July 30, 2011

The icon of Rome (& Italy)- the ancient Colosseum

Location: Colosseum, Rome, Italy (41° 53′ 24.61″ N, 12° 29′ 32.17″ E)
Date: 3 April 2005; 8.20 pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

The Colesseum is one of the most recognisable building of Italy and apparently the top tourist attraction in Rome. It is not difficult to understand as there are so many stories and legends abound about the Colosseum, not least movies and TV series about gladiatorial duels held in the Colosseum during the Roman Empire. It attained further notoriety associated with the martyrdom of Christians in the Colosseum by crucifixion and then fame as the starting point of every year’s Good Friday torchlit procession by the Pope.

The Colosseum is actually not that big; I guess is is the same imagery everyone have of well-known places and reaction when in its presence. In fact it is in a state of ruin and quite meaningless if one visits the place without a proper guide.


July 26, 2011

The New Mosque (Yeni Camii) which is about 350 years old

Location: Yeni Camii, Instanbul, Turkey (41° 1′ 1.25″ N, 28° 58′ 17.3″ E)
Date: 21 April 2010, 8.10am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Yeni Camii is know as the New Mosque. However it is not new at all, being inaugurated in 1665. It took about 4 decades to build the mosque, mainly due to funding and water seepage problems. The mosque is in the style of Turkish mosque with big courtyards, domes and minarets. It may not be the most well-known or popular mosques on the tourist map, but it is definitely one of the most beautiful one in Istanbul. I felt that one of the reasons that I labelled it as most beautiful is due to its outstanding location on the water edge beside the Galata Bridge.


July 22, 2011

The imposing triangular shadow of Adam’s Peak at sunrise is quite a sight

Location: Adam’s Peak’s shadow, Sri Lanka (6° 48′ 41″ N, 80° 29′ 59″ E)
Date: 3 March 1997; 6.15am

Camera: (analogue) Minolta compact with negatives and scanned

Adam’s Peak is the 4th highest peak in Sri Lanka. It is revered as a holy site by Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. It has a 1.8m rock formation at the summit that resembles a footprint- the Buddhists regard that to be the footprint of Buddha, the (Hindu) Brahmans as that of Lord Shiva, the Muslims as that of Adam and the Portuguese Christians have conflicting claims that it is the footprint of St Thomas and the eunuch of Candace, the queen of Ethiopia. As such it is a popular and important pilgrim site. There are several routes to the mountain, involving walking up thousands of steps. Pilgrims normally starts very early in the morning so that they can be at the summit at sunrise to see the distinctive shape of the mountain casting a triangular shadow on the surrounding plain which can be seen to move quickly downward as the sun rises. In fact the walk up the summit during the wee hours of the morning itself can be quite a sight with the zigzag path leading up to the summit lit up by the lights of pilgrims.

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July 18, 2011

Wat Pho is one of my favourite wat in Bangkok

Location: Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand (13° 44′ 47″ N, 100° 29′ 37″ E)
Date: 24 June 2010, 1.15pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Canon 70-200/f4.0

Bangkok is a city with lots of attractions- enough to keep a tourist busy for 3-5 days, if one is not sick of wats (temples) yet. On top of the wat-hopping, One can go crazy shopping at the various cheap shopping centres in Pratunam etc as well as the numerous nights markets and the giant Chatuchak weekend market. Currently Thailand is facing a bit of a lull period as there are uncertainties and hence, anxieties of tourists travelling to Thailand resulting from the election. That is all past and hopefully, things will return to normal for the “Land of Smiles” and keep the people smiling.

One of my favourite wat in Bangkok is Wat Pho. Not only that it has a huge and majestic reclining Buddha, there are also a few Thai chedis decorated with flower motifs and Thai mythical creatures in tiles (pictured). These are really attractive. Furthermore if one is tired of the walking, there is a massage school within the compound that provide massage services.


July 12, 2011

Gongfu monks? Not quite- just scripture debates, Sera Gompa. Lhasa

Locations: Sera Gompa, Lhasa, Tibet, China (29° 41′ 53″ N, 91° 8′ 0″ E)
Date: 18 May 2005; 5.50pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

Any visitors to Lhasa must visit Sera Monastery, which is within Lhasa limit at the northeast corner of town. One can easily get there by public bus. There are several reasons to visit this monastery including its historical and religious significance and the size and expanse. However one good reason to visit it is to witness the daily Scripture Debate by the resident monks. The monastery had developed over the centuries as a place of scholarly learning with many famed monks in Tibetan Buddhism having trained here. Everyday around 3pm, the resident monks will gather in the garden within the compound of the monastery to debate Buddhist scriptures and philosophy. The debates are punctuated by physical gestures such as hands clapping after each question, loud screaming and verbal exchanges that tremendously enliven the ambience of the debates. Some of such gestures may seem so violent that it may appear to an uninformed observer that the monks may be having a heated argument. These debates make this monastery a special experience.


July 9, 2011

Railway operations the old-world way- Malaysia’s KTM in Singapore

Location: Bukit Timah KTM Railway Station, Singapore (1° 20′ 3″ N, 103° 46′ 52″ E)
Date: 29 June 2011, 5.35pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Most independent travellers to Malaysia who have been to destinations other than the main cities would have take a ride or two on Malaysia’ railway run by KTM. In fact most travellers traveling to Singapore from Malaysia would have taken the train ride into the city-state because of its convenience- the journey terminates right at the Tanjong Pagar Station in the heart of the city, at the edge of the Central Business District (CBD). Well, that is no more as the two countries implemented a landmark agreement that resulted in the moving of the terminus station to right at the border between the two countries. As a result, rail travellers will find it less convenient to get to the city from the new terminus station. Alongside the ending of the KTM route within Singapore is the discontinuance of a couple of old-world railway operations that were still practised in Singapore by KTM. This includes the exchange of key token (as pictured) between the train driver and station master, bestowing the authority to the train to enter into the next sector of the railway track. This is a safety measure designed to prevent head-on collisions as the entire route is on a single track. On top of this is the disappearance of the manually operated signalling system.


Slideshow for May-June 2011