Travel theme: Mystical

What mysterious photo challenge has Ailsa whipped up at Where’s my backpack? Why, a mystical one of course! This week we’ll be celebrating all things dreamlike and ethereal. It’s interesting how a scene that seems utterly innocuous in normal daylight transforms into a magical one with some fog, or with a blanket of snow. Suddenly even the familiar becomes shrouded and obscure, unfamiliar and otherworldly.

These ruins are from a family trip to Greece several years back. We had the opportunity to explore some of the ruins on the hillsides of Delphi. Because it was wintertime, a few flurries of snow were falling – totally incongruous with the bright green grass that was still thriving. Standing in the bones of a civilization with the grand mountains ahead and the snow melting on our faces, it definitely felt like a mystical moment!

Also from our trip to Greece, we visited these amazing clifftop monasteries that are literally perched on pillars of stone, like the one seen above. These monasteries were definitely isolated, a good way for monks to focus on their prayers and shut out the sinful world outside. They used a rope-and-pulley system to transport goods from down below to their monasteries up in the sky. From such a high point, I’m sure they felt closer to heaven.

These next few pictures are from a trip to Japan. While exploring the area around Hakone, we walked through a moody forest with just a shaft of sunlight streaming through.

The sulfurous hot springs of Owakudani in Hakone. The rocky, desolate ground, releasing plumes of smelly steam, stand in stark contrast to the bright green hills in the background. It’s said that if you eat an egg boiled in the spring you will add seven years to your life!

A bamboo walkway in Kyoto, Japan. There’s such a mystery in wondering where the path leads, and also a feeling of serenity – like you could walk along this path for hours just admiring your surroundings.

The start of a long line of torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. Walking through the gates is a mystical experience – the journey from the beginning to end feels almost transformative. A torii gate is supposed to separate the normal from the sacred – and with thousands of gates at this shrine there’s a lot to be held sacred here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

Hmm… what’s foreign to me?

When I was younger, I traveled a lot with my family during Christmas breaks and sometimes during the short Thanksgiving breaks as well. These holidays are traditionally “get-together-with-extended-family” times, but although I have a huge extended family (7 uncles on my dad’s side, and tons of cousins) we don’t really get together during those holidays. We usually gather for more Chinese holidays like Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, family birthdays, etc etc. Therefore, those traditional American/Western holiday breaks are great times for my family to travel – at least when we were younger and in school. I think I took it for granted that every year we would go somewhere cool… Looking back on it, I was really lucky that we had the means to travel to so many places! Even though most of the time there were through Chinese group tours.

Maybe because of traveling at at a young age, most places don’t feel very foreign to me, however – even in countries that speak a different language, at least the alphabet is familiar to me (if it’s the Western alphabet). Similarly, in China I felt semi-comfortable because I knew the language somewhat, and the same in Japan and Korea. However, the one place that I did feel completely out of place was Greece! It really felt like another world to me because the language and alphabet was so different.

it’s literally greek to me.