June 26, 2013

Will traveling be eased because it is a UNESCO Heritage Site?

Locations: Bayabulak, Xinjiang, China (43.030°,84.150°
Date: 27 May 1999; 10.20am
Camera: (analogue) Canon 500N with negatives and scanned

UNESCO just added 19 new sites to its Heritage list. Among the new additions is Tianshan Xinjiang, the Tianshan mountain system in Xinjiang. This is a uniquely beautiful and till now, fairly unspoilt area of China. In fact, one would not imagined oneself to be in China here, considering the pollution and destruction that is prevalent in the rest of China. This area is the home of the Uighurs, Mongolians and a host of other ethnic minorities of Central Asia. The beauty, especially the snow-covered mountain ranges is indescribable. Getting around these places is not that convenient but is well-worth the effort. Unfortunately these days accessibility is not as open as it used to. The Chinese authorities had bar access to some of these places citing security concerns. For example, Bayanbulak, a fabulously beautiful high altitude meadows grassland ringed by snow-capped mountains can now only be visited by foreigners who have a special pass. I hope that as a result of its listing as  a UNESCO Heritage Site would prompt the authorities to ease up on its travel control.


May 28, 2013

When the sun is down

Location: Plaza Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA (36°10'17"N 115°8'50"W)
Date: 10 September 2006; 6.25pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

Las Vegas used to have a bit of a sleazy reputation and thrives mainly as a casino resort. However with stiff competition especially from new casinos in Asia, it had remake itself into a top-notch family-oriented resort as well as a convention destination. Many of the hotels in Vegas has attractions which every kid would love to visit, be it Shark Reef Aquarium, Dolphin Habitat or the Eiffel Tower Experience. Asian shoppers enjoy Vegas as there are plenty of outlet stores with great bargains to be have, just outside of town. However Las Vegas nightlife is still a very vibrant scene. Apart from continued indulgence around a casino table, there are plenty of clubs with the variety that will satisfy whatever one’s taste of party hangout. If you like to party to hip-hop, rock or pop music, go to the Jet at the Mirage. If you prefer a stunning vista, there is the Palms or Club X at Mandalay. Of course, there are plenty of Gentlemen's Club, after all this is still Vegas. Even if clubbing is not your thing, one can just hangout and enjoy the fabulous neon lights with a good chance of catching a glimpse of a celebrity.


January 11, 2013

The new icon of Singapore- supertrees

Location: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (1° 16′ 56.89″ N, 103° 51′ 42.6″ E)
Date: 10 September 2012; 1.05 pm
Camera: Canon 500D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Singapore is continuously re-inventing itself for economic reasons. The country do not have any natural resources and its main niche is its physical location, being in the middle of important marine passageway. It has capitalized on that and branch out to promote itself successfully as the bridge or gateway between the East and West as well as first-mover in moving up the value chain in manufacturing. With other Asian countries catching up, it is tough for Singapore to stay on top, from a manufacturing perspective. As such the country has diversified itself into being a premium service provider as well as a premium destination. this despite its absolute lack of natural beauty- it creates landmarks and attractions.
One of the latest is the Gardens by the Bay, which sits on reclaimed land in the central of Singapore. The Gardens fit into the government’s attempt to differentiate itself as a “Garden City”, which it has been very successful in promoting- many tourists were absolutely impressed with the trees and gardens on the way from the airport to the city. Gardens by the Bay consists of a few conservatories- enclosed gardens within a huge glasshouse-like structure and a few Supertrees- tree-like structures that dominates the Gardens’ landscape. These supertrees ranges in height from 25m to 50m and are both vertical gardens as well as dining venues. The supertrees had very quickly became the latest Singapore icons.


October 17, 2012

Star Wars’ Storm Troopers must be inspired by these chimneys

Location: Casa Mila, Barcelona, Spain (41° 23′ 43″ N, 2° 9′ 42″ E)
Date: 24 August 2012; 6.05pm
Camera: Canon 500D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Casa Milla and Casa Battlo are 2 of the better-known creations in Barcelona. Though I find Casa Battlo more interesting, I believe that Casa Milla is probably more well-known due mainly to its enigmatic chimneys. The building was completed in 1912 and looking at these chimneys, I suspect that this must be the inspiration source for George Lucas’s Storm Troopers in Star Wars.


October 9, 2012

Something in China is worth preserving

Location: Yangshuo, Guangxi, China (24° 47′ 0″ N, 110° 30′ 0″ E)
Date: 10 October 2008, 7.35am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

China is a fast changing country, driven by the government’s haste to modernise and develop and the poeple’s desire to get rich fast. As a result everything in the country that is able to make money is  changing at break-neck speed. This includes nature- new structures (buildings) are being built, roads being constructed and old architecture being demolished (to make room for newer ones). In places where one thought are safe from the intrusion of ugly fangs of commercial development such as Yuanyang, structures such as viewing platform are built in its midst to improve the convenience for tourists to enjoy the view- of course, paying for the benefit of using the platform in the process. Lazy photographers will warmly welcome this while enthusiastic amateurs like us bemoan the opportunity of catching that prized scene that can only be captured with silent and patient devotion and waiting. However there are still places in China where nature still holds out eg. one can still enjoy a quiet pretty sunrise over the limestone karsts and Li River on the Li River Bridge in Yangshuo.


September 12, 2012

South China: Wanna buy a dog… to eat?

Location: Meizhou, Fujian, China (24° 16′ 37.2″ N, 116° 6′ 57.6″ E)
Date: 22 December 2010; 3.50pm
Camera: Canon 400D with
Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

It is said that the Chinese eats anything that moves. Well, that may be an exaggeration but the Chinese do actually eats a lot more living things that the normal Westerner can imagine. Animals, crustaceans, reptiles, birds and even insects are fair game. Not just meat, they consume all the different parts of an animal as well. Rhinoceros horns, bear paws, tiger bladders and bull penis are all valued for their medicinal benefits.

One of the delicacies of the Southern Chinese (Guangzhou, Fujian and Guizhou) that really gets under the skin of animal lovers is dog meat. This is a favourite dish in the winter; the meat is cooked and stewed in a casserole with various herbs. In other seasons, it is either bbq, grilled or braised. One can buy the meat fresh from the market- choose the canine that you like and it is killed, cleaned on the spot for you. These days, the dogs that are consumed are reared specially for this purpose.


September 7, 2012

Gaudi is on the mind of every tourists to Barcelona

Location: Casa Batllo, Barcelona, Spain(41° 23′ 30″ N, 2° 9′ 54″ E)
Date: 23 August 2012; 8.05pm
Camera: Canon 500D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Barcelona is one of the most popular destinations in Spain. The city is always bursting with tourists. Architecture is the main tourist draw in Barcelona; and it is virtually all about Gaudi. At least seven of his designs are being listed under one UNESCO Heritage Listing. Tourists to Barcelona can be seen busying themselves at the various Gaudi buildings and/or parks.

The most well-known of Gaudi’s creations has to be Sagrada Familia, the monumental and forever-unfinished cathedral; it will be the world’s largest cathedral when it is scheduled to be completed in 2026. However the most emblematic of his creations is supposedly Casa Milla (or La Pedera) with its enigmatic Star Wars’ Storm Troopers-like chimneys. However I prefers Casa Batllo to Milla because visitors can access all of the former mansion with an excellent (free) audio guide giving an excellent account of the mansion; whereas only the roof of Casa Milla is opened to visitors. Visitors have to contend with seeing models of Gaudi’s other creations as the main content of the visit (furthermore it is more expensive with extra for the audio guide).