June 29, 2011

Do you like to have a haircut and shave in an open-air saloon?

Location: Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India(27° 10′ 48″ N, 78° 1′ 12″ E)
Date: 7 Jan 2009; 3.10pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

India is one of a few countries where there is a healthy mix of the old and new. One example is the continue use of colonial era articles. Another very interesting sight is the continue practice of trade in the old fashion way alongside the modern version, be it laundry and ironing services or hair-cut. These days there are swanky air-conditioned saloons in cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and so on; but roadside barbers are doing popular.


June 25, 2011

Beautiful & intricate roof carvings of ancient homes, Pingyao, China

Location: Pingyao, Shanxi, China (37° 12′ 5″ N, 112° 9′ 16″ E)
Date: 10 October 2008; 2.50pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS Lens

There are still quite a few places in China that maintain their heritage architecture, though this is dwindling by the day. Many places had been demolished to make room for modern developments; the most notorious example of this were the wholesale destructions of the hutongs of Beijing. Many of the remaining ancient architecture throughout China managed to escape the same fate by turning themselves into tourists attractions. They draw tourists, both Chinese and foreigners and their attractiveness as a tourist destination saves them from the hammer of destruction. However these structures faced a different onslaught- commercial developments and exploitations. More and more of the old buildings and houses in places such as Lijiang Old Town had been turned into tourist shops selling all sorts of stuff, instead of being preserved as domestic dwellings, in the process losing its “soul”. I guess this is better than losing them totally.

Pingyao in Shanxi is likely to follow then path of towns such as Lijiang and Fonghuang soon. Pingyao was a financial center during the Qing Dynasty and still retains its city layout from the Ming and Qing dynasty. Within its renowned well-preserved ancient city walls are close to 4,000 preserved Ming and Qing-style residences. The streets and storefronts currently still largely retain their historical appearance. Undoubtedly the winds of tourism exploitation will soon transform this quaint and friendly little town into another must-see on the tourist map, changing the character of the building and its population in the process. This may be the only way to ensure the survival of such ancient towns in China.

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June 22, 2011

One of the prettiest lake in South Island, NZ

Location: Lake Tekapo, South Island, New Zealand (43° 53′ 0″ S, 170° 31′ 0″ E)
Date: 25 May 2009, 9.10am
Camera: Canon 300D with EF 70-200/f4 IS L

Lake Tekapo is one of the most pretty lake in the South Island of NZ. It is a popular spot for tourists on group/package tours. Every day one can see buses of tourists stopping off at the lakeside. However the tours normally only include a visit to the Church of the Good Shepherd on the shore of the lake; even though the lake has beautiful views across to the Southern Alps and beautiful forests along the shorelines. Furthermore there are great walks around the surrounding hills with views of the lake and its small islands from high. Most group/package tourists do not have the opportunity to enjoy such beauty. So if you are visiting Lake Tekapo, it is well-worth spending at least a night in the town.


June 20, 2011

Fun look at the centre of Goreme- tilt-shift model

Location: Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey (38° 40′ 0″ N, 34° 50′ 0″ E)
Date: 12 April 2010, 4.20pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Canon 70-200/f4L USM

Cappadocia is my favourite destination in Turkey. It is a really nice place to chill-out as one can trek or cycle out to see the beautiful rock formations and the fairy chimneys, marvel at the historical & cultural heritage in the caves or see the wonderful landscape from the air or just simply get immersed in the wonderful and weird surroundings of chimneys & caves. Of all the towns within the Cappadocia area, Goreme is my pick. It has all the amenities one need and cheap and fantastic accommodation. Furthermore the transportation from here to anywhere is marvellous. So if you were to visit Turkey, please do not miss Cappadocia; and if you are in Cappadocia, consider staying at Goreme.


June 17, 2011

Unforgettable sun rise over volcanoes from Gunung Penanjakan, Java

Location: Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park , East Java, Indonesia (7°45′8″S, 110°29′30″E)
Date: 25 December 1995; 5.50am

Camera: (analogue) Canon EOS 500N on negatives and scanned.

One of the most popular tourist destination on Java island Indonesia, has to be the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park. The National Park offers great experience of proximity and view of a couple of mighty volcanoes, including the highest mountain, Mount Semeru, of Java. For the more energetic and adventurous (and I really mean adventurous) the National Park also offers an up-close-and personal encounter of the regular eruptions at the summit of Mount Semeru as well as an experience of standing above the clouds to enjoy a majestic sunrise view. Yet one can still enjoy a more laid-back, albeit early-rise and unforgettable Indonesia sunrise over the volcanoes from Gunung Penanjakan. However don’t forget your woollies- it is very cold at the mountainside at that time in the morning.


June 13, 2011

Miaos really know how to have a good time celebrating their festivals, China

Location: Sister Meal Festival at Shidong, Guizhou, China (26°40'11.24"N,108°18'14.10"E)
Date: 24 April 2005; 4.50pm

Camera: Canon 300D with kit kens
Lately China had been struggling with their treatment of minorities with a few headline-grabbing incidents. In the last 3 years, there were riots in Tibetan Lhasa, ethnic conflicts in Uighur Urumqi and last month in Inner Mongolia. The problem is the way the Han Chinese perception of their own rule and reading and treating symptoms instead of causes. They are in a classic situation of being blind to their own defects. The resentment of Chinese Han Communist rule by the ethnic minorities in these provinces are so strong that a traveller has to be blind (or travel in a package tour) not to notice or hear about it in these places. But to be fair, not all ethnic minorities in China are hostile towards the Han Chinese majority. Minorities such as the Miaos and Zhuangs enjoy better quality of life now than they ever did in the past in China. They managed to maintain a lot of their culture and celebrate their festivals such as the Miao’s Sister Meal Festival, in ever grander fashion each year; so much so that these festivals are now major tourist attractions.


June 10, 2011

The “leg rowers” of Lake Inle, Myanmar

Location: Lake Inle at Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar (20°39′N 96°56′E)
Date: 18 December 2000; 5.15pm
Canon EOS 500N (analogue) on slides and scanned

Water transportation is the major means for people living around Lake Inle to get around. While today there are motorised and speedboats, most people still get around by rowing their boats. Lake Inle’s local residents are well-known for their unique technique of leg rowing. Standing up on one leg in the narrow stern of the boat, they wraps the other leg around an oar and, with a circular movement, propels his boat forward. This "leg rowing" gives them a better view of the waterways and makes it easier to navigate around the floating islands and water hyacinth which make the margins of the lake into a maze of passageways. This is especially useful for fisherman on the lake as the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants which makes it difficult to see above them while sitting. Standing provides the rower with a view beyond the reeds. leg rowing is only practiced by men; women rows by sitting cross legged at the stern and use only their hands to row.


June 7, 2011

Lights & fireworks during Sri Lanka’s “Festival of Lights”

Location: Central Colombo, Sri Lanka (6°54'58.10"N 79°51'18.61"E )
Date: 17 May 2011, 7.40pm
Camera: Samsung Galaxy Mini phone camera

Vesak Day is a Buddhist holiday commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha. It is celebrated on different days by different countries due to the diverse nature of Buddhist cultures around the world. In most South East Asian countries, it is a public holiday. On Vesak day, Buddhists will visit monasteries to offer their prayers and to attend sermons. In Sri Lanka, a Buddhist-majority country, Vesak is celebrated over a week, though there are only 2 days of public holiday. Here, it is not only a religious holiday but also a cultural festival, dubbed the “Festival of Lights”. Alcohol and meat are not sold for at least 2 days (the public holidays) during this period. There will be brightly-lit pandols called toranas erected all over the major cities such as Colombo and Kandy. One will often see long queues of people at food stalls called dansälas, set up by Buddhist devotees providing free food and drinks. There will be fireworks in Colombo. The week is the brightest-lit and most festive everywhere in Sri Lanka.


June 5, 2011

The sun, out of Africa

Location: Somewhere on the road in Namibia
Date: 19 April 2001; 5.45pm

Camera: (analogue) Canon 500N with slides and scanned

I have always been fascinated by the photos of African skies. There are such a variety- always either beautifully layered with clouds or blood-red sunsets tanning the landscape. It must be its weather system- large areas of dryness with seasonal deluge. In any case, I was not disappointed during my swing across the southern part of the continent as I have seen beautiful sunsets, misty mornings and many instances of the sun hiding shyly behind clouds. The sky is truly one of the attractions of Africa.


June 2, 2011

A landmark of Mumbai–Haji Ali Dargah

Location: The Haji Ali Dargah islet, Mumbai, India (18° 59′ 6″ N, 72° 48′ 36″ E)
Date: 11 April 2007; 4.40pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

The Haji Ali Dargah is a landmark in the southern part of Mumbai. It is both a mosque and a tomb located on an islet off the coast on the Arabian Sea. The Haji Ali Dargah was constructed in 1431 in memory of a rich Muslim merchant, Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. Bukhari was from Bukhara, in the ancient Persian Empire and now in Uzbekistan, who gave up all his worldly possessions before making a pilgrimage to Mecca. He travelled around the world in the early to mid 15th century, and then settled in Mumbai.

Haji Ali Dargah is connected to the mainland by a narrow km long causeway that is submerged during tides; it is only accessible during low tides. This does not deter the 80,000 odd pilgrims, irrespective of faith and religion, who visits the tomb every week to get the blessings of the legendary saint. It is quite festive to visit the tomb on Thursdays and Fridays when it is packed with pilgrims and visitors. Occasionally there are also sufi musicians who perform sufi devotional music at the Dargah.