Monday, 19 November 2012

Hokkaido Day 4: Daisetsu, Abashiri, Lake Mashu & Akan

As with the morning before, we woke up bright and early at 5am (Singapore time) to head on to the hot springs for our morning bath.

The outfit provided was different from what we wore the day before

It was still snowing really heavily outside so the warmth of the hot springs was excitedly welcomed by my freezing body. We learnt later that the Japanese considered it a luxury to be able to soak in the hot springs for even a day but we were going to enjoy it for 3 days at 3 different hot spring resorts! It was totally unheard of in Japan so of course I was going to enjoy as much of it as I could! =)

Needless to say the view from the hot springs as well as our room was spectacular!

The beautiful sight outside our window that awaited us when we awoke..
Felt like Christmas came early for us this year! =)
Our breakfast with a view =)

As the temperature dropped to almost 0°C, all of us started to don on our winter gear.

Yay, it’s snowing!
Overnight, the ground was completely covered in 5 inches of snow! =)

We were so happy we almost forgot to board the bus for our next destination, Mount Daisetsu, where the famous Ginga-no-taki (Milky Way) Falls and Ryusei-no-taki (Shooting Star) Falls were situated.

Milky Way Falls has been likened to a female..
..while the Shooting Star Falls (right) has been likened to a male (because of the way the water flows?)

Most of us were in high spirits and taking a ton of pictures! Ai san informed us to take more pictures if we liked it so much because we would soon be leaving the mountainous area and might not have a chance to experience it after this.

It's like our honeymoon again *laughs*

If you live in a country with 4 seasons, you would never understand the fascination that people who live at the equator (where there is only one season, HOT!) have with snow! I was completely mesmerised by its cold and majestic beauty.

When we have had our fun, we took a 2-hour long drive to Abashiri, a town at the Eastern area of Hokkaido.

Location of Abashiri on the map

On arrival, we stopped at the Drift Ice Museum located on Mount Tento, overlooking the Sea of Okhotsk.

Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum

The Sea of Okhotsk is famous for the drift ice that floats down from the North Pole during the cold winters. They managed to transport some of the ice into a room that is set at -16°C so that visitors can experience what it is like all year round.

Even a soft towel can turn hard within minutes in a this room!

We were also taken to the top of the building where we were able to get a 360° view of the whole area.

View from the viewing gallery

The sights would have been nicer, had there been drift ice floating in the sea. Unfortunately, it wasn't winter yet so we found it rather boring.

We were really hungry by the time we left the museum so thankfully lunch was served at a restaurant nearby!

Another traditional Japanese lunch

Lunch was nothing spectacular but the awesome view of the Sea of Okhotsk from the restaurant made up for it.

Strong waves coming in!
Admiring its beauty together.. relaxing! =)

We continued on our way to our next destination at Akan National Park.

One of the volcanic mountains within the park. There are a total of 37 volcanoes in Japan!

Also known as Sulphuric Mountain, Mount Lo is an active volcano situated within the park. The minute the bus drew near it, you could smell the sulphur (yes, like rotten eggs) in the air.

Yellow sulphur jets spurting out from the mountain

It was also freezing cold! It was so cold, we were able to keep a packet of fresh milk in our bag on the bus for 3 days and still be able to drink it! It was like being in a super huge freezer!

I drink Hokkaido milk everyday! =)

And no, I did not get sick.. but then again, I do have a pretty hardy stomach.. *laughs*

We made our next stop at the mysterious Lake Mashu, which is situated in the eastern part of Akan National Park. Lake Mashu is one of the world’s clearest lake as well as one of the most scenic destinations in Hokkaido.

Lake Mashu

The "mystery" of Lake Mashu is due to the frequent heavy fog that sets upon the lake during the summer. We were lucky to have been able to get a clear view of the lake when we were there =)

Huddling together again because the cold winds were blowing and the ground was slippery =)

The setting sun also casted a dark shadow onto the lake, which made it even more mysterious! It was a pretty sight =)

As the sky was turning dark, we made our way to Ainu Kotan, a small Ainu village in Akankohan. The Ainu are the native people of Hokkaido and are famous for their intricate handmade wood carvings. We were to stay there for the night at New Akan Hotel, which overlooks the beautiful Lake Akan.

Our room =)

The room was larger than the previous 2 hotels that we stayed at and the dinner buffet spread was also one of the best! =)

After dinner, we decided to explore the streets of Ainu Kotan and bought a lot of handmade souvenirs from the stores that sold traditional crafts made by the Ainu.

Left: Photo taken by the friendly owner outside his store
Right: One of the wooden handicrafts we bought =)

We returned to the hotel after a long day to enjoy our bath at the hot springs. The outdoor pool at this spa was located at the roof, which could only be accessed by a winding staircase. As I ascended up the stairs, the steps got colder and colder such that I was freezing by the time I finally emerged at the top. All I could think about was to jump into the warm waters as quickly as possible!

The sky was pitch black so I couldn't see anything at all. After a while it got too cold (and slightly spooky) so I returned back to the indoor pool.

Ultimate relaxation! =)

Continue to >> Day 5: Chitose & Sapporo
<< Back to Day 3: Shiroi Koibito, Otaru & Sounkyo


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