Tochigi, Japan: Return to Senjogahara Plateau

Chuzenji-no-taki: Chuzenji waterfall
You could say Tochigi is my playground. I just love the place. Take a long slow train over to Tobu-Nikko station and there are many options. Most tourists would spend the whole day at the temple complex, Toshogu, Rinnoji and of course, snap photos of the stable with 3 monkeys. But the hidden gem of Nikko is the many hiking opportunities like Chuzenji to the northwest and Kirifuri area to the northeast.I’ve been to Senjogahara and Kirifuri before, and the links are embedded in the two names in this sentence.

Senjogahara Plateau

Senjogahara is in the northwest just further up from Chuzenji. Chuzenji is, of course, synonymous with a waterfall, not just a normal waterfall, but one that drops hundreds of meters. The lake that feeds the waterfall, Chuzenji lake, is relatively large, and on a plateau in the highlands. On a summer day, there are anglers spaced evenly along its banks. I don’t have proof, but it does look like you need to have permit to fish there and you are probably assigned slots. They do look spaced out a little too evenly to be random!

Fly Fisherman on Yukawa River

... And more fly fishing...

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Travels: Sichuan Province Part 2, Mount Siguniang, China

View of the tallest of 4 Siguniangs from Rilong's Changping Gou village
The plan for this trip is a week long trip, including a 3 day trek up to see Siguniang Shan and a day in one other valley in the area around the town of Rilong. Then on the way back to Chengdu, it’s a night over at Danba to see the old villages on the mountain side. Expecting to spend 6 days for this leg, and the backpack is full to the brim, including a full camelbak filled with day long supply of Nongfu spring water, which seems to be on sale everywhere in this country.

Siguniang shan is surrounded by 3 valleys. The most accessible one is Shuangqiao gou where there is a tourist bus herding tourists, the next would be Changping gou where most treks up the mountain start but Changping gou also has its own trek path on the valley floor that requires a bus ride to get to, and Haizi gou, where you will have to trek its slopes to reach base camp for those who are planning to go up Siguniang shan.

9 November 2008, Chengdu to Rilong: The first bus from Chengdu to Xiaojing leaves at 6:25 am. From there, I will have to take a taxi to Rilong. From what I have heard, the direct bus to Rilong does not run anymore from Chadianzi Station here in Chengdu because the route passes by Wenchuan which was the place worst hit by this year’s large earthquake in this region. So longer trip. On the map, Xiaojing looks not further than 300 km but today’s bus trip is expected to take 8 hours. Gasp!

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Travels: Sichuan Province Part 1, Chengdu, China *Partial*

Its been a long time waiting and before I could even prepare for it, I got off MU5407 here in Chengdu (airport code: CTU) on a one week and a half trip. Total I will spend outside Shanghai will be 2 weeks and this includes Guilin which will be the subject of another post once I get to it. Flight was bearable, food was Crap as usual, and again full of oversized babies and their grandparents. Inflight meal consists of a paper box filled with an assortment of buns, crackers, pickles and strange mix of edible stuff. Thank god for ipods.
Chengdu Airport Bus queue

8 November 2008, Shanghai to Chengdu: From the airport, bus 303 seems to go to Chengdu city. Was reading about bus 300 but I did not see it. Bus trip cost 12 RMB and comes with insurance, although it seems lost in my mind how we will claim our own insurance should something untowardly happens along the way. As with any bus in china, this bus even comes with its own tour guide. In my half baked putong hua, sounds like its 30 minutes away. Good. Nap time.

Spent the afternoon walking around Chengdu and there is a nice street where everything is old and has a market. Naturally my leica came out to play there. Chengdu definitely looks more refined than other cities in China, other than Shanghai and Beijing of course. Its quite obvious this is not a poor place.

Transporting items by bicycle is common in the backstreets of Chengdu

Everywhere you go in Chengdu there are hotpot restaurant. I’m tempted to try them but I travelled alone so it will be wasteful to gobble down a whole load of soup with floating chilies. But I promised myself I need to try it or I have never been to Sichuan.

Waiting for the bus, China style...

Language: I swear I don’t have too much of an issue with the local Sichuanese dialect, at least I understand it as much as I do putonghua, which is not too bad, but people I meet here sometimes tell me its difficult to understand locals. The dialect sounds like a bastardized version of putonghua in a song singing way.

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Travels: Kirifuri Kougen: Tochigi Prefecture, Japan

Noon at the Kirifuri Highland
When you look at the map of Nikko, there are 3 major attractions. There’s Nikko town proper, with all its UNESCO temples where the majority of tourists are dropped, then to the west there’s Lake Chuzenji and the Onsen at the end of the road, including Senjogahara, which I did in the last trip… and finally there’s the east with Kirifuri highlands. And a visit is not over till I’ve gone to Kirifuri, which is the destination this week. Mountains, forests, valleys & cows!

Its a similar early morning sight. I am having a McGriddles at the McDonalds at Asakusa in the alley near to the Tobu railway station, waiting for the Tobu Sightseeing Center to open its doors at 7:45am to buy the 4400yen All Nikko Pass. The current expectation is that this will not be as impressive as the latter but the only way to find out would be to go and have a look.

Tobu-Nikko Train Stationmaster's office (Leica M6, 50mm Summicron)

While having my McGriddles, it looks as though the bus ride to Kirifuri Kogen will be cheaper to go a-la-carte rather than a full All Nikko pass. A bus ride to Kirifuri cost just about 650 yen according to the web. Making the quick decision to jump on the next available train to Nikko without waiting for the sightseeing centre to open. Looks like I don’t need the All-Nikko pass this time.  Again, cheapest ticket is the 2hr train to Tobu Nikko at 1320yen. The limited express trains costs double as they have reserved seats and possibly half an hour quicker. They seem to call these limited express and the services have names like Kegon and Kinu. For me, I can spend 30 minutes extra. Everything is routine now for me with the Tobu station at Asakusa. This is my third time here. Buy ticket, go to platform 5 and board the first 2 trains away from the station entrance. Remember, the other train cars get left behind on the way to Tobu Nikko.

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