June 27, 2012

Singapore is a mix of the old and ultra-modern

Location: Chinatown, Singapore (1° 17′ 5.46″ N, 103° 50′ 38.42″ E)
Date: 12 October 2010; 7.20pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

A recent survey by a credit card company placed Singapore as one of the top 3 tourist destinations in the world. I have to say that I am absolutely surprised to read that. Ok, the city-state has put in a lot of effort to remake itself into a more globalised and friendly destination including adding new “attractions” such as the world’s largest ferris wheel and iconic architecture such as the Marina Bay Sands, and the soon-to-be-completed spectacular Gardens by the Bay. It has also totally remake itself form a strict society that bans long hair in the 80’s (Kitaro was not allowed to perform there then due to his long hair) and strict movie censorship to one of the most liberal in Asia- hell, these days fans from around Asia flock to Singapore to attend concerts and its TV programs are indistinguishable in terms of content intact from those of US broadcasts. Yet it is extremely difficult to believe that these had made the city-state a must-go among world tourists. Perhaps amongst the less discerning ones. A more believable report is that the city-state has now become the favourite destination for wedding photography for newly-weds from around Asia.


June 25, 2012

Sungei Ringit- soon will be sleeping fishing town no more

Location: Sungei Rengit, Johor, Malaysia (1° 21' 0 N, 104 ° 13' 0 E)
Date: 17 April 2008 10.20am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Sungei Rengit is a small sleepy fishing town in the Pengerang district in the southeast corner of West Malaysia. It is popular with Singaporeans who come over in the weekends, either with their bicycles to cycle around the quaint countryside or in buses to pray at the various Chinese temples. Most of these weekend tourists will top off their visit with a sumptuous but cheap seafood meal in or around the town. However all of these are about to change with plan to build a RM5 billion (US$1.6 billion) independent deep-water petroleum terminal project and a regional oil storage hub due for completion in 2016. There are already various construction activities going on. Cyclists will soon have to cycle along highways, sharing them with tankers. Tourists coming over looking for “peace and quiet” quaint setting for their activities may bemoan the development and changes but the local population welcome such economic activities which bring employment and economic benefits to them. Ultimately that’s what’s more important rather than standing still as a playground for others.


June 21, 2012

How will the Euro crisis affects tourism in affected countries?

Location: Samos town on Samos Island, Greece (37° 44′ 0″ N, 26° 50′ 0″ E)
Date: 4 April 2010; 3.15pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Canon 70-200/f4L USM

The Euro crisis is throwing many people’s travel plans into a tailspin; at least those to and from some countries of Europe. The major concern for such travellers will likely to be how the exchange rates will be moving and how much as well as any implications in social order in some countries. In the case of Greece, the concern is not so much the Euro fluctuations but rather what would be the currency then and how chaotic things can be in that country. Interestingly friends in Europe’s critical-list countries such as Greece and Spain actually expects record tourist arrivals in the traditional high summer season. They reckon the current economic upheaval will encourage foreign tourists (which make up the bulk of their tourist trade) to visit the countries to take advantage of any potential price advantage on account of the weaker domestic demand or affordability.


June 18, 2012

Few travellers have been here before

Location: Yungbulakang Palace, Tibet, China (29° 8′ 38.76″ N, 91° 48′ 0.72″ E)
Date: 26 May 2005; 10.45am
Camera: Canon 300D with kit kens

China has been locking down Tibet, in an effort to prevent foreigners witnessing or accessing first-hand her iron-fisted policies on the Tibetan population. In 2011, Tibet was closed to foreign travellers for 3 months. This is happening again this year as more Tibetans are self-immolating as a protest against her repressive policies. It has been reported again that no independent foreign travellers are allowed into Tibet for the month of June. Only foreign travellers in a group of at least 5 from the same country are allowed to travel inside Tibet, and with a travel agent.

Personally I felt that this is counter-productive. Travellers generally, do not want to get involved in the country’s domestic affairs, apart from lending a sympathetic ear to complaints by Tibetans. Closing off the province simply give the impression that China has something to hide about its activities in Tibet from the world.