Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

world heritage travel story

Prologue: Thank you so much Mr. cab driver!

I was very fortunate to be able to visit three World Heritage sites
during my 11-day winter break that ended on Jan 7th 2008. The first
one that I went to was the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome. It might be
caused by the light but steady rain, the atmosphere was somewhat
"heavy" yet "spacious", which allowed one to think deeply
about the historical event in human history right in front of the
actual dome itself. Across the river from the dome was the Memorial
Park. I also visited the A-bomb museum that is located in the park and
I strongly recommend whoever that is visiting the Hiroshima Atomic
Bomb Dome to ALSO visit the museum as it is very informative and will
definitely add a lot more value to one's visit.

That same evening, I set foot on another World Heritage site, the
Miyajima Shrine in Hiroshima. The Miyajima Shrine is one of the "three
scenic spots" in Japan. The icon of this particular shrine is its
"Torii" (the gate-like structure found in a Japanese shrine) that is
partly immersed in water.

After spending only about 30 hours total in Hiroshima, I started
traveling to my next destination: Kagoshima, by bullet train. Although
it was my forth time to Kagoshima, it was actually my first time there
by train, so it was quite a different experience altogether. Also, as
it was the beginning of the New Year break, everyone was returning to
their hometown, making the passenger-to-available seat ratio a
whopping 1.5 (meaning there was a lot of people standing in the

The journey to the third World Heritage site that I visited, Yakushima
of Kagoshima, is a long story. Initially, the plan was to go to
Yakushima by hovercraft on 12/31 morning, spend new year's eve in
Yakushima (Yakushima is still part of the Kagoshima Prefecture but it
is an island away from the mainland), and return to Kagoshima City on
1/2. However, due to the sudden change in weather (temperature drop,
strong wind, tall waves), all hovercraft service leaving for Yakushima
from Kagoshima City was canceled. As the three of us (two of my
Kagoshima friends and myself) were about to give up and go for
breakfast, one kind-hearted cab driver was telling us that we could
actually take the ferry that goes to Tanegashima (Tanegashima is an
island between Kagoshima City and Yakushima), and then go to our final
destination Yakushima from Tanegashima. It made perfect sense to us so
on we went, on a four hour ferry ride to Tanegashima. As the light of
hope began to dawn on us after safely arriving at Tanegashima, mother
nature decided to deny us once more. Weather started to get even
worse, and not too long after, we found out that all hovercraft
service from Tanegashima to Yakushima for the day was canceled,
despite its short distance of travel. Decision had to be made to
either spend a night in Tanegashima and hope for good weather the next
day, or go back to Kagoshima City, spend a night, then take a more
secured way of travel by flying to Yakushima by plane the next day.
From what we had learnt that day, we opted for the latter. What a
memorable day.

Epilogue: At the end, we made it to Yakushima the next day by air (on
a conditional flight, meaning there is no guarantee that you get to
land at your destination, phew!). Yakushima is known for its very rich
nature, especially its giant Japanese cedar. We managed to do a couple
of hikes into the forest and saw some amazing trees that age up to
several thousand years old and counting.