March 30, 2012

This used to be a church, before it became a mosque and then a museum

Location: Deësis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Instanbul, Turkey (41° 0′ 31″ N, 28° 58′ 48″ E)
Date: 20 April 2010, 9.20am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Hagia Sophia is a former church, then a mosque, and now a museum. As I have written before. to me it is comparable to the Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica in its grandeur and place in history. One of the most exciting feature of the now-museum is the Deësis mosaic. It depicts Jesus as the ruler but what struck me is the tone of the mosaic and the humane and soft tone of the depictions. It is one of the strongest reminder to visitors that this building was a church.

Hagia Sophia is one of the must-see for any visitors to Turkey; hence it is always crowded with tourists, be it independent or the hordes that comes in tour groups. The best time to visit the building with a little peace and quiet is the earlier hours of the morning, when the tour groups hasn’t arrived yet.


March 20, 2012

This scene of Mount Semeru is probably gone forever

Location: Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, East Java, Indonesia (7°59'7.19"S 112°59'9.64"E)
Date: 16 July 2008; 8.50am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia. It is popular for the casual tourists as well as those who are more adventurous. For the regular tourists, watching the sunrise over the volcanoes is the highlight; for the outdoor enthusiasts, trekking up Semeru and the breathtaking sunrise above the clouds at the summit of Semeru are most unforgettable. In fact one of the most unforgettable and rewarding experience of such a trek up Semeru has been the sense of adventure, proximity and feeling the power and danger of the regular eruptions of the volcano up-close. However since the violent eruptive activities of Semeru in late 2010/early 2011, which resulted in the ban on trekking up the volcano for a while, Semeru does not throw up any smoke and lava on a regular basis anymore. It is now just another volcano with (unimpressive) little plumes of smoke from its crater.


March 14, 2012

Happy smiling kids at Kashgar, Xinjiang, China

Location: Kashgar , Xinjiang, China (39° 45' 26 N 78° 24' 18 E)
Date: 2 October 2008; 10.30am
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

I have not been to China for more than a year now. I used to travel to China a few times a year but lately I have been disgusted by the repressive reaction of the Chinese government towards the ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet- places that I enjoyed and loved. The major minorities of these 2 provinces, the Uighurs’ and Tibetans’ have been suffocating under the weight of Han migration, diluting their numbers in their homeland as well as the slow destruction of their culture and traditions- sometimes intentionally- in the name of national identity. In some cases, centuries-old heritage were destroyed in the name of development, in the hands of Han Chinese. Both these minorities had pleaded in vain for the Chinese government to listen to their grievances, but instead the government only lectures in return. Hence it is unsurprising that some section of these population felt that the only way to be heard is through non-violence or protest actions such as the Tibetan self-immolation. Instead of attempting to understand and seek to redress such concerns, the government replied with more crackdowns, including granting police right to detention in “black jails” without trial. This is really sad. I just hope that the happy smiles of Uighur and Tibetan children are not lost forever.


March 5, 2012

Ama Dablam- the beautiful and masculine mountain is everywhere

Location: Tashinga, Khumbu, Nepal (27°50'3.35"N 86°44'31.18"E)
Date: 11 April 2000; 2.45pm
Camera: Canon EOS 500N (analogue) on slides and scanned

The Khumbu region where Everest is located is packed full of snow-capped mountains- be it the highest summits in the world or well-known climbing peaks. However no other mountains has a more imposing presence in this region, at least all along the Everest Trek, than the mighty Ama Dablam. Standing at 6,812m it is not considered a high mountain, at least not around here, but it can be seen virtually everywhere along the trek. It is such a masculine mountain that it is unmistakable looking from any face. It is also one of my favourite mountain.


Slideshow for Dec2011-Feb2012