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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Butterfly in a Summer Garden

After living in Vancouver most of my life, I am not too used to hot weather. This past little while when the thermometer reads 30C, we were all very uneasy.  Fortunately, no matter how hot the day was, the evening would always cool down. I think Summer evenings are the most romantic time. The Midsummer's Night's Dream by Shakespeare must be inspired by this time of the year. Although I know tree nymphs and fairies don't exist but I can see how they can blend perfectly into the scene. 

I felt like my photography skill is getting dusty, and my profile picture not season appropriate ~ Using location scouting as an excuse, I decided to become a butterfly, fluttering off , venturing barefoot in this little rose garden. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

A Tastful Wish

When my English roses are blooming I will remember my " neighbour"  in Hong Kong. Keith is the friend who introduced me to David Austin Rose. Although my garden is far more inferior compare to his, it always give me great pleasure to tend the pots and enjoy the fragrant of the roses at the end of a long day. Even when it is cutting one rose from the garden, it offered me some room to imagine what it would be like in Southern France, where the towering stone walls are lined with climbing roses.

If you have lived in Hong Kong you will know how uncommon it is to have a garden. People will say it is the limiting amount of space and hot humid climate, but I think it is the culture. Chinese are just not brought up the same way as Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice. The city life seemed to deem the light of nature and appreciation for beauty. But Keith's garden exhibits broad arrays of David Austin English Roses, French and Japanese roses. There is an unforgettable charm about his home that I am sure all visitors can feel. I cannot really put my finger to one particular thing that makes it so. It be a synergistic effect of all artistic elements. 

I was always in awe when he shared with me his new interests. No matter what his endeavours  he always seemed fully equipped with vast knowledge and passion. It is no surprise success naturally follows. His secret is doing everything with his heart.

My dearest friend Anthonia and I were welcomed with a garden concert. It is so beautiful when two gifts of God, nature and music, appeared as a couple. Anthonia sat peacefully on the rustic old wooden chair enjoying the performance, while I busied myself with the camera. But finally I caught myself and sat down to enjoy the moment, the breeze and letting my mind drift. I really long for the days in the paradise, when I can hop by to a friend's place and enjoy a casual afternoon.

Our animal friends are the gentlest and most well behaved creatures ever. They loved to be cuddle and hug like a human baby. It is only fitting that the tea cup poodles be allowed to attend our afternoon tea party~ Keith, being the considerate host that he is, has washed and groomed them the night before so they looked as handsome as ever.

Friday, 11 July 2014

All Out of Love ~ Japan 2014

I have always admired the Japanese culture. Their strong work ethic and creativity is really a trademark.  The aesthetic appeal is not sacrificed for functionality. Not hard to tell, I was very excited to visit Japan a second time. I expected to meet some wonderful strangers that will become my lifelong friends, and I was not disappointed.  From the minute we got off the plane to the time when  they tirelessly waved farewell at the ferry, they touched us with their sincerity and thoughtfulness. This is also the first time I flew with my little sister Cherie, so that made it extra special. Actually she is a very seasoned traveler, in fact she is always travelling that she missed most of her kindergarden year.

   Day 1~ Kyoto

To my surprise day one was a back to back visit to two shrines in Kyoto. It is really a situation irony, because of our beliefs, but I do admit it is a living museum rich with culture. Ladies in kimonos, incense smoke, and Edo architecture all contributed to this effect. We had lunch in the udon restaurant which used to be a residential house. I adore the wooden corridor facing a garden in the centre of the house. Cherie was busy practicing her photography skill even using the glass as filter ~ She really made me a  proud sister.

      Day 2~ Osaka

After eating a beautiful breakfast prepared by our hostess we traveled to her mother in law's house. She generously prepared three kimonos for us to try. I have heard many stories about how difficult it is to dress into a kimono and how many layers it contained. She said the one I wore is for single girls, as the sleeves are lengthier. It is really a job for two people.  It is such an ingenious way to strengthen family bonds.

We gathered around the Kotatsu, a low wooden table covered in a heated futon, to enjoy curry. Taking a corner around the Kotatsu, getting my feet warmed,  is really comfy during the Winter month. 

Day 3~ Kobe

I have no idea that Japan is such a shopping paradise. My expectation wasn't high since my only purchase in Hong Kong the week before was a SD card. Many products are exclusively sold in Japan, cannot be purchased in other countries. My first purchase was a pink negative ion hair blow dryer. Now my hair must thank me everyday for it~ The stores in Japan are very well organized and even window shopping is such an enjoyable activity.

The cafe near the shopping centre provides a stunning view of the sea. It is super nice to have a shopping intermission and recharge with your dear friends. 

                                         Day 4~ Kinosaki Onsen

  The bento boxes sold at the train station was really worth mentioning. Although we arrived at early hours, many were already sold out. Some of them are in ceramic containers in the shape of castles or cute kitten.   

After a bullet train ride we arrived Kinosaki. I would describe it as a hot spring theme park. Since the hot spring did not open yet, my family soaked their tired feet in ashiyu.  There are seven hot spring in total, each with a different theme. Guests staying at the resorts receive a badge with a bar code that allow you unlimited entrance to all hot springs between check in and check out . We tried Ichino Yu, Yanagi Yu, Mandara Yu and Goshono Yu. The themes included cave, garden, and waterfall. Drinking lots of water  to rehydrate and during the hot spring is crucial. After soaking and washing, you really do feel so clean, fresh and probably a little hungry.

The town centre are lined with shops selling alcohol, sweets and cute souvenirs. One sweet that I would recommend is the Strawberry mochi. They placed a fresh organic strawberry into the mochi, and it just taste so good with the tea they provide in the resort. Changing into our Yukata, clopping in our wooden geta shoes, even our hostesses start to feel like tourist. I even gave them a mini photoshoot :) 

The crab in this area is very famous. The long table is lined with colourful ceremic dishes. The crab is prepared in all possible ways that you can think of. My favourite is sashimi :) Everyone need to kneel on the tatami to enjoy this feast. My father made a request for a chair and they gave him a grand one that to my eyes resembles a king's throne. He still thinks it is not too comfortable and had a very difficult time getting up.   

                                           Day 5~ Kinosaki 

    After another feast at breakfast, and visiting another yu, we ventured to  the snow capped mountain. It is my first time dropping a dollar to use the binocular at the peak. I felt like a spy as I can actually see the residents of the town, carrying their various daily activities.  

Cherie was thrilled too as it is her first time seeing snow. She even made a tiny snowman :) leaving her mark. 

 DAY 6~ Osaka

Finally it was my last day in Japan. We had the privilege to join the local congregation for their first ever booth witness.  I was doubtful whether or not we should take photos, but the brother actually encouraged me to do it ~  so I guess it is alright :) 

Lunch was a children affair. There are three families and eight kids in total, counting the baby. All the food are tailored for the children, but it taste ever so flavourful, maybe I am still a kid. Cherie was a little shy since the other children were already close knitted and chatted rapidly in Japanese. But soon they found a common denominator, love for nature and flowers, and she was accepted. As I stand on the side of the playground, watching the children play, I imagined what they will become. 

        Day 7 ~ Hong Kong

My final destination before going back to Vancouver was the Hong Kong international airport. Since there are seven hours spare time, I decided to explore the airport. Hong Kong is actually one of the very few airports in the world that offers iMAX theatre. Unfortunately nothing I like were playing. The observatory deck was also a point of interest. That day it was bright and sunny but also has a layer of fog, adding an element of fantasy to the photos. Many fellow photographers, with tele lens preoccupied, were waiting for different air lines to land. 

Thank you~~