December 9, 2016

Children playgrounds at airports are useful for young parents

Photo Details:  Trolleys at Changi Airport, Singapore (1.3644° N, 103.9915° E) March 2015

When I was a backpacker, I normally turn up and check-in about an hour before my flights. Now when we travels with our little one, we tend to try to be at the airport earlier to avoid any last minute complications. Furthermore if we take any long-ish flights (over 3 hours) and/or overnight ones, we will definitely try to be at the airport earlier. Most airports such as  Singapore’s Changi Airport has children playgrounds. We find it very helpful to check-in earlier and bring our son to spend some time at the playground to tire him out a bit. This will make for a more peaceful flight- he will be tired and fall asleep easily on the flight.
However not many airports are so children-friendly. In fact of the many airports that we have travelled with him in Asia and Europe, the only other one apart from Changi that has anything akin to a children playground is Narita of Tokyo, Japan. I guess it is about time that the new airports should pay a bit more attention to such needs of young parents.


December 6, 2016

If you bring a young kid to Italy, better to bring a carrier than a stroller

Photo Details: Colosseum, Rome, Italy (41.8902° N, 12.4922° E),  April 2011.

Italy is a beautiful country, modern yet ancient in a lot of ways. The most obvious manifestation of its heritage are the centuries-old cobblestone roads in most cities and its amazing collection of invaluable arts and architecture. Often most of its prized arts and historical collections are housed in museums within converted heritage buildings with beautiful split levels accessible by stairs and in some cases (now) by lifts. As most of these buildings are old, structurally it is very difficult to be modified to suit modern day needs such as air-condition and accommodating handicapped people. I never thought much about visiting such places and walking the few stairs to different floors to enjoy the marvellous displays until we brought our young son along when he was around 3 years old. We were then also not experienced enough to realise the niceties- instead of bringing and carrying him in a backpack child carrier, we opted to bring a stroller/pram. This caused enormous inconvenience while visiting museums as most of them do not have lifts conveniently located- even if they do, there are still needs to take a few flights of stairs to reach the lifts. This became a problem with a kid in a stroller!!
So a tip for travellers with young children visiting countries such as Italy and Spain; if you planned to visit museums, try to bring a carrier instead or on top of a stroller for your little one.


December 3, 2016

Who is afraid of height? Not me!

Photo Details: Taroko Gorge, Taiwan (24.1587° N, 121.6216° E) Oct 2015

Travelling with kids, especially a little one is very different from traveling alone as a backpacker. There are so many considerations to take into account. Accommodation comfort, suitable food availability and ease of obtaining it, hassle-less transport, keeping the little one interested and most important of all, keeping an eye on the little one.
Our son has just turned 5. In some ways it is easier to travel with him now- food is easier (though he has never been a problem), he can walk on his own most of the time, no need to rush back for afternoon naps and so on. However it has other challenges compared to when younger- he is more easily bored, he has his own mind and argues a lot more, if he is tired and does not want to walk, he is a lot more difficult to carry.
One can probably forget about lingering around to try to take quality photos at the right moments. There is no chance to do so and one can definitely forget about blue hours- it is dinner time!
That said, it is different fun traveling as a family with my beloved wife and my naughty son. There are always fun and memorable moments which we will remember but we doubt he will, at this age. An example was when he gamely and bravely walk across a hanging bridge on his own over a gorge at Taroko Gorge in Taiwan (he was 3+ then). It was so funny to watch him trundle, hopping across on his own without any fear of the height and surroundings. These are moments to cherish.


December 2, 2016

I have changed!!

Photo Details: Singapore, Dec 2016

Yes! I am a changed man.
I have changed to using Sony instead of Canon. I have used canon since I started taking photos and have a small collection of Canon cameras (both film and digital) and lenses. I was looking to upgrade from APS-C to full-frame and when I looked around, Canon did not impress me with their conservative approach to technology and photography. On the other hand, Sony is simply pushing the envelope in terms of incorporating awesome new technology that helps take better photos, into their new line of  mirrorless cameras. Sony is just challenging the status quo by putting technology into their cameras while Canon is simply mining their gold (so to speak).
I started off with the amazing APS-C size A6000. I was very impressed by its capability and image quality. After spending some time with it, I decided that Sony is the right choice to move up to; I sold the A6000 and bought the A7M2.
One of the factors that encouraged me to switched to Sony was the ability to use my Canon lenses by an adapter. Though the functionality of Canon lenses on Sony body is slightly inferior than using the lenses natively, they are acceptable compromises to me.
So far I have been using the A7M2 on only a few trips. I have yet to fully explore its capabilities. It takes a little getting used to, coming from the Canon world. However I am sure I will have lots of fun with it.


November 30, 2016

A high altitude oasis- Hunder

Photo Details: Lake in Hunder, Nubra Valley, Kashmir, India (34.5753° N, 77.4989° E) Sept 2009

Hunder is a small village in the middle of the cold deserts of the Nubra Valley in Kashmir, India. It is a cold place with a desert that is actually very cold with sand dunes. Close to the disputed Siachen Glacier near the so-called border with Pakistan, it is an area tightly controlled by the Indian Army. The sand dunes and the desert is not exactly your Namibian-ish desert; still its rolling expanse is quite a sight especially being in the high altitude- it is cold! Even though the area surrounding the village is acrid and desolate, Hunder itself is quite an oasis famed for its orchards, nuts and flowers.


November 29, 2016

One of the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world- Shinjuku

Photo Details: Shinjuku Crossing, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan (35°39'30.65" N 139°42'4.79" E) May 2015.

Hi guys, I am back!
It has been over 3 years since my last post. I have been busy during this period, not with travel or so much with photography but with my family- my son is now 5 years old.
As a result, my travels these days are not the same as it was previously. With a young one along, we are now more in the mood of “family travels” where most of the time is spent in cities and/or more child-friendly environment. So the photos that I am taking these days are not so “outdoor” but more street photography, mixed in with lots of family photos.
Therefore I am now changing the format and focus of this blog a bit. I will still be posting photos- in fact I am planning to do a “1-photo-a-day” regime very soon- with less exif data. I am also write about travelling with family and especially with a young kid. There are challenges and there are tips that we have acquired along the way that we would love to share with everyone.
So, here we go.
Shinjuku Crossing is supposedly the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. At the peak hours, there are literally hundreds of pedestrians crossing this square block of traffic junction at every change of lights. This is one of the highlights to experience for anyone visiting Tokyo especially if you do not come from an Asian country where crowds are the norm.


June 26, 2013

Will traveling be eased because it is a UNESCO Heritage Site?

Locations: Bayabulak, Xinjiang, China (43.030°,84.150°
Date: 27 May 1999; 10.20am
Camera: (analogue) Canon 500N with negatives and scanned

UNESCO just added 19 new sites to its Heritage list. Among the new additions is Tianshan Xinjiang, the Tianshan mountain system in Xinjiang. This is a uniquely beautiful and till now, fairly unspoilt area of China. In fact, one would not imagined oneself to be in China here, considering the pollution and destruction that is prevalent in the rest of China. This area is the home of the Uighurs, Mongolians and a host of other ethnic minorities of Central Asia. The beauty, especially the snow-covered mountain ranges is indescribable. Getting around these places is not that convenient but is well-worth the effort. Unfortunately these days accessibility is not as open as it used to. The Chinese authorities had bar access to some of these places citing security concerns. For example, Bayanbulak, a fabulously beautiful high altitude meadows grassland ringed by snow-capped mountains can now only be visited by foreigners who have a special pass. I hope that as a result of its listing as  a UNESCO Heritage Site would prompt the authorities to ease up on its travel control.