SAKURA CROWDS

Part of the sakura season in Tokyo is the celebration; gathering friends, throwing down a blanket on the grass and hanging out. This usually involves food and of course – drink.

It gets very crowded under those trees.

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I cannot see what the sign on the left says but I think it says that you are not allowed to have food there.

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Public alcohol is not a problem in Tokyo, it would appear. This shot (above) was taken at Arisugawa park. A beautiful park near Hiroo station in the heart of Tokyo.

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UENO PARK, TOKYO

Last year we missed the blooming sakura, Tokyo’s famous cherry trees. One of the most famous is Ueno park, truly breathtaking in the middle of a city of 40M.

Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/2.5 USM.

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Down the main path – the sky was filled with blossoms.

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As with everywhere in Tokyo, there were large crowds. Everyone enjoying Hanami;

is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers, "flower" in this case almost always meaning cherry blossoms ("sakura") or (less often) plum blossoms ("ume").[1] From the end of March to early May, sakura bloom all over Japan,[2]

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Truly spectacular. Should have brought some sake to sit with the crowds …

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THE OVERGROWN TEMPLE, TA PROHM

Many of Cambodia’s temples are overgrown, they say there are an unknown number hidden away – engulfed by nature. Ta Prohm is marked as one of the 3 temples you need to see because of the way that nature sprouts from the temple – that tree must have been 30 meters high (or higher) – a new roof for an ancient temple.

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The trees have taken root everywhere over hundreds of years.

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Made famous by the movie Tomb Raider (have not seen it), Ta Prohm is in the middle of restoration, in this case thanks to India.

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This picture shows an example of the before (the jumble of rocks) and the after (on the right above the scaffold). Like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

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A few more shots of a very beautiful and exotic temple.2013 11 24 Ta Prohm_-45

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A beautiful place. Of the 3 must see temples in Siem Reap, this was our favorite (yes, more than Angkor Wat). There is something mystical about the jungle intertwined through the temple.

JELLYFISH LAKE, THE ROCK ISLANDS OF PALAU

I read about Jellyfish Lake years and years ago. It has always been in the back of my mind as a place where our family needs to go. It is a fascinating story of the natural evolution of a species; the golden jellyfish which inhabit the lake have few predators and have almost completely lost their ability to sting.

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The lake is wide and different to many lakes as the 15m threshold leads to no oxygen, high levels of toxic hydrogen sulfide and lots of ammonia. Our guide stated that decades ago a group went down to 30m and in minutes the water started to eat away their wetsuits (hence, no divers allowed). You can read about the lakes ecological make-up here.

We arrived after a windy and rainy ride, ahead of the majority of tours. It is the peak time for Japanese tourism which means groups of 50, moving in tight packs with life jackets on. We had our snorkel gear with us and decided to skip the life jackets so that we could dive.

With very little trepidation, we headed past the tight, lifejacket wearing packs to the deeper middle part of the lake where the sun was shining and the golden jellyfish were floating near the top, in the thousands.

It was mesmerizing. Configuration: Canon G12 with Canon WP-DC34 underwater casing.

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Due to the make up of the lake, the water has this green tinge too it and visibility is limited to around 2m.

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The jellyfish were more “solid” than I expected. Almost rubbery to the touch and no sting.

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I found myself gently moving them around .. bouncing the jellyfish up and down, while watching their pulsing .. rhythmic movement. We were also very careful with our fins .. kick to hard and you would cut one in half.

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And of course, we had to dive through them .. floating up through hundreds of jellyfish is a unique experience.

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This shot provides a perspective on the numbers. If you go .. swim to the middle .. toward the sun, away from others.

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It is like nothing I have ever done before. Fortunate to have the opportunity.

THE LEAPER COLONY – MORE CRETE

The Crete adventure continued on with a day trip north to the Island of Spinalonga. Our first stop was the quaint town of Elounda across from the island.

As is the case with most of Greece, dogs and cats were abundant and this one seemed to enjoy hanging out on the fishing nets.

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Fishing boats had been repurposed to shuttle us back and forth … with a little fishing thrown in between.

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Across from the town is the island which was a fort during the Turkish times and later a leper colony until 1957.

Following the Turkish occupation of Crete in 1669, only the fortresses of Gramvousa , Souda and Spinalonga remained in Venetian hands; they would remain so for almost half a century. Many Christians found refuge in these fortresses to escape persecution. In 1715, the Turks came to terms with the Venetians and occupied the island. At the end of the Turkish occupation the island was the refuge of many Ottoman families that feared the Christian reprisals. After the revolution of 1866 other Ottoman families came to the island from all the region of Mirabello. In 1881 the 1112 Ottomans formed their own community and Later, in 1903, the last Turks left the island.

The island was subsequently used as a leper colony, from 1903 to 1957. It is notable for being one of the last active leper colonies in Europe. The last inhabitant, a priest, left the island in 1962. This was to maintain the religious tradition of the Greek Orthodox church, in which a buried person has to be commemorated 40 days, 6 months, 1, 3 and 5 years after their death. Other leper colonies that have survived Spinalonga include Tichilesti in Eastern Romania, Fontilles in Spain and Talsi in Latvia. As of 2002, few lazarettos remain in Europe.[1])

It must have been heartbreaking for the people to be bound to the rock, even if the government did take care of them.

The island itself is magnificent. Huge walls jutting out of the sea. A commanding point to control the sea around it and another great family hiking opportunity ….

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It never ceases to amazing me how life will pop out in the oddest of places. This is a picture straight up a wall that must be 15m high. What are the odds?

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Inside the walls is a well preserved town with a small museum dedicated to the previous inhabitants.

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Unfortunately, the leper grave is without a single marker to identify those who have passed on.

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The below gives you an idea of how steep the island is. Fantastic adventure hiking to the top, but very steep. Of course, the view from the top is amazing.

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I can see the soldiers standing on the parapet, bored out of their minds….

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All in all .. a great adventure for the day. We topped it off with dinner on the shore at a local sea food restaurant who served great lobster and scallops.

I miss Crete already.