Higashiyama Ward – Kyoto, Japan


Kyoto’s Higashiyama is a happening area with souvenir stores, cafes, restaurants galleries and more.  Yes, it is very touristic, but try not to apply a regular tourist stop mentality that one dons in other counties.  Everything is priced accordingly to quality .

Guidebooks (and the actual guides) fail to give good directions on how find this district (1 of 11 in all Kyoto).   They all seemed to claim ‘no definite address‘!   After butting heads with taxi drivers and walking and walking and walking …  we came to the conclusion the best way to get there is asking directions to The Ryōzen Kannon; a war memorial and giant white concrete statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara.  Across the main street entrance to the memorial  is an uphill walking street.  This is the best place to start your walk. See map at the end of the post.  (In our opinon, The Ryōzen Kannon is not worth the time in a city of more interesting temples and shrines.)

Start  early before the crowds arrive at Kōdai-ji.  Take a taxi to The Ryōzen Kannon – walk up and around  the Higashiyama streets,  stop for lunch wheverer catches your eye (or just enjoy all the street samples!).  Follow this with a short walk to the Hokan-ji (Yasaka Pagoda)  and walk back uphill  and continue to Kiyomizu-dera for  the astounding evening lights.

I you want to do something fun you can rent a Kimono (his & hers) at    at the beginning of the Higashiyama walk . Most Japanese woman and a few men rent Kimonos to tour Kyoto and other historical cities. It  is super cute, lends to wonderful photos! The rental house will also do your hair and accessorize! Returns are very easy.

Highly recommended is the the ume boshi store.  It is one of the best we found in all Japan.  We didn’t purchase enough at the cheaper tourist price and found the same brand at the Ginza Mitsokishi department store, but at a higher price.

seasoned rice crackers _ amazing!!
amazake stand – a must during the cold months

Amazake is a sweet, slightly fermented rice drink with  kome kōji (malted rice) can be mixed with spices and  served hot

street gallery
Hokan-ji (Yasaka Pagoda)
Hokan-ji (Yasaka Pagoda)
Hokan-ji (Yasaka Pagoda)
Hokan-ji (Yasaka Pagoda)

suggestedroute in pink – top right Kiyomizu-dera




Masterpiece – Kyoto, Japan

green tea cappuccino

Masterpiece MSPC

(81)  75.231.6828
区三条通富小路東入中之町26 Nakagyo-ku
Kyoto, 〒  604-8083,


Open Hours:
11:00-20:00    Daily

Master-Piece is another of the great design stores that one should visit while in Kyoto.  MasterPiece specializes in waterproof bags; thoroughly designed with all the correct compartments, straps and details.

Master-Piece started as a company dedicated to creating all-weather gear for sailors and marine workers.  Then changing with the times to include consumer goods.  All made with impeccable Japanese quality.

This falls, once again, into a should’ve, would’ve, could’ve category; where we regret not purchasing one of the expensive, but of excellent value shoulder bags.  Yes they are not cheap; but that is exactly the point.  This is an item that will last and serve you well throughout.

If for nothing else visit the store the store in Kyoto for its small cafe with view to an amazing garden and enjoy a delicious green tea latte 🙂

There are also outposts in Tokyo and Osaka and the bags are available in luxury department stores throughout Japan.

Kagbeni – Nepal


Village of Kagbeni, Mustang, Nepal

Lat/Lng: 28.8696315 , 83.570964

First is getting there.  The planes that take you to the closest airstrip in the town of Jomsom,  are little 10 seater prop planes that feel very very small compared to the VERY VERY large mountains you are flying through.  Thankfully, they come equipped with a very very skilled pilot!  The trip is extremely windy; a white knuckle that is not for the faint of heart.  Our plane could not fly straight most of the flight; it was sort of blown up the valley  in a diagonal position.   Sort of like a Labrador who’s hind legs are faster then their front, and they run with their body a quarter turn from true.  Now make that dog a plane and put yourself inside with the smell of gasoline and the ground way below, the wind screaming in your ears and the mountains looming all around … I have a vision burned in my mind of our pilot, a large Nepalese man in a crisp white shirt, smart blue jacket and aviator shades, arms ram-rod straight, hands clamped, eyes forward, rock solid … his stoicism gave me confidence in our survival.

Flight to Pockara 007

We made it, though everyone agreed it was one of the more touchy jumps they had made.

Once back on lovely mother earth, we were driven a bumpy 10km  to our final destination; the medieval village ofl Kagbeni.  If you have a bit more time and the weather is pleasant  you can make the same trek by foot or horse.

Kagbeni lies on the banks at the confluence of Kali Gandaki and Jhong Rivers.  At  2,800m (9,186 ft.) of altitude;  you find yourself sitting on the Annapurna Circuit  and the gateway to Upper Mustang.  This part of the world has the ability to make you feel very very small.  You feel yourself very alone, among these giants of the world.

The town played a very significant role during “Salt Trade” era that flourished between Tibet and Nepal and today is a collection of mud brick houses, temples and rural life.  You are close to the edge of the world here; any you can feel it in the high thin air and desolate river beds.

We stayed  at the Red House Lodge.   It was December and it was freezing; (not really a smart time to go).  With no heater in the rooms,  the only warm spot was the glass enclosed dining area on the rooftop during the day, which warmed with the only available heater and the smashing sunlight.  Fortunately,  the ever present chai tea is available any time and  is served in a thermos!

The  Red Lodge houses a Chapel  with beautiful wall printings and a idol of Maitreya and a very impressive Mandala.  It is as lovely a place as is to found.  You are well beyond mod-cons up here.  This fact sinks in when you realize that everything you see was hand carried over  the same trek that was arduous by plane and car.

Your stay in Kagbeni will be personal to you.  It is incredibly photogenic, so let’s let the pictures to the rest of the talking.


Kagbeni_028Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Lingred monestary and Kagbeni
Flight To Jomsom 001Fish Tail
Flight To Jomsom 008 Annapurna (8,091m)
Flight to Pockara 008Back center, Mt. Nilgiri (7,060m)
Flight to Pockara 009
Kagbeni_001Tilicho Peak (7,139m),
Kagbeni_006far distance Mt. Nilgiri (7,060m)
Kagbeni_009Tilicho Peak (7,139m)
Kagbeni_004far distance Mt. Nilgiri (7,060m)
Kagbeni_014far distance to the right, Mt. Nilgiri (7,060m)
Kagbeni_022  Prayer flags
Kagbeni_055Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Gompa

Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling translates as “Monastery of the place to stop and develop concentration on teachings of lord Buddha”.  Founded  in 1429 by scholar Tenpai Gyaltsen of the Shakya Pa sect, the altar of monastery displays bronze icons of Sakyamuni Buddha flanked by his disciples Sariputra and Maudgalanya and other divinities.  It is wonderful to see the Thankas, holy canon, frescoes, and woodwork in this remotest of locations.  There is an entrance fee to enter the monastery.

Kagbeni_063slate carvings of the Four Guardian Kings outside the Sumdu Choeden Gompa
Kagbeni_044Kora around monastery
Kagbeni_046Kora around monastery
Kagbeni_057Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling monastery