May 26, 2011

I want to go to Everest Base Camp again!!

Location: Rhongbuk Monastery (5,100m), Tibet, China (28.194N, 86.829E)
Date : 27 April 2003; 10.25am
Camera : Canon G1

I always wanted to go back to see Mount Everest, either the Nepali or Tibetan (Chinese) side. Going to the Base Camp from the Chinese side has become much more easier in terms of transportation and access, but the problem now is in fact access to Tibet. I just applied for a visa to visit China and to my horror, instead of just one page of form to complete, I have to fill 7 pages now!! And unlike in the past, this must be accompanied by airline bookings (this was introduced just before the Olympics but was never taken off since). Travelling into Tibet is now ever more strict. Chances of getting in without a TTP and getting away is rather difficult as there are now numerous checkpoints and the guards are more vigilant. Perhaps I should try the cycling option next time- I think they are less likely to check cyclists- as long as one dressed more Chinese-like, and of course, have to look Chinese.


May 23, 2011

She must have made millions of gui cuon in her lifetime so far, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Location: Ben Thanh Market, Hi Chi Minh, Vietnam (10° 46′ 23″ N, 106° 41′ 54″ E)
Date: 20 May 2010, 9.15am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

There are not too many things to do in a big city, when one is traveling. Normally cities just serve as a transit point for transportation around the country or in/out of the country. Similarly I did not find Ho Chi Minh (HCM) interesting. If I follow the guidebooks’ recommendations, I will be visiting pagodas in HCM (see this post). However as in most Asian countries, there are 2 major attractions in cities like HCM- shopping and food. Well, what I meant by shopping is shopping for cheap-priced stuff, not the branded ones. Shopping-wise, it cannot compare to China but it has good interesting bargains and some products are unique and of better quality than those found in China.

Food-wise, Vietnam has a few unique dishes and delicacies. Vietnamese food generally is healthy, with lots of vegetables and less oil than the average Asian fares. No one can visit Vietnam without eating pho, the Vietnamese rice noodles- they are everywhere and in every meals. Pretty soon one gets sick of another bowl of pho, no matter how delicious it may be. Another Vietnamese dish that is present everywhere is gui cuon, which is a roll consisting of pork, shrimps, vermicelli and other ingredients wrapped in a clear rice paper. Gui cuon, which is also popularly known as Vietnamese summer roll, is like a spring roll except that is not fried and very fresh tasting. One of the better tasting gui cuon I had was in the food area of HCM’s biggest market, Ben Thanh Market.


May 21, 2011

A popular hot spring town with some rustic charm to boast- Taiwan

Location: Old Jinshan, Taiwan (25° 14′ 10″ N, 121° 37′ 3″ E)
Date: 3 May 2010, 4.15pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

There are a few activities that will excite any visitors to Taiwan. One of them is to enjoy the numerous excellent hot springs dotted around the coast of the country. Taiwan lies on the edge of the Ring of Fire around the Pacific and has some earthquake and volcanic activities resulting in many hot springs. Taiwanese also has a traditional to soak in hot springs, perhaps partly influences from their Japanese colonial past. Many of these hot springs are developed into resorts and at certain times of the year, are crowded by domestic tourists. Old Jinshan (meaning Old “Gold Hill” reference to its previous glory days as a gold mining town) is one of such popular hot spring resorts. It is less than 2 hours north of Taipei and draw lots of visitors from the city during the weekends to enjoy its hot springs, sourced from the hills, as well as its local market and reasonably rustic shoreline.


May 11, 2011

Enjoying the sun rise above the clouds- Mount Semeru, Java, Indonesia

Location: At the summit of Mount Semeru, Indonesia (7°59'7.19"S 112°59'9.64"E)
Date: 18 July 2008; 6.15am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

One of the reasons people trek up to mountains is to enjoy the fabulous scenery and amazing sunset or sunrise. Mount Semeru is one of those places, as it is the highest mountain in Java. The sunrise at the top the peak is stupendous as one is virtually above the cloud covers. Often, depending on the direction of the sun, one can see his/her own shadow being casts on the clouds floating below them. Of course, one of the added excitement to trek up to the peak of Mount Semeru is the challenge (not easy to climb a volcano due to the deep ashes) and the adventure of standing beside a constantly-erupting active volcano. In fact lately it has been so actively erupting that the relevant authorities has banned any trekking to its summit.


May 8, 2011

“The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792” - some say is the inspiration for the French national anthem "La Marseillaise"

Location: Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile, Paris, France, (48° 52′ 25.68″ N, 2° 17′ 42″ E)
Date: 2 March 2006; 1.30pm
Camera: Canon 300D with Sigma 70-200/f2.8

The Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile is one of the few Paris landmarks that I have always wanted to visit when I was in that city. I have seen so many photos and read so much about this monument and it was not a disappointment to be at the site. The Arc was built over a long period of time mainly as a monument honouring those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. There are four sculptural groups at the base of the Arc, the most famous of which is the The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792 (or "La Marseillaise"). This composition depicts the French people rallying against enemies from abroad. This grouping so aroused spectators' patriotism that the work became known as "La Marseillaise," the French national anthem written in 1792--the same year as the departure of the volunteers. The sculpture is so vivid and alive that by itself, it is a precious work of art.


May 5, 2011

Tiny tents in the shadow of the giant K2, Pakistan

Location: K2 Base Camp, Pakistan (35° 44′ 0″ N, 76° 31′ 0″ E)
Date: 9 July 2007; 7.30am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Pakistan is one of my favourite destinations. Its people are extremely hospitable and the mountain sceneries are just breath-taking. I may have wrote this before in this blog, to me, Pakistan’s Karakorum mountains are more beautiful and impressive than the Himalayas. They are more structured, muscular and full of characters. So it is with great sadness to read about the sufferings of this country and its people in the hands of Muslim extremists. Many innocents had been killed unnecessarily and many lives destroyed by the blind fanaticism of a few. I used to tell my friends not to worry about the news and all; one only read about the bad news and life in Pakistan is not as dangerous as one gets the impression from news reports. However, as the terrorist activities multiplied and multiplying with greater severity in the last six months, I am changing my opinion as to the safety of visiting the country. I still like to believe that at least things are saner in the mountain areas and it is still possible to enjoy the fresh air amongst the giant mountains.


May 1, 2011

Slideshow for Mar/Apr 2011