July 31, 2010

Slideshow for July 2010


July 30, 2010

Arrowtown, Otago, NZ, is only worth a visit in the autumn

Location: Arrowtown, South Island, New Zealand (44° 57′ 0″ S, 168° 50′ 0″ E)
Date: 24 May 2009, 3.10pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Arrowtown is an old gold mining town that has past its mining glory and more or less forgotten until about 20 years ago. Due to its proximity to the ever-popular Queenstown, it was discovered then, and since had become a favorite to package tour groups especially from Asia. The town is small and has some old buildings, which honestly are forgettable. The main street of old houses are refurbished and are now mainly shops selling souvenirs and so on. The only reason to go to Arrowtown is during autumn when the town is really beautiful with autumn glory. Otherwise don’t bother.


July 26, 2010

San Francisco’s famed cable cars

Location: Filimore Street, San Francisco, California, USA (37°48'18.18"N 122°25'31.58"W)
Date: 19 September 2006; 2.20pm
Camera: Canon Canon 300D with kit lens

3 things come to my mind when it comes to San Francisco (SanFran)- Silicon Valley, Golden Gate Bridge and Cable Cars. At first sight, it seems that the cable cars of SanFran are made for tourist, but in fact they are built as a matter of necessity. The streets of SanFran are so steep that it is often a struggle for smaller cars and a tram is not likely to be able to make it. That’s why cable cars are used for city transport. Currently there are 3 operating lines criss-crossing the city- they are a convenient and not-too-expensive means of transport. The cable cars are well-known as they are prominently featured in many movies which use SanFran as the setting.


July 21, 2010

Bungy jumping at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Southern Africa

Location: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Africa (17° 55′ 28″ S, 25° 51′ 24″ E)
Date: 5 April 2001; 4.20pm
Camera: (analogue) Canon 500N with slides and scanned

Bungy jumping had come a long way and is now such a common “adventure” activity that one sees such a set-up in most tourist spots that has a certain level of height such as rivers, lakes, bridges and buildings. It is quite an experience to jump off a bridge or whatever it may be. The moment of truth is actually when one stares out into the open space and height. It takes some courage for one to decide to leap. I have seen many people who wanted to try bungy jump to freeze when standing at the edge of the bungy platform and either have to be gently nudged or simply retreat to gather their courage for a jump at another time. In any case, bungy jumping is an experience that I would encourage. However if you do want to bungy, it is very important to do so with a reputed operator- it does not matter if it cost a little more- safety is of utmost importance.


July 19, 2010

Children eking out a living in the dry and poor district of Tingri, Tibet, China

Location: Tingri Shekar, Tibet, China, (28° 34′ 0″ N, 86° 38′ 0″ E)
Date: 3 May 2003; 10.25am
Camera: Canon G1

Tingri Shekar is the main though small town on the Tingri Plains, situated approximately 60 km north-west of Mount Everest and just over 50 km from the Nepali border. The Plain is approximately 4,300 meters high and the air is always crisp. Sunrise is really pretty with the thin air bringing out the glows of the dawning sun. This town is frequented by climbers and expeditions to Cho Oyu, which looms across the horizon. It is a place of raw beauty. It is also one of the driest parts of Tibet, being behind the mighty Himalayas- the monsoon clouds dumped their rain when they cool ascending the height of the Himalayas. It is also very poor with little trade crossing this way. Things have changed a little in the last few years with more tourists coming this way to the Everest Base Camp or overland to Nepal. A few of the old houses in town had been rebuilt- a sure sign that things are a-changing. It may stay this way for a couple more years as there are no public transport connecting this place to other parts of Tibet yet. But don’t hold your breath- this is China after all. So if you still want to see a beautiful landscape relatively untouched by developments and still un-swamped by tourists in China, this is it.


July 15, 2010

Camel and riders at the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, India

Location: Camels & riders, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India (26.92oN, 70.9oE)
Date: 30 Dec 2008; 3.30pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

A good friend of mine who have been to the Namib Desert of Namibia was terribly upset and disappointed with “the so-called dessert and camel rides” in Rajasthan. I thought it was humorous for her to expect the Thar Desert to be anything remotely close to the great sandy dunes of Africa. I supposed if the Tourism people of India and Rajasthan did not make such a big deal out of the “desert experience” of Rajasthan, tourists’ expectations will not be so high. Anyway I did not have high expectations when I did the so-called “camel safari” after hearing the feedback from my friend. So I was not disappointed. To me it was just a night out in the so-called desert.

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July 12, 2010

Songbirds enjoy singing, naturally, Singapore

Location: Ang Mo Kio neighbourhood, Singapore (1° 22′ 12.6″ N, 103° 50′ 44.23″ E)
Date: 27 June 2010, 9.35am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Despite its very modern facade, Singapore or more precisely Singaporeans still maintain many traditional habits and pastimes. One of them is enjoying bird singing. Every Sunday mornings, enthusiasts will gather at a few locations scattered around the island for their birds’ regular training. The owners arrive with their birds -merboks, China thrushes, white rumped shamas, red whiskered bulbuls and mata putehs (white eyes) - some costing hundreds of dollars, in carved lacquered teak cages. The owners will try to choose a hanger near other birds that will encourage them to sing at their best as it is the nature of songbirds to try outperforming one another in the attempt to attract the opposite sex. While the birds sing, the owners will exchange tips and news or just simply enjoy the “music”. It is believed that a bird’s diet influence how it sings; so a songbird’s diet may include any of the following- live insects, fruits and/or hard boiled eggs. These are very useful practice sessions for owners who are planning to enter their birds in bird singing competitions- National Competition carry a cash price of $10,000. It is not uncommon for winning birds to be traded for thousands of dollars. This is another of the non-mainstream activities (on top of those recommended here) that is highly recommended to visitors to Singapore. Any visitors who may like to experience this unique gathering should note that the busiest period of any Sunday is between 8.00 am and 10.00 am.


July 9, 2010

The ex-world’s tallest building, Petronas Twin Towers of Kuala Lumpur

Location: Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (3° 9′ 28.26″ N, 101° 42′ 41.94″ E)
Date: 2 July 2010, 8.55pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

The Petronas Twin Towers of Malaysia may not be the tallest building in the world anymore (it is the 4th tallest now after the Burj Khalifa of Dubai, Taipei 101 of Taipei and Shanghai World Financial Center) but it is probably still the most spectacular and readily recognisable of all the world’s tallest buildings. It was the tallest building for 8 years until Taipei 101 was completed. Even though Malaysia is known for its beautiful islands, ancient forests, diverse culture and delicious food, the Twin Towers had become its most identifiable symbol since its completion in 1998. The building is brightly lighted every night and is visible from virtually any open space in Kuala Lumpur. Visitors can go up (free) to the skybridge joining the twin towers during daytime to enjoy the panoramic view. However patience is needed as there is always a long queue of people trying to do the same.


The Grand Lady of Paris, Notre Dame de Paris

Location: Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France, (48° 51′ 10.8″ N, 2° 20′ 59.28″ E)
Date: 28 February 2006; 7.30pm
Camera: Canon 300D with Sigma 70-200/f2.8

Notre Dame de Paris, Frecnh for Our Lady of Paris is more commonly referred to as simply the Notre Dame Cathedral is just one of many “Notre Dames” churches around the world. Most if not all of the Notre Dames are built in the Gothic style. The Notre Dame de Paris is one of the first Gothic cathedrals and perhaps the most beautiful of them all. It is also the seat of the Archbishop of Paris. It has beautiful carved walls and are adorned with many gargoyles. It is one of the more popular tourist destinations in Paris. Even if you do not have much interest in religions, it is an interesting building to admire.


July 7, 2010

A deal is done, the old-fashion way at Kashgar’s century old Sunday Bazaar

Location: Kashgar Sunday Bazaar, Xinjiang, China (39° 45' 26 N 78° 24' 18 E)
Date: 3 October 2008; 11.30am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

A couple of days ago, Xinjiang had its first anniversary of the deadly racial riots that rocked the province and China. An unfortunate and unavoidable consequence of the riots, in a country such as China, is a heavy clampdown on freedom and restrictions on movements of both foreigners and the ethnic population (Uighurs). By some accounts, internet access to many websites is heavily censored in the province- this is on top of the so-called “Great Firewall” restrictions on internet access generally in China. Activities and movements of the population are monitored around-the-clock by the installation of 40,000 CCTV cameras around Urumqi- reminiscent of the measures already in place around another troubled city, Lhasa. The Chinese government is pouring ever more money into the province for modernization in the hope that this will bring the whole province and population’s economic well-being to a notch closer to the rest of the country. To me, all these action are really missing the point. Xinjiang is already a wealthy province by all measures- it has the majority of China’s oil and gas as well as the land of “white gold” i.e. cotton. The problem is that all these wealth does not filter down to the masses and worst still, it is the Han Chinese who are enjoying the fruits. It is the same situation as in Tibet, with the ethnic people facing decimation vis-a-vis the migrant Hans. Top be fair, a lot of such difficulties faced by the Uighurs is not purposely perpetrated eg. it is not unnatural behaviour for Hans to employ someone from their own province instead of a Uighur. Furthermore some of the disadvantages faced by Uighurs is self-inflict eg. many of the Uighurs refused to learn Chinese and so could not get government jobs or employment by Han enterprises. That said, it is the prerogative of the Chinese government to address these very real issues head-on; sadly, they conveniently overlooked them and march on blindly with their prescriptions, hoping that money will resolve everything. This is just one dimension- there is also the complain that Uighur culture is being swamped by Chinese (the same complaint as in Tibet). The twin consequence of so-called accelerated economic development and the accompanied Chinese migration will definitely see the accelerated demise of century-old traditions in the province. Already Kashgar’s Old Quarters had all but gone; the Sunday Bazaar is just a shadow of its glorious past and may not survive much longer.


July 5, 2010

Vernazza harbour, Cinque Terre, Italy

Location: Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy (44° 8′ 0″ N, 9° 41′ 0″ E)
Date: 9 March 2006; 3.05pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens
I love to travel in Italy again. When I was there in 2006, I only managed to spend 3 weeks travelling predominantly the north of Rome. The next trip to Italy will have to cover the south of the country and must include Spain. This will have to be at least a month to do justice to these beautiful places, culture and people. One of the highlights of my trip to Italy was Cinque Terre. It is a relax place with reasonably nice scenery- a place where I can chill down for a few days. Of the Cinque Terre towns, I like
Vernazza for its amazing location, Riomaggiore for its beautiful and colourful houses and my favourite, Manarola for its food and the rural surroundings.

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July 1, 2010

Slideshow for June 2010