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nara japan

Nara Japan – UNESCO World Heritage Sites Jewel

If you are a history fan then Nara Japan is the ideal historical city to kick off your historical journey in the East. It was the initial permanent capital of Japan, but more importantly, you will find not one but eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites here. Nara also has the highest number of buildings classified as National Treasures of the country. One would think with all cherished possessions Nara Japan should be a top tourist destination. Well, that is not the case. The culturally splendid Kyoto is a far more tourist favorite than Nara. Nevertheless, Nara is a radiant jewel anxiously waiting for exploration especially if you are visiting the Kansai region in Japan.

Nara Japan - Todaiji Daibutsu
NaraTodaijiDaibutsu0212“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Daibutsu or also known as the Great Buddha is a striking landmark in Nara. It is inside the high temple of Todai-ji. The Todai-ji Temple is one of the world’s single largest wooden structures, a main attraction in Nara and definitely a very impressive site. It welcomes guests daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

The next UNESCO heritage designated site that impresses and fascinates visitors is the Horyu-ji pagoda (A pagoda is a tiered tower with multiple eaves). Featuring five floors, it truly is the country’s oldest pagoda as well as the oldest existence extant timber building worldwide. One exceptional feature of Horyu-ji is the Golden Hall or Kon-do, whose beginnings date back around 670 AD.

Horyu-ji Pagoda - Nara Japan
Horyu-ji06s3200” by 663highland663highland. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Another temple and pagoda worth mentioning is the 600-year old Kōfuku-ji Temple, also with five levels. It actually is the second tallest pagoda in the country, standing at about 50 meters. At some stage in the 8th century, the original temple from Kyoto was relocated here. The Kōfuku-ji Pagoda is a symbol of toughness in Nara. Despite being burned down on five instances through history it stands today as a symbol of endurance. The pagoda is open daily for visitors, from 9:00am – 5:00pm.

Like the majority of Nara’s prominent landmarks, you can find Kōfuku-ji and Todai-ji inside the Nara Kōen Park. If there is a single place in Nara that your time permits you to explore, it definitely should be Nara Kōen (Nara Park). The park offers a great hiking tourist destination because of its vast eco-friendly space. This is not a strenuous hike, as you can basically wander leisurely around the grassy park.

Nara Park is home to the mercenary deer or Sika Deer, so don’t be startled if you see several during your walk. The deer population is considered divine and sacred because they are guarded envoys of the god from Kashima Shrine. These days, excursionists may feed the deer with deer crackers known as Shika Senbei. After temple hopping at the park, consider exploring the vibrant and colorful Higashimuki Shopping Street. Located beside Kintetsu Nara Station, this well-known shopping street, which stretches 250 meters, entertains people with its large amount of vendors and restaurants.

Nara City is compact and you can easily explore nearly the whole city in a very short time. It is for this reason why nearly all tourists who base themselves in Kyoto opt for a day excursion to Nara. This day trip itinerary is even more convenient due to the superb fast train service linking the two cities. The journey to Nara from Kyoto typically takes under hour via the Miyakoji rapid service. The various other interesting parts of the city include the western section called Nishinokyo and southwest part labeled as Ikaruga.

guilin-china-park

Traveling East: Reed Flute Cave – Guilin China

There are countless reasons why a visit to the Chinese city of Guilin is generally a good idea. A tour to the East offers gorgeous scenery, a peaceful environment and loads of natural attractions. One site that is a must visit in Guilin is undeniably the Reed Flute Cave.

Well-known for being illuminated by artificial rainbow colored lighting, this ancient cave tick all the Travel East boxes. This natural cave is considered older than 180 million years and had been carved out in Limestone Mountains. Its huge stalagmites, stalactites, and fascinating rock structures is worthy of the pickiest traveler. The inscriptions discovered inside the Red Flute cave is the main proof of its old age. Researchers discovered that a couple of the longest-existing inscriptions date back to 792 AD.

Reed Flute Cave Guilin ChinaThe Reed Flute Cave is just five kilometers northwest of Guilin’s downtown area. Almost all travel itineraries that aim to promote this Chinese province lists this ancient cave for its accessibility and natural splendor. The cave is named after the verdant reeds that grown inside it. Can you believe the cave covers an area of 240 meters? If you travel east and undertake a trip to the Red Flute cave, you must be prepared to walk through stone pillars, cross an underground lake and admire superb rock formations. All indisputable masterpieces of Mother Nature (and a little help by the human hand if you count the lightning).

Each rock formation got a name consistent with Chinese custom. As expected, the names are about legends and famous poems. A few examples are Fruit Mountain, Dragon Pagoda, Crystal Palace and Virgin Flower. Very apt if you see the name with the accompanying rock formation. The sightseeing tour follows a U-shaped path. Remarkably laid out so that you will be able to enjoy and appreciate all the impressive parts of the cave. The exit of the cave is in close proximity to the entrance.

Guided tours of the cave typically lasts 60 minutes. You can visit the cave by yourself and stay longer if you choose. Just remember that the synthetic lights inside Reed Flute have sensors and are triggered when metal goes by over them. So my advice will be that you tag along with a guided tour group otherwise you won’t be able to see the fabulous rock formations and the magic will be that much less effective.

Take this tip and ensure you seize one of the steel flashlights used by the guides at the entrance. On the other hand, there is absolutely no assurance you will get one. Therefore being proactive is the best solution. Bring your own powerful flashlight, ideally encased in a metal casing along to ensure an exploration of the cave at your own pace.

The cave floor can be wet and muddy, hence always bring comfortable and sturdy shoes or boots like sneakers. Sandals are a no go, unless you like dirty and wet feet. Also, keep in mind that the temperature inside Reed Flute is significant lower than outside. Your best bet is to bring a light sweater along, especially if you are the type that gets cold easily.

Outside the cave, the magic goes on with the manmade park. It is decorated with attractive pavilions, bridges, ponds and plants. It is a mini-attraction in itself as it offers several souvenir stands and provides boat rides great for visiting families with small children.

It only takes 20 minutes to reach the cave by car. Additionally there are free bus services, particularly Bus no. 3 and 58, which brings travelers to the cave area. However, should you decide to use these bus services, you must be prepared to wait long periods.

Read More about the Reed Flute Cave and Here