CategoriesArchiveSearchRandom
View the archives

or

Search the archives
 

Archive for the 'photos' Category

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 — 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.

Nagano and Yamanouchi, Japan, February 2014

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

From our base in Matsumoto [confusion.cc], we made our way by train by train to Nagano [wikipedia.org] bus and then on foot through the snow to Jigokudani Monkey Park [wikipedia.org] in Yamanouchi [wikipedia.org]! To see the world-famous snow monkeys, lounging in the Onsen:

IMG_7504

It was bitterly cold, around -10° C. And very atmospheric with steam rising from the various hot springs along “Hell’s Valley” (Jigokudani). our first sighting of the monkeys was foraging in the snow near the visitors center at the apex of a, very slippery, two kilometer walk through the woods. Despite the cold and snow there were a number of visitors, many with impressively large camera’s and zoom lenses determined to get great closeup shots of the monkeys. After taking our turn with the monkeys near the visitors center we walked on to the actual hot spring. It was a bit of a letdown when we first saw it:

IMG_7653

It’s a man-made bath for the monkeys. Also according to Wikipedia the monkeys only started to use the onsen in 1963. Proof of evolution? I think so. I guess the nice setup for photographers was made later in support of the Japanese obsession with photography.

We also visited Nagano itself, though this was on a different day due to how short the days were. We didn’t do much since it was the off-season, just wandered around Zenkō-ji and its surrounding building. Including at least two trips through the pitch black, and freezing cold, corridor under the main hall in an apparently fruitless attempt to gain entrance to paradise.

IMG_7799

Matsumoto, Japan, February 2014

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

10 years ago, in March 2004 I visited Japan for the first time. One of the stop on that trip was Matsumoto, in Nagano prefecture. We didn’t spend much time there – one afternoon and the night. I really only remember three things from my first visit:

IMG_8137

  1. How cold it was in Matsumoto-jo, one of the few original castles still standing in Japan, where we had to remove our shoes as we walked up to the top, everyone had frozen toes and it was snowing when we left
  2. A used Kimono shop on Nakamachi-dori, where we spent a long time browsing the beautiful kimonos
  3. The sound of the recorded woman announcing arrival in Matsumoto on the train as it pulled into the station

Ten years later, in February 2014, I visited Matsumoto again. The goal was to go somewhere where my daughters could see snow. Turns out Matsumoto was not really a good choice as it apparently does not get that much snow. We used Matsumoto as a home base to and went to Kambayashi Onsen in Yamanouchi — famous for its snow monkeys as well as seeing Zenkō-ji in Nagano and taking a bus to Hida-Takayama for an afternoon.

Matsumoto is an even quieter town than I remember and the early sunsets a late sunrises of winter made it seem ever quieter. But some things don’t change:

Even though it was quiet, we all enjoyed ourselves; my wife had a good time eating, including horse sashimi and more soba then you can shake a limp buckwheat noodle at. We took advantage of my mom and sister being with us to leave my daughters with them in the evening so we could go out and try different restaurants since my wife is really the only adventurous foodie in the group. My daughters enjoyed the soba too but their favorite things were ham from Lawson’s and the popcorn from 7-11.

IMG_7280

As for snow, we got some in Yamanouchi when we hiked up to see the snow monkeys and we drove through a lot on the way to Hida-Takayama but none in Matsumoto until the last morning. On the last morning we got a lot of snow we had to catch a train at 10AM but we know the forecast was for early snow. So I woke up at 5AM and sure enough there was about 10cm on the ground. I woke Tori up and we walked to the castle to take some photos and play for an hour or so.

Gold Coast, Australia, June 2013

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

IMG_0668

IMG_441

In June the family took a short holiday to the Gold Coast in Australia. Took the kids to Sea World and Movie World and whale watching. Not much for photo taking but the whales and the beach sunset on the first day were great.

During the whale watching we got to follow a few whales for almost 45 minutes, and we saw dolphins along side the whales and even a sea turtle. Unfortunately we didn’t see the whales breach but lots of surfacing for air – blow holes, humps and tails.

The beach was amazing, even in the southern winter the water was fairly warm – warmer than the air in fact. We played in the surf a lot, I think that Tori may have enjoyed the time at the beach better than anything else. The beach as Surfers Paradise — and in fact the whole town — reminded me of Gulf Shores and my granddads beach house when I was a kid. Wonderful shallow surf you could wade out in for a long way, sugar sand and all. It just had that small beach town feel, not like the mega tourist beach towns. I will have to take Tori and Livi back again just to play on the beach.

Tel Aviv, Israel, May 2013

Friday, October 18th, 2013

IMG_0538

I spent some time at work in Tel Aviv in May. Not much extra time for sightseeing or photography but I managed one evening walking along the beach. Israel seems to have amazing sunsets daily.

Prague, Czech Republic, November 2012

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

IMG_2661

IMG_2773

IMG_2852

I went to Prague for work. Just a few days for a conference, but I managed to slip out for an afternoon before the conference started and a morning before I flew off.

Prague is a beautiful city, and luckily the conference was in a hotel just outside the old town, so that even though I didn’t get much time I was able to walk around the most famous sites. It was an easy, 15 minute, walk from the hotel to old town square and the Astronomical Clock [wikipedia.org] — so hard to read, that’s why they had to put ‘normal’ clocks on both sides of it. When I stopped at the clock there were people talking wedding photos, and not just one couple, but several — one in a horse-drawn carriage and one in a fancy car. And then there was these girls sitting outside the old town hall [flickr.com] with their balloons looking sad, or maybe just exhausted.

A bit further from the hotel, down the cobblestone streets I visited Charles Bridge [wikipedia.org], unfortunately it was a hazy week and I was never able to get a good shot of Prague Castle [wikipedia.org] and St. Vitus Cathedral [wikipedia.org] up on the hill overlooking the bridge and river.

On the other side of the bridge I visited the Lennon Wall [wikipedia.org]. A colorful experience. The wall is interesting mostly in that it is an organic thing, not planned by anyone.

Later I made it up the hill to Prague Castle but only had time to see St. Vitus and take a few shots of Prague’s bridges over the Vltava River. The haze however was horrible, so the only shot that was really worth the hike up the hill was the one of St. Vitus, where the haze looks more like morning fog.

That was the extent of my sightseeing. I didn’t have time to really explore the old city’s sights and between jet lag, the conference and normal work I didn’t even get to go to any of the Jazz bars or pubs. The closest I got was a Pilsner with some of my coworkers one night in the hotel bar. Sad really.

MBS Sunset

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

IMG_2100

Olivia Anne Beggerly

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

IMG_1661

Sydney, NSW, Australia, May 2012

Friday, July 6th, 2012

IMG_2171

I traveled to Sydney (first time to Australia, and first time significantly into the southern hemisphere — Jakarta hardly counts) for work. Didn’t spend much time outside the hotel and customer sites but we did visit Circular Quay one night. Also there was a strange angel alley behind my hotel… Click on the photo to see the full set on Flickr.