Osaka, Please Hold the Last Sakura

This year, the cherries blossomed so early than expected in Osaka and its nearby cities. The data was according to the Japan’s forecast as we checked it a day before we traveled. Seeing a cherry blossoms was deleted from our travel expectations but we’re still hoping to at least see even one petal left hanging on the tree until our arrival.

Location: Osaka, Japan

Where I Stayed: J-Suite East Namba, nearest station is Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka of Tanimachi Line

Buddies: Family

DSC_0032Day 1 – Osaka City Tour

We woke up with a cool breeze when opening the room’s sliding window. From there, we glimpsed on the vicinity of the neighborhood and noticed that the area was so quiet. The air smelled clean though high rise buildings circling the apartment.

At 7am, there was a news feed in the social media showing flowering trees at the park along O River. It was only four subway stations away from our location by Tanimachi Line. We prepared and headed to the station for a quick ride to Temmabashi Station. It was our only chance to see real cherry blossoms.

We lost our instinct compass when we went out from the underground station. We already crossed the busy road but came back when we realized that we were tracking on the opposite direction of the map.

DSC_0045aCherry Blossoms

Flocks of tourists were also heading to the area. Everyone was in hurry and steps were quick and fast. The displayed banners and signs containing instructions and visibility of traffic enforcers guided us until we reach the park. The trees were at their peak blossoms. It was so wonderful that we had watched it so close. There were park’s staffs who control the mobs. They kept on reminding the people to move and not to stay longer in one area (speaking in Japanese but their gestures are quite understandable). Tripods and selfie sticks were surprisingly not permitted for taking photos. Even carrying my child on my shoulder was also not allowed.

sdr

DSC_0107

After an enjoyable walk, we turned back to visit the food market and have breakfast on one of the food stalls. We refueled our bodies since our first hours already consumed a lot of our energy. After our first sumptuous Japanese meal, we left the park crossing the bridge of O River and walked up to Gokurakubashi Bridge, the northern entrance to Osaka Castle park.

Osaka Castle Park

The Osaka Castle Park is surrounded by trees, moats, and stone walls as first defense of the castle from the invaders during its historical time. This significant and well unique structure is a symbol of the culture which was continuously preserved by ages. The entrance to the park is free but there is a payment when accessing the castle tower.

After a short stay at the tower’s ground, we walked south and accidentally visit the Shudokan. It is a school for martial arts and intriguingly observed the locals (mostly grandpas) while harnessing and sparring with their wooden samurai sword. We stayed there a bit longer for my kid was enjoying it and didn’t want to leave.

DSC_0200When the students took their breaks, we moved out from the school and headed to Otemon Gate, the southwestern gate of the castle. We walked south passing the Osaka Museum of History until we found an old style Japanese house. We didn’t find anything to identify its name. However, it was so peculiar that it still stands untouched even surrounded by modern buildings.

DSC_0218aWe headed directly to the nearby Tanimachiyonchome Station and rode a subway train (Chuo Line) to Osakako Station. The nearest station to the attractions that we planned and included in our own“Do-It-Yourself” tour.

DSC_0232aTempozan Giant Ferris Wheel

The Tempozan Ferris Wheel greeted our eyes from the subway station. We walked for around five minutes to reach this giant ride. We bought our ride tickets and the giant structure soared us up at the height of 112.5 meters from the ground for approximately 20 minutes. From the top, the panoramic views of Osaka Bay and overlooking views of the city filled our sights. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Osaka Aquarium, and even the Universal Studios are an eye away from the top. This gigantic ride supposedly non-stop but it stops when the riders are not quick enough to catch the moving cabin during entering and exiting.

DSC_0256aOsaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

At 2pm, we found ourselves queuing at the entrance gate of the Osaka Aquarium, which claimed to be one among the largest aquarium in the world. We entered and walked straight to the escalator which was the longest escalator ride I ever experienced. I was shocked that I  forgot to click the camera but instead busy on counting if how many floors was its equivalent. The escalator started from the 2nd floor straight up to building’s top floor. From the top floor, the fish tank viewing started all the way down to the ground. There are so many varieties of marine species from arctic and pacific we saw. Some are huge too!

DSC_0297aDSC_0294aThe pathway down to different fish tanks was dark and crowded. I personally ensured that I would not lost sight to my child who was enjoying them much. The aquarium is the best place for children to meet up with different species of fishes and marine animals. A lot of different families of penguins, dolphins, and seals are there too to entertain both adult and young visitors.

DSC_0267aAt 3:30pm, we went out from the aquarium. We’re both tired and hungry. The famous “takoyaki” and chocolate filled crepe partially filled our emptiness while a light rainfall started to moist our jackets.

We rode the Chuo line subway back to Tanimachiyonchome Station. From there, we changed subway platform to Tanimachi and rode to Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka station. We arrived in our accommodation at 4:30pm.

DSC_0321A few minutes walk from our accommodation, we found the LIFE supermarket as our lives saver. We bought foods for our dinner at 20% to 40% off. The best time to buy those delicious cooked meal is during the night partnered with Japanese precooked rice and cold beers. I’m so impressed that the cashier never speak English (but I think can understand) and handed me the change with two hands while the head was down and said “arigato gozaimashita”.

Steamy Moments at Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri

We woke up early at 5am to visit Taj Mahal, the India’s most famous site which is listed in the Seven Wonders of the World. Sunrise is said to be the best time to visit for less crowd and colder temperature. We left the hotel at 5:30am and arrived at the Nature Park in less than 10 minutes. We walked on the park’s walkway leading to the entrance ticket booths. An entrance fee was paid for 1,000 rupees per adult. Included in the fee was a bottle of water and a plastic foot cover which has to be used once inside the Taj Mahal.

DSC_0023
Snapshot of Taj Mahal from the Great Gate

TAJ MAHAL

The entrance gate was still closed. We blended ourselves in a long queue of tourists whose also availing the sunrise scene of the famous site. The gate opened at almost 6am and everyone passed through security scanners and strict individual inspection. The inspection took time especially in women’s lane because majority of them were carrying bags. Foods are totally not allowed. Even us didn’t escape because my wife brought cookies and bread for my son who we pulled out from bed few minutes before leaving. Our tour guide rescued us by giving my son chances to eat or else those hunger reliever food will destine into trash. We’re not alone on such scenario. Small children were busy chewing food beside the inspecting guards while parents took most of the portion.

The sun was already up but we’re still at the entrance gate. After we cleared from inspection, we followed the flow of the crowd up to the Great Gate. We belonged to the first wave of visitors, so the place was so crowded and humid. Sharing and having long patience must be considered by everyone to have a personal space of a dreamed backdrop of the majestic marble monument and its symmetrical garden.

DSC_0012
After the Entrance Gate of Taj Mahal Complex
DSC_0117
Tourists on Early Morning Scene
DSC_0047
The Majestic Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum built by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife who died on giving birth to their 14th child in the 16th century. The architectural design was the living monument of his love and grief which inspired everyone. Agra claimed as the City of Love because of it.

We wore the foot cover and stepped on the marble flooring of the mausoleum. I was amazed on the artistic carvings before my eyes. In the center of the mausoleum lies the replica of where the original tomb was situated. Photography was not allowed in that particular area. The entire marble mausoleum was uniquely carved and decorated with gems and precious stones. According to our guide, it is best to see during full moon as the gems shine on moonlight beam.

We left the site at 7:30am with a sweaty experience and took our buffet breakfast in the hotel.

DSC_0128

DSC00732
The monkey family greeted us in the park.

At 9:30am, we left the hotel going to Jaipur. We did a side trip at Fatehpur Sikri which has the biggest gate in the history. It was a former palace of Mughal Emperor Akbar before moving to Lahore and Agra Fort because of unavailability of water supply in the 15th century. The history of this landmark was important in the construction of Agra Fort and Taj Mahal. The father of Shah Jahan, named Jahangir, was predicted and born in Fatehpur Sikri. The connections of Agra’s architectural sites were rooted to the civilization which started from this great site.

DSC_0201
The Entrance Gate – Fatehpur Sikri

FATEHPUR SIKRI

We arrived in Fatehpur Sikri at 10:30am and met our site tour guide. The architectural form of the fort brought our curiosities. Both human and goats carefully climbed up on the inclined stairs to reach the huge gate. Yes, number of goats were present at the entrance gate.

We removed our shoes as it was required and left them at the gate for a fee. The guide explained to us the site, some part of its history, mosque, tombs, palace ruins, and the escape underground tunnel which led to fort in Agra. Aside from a mosque, the place as a whole is now a wide mausoleum.

DSC_0211
Watching the Modern Town Fatehpur Sikri from the Gate

DSC_0220Visiting the fort at Fatehpur Sikri has no entrance fee but it was consider unstable because of those annoying guys who sell items inside the tourist site. They were still following though I declined their offered products so many times. Every time that the site guards came, those guys pulled out and ran nowhere playing hide and seek. We didn’t know if we fell on the scam trap because the needed materials for the ritual at the Tomb of Salim Chishti was bought at the back side and hidden from authorities. The area was clear with vendor when the guards routinely rove but again they occupied it back. The ritual had done by buying first the required materials; a cloth, yarn, and red flower petals for 1,200 rupees. We went inside the white marbled mausoleum by placing the cloth on top of the tomb, scattering the petals, and tying the yarn at the wall with our individual wishes.

We left the site at 1pm for it was too hot to walk on the fort barefooted. Our guide led us to a local store where they crafted materials and exhibited their local products. The store owner convinced us to buy stuffs which we are not interested. We were irritated especially when forcing a belief and insisting that we should have it. The stuffs were overpriced! He offered an item worth 1,500 rupees and dropped to only 300 rupees when we walked away from the store. At such descended price, I will never accept it even he will give it free. A souvenir from a cheating attempt is not worth to bring. I was so upset realizing that the historical tour ended with a hot confrontation. I rather advise not to visit Fatehpur Sikri unless you’re a believer of Salim Chishti.

We left Sikri finally at 1:30pm going to Jaipur. The beautiful scenery and heavy rainfall cooled off my mind from before steamy conversation. Jaipur City is hiding from the mountain as we entered a tunnel passing through it. We arrived in the hotel, the Anuraag Villas at 4:30pm.

Meanwhile, our trip buddies in Dubai successfully complied the travel requirements and waiting for their flight to Delhi. They will directly go to Jaipur to meet and join us on the remaining tours.

( Day 2 of my customized tour to the Golden Triangle of India last August 25 to 30, 2017. )