August 31, 2010

Durbar Square is full of temples and palaces, Kathmandu, Nepal

Location: Basantapur Tower, Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal (N27 42 14 E85 18 30 )
Date: 28 March 2000; 2.15pm
Camera: Canon EOS 500N (analogue) on slides and scanned

Durbar Square of Kathmandu is so full of temples, palaces and old buildings that I lost track of which building I took my photos. I took this photo because I was amused by the two figures staring out of the window, like they were enjoying the view. Later I found out the name of the building (actually palace) and found out that the images are supposed to be that of the gods Ram and Sita. Anyway Durbar Square is a fun place to hang around- well, it was more fun then as it was free to enter the Square those days. There is now an entrance fee, supposedly for the upkeep of the place – if it is true, I do not really mind. But it can be frustrating trying to have a quiet moment in the Square as it is packed with people at any time of the day. I was told that the Durbar Square in the nearby town of Patan is a better place to visit for enjoying the architecture and atmosphere as it is very much less crowded than the one in Kathmandu.


August 27, 2010

Padaung kids in a village school

Location: Mae Hong Son, Thailand (19° 18′ 14″ N, 97° 58′ 38″ E)
Date: 13 August 1995; 2.10pm
Camera: (analogue) Olympus Mu on negatives and scanned

There is a sub-tribe of the Karen tribe living in the Kayah state in eastern Myanmar known as Padaung. They are more well-known as the “Long Neck” tribe as the women supposedly spot “long necks” (or giraffe women). They don’t actually have long necks – they wear rows of brass rings around their necks since young; these rings squash the vertebrae and collar bones as they grow older rather than stretching their necks. They also wear rings around their arms and legs. The reason that they do so is to look like a dragon- their ancestor. Legend has it that the Padaung people are the product of the impregnation by the wind of a beautiful long neck dragon. In Thailand, there are only a handful of Padaungs who are refugees fleeing the persecution by the Myanmese in the 1970’s. There live in the north, bordering Myanmar in villages which are dubbed “human zoo”. Such villages are set up as “tourist attractions” managed by Thais who also provide them protection. Tourists are brought to the village, paying an entrance fee, to see and photograph these ladies. There are allegations that the Padaungs are in fact imprisoned by the Thais that manage the villages and young girls are forced to adopt the ring tradition. While these may be so, the set up does provide the refugees a measure of certainty and protection from eviction (I am sure the “managers” are influential people) which they may not enjoy otherwise. Furthermore they do make a living from the visitors as well as selling whatever handicraft they made. I, personally cannot make a judgment if this is bad or otherwise.

Technorati Tags: ,,


August 25, 2010

The most crowded place in Mumbai on any weekends

Location: Juhu Beach, Mumbai, India (19° 6′ 0″ N, 72° 49′ 48″ E)
Date: 17 April 2007 6.15pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Juhu is one of the most affluent suburbs of Mumbai where many of Bollywood’s stars live. It has a sprawling beach, Juhu Beach, which is very popular with Mumbai-ans. It is always jam-pack with people in the evenings and during weekends. The beach is actually pretty nice, facing the Arabian Sea, though the waves can be quite strong. There are many luxury hotels and apartments along the beach, especially at the southern end. There are also some exquisite shops and restaurants which are popular with the increasing number of young professionals, along the Juhu Road. It is probably the only beach in Mumbai that I will swim. It is also a fun place (for me) to watch people.


August 23, 2010

Special TV aerials to receive TV broadcasts, Melaka, Malaysia

Location: Melaka, Malaysia (2° 12′ 0″ N, 102° 15′ 0″ E)
Date: 21 August 2010; 5.20pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

Melaka is one of Malaysia’s only 4 UNESCO Heritage Site and is the latest entry, together with Georgetown. I will deal with that in a later post. In towns south of Kuala Lumpur, one often sees tall aerials like these outside buildings. These special aerials are erected high above buildings so that the owners can receive TV broadcasts from far-away Singapore. Having such aerials give the owners access to (now) 6 more terrestrial channels on top of Malaysia’s own terrestrial channels without having to pay anything extra. This is quite attractive as Singapore’s programs are often newer than Malaysia’s. However one is likely to see less of such aerials as time goes by. These days in the age of satellite and cable TV’s, nearly all families in Malaysia subscribe to satellite TV. The contents of the such broadcasters are quite similar as they all offers the same few networks (at different prices between countries) such as ESPN, Star, HBO, BBC, Discovery etc.


August 20, 2010

The holiest shrine in Myanmar- the Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon

Location: Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon, Myanmar (16° 47′ 54.37″ N, 96° 8′ 58.07″ E)
Date: 11 December 2000; 5.15pm:
Canon EOS 500N (analogue) on slides and scanned

The cat is out of the bag, so to speak, as the Myanmar military junta has decided that the so-called general election will be held in November. It will not be much of a real election as the rules of the election are heavily biased towards the military to retain power, without the uniform. Even if the process does produce a non-military winner, it is doubtful that the winner is allowed to take over. Anyway most tourists including myself will try to avoid going to Myanmar closer to the election. I would love to revisit the country again soon as I really enjoyed my time there many years ago. The people are so incredibly friendly and hospitable and so eager to talk to foreigners. Some of Myanmar’s pagodas are just simply exquisite- like the holy Shwedagon Pagoda pictured here. I could imagine that much has changed as the country has opened up considerably since to foreign tourists. One thing for sure- we will not be forced to spend at least US$200 each; in the past foreigners must change US$200 into kyat at the airport and is not allowed to bring the kyat out or changed back to US$ on departing.

Technorati Tags: ,,


August 16, 2010

Xijiang, a quaint Miao village in the hills, Guizhou, China

Locations: Xijiang, Guizhou, China (26° 30' 0" N, 108° 11' 0"E)
Date: 26 April 2005; 10.35am
Camera: EOS 300D with kit lens

Xijiang is a beautiful Miao village amongst the many remote villages of different ethnic minorities in Eastern Guizhou. It has beautiful old Miao houses on stilts clinging to mountainsides with hundreds of rice terraces around the hills nearby. The Miaos are very friendly people and so do not be surprised that you are invited for some merrying and drinking during dinners. This village used to be rather remote and need many local connections to get there. However recently I saw some photos of the village being decked up and most if not all the houses were lighted up like X’mas trees at night. Furthermore there are also dance performances for visitors. I could only guess that the village have discovered the economic benefits of tourism and is now firmly gearing itself towards the package groups, both domestically and internationally. There is actually nothing wrong with this - in fact it is good for the village and its inhabitants if the major chunk of money generated goes back to them. But unfortunately this is not normally the case. Furthermore such packaged program is not really an authentic experience for those looking for one. I guess this is probably something that Lonely Planet (or at least one of its contributing authors) would never understand when it commented that “…sure, some villages have found tourism big time (and you’ll hear incessant grousing about it from travellers, as if they weren’t tourists too)… “ (p673 of the current issue of “China” guide). This is also precisely the reason that often-referenced sites on self-travelling in China have changed their focus.

Technorati Tags: ,,


August 13, 2010

The summit of K2 (Chogori) peeking out of the clouds

Location: K2 summit from Concordia, Pakistan (35° 44′ 0″ N, 76° 31′ 0″ E)
Date: 9 July 2007; 75.30am
Camera: Canon 400D with EF 70-200/f4 IS L

My trek to the K2 Base Camp 3 years ago was not as tough as I expected. The altitude was high but was not as exhaustive as I can remember compared to the trek to Everest Base Camp. I guess one reason is that we had porters for the K2/Concordia Trek- which anyone trekking to Concordia must, because of the lack of villages and supplies on the way- whereas I did then Khumbu trek to Gokyo and EBC all on my own i.e. carrying my own pack, without any porter or guide. Furthermore trekking alone in Khumbu, I could walk as far or as long as I like- and tend to do further/longer most days- while in group trekking, the distance walked each day is not as demanding. Regardless it is always a sense of achievement reaching the Base Camps.

Technorati Tags: ,,


August 11, 2010

Pumori above the “black rock”, Kala Pattar, Nepal

Location: GorakShep, Nepal (27° 59′ 45″ N, 86° 49′ 42.3″ E)
Date: 21 April 2000; 8.45am
Camera: Canon EOS 500N (analogue) on slides and scanned

Kala Pattar (meaning “black rock” in Hindi) is in fact a brown hump opposite the mighty giants of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse in the Khumbu region of Nepal. It lies just below the south face of Pumori (7,165m). Kala Pattar is like a “must” for anyone who trek to the Everest Base Camp on the Nepali side; reason being the summit of Everest is not visible either from the base camp itself or from a lower base such as GorakShep. However the mountains are pretty spectacular from Kala Pattar- the best view is of course at the top. Most trekkers will first arrive at GorakShep – which are those huts in the picture- and ascend from the back of those huts. GorakShep itself WAS the original base camp during the days of Sir Edmund Hillary. It is now the last place any trekkers i.e. those without climbing permits, can stay overnight (not allowed to camp at Base Camp without climbing permits).


August 8, 2010

WuYiShan, one of 42 UNESCO Heritage Sites in China

Location: WuyiShan, Fujian, China (27° 43′ 0″ N, 117° 41′ 0″ E)
Date: 5 December 2007, 9.15am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

China has just had 2 more entries into the UNESCO Heritage Sites List last week. It is fast catching up and very likely to have the most sites declared as UNESCO site soon- currently the highest number is Italy (45) followed by Spain (42) and China (40) according to the UNESCO Full List. I used to enjoy visiting such places in China as they are normally either places of extreme beauty or of tremendous cultural and historical significance (which is relevant to me as a Chinese). However in the last few years, I stop seeking them out as destinations of choice because I found that once a place became a UNESCO site in China, instead of being the peaceful and sublime places they used to be, they are marketed heavily domestically and regularly swamped by tourists. On top of that, invariably high entrance fees will be levied; this is fine if the collections go towards the site maintenance, but that is often not the case in China. What I find most abhorring is the commercial developments preceding some sites that are likely to be declared as a UNESCO Site; there have been reports that in some sites old dwellings were demolished and centuries-old livelihood destroyed to make way for spanky new commercial buildings in anticipation of the tourist traffic.


August 6, 2010

Seeing the land from the air on a hot air balloon, Goreme, Turkey

Location: Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey (38° 40′ 0″ N, 34° 50′ 0″ E)
Date: 13 April 2010, 8.10am
Camera: Canon 400D with Canon 70-200/f4L USM

Cappadocia is a beautiful place- one of my favourite of Turkey. The landscape is amazing (will post more threads and photos) but the view is a little different from the sky on a hot air balloon- though I felt that it is over-hyped. Taking a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia is like the “must-do” thing there; there are literally tens of such sight-seeing balloons in the air every morning and evening. All the operators offer more or less the same program- the main difference is the ride duration and the operator’s safety record. These operators target tourist groups and gear their services towards group. So “loose” tourists like us are only accommodated into whatever vacancies there may be on any balloon instead of the timing that we prefer.