October 29, 2011

The *Star* of Singapore Botanical Gardens

Location: Bandstand, Singapore Botanical Garden (1°19'18"N 103°48'59"E)
Date: 8 October 2011; 9.50am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Singapore Botanical Garden is one of the main attractions of Singapore. Quite often when one lives in a place, one easily overlook the local attractions that tourists from far afield come to visit. The Botanical Gardens is just one of those- I lives in Singapore but never pay much attention or visit the place unless I have visitors. However it is apparently a favourite of tourists especially the new force-to-be-reckon-with tourists from China and India. These tourists are no doubt attracted by the immaculately maintained gardens and its vast collection of tropical trees, flowers and plants. For locals, one of the favourite spot of the Gardens is the white octagonal shaped pavilion named the Bandstand which was erected in 1930. The Bandstand used to host military band performances in the past- now it is a popular spot for newly-weds to have their photos taken with their full regalia of wedding gowns.


October 26, 2011

Chinese candy sculpting- a dying art

Location: Gulangyu Island, Xiamen, Fujian, China (24° 26′ 51.43″ N, 118° 3′ 44.83″ E)
Date: 17 December 2008; 10.50am
Camera: Canon 400D with Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS Lens

If one goes to any major cities in China, one will not feel too out of place as in any other major Asian cities. The country is virtually galloping into the 21st century, at least as far as urban infrastructure and architecture is concerned. That’s why, apart from the mega and very important cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, all the Chinese cities look rather similar in the type of buildings and layout. One of the consequence of this mad rush to modernise is the tearing down of anything that stands in the way- not just physically but culturally as well. Many of the cultural heritage of this 5,000 years of continuous civilisation is fast disappearing together with its rich architecture heritage. Traditional dances, costumes, practices, arts and crafts as well as ethnic dialects are slowly dying. Ironically some of such cultural heritage are still maintained as a result of the creeping commercialism from tourism. Arts such as the face changing technique of Sichuan opera and Naxi traditional music survives mainly because there is demand for such arts performances for tourists. Similarly in smaller scale, traditional arts such as flour dough figurines and candy sculpture (as in photo) still flourished as novelties for tourists.


October 21, 2011

Heads everywhere at Nemrut Dagi, Turkey

Location: mount Nemrut, Turkey (37° 58′ 54″ N, 38° 44′ 28″ E)
Date: 17 April 2010, 8.40am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

The fallen large head statues of the royal tomb atop Mount Nemrut (or Nemrut Dagi) in southwestern Turkey must be the most iconic symbols of Turkey after the minarets of its mosques in Istanbul and its Whirling Dervish dances. The site of the tomb is not easy to get to, if one is traveling independently as there is no transport that goes up the mountain. There are buses that go part of the way (for about 8 months of the year) and travellers will have to either hike or hitch a ride. As is the norm for such summit destinations, most travellers would want to get there for the sunrise or sunset. Accommodation options and quality for such activities are very limited- there are a few hotels at the base of the mountain but they are mainly tailored and frequently reserved for packaged groups. Nonetheless it is a worthwhile effort to visit this tomb if one visits Turkey. Apart from the surreal setting and the statues, the view from the summit is a bonus.

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October 15, 2011

Dong culture is still alive in China

Locations: Zhaoxing, Guizhou, China (25° 54' 39 N 109° 10' 35 E).
Date: 18 April 2005; 11.15am
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

The Dongs are one of the minorities predominant in Guizhou province of China. They are well-known for their Wind & Rain Bridge as well as Drum Tower. Unlike the big minorities, Tibetans of Tibet and Uighurs of Xinjiang, who were in fact the ethnic people of their provinces, Dongs were never an ethnic group of significant numbers. Ironically because of their smaller numbers, the Chinese Hans had been less zealous in trying to assimilate them into the Chinese culture, so to speak. In any case, as a result of their smaller numbers, they are more inclined to adapt to the Han culture. This is not to mean that they have abandoned their cultural heritage; however, the Dongs felt less threatened by the encroachment of Han into their space. Part of this is also economics- the Tibetans and Uighurs’ homeland are rich in many resources- the other minorities inherits less of such benefits. Managing the major minorities will continue to be a huge challenge for China until they realised and accept that the minorities are different and want different things (not chiefly development) from the central government.


October 11, 2011

Typically Hindu… this time in Nepal

Location: Basantapur Tower, Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal (N27 42 14 E85 18 30 )
Date: 28 March 2000; 2.10pm
Camera: Canon EOS 500N (analogue) on slides and scanned

Eroticism, to be exact erotic art, is prevalent in Hinduism. One can see that in many ancient Hindu temples, the most famous of which is the Khajuraho temple complex. Many people find this rather amusing and really puzzling as most other religions refrain from things sexual, explicitly. It shouldn’t be as Hindu erotism is simply an expression of the religion (as well as other religions)’s belief in a different perspective. Like any other religions, Hinduism is a prescription or way of life according to certain codes and beliefs. The final aim of a Hindu is (no surprise) salvation, which is the merging of the individual soul with that of the supreme soul. The pursuit of pleasure or kama is an important aim of life, on the way to deliverance or attainment of salvation. As such, figures of loving couples or “mithuna”, in sexual pose and sex acts, are no taboos or attract any inhibitions, as any other life processes. In fact, worship of Shiva’s lingam (penis) is part and parcel of Hinduism. All of these manifest in many art forms, including sculptures from very early on in Indian civilisation.


October 7, 2011

Isn’t she pretty?

Location: Bikaner, Rajasthan, India (28° 1′ 0″ N, 73° 18′ 43″ E)
Date: 10 Jan 2009; 3.40pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS Lens

Indian women are amongst the most beautiful women of the world. Indian beauties have captured the world’s imagination ever since Aishwarya Rai won the Miss World pageant in 1994 and went on to become a Bollywood star. In fact Bollywood movies are instrumental in bringing the world’s attention to India’s beautiful women. Many of the more well-known and popular Bollywood top ladies are of Northern Indian descent, with fairer skin tone and higher cheekbones ala Aryan features. However Indian women from other parts of the country are just as charming and attractive in their own ways. For example, Rajasthani ladies are not only pretty but are also graceful.


October 5, 2011

Slideshow for Jul- Sep 2011


October 4, 2011

These are really pretty, and yes, they are perfectly edible

Location: Xiapu, Fujian, China (23° 46' 20" N, 117° 2' 47" E)
Date: 16 December 2008; 10.50am
Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

It is said that there are 3 main events in a person’s life: birth, marriage and death. All these 3 events are celebrated or commemorated in grand fashion by all the different cultures of the world. With the exception of death which is either celebrated as a joyful occasion in some cultures or a sad passing in others, birth and marriage are always joyous moments in virtually all cultures.

Marriage is a huge celebration amongst all the ethnic groups in China. Furthermore marriage is celebrated in different manners even within the different Chinese regions of Han population. Many of them involves the giving of marriage cookies to relatives as part of the celebration. In the coastal towns of Fujian like Xiapu, a colourful, beautiful and tasty wedding cookie is one of the must-haves for a marriage. The cookie is baked with a filling mix of sesame, sugar, nuts and other contents which I do not really know but tastes fabulous, nonetheless.