spunktitud3

Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun


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Botswana – Cheetah Cubs

Cheetah CubsHello from Botswana! Came face-to-face with these adorably playful cheetah cubs at Mashatu Game Reserve. What an amazing experience experiencing the diverse wildlife of Africa. I will be gradually uploading more photos, follow me on my safari adventure!
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Japan, Tokyo – Plum Blossoms at Yushima Tenjin

Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalEvery year, the arrival of plum blossoms (ume 梅) herald the start of spring. These beauties typically bloom between February and March. The event is celebrated with plum festivals (ume matsuri 梅祭り) in public parks, shrines and temples across the country.Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalI was happy to view the plum blossoms at Yushima Tenjin Shrine right in Tokyo.Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalYushima Tenjin 湯島天神,also known as Yushima Tenmangu 湯島天満宮, is a Shinto shrine originally built in 458 A.D. to worship Ameno Tajikaraono Mikoto 天手力雄命, one of deities associated with strength and sports. Later in February 1355, the spirit of Sugawara Michizane 菅原道真, a historical figure, was also enshrined here to venerate his extraordinary virtue as a scholar.Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom Festival
Due to Tenjin’s great love of plum blossoms, Yushima Tenjin maintains a garden of 300 plum trees made up of 20 varieties (Shirokaga white plums). The shrine also holds a yearly plum blossom festival (ume matsuri 梅祭り) every Feb-March depending on when the flowers bloom.
Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalBefore the Nara period, the term hanami (flower viewing) in Japan referred to the act of admiring plum blossoms before becoming almost exclusively linked with sakura by the Heian Period (794–1185).

Lord Sugawara wrote a famous poem that read:
“Let the east wind blow and send your fragrance
Oh, plum blossoms
Do not forget the spring
Even though your master is gone”Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalLike cherry trees, the Japanese plum (also referred to as Japanese apricot) come in many varieties, many of which were cultivated by humans over the centuries. Most plum blossoms have five petals and come  in colors from white to dark pink. Some varieties with more than five petals (yae-ume) and ‘weeping’ branches (shidare-ume) have also been cultivated.

Some ways to tell plum and cherry blossoms apart – cherry blossoms have split-ended petals while plum blossoms don’t. Several cherry blossoms bloom from a single oval bud, whereas there’s only one plum blossom per round bud. And, unlike cherry blossoms, plum blossoms have a strong, sweet fragrance.Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalYushima Tenjin is also popular with students who come to present petitions on wooden votive tablets (ema) to Lord Sugawara’s spirit for success in examinations.Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalOmikuji 御神籤Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalEveryone going shutter-happy with the pretty blossomsYushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalYushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalIt’s also a great time to get married under the picturesque floral canopyYushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalAnother wedding coupleYushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalEven birds join in the celebrationsYushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalAlong with the plum blossoms, a month-long matsuri festival consisting various events such as food stalls, performances, a mikoshi 神輿 (portable Shinto shrine) procession, tea ceremonies, bonsai plum trees display and other traditional Japanese art forms are also held at the shrine during weekends and public holidays.Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalTraditional tea ceremonyYushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalFood stalls selling local produce from the various Japanese regions. I would say it is a great place to buy some local gifts home.Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalThese were yummy!Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalThe handmade zaru soba totally changed my impression of the dish – the noodles were springy and amazingly satisfying I drank up all the sauce hee. Slurppp!Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalBuying blessingsYushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalFree cultural performancesYushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalAnd yes, this is the 59th year the festival is held.Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalPraying for blessings before the mikoshi processionYushima Tenjin Plum Blossom Festival

Yushima Tenjin Shrine 湯島天神 (Tenmangu 天満宮)
Address:
3-30-1 Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, 〒113-0034 Tokyo
Opening Times: 6:00AM – 8:00PM daily
Nearest Train Stations:
– Yushima 湯島 Station, Exit 3 on Oeda and Chiyoda subway lines, 2mins walk (easiest)
– City bus 02 and 69, Stop at Yushima San-Cho-Me 湯島三丁目, 2mins walk
– Ueno-hirokoji 上野広小路 Station, Exit A4 on Ginza subway line, 5mins walk
– Hongo San-cho-me 本郷三丁目Station on Marunouchi Line, 8mins walk
– Okachimachi 御徒町 Station on JR Line, 8mins walk

Best times to view plum blossoms: Yushima Tenmangu Shrine  Flower information (usually mid-Feb to early-March)


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Photography – Pit Shore Viper

Shore Pit ViperShore Pit Viper (Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus)
Spotted at Pasir Ris Park
Taken with Nikon D810 + Nikkor 200-500mm (and the only reason why I was taking photos instead of running away in lighting speed – I was really far away!)


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Australia – Whale Watching in Sydney

Sydney Whale WatchingDuring June to November, the whale watching season in Australia, whales such as the humpback and orca migrate from the cold waters of the Antarctica up to the warm temperate waters of Australia to give birth. About 20,000 whales pass by the waters of Australia during this period, and I took the opportunity to catch a glimpse of this magnificent creature up close during my trip to Sydney.Sydney Whale WatchingWhile you can watch the whales on numerous land-based vantage points in NSW national parks, I opted to join a 2-hour Adventure Cruise to increase my chances of spotting them in the deep blue sea.

Sydney Whale WatchingAfter seeing the promotional images, who could ever resist such an opportunity? I opted for the smaller speed boat as it can go faster than cruise ships and the open deck would allow whale watching from all angles. But with agility, also meant smaller size boat and a speed ride that could rival Universal Studio’s. I was clinging to a pole like a koala bear most of the time, and your camera shutter speed has to be at least 1/1000s to be able to minimize blurred photos.
(Source: Whale Watching Sydney)Sydney Whale WatchingWe started off our adventure from Darling Harbour. We were lucky to have good weather, and a nice view Sydney’s skyline.

Sydney Whale Watching
And off we go! *big smile*

Sydney Whale WatchingSydney Harbour BridgeSydney Whale WatchingSpotted a lot of people at the park on a nice, sunny weekend afternoon

Sydney Whale WatchingHeart of the Sydney Business DistrictSydney Whale WatchingThe iconic Sydney Opera House

Sydney Whale WatchingBlow, wind blow. Look how blue the water is! :)Sydney Whale WatchingTime for some sailing stunts. I would love to have a house here…

Sydney Whale WatchingSpotting the candy-striped Hornby Lighthouse at Watsons Bay got me all excited – I remember walking the South Head Heritage trail just few months ago :) It’s also a whale watching vantage point. I will be back…Sydney Whale WatchingHere we are in the open sea! I was just griping about how small and rocky our little speedboat was until I saw this open boat/dinghy – I think I would have peed in my pants if the whale came up just in front of me.

Sydney Whale WatchingAnd the waiting game begins…according to our guide, the easiest way to spot a whale is to look for spouts/blows made by the whale, and a greenish shape in the water as the whale emerges (can you spot that in the photo?). Did you know the blow is distinctive to each whale species – humpback (tall, column-shaped blow); orca (bushy shaped); gray (heart-shaped!). The mammal can stay underwater for as long as 10 minutes, so you have to be verrry patient.

Sydney Whale WatchingErm guys, look behind you!! *the tail waves hello*

Sydney Whale WatchingThis was the best I could get on my virgin whale watching adventure. I didn’t even get to see your face, and I didn’t know what I actually saw until I went home to check – a rare albino humpback whale. This would be my second amazing milestone made in Sydney – the first being catching the New Years Eve fireworks : )