Sunday, January 27, 2013

Getty Center

Getty Center is one of the most famous place for arts in Los Angeles.  It is situated atop a small hill, facing the Pacific Ocean.  It is also right next to freeway 405, so it is pretty convenient to get there.

The first place in Getty Center you will get to is the car park!  USD15 per entry!  Getty Center is free admission, but they didn't tell you parking is this expensive!    Once you come out of the car park, you need to take a short tram ride to get to the top of the hill, where the museum is located.

Tram Station and Rail

Once you come out of the tram, here is what is welcoming you to the museum.  There are quite a number of interesting statues for you to admire.

Getty Center is famous for its architecture.  Wandering around the courtyards, it feels really good.  The cold breeze in the deep of California's mild winter, the golden sunshine on the peaceful Pacific Ocean, and the wonderful garden.  Everything is so perfect, so peaceful.

Of course, out of all that, the most famous point of interest in Getty Center is the garden.  The plants are laid out in such a way that it kind of represents the ancient Chinese Ba Gua, derived from the mystic legendary book of I Ching.  

There is also a bit of fusion of east and west, in terms of architecture.

As a place for Art, somehow I find it interesting that whatever place that is for Art, a nude man somehow is necessary.

Out of the many many exhibits on display, what impressed me most were the beds!

Frankly speaking, I quite like Getty Center.  It is such a nice escape from the busy city life from one of the world's biggest cities.  It offers such tranquility and peace, it also lets you indulge in the wonderful world of arts.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California is a public observatory, meant for the public to admire the beauty of our galaxy and beyond.  What impressed me most is that it was donated to the City of Los Angeles by Colonel Griffith on December 16, 1896.  That was more than a century ago, and there were such generous people around to donate to the public to get people interested in science and technology.  No wonder America became the world's most advanced and powerful country in the world.

Griffith Observatory is not only good for the stars in the galaxy, but also the stars from Hollywood.  Here, you can see the charming, although totally uncharacteristic Hollywood sign.

Haha...Stardom is way too far for me to reach... Never mind... :)

Inside the observatory, there is lots of information related to astronomy.  If you are a fan, you will be very delighted.  If you are not, you still can get a few general knowledge, or some shocks from the exhibits.

Here is also a vantage point of the whole of Los Angeles Valley - Downtown LA, Hollywood, you can see them all.

On a cloudy day, looking out from Griffith Observatory, don't you think it looks like a dooms day movie?

Other than the observatory itself, you can also take a stroll in the Griffith Park, which is a very nice place.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Taiwan Hot Spring Town - Wulai

Wulai is another hot spring town near Taipei.  To get there, take MRT to Xindian Station, then go out of the station and then turn right to take bus 849.  The bus stop is hidden behind some big pillars, so you need to be alert.  The bus journey is about 40 minutes.

My first impression of Wulai is: It is like a TaoHuaYuan(桃花源), a fictitious place described by a Chinese scholar about a place where people are separated from the outside world, living a peaceful and happy life.  There is river with clear water winding between the mountains.  On the day of my visit, it was drizzling and a little bit windy.  Wow, it felt really good.

After you arrive at Wulai bus station, the Old Street is just minutes walk away.  Restaurants and hot spring hotels line up the old street.

Further up, 20 minutes walk away, it is the beautiful Wulai waterfall.

The waterfall is not very big, but it is just like a shy girl, I like it.  Standing in front of the waterfall, breathing in the fresh air, you feel the world is so beautiful.

There are two things you must do in Wulai.  Number 1 of course is to enjoy a hot spring bath.  Four of us paid NT$1200 for one hour's use of a private bath.  If you don't want to pay but still want to enjoy the hot spring, you can just go to have a dip in the wild hot springs.  It is common to see a hot spring along the river.  It is also common to see people having a free hot spring bath there.

Number 2 is to try the hot spring eggs.  I didn't expect much of the hot spring eggs, just an egg cooked with hot spring, how special can it be?  But then after I tried it, I changed my view completely.  It is so smooth, so tender, and the egg is cold, not hot!  I miss the taste of it so much after I got back to Singapore.

There are many restaurants along the Old Street.  Their prices are quite reasonable and you can order some speciality as well.

I was there on a weekday, there were hardly any tourists, so I could enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of the place more.  I love it there!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Taipei Hot Spring Town - Beitou

When you come to Taipei in a cool day, you just can't miss the wonderful hot spring towns near Taipei.  There are two famous hot spring towns near Taipei, one is Beitou, the other is Wulai.

To go to Beitou, take the MRT to Beitou station, then transfer to another train to New Beitou station, which is also the terminal station of the MRT.  The train commuting between Beitou & New Beitou is very special.  The carriage is decorated as a bath house, with bath tubs as coffee table for you to view the visuals.

MRT Train to New Beitou

Beitou used to be a place specially for the Japanese during Japanese occupation, so there are a lot of traces of Japanese influence.

Beitou Hot Spring Museum

Beitou's hot spring museum was once a Japanese bath house.  The architecture is a mixture of Japanese and English style, so you find it a bit odd.

The bath is located on the ground floor, and it is of Roman style!  It is quite a fusion of different cultures, isn't it?

Looking out of the window from the Roman bath, it is lush greenery.  The Roman style windows are decorated with stained glasses.  I can imagine how relaxing and enjoyable the bath goers were.

In the hot spring museum, there was also a display of a kind of special rock named Beitou Rock.  It is said that such rock can only be found in the hot spring streams in Beitou.

Next to the hot spring museum, there is the Beitou Public Library.

I would say it is architecturally unique, and blends well with its neighbour - the hot spring museum.

To get to the source of Beitou's hot spring, you will inevitably pass by this wooden bridge.

This wooden bridge was featured in one of the Japanese/Taiwanese movies from old old days.  It is one of those places that reminds Japanese their (un)glory past.

The stream running under the bridge is steaming hot too.  The smell of Sapphire is in the air.  Luckily the smell is not too strong.

Following the stream brings you to the source of the hot spring - Hell Valley, now renamed to Thermal Valley.

Steam bath here, anyone?  The smell here is very strong, the steam spreads all across the valley.

On the way back, I passed by Mr Yu You-Ren(于右任) residence - Plum Garden.  Here we could see his calligraphy.

Actually further down the road, we can reach a place called Zen Garden.  Don't be fulled by the Buddhistic name, it was the prison for Gen Zhang Xueliang (张学良) when he was under house arrest in Taiwan.

After such a long walk, what else can be better than having a hot spring bath?

This place was one of the 3 Japanese style baths built during Japanese occupation and the only one that is still in operation.  It is said that in its garden, there is something that recorded the visit of then Crown Prince, the late Japanese Emperor Hirohito's visit to Beitou.

This place is very old and facilities are rudimentary.  It is such a big contrast to all the other modern hot spring establishments.  Anyway, it is cheap, only NT90 for a bath.