November 19, 2015

Kamakura and Yokosuka Naval Base

Kamakura is a great seaside town, a few hours southwest of Tokyo, and was once considered the capital of Japan. It's most famous attraction is Daibutsu, or Great Buddha. He is the oldest statue of buddha in Japan, and at 47 feet tall, is the second largest.

Daibutsu dates from the year 1252, and has withstood hundreds of years of wars, earthquakes and tsunami's. (Though, the structure has been reinforced in recent times.)

The proportions of Daibutsu have been skewed, with his head being much larger than his body, which from faraway looks top heavy.

But, up close, he looks perfectly proportional. 

We tried out my new selfie stick. Lots of fails!

Maybe we will just stick to the good 'ol fashioned selfie instead.

After viewing Daibutsu, and finishing our photo ops, we wandered the town.

There were so many fun shops. I enjoyed watching this man shape his pottery.

We eventually ended up at another shrine, Kamakura's most important, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.

We were lucky enough to visit this shrine in November, the month of shichi-go-san, literally meaning 7-5-3. If your child turned seven, five or three during that year, then you dress them up and take them to the shrine for a special prayer of prosperity and health.

We saw the most adorable kids at the shrine that day.

Does it honestly get any cuter than this?!


This little gal had no problems posing for the camera!

Many of the parents were in traditional dress, too. 

Sake is a very big part of the Japanese culture, and you will usually see casks of sake at the shrine as a gift to the gods. I love the look of them.

Such precious kids. Seeing them all dressed up just totally made my day!

Japan has a very long and beautiful fall. Some trees do not even hit peak until mid-December!

A strawberry on a Ritz cracker for $2.00. Any takers?

I absolutely loved wandering the shrine, it was so heartwarming to see the families celebrating their children's lives.

Some of our best adventures are walking along a city street, with no agenda, just seeing what there is to see.

We spent the night at Yokosuka US Naval Base, which is very close to Kamakura. 

It was a very nice base, with great ocean views, of course.

The US Navy sure owns some prime real estate, world wide!

Such a fun "stay-cation", exploring more of the beautiful country of Japan, our second home.

November 9, 2015

Monkey Forest and a close call, Bali

We spent our last day in Bali in the jungle town of Ubud. (It's probably best known as the artsy town that Julia Roberts visited in the movie Eat, Pray, Love.) 

First stop, the rice terraces. Rice terraces date back to ancient times and served as a way to cultivate sloped and hilly land. They are still fairly common throughout rural Asia, and can be sowed and harvested without the use of heavy machinery.

We were able to walk all over the terrace on small paths.

The area was so lush and green!

The rice actually sits in quite a bit of water, which I found surprising.

There is usually a pond at the top, and the tiers help water to flow down each step of the terrace.

So beautiful!

This little gal was a beauty, too!

Next stop was a luwak coffee plantation. This was an interesting concept. The luwak (also known as a civet) is fed coffee beans that he poops out, yes POOPS, and then the coffee is made.

Apparently, the luwak has some sort of digestive enzyme that breaks the coffee bean down, making for easier roasting. The following are the various stages of the bean process. So, yes, someone has the job of collecting the luwak poop. I'll pass.

This is the luwak. They are becoming increasingly in demand in Asia for this process, so their numbers are dwindling. Sad.

We sat down at a lovely outdoor table, and they brought out a sampler of coffee and teas made at the plantation. We actually didn't even try the luwak coffee because it is very expensive, but it supposedly has a much stronger and robust coffee flavor than regular coffee.

But we did have fun with the samples. It was a nice rest stop before hitting our last spot in Ubud, Monkey Forest.

Monkey Forest is a reserve for the Balinese long-tail monkey, a variety of macaque. They were all over the place, and so fun to watch.

Lots of babies, too.

Monkeys, monkeys everywhere!

The grounds looked like something out of an Indiana Jones movie; 

old overgrown trees,

lush jungle foliage,

and old temples.

(I've found that it is almost impossible to look cute in the tropics, so this is as good as it gets!)

I really loved all of the moss-covered stone carvings around the grounds.

There were large piles of food around the grounds, probably to help the monkeys stay somewhat tame. But you could also purchase bananas, to feed to them.

If you hold the banana over your head the monkey will climb right up you to get it. We saw one poor lady absolutely hounded for her banana bunch, the monkey was relentless and crawled all over her head and shoulders until he got the entire bunch of bananas. The lady looked quite rattled after that.

They will also go for your water bottles.

I'm actually pretty scared of the monkeys, they can be very mean and aggressive, so we decided beforehand that we would not feed them or get too close. Monkey bites are a very common occurrence at the park and can be quite serious.

But, Ella, my thrill seeker, found a banana on the ground and was desperate to have the monkeys climb on her because she thought it looked fun. We were not okay with that, so she sat on a bench and got as close as possible. That's Ella.

Now for our close call. We were walking through the park, minding our own business, when Matt unknowingly stepped on a small part of a monkeys tail. The monkey assumed an attack stance and was making this awful screeching sound at Matt, then one of his friends also joined in. I thought for sure that Matt was going to be attacked. Matt turned to look at the monkey, not knowing what was going on, and broke the Monkey Forest number one rule, "never look a monkey in the eye", because that is a sign of aggression. So there was Matt and the monkey, staring each other down. Good thing Matt outsized him! We quickly got out of there and the crisis was averted, but it sure raised our blood pressure! 

We'd had our fill of monkeys by that point, so we called it a day. Much more excitement than we were after! 
Back at the hotel that evening, there was another pool side Balinese dance performance.

And a photo op with the dancers, afterwards.

It was really hard to leave this breakfast spot to go back to the airport.

Speaking of breakfast, I found this mans attire very odd for the tropics. Somehow, a leather jacket, jeans and boots don't say "island breakfast" to me. You?

One last look at the view. How did we ever say goodbye?!