January 30, 2010

Jan 2010 slideshow


January 28, 2010

Hakka Tulou- not all the same. Fujian, China

Location: Hakka Tulou, Yongding, Fujian, China (24°38'14.18"N 116°54'27.63"E)
Date: 11 December 2007, 2.50pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Hakka客家 (in Cantonese) or Kejia (in Putonghua) tulou is mainly concentric in construction with few levels, each level with accommodates a few households. Most of them have an empty centre where the inhabitants either gather for socializing or do their chores. Some of the bigger ones have a central covered structure- which can be either concentric or individual house-like- which normally houses common items such as prayer altar, dry woods etc. Some of these are actually additional household units. These days most of the inhabitants are older folks with the younger ones coming back to live during weekends (if they lives nearby) or during long holidays. This might changed after the tulou becoming a UNESCO Heritage Site last year- with more tourists visiting, the young ones may come back to live and make money from door collections.


January 24, 2010

Mani walls on Annapurna Circuit

Location: Manang on Annapurna Circuit, Nepal (28°39.67'N 84°03.53'E)
Date: 8 April
2000; 8.15am
Camera: Canon
EOS 500N (analogue) on slides and scanned

Like prayer flags, mani stones are common sights in places where there are significant Tibetan Buddhist communities. Mani stones are stone plates, rocks or pebbles that are inscribed with Buddhist mantra (hence the name “mani stones”) or devotional designs or images. Mani stones are normally placed along roadsides or rivers as offering to the spirits of places. These stones are commonly placed together to form mounds or cairns and in some cases, walls, known as mani walls. Mani walls should be circumvented from the left side or in a clockwise direction (in the case of the Bon religion, it is cross from the opposite side and direction). Sometimes other devotional materials such as yak horns are placed together with the mani stones as offerings. Carving mani stones is an exquisite art that is increasingly being practised by artisans as a means of making a living.


January 22, 2010

Colourful prayer flags, a Tibetan heritage

Locations: Prayer Flags, Ganden Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet, China (29° 45′ 28.8″ N, 91° 28′ 30″ E)
Date: 13 August 2007; 11.0am
Camera: EOS 300D with kit lens

Prayer flags are an integral part of Tibetan Buddhism. It is not found in other branches of Buddhism, hence there were speculations that it is a Bon tradition. Buddhist mantras are written on these flags and when they are blown and flutter in the wind, goodwill and compassion are delivered by the wind all over the land. Prayer flags are some of the most common sights in places that have significant Tibetan culture such as Tibet, parts of India, Nepal and Bhutan. There are commonly strung up in high places such as mountain passes as well as sacred sites such as monasteries, lakes and so on. These prayer flags are quite attractive to look at as they are normally very colourful.


January 20, 2010

Moving the whole house! Twizel, New Zealand

Location: Twizel, South Island, New Zealand (44° 15′ 0″ S, 170° 6′ 0″ E)
Date: 26 May 2009, 8.50am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

There is a distinct difference between dwellings in most parts of Asia and Australasia. In Asian cities most people lives in apartments, flats or condominium. The well-heeled will stay in landed properties such as what are known as semi-detached houses or bungalows. This is quite different from Australasia (and to some extent most of the Western cities) where low-rise landed-type properties still dominate. This is not to say that they are no high-rise apartments in these cities- there are, and more are being built to accommodate the increased urban population- except that single or double storey houses (what in Asia would have been known as bungalows) still predominates. Ironically two of the main reasons that there are more high-rise apartments in these cities are the increased number of Asians migrating to these cities as well as Asian companies- used to building such high-rise- are building more of these apartments to cater to the Asians. It is still very common in Australasian cities to buy the land and buy or build the house separately. In big cities such as Sydney and Auckland, it is not uncommon to see the whole house being moved on the road either by the owner shifting between properties or by the builder to the owner’s properties, like above. Traffic is always affected when this happens.


January 16, 2010

Morning mists over rice terraces, Jinkeng, Guangxi, China

Locations: Jinkeng, Guangxi, China( 25° 45′ 30.6″ N, 110° 7′ 12.72″ E)
Date: 12 April 2005; 7.15am
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

Rice terraces are common sights in many Asian countries. Whole mountainsides are frequently carved into tens and sometimes hundreds of terraces to grow Asia’s main staple, rice. Huge rice terraces can be found in many Asian countries including China (one of the most well-known and often photographed is that of Yuanyang in Yunnan) Vietnam (Sapa), Indonesia (Tegalallang in Bali) and the UNESCO Heritage Site of Ifugao Rice Terrace in Philippines (this is one I have not been and would like to visit sometime soon). Most of these rice terraces are tended by minority tribes who have spent centuries carving the terraces from the mountainside. One of the loveliest terraces I have been in my travels in Asia is the Jinkeng Rice Terraces in the Longsheng County which is about 100 km from Guilin. The terraces here are about 500 years old, with elevation varying between 350m to 900m, starting right from the riverside. One can trek up the mountainside to the top of the mountain for a fabulous panorama of the terraces. When I visited the place in 2005, it was still not very developed (i.e. not yet inundated by tourists) and I could walk in peace among the villages and stay at a guest house, right at the top of the mountain and enjoyed an incredible misty morning views over the terraces. I imagined this place to be very different now (as with any destinations “discovered” by local Chinese tourists).


January 14, 2010

Pretty rice terraces at Tegalallang, Bali, Indonesia

Location: Tegalallang, Bali, Indonesia (8°27'0"S 115°17'0"E)
Date: 21 May 2001; 2.10pm
Camera: Canon EOS 500N (analogue) on slides and scanned

Ubud is a major tourist attraction in Bali as it is its cultural centre. Ubud is also well-known for its huge collection of handicraft and furniture outlets. Tegalallang is just a few kilometres outside Ubud and is well-known for a different reason- its rice terraces. There are not too many terraces here- they are all over Bali anywhere- but the ones here are rather picturesque compared to the rest, mainly due to their closeness (or narrowness of the terraces) and their steepness as they cling to the hillside as opposed to others in Bali that are rather flat. Depending on the month one visits Tegalallang, the rice terraces can be either lush green or yellowish. A popular way to see these terraces is to rent a bicycle and cycle to the terraces around here. Otherwise, the more spectacular ones such as the photo here, are still easily seen from the roadside, from a car.


January 12, 2010

Romantic Venice at Night

Location: Venice, Italy (45°26′N 12°19′E)
Date: 6 March 2005; 9.45pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

Venice is a nice place to take photos. There are photo opportunities in the daytime as well as at night. Most of the well-known buildings are lighted up at night and they look quite pretty. The best period for photographing Venice is probably during the Carnival of Venice which falls in the month of February every year. The Carnival is a major tourist attraction with people dressed up in medieval costumes and adorning masks made of either leather or papier-mache. One will have to book accommodation way ahead foe the festival.


January 4, 2010

Faithful devotion to the holy, Lhasa, Tibet, China

Locations: Barkhor Square, Lhasa, Tibet, China (29° 39′ 11″ N, 91° 7′ 53″ E)
Date: 11 August 2007; 3.0pm
Camera: EOS 300D with kit lens

One of the characteristics of Tibetan Buddhism is their utmost devotion to things or beings considered holy. This could be either Buddha statues, pictures of the Dalai Lama, monasteries, lakes, mountains and so on. Part of the expressions of faithful devotion is the circumambulation around such items. Devotees or pilgrims would walk a step and then bow with all fours on the floor. If it is a mountain or lake, this would be a kora- circumambulating around the object, normally over a few days depending on the size of the mountain/lake. If it is a monastery or palace such as Potala Palace, it would be several circumambulations. If it is a statue or picture, then they would pray with all fours in front it. This is one of the most commonly seen acts in front of the Jokhang Monastery in Bakhor Square, Lhasa.


January 2, 2010

Taking a nap, Mumbai, India

Location: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, India (18° 56′ 24″ N, 72° 50′ 7.08″ E)
Date: 11 April 2007; 2.30pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Happy New Year to everyone. I have been taking a nap, Missing-in-action, so to speak for most of December. I have been rather busy with a few other things, so have to allocate my priorities. Anyway, it is just a nap- like the man here, taking an afternoon nap. I am back- watch this space!!