September 30, 2009

Eiffel Tower, Louvre and other Paris landmarks in Las Vegas

Location: Paris Las Vegas, Nevada, USA (36° 6′ 45″ N, 115° 10′ 20″ W)
Date: 9 September 2006; 1.15pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

Paris Las Vegas is one of many replicas one sees in Vegas, along the Strip. It is actually a hotel and casino- as its name suggests, it is Paris-themed. It has many replicas of Paris’ landmarks. These include those in the photo- a 165m replica of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the La Fontaine des Mers. It is one of the older complex, completed in 1997. Vegas had transformed into a more family-oriented destination in the last few years after losing out as the biggest gambling enclave to Macau.

Technorati Tags: Las Vegas,Paris Las Vegas


September 28, 2009

Lake McGregor with the Southern Alps, New Zealand

Location: Lake McGregor, South Island, New Zealand (43°56'10.96"S, 170°28'12.71"E)
Date: 26 May 2009, 11.30am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Lake McGregor is a small, very deep lake in the McKenzie Basin, next to the bigger and better known Lake Tekapo. The lakes are surrounded by mountains, with the year-round snow peaks of the Southern Alps to the north- which is the backdrop of the above photo. Lake McGregor is fabulous for fishing, mainly brown trouts. There are many small bays around the lake with shelf of shallow water that drops off into the depths. Fish cruise around these edges especially during the warmer months. However, there can be excellent fishing at all times of the year at the outlet channel that leads to Lake Tekapo. Apart from fishing, it is just another of many lakes around this part of New Zealand.


September 23, 2009

China has many minorities including Miaos in Zhaoxing, Guizhou

Locations: Zhaoxing, Guizhou China (25° 54' 39 N, 109°10' 35 E)
Date: 18 April 2005; 11.45am
Camera: EOS 300D with kit lens

China officially recognised a total of 55 ethnic minority groups apart from the Han Chinese majority. These are distributed all over China, with more diversity in those provinces bordering other countries. For example, Yunnan which share borders with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam has the largest number of minority tribes, numbering in excess of 50. However, even though Guizhou does not have any national borders, it is home to the second largest diversity of ethnic tribes in China. Unlike Yunnan, the minority tribes in Guizhou are not often found in other countries, e.g. Dong and Buyi. Furthermore most of these ethnic groups live in isolated hillsides and along rivers deep in the hinterland, which are difficult to reach. This ensures that their culture and traditions to remain fairly intact till now. Very often, the minorities still go about their daily lives in their traditional costumes. This may not continue for long as China is developing so fast that these places are not "spared". In fact, tourism has reached these places as one can see from the incredible number of s0-called "minority tours" these days being advertised. Their culture and way of life is likely to change with all such developments and influences. In fact, one of the ugly side effects of tourism development in these places is the corruption of their values by materialism, as I have posted before regarding Chenyang. In any case, Zhaoxing was still a very warm and hospitable village when I visited in early 2005. I wonder how much it has changed since. If you have been there recently, please leave your comments and updates here about the village.


September 19, 2009

View from a shikara, Srinagar, Kashmir, India

Location: Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir, India (34° 5′ 24″ N, 74° 47′ 24″ E)
Date: 18 August 2009 5.50am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

This is just a shot that I think is fun to post after writing about going to the morning market. This is the view from the shikara while rowing on the way to the morning vegetable market.


September 18, 2009

Morning floating vegetable market, Srinagar, Kashmir, India

Location: Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir, India (34° 5′ 24″ N, 74° 47′ 24″ E)
Date: 18 August 2009 6.15am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Srinagar is well known for its produce- fruits and vegetables. It is supposedly also well-know for flower cultivation. There is a daily floating market in the morning, selling vegetables mainly. It is on Dal Lake and is just a normal affair for locals but attracts a fair number of curious tourists, like yours truly. Actually, it is not much of a big deal but rather a little novella bit like the floating markets in places like Bangkok but smaller. Nevertheless, I still enjoy watching the local people going about their own way of life, which has not changed for decades. In fact, what I enjoy most was not so much the market but the nuances of the people, such as the friendliness, the bargaining and the most interestingly the lack of females in the market; Srinagar is mainly Sunni but is not dogmatic or fundamental.

To get to the floating market on Dal Lake, one needs to start early- preferably around 5.30am. It takes about 30-45 minutes for the shikara to get to the market from the Dal Gate area. You should budget to spend between 1½ to 2 hours for this activity. It is advisable to make your arrangements the day before with the shikara owner on the timing and rendezvous place. Of course, you should have negotiated and agreed on a price. The price varies depending on the duration and the season of the year. I paid 200 INR for 2 hours in August.


September 16, 2009

Colourful shikaras on Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir

Location: Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir, India (34° 5′ 24″ N, 74° 47′ 24″ E)
Date: 17 August 2009 5.50pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Srinagar, the capital of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir had been touted as a very beautiful place, a city with a huge lake, Dal Lake, in the centre and flanked by a couple of mountain ranges. The lake is, in turn flanked by slumbering and beautiful houseboats; staying in one is supposedly a fabulous experience. I came with expectations set by reading such accolades over the years and my verdict is mixed.

I visited Srinagar in the summer (mid-August) when the mountains are a little bare and green-brown in most places. Hence, I could not experience the so-called mountain beauty of the lake backed by snowy mountain ranges. The lake is pleasant but is really not that nice, if one look closer. It is pretty with good reflections but that is because it is rather shallow, stale, blackish and unmoving. In fact, in many places, it is filled with weeds- workers in boats manually de-weed parts of the lake every morning. Certain parts of the lake are actually smelly, stink of the human and other wastes that are either discharged into the lakes via canals or directly from houseboats or dwellings along its shores. In short, it is polluted.

Staying in a houseboat is touted as the ultimate Kashmiri experience. There are about 1,800 houseboats in total on Dal Lake and the smaller adjoining Nagin Lake. These houseboats range from fabulously decorated luxury options to somewhat ordinary ones. The prices range also varies according to the state of the boat, the meals offered etc but prices would start from 500 INS per night excluding meals in the summer high season. Apparently, in the usual summer high season, all the houseboats and most of the hotels in Srinagar are fully packed by mainly Indian tourists (this summer was not that great for tourism after mainly Indian tourists shunned Srinagar due to the Amarnath Nagar episode last year). Personally, I did not quite enjoy my houseboat experience:

  • inconvenient to get out-and-about onto land, having to have someone to row me to shore
  • restricted to meals provided by the houseboat or endure the trouble of getting to shore
  • being captive to the occasional souvenir sellers, and
  • just not spending enough time on the boat to make it worthwhile.

Despite all the above, the lake itself can be quite photogenic especially with the colourful shikaras (Kashmiri gondolas) plying the lake. All the shikara owners belong to an association and there is an official rate for renting the shikaras. The rate is posted on signboards along the shore. The official rate (2009) is 200 INR per hour; one can easily negotiate a rate of 100-150 INR per hour.

(next post on Srinagar- the floating market)

Technorati Tags: Srinagar,Kashmir,Lake Dal,Jammu & Kashmir


September 14, 2009

Houseboats on Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir

Location: Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir, India (34° 5′ 24″ N, 74° 47′ 24″ E)
Date: 18 August 2009 6.15pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Jammu & Kashmir is known to be a beautiful place. However, its main claim to “fame” had been the cause of four wars between India and Pakistan (and one between India and China). It was on the radar of many travellers but could never get there due to the bombings and disturbances perpetuated by separatists as well as the resultant Indian military lock-down- the latter is still very much evident in many parts of Srinagar, the capital. The situation had only turned better in the last couple of years due mainly to the dialogue and peace overtures between India and Pakistan. As a result, it never featured in any guidebooks- the only one that has a section on Kashmir is the latest issue of the Lonely Planet. However, I find that Lonely Planet did a horrendous job in the practical guide to Srinagar. Contrary to the information in the guide, there are loads of budget accommodation in Srinagar. Most of them are concentrated on the shore of Dal Lake, opposite Boulevard Road, only a few meters to the left of Dal Gate. Clean doubles with attached bathroom and 24-hours hot running water can be had for 200 INR at hotels such as Hotel New Zeenath and the likes.

(more posts soon on Srinagar itself)


September 9, 2009

Wonders built over the centuries- rice terraces of Yuanyang, China

Locations: Yuanyang, Yunnan, China (23° 9' 15 N 102° 44' 52 E)
Date: 26 February 2007; 2.10pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

Rice is the main staple for most Asians, including Chinese. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that it is the most commonly grown crop in China. In many parts of China, rice is grown on terraces cut over hundreds of years into hillsides. Paddy fields need a lot of water for irrigation and terraces aid the flow and irrigation. One of the most amazing places to see rice terraces in China is Yuanyang in Yunnan. Over the years, it had become a photographers' haven. During the pre-planting season in the first couple of months of the year, the rice terraces are flooded and soaked with water to allow the soil to loosen up as well as to absorb the water. This is the most beautiful period to photograph the terraces as they changes colour and hue during the course of the day as water reflects the sun, sky, mist and so on. Most early mornings (about 5 am), one can see hordes of photographers scrambling for the best vantage points to photograph the sunrise and mist amongst the terraces.


September 7, 2009

Atlas facing off St Patrick's Cathedral, New York

Location: Rockefeller Centre, 5th Avenue east between 50th and 51st Street , New York City, USA (40° 45′ 30.96″ MN, 73° 58′ 34.68″ NW)
Date: 20 February 2006; 1.25pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

I just enjoy taking pictures of people and buildings of New York. I have seen so many of the city's landmarks on TV that I was really excited to finally see them personally. The Atlas statue at Rockefeller Center is one of my favourite. This is a different angle to an earlier photo I posted before.


September 4, 2009

Gold gilded door carvings, Luang Prabang, Laos

Location: Door carvings, Luang Prabang, Laos (19° 53′ 0″ N, 102° 8′ 0″ E)
Date: 4 November 2004; 9.20am
Camera: Canon EOS 300D with kit lens

The cultures and histories of some Indochinese countries- Laos, Cambodia and Thailand are closely related. Their historical figures can be seen to don similar costumes and headgears. The above Laotian sculpture could easily have been something one spots in Thailand. I guessed the similarities could be due to the aggressions of one country against another in the past.