Monthly Archives: January 2016

Last day of Jan2016!!

So quickly, the first month of 2016 is almost over … and time to look back/forward/record some stuff that took place (so this post will seem quite random) …

Maybe it was the last day of Jan (the last day for the “Early Bird” registration for the Sundown Marathon) that made me do it … YUP, decided to sign up for full marathon today!! and also bought air tickets (also today!!) to go trekking on Mt Rinjani in a few months time … these two will keep me pretty excited and motivated to keep up my physical training/fitness for the next few months 🙂

For the record, probably the most significant event involved SM getting her exam results and edusave award!! (both very well done 🙂 ) The days following the results were quite exciting too, to make the choice for the next stage of her education and finding out about polytechnics … Other than that, managed to go for various concerts (SCO, Israel Philharmonic at Botanic Gardens, dizi performances by Joyce and the groups she’s in) and talks (Nobel prize winners here for the Global Young Scientists Summit gave public talks, National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry@NTU on ocean photography), and exhibitions (World Press Photo Exhibition just opened at National Museum, 3rd year in attendance; Future of Us at Gardens by the Bay).

On the “learning” front, still looking out for something in the SkillsFuture catalogue to go for, but for now, have just put myself into three “on-demand” Coursera courses

  • Understanding Europe: Why It Matters and What It Can Offer You
  • Evolution: A Course for Educators
  • The Emergence of the Modern Middle East – Part I

Reading wise, have gone into some books recommended by WR (just finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, now onto the next book in the trilogy, and also Midnight’s Children), … should take a bit of time to finish considering they are all quite “thick” books.

Looking forward to the rest of the year ahead!! and, btw my next most immediate thing to do is see the 5 planets aligned 🙂

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How we got our Mt. Fuji views

One of the highlights of our trip to Japan in December last year was seeing Mt Fuji “up close” … (see the end for some tips if you also plan to do this route!)

Initially, we thought that our stay at Kawaguchiko (the biggest lake in the “Five Lakes area”) near the base of Mt Fuji would be “wasted” as we arrived on a day when it was totally overcast and drizzling, and the next morning looked very much the same; in other words, no chance of seeing Mt Fuji  😦

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No Mt Fuji view on the day we arrived (Lake Kawaguchiko, from Mt Kachi Kachi, access by ropeway or hiking)

The next morning, we decided not to go for the skiing at the base of Mt Fuji (as weather forecast was not good) and to make an earlier start to Hakone, which was our next destination. So, we thought this was going to be the best view that we could see of Mt Fuji at the Five Lakes area  🙂

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Mt Fuji (cookie) from our room 🙂

 

So, after checking out, our hotel provided a free shuttle bus to Kawaguchiko station, and lo and behold, this was what greeted us when we arrived!! The skies were totally clear and Mt Fuji was just … THERE!!

We happily snapped away, while waiting for the bus that would bring us to Gotemba station, where we would then change to another that goes to Togendai (a pier on Lake Ashi, in Hakone). We would then finally end up in Motohakone by taking a cruise from Togendai.

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Kawaguchiko – Gotemba – Togendai – Motohakone (the last leg is by “pirate ship” across Lake Ashi)

When you see the map above, it is easy to see why this route has such great views of Mt Fuji (and also how Lake Yamanakako is also good for Fuji views)… but remember to sit on the “correct” side of the bus depending on the direction you are travelling in!!

Here are some shots of Mt Fuji that we got on the bus ride … (the roller coaster is near Kawaguchiko station, but definitely not for the faint hearted!!)

While on the boat across Lake Ashi, it is possible to see Mt Fuji on a clear day, and using the map, you can have a sense of where to look (i.e. if travelling from Togendai towards Motohakone, it is “behind” you!! see photo below, left, where the clouds almost block Fuji completely).

From the lake side at Motohakone, where we stayed overnight, there are also excellent views of both the Hakone shrine and Fuji! (early morning is best, before clouds built up) (see the photo above right, and also below) .

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Chien, looking out from Motohakone lake side, towards Mt Fuji and Hakone shrine (the orange gate).

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early morning view from Hotel Musashiya, MotoHakone … very tranquil scenery

So, in the end, we got our (over)dose of Mt Fuji views after all!! 🙂

Tips:

  1. the 2 Day Hakone pass is a MUST HAVE, especially if staying overnight in the area, as it covers all the transport arrangements in the Hakone region (includes the bus from Gotemba Station to Togendai, which we did not realise; we only bought the pass at the Togendai pier.  For all our subsequent travel, which includes unlimited boat rides across Lake Ashi, cableway, ropeway, buses, the Tozan “slow” scenic train, the pass really saves you a bomb and any hassle of payment).
  2. Sit on the “correct” side of the bus if you want to take photos/catch the view of Fuji (so, left side if travelling from Hakone to Kawaguchiko, right side if the other way)
  3. Mt Fuji is often covered by clouds, so you have to be on the lookout for breaks in cloud cover (see photos above); early morning seems to be best time to get nice clear skies (and this was our experience too). If unsure of where to look for Mt Fuji, just ask!
  4. Skiing on the (northern) slopes of Mt Fuji base (Fujiten snow resort) – we wanted to do so but skipped as the time we could spare was insufficient (1/2 day), the weather did not appear to be good, the taxi fare to reach the ski resort is very expensive (it may be more worthwhile to rent a car instead; but note that an International Driving License is required).
  5. If staying at Motohakone, be mindful of how to get there! It is easy by bus from Hakone-Yumoto, but not from Togendai. If coming from Togendai, taking the cruise is really the most convenient way. We realised this while looking at the bus schedules and cruise timings (cruise ends earlier in winter) and figured it was best that we skipped the skiing to ensure that we could take the cruise (Togendai to Motohakone), and also get to spend more time in Hakone instead.

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Just One Tip for DisneySea …

We spent one day at DisneySea and took most of the thrill rides (and some “lame” ones) available without spending too much time in queues … how did we do it? 🙂

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The Beautiful setting of DisneySea

When you search the internet for tips on how to make the best use of your time at theme parks like Disneyland or DisneySea to minimise queuing times, you will find loads and loads of ideas and these should be considered of course (arrive early, buy tickets online, use fast pass, when to eat etc ). However, I will highlight only one that really helped us to reduce wait time to almost nothing.

The trick is to use the single rider lane!

We had already obtained our fast pass for the Raging Spirits ride, and while waiting for the time to use it, were at the Indiana Jones ride nearby, which had a pretty “long” wait time (about 60 mins). However, we also realised while queuing up in the normal lane that the “single rider” option was available, and we changed to it immediately, bypassing everyone (literally, even those in fast pass lane) to end up right in front! Within less than 5 minutes, all of us had been put onto the ride, and were out again to go for some other ride 🙂

So, we tried this method again for the Raging Spirits ride, ignoring the fact that we had fast pass, and ended up right in front! And we were done with the ride in hardly any queuing time once again!

Of course, good things must come to an end, and this approach seems to be applicable only for the above two rides at DisneySea 😦   as we later realised. Still, we saved more than 2 hours of waiting, compared to if we had just joined in the normal queue, and could then make good use of our fast pass for the other thrill rides (e.g. Tower of Terror and Journey to the Centre of the Earth) and also had time for tamer rides (e.g. Sinbad).

Caveat: this tip will work only when the kids/group are old enough and are willing to split and take the ride with “strangers”, which in itself could be fun to do (haha, like for me, these four Jap girls beside me tried to tell me about how to pose when the camera flashed during the ride, but blur me only realised their message after everything was over!!).

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3 things I would do earlier in life …

I looked back at the last 10 years and thought about “3 things” I would do earlier in life, if I had known about them … . It seems that while I had learned and did (and am still learning/doing) all kinds of stuff, perhaps it would be interesting to see which were the top three that I would put down in this first (kindof reflective) blog post for 2016. In no order of “significance”… (1. and 2. are quite normal, but 3. is rather surprising to me, how it just pops up, whenever I do this “exercise”)

  1. Learn yoga
    (in 2007, I started learning Ashtanga Yoga while taking a 3 month break from MOE, thanks to my spouse who had been practising it for almost 10 years by then)
    Even though I do a pretty “slack” practise, usually after my long runs, I think yoga (or perhaps, any similar practise) is a great thing to learn for everyone, at least as a form of physical exercise, although it is much more than that  e.g. as a means to cultivate mental focus and discipline, and to breathe properly.
  2. Learn dizi
    (in April 2014, I finally went for dizi lessons (link to earlier blog post) after my time spent on motorbike lessons was freed up when I passed the test)
    Yup, I believe learning a musical instrument is much better done when young, but at the same time, there’s nothing to stop one from doing so in your later years. Its just a fun thing to do to be able to play some tunes, and for me, the dizi fits me well (e.g. breath training, light and easy to carry around, “simple” in its construction, made from natural bamboo, can take a lifetime to master …)
  3. Wear sarong at home
    (
    haha, this was quite surprising, but it came as quite a revelation how comfortable and convenient it is to wear one …)
    I got a sarong from Cambodia in December 2006, during a CIP trip with students from VJC, but had left it in the wardrobe all the while. Then somehow, one fine day (in 2013, after leaving the teaching service), I tried it and have not looked back since!! Even got another piece during my Bromo trip in September 2015 🙂

And that’s it, my first blog post for 2016!!

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