Kri Island, Raja Ampat (“The Four Kings”), Indonesia

The Raja Ampat Islands are an Indonesian archipelago of over 1,500 islands off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula in West Papua; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

The Raja Ampat Islands are an Indonesian archipelago of over 1,500 islands off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula in West Papua; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

 

When we started this expedition, in contrast to our original itinerary plans of three years ago (our schedule is set that far in advance!) which called for us to visit Raja Ampat, the SCUBA diving and snorkeling jewels (islands) of eastern Indonesia, we expected to be mostly cruising in far eastern Indonesia, particularly around West Papua.  The change in plans was due to new major restrictions on passenger ships visiting Raja Ampat after an accident in the area two years ago when a cruise ship ran aground on a reef.  We were super fortunate that our expedition team, captain and staff persisted with appropriate Indonesian government agencies and on arrival in Raja Ampat, following a lengthy ship inspection and interviews with the crew and expedition team, we received permission for a four-day visit to Raja Ampat.

 

Located within the “Coral Triangle”, Raja Ampat is home to the richest marine biodiversity in the world; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Located within the “Coral Triangle”, Raja Ampat is home to the richest marine biodiversity in the world; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

 

Raja Ampat translates into “The Four Kings” and refers to a myth about the creation of the four main islands.  The Raja Ampat Islands are an Indonesian archipelago of over 1,500 islands off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula in West Papua.  Comprising hundreds of jungle-covered islands, Raja Ampat is known for its beaches and coral reefs rich with marine life.  Ancient rock paintings and caves are on Misool Island, while the crimson bird of paradise lives on Waigeo Island.  Batanta and Salawati are the archipelago’s other main islands.  Located within the “Coral Triangle”, Raja Ampat is home to the richest marine biodiversity in the world.

 

The limestone karst islands and islets are heavily forested; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

The limestone karst islands and islets are heavily forested; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

 

Comprising hundreds of jungle-covered islands, Raja Ampat is known for its beaches and coral reefs rich with marine life; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia – the ship is owned by local Indonesians and serves as an overnight dive boat

Comprising hundreds of jungle-covered islands, Raja Ampat is known for its beaches and coral reefs rich with marine life; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia – the ship is owned by local Indonesians and serves as an overnight dive boat for up to 20 guests

 

According to a report developed by The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International, around 75% of the world’s species live in Raja Ampat!  Raja Ampat’s sheer numbers and diversity of marine life and its huge pristine coral reef systems are a SCUBA dream come true – and a fantastic site for snorkelers too.

 

Hidden behind the vegetation, including mangrove trees, is a small B&B cottage; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Hidden behind the vegetation, including mangrove trees, is a small B&B cottage; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

 

At the end of the island we visited were three cottages built on stilts; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

At the end of the island we visited were three cottages built on stilts; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

 

Each of the cottages rent for about US$20 per night – affordable paradise!; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Each of the cottages rent for about US$20 per night – affordable paradise!; Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2020 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat Local: Vigan Empanadas, City of Vigan, Philippines

As we were touring the City of Vigan in the Philippines [see our previous blog post of the same name) enjoying colonial architecture, we passed by Irene’s Vigan Empanadas, a small hole in the wall café just beyond a well-preserved two-story house

As we were touring the City of Vigan in the Philippines [see our previous blog post of the same name) enjoying colonial architecture, we passed by Irene’s Vigan Empanadas, a small hole in the wall café just beyond a well-preserved two-story house

While exploring the City of Vigan by foot, we passed by Irene’s Vigan Empanada café.  For an afternoon snack, we headed back there to sample the Vigan empanadas.  They were prepared on a custom basis – we chose the pork empanadas [see the photo, below].  We thoroughly enjoyed them, noting a huge difference in having a crispy rice-flour shell, compared with the traditional wheat-flour pastry shells of Spanish empanadas.  Like our guide book, we would also recommend Irene’s!

 

“In between exploring the UNESCO-designated city of Vigan, make time to try the local Vigan empanada, sold by vendors on Calle Crisologo and in the surrounding streets.  The town’s signature delicacy starts with a shell made from a rice flour mixture that is hand-kneaded thinly on a banana leaf.  The filling is made with shredded papaya, grated carrots, bean sprouts, egg, and seasoned pork longganisa.  The empanada is deep-fried and served with Ilocos vinegar.  While pork longganisa is the traditional filling, many cooks add their own creative spin and make them with beef, chicken, crab, and bagnet.  Vegetarian varieties are also available.  Locals eat empanadas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack.  A 40year tradition, Irene’s Vigan Empanada is one of the best places to enjoy one of these savory snacks.” – The World In Currimao, Philippines

 

The late afternoon shadows gave the entrance to Irene’s Vigan Empanadas a sinister appearance -- but when we came back to try some empanadas, we were pleasantly surprised by the café’s coziness and the friendliness of the staff

As we were touring the City of Vigan in the Philippines [see our previous blog post of the same name) enjoying colonial architecture, we passed by Irene’s Vigan Empanadas, a small hole in the wall café just beyond a well-preserved two-story house

Here the chef is preparing a Vigan Empanada from scratch on a banana leaf; once the rice-flour dough is filled, it is fried for a few minutes in the fryer, City of Vigan, Philippines

Here the chef is preparing a Vigan Empanada from scratch on a banana leaf; once the rice-flour dough is filled, it is fried for a few minutes in the fryer that is behind, and lower down than the selection of cooked empanadas, City of Vigan, Philippines

 

Although it was only mid-afternoon, a number of patrons were enjoying snacks of Vigan Empanadas at Irene’s in the City of Vigan, Philippines

Although it was only mid-afternoon, a number of patrons were enjoying snacks of Vigan Empanadas at Irene’s in the City of Vigan, Philippines

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2020 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

City of Vigan, Philippines

The coastline of Currimao on the South China Sea, west coast of the northern island of the Philippines, Luzon; the port is the gateway for visits to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and UNESCO World Heritage City of Vigan

The coastline of Currimao on the South China Sea, west coast of the northern island of the Philippines, Luzon; the port is the gateway for visits to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and UNESCO World Heritage City of Vigan

 

Sailing southeast from Hong Kong towards Indonesia, we sailed through the South China Sea to the west coast of the northern island of the Philippines, Luzon, where we anchored in the port of Currimao, the gateway for our visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and UNESCO World Heritage City of Vigan – about a 90 minute drive south from the port.  “Established in the 16th century, Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe, resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and South-East Asia.” — https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/502/

 

Local Filippino dancers on the pier for our welcome (by tender boats) to Currimao, Philippines

Local Filippino dancers on the pier for our welcome (by tender boats) to Currimao, Philippines

 

Downtown Vigan and the surrounding mountains on the west coast of Luzon Island, Philippines

Downtown Vigan and the surrounding mountains on the west coast of Luzon Island, Philippines

 

“Located on the western coast of the large island of Luzon, facing the South China Sea, [City of Vigan] is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is one of the few towns left in the Philippines whose old structures have mostly remained intact, and it is well known for its sett pavements and a unique architecture of the Philippine colonial era which fuses Native Philippine and Oriental building designs and construction, with colonial Spanish architecture that is still abundant in the area, mainly the Bahay na Bato houses and an Eqrthquake Baroque church.  Former Philippine president Elpidio Quirino, the sixth president of the Philippines, was born in Vigan, at the former location of the Provincial Jail (his father was a warden); he resided in the Syquia Mansion.  The entire city of Vigan was later inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage City after being declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.” – Wikipedia

 

The municipal hall building in Vigan, Philippines, adjacent to the Plaza Salcedo, the central park downtown

The municipal hall building in Vigan, Philippines, adjacent to the Plaza Salcedo, the central park downtown

 

The main form of local transportation, especially for tourists, are these motorcycle side cars, Vigan, Philippines

The main form of local transportation, especially for tourists, are these motorcycle side cars, Vigan, Philippines

 

The Plaza Salcedo and fountains in the central park downtown, Vigan, Philippines, with Saint Paul’s Cathedral in the background

The Plaza Salcedo and fountains in the central park downtown, Vigan, Philippines, with Saint Paul’s Cathedral in the background

 

Built in the 16th century, but completed more than 200 years later, St. Paul’s Cathedral was designed in the Baroque architectural style with modifications to support itself during earthquakes, Vigan, Philippines

Built in the 16th century, but completed more than 200 years later, St. Paul’s Cathedral was designed in the Baroque architectural style with modifications to support itself during earthquakes, Vigan, Philippines

 

The interior of St. Paul’s Cathedral with its silver-paneled main altar, Vigan, Philippines

The interior of St. Paul’s Cathedral with its silver-paneled main altar, Vigan, Philippines

 

Horse-drawn kalesas near the Plaza Salcedo in downtown Vigan, Philippines

Horse-drawn kalesas near the Plaza Salcedo in downtown Vigan, Philippines

 

A typical historical two-story colonial, Spanish-influenced building along the main street of Vigan, Philippines, with retail stores on the ground floor and living spaces above

A typical historical two-story colonial, Spanish-influenced building along the main street of Vigan, Philippines, with retail stores on the ground floor and living spaces above

 

“The two storey structures are built of brick and wood, with a steeply pitched roof reminiscent of traditional Chinese architecture. The exterior walls of the upper storey are enclosed by window panels of kapis shells framed in wood which can be slid back for better ventilation. Most of the existing buildings were probably built in the mid 18th to late 19th centuries. Due to the economic decline of Vigan as an economic center after the World War II, only a few of the historic buildings had internal reorganization for alternative use. The Chinese merchants and traders conducted their business from shops, offices and storerooms on the ground floors of their houses, with the living quarters above.” — https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/502/

 

Art work and artifacts for sale on the main historic street of Vigan, Philippines

Art work and artifacts for sale on the main historic street of Vigan, Philippines

 

Historic buildings with shops, cafes and restaurants along Calle Cristologo, the main street in Vigan, Philippines

Historic buildings with shops, cafes and restaurants along Calle Cristologo, the main street in Vigan, Philippines

 

Vangie’s ice cream street vendors in Vigan, Philippines

Vangie’s ice cream street vendors in Vigan, Philippines

 

Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Philippines, is a 19th-century mansion, owned by Doña Alicia Syquia Quirino, who was married to former Philippines President Elpidio Quirino

Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Philippines, is a 19th-century mansion, owned by Doña Alicia Syquia Quirino, who was married to former Philippines President Elpidio Quirino

 

A view of the street from Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Philippines

A view of the street from Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Philippines

 

Drawing rooms in Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Philippines, with period furnishings, family portraits and memorabilia

Drawing rooms in Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Philippines, with period furnishings, family portraits and memorabilia

 

The rooftop garden at Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Philippines

The rooftop garden at Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Philippines

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2020 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Shop local: Yangshuo market, Guangxi, China

The city of Yangshuo is the teriminus of the Li River scenic boat journeys through the Guilin karst mountains – here the mountains are visible behind a new shopping district; Guangxhi, China

The city of Yangshuo is the terminus of the Li River scenic boat journeys through the Guilin karst mountains – here the mountains are visible behind a new shopping district; Guangxhi, China

 

Our river boat ride down the Li River from Guilin, through the spectacular karst mountains, took us to the city of Yangshuo (population 300,000) where we had an afternoon of exploration, the opportunity to cook our own dinners at a Chinese restaurant and cooking school, and then attend the Liu San Jie Impression Light Show on the Li River bank in town.  Our cooking school chef and instructor – from Cloud 9 Restaurant and Cooking School — took us through the local market on Xi Jie Street (West Street), pointing out many of the ingredients for our multi-course dinner that we then prepared.  Our four courses, individually cooked by each of us in our small group, included: Gong Bao Chicken, Egg Dumplings with Pork and Vegetables, Fry Noodles with Vegetables, and Cucumber in Vinegar & Chili Sauce.

 

The Guilin karst mountains are very visible behind the city’s main shopping street, Xi Jie Street (West Street), Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

The Guilin karst mountains are very visible behind the city’s main shopping street, Xi Jie Street (West Street), Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

We passed this outdoor restaurant that was setting up for dinner, as we walked to the local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

We passed this outdoor restaurant that was setting up for dinner, as we walked to the local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #1

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #1

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #2

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #2

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #3

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #3

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #4

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #4

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #5

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #5

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #6

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #6 – rambutan fruit

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #7

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #7 — bamboo shoots

 

Shopping and dining options in the small city of Yangshuo included both local and international options, Guangxhi, China

Shopping and dining options in the small city of Yangshuo included both local and international options, Guangxhi, China

 

This area contained a lot of street food vendors, offering snacks and light suppers to passersby, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

This area contained a lot of street food vendors, offering snacks and light suppers to passersby, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

One street vendor’s selection of street food, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

One street vendor’s selection of street food, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

We passed by a huge local festival as we headed over to the main street to catch a van to the theater on the Li River for the performance of the renowned light show, Impression Sanjie Liu; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

We passed by a huge local festival as we headed over to the main street to catch a van to the theater on the Li River for the performance of the renowned light show, Impression Sanjie Liu; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

The first chapter of the story and performance was “Red Impression- Folk Songs” -- on the water, many fishermen are rowing their bamboo rafts in a column; either standing or squatting, they hang the large red silk in the sky and or upon the water

The first chapter of the story and performance was “Red Impression: Folk Songs” — on the water, many fishermen are rowing their bamboo rafts in a column; either standing or squatting, they hang the large red silk in the sky and or upon the water. This red picture symbolizes the enthusiasm and praises the labors of the local people”; Impression Sanjie Liu performance on the Li River, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

“Impression Sanjie Liu was premiered on March 20th, 2004 at the Sanjie Liu Sing Fair, one mile from West Street (Xi Jie).  This is the world largest natural theater which utilizes the waters of the Li River as its stage, with twelve mist shrouded hills and the heavens as its backdrop.  Mist, rain, moonlight, the hills and their inverted reflections in the river all become the ever-changing natural background.  Its auditorium is housed on the natural islands of the river with the audience standing on the designed terraces, surrounded by green plants.  The sound equipment here cannot be seen because it is in harmony with the natural environment.

 

“The valleys, the hills, the cool breeze and the gurgling streams are all elements contributing to the three-dimensional sound effect.  Day by day, different weather offers different sceneries with the four seasons refreshing the performance of Impression Sanjie Liu as well, so you will have unique experience every time you watch it. This is really a new concept opera using nature as an integral part of its performers; hence its name – ‘Human’s Masterpiece Cooperated with the God’.

 

“Maybe you have heard of the film ‘Sanjie Liu’ produced in 1961, which made the Li River famous worldwide.  Sanjie Liu is a fairy singer in the myths and legends of the Zhuang ethnic minority.  She is incomparably beautiful, and has voice to match her beauty.  In the ‘Impression Sanjie Liu’, what you can see are the impressions derived from the daily life of the people living around the Li River, rather than the specific details of the stories.” — www.travelchinaguide.com

 

As we watched the incredible light show with a total of nearly 600 actors (mostly locals, supplemented by students at the local universities), we were struck by the scale and beauty of the show – reminding us of the opening night spectacle of the opening of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing on August 8, 2008 (08-08-08).  Afterwards, on the way to our hotel, we learned from our local guide that indeed, the producer (and owner) of the Impression Sanjie Liu show and theater was Yimou Zhang, the chief director of the opening and closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games.  In 2008, Zhang was nominated as 2008 Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

 

The last chapter of the story-performance is the “Silvery Impression- Performance Grand Ceremony” -- as the 'Wonder of Lijiang Culture', this scenery reflects the traditional ceremony in Sanjie's hometown according to the legend
The last chapter of the story/performance is the “Silvery Impression: Performance Grand Ceremony” — as the ‘Wonder of Lijiang Culture’, this scenery reflects the traditional ceremony in Sanjie’s hometown according to the legend. Over 200 Zhuang girls form a long column across the bridge over the Li River; their silver dresses make the river shimmer in a mysterious manner”; Impression Sanjie Liu performance on the Li River, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China
Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Li River and Karst Mountains (from Guilin to Yangshuo), Guangxi, China

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), China #1 – this scenery is so popular and important to China that the Guilin Li River karst mountains are featured on the national 20 Yuan (Renmimbi) paper currency (value ~ US$3.)

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), China #1 – this scenery is so popular and important to China that the Guilin Li River karst mountains are featured on the national 20 Yuan (Renmimbi) paper currency (value ~ US$3.)

 

We introduced the karst mountains of South China in our previous blog post with photographs shot from our hotel in Yangshuo, “Banyan Tree Yangshuo Resort and Karst Mountainscapes, Yangshuo (near Guilin), Guangxi, China”.  We had the opportunity to spend several hours on a boat in the Li River (or Li Jiang) cruising down from Guilin to Yangshuo through the spectacular karst mountains of Guilin.  These formations are widely regarded as the most stunning karst scenery in the world.  [We have separately sailed on Ha Long Bay, outside of Hanoi, Vietnam, also home to karst hills, similar to those in Guilin; there are other, similar karst hills in Phang Nga Bay in Thailand.]  “The South China Karst is considered one of the largest and most spectacular examples of a humid tropical to subtropical karst landscapes in the world, and is therefore a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The area is spread over the provinces of Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan and Chongqing and covers a massive 176,228 hectares (680 square miles).  A 50 mile-section (80 kilometers) of the River Li cuts through the Karst Mountains, and cruises on this section of the river are very popular.” — www.insightguides.com

 

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #2

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #2

 

“When you picture China, do you envisage mist-covered green mountains rising in sharp peaks and jagged edges?  If so, you’re likely imagining the famous karst mountains of Guilin.  They provide some of the most captivating scenery in China, but how exactly did these strange mountains get their shape?” — https://theculturetrip.com/asia/

 

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #3

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #3

 

“Karst mountains are made of limestone, dolomite, and gypsum, which have in common the fact that they are all soluble rocks.  This means they can be easily broken down by certain acids, including the acids sometimes found in rainfall or in the surface water of rivers or lakes.  Over time, acid breaks down the limestone and creates sinkholes and caverns, and subterranean drainage systems, where water will flow and collect under the ground.” — https://theculturetrip.com/asia/

 

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #4

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #4

 

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #5

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #5

 

“In the most dramatic instances, karst mountains are created when acidic waterflow wears down limestone bedrock, creating cracks in the bedrock surface.  Once cracks are formed, water is then able to flow more quickly and with greater force, creating underground drainage paths, which, in turn, lead to greater erosion.  With time — and not a short time, but rather, millions and millions of years — much of the surrounding rock will be eroded, and with vegetation taking root in the warmer tropical climates of southern China, the erosion process is hastened and limestone mountains are formed.  Karst topography is often characterized not only by sharp peaks, but also by caves and underground streams and pools, such as the famous Reed Flute Cave in Guilin” — https://theculturetrip.com/asia/  [See our previous blog post, “Reed Flute Cave (Ludi Yan), Guilin, Guangxi, China”]

 

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #6

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #6

 

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #7

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #7

 

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #8

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #8

 

“During the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618 to 907), Guilin thrived.  Huge halls were built and stone walls erected around the city.  Today, Guilin is a rather large, bustling city that attracts visitors from around the world.  The names of the hills surrounding Guilin are poetic: Cloud-Catching Pavilion, Bright Moon Peak, White Horse Cliff, Five Tigers Catch a Goat Hill, Folded Brocade Mountain.  In fact, as well as a geologist’s paradise, this area has long been an inspiration to countless poets and artists.  Many of the traditional Chinese landscape paintings we see today were inspired by this region.

“Most visitors to the Guilin area find a boat trip down the Li River to the town of Yangshuo to be one of the highlights of their trip.  “The river forms a green gauze belt, the mountains are like jade hairpins,” Han Yu, a Tang Dynasty poet wrote.  Drifting down the Li River, it’s easy to feel lost in time.  Women kneel on the banks washing clothes.  Farmers follow along behind their water buffalo.  Small villages dot the shore.  And the boatman will likely point out animal shapes they see in the surrounding landscape as you float down the river: horses galloping through the mountainsides, a stone frog leaping into the water or what looks like a turtle in the sides of a cliff as you float down the river.” — http://www.geotimes.org

 

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #9

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #9

 

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #10

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #10

 

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #11

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #11

 

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #12

The karst mountains of Guilin, seen from the Li River (or Li Jiang), photographed on our river boat cruise from Guilin south to Yangshuo, Guangxi, China #12 — see the previous photograph for the scene without the 20 Yuan note

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Kyoto Highlights (Part III), Honshu Island, Japan (2019)

We began our third day in Kyoto, with a tour of the Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, led by the master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho (the third generation artisan to own and direct the nationally acclaimed family studio)

We began our third day in Kyoto, Japan, with a tour of the Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, led by the master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho (the third generation artisan to own and direct the nationally acclaimed family studio)

 

“Woven on takabata looms since they were introduced from China over 1200 years ago, silk mon orimoro (design figures incorporated into the weave, itself), is exquisite, luminous, luxurious and multi-colored.  The high precision and skill level required to weave this fabric and the resulting extraordinary beauty and quality demands that it be distinguished from ordinary brocade by giving it a distinctive name, Nishiki.  In the Japanese language, the idiographic character used for Nishiki is a combination of the symbol for woven cloth combined with the symbol for gold, implying that the value of Nishiki is equal to that of money.

“Since ancient times, the word Nishiki has been used as an adjective to indicate great beauty as in the term, ‘Nishiki Autumn,’ to describe a colorful landscape in fall.  Nishiki, as a work of art, represents the pinnacle of silk weaving, rarely found in the world.  Historically, it has been highly coveted by the Japanese people, and remains a great source of national pride as an example of Japanese beauty.  Nishiki is created through the combined skills of numerous craftsmen, involving a broad range of technical processes that require time and patience. The work of Koho Tatsumura can be compared to that of a conductor who gathers together craftsmen like musicians in an orchestra, to complete each musical piece.  As the silk threads, each shining like gold, combine with one another, they come to harmonize as a brilliantly colored, dazzling, sublimely created Nishiki creation.

“The superb visual-textural feeling of silk’s infinite variations and hues, enhanced through processes cultivated over a millennium, is translated into works of art that will always draw our affection, regardless of the era.  At the studio of Koho Tatsumura we continue to produce woven fabrics as a Japanese art, preserving the tradition and skill, seeking to ever expand the beauty of Nishiki.

“Rather than thinking of weaving as flat and two dimensional, it can be created as a three-dimensional fabric.  This is one of the main defining characteristics of Nishiki, that it is woven in layers, creating a 3-dimensional effect.  Moreover, the individual translucent silk threads are like glass rods with a slightly rounded, triangular prism shape.  This is metaphorically referred to as a ‘silk prism.’  Because of this structure, silk thread both allows light to penetrate as well as reflects light and thus is able to sparkle with a diamond-like complexity.  By bringing the properties of silk thread to life in a woven piece of work and, moreover, moving it forward into the world of three dimensions, Nishiki becomes a ‘fabric of Light’ that manifests infinite changes in the light it encounters.” — http://www.koho-nishiki.com/en/

 

Master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho sells many of his fabulous beautiful three-dimensional woven silk fabrics as works of art in his studio, Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan

Master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho sells many of his fabulous beautiful three-dimensional woven silk fabrics as works of art in his studio, Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Because there is no appropriate word for Nishiki in either English or French, we feel that the Japanese word ‘Nishiki’ can be used in foreign languages. Japanese-English dictionaries define ‘Nishiki’ as ‘brocade,’ but the two are really conceptually different things.  In order to expose the boundlessness and charm of what can be called ‘the most beautiful woven fabric in the world’ to a greater number of people worldwide, we continue our efforts to encourage the acceptance of the term “Nishiki” until it is universally recognized and used.” — http://www.koho-nishiki.com/en/

 

One of two 90-year old hand looms for weaving Nishiki silk fabrics at Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan; on the left are visible the Jacquard punch cards that are programmed with the patterns for a given fabric

One of two 90-year old hand looms for weaving Nishiki silk fabrics at Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan; on the left are visible the Jacquard punch cards that are programmed with the patterns for a given fabric, with 33,000 cards required for the most complex fabric produced at the studio

 

One of the masterpiece Nishiki silk fabrics produced by Tatsumura Koho and for sale (for well in excess of $US 100,000) at his studio, Kyoto, Japan, representing waves in the ocean with over 200 colors of silk used to weave it

One of the masterpiece Nishiki silk fabrics produced by Tatsumura Koho for sale (for well in excess of $US 100,000) at his studio, Kyoto, Japan, representing waves in the ocean with over 200 colors of silk used to weave it

 

The gateway standing at the entrance to Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is called a torii, indicating that the area inside the gateway is sacred space, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The gateway standing at the entrance to Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is called a torii, indicating that the area inside the gateway is sacred space, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is quite old – by the end of the 7th century it already commanded considerable indluence; today, it is a well-known for a variety of ritual ceremonies and festivals and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kyoto, Japan

Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is quite old – by the end of the 7th century it already commanded considerable indluence; today, it is a well-known for a variety of ritual ceremonies and festivals and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kyoto, Japan

 

The tower-gate(ro-mon) and the corridors to right and left are in front of the Main Shrine (Honden) at Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrineare painted red, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The tower-gate(ro-mon) and the corridors to right and left are in front of the Main Shrine (Honden) at Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrineare painted red, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#1), Honshu Island, Japan

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#1), Honshu Island, Japan

 

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#2), Honshu Island, Japan

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#2), Honshu Island, Japan

 

The desert to conclude our luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura was simplicity and freshness on a plate – delicious fresh fruit, artfully arranged, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The desert to conclude our luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura was simplicity and freshness on a plate – delicious fresh fruit, artfully arranged, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Kyoto Highlights (Part I), Honshu Island, Japan (2019)

Kinkaku (The Golden Pavillion) is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha; it is part of Rokuon-ji Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan – viewed here from the forested hill leading to the Sekka-tei Teahouse

Kinkaku (The Golden Pavillion) is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha; it is part of Rokuon-ji Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan – viewed here from the forested hill leading to the Sekka-tei Teahouse

 

From Kobe, where our ship docked, we joined a small group of friends for a three-day trip to Kyoto, Japan’s former imperial capital, for our third visit.  We had the opportunity to revisit some of Kyoto’s 17 World Heritage Sites and had some great new experiences, meeting some leading artisans and getting a blessing at a Buddhist temple where Apple CEO Steve Jobs had spent some time getting an introduction to Zen Buddhism.  Our blog posts on Kyoto are abbreviated and include some highlights from our explorations.

 

The garden and buildings, centered on the Kinkaku (The Golden Pavillion) were said to represent the Pure Land of Buddha in this world; the villa also functioned as an official guesthouse, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The garden and buildings, centered on the Kinkaku (The Golden Pavillion) were said to represent the Pure Land of Buddha in this world; the villa also functioned as an official guesthouse, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

In 1994, Kinkaku (The Golden Pavillion) and Rokuon-ji Temple were registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

In 1994, Kinkaku (The Golden Pavillion) and Rokuon-ji Temple were registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The outer gate of Nijo-jo Castle, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, leading to rooms that witnessed some of the most important events in Japanese history in the 400 years since it was built (no photographs were allowed inside)

The outer gate of Nijo-jo Castle, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, leading to rooms that witnessed some of the most important events in Japanese history in the 400 years since it was built (no photographs were allowed inside), Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan; the castle was completed in 1603 and built for the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867), a period of peace and prosperity that ended when Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu announced in the castle his intention to restore imperial rule (1868 was the beginning of the Meiji Restoration)

 

Our first night’s dinner was in the Geisha district, Gion, where a young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

Our first night’s dinner was in the Geisha district, Gion, where a young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan -- #2

A young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan — #2

 

A young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan -- #3

A young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan — #3

 

A young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan -- #4

A young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan — #4

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.