CategoriesArchiveSearchRandom
View the archives

or

Search the archives
 

Archive for the 'photos' Category

Ha Noi, Sa Pa and Halong Bay, Vietnam, June 2016

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

IMG_7801

As usual it takes me more than half a year to post holiday photos and write a few lines about it. This time it’s June 2016’s holiday to Vietnam [wikipedia.org]. A packaged tour to Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay.

We flew into Hanoi [wikipedia.org]. Our first stop was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum [wikipedia.org] followed by a visit to the Presidential Palace Historical Site [wikipedia.org] built by the French as the seat for the Governor-General of Indochina and where Ho Chi Minh [wikipedia.org] later lived as President, though not in the European style palace rather in a more modest and traditional stilt house.

Later we visited the Temple of Literature [wikipedia.org]. Dedicated to “Confucius, sages and scholars” and home to the first university in Vietnam, founded in 1076 (take that Oxford and Bologna). The most interesting thing is the Stelae of the Doctors which are 82 large stone statues of Turtles with a large — meter and a half or so? — tablet standing on their backs and inscribed with the names of the graduates and staff of the university.

IMG_0045

After the Temple we took a rest and had dinner before boarding an overnight train to Sa Pa. An adventure for my daughters who could not sleep. We left late and arrived in Lào Cai [wikipedia.org] before 6AM.

IMG_9039

From Lao Cai we took a bus up into the hills to Sa Pa [wikipedia.org].

We didn’t do much in Sapa town itself, just eating and sleeping (and a bit of pool time). We spent our two days treking around two local villages – Lao Chải a Black Hmong [wikipedia.org] village and Tả Phìn a Red Dao [wikipedia.org] (the ‘D’, written as ‘Đ’ in Vietnamese, is pronounced like a ‘Z’). The villages are beautiful, bright green rice paddies in the valleys between mountains but you do spend the whole hike being followed by eager locals hawking things. That gets real old after a few kilometers. I know they are just trying to make a living but if you do buy something from one then you become a target for the rest.

We spent most of a day driving back from Sa Pa to Hanoi and spent the evening in the Lotte Hotel. Shopping, swimming and watching the traffic 30-plus storeys below. The next day we spent the morning driving from Hanoi to the coast to visit Ha Long Bay [wikipedia.org]. We spent the early afternoon sailing among the limestone karst formations that make up the bay and visited a floating village to get a more up-close view via a traditional row boat trip around some of the islands.

IMG_9766

After a night on the boat — another first for the kids, along with the train — we visited Sung Sot cave and Monkey Island beach. And then a long ride back to Hanoi.

The last evening in Hanoi we went to see a traditional water puppet show which was interesting. Very annoying the number of ass holes recording the whole show on their phones or taking photos and forgetting to turn off the damn flash despite being asked in, like, seven languages to no take videos or photos. So unless you are in the front row you get to enjoy the show with 5 or 10 small screens in your view. Ass holes.

The full set of photos is on Filckr: Hanoi [flickr.com], Sapa [flickr.com] and Halong Bay [flickr.com].

Cherry Blossom at Gardens by the Bay

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

IMG_7128

See the full set of flickr [flickr.com].

Solar Eclipse, March 2016

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

IMG_6752

There was a total solar eclipse [nasa.gov] today! A few hundred kilometers south of Singapore it was a total eclipse but we got 88% coverage at maximum here [timeanddate.com].

It’s amazing how little knowledge there was about this in Singapore. First mention I saw of it in local media was two days before. No one anywhere selling viewing glasses or sheets or anything; seem Singaporeans don’t fully understand capitalism, there is a total eclipse in December 2019 here so I need to pre-order a few thousand solar eclipse glasses!) I put too much effort into taking my photos – I rented a 500mm Canon lens and a doubler from Camera Rental Center [camerarental.biz] here in Singapore. Read up on how to take the photos on Mr. Eclipse [mreclipse.com] and ordered solar film and glasses from Thousand Oaks Optical [thousandoaksoptical.com] via Amazon [amazon.com].

The photos turned out great. See the full set here [flickr.com]. The only issue was my tripod was not up to the task of holding that mammoth lens so I could not take longer exposures – they got too blurry. C’est la via, ISO 3200 FTW! Next chance in 2019.

Agra and Delhi, India, June 2014

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

IMG_0411

In June I went to Pune in India for “handover training” on the project which has been the main focus of my work for three years now. I didn’t see much in Pune but since It was a three-week trip I managed to take a weekend trip with two of the other guys from the project. Of course the must see attraction for one’s first time in India is the Taj Mahal [wikipedia.org]!

In order to get to the Taj from Pune we flew to New Delhi early on Saturday morning. Once there we met up with a hired driver to drive us the 200+ kilometer to Agra. With a quick stop in Delhi to see the Red Fort [wikipedia.org]. The Red Fort was built by Shah Jahan, the same Mughal Emperor who built the Taj, and was the residence of the Mugal Emperors for 200 years until “the Britishers” took over.

You can see how the Red Fort must have been a beautiful place, and could be an amazing place to visit. However… it is in pretty bad shape. Trees down, all the water fountains under some sort of renovation &mdash and what appears to be the workers on this project living with their family under one of the buildings in the middle of what should be a pool. We saw a woman down there doing the laundry and the kids playing.

IMG_9544

All in all the Red Fort was not worth the two hours in the 40+ degree Celsius Delhi summer heat.

After a quick fast food lunch — the land of vegetarian McDonald’s “burgers”! We piled in our ride for a tour of India’s $2 Billion Yamuna Expressway [wikipedia.org]. Halfway to Agra we took a short break for our driver to replace a tire and then a few miles down the road to have the tire fixed. I haven’t seen a car tire with an inner-tube before. I think those went out of style in the US before I was born.

Eventually we did get to Agra. Then we go lost. Seem the driver didn’t know the way to the Taj. We drove the wrong way a few miles — which takes some time in Agra — before he asked for directions and we backtracked to the Taj.

IMG_0337

Once there we were told there was only 15 minutes until the ticket counters closed – one hour before the Taj itself closed for the night. And that it was a 600 meter walk from the parking area to the ticket counters. We elected to walk it, running a gauntlet of trickshaw drivers, camel handlers, horse masters and donkey cart drivers who wanted to sell us a ride. They didn’t give up until we were within about 100 meters of the ticket gates. The constant touting was not the part of the walk that leaves an impression. All tourist hot-spots have their equivalent. The smell is the part that sticks with you. It was like walking through an open sewer. It was, without a doubt, the worst smell I have ever smelled. Worse than the pit farms near my grandparents house. Worse than smell of Bangkok back alleys. I mean, you could see horse shit, donkey shit and even camel shit on the road — and you could smell it when it was there. But this was a constant smell of doom, an apocalyptic odor. Something I will never forget. We never identified its source but luckily it was confined to the 600 meters between the parking lot and the ticket counters.

We made it to the ticket counters in time, got our tickets and our booties — which one must ware inside the Taj itself. By coincidence that night was a full moon, and the Taj is open for night viewing during a full moon. We had planned to get tickets for the full moone viewing, unfortunately you can’t just buy tickets for it at the ticket counter — you have to buy them 24 hours in advance. The website makes not mention of this and we were unable to get them to sell us tickets so despite the coincidence we were unable to take advantage of our one night being the a full moon.

IMG_0102

We spent our hour wandering around and taking photos before the guards kicked everyone out and we had to make our way back through the stench. Thankfully it was less intense, maybe the wind have shifted. We spent a night in a nearby hotel.

Next morning we went back for sunrise photos but low hanging clouds kept it from being too dramatic. In any event we waked around for a good two hours taking in the beauty of the Taj itself and the surrounding buildings. The Taj deserves all the praise for its beauty. There is not much to it inside, it is after all a mausoleum. The outside is the glory. It is an amazingly beautify building. If it had not been for the need to get to Delhi to fly back to Pune for work I could have spent all day just wondering around the Taj grounds and admiring the beauty and the details. Despite the sunset and sunrise being less than spectacular and the daytime haze making for a dull gray sky I took an enormous amount of photos — I doubt I will ever go back.

12 and 24 hours in Istanbul

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

IMG_8843-Edit

On my last trip to Israel for work I scheduled a one day layover in Istanbul — arriving at 6AM and off again at 6PM — with plans to take the time to wander around Sultanahmet and take some photos. I’ve been to Istanbul many times, it’s a great city and always worth the time. Hagia Sophia [wikipedia.org] is my favorite building in the world. I can — and do — spend hours sitting and walking around it in.

I spent this day in Hagia Sofia as well as The Blue Mosque [wikipedia.org], the Basilica Cistern [wikipedia.org], the New Mosque [wikipedia.org] and generally wandering around Sultanahmet and nearby areas.

IMG_9130

That was all I planned for this trip. A relaxing day on the way to Israel for work. I did not plan to visit Istanbul on the way home, just a quick plane change. Alas my flight from Tel Aviv back to Istanbul didn’t take off till about 20 minutes before my connection was scheduled to take off and it’s an hour-long flight.

We were met at the gate by staff but they were only interested in passengers for a couple of destinations whose connections had not yet taken off. The Singapore flight was long gone. There were about 12 people on my plane who all missed the Singapore flight. I will only say that the Turkish ground staff had no idea what to do with us and were completely lost, they could only tell us the next flight was the same one the next day, 24 hours to wait. We had to figure out, basically on our own, that we needed to get visas because the airport hotel was full, we had issues with baggage — the staff there told us it was checked through, then they told us we could get it at after we go our hotel fixed, which meant leaving the customs area (and going through the one way gate into the arrivals hall), we needed to get paperwork from the ticketing counter upstairs, etc, etc, etc. It was a fiasco. Took me two hours. I was stupid enough to believe the luggage guys and leave the customs area and then I had to use a special phone to call them back from outside and they came and escorted me back into the customs areas and then took another 30 minutes to find my bag. My flight landed in Istanbul at midnight and it was 4AM when I got to my hotel.

IMG_8991-Edit

The good news is that the hotel was in a great location, near Fetih [wikipedia.org]. So, after some sleep I spent the day wandering around the Fetih Mosque [wikipedia.org], Şehzade Mosque [wikipedia.org], saw the Valens Aqueduct [wikipedia.org] and wandered around the university area. Even wandered through the end of some protest.

The missed flight and delay was tiring and losing a day was annoying but at least I got to spend it in a city I love to wander around it.