October 31, 2009

Slideshow for Oct 09


October 29, 2009

Mani stones of all shapes and sizes, colours and designs in Tibet

Location: Ngari, Tibet, China (31° 4′ 0″ N, 81° 18′ 45″ E)
Date: 5 August 2007, 11.30am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Mani stones are smooth stone plates, pebbles and rocks usually inscribed with the universal mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” (which translate to "Hail to the jewel in the lotus"). Images of deities and sutra texts are also commonly inscribed on such stones. Sometimes there are decorated with sheep and yak horns. Mani stones are regarded as sacred, used as a sacrifice and a form of prayer in Tibetan Buddhism. Mani stones and mani stone mounds can be found almost anywhere in Tibet and Tibetan areas- in monasteries, along paths and rivers, crossings, on mountains, lakes and most prominently in high vantage points such as passes. Normally Tibetans will walk around a mani stone mound in a clockwise direction .As Tibet is sparely populated, in more remote places the mani stone mounds actually become prayer halls and shrines for local Tibetans.


October 26, 2009

Old and new Chinese Door Gods

Locations: Various villages in Yunnan. China
Date: April/May 2005
Camera: Canon Ixus IZoom

Door Gods are Chinese decorations placed on doors of homes, temples, business premises and so on, to ward off evil spirits and bad luck. Wiki has a brief but good article on this subject. However these days things have changed a lot in China. As opposed to the traditional and still well-practiced tradition by Overseas Chinese of having righteous, well-known generals (who became deities later on) as Door Gods, China Chinese have a new hero- the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). As readers may know, the PLA is China’s unified military, the military arm of the Communist Party of China and the very same outfit that “liberated” China from the Kuomintang (Nationalists) in the 1950s. However, unlike the traditional Door Gods who are well-known personalities, the “new” Door God is an entity- an unknown soldier.


October 23, 2009

Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, one of the world’s biggest

Location: Boudhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal (27° 43′ 17″ N, 85° 21′ 43″ E)
Date: 6 May 2003; 4.20pm

Camera: Canon G1
Boudhanath is one of the holiest Buddhist site in Kathmandu. It is easily recognisable and popularly known as Buddha’s Third Eye Stupa. The stupa itself is one of the largest in the world; itself is surrounded by a massive mandala of three platforms. Each platform has twenty angles. The stupa is believed to be built in the 5th century lies on the ancient trade route from Tibet. Tibetan merchants have rested and offered prayers here for many centuries. However, since the 1950s Tibetan refugees from China had come and lived around here in big numbers, so much so that one mainly sees Tibetans around this part of town.


October 21, 2009

Tequila sunset at Santa Monica, California

Location: Santa Monica beach, California, USA (34° 1′ 5.99″ N, 18° 29′ 25.01″ W)
Date: 3 September 2006; 7.15pm
Camera: Canon Canon 300D with kit lens

Just another nice sunset shot in addition to this previous post/photo.


October 19, 2009

Sunrise over the reservoir of Srah Srang, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Location: Srah Srang, Siem Reap, Cambodia (13° 25′ 51.6″ N, 103° 54′ 24.15″ E)
Date: 12 November 2002; 6.40am
Camera: Canon G1

Srah Srang is a baray or man-made lake within the Angkor compound. The lake is a 900 year-old reservoir, which according to recent research forms part of the reservoir complex engineered to provide irrigation to the rice fields in the Greater Angkor area. This place is now a popular site for viewing sunrise. On the west end of Srah Srang, there is a multi-tiered sandstone terrace. The terrace is gorgeously adorned with lion carvings, naga balustrades, and other Khmer carvings. The sunrise is best viewed from atop this terrace.


October 16, 2009

The current mood on Wall Street- Charging Bull

Location: Charging Bull, Bowling Green, New York City, USA (40° 42′ 19.48″ N, 74° 0′ 48.53″ W)
Date: 9 February 2006; 1.20pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

This statue of the charging bull representing a bull market is apparently one of the major tourist attraction in New York. Well, the stock markets around the world is certainly experiencing a bull run currently with the Dow Jones at its highest for a year (since the mortgage and credit crisis) and most stock markets around the world elevating towards the stratosphere. However, the enthusiasm on the various stock markets had yet to filter down to the real market and the economies around the world are still struggling along. In fact one of the reasons for the bull run is that company earnings are improving due to costs and staff cutting- which by itself feed negatively into the real economy by increasing unemployment. That said, the financial institutions are reaping in the benefits, paying its staff and management even higher pay and bonuses pre-crisis! Such short memories and greed must be plugged before another major crisis developed and ending with taxpayers paying these fat cats.


October 14, 2009

The magnificent sand dunes of Mingsha, Dunhuang, China

Locations: Mingsha, Gansu, China (40°5'18"N 94°40'33"E )
Date: 5 June 2004; 8.00pm
Camera: EOS 300D with kit lens

China, the 3rd largest country in the world has a few big deserts including the Taklamakan which covers a major part of Xinjiang and part of Gansu province. The Mingsha Desert in Gansu is at the eastern reach of the desert, circling the oasis town of Dunhuang. The Mingsha (“Singing Sands”) Desert is named for the sound that the sands produce when blown by the winds. It boasts some of the highest sand dunes in the world, at an average of 1,200 meters above sea level. The Mingsha is one of the major attractions of Dunhuang, lying along the ancient Silk Route between China and the West. The edges of the dunes are sharply shaped by the winds with clear edges and corners. I made the mistake of walking on the sand dunes in sandals on a hot May afternoon. The sands are so hot and soft that there are like molten sand that one’s foot just sinks into. And of course, it is burning hot to the bare feet in a pair of sandals. I virtually hopped down the dunes looking for a gravel patch to rescue my feet! Having learnt that, the next time I visited, I made sure that I wore a pair of socks even in sandals to avoid direct contact with the sands.


October 12, 2009

The biggest mosque of the world’s 3rd largest Muslim population nation

Location: Jama Masjid, Delhi, India (28° 39′ 3″ N, 77° 13′ 59″ E)
Date: 2 October 2005; 8.30am
Camera: Canon IXUS iZoom

The just released comprehensive report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life maps the world Muslim population and distribution. The report makes interesting reading with some surprising facts. Unsurprisingly the two most populous Muslim nations are Indonesia and Pakistan. But many people may be surprised to learn that India with a Muslim population of 161 million has the 3rd largest Muslim population. This is only 13% of India’s population. In fact 317 million of Muslims live in countries where Islam is the minority religion. About three-quarters of Muslims living as minorities are concentrated in five countries: India (161 million), Ethiopia (28 million), China (22 million), Russia (16 million) and Tanzania (13 million).


October 8, 2009

London Arch of Port Campbell National Park, Victoria, Australia

Location: London Arch, Port Campbell National Park, Victoria, Australia ( 38° 37′ 19″ S, 142° 55′ 57″ E)
Date: 22 May 2008, 7.15am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

The London Arch is one of a few interesting rock formations in the Port Campbell National Park. It is a natural arch formed through erosion. It was previously known as the London Bridge, due to the close resemblance of it's double arches to the actual bridge. However, it was later changed to London Arch after one of its arch collapsed. This part of Victoria is a popular tourist destination. I have previously written a post on the 12 Apostles which also described the travel and accommodation options around here.


October 6, 2009

Travelling on a mokoro in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, Africa

Location: Okavanga Delta, Botswana, Africa (19° 15′ 0″ S, 22° 45′ 0″ E)
Date: 23 April 2001; 11.25am
Camera: (analogue) Canon 500N with slides and scanned

Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland delta. The delta is irrigated by the Okavango River which originates from Angola, where it is known as the Cubango River. The river has no outlet to the sea but empties into the Kalahari Desert and irrigating the desert in the process. The delta is flooded for about 3 months every year between June and August, curiously during Botswana’s dry winter months. The reason is that the river water comes from summer rains in Angola that takes about 5 months to reach the Okavango Delta. When the delta is flooded, it swells to at least 3 times its permanent size. During this time, the delta is a magnet for animals, creating one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife. Islands, the majority of which began as termite mounds, can disappear completely, being consumed by the flood. However, the water would disappear relatively quickly through evaporation and transpiration from the leaves of plants as a result of the high temperature in the desert. A major means of transport during the flood is by poling a mokoro, a traditional dug-out canoe made from an ebony or sausage tree log, like that in the photo. Since both the ebony and sausage trees are now protected, mokoros are now made from fibreglass.

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October 3, 2009

The majesty and showcase of Christianity’s biggest church, St Peter’s Basilica

Location: St Peter's Basilica, Vatican, Italy (41° 54′ 8″ N, 12° 27′ 23″ E)
Date: 23 March 2005; 11.40am
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

There are so many churches and cathedrals in Rome that one can easily mistake the interior of one church with another. Furthermore, one would easily be bored after seeing a few. Be it as it may, if you are only going to visit one church/cathedral, let that be the St Peter’s Basilica of the Vatican, the largest church in the world. To start with, it can be hassle to get into the cathedral as it is often packed with pilgrims and there is normally a queue to get in. However, the sheer size, history, arts collection and its significance in Christianity means there is no equal to it. Personally, I was awed by the arts and sculpture collections, the history and its opulence. An example is the (central approach to the altar) and Bernini's "Cathedra Petri" and "Gloria at the High Altar of the Cathedral as seen in the above photo.


October 1, 2009

Slide for Sep09


Changi Airport has it all, including a mobile post office!!

Location: Changi Airport Terminal 2, Singapore (1°21′26.54″N 103°59′19.81″E)
Date: 2 May 2009; 9.20am
Camera: Canon IXUS IZoom
Singapore has great pride in its national carrier (Singapore Airlines) and airport terminals at Changi. Both are icons of Singapore and had consistently topped surveys by travellers. More terminals are being added to Changi Airport while the older ones are constantly being upgraded. Unlike some other airports where it is boring and uncomfortable to transit or wait for flights, Changi has lots of amenities, entertainment, shopping and probably the airport with the most number of free internet terminals (and also free wifi connections for those with their own laptops) in the world. A lot of thoughts must have gone into trying to make the airport as user-friendly as possible including providing a mobile post office (on wheels) and souvenir stand like this in the photo.