Kuala Rompin – Car Trouble Tenggiri (8-9th April 2017)

My first visit to Rompin, and my first visit to the salt this year! This trip was to chase the elusive tenggiri (Narrow-Barred Spanish Mackerel). Beside me, the other anglers were Jochen Kassan and Noru Razak.

I left KL on Friday, in the early afternoon as usual. Jochen was going to travel on his motorbike and Noru was also going to travel independently and meet us there. As I was pulling out of the Petronas Service station in the hills near Betong on the Kuantan-Karak highway, I heared a loud crack. I checked my gauges and the car’s performance but all seemed well. It was maybe an hour later when I noticed a significant impact mark on the left hand side of the windscreen – a 50 cent diameter, compound impact crater. Damn …. a bad start. Things got worse as I reached Pekan. I took a call from Noru informing me that his card had overheated an that he was stuck at Muadzam Shay, about an hour out from Rompin – his estimated time of arrival at the Rompin river Chalets was uncertain ….! Bad omens for the trip ahead? Well, I’m not superstitious … and Noru eventually arrived at the base around 10pm, so we were in good shape for the following day!

The news at the dock was that the sailfish fishing was very slow, but that tenggiri and dorado were around to be fished.

Day 1 (8th April)

After a slow start to the session, with it taking some time to get enough baits, we started the search for tenggiri action. We didn’t have to go far until we found a game boat working a weed and flotsam line. We spend 30 minutes working it with lures but had no takes. We were then on the hunt once again, and soon found birds and a few boats. We set up a drift with a live-bait whilst we commenced casting pintail and similar sinking plugs.

We soon had our first strike on the live-bait. I picked up the rod and started to work what I hoped to be a tenggiri to the boat. I was disappointed when a large todak (garfish), or “Singapore Marlin”, came into view. Still, it was nice to get on the scoreboard, and was fun on the light set-up. It was also a first saltwater test of my FG knot tying skills…

Todak (a.k.a Singapore Marlin)

We reset our spread and contimued to fish the area. The Captain was in action next, hooking a sailfish on a clone Jackson Pintail 40g lure. Jochen took on the fight, and it was a surprisingly long fight from a juvenile Sailfish on the light tackle set-up (20lb braid and a Shimano 4000 size reel). We brough the fish on-board for pictures and to implant a tag. Noru has set-up with tagging equipment, which was a first for me to see. After successfully tagging the fish, it was quickly revived and released:

Noru tagging Jochen’s Sailfish

Jochen with juvenile Sailfish

Successfully tagged

The Captain followed this with another take, which didn’t hook, and a further follow from small sailfish curious about his pintail clone. He then snagged a small barracuda, again on lure. It was a good start to the first part of the day.

Then one of the live-baits, fished on my new 2008 model Stella SW8000HG,went off. It was being fished on a drop-back loose drag, and after a couple of surface breaches it took off on a long run as I frantically tightened and set the drag. It ran be 150m behind the boat, before jumping and throwing the hook.

We gave the area another hour or so, but despite a few bite-offs, we had no further action. We decided to head to an unjam (FAD), tie up, fish live-baits and lures and eat lunch.

At our first FAD, it started off slowly, despite having live-bait out off the stern and all three of us, plus the Captain, having spells of casting lures. We decided to have lunch and then moved to another FAD.

At the second FAD, the action started hotting up – the Caprain gad a strike and got bitten off whilst casting pintail copies. He passed the second fish to my, only for it to bite off yet again – the dangers of fishing for mackerel without wire. We’d debated this – the thought that wire leader makes the mackerel wary, versus the chance of bite-off. Up until that point, both Jochen and I, both fishing with wire leader, hadn’t garnered even a single strike ……

But then things changed …..

I was working a small pintail along the edge of the unjam float when I had my first strike … a lively fish that I was convinced was a tenggiri, until a small barracuda came into view:

Barracuda on Jackson Pintail

I followed that in quick succession by another small fish, this time a tenggiri. My mackerel curse continued though as the Captain managed to knock the small fish from my lure as tried to gaff it. I really do have bad luck with mackerel ….!! The fish escaped unscathed (but I did have the leader on the rod …. so an IGFA legal catch and release …!!).  All I could do was burst out laughing at the situation. But I redeemed myself about 15 minutes later when I had another hit alongside the float line. This was a much better fish and after a short fight, with a number of sizzling runs, I brought a nice 4kg tenggiri to gaff:

Tenggiri (Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel)

Just 10 minutes later it was Jochen’s turn. His newly purchased Halco C-Gar lure got struck by another decent tenggiri, again of 4kg, that he quickly subdued and brought to the gaff.

Jochen’s tenggiri

Finally, as the day drew to a close, Noru was in action. He hooked a good sized yellowtail barracuda of c.5kg that gave a reasonable fight on light tackle. We rounded off the day with the Captain bringing in a small tenggiri to compensate for the previous poor gaff shot – this one was dinner for the evening.

Noru’s Barracuda

The evening’s dinner …!

After things went quiet, we started the journey back, making brief stops along the way, but with no further action. It had been a reasonable first day and I was looking forward to cold beer and a fresh tenggiri dinner!

Back at the dock, some good catches of tenggiri and dorado were on dirplay, and we decided to head towards Tioman Island area for Day 2 to try for more mackerel and possibly some dollies.

Score for day 1:

  • 4 tenggiri
  • 1 Sailfish
  • 3 barracuda

Day 2 (9h April)

We started day 2 with anticipation – we were going to go to Tioman to hunt tenggiri. But, once again, bait was hard to come by and we had another slow start to the day. It had initially looked good, as our mate had hooked-up to a decent sized Great Barracuda at our first unjam, but that proved to be a rare piece of action:

Great Barracuda

Out optimism was blunted after we then went through a number of FAD stops without any signs of activity or any action.

Searching for fish

We slowly worked our way towards FADs located within the Tioman area. It became apparent to us that all boats were struggling – reports of the odd sail here, an occasional tenggiri there came over the radio, but the general message was that everyone was struggling. We worked hard, casting lures repeatedly at each FAD stop together with live-baiting from the stern, all without even a strike to raise our hopes.

We did have the misfortune of snagging a juvenile frigate bird as Jochen was paying out a lure off the stern port side. It was released without harm a few minutes later:

Captain TX with a Frigate Bird ready for release

Later in the day we tied up at yet another FAD. It continued to be slow. Another boat tied up about 40m from us at quickly had a double hook-up with large cobia. They lost one but, after a 30 minute fight on light tackle, brought a c.25kg+ cobia to gaff. 5 minutes later, 3 large cobia appeared alongside their boat but couldn’t be enticed to eat, even with live-bait …!

As the afternoon wore on, me and Jochen decided to call an early end to the trip – the fishing was non-existent and we had a long drive back to KL ahead of us. When we wound in out live-bait we found that it had been sancocho’d – surgically dissected in half by a wily tenggiri that had skilfully managed to avoid the second stinger hook fixed towards the back of the bait:

Sancocho’d sardine

It was a another sign to give-up. Sometime you have to admit defeat and know when your are beaten. We called it a day and headed back to the dock for an early start on the journey back to KL. Except for Jochen, that was not the end of the story …! On the way back his bike broke-down as he reached the Betong Toll, around 50km outside of KL. Despite this being the interconnected electronic smart-phone age we still need humans (at the current time, at least) to drive taxi’s – and they proved impossible to get. Jochen finally made it back too KL around 4 hours later, sans bike, courtesy of friends from Shah Alam. We’d caught some tenggiri, but they proved to be a very expensive quarry given the additional cost in car and bike repairs suffered by all three of us on the trip. Car trouble tenggiri indeed!!

Score for day 1:

1 great barracuda …!!

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.01) - Kuala Rompin, Barracuda, Garfish, Mackerel, Narrow Barred Spanish (Kingfish, Tenggiri), Sailfish | Leave a comment

Japan 2017 (19th -31st March 2017)

My annual holiday to Japan, in pictures:

Day 1 (19.03.17)

I arrived from Kuala Lumpur on an overnight flight via Singapore. After a few hours sleep, it was time to have a look around Tsukiji Market and sample some sushi. 

Tsukiji Fish Market

Ocean Harvest – Bluefin Tuna

Sushi Restaurant

Clam miso soup and Sapporo beer

Sashimi selection

Kabuki Theatre, Ginza

Day 2 (20.03.17)

The weather was poor on the second day. We took it easy, visiting a tackle shop and generally relaxing and soaking in the culture on the big city.

Fishing Tackle shop, Shibuya

Shibuya is being further developed

Tokyo Tower at night, viewed from the wife’s apartment

Day 3 (21.03.17)

We’d taken it easy the previous day as today we were up early to get a flight to the south of Japan  – we were supposed to be travelling to Yakushima Island for a few days trekking. He awoke at 5.30am, and were soon out of the apartment and on the train to Haneda Airport. It was another overcast and rainy day.

After a couple of stops, just as we were pulling into another station, wifey realised that she’d got the dates wrong ….. it was on the 22nd ….. tomorrow. We made a quick decision to exit the train (no point going all the way to Haneda). I scrambled to get the cases and we go off the train. We stayed on the station platform, gathering our thoughts and thinking what to do with the day.

Early morning, monorail station in the rain

I suddenly realised that I’d left my small rucksack containing my passport, credit card,  camera and other important items on the overhead parcel shelf on the train. Damn! But I didn’t panic ….yet. We went to the station master’s office and explained the situation. He immediately picked up a cellphone and called through to Haneda, and within minutes was able to confirm that the bag had been collected from the train by the train staff and was at Haneda Airport for collection. We went straight to Haneda Airport and, after answering some questions to verify ownership, I was able to get my bag and ALL of the important contents. I was confident that I had at least a 75% chance of getting my bag back here in Japan, but it was pretty impressive how easily the staff were able to communicated with the station and the train. Brilliant ….! Losing the passport would have turned the holiday into an ordeal …!!

Relevant & helpful information sign …!!

We spent the day mooching around Ochanomizu  area before finishing off with a pint of guiness and a British style pub before heading back home to Shiodome.

Sushi restaurant sign

8 Taps Pub, Ochanomizu

Day 4 (22.03.17) – Travel to Yakushima

Another early rise, 5.30am again. This time a legitimate travel day. We were to fly to Kagoshima and then take the hydrofoil to Yakushima Island. It was a long day of travelling: Train to Haneda airport, flight to Kagoshima, bus to the port, Hydrofoil to Yakushima, taxi to the hotel. We didn’t arrive at our destination, the Yakushima Iwasaki Hotel, until late afternoon.

Hydrofoil, Sakura-jima volcano in the background

Yakushima (Miyanoura) port, Yakushima’s mountains in the background

Yakushima Iwasaki Hotel

View from the hotel lobby

Day 5 (23.03.17) – Shiratani Unsuikyo Forest

Today’s itinerary was a guided hike in the Shiratani Unsuikyo Forest, a lush nature park containing many, and famous, ancient cedar trees. The island, and the mountains in particular are know for the beautiful forests and scenery, but also for the high rainfall. According to Wikipidea, the climate is classified as humid subtropical and has one of the highest annual precipitation rates in the world, between 4 – 10 m annually ….!! It was no surprise then that it rained heavily almost all day during our visit!

View from the route to Shiratani Unsuikyo

Entry ticket

Trail Guide Map -we took the Taikoiwa Return Course

Information about the forest and past (to make roof shingles to keep out the rain ….!!) and present exploitation 

The area hosts a number of scenic mountain streams

The high rainfall has resulted in a rich moss flora

Stumps from previous felling resist rotting despite the high humidity

The large boulders reflect periods of high rainfall and raging torrents

The forest is host to mysterious creatures ……..

Moss rabbit

Moss dragon

Kugurisugi Cedar

Shikanoyadoki Yakusugi Tree

Mako in the moss garden

Forest landscapes

Old cedars in slow decline

Cedar tees and rain …..

Taikoiwa Rock signpost

Taikoiwa Rock (granitic) in the clouds

Taikoiwa Rock views – eerie skeletal trees in the mist

Return route from Taikoiwa Rock

A natural rock shelter, used by woodcutters in the past

Cedar trees with alien-like roots entwining granite boulders

The mystical moss dragon resting in a clearing

Satsuki Suspension Bridge

The end of the trek

Day 6 (24.03.17) – Yakusugi Land

On our second free day at Yakushima we were blessed with dry weather. We hired a car and decided to explore the island. Out first stop was at Yakusugi land, where we decided to make use of the good weather to do the Yusugino Makori Course. A 150 minutes course according to the guide map (however, at the ticket office we were told that that was for a fast hike, and that it may take a little longer at a more leisurely pace):

Yakusugi Land Map – we did the Yusugino Makori Course

Mako at the start of the trail

An old stump from felling, new trees are growing on top off (not out of) the stump

Mature ancient cedar

Yakusugino Mori Course views

Arakawabashi Bridge & views

Arakawabashi Bridge

River rapids

River landscapes

Mountain river and forest

Mako besides a large felled tree stump

The trail through the forest

Landmark Cedars along the trail, including ancient toppled trees and Buddhasugi Cedar

Yakusugi Land – Forest Bird species (24.03.17)

Trail guide sign

Buddhasugi Cedar information sign

Buddhasugi tree (c.1,800 years old)

Another tree stump, probably from human felling

Kugurisugi tree

On the last part of the trail – once again back to boardwalks

A deep mountain gorge

Yakusugi Land – Shinsen Rest House

We completed the trek in about 165 minutes, close to the guide map estimate. Not too bad for oldies …!!

We then decided to head to the turtle beaches on the north-west of the island. After some debate over the best way, we went clockwise, to enable us to drive through a difficult road section on the western coastline in good afternoon light conditions.

The wild western coastline

And abundant wildlife

We emerged, after an arduous drive on a narrow mountain side road into a river valley and the hamlet of Nagata. The town is marked by a river mouth partially barred by a large sand spit, making for a very picturesque setting:

Nagata town and river mouth (Google Earth)

Nagata River Mouth and sand spit

And then, in the crystal clear waters, there were fish …! A school of large mullet feeding amongst the algae in the brackish water:

Mullet, Nagata River mouth

The river-mouth and sand spit formed a natural harbour, which was completed to the north with a concrete breakwater. Just beyond this was a small beach, composed of coarse granitic sand. We were looking for the beaches used for nesting by loggerhead turtles, but this sand didn’t seem suitable.

A small, coarse sand beach, Nagata

View from the breakwater to the Nagata River valley and mountains beyond

Barely 500m further along the coast from Nagata was Inakahama Beach. This was a long beach with a broad expanse of fine, soft sand. This must be the turtle nesting beach, as evidenced by the local sculpture and inscribed stones:

Inakahama Beach turtle sculpture

We finished off the day by continuing to drive clockwise, completely circumnavigating the island one and a bit times. We arrived back at the hotel at around 8.00pm, tired, hungry but still in time for a delicious dinner.

Day 7 (25.03.17)

This was another travel day, departing Yakushima in the early afternoon for a conventional ferry back to Kagoshima, before catching an early evening flight back to Tokyo.

There wasn’t much time to do anything, and as usual it was raining …. It was interesting to pass a fishmongers shop and see sailfish as part of the shop’s sign. In-fact (and unsurprisingly), fishing is an important industry on the island. Sea temperatures never fall below 19°C and are considerable warmer in the late summer months, hosting a range of game-fish, including dorado, sailfish, GT’s and various tuna species. 

Local Fishmonger shop

We stopped at a local tackle-shop, and it was interesting to see the fish prints (a traditional Japanese method of recording prized fish captures, presumably from before the days of cameras) of trophy fish. In this case a huge 49.5 kg GT:

Giant Trevally, 49.5 kg

Finally, before reaching the port, we spend half an hour in a tourist gift shop. I took a picture of a poster of local fish species. In addition to various small tuna and jack species, I noticed a number of different types of flying fish. These seem to be a local delicacy and speciality product of the island: 

Local sea fish species

Day 8 (26.03.17)

After the wilds of Yakushima, it was a bit odd being back in the mega city! But we’d brought the weather with us – overcast, cold and light rain. Today we did something different – I’d seen an advertisement poster for a David Bowie exhibition and the train a few days before. It was from the Victoria and Albert museum in the UK, and was on a tour around the world. There was still a few days left and it was very close to our apartment. A perfect opportunity to visit on a dreary, wet day.

“DAVID BOWIE is” information at Tennozu Isle Monorail Station 

Exhibition advertisement and entry ticket

David Bowie’s music provided a soundtrack to my teenage awakening years. I used to listen to his music with my first girlfriend (her elder sister had an big collection of Bowie records), so it was with some expectation that I entered the exhibition. And I was not to be disappointed …. it was excellent. Bowie’s career was documented from his boyhood  in South London and his early influences right through to his later career. Handwritten notes and song lyrics, early recordings, interviews, videos, soundtracks and stage costumes. The exhibition also covered his film and theatre roles and some of the influences of Japan on his work and philosophy. I was surprised at how busy it was, we spent around three hours there. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed, so I could only get a few pictures in the entrance:

David Bowie – Aladin Sane

We then headed over to Ginza to try our luck for sushi at the Midori Restaurant in Ginza. It’s pot luck here because its always busy – you take a ticket and wait out in the street for your turn. Luckily, the ticket machine shows you where you are in the list and gives a time estimate for your turn. Time for a pint of guiness at the nearby HUB English Pub a few shop lots down the street:

Guiness sign, HUB English Pub, Ginza

Finally it was our turn to be seated. Definitely worth the wait and you can understand why its so popular ……

Oishi sushi

Day 9 (27.03.17)

Another damp and overcast day:

Tokyo Tower viewed from the Shimbashi apartment

A quiet day walking around various areas and shops in Tokyo. Always good to observe the public information signs at the train stations:

It’s good manners to pull …!!

The highlight of the day was a delicious dish of steak-don at Takashemaya Department store (meat from Imahan meat shop):

Imahan steak-don. Delicious

I also got to try a free sample of salmon eggs and cheese. Once again, simply delicious:

Salmon eggs and cheese display

It really is hard to surpass the quality and tastes of Japanese food.

Day 10 (28.03.17) – Tokyo Skytree

With a brilliant blue sky and warm weather, we decided to visit the Tokyo Skytree. As an extra adventure, we were going to catch a ferry from the nearby Hamarikyu Park and travel to Asakusa on the Sumida River:

Shiodome – Hamarikyu Park

Mako’s apartment block viewed from Hamarikyu Park

Hamarikyu Park views

As we walked along the edge of the pary bodering the Sumida River, I glanced over the side and saw a large sting ray in the shallows …!

Sumida River

Tokyo Mizube Cruising Line ticket

It was a very pleasant day for a river cruise, and gave a different perspective of the city’s sights.

A sister ship making the return journey

Tokyo Skytree viewed from the Sumida River

We passed the Asahi Beer Company buildings and the Asahi Beer Hall, with its (in)famous Asahi Flame sculpture. For some reason, this is known colloquially as “the golden turd”. I can’t understand why …. The beer’s nice though!!

Asahi Beer Hall

Approaching Asakusa, The Skytree looming ever closer

Asakusa Ferry dock – Tokyo Skytree backdrop

From Asakusa we walked to the Skytree, stopping for lunch en-route.

Ushijima Jinja Shrine

Tokyo Skytree towering over local buildings

The Tokyo Skytree viewed from it’s base

Some blurb from Wikipidea:

Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー? Tōkyō Sukaitsurī) is a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower in Sumida, Tokyo, Japan. It became the tallest structure in Japan in 2010 and reached its full height of 634.0 metres (2,080 ft) in March 2011, making it the Tallest tower in the world, displacing the and the second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa (829.8 m/2,722 ft).

Two observation decks can be visited, at 350m and 450m …! We did both:

Tokyo Skytree tickets for the 350 and 450 decks

View north: Sumida (left) and Arakawa (right) Rivers

View to the south-west. tokyo Tower in the distance

Wifey and me, Tokyo Skytree 450m observation deck

Day 11 (29.03.17)

Today’s plan was to visit Ueno Park in the hope of seeing the start of the sakura (cherry blossom) bloom. This is an annual spring event that, literally, sweeps the country – it starts early in the mild southern parts of Japan and moves progressively north as temperatures rise as spring progresses. I arrives in the Tokyo area sometime in late March through to late April. The arrival of the sakura bloom is seen as a sign of spring, the end of winter and is celebrated with  food and drinking under the cherry blossom trees. The sakura bloom is, however, short lived – the changeable weather at the time of year, particularly temperature drops and winds can result in a “snow-shower” of sakura petals, leaving behind bare trees.

Now, as I’ve already mentioned,  in earlier descriptions from this trip, the weather had been quite variable. So, it was with some optimism than we left Shiodome for Ueno and the hope that we would be able to catch the start of the sakura season …..!

As usual, as we approached the metro station, the enigmatic “knife-edge” building loomed before us.  I always enjoy the information posters at the station – this one is advising us not to drink too much and stand beyond the yellow marker line on the platform, particularly when Thomas the Tank Engine’s cousin is approaching the station ……

Shiodome: Knife edge building (left) / Train information poster (right)

When we arrived at Ueno Park, in warm spring sunshine, it initially looked like we were too  early in the year. But as we walked to the south-western corner of the park we were greeted by a line of trees in the early stages of bloom:

Ueno Park sakura (cherry blossom)

Both pink and white varieties of sakura were present:

Sakura, Ueno Park

From here we took a leisurely walk around the park, taking in all the sights.

Bentendo Buddhist Temple

As usual in Japan, interesting and tasty food is always on hand at public places:

Street food: grilled fish and crab

The park itself is extensive and features a zoo, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo National Museum, The Museum of Nature and Science in addition to various shrines, including The Gojoten Shrine:

Ueno Park Map

In addition to the museums and cultural sights, the park has a large lake, complete with waterfowl, large carp and a huge reed bed – a natural oasis amongst the concrete jungle:

Rushes in the lake

The park also hosts a small flea market, selling various trinkets, oddities and fossils of man:

Ueno Park: Skeleton (left) / Rodin’s “The Gates of Hell” sculpture (right)

Gojoten Shrine

Meanwhile, people were gathering at various locations around the park to start their sakura celebrations, including ladies in traditional kimono dress. Note the attention to detail and organisation that pervades Japanese life – the recycling bins were set up and ready for use, labelled in both Japanese and English:

Japanese ladies in kimono besides a “sakura” rubbish recycling area

Life size Blue Whale sculpture, Museum of Nature and Science

Mako at The Gates of Hell (The National Museum of Western Art)

We stopped for lunch, onigiri and sandwiches from Lawsons covinience store, and sat just inside the park near Ueno station. One last look at at the sakura:

Sakura and inscribed egg-shaped stone

We finished off the afternnon at our newly discovered favourite pub in Shinbashi:

With a glass of our favourite brew:

Lovely day for a guinness …..

Before returning through the early evening streets back for a rest at the apartment:

Japanese pub in the railway  overpass arch

We ventured out on a long evening walk before finding a cozy (and very expensive) sushi bar with a cheeky chappy sushi chef …..

Sushi Bar, Ginza

…. making extremely delicious sushi:

Oishi desu-ne

After dinner we contemplated another beer at the Man in the Moon, but we were too tired. It had been a long day. A glance at the iPhone health app revealed that we’d pounded over 17,000 steps for the day, 10 km of walking. Definitely time to call it a day and get a good night’s sleep …!

Day 12 (30.03.17)

This was our last full day in Tokyo before our return to Kuala Lumpur. We started the day with no fixed plan and began with a stroll to Tsukiji Market. This may be my last visit to the market at this location as it is due to move to a new premises across the Sumida River-mouth sometime in late 2017 or possibly into 2018 (or possible never …. some political wrangling going on over this). On the way to the market we passed this interesting arrangement in-front of a trendy fish restaurant:

Fish Restaurant entrance, near Tsukiji Market

En route to Tsukiji we recognised the enigmatic “knife-edge” building in Shiodome, this time viewed from it’s eastern curved side:

“Knife-edge” building (L) / Sushi Bar advertising banner (R)

Soon we were in the bustling streets alongside Tsukiji, with it’s enticing mix of (mostly) fresh sea food stalls and restaurants, selling all manner of sea creatures.

Tsukiji’s narrow and crowded side-streets

Sushi Restaurant frontage

As usual, the most sought after and defining sea-food  of the market, the mighty bluefin tuna:

Bluefin Tuna sashimi

The weather was excellent – around 17 degrees C and clear blue skies, perfect for walking and exploring. After sampling some delicious sushi and some rather tough and overcooked abalone, we decided to take the train to Toko Midtown , to see if conditions were favourable for sakura viewing. Upon arrival I was interested to see the following signpost, giving information about the different cherry blossom types and their usual blooming dates:

Sakura blossom types and bloom dates

We exited the station area and made our way to the nearby Hinokicho Park. We passed a Fugu (puffer fish) restaurant along the way to the park (puffer fish is considered to be a delicacy, but some of the internal organs contain fatal toxins, so extreme care is required when preparing the dish):

Fugo Restaurant (L) / Inscribed Stone, Hinokicho Park (R)

Unfortunately, the cherry blossom was not yet in bloom in the park. However, some of the other plants in the park were in flower:

Hinokicho Park views

It was a pleasant place to spend a few hours, with some nice out-door cafes and people enjoying the early spring sunshine. One interesting sight was a Mount Fuji landscaped feature:

Mount Fuji feature

We walked to a nearby convenience store to by some food for lunch which we ate in the park. It was then time to move on again, searching for the elusive early spring sakura blooms ….!

Our next location was The Yasukuni Shrine in the Chiyoda District. This is Japan’s official war shrine, commemorating those who fell in the service of Japan.  The following is a brief description, courtesy of Wikipedia:

The Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni, informally known as the Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社 or 靖國神社? Yasukuni Jinja), is a Shinto shrine located in Chiyoda, Tokyo. It was founded by Emperor Meiji in June 1869 and commemorates those who died in service of the Empire of Japan, which existed from the Meiji Restoration of 1869 until the nation was renamed during the Allied occupation in 1947. The shrine’s purpose has been expanded over the years to include those who died in the wars involving Japan spanning from the entire Meiji and Taishō period, and lesser part of the Shōwa period.

The entrance to the shrine is marked by two large torii (traditional Japanese) shinto gates, and a number of inscribed stone sculptures:

Torii gate and inscribed stone

There was a long, tree-lined path to the shrine, passing through the first, and later second torii. Sakura trees lined the route and were in bloom:

Sakura, Yasukuni Shrine

The pathway to the shrine complex was also marked by status of fierce dragons-like creatures and traditional stone lanterns, all carved from white granite:

Granite stone works lining the route to the shrine complex

Half way along to the path we encountered a statue of Omura Masujiro, the Vice-Minister of War during the Meiji Restoration period, and accredited with the creation of the modern Japanese Army during that time:

Statue of Omura Masujiro, Vice-Minister of War, Meiji Restoration period

To be continued …….

Posted in (4) Japan | Leave a comment

Fish Valley Semenyih – Mixed Bag [Part 2] (03.03.17)

Me and the wife finally managed to get our hands on a sack of expired flavoured buns …. and expired they were, some packs were already turning green with fungal growth. Nasty …!!

We were very quickly into our first fish of the day, but the weather turned against us …..

Pacu #1 (note the bin bag full of bait …)

The bighead carp were also making a nuisance of themselves, but were a good test for the new fish gripper toy:

Bighead Carp

Rain squalls coupled with the wind blowing from the south into our face made chumming with bread difficult and we couldn’t seem to get the pacu going, although we did pick up the odd small lampam. We were grateful for a brace of plump rohu though, which we picked up during a break in the weather:

Mako with Rohu #1

Rohu #2

As the wind picked up once again, making chumming difficult, and ominous signs of storm clouds gathering, we made the decision to move to the south of the pond, with some shelter and the wind behind us.

The move paid dividends immediately. First I was bitten off by a pacu. Then Mako took a good strike and skilfully played a powerful fish to the bank – our first Mekong Catfish at this venue, a nicely conditioned 10 kg fish. The catch of the day:

11-patin-03-03-17Mekong Catfish, 10 kg

In-between the catfish, I had another pacu on for 5 minutes before being bitten off once again, and then Mako followed up her catch with a plump Jelawat:


It was my turn next. I free-spooled a bun into a burst of surface activity on chummed buns and was immediately rewarded with a feisty pacu:

Pacu #2

I followed this up with another good strike but was, once again, bitten off. Then on the last cast, with the last flavoured bun (yes, we’d managed to use the entire bin bag full) I hooked-up again just as I picked up the rod to wind in. This fish felt good but turned, ran and threw the hook …!

Still not the frenzy that we are seeking, but a good day none the less. It’s always nice to get a mixed bag of species.

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.05) - Fish Valley Semenyih, Main Pond, Carp, Carp, Bighead (Tongsan), Carp, Rohu, Catfish - Mekong, Java Barb (Lampam), Jelawat, Pacu | Leave a comment

Cameron Highlands (25-26th February 2017)

This was me and the wife’s first visit to the hill site retreat of the Cameron Highlands. We were here to attend our friends’ wedding reception and took the opportunity to tag on a couple of nights stay to do some site seeing.

Discovered by Sir William Cameron in 1885, the Cameron Highlands consists of three districts, namely Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Ulu Telom. All are Situated at elevations ranging from 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) to 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above sea level, resulting in a highland climate with cool temperatures and high rainfall. It is home to flora and fauna that are rare in a tropical country and has an almost European countryside feel and look.

We stayed at the Smokehouse Hotel, a mock Tydor-style guest house with a traditional English style feel. The interior is reminiscent of a typical English country house with open fireplaces and wood-panelled walls. :

The Smokehouse Hotel

After a Friday evening visiting the night market in Brinchang and then enjoying a few alcoholic beverages at a bar in Tanah Rata, we awoke on Saturday to a traditional English breakfast, complete with real bacon and pork sausages:

English Fried Breakfast (the wife had already passed her sausages to me)

English garden flowers, The Smokehouse Hotel

After breakfast we set off to visit the nearby Mount Batu Brinchang (Malay: Gunung Batu Brinchang), the highest mountain in the Cameron Highlands that can be accessed by car. In fact, the road leading to the summit of this mountain is also the highest road in off and proceeded to make our was along the mountain road to near the summit.  Along the way there were numerous tea plantations and farms with associated agricultural vehicle traffic, mainly old Land Rovers:

Vintage Land Rover with truck surfing farm dog …!! 

We finally reached the car park and the start of the Mossy Forest trail:

Signpost and Map for the Mossy Forest Trail

We then proceeded on foot along a delightful and well build wooden walkway that took us right into the forest and in-between the summits of Gunung Brinchang and Gunung Irau. The path took us to 2000m above sea-level:

Elevation sign marking 2000m above sea-level

The trail gave us good sight of the surrounding mountains and associated valleys:

Views of the valley below

Sign pointing the way to Perak and Pahang States

Views of the Mossy Forest

Gunung Brinchang Mossy Forest

We wanted to go all the way to the summit of Gunung Irau but the wooden walkway ended and the path became too wet and muddy without appropriate walking shoes. So we decided to head back down the mountain and visit the Sungai Palas Boh tea factory and plantation in the valley below.

View of tea plantation as we headed down the mountain road

Sungai Palas Tea Plantation

After the morning and early afternoon’s exercise and adventures, we headed to the Cameron Highlands Resort, overlooking the Cameron Highlands golf course, for traditional English afternoon tea:

English afternoon tea

The afternoon tea was excellent, comprising pots of Boh tea, smoked salmon, egg and cucumber sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and an assortment of pastries. After tea we had to head back to the hotel to get ready for and attend the evening’s wedding reception.

We awoke on sunday to another English breakfast, before packing the car and heading back to hot and steamy Kuala Lumpur.

The Smokehouse scenery and flowers

Last picture before departure

It had been a vey pleasant, interesting and relaxing trip. It was nice to experience some traditional British fare and style, together with British temperatures and weather …..!

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Fish Valley Semenyih – Mixed Bag [Part 1] (10.02.17)

Frustrated from our visit here the previous day, my wife had managed to find close to sell-by-date discount sweet potato buns for sale in the bakery at Jusco. She called me up to see if I wanted to give it another try. Why not …… I was confident that we would be able to get a pacu feeding frenzy going . However …….

We arrived to anglers already fishing from the road location and very slow fishing conditions. We got the chum going and once again attracted a number of bighead carp into our swim. But, despite the potato buns being sticky and difficult to use, they seemed to be good bait. Within 30 minutes of fishing I was into my first pacu:


2-pacu-1-10-02-17Pacu #1

Wifey followed this fish up with a grass carp:

3-grass-carp-1-10-02-17Grass Carp #1

This second fish was followed by a long lull, with only the odd lampam to provide any excitement before I finally hooked-up my second pacu of the day, a c.6 kg fish:


11-pacu-2-10-02-17Pacu #2 c. 6 kg

Despite being in a good location, catching an early pacu and extensively chumming with buns, we failed to get the pacu in a frenzy. However, there were a number of groups of anglers around the pond, and no one else seemed to be having any success.

We persevered, and 10 minutes later I was in action again, this time with a small grass carp:

12-grass-carp-2-10-02-17Grass Carp #2

Even though we couldn’t get the pacu going, the bighead carp were evident, stealing our bait at will. Mako finally wound down into one as it slurped her bait from the surface:

14-bighead-carp-10-02-17Bighead Carp (tongsan)

We were slowly building our catch numbers and picking up a few different species. It was my turn next as the session was coming to an end. First I hooked on of the golden-yellow common carp that I’d seen swimming amongst our chum:


15-common-carp-10-02-17Common Carp

Then, right at the end, with the very last bait and cast, I took a good strike that I thought was a pacu. The fish soon revealed itself to be a good sized rohu (c.6 kg) – always a bonus catch here:


17-rohu-10-02-17Rohu, c.6 kg

Out of bait and out of time, that was it for the session. Despite not getting into the pacu in any numbers, we’d picked up a couple plus had a good mixed bag of carp, catching 6 different species in all. It was a good return on what was a slow day at the pond – the other anglers had appeared to struggle all afternoon.

We will be back …!!


Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.05) - Fish Valley Semenyih, Main Pond, Carp, Carp, Bighead (Tongsan), Carp, Rohu, Java Barb (Lampam), Pacu | Leave a comment

Fish Valley Semenyih – Thaipusam (09.02.17)

Another public holiday, and once again me and the wife headed south from KL for an afternoon fishing at Semenyih. We’ve been doing alright there over the past few months but we are still looking for a session with a big catch of pacu.

Things started off fairly slowly and our baits began to be troubled by small lampam, and then shortly after the bighead carp moved in to feast on out chum line …… I got tired of them stealing my floating bun baits with their subtle bites. I wound down as one mouthed my bait:


4-bighead-carp-09-02-17Bighead Carp (Tongsan)

These fish are large but are poor sport, they also have smelly slime. Not a desirable species, and one of the trash fish when you are seeking pacu. However, this one (unusually) had an intact caudal fin (a lot of fish here tend to have eroded tail fins – possibly from agrressive pacu) and actually put up a bit of a struggle! We followed this fish with a couple of small lampam before pacu finally moved into our swim, about an hour and a half after we started fishing.

The first fish gave an unusual bite – the line when gently tight and I though I was snagged. It then came in at first like a dead-weigh and seemed like a big fish. As it got close to the bank it started to make the characteristic short power runs of a pacu:


Pacu #1


8-pacu-1-09-02-17Pacu #1

After a bit of a lull, I picked up my second fish – this time with the typical pacu strike that slammed the rod over and started ripping line from the reel:


10-pacu-2-09-02-17-edPacu #2

It was, by now, late afternoon and people were out enjoying the public holiday and late afternoon sunshine. However, it was slow fishing. Wifey was still struggling, only managing the odd small lampam and was bitten off by her only pacu hook-up.

As the afternoon passed into early evening, two anglers to our left, who were chumming with a large quantity of flavoured buns and other bread products (they were using past sell-by-date breads that can be bought at a local bread shop – can anyone let me know the address / location of this bread shop?) and, after a slow start, started racking up the pacu strikes and landings. I started casting to the margins of their chum, and was finally rewarded, just after 7pm, with a good strike that I passed on to my wife to fight, a decent pacu of 6 kg:


12-pacu-3-09-02-17Pacu #3, 6 kg

With time, and bait, ebbing away, I managed to hook a fourth fish 5 minutes later, once again from the edge of the chum line. In-front of a large audience I played this fish to the bank, only for it to bite me off just as I was preparing to net it:


Pacu #4

It had been a reasonable, if slow session for us. The anglers next to us probably caught at least double our catch. It’s pretty frustrating – I need to source the cheap flavoured buns to be able to bring in the pacu, get them in a frenzy, and drive the bighead carp away ….!!


Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.05) - Fish Valley Semenyih, Main Pond, Carp, Carp, Bighead (Tongsan), Java Barb (Lampam), Pacu | 2 Comments

Fish Valley Semenyih – Bun Fun [Part 2] (01.02.17)

Another public holiday in KL, hard on the heels of Chinese New Year and some free time to enjoy. The wife and I have had a particularly hard time of late with family issues and decided, despite the weather forecast for showers), to spend a few hours fishing at Fish Valley. Once again we arrived in a rain shower, but that quickly subsided and we rigged up two rods to fish floating buns and one to float fish bread and commenced fishing.

It was slow at first, but still the odd take stripped the floating bun offering without hooking up. Then we got plagued by a nasty line tangle between two rods. As I was attempting to unravel the hateful knot, I got a bite from a lampam which was duly released (luckily not a pacu as it took some time to separate the lines from the two rods). I followed this up with another lampam, and then a common carp, both fish taken on whole chocolate bun bait:

1-common-carp-01-02-17Common Carp

I then took a good strike (on a chocolate bun) from a pacu. I passed the rod to Mako, but after a decent fight she got bitten off.  Infact it wasn’t to be her day, as she lost another pacu soon after the strike to a pulled hook; and then lost a common carp to a hook pull as the fish came bankside.

Meanwhile, I was getting a steady stream of takes on the floating buns. Pacu #1 came after a good take and decent fight, a fish of around 4kg:

2-pacu-1-01-02-17Pacu #1, c.4kg

Unfortunately this fish got tangled with another of my lines resulting in a horrible tangle. I spent a good 45 minutes of the afternoon trying to unravel tangles and save braid, to no avail, and then cutting out large sections of line and re-tying leaders and re-rigging rods! Very frustrating work!! However, the good fishing was compensation – I followed this up with another decent hook-up which I passed to Mako. She did a good job bringing the feisty and aggressive fish to the net, a good 5kg pacu:

4-pacu-2-5kg-01-02-17Mako’s Pacu, 5kg

As usual, as dusk approached, the fishing became better, with a lot of surface activity feeding on the chummed bread, and regular hits on our floated buns. I took a nice Jelawat on a bun, which put up a surprisingly strong fight:


And then I followed this up with a good pacu that struck after I cast my bun at the edge of a surface feeding frenzy. This fish was aggressive, making repeated powerful runs and sudden changes in direction:

7-pacu-3-6kg-01-02-17-edPacu, 6kg

Finally, as the light was beginning to fade, Mako made one last cast into an area of surface activity. As she was holding the rod a big pacu struck, bucking her rod ocver and making the reel scream. But suddenly, as she started to regain line, the fish turned and the hook pulled. That was the story of her day today. But that’s fishing. If it was too easy it wouldn’t be fun ….! Still, a pleasant afternoon that took our mind off our stresses for a few hours.


Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.05) - Fish Valley Semenyih, Main Pond, Carp, Java Barb (Lampam), Jelawat, Pacu | Leave a comment