Three Sisters & Scenic World , Blue Mountains - Australia


When we have a free day, kids love to go to Blue Mountains all the time. I believe that we are so lucky to live in Sydney. Driving from Sydney to Blue Mountains a place so beautiful to look around and we all enjoy that every time though visit Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves many times.  We drove up from Sydney for the day with my lovely family.The most popular way to get up the mountains is to drive.It takes about 90 minutes from Sydney to get to the main tourist destination of Katoomba.


 If you use public transport,getting to the Blue Mountains is easy enough, a relaxing train trip from Sydney takes about an hour from Sydney Central Station.


Three Sisters

Blue Mountains has one of the most breathtaking picturesque scenes you’ll ever see around Sydney.You can't go to Katoomba without going to the 3 sisters.The Three Sisters is the Blue Mountains'  most spectacular landmark. This unusual unique rock formation attracts millions of visitors from all over the world every year and this is a must see when in Blue Mountains.The Sisters were formed by land erosion. The erosion occurs because of a combination of soft sandstone and weather patterns.

Tale of  Three Sisters 

Three Sisters, aboriginal place, is a 3-peak mountain having relevance to legendary story.Historically, the Three Sisters are believed to have been named after three sisters who lived in the region.
 
According to an old aboriginal legend, there used to be three beautiful sisters who lived in the Jamison valley.They were madly in love  with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, yet tribal law forbade them to marry.The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters causing a major tribal battle.As the lives of the three sisters were seriously in danger, a witch-doctor from the Katoomba tribe took it upon himself to turn the three sisters into stone to protect them from any harm.Unfortunately, the witch doctor was killed before he could reverse the spell, leaving the three sisters forever encased in stone. As only he could reverse the spell to return the ladies to their former beauty, the sisters remain in their magnificent rock formation as a reminder of this battle for generations to come.Standing mournfully high above the Jamison Valley, never to be human again. The names of the sisters are Meehni (922 m), Wimlah (918 m), and Gunnedoo (906 m).

Echo Point
Echo point is one of the best spots to see the three sisters, showcasing the fantastic wildlife that surrounds it.If you are physically able to, take the walk down to the 3 sisters although the steps are steep but worth it.It was fun walking down millions of stairs to the honeymoon bridge which you can see from Echo Point Lookout and connects the first of the 3 sisters to the path.Visit here at sunset or sunrise for a truly unforgettable journey, as the rocks light up in an array of colors due to the orange and reddish glow of the sun. We went to watch the sunset and the 3 Sisters was gorgeous with the sunlight on the rocks.Not much words to describe that amazing natural structure and its' breathtaking beauty.

Scenic World 
If you're visiting the Blue Mountains, make sure you visit Scenic World in Katoomba. It is near the three sisters. Scenic World offers four attractions, the Scenic Railway, the Scenic Sky way, the Scenic Cable way and Scenic Walkway a 2.4 km elevated boardwalk through ancient rain forest.We purchased scenic passes that allows travel unlimited on all the rides.

The Scenic Railway



Scenic World was originally home to a coal mine that dated back to 1878.The Scenic Railway was built to haul coal 310 metres up from a mine in the Jamison Valley and it  inclines at a breath-taking 52-degree angle, which makes it the world’s steepest passenger railway.The scenic railway is so steep, but really fun.

Established in 1945, Scenic World began with Harry Hammon’s entrepreneurial vision to transform a former coal mine into an iconic tourist attraction. With the closure of Katoomba Colliery in 1945, Harry recognized an opportunity to innovate, converting old coal skips and existing rail track into a passenger train, creating what is still today the world’s steepest passenger train.  
 
The Scenic Sky Way


 
The Sky way offers a unique way to experience the beauty of the Blue Mountains and it is the only horizontal-passenger-carrying cable car in Australia.It offers 360 degree views of the surrounding scenery, including snapshots of the Three Sisters, Jamison Valley, and Katoomba Falls.It crosses the Jamison Valley at a height of 270 metres.  
 
The Cable Way

The Scenic Cableway boasts exceptional panoramic views of the Blue Mountains.The fully-enclosed cabins of the Cableway mean you can safely look down on the Three Sisters,Orphan Rock,Mount Solitary and Katoomba Falls from way above.The Scenic Cableway is being the largest and steepest aerial cable car in Australia.


 
 
 The Scenic Walkway
The Scenic Walkway is an elevated boardwalk that includes a 300 metre easy walking link between the base of the Scenic Railway and Scenic Cable way. Brilliant in sunshine and even better in the rain, this elevated boardwalk immerses visitors in Jurassic rain forest on the Jamison Valley floor with minimal impact on the environment. As you pass ancient trees and colorful local flora, you’ll also get to learn about the history of the region, including its' past as a mining area. Listen out for some of the native birds singing too. During the walk, you’ll come across a replica miners hut, see the miner’s entrance and marvel at a bronze sculpture of a miner with his horse.


You can then walk around on a boardwalk at the bottom of the rain forest, and come back up on a very large cable car.The forest bush walk is excellent , one of the best I have done.




We had a lovely day doing all three rides and doing nearly the full walk in the rain forest, so beautiful and peaceful.The walk along the wooden boardwalk through the rain-forest was really amazing, and we all loved the ride up and down, then across the valley.


 Great place to visit when in Sydney and in the surrounding area. Not only is the view out of this world, you have access by stairs to get to the bottom of the first of the three sisters.Some of the region’s sandstone peaks have an altitude of more than 900m high above sea level.The three sisters and the valley are super.The scenery is so majestic.The Blue Mountains is a magical place any time of the year.If you have time, don't forget to visit Jenolan Caves as well.The Jenolan Caves are a highlight of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

World Heritage Site
The Greater Blue Mountains was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000 and was one of 15 World Heritage places included in the National Heritage List on 21 May 2007. 
It is an area of diverse landscapes filled with plants, wildlife, caves and rock formations in NSW national parks. It's full of cultural significance, with six Aboriginal groups having connection to the Country of the Area, as it's tied with Dreaming and rock art.



Tips before Plan

Be sure to wear comfy hiking shoes.It has many rough walking tracks.
 
It is highly recommended that you check the weather forecast before going, in winter it can be anywhere from 0 to 8 degrees Celsius.If the weather is clear and sunny you can see for many kilometers across the valleys and cliffs.

Scenic World gets very crowded after the train from Sydney and tourist buses arrive. In my opinion, if you can stay in town the night before and visit this attraction in the morning, you will probably find it much more enjoyable.
 
Don't miss to go Jenolan Caves in Blue Mountain World Heritage area.Just 75km from the Three Sisters.It takes 1hr 15 min only. Jenolan Caves will not disappoint.


The Great Wall -China


 Another wonderful journey started in April school holiday in 2017 to China.It was a 20 day long trip with my family. We landed in Beijing midnight and went to our Beijing hotel by a taxi which hired at the airport. We did a day trip to Great Wall -Jinshanling section from Beijing as part of the 3 week trip in China.

Way to Jinshanling
 There are several ways to Jinshanling. The easier of which is to take the tourist bus from Dongzhimen Bus Station or can get a rental car. We took the bus from Dongzhimen bus terminal  at 8.00 am to Jinshanling.One way to get there is by taking the subway to Dongzhimen station and took about 2 1/2 hours to Jinshanling. The price is 50 yuan. Once you get on the bus, except a toilet stops at Miyun highway service station,the bus has no other stop before you got to Jinshanling highway service station. The bus stops at the service  area and there's a sign for Jinshanling Great Wall  west entrance is 5 km. Got the shuttle bus ticket to the entrance.Getting off the shuttle bus, there is still a few  meters of walking before reaching the ticketing gate.


History of Great Wall
 The Great Wall of China is located in northern China. It is one of the greatest sights in the world has more than 2300 years history. The Great Wall was continuously built from the 3rd century BC to the 17th century AD on the northern border of the country as the great military defence project of  Chinese Empires, with a total of more than 20,000 kilometers length.

 It was built in different areas by different dynasties to protect different territorial borders. In the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), the Great Wall was reconstructed to be stronger using better developed construction techniques. The height of the Great Wall is 5–8 meters. It was designed to be at least three times the height of a man. The Great Wall begins in the east at Shanhaiguan in Hebei province and ends at Jiayuguan in Gansu province to the west.


World Heritage Site
 Today, the Great Wall is generally recognized as one of the most impressive architectural feats in human history. In 1987,  the  Great Wall was inscribed in the list of the World  Heritage site by the UNESCO and it is the only man made structure that is visible from space. It deserves its place among "The New Seven Wonders of the World".

Entrance to the Wonder
 There are two gates, East and Main gate in Jinshanling. Most people enter from the main gate and hike the wall to the east gate. At the main entrance,there is a ticket counter. Don't forget to buy some snacks and water bottles from the restaurants at the tourist area entrance. You can't find shops and toilets beyond that point before finishing the walk.

 Once through the ticket check gate,you can also take the cable car up instead of walking up. Ohh!!What a unlucky moment, upon arrival, we got to know the cable car was not in service on that day. Walked on the foot path about 2km to the wall.



Great Wall Hike
 We hiked from the West Gate to the East Gate, which took just under 4 hours although that did include frequent photo stops with kids. Jinshanling  Great Wall is in a mountainous area 120 km northeast of central Beijing. It's name was derived from the greater and lesser Jinshan Watchtowers on the Great wall. This section of wall connects the Simatai Great Wall section in the east, and Gubeikou Section in the west. 
 


 The Great Wall was not just a wall. It has barrier walls, battlement walls, watchtowers, gun emplacements, shooting holes, horse blocking walls, and branch cities. Those challenging sections went towards making it such an amazing experience. The horse refraining walls,crenelations,hollow watchtowers and warehouse towers are all unique in the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall. At various guard towers we met Chinese ladies selling souvenirs, snacks, water, and books we bought a book as a souvenir.


Stunning View,Walking Challenge
 Jinshanling is a popular choice to visit because of its stunning views and there are usually not many people visiting this section. The whole experience was brilliant. The walk was more challenging than I expected, some steep ups and downs and no short cuts or ways out once you start.The wall includes some very steep sections and a lot of steps. There were also a couple of sections which are in poorer condition, with little in the way of side walls and some stretches which are steep but sloping , not stepped you need decent walking shoes with good grip. Some sections are extremely steep and can be a bit challenging to climb.


 Hikers need to be in good physical condition to complete this hike. You are suggested to wear hiking boots that can protect your ankles, because there are rough parts where you may easily get a hurt.


Unbelievable Structure
 We were so lucky in spring weather, sunny and not too hot , Great wall with blue sky. It's splendid, it's worth visiting. Oh my goodness!!! the entire experience was amazing!! The views are absolutely breathtaking and the wall is full of miracle designs! It's really unbelievable when I walked on it. How can ancient Chinese built these on the ridge of the mountains without machine.
 


 One of the most beautiful places we have seen in the world and  it was majestic beyond expectation. This is one of the most famous site in the world and a must visit in one's lifetime.It is amazing for photography. The wall and the surrounding mountains are stunning.


A Dream Came True
Most people enter from the main gate, hike the wall to the east gate, then catches the shuttle back to the service area. But unfortunately we missed the bus because we got late to the parking area due to walk with kids. Though it is expensive,we hired a vehicle to Beijing and it took 2 hours.
 

So exhausted.But so happy.I have dreamed of going Great Wall since a very early age and it only took many years to get there - bit worth the wait.  I’ve been fortunate to see this marvelous one of the world wonders.


The Great Wall is a China icon. The Great Wall of China is the must visit China attraction. It is a life time experience. If you insist on a full experience you should walk. This was one of the most magical days of our lives.

 Remember this famous Chinese saying: "Until you reach the Great Wall, you would not be regarded as a Hero"






Milford Sound - New Zealand



My Husband planned a tour to New Zealand south island in April last year as a special gift for our 10th wedding anniversary. It was so excited because we had never gone there before. Had 3 hours fly to Christchurch from Sydney and a got a rental car for 5 days. First day,we drove from Christchurch to Queenstown and visited so many spectacular places in beautiful New Zealand. It was getting dark when we arrived in our Queenstown hotel.

            

Way to Milford Sound

Next day morning we started our remarkable 291 km drive to Milford Sound. Without stopping, the journey to Milford Sound from Queenstown is 4 hours. The road from Queenstown to Milford Sound is closed occasionally due to rock fall, heavy snow or bad weather. But we were lucky enough to go on that breathtaking route though it was a little rain. There are so many beautiful sites to see along the way though and it is the greatest scenic drive I have ever experienced. and hard to put the beauty into words. It seemed like there were waterfalls everywhere I looked. You will never see anything as beautiful as this drive. The kids loved it.


Homer Tunnel 

We had our morning coffee break in Te Anau after enjoying halfway our journey. Just before the Milford Road begins its descent through the Cleddau Valley into Milford Sound, it passes through the Homer Tunnel opened in 1954 a 1270m long tunnel through solid rocky mountain. Construction of the tunnel started in 1935 and opened in 1953. This is the only access road to Milford Sound. This tunnel links Milford Sound to Te Anau and Queenstown. It is one way that was controlled by traffic lights as you wait for your turn to enter and it is indicated how long you have to wait.

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We got lucky and only waited for 5/6 minutes. We enjoyed everything about going to Milford Sound including the wonderful tunnel drive,sharp bends and surrounding eye catching scenery. There are plenty of marked stops along the route to see and enjoy. Driving yourself gives you more freedom to explore.


World Heritage

Milford Sound is located in the Fiordland National Park and surroundings are lush green and cool wet. It is acclaimed to be the most popular tourist destination in the world, and the one of the wettest places in the world raining around 200 days of the year. Unofficially the 8th Wonder of the World and one of the world's most beautiful places a UNESCO World Heritage place. Believe me, It is a masterpiece!


My husband booked Southern Discovery cruise tour with meal before start our journey and we reached there on time. A crew member explained about Milford Sound weather, environment, natural beauty and many more things clearly. Our curious son listened it carefully and asked more questions time to time until finish our 2 hour journey around the sound.


Amazing Experience

Milford sounds is a must see if you visit New Zealand. We took the cruise on a rainy day, which increased the number and volume of the waterfalls and creates a network of falls that are quite amazing to see. It is just so amazing to see all the waterfalls coming down the mountains.This is one of my favorite places I've ever been. The views are unbelievably spectacular with steep cliffs,lush green mountains with white snow on top and wildlife. There are so many marvelous waterfalls all over the place that will take your breath away surprising to see the fjord end up meeting the Tasman sea. We got up close to some of the larger ones.We saw dolphins and sea lions. It is often called one of the most beautiful places on Earth, it’s a sight that shouldn’t be missed.Milford Sound was carved out by an erosion of glaciers during the ice ages.


 No matter what the weather Milford sound is a joy to the senses, an amazing natural wonder. There is no road toll on the Milford Road, you can drive straight into the National Park at no charge. The Milford Road offers a spectacular journey into the heart of Fiordland National Park. This is a fabulous place to come and see true beauty of nature. A trip to Milford Sound is unforgettable experience which you won't want to miss. In my opinion, one comes to New Zealand to see the breathtaking scenery. A truly amazing experience with the most stunning picture perfect views. However, I'd like to return again on a sunny day.


Next Time Tips

After enjoying that wonderful nature gift we returned back to Queenstown.It was getting dark and cold there when we came to the hotel. So tired. Going to Milford sound from Queenstown in one day is feel very rushed. I would like to recommend you to better stay in Te Anau or Milford Sound over night and get the early bird cruise journey. I think the most popular and probably the cheapest way to see Milford Sound is via a cruise. It may be relax and rest of the day you can visit more places along the beautiful Milford Road.



Sigiriya Lion Rock - Sri Lanka


 In December holiday we  went to Sri Lanka and my 9 years old son wanted to go to Sigiriya.He is so curious about it and wanted to climb to the top by himself.A day trip was organized from Kandy. The driving distance between Kandy to Sigiriya is 90 km. From Dambulla town,there are 9 km to this marvelous masterpiece. It takes approximately 1 1/2 hrs.This granite remarkable peak is the most prominent place in the jungles of the Matale District from all sides.

We spent 3 to 4 hours to explore Sigiriya Rock. It’s best to visit in the early morning or late afternoon, when the crowds are less and the temperature is cooler,late afternoon also brings out the rock’s exceptional sunset coloration.


UNESCO World Heritage

Sigiriya is one of the most spectacular wonders of the world.In 1982 UNESCO named it is as a World Heritage Site and declared as 8th Wonder of the world.Built in 15th century by iconic king in Sri Lankan history King Kashyapa ruled in 18 years.  There's nothing like this anywhere in the world.It is 660 feet tall and has a flat top.There are incredible ancient ruins at the top.

From the entrance, a wide, straight path along towards the rock, following the line of an imaginary east–west axis around which the whole site is laid out.This entire side of the rock is protected by a pair of broad moats.But the Outer Moat is now largely dried out. Crossing the Inner Moat, enclosed within two-tiered walls, we entered the Water Gardens.Sigiriya is highly recognized it's fountain technology that make mystery to the world still today. Even centuries later these water fountains still operating in rainy seasons.We were lucky to see that beautiful water fountains in our eyes.



Water fountains still working

Long queue to the frescoes
View from the spiral staircase.

Amazing Frescoes
Shortly after reaching the base of the rock, two  metal spiral staircases lead to and from a sheltered cave in the sheer rock face that holds Sri Lanka’s most famous frescoes. Sigiriya is famous for its fresco paintings.It is prohibited to take photographs because flashlights may be not good to the paintings.  On the entire western of the rock,about 14000m surface was full of the paintings early days.

Spiral staircase to the Frescoes


Climbing to the mirror wall
         
        Mirror Wall
After the fresco,we walked the pathway runs along the face of the rock, bounded on one side by the 40 m long Mirror Wall.The mirror wall in Sigiriya is another notable thing that travelers must watch out for while visiting. Originally, this wall which was made out of brick and covered with highly polished white plaster made from lime, egg white, beeswax and wild honey so that the King could see himself whilst he walked alongside it. Now there are several graffiti and poems which covers the wall's surface, and dates back to the 8th century.

 Lion Rock climbing from the lion paws

 Lion Rock Climbing
Continuing up the rock, a flight of limestone steps climbs steeply up to the Lion Platform, a large spur projecting from the north side of the rock, just below the summit.There is also a sculpture of a lion’s legs and paws which flanks the entrance of the Sigiriya Hill, however, the head of this lion remains missing as it collapsed a long time ago.The staircase begins from the lions paw,leads all the way to Sigiriya royal palace at the top.When Sigiriya Rock hits its peak in climbing, there was a long queue to get to the top. This is because everyone is following the same set of stairs, up and down.
    
Royal Palace at the Top
 After the path up, the summit seems huge. This was the site of Kashyapa’s palace, and almost the entire area was originally covered with buildings and water ponds.We can identify the buildings at the tops in several stories and it is believed these may have number of floors and swimming pools.The Royal Palace itself is now just a plain, square brick platform at the very highest point of the rock.Below here a series of four further terraces, perhaps originally gardens, tumble down to the lower edge of the summit above Sigiriya Tank.



At the top of the rock.Having number of floors and pools

Amazing view from the top of the rock

 Sigiriya fortress is a place worth exploring and one of Sri Lanka’s top attractions. There are about 1,200 staircases which reach up to the top of the summit. We all were so happy after climbing down the rock.Specially my son enjoyed this journey well, seeing ancient ruins and climbing top to the rock by him self. Next,we are going to Ella by train from Kandy.

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