit different, because…. Floria has officially become a permanent fixture! 🙂 They also received a ‘royal’ status from the Sultan, kind of like the Royal Camden Flower show in London. The nine day flower and garden show was held at the  Lakeside of Precinct 4 two weeks ago. Weather was extremely hot, so the next time around you should bring umbrellas, sunscreen, shades and a hat.

SAM_1652

The hundreds of colourful umbrellas at the entrance were for show only.. they didn’t give any shade at all. It was a scene for hipsters to show off their photos on Facebook and Instagram. I jumped on the bandwagon as well.

SAM_1656

I made a beeline for the air conditioned sanctuary of the indoor pavilion, a large tent housing creative entries by flower/garden designers from all over the world. Here are some entries!  All arrangements are made using real flowers.

SAM_1659

SAM_1670

A ‘zoo’ section complete with animal props, such as elephants, monkeys and even a tiger decorated with yellow and orange orchids.

After lounging around the air conditioned tent for a bit, I walked out into the sweltering heat and immediately started sweating, even though I was dressed in a breezy T-shirt. I couldn’t understand how some families could bring their babies out in strollers in the afternoon sun, wtf. Even I almost got a heatstroke at the end of the day, imagine how those little kids would feel.

SAM_1728

The area was split into many different sections, often landscaped around a theme. This area had beautiful water lilies in various shades of pink and purple, floating in small pools of water. They were among the only plants that still seemed fresh and thrived in the scorching sun.. other displays were slightly wilted.

SAM_1730

It’s not a bad idea to have a flower and garden show, but with Malaysia’s hot weather, one has to wonder if it is appropriate.  It’s probably best to go at night when it’s cooler, but everyone else would think the same so it would be crowded.

SAM_1724

The nice garden displays were all by the lake. This one had an English garden feel, with white picket-like structures and potted plants hanging from them. Boats packed with visitors cruised down the man-made Putrajaya lake.

SAM_1709

There was a sea of colourful fans that spun in the wind, creating a nice ripple effect. From the pix, it was hard to tell it was in Malaysia – felt like a field in Taiwan or something. Kudos to the organisers, they did a really good job at the exhibits this year ! Well worth the small entry price of RM3.

SAM_1714

Bougainvilleas (omg I managed to spell that without fking up lol.)

SAM_1686

One of the landscapes was done by an award winning landscaping architect. Dubbed the ‘Hanging Gardens’, the central theme was a container fashioned into a small rest house of sorts. On the second floor, a balcony opened up to panoramic views of the lake and the Putrajaya bridge.

SAM_1679

The ground floor had an outdoor patio, complete with cascading waterfall and swinging seats in the shade. Would be great to have a home like that and just chill by the water with a book and a drink.

SAM_1778

A white woven canopy at the entrance to one of the gardens

SAM_1744

A crystal-themed garden with glass beads hanging from various structures, reflecting the dancing sunbeams.

SAM_1755

A very creative display made from plastic bottles with stars stuck to the bottom. Great way to recycle!

SAM_1762

Taking a brief respite from the scorching heat under a walkway of shady trees. They were themed around nostalgia/old memories, with baby pictures of a family, nicely framed and hanging from the branches.

SAM_1767

SAM_1773

Beautiful orchids lining the walkway.

Overall, I’d say that the Floria team has really outdone themselves this year! Looking forward to another good installation in the next series. 🙂

Til next post !