Weekly Photo Challenge:Foreign (4)

Dazhao Temple, ‘Wuliang Si (Infinite Temple)’ in Chinese, is the oldest building and the largest temple in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. The construction of the temple was completed in 1580 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and it is therefore the oldest Lamaist Buddhist temple in Inner Mongolia.

Inside the temple, we came across several statues, representing the gods. They look very “foreign” to us. One of these in vivid colors, which we totally cannot relate to is shown above . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  ..

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign (3)

The Step Pyramid at Saqqara, Egypt is dated even older than pyramids at Giza and Dashur. It was here that the genius architect Imhotep built the first monuments in stones in 27th century BC. While there, we were keenly aware that we were on foreign soil and we were also back in time. . . . .  . . . . .  . . . . . .. .  . . . . . . . . . . . .  .. .

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign (1)

Aobaos, which are conical mass of stones in the open grasslands of Inner Monogolia, certainly look “foreign” to me.

Aobao was born as a landmark for the grasslands. They were  used to signify the border or to demarcate cities. After the era of Genghis Khan, people admired and yearned for brave heroes who died at the war front. They then made Aobaos as tombs and inserted their swords or axes, which they used when they were still alive, atop the Aobaos.

Later on,  Aobao became a place for sacrifice to the mountain god, the road god and the war-god.

And now, the Aobao’s most important use is for sacrifice. People always sacrifice the best corn, meet, fruit and alcohol to Aobao and pray for good weather, good harvest and good fortune.

Every summer, herdsmen will come to the Aobaos with their offerings. At this time, the Aobaos are decorated with pure white scarves or hadas at the center of the Aobao and colorful pieces of cloth around it and beautiful ethnic dances will be performed around them.

Aobaos are also symbolic things. It is also a place for dating for the young people as Aobaos are now considered romantic meeting places.

Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route – From Foliage to Snow

We were at the base of the Tateyama Kurobe mountains. The hills around us were transformed by the beautiful colors of the Autumn leaves. In Japan, the leaves are called, “kouyou” or “momiji”. The Japanese admire “kouyou” just as they admire cherry blossoms in spring. We were delighted at the sight of the colored foliage.

Heading up the mountain, we were to ascend 1,975m and would experience a temperature drop of 10 degrees when we reach the top.

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is just 37 km in length, but to tackle this route, there are no other ways but to use 7 different public transports with 5 different modes, namely funicular, bus, trolleybus, aerial tramway, and walking.

On the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, as we ascended from the foot of the mountain, the autumn leaves display a wide range of colours including  Yellow Minekaede (one of maple varieties) and Dakekamba (Erman’s birch) as well as red Nanakamado (Japanese rowan) could gradually be seen as we proceed to the summit.

As usual, the best sights you saw were the sights while you are moving. While the funicular railway was making a steep climb, with all the trees seemed slanting, the views outside the funicular window were just picturesque. The fact that the funicular was quite full and that it was making a steep climb did not stop me from taking some photos from the funicular’s windows.

Not bothered with giving an impression to the fellow passengers on the funicular that I am sort of camera bug, I took a few more photos of the colored foliage on the way up the mountain.

As we proceeded higher up, we changed to a tired Trolley Bus with snow chains. The autumn spectacle of the multi-coloured leaves disappeared and gradually gave way to a snow scene. Snow was falling. The fall of snow that has completely turned the area to white, really compelled us all.

We were finally at 2,450 meters above sea level, at Daikanbo, the highest point of the Alpine Route. Daikanbo is located between Murodo and Kurobe-daira stations, where visitors transfer from the Tateyama Trolley Bus to the Tateyama Ropeway, or vice versa.

For the first time in many years we experienced  a snow world with different shades of black on the mountains.

We were thrilled by the marvelous snow landscapes.

Daikanbo is arguably the best viewing spot on the Alpine Route. An observation deck outside the precipitous offers the splendid view of Ushiro-Tateyama Mountain Range and Lake Kurobe.  Here we have a beautiful view of the mountains and the Lake Kurobe down below.

So, we have experienced the  beautiful colors of the fall foliage and the drastic change to the bleak and white and black of the snow capped mountains.   We made our way down, taking the ropeway (mountain cable car).

On the way, we have a great view of the beautiful Lake Kurobe.

We walked the whole length of the tallest dam in Japan at Kurobe and were happy to see colored foliage once again on this other side of the mountain  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .