February 27, 2012

Hand-making popiah is a dying tradition

Location: Meizhou, Guangdong, China (24° 16′ 37.2″ N, 116° 6′ 57.6″ E)
Date: 22 December 2008; 10.50am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

A popular snack amongst the Fujian and Chaozhou dialect speakers in China, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia is a fresh spring roll known as popiah or literally thin cookie. A popiah is prepared by filling a thin paper-like pancake made from wheat flour with ingredients such as finely grated and steamed or stir-fried turnip, bean sprouts and any of the following: grated carrots, Chinese sausages, fried shallots, omelette and so on. The whole spring roll is normally eaten with sweet and chilli sauces.

These days popiah skins are produced by machines. However in most parts of China, they are still being made in the traditional way- a ball of wet and viscous wheat dough is held on one hand, which is quickly rubbed against a hot steel plate in circular motion and then lifted. This creates a very thin layer of the wet dough which adheres to the plate, cooked and then peeled off as popiah skin. A good popiah can only be made from a thin enough skin but so thin that it breaks under the weight of its fillings.


February 20, 2012

Locks for love and good wishes in temples of China

Location: Leshan, Sichuan, China (29° 32′ 50″ N, 103° 46′ 9″ E)
Date: 17 April 2003; 10.45am
Camera: Canon G1

In many places in China such as temples and on the steps/paths leading to sacred peaks, one can see love locks being attached to steel chains along trails, permanent barriers or on anything attachable. Couples announce their love for each other by engraving their names on the locks or write them on pieces of papers attached to the locks and then hang the locks and throw the keys away. It is hoped that their love will last as long as the ancient structures. This practice has now spread to other countries such as Japan, South Korea and South East Asia. In some places such as revered temples, one will also locks being hang onto places such as handles of typically giant-size incense burners like this in Leshan. Such locks are more likely for good luck wishes instead of love.


February 17, 2012

The ubiquitous black-and-yellow taxis of Mumbai & Delhi

Location: Mahim railway station, Mumbai, India (19° 2′ 6″ N, 72° 50′ 24″ E)
Date: 10 April 2007; 1040 am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Most new visitors to India especially Mumbai and Delhi are surprised by the sights of the “classic Fiat” taxis. Surprise in that these cars are quite classic in nature as they are 1960’s models. However these models which are known as Premier Padmini still form the bulk of the axis that ploughs the streets of Mumbai and Delhi. They are distinctively painted with black and yellow liveries with the bottom half painted black and upper half painted yellow. Most of these taxis do not have air-conditioning and is quite an experience to ride in one in the summer. Furthermore the interior is rather small- those with longer legs will find them quite uncomfortable. Some of these taxis have air-conditioning installed but passengers will have to pay extra for having it turned on for a journey. An interesting feature of such taxis is that the meter is located outside the car on the passenger side; a passenger is expected to flick the lever down to engage the meter when he takes the taxi- see photo.

Another “classic car” (even older model) that one will see on the roads of India is the cream colour stately Hindustan Ambassador. The Ambassador is a more expensive class of taxis with bigger interior and is charged at a higher rate.


February 11, 2012

Same God looks different in different countries……..

Location: Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore (1°16′57.4″N 103°50′43″E)
Date: 12 October 2010; 7.50pm
Camera: Canon 400D with EOS L 70-200/f4

Same religions are practised all over the world. Perhaps with the exception of Islam, all religions has depictions of its own god(s) and deities. Most of these depictions are mainly either paintings or sculptures. It is very common for people in different countries, cultures and races to depict the gods in their own “image” so to speak. Hence Jesus looks Middle Eastern in most Western depictions while in Asia, He is a little more clean-shaven a-la Asian. Similarly Buddha is depicted with Oriental features in China, Japan, Korea and other East Asian cultures compared to the more natural (since He is after all, an Indian national) depiction in South Asian countries. Divine depictions not only varies between different countries and cultures, they are also influenced by the age or era of the depictions. Hence it is very common to see Buddha being depicted as a plump person in paintings and sculptures from China’s Tang Dynasty compared to the other ages. For that matter, Hindu gods and deities in countries such as Singapore also has slightly more “East Asian” features rather than Dravidian.


February 4, 2012

One cannot find another more amazing railway station than Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus of Mumbai

Location: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, India (18° 56′ 24″ N, 72° 50′ 7.08″ E)
Date: 2 October 2005; 11.30am
Camera: Canon IXUS iZoom

Train stations are some of the most beautiful and historical buildings in any country. This is especially true of former colonies; such stations are replete with histories of the nations concerned. Often they are fabulous buildings elaborately designed and built, reflected the style of the era. Examples include the Moorish Central Station in Kuala Lumpur and the fabulous Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly known as the Victoria Terminus) of Mumbai. Less dramatic ones include the former Tanjung Pagar station of Singapore and the biggest railway station in the world, New York’s Grand Central. All of these railway stations are still standing and most of them are still serving their original function as a terminus where humanity meets and histories created.


February 1, 2012

Manarola- pretty any time of the day

Location: Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy (44° 6' 0 N 9° 43' 60 E)
Date: 10 March 2005; 4.15pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

Cinque Terre is one of my favourite place in Italy. The 5 villages are replete with plenty of photo opportunities and the people are super-friendly. Furthermore it is a very pleasant walk between the villages especially for those who wanted some light walking rather than strenuous trek. Manarola is probably the most scenic of the villages with nice colourful houses and postcard-like harbour that is pretty in the daytime (as above) or at dusk or dawn and has been subject of many photographers. The other village that is attractive to me is Venazza. I hope the place is as enjoyable and unspoilt the next time I visit- unlike places in China.