Beppu the land of hell

Looking up from the bottom of the hill I could see the steam building up, rising into the air forming thick white clouds as I got closer I felt the heat against my face as the water boiled in beautiful aqua blue forming hell that looked like the ocean. Eggs boiled away in baskets dipped into the hell, while next door the ground shook while the steam slowly built up before water sprouted out of the ground with such verosity and power shooting the water into the air forming a geyser. This geyser erupts every 20- 30 minutes. Mud pits bubbled while crocodiles fought aggresively, another hell covered in a pool of red that looked like blood and the devil overlooked all of this with his sly smile covering his face.

This is not hell but it could be the closest thing that resembles what has been depicted in books over the years with the heat of the water ranging from 50-99.5 degrees, could one false move, one little slip be all it takes before a hand with a pitching fork rises out from the ground and grabs you, before dragging you down to the couldrons and pits below, fortunately I never made that fatal mistake.

Here in the city of Beppu (144,000 population) in Oita prefecture on the southern island of Japan (kyushu) 9 hells, hotsprings that are too hot for bathing are located in the Kannawa district. You can buy a pass for 2000yen or you can pay individual entrance fee for 400 yen.

 These hells are all in walking distance from one another

umi hell (sea hell) recommend

The aqua blue water gently boils the expansive pond is definitely worth a visit. It is the most picturesque hotspring getting its name from looking like the ocean. If you only visit one of the hells, make sure it’s this one. image image image image oniishibozu hell (shaved monks head hell) recommend

If you have been to Rotorua in New Zealand then you would be familiar with the sulphur odors that waft through the air as the same smell is apparent here from the hotsprings and the gurgling mud pits that bubble.image image image image Shiraike hell (white pond hell)

Similar to the umi hell but a shade lighter with a thicker white steam that covers the hell. Not as interesting as the other hells mentioned above but worth a look.

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Yama hell (mountain hell)

They have animals kept in poor conditions. We do not recommend this hell.

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Kamado hell (oven hell)

This is the hottest hotspring out of the group. I could feel the intense heat no soon as we entered the hell. I was talking to the staff and told them I couldn’t imagine working here during the Summer. They laughed and said it really feels like hell

Oniyama hell (devil mountain hell)

They have crocodiles kept in poor conditions. Do not recommend. image The next two hells are 2.5 kilometres away from the other hells buses run frequently.

Chinoike hell (Blood hell)recommend

The colour of this hell is red caused by clay. It is the most interesting hell especially with the story of a samurai dipping his sword in the pond only to turn the water completely red from the blood on the sword. image image image Tatsumaki hell ( geyser hell)

  The geyser erupts about every 25 minutes sprouting out a ferocity of water but there is not much greenery here as they have built a concrete barricade around it. If you have seen a geyser before then you could skip this hell. It takes about 2.5 hours to see all the hells. image image

What you should do at the hells?

Soak your feet in the foot hotspring, eat eggs and puddings boiled in the hotspring.

The big Buddha of Hong Kong

The queue looked long for the cable car, something I did not want to wait for having waited for over two hours for the Peak Tram I asked the attendant “How long is the wait?”, “around an hour” ,” an hour, Do you know when the next bus is?” “Yes it leaves in five minutes”.There was no need to say anything, Hitomi looked at  me before nodding and saying in unison”BUS”. By taking the bus we missed out on the 5.7 km cable car, you can see spectacular panoramic views of the hilly terrain, the sea and the city of Lantau island.

Big,huge, gigantic all words needed to describe Tian Tan, the big buddha, which happens to be the world’s largest seated outdoor bronze buddha. It soars 34 metres into the air. The big buddha is located on Ngong Ping plateau on Lantau island near the Hong Kong airport. It sits on a lotus leaf above 268 steps. Half way up we started running, racing one another to the top, the Rocky anthem would have been blaring in the background had it been a seen from a movie, the winner raising his hands in triumph, jumping up and down yelling “ROCKY, ROCKY”.

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The buddha was impressive I took my time circling the Buddha taking in the 202 bronze pieces that it took to make. Its right hand raised representing the removal of affliction, while its left hand rests on its knee, signifying human happiness. six smaller bronze statues surrounds the buddha holding offerings to it.

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Not far from the big buddha is the Po Lin Monastery. It was built by three zen masters in 1920.It is still active today in the buddhist community of Hong Kong. The incense filled the air but it was smokier than the incense I’m used to in Japan. There at the monastery it burnt with a thicker stick looking more like a fire cracker than something to purify your body.

Lunch at the monastery is highly recommended, only serving vegetarian food. You can see the monks go about their daily activities.Unfortunately we did not know about this at the time. They do however have a food stall serving vegetarian food And Hong Kong sweets.The tofu that we ordered was nice covered with a sweet sauce we also ate two sesame dumplings and a custard tart.

Walking back, we wandered through the village of Ngong Ping, a reenactment of a Hong Kong village. The village is filled with souvenir shops and a few other attractions that we never entered,  at the end of the village is the cable car station and this time there was no queue, few people and we could enjoy the views back down.

Cooking pizza at Florence’s Cooking and Wine Academy

They say there is no better place to eat a pizza than the ones in Italy and I would have to agree except for one thing, there is no better pizza to eat than the pizza’s you have made yourself and that is exactly what we did in Florence.

We were met at the door to the kitchen of Florence’s Wine and Cooking Academy by the chef and owner Giovanni. I was expecting, a fat jovial Italian man to speak in a thick Italian English accent, instead I was greeted by a man with a shaved head,glasses, speaking with a stern Italian/ American accent with my images of Italian chefs now thrown out the window, we were seated quickly at the benches of the kitchen, seated amongst 25 other want to be chefs.

Giovanni poured out the flour on the bench, formed a circle, then placed some liquid in the middle, from the outside he padded the flour before everything was seeped in and the dough was formed, he then started kneading before placing the ball of dough under the towel to allow it to rise. He was quick, meticulous in the way he did everything, he made it look easy. He then clicked his fingers twice, snapped “Go get your apron and wash your hands it’s your turn.”

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“lets start” I said, smiling at my wife and son before spreading the flour out on the table, the dough didn’t form as well as Giovanni’s, it was sticky, we were worried that it would be a failure, we felt pressured as he was spending a long time with other participants up at the far end, finally he came, he smirked looking at our dough, “needs more flour” before spreading some more out, we then rolled the dough in and sure enough the dough became firm. kneading too, wasn’t my forte but Rei had his knuckles, going, his fingers complying to what he was thinking and sure enough the dough was ready all it needed to do was for it to rise.

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While waiting I learnt that Giovanni spends a long time each year in America, training American chefs in the art of Italian cooking. That would explain the slight American accent that he had and probably why he doesn’t come across as one of the friendliest people when he’s used to training highly efficient chefs instead of training a bunch of amateurs.

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With the dough having risen we were ready to spread out the simple margarita sauce that we had made tomatoes, basil leaves and cheese. All that was to do now was wait.

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What we made

Margarita pizza
Calzone with spicy salami filling (Our favourite)
chocolate gelato

Meal fantastic

What we liked

Some schools, you watch the instructor make the food and then eat it. This is definitely the opposite a full hands on cooking experience.

Number of participants

25 I thought there were too many 15 participants would be better.

Instructions

precise, knew what he was doing, helpful

Instructor

Giovanni

His instructions were fine,he just needed to show a little bit more warmth to the participants.

Overall

A fun evening enjoyed by all participants. We haven’t ordered take out pizza since we’ve returned. Making our own pizza using the method that was taught. We were given a recipe book from the Academy to help make other pizzas.

Cost

$59 Adult
$29 Child

Melaka, if they conquered they would build it.

Melaka located 2 hours, south of Kuala Lumpur earned world heritage in 2008, however you would not be able to tell from Melaka Sentral bus station. It looked like a typical Malay city the real gem is the old town, 4 kilometres away. Melaka has a rich history with many historical buildings and culture still intact. It is well worth the day trip from Kuala Lumpur.

You instantly know you’re in the old town, the salmon pink buildings of the old Christ Church and the Stadthuys, the former administrative office of the Dutch Governor forms a charming square. Trishaws line the front, ornately decorated with plastic flowers, loud pop music blares, fans whirl while the drivers wait for customers.

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Malaka had been a simple fishing village until the arrival of the first sultan. It flourished into a port town before being ruled by the Portuguese from 1511, and then conquered by the Dutch in 1641. The Dutch held the city for 150 years then being passed onto the British before being once again handed back to the Dutch.

When they conquered they built, the Portuguese built a fortress, A Formosa to defend themselves only to have it suffer severe destruction during the Dutch invasion only for the Dutch to rebuild it. The British destroyed it once again, before handing Melaka back to the Dutch. All that remains today is the gate.

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The Portuguese church was shattered only to be replaced by the Christ Church and the Stradthuys administrative center mentioned earlier in the blog. Christ Church is the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia.  On top of St Paul’s Hill are the ruins of St Paul’s church, once the Portuguese Catholic church, then turned into a burial ground for the noble dead lead by the Dutch.

Walking down Jonker street and the surrounding streets changes from the historical European quarter to Chinatown. Jonker Street and the surrounding area were full of souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes serving local Nyonya food, temples, shrines and mosques filled the streets.

Melaka had been a quiet fishing village before the first sultan Parameswara arrived. Its fortunes increased once its official adaption of Islam in the 14th century. After the visit of Chinese Muslim Cheng Ho in the mid 15thCentury, contact between China and Melaka intensified. In exchange for protection against Siam (Thailand) Melaka became a vassal state for Ming, China.

The Chinese came and merged with the Malakkan people, marrying, mixing cultures together forming what is known today as Peranakan, the women known as Nyonya and the men as Baba. While in Melaka make sure you experience Peranakan cuisine which combines Chinese, Malay and other influences in a unique blend. The food is tangy, spicy, aromatic and herbal. I sampled the shrimp sambal and it was devine.

To fully understand the way Peranakan people lived. It is well worth visiting Baba and Nyonya Peranakan museum for 10RM a guide will explain how they lived and show you around their house.

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The day was extremely hot with a scorching sun we needed to wind down by relaxing on the river cruise. The boat floated down Melaka River which the town was originally built around in its golden era. The boardwalk follows the river, many people were taking a leisurely stroll, people were sitting at outdoor cafes, murals were painted along the walls. The boat glided along the water just beyond Kampung Morten, a group of traditional houses opened to the public. The boat circled around before heading back the way we came.

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Melaka though with all its good things has also made some horrible decisions. They moved the central bus station out of town and replaced it with a ferris wheel which they call the Melaka eye, they built the old style pirate ship that swings back and forth that was popular in amusement parks thirty years ago and they have a trampoline bungee all taking up prime land along the river.

They have a defunct monorail system that doesn’t work and may never have been in operation and they have built a hideous, pointless revolving tower taking people for a seven minute ride 1 minute to ascend, 5 minutes to take in the scenery and 1 minute to descend.

Whether you go to Melaka for a day or stay overnight there is something for someone to enjoy and with the European history and the foreign tourists that visit this one time I think it adds to the town.