November 26, 2011

One needs a car to visit the outside vicinity of Paris

Location: Paris, France (48°51′39″N 2°20′09″E)
Date: 26 February 2006; 1.25pm

Camera: Canon 300D with kit kens

Independent traveling is a fun way to travel for me. Often I get to see many unexpected places and interact with all sorts of interesting people. This mode of traveling needs a bit more planning and is also more time-consuming as most of the time I have to rely on local transport, whatever there might be. In some countries such as China, this is not a problem as there is a myriad of transport options available, from the publicised train and bus services, to chartered, hitch-hiking and sharing of transport with other travellers. One can virtually get to any secluded corners with a little effort. The same goes for countries such as Pakistan and India. I guess this is a factor of rural hospitality and poverty which makes people more willing to share and help others. This is not the case with more developed countries- in such countries such as USA and most parts of Europe, public transport is only good to bigger cities. Outlying places are not easily accessible by public transport. This is also due to the fact that most people in such countries own their own transport; so the demand and hence, supply for services to more secluded destinations do not exist. Even if options are available such as joining a local tour, these are always only good for the casual look-see, been-there-before type of sightseeing. Renting a car, often is the most feasible option to travel to rural, outlying and secluded places in these countries.

If you are lying from the UK and need to drive to the airport you are stuck with the problem of where to leave your car. Try Gatwick Parking if you are flying from London. Or if you are flying from the North, try parking at Manchester Airport.


November 24, 2011

Sunset on the banks of the mighty Mekong River, Laos

Location: Mekong River, Luang Prabang, Laos (19°53′N 102°08′E)
Date: 2 November 2004; 6.05pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

I have a certain fascination with the mighty rivers. Whenever I visit a country where a trans-national great river flows through, I will make it a point to see the river, be it in Africa or Asia. Maybe it is the importance that I learnt of rivers/water’s role played in civilisation and development of nation and humanity. Perhaps it is just the satisfaction of able to see different stages of the same river in different settings, environments and countries. For example, I saw Lancang Jiang in Tibet and Yunnan of China and also its manifestation as Mekong River in Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Similarly I went to the source of the Indus River in Tibet and travel along its course on parts of the Karakorum Highway in Pakistan. I saw Yarlung Tsangpo Jiang in many parts of Tibet but will love to see it emerge as the Brahmaputra River in India and Bangladesh- one day. The Yangtse River flows only within China but it changes directions and characters, not to mention its name many times while it courses through China before dumping its water into the South China Sea. It is hard to imagine that any of these mighty rivers may disappear soon due to global warming when one is looking at its might and majesty, but the sciences are telling us just that. So make sure you take another good look at the great rivers the next time you are on their banks because they may not be there or the same when you next revisit the same spot.


November 20, 2011

Land of the Great Outdoors- NZ

Location: Mount Cook, South Island, New Zealand (43° 35′ 44.69″ S, 170° 8′ 27.75″ E)
Date: 27 May 2009, 8.40am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

New Zealand is blessed with some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, within a small area. Hence it is very easy to enjoy the diversity of sceneries without travelling too far away. This results in, perhaps, a nation with one of the most outdoor-oriented citizenry. Everywhere one turns, there are opportunities to engage in the great outdoors, be it mountaineering, skiing, fishing, hiking, canoeing, you name it. No wonder a country with such a small population excels in so many sports, as evident by the number of world beaters in so many disciplines- rugby, sailing, canoeing and so on. Of course, not forgetting Edmund Hillary. In fact, Mount Cook or Aoraki (see this post) is where the first conqueror of Qomolomgma or Sagamartha or Mount Everest (to the layman) hone his alpine skills.

The accessibility of such wonderful pristine landscape is also one of the reasons that NZ is such a favourite destinations for many travellers. One need not be a mountaineer or outdoor specialist to get close to some of the most amazing landscape or wilderness.


November 7, 2011

Monks praying inside a Buddhist gompa

Location: Diskit Gompa, Nubra Valley, Ladakh, India (34° 32′ 28″ N, 77° 33′ 37″ E)
Date: 24 August 2009 7.50 am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

I have wrote that Ladakhis have Tibetan features. They also share similar ancestry and religion. By and large most ethnic Ladakhis practice Tibetan Buddhism with similar Yellow, Red etc sects just as in Tibet. Their gompas and traditions are similar. Anyone who have spent some time in Tibet could easily mistakenly think that they are in Tibet after spending a few days in Ladakh.


November 2, 2011

“The smoke which thunders” Zambia/Zimbabwe

Location: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Africa (17° 55′ 28″ S, 25° 51′ 24″ E)
Date: 5 April 2001; 5.10pm
Camera: (analogue) Canon 500N with slides and scanned

The names of too many great landmarks around the world had been “hijacked” or “christianised” by the Western powers in a bygone era when countries of the Western hemisphere were the strongest (militarily and economically) on the planet. Such landmarks have their local names but were renamed after some Western figures when they were “discovered'”. These are really great insults to the people of those lands as these landmarks are known to them for generations and they do have names for these places centuries before any Westerner had set sight on them. Yet such foreigners had the guts to claim that they discovered such places. The so-called Victoria Falls were known as Mosi-oa-Tunya in the local Kololo language of the Zambians before any white people ever set foot on the black continent. Similarly, Mount Everest had always and will forever be Sagarmatha to the Nepali Sherpas or Qomolongma to Tibetans, whatever the the rest of the world has gotten used to called it. For that matter, the Baltis only know Chogori as the name of the world’s 2nd highest mountain, not K2 as coined by the British in the 19th century. The might of the West is waning, epitomised by the EU seeking out China’s help in the Euro crisis, amongst others. It is about time to return justice and respect to local cultures of many of the world’s great places by at least using their proper and historical names. NZ leads in this respect by reverting to using both Maori and common English names to many of their nature wonders such as Aoraki for Mount Cook and Manahuna for McKinnon Pass.