Friday, May 03, 2013
In April it was one of the happiest moments in my life (really!) when one of my photos won a travel photo competition. I had just taken this photo in February, 2 months before and only having a year or so into analogue photography, I was taken by surprise when it was selected, one of the 10 out of 300 over entries.
To me this is an interesting journey about learning about photography. I asked many people about the photos they liked and many chose those that I would not have selected myself - photos they said had an atmosphere, a feeling of something magical, a sense of mystery. Personally I like them, I like the gradient of colors captured and I try to take 'clean' photos, making almost the whole area just in one or two colors, not too busy photos. But I also like to take postcard pretty photos that look like it could be an advertisement for a place, and also the quite kitsch photos that make people go 'awww'.
In this selection, a friend who is also an avid traveller and photographer, and another who has a facebook page of travel photographers' selections (nomadasia) helped me to make the choice. I wouldn't otherwise have submitted this photo, in fact.
Also, on some journeys I had never thought to go - I have never heard of the place, Mount Bromo, until the month before the trip where my well-read friends told me about it, and were so big-hearted that they didn't mind me tagging along. Liking to explore slowly as well, they left me with enough time in one place to be able to take my time to capture interesting shots. One of my facebook friends recently went to Mount Bromo and he said he went there based on the photos I took of the place, he had never heard of the place prior to seeing them on facebook! To me, that is really an accomplishment in my travel journey, to inspire others to make their own travel adventures!
Originally, I had intended to take photos just as a hobby, to sidetrack me from dwelling too deep in the intensity of my dark moods, and also, they serve as an accompaniment to my writings - I felt that travel writings are boring without photos. So it is strange to me still that my photos are well-received. It has been just a year when I started with my Hong Kong trip. In Singapore, I photographed all the old buildings and alley cats, scenes of my daily life. I hope to share these memories with a loved one someday. =)
Sunday, April 21, 2013
With you, I've always been myself.
Maybe it was because the first we met, I was already overwhelmed. Not by you, but by the words said to me just minutes before. Words I knew that were wise advices from someone who believed I could do better, be stronger, and follow my heart. So I tore you apart. I raised my voice. I scolded you for mundane things. For cutting onions too loudly. But you remained calm. And we saw each other again.
In January, another someone who believed, wrote kind words as well, and only in the last few days have I re-read them. He sounds very much like you or maybe, what I imagine the younger you to be. You see, my friend is young, in his early twenties, I presume, but his clarity of thought gives us the courage for moving on.
'A year is long enough and everything can change. And keep living your life, be yourself and don't feel like you're nothing without him.
And time will figure things out.
I don't mean you should give up, no,
you should trust your heart.
Because even if it leads to pain, it is still worth it as long as you believe it is.
I've went through something like this,
it was painful at the time, but I don't regret anything.
I did what I had to do.
It didn't work, eventually,
but it doesn't mean it wasn't right, and of course it doesn't mean it will be the same for you.
... Life is a wonderful thing,
we can never know how bad things can turn out to be the best things that have happened to us.
I know you are a good person, so everything will turn out for the best.'
And maybe, I've taken the silence too personally. I know you're facing challenges of your own and I wouldn't like to add to them. I shouldn't have expected too much out of these short moments.
I was glad to have met you, too.
Being with you had made me feel calm and happy, warm like home.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
I recall saying recently, during a conversation with a globetrotter, that I will never go to India. Teehee.
How should I put it - I think I just don't like to visit a place without proper infrastructure. Toilets. For women, it is really a hassle, you know, especially when the water is brown and the toilet is a hole in the ground. I don't particularly like to be stressed out by people trying to sell me something too, that's why I prefer traveling in less touristy cities where the locals are sincerely interested in you instead of trying to sell you something. But there is nothing like that in Bangalore. Bangalore has amazing roads, straight long roads and highways that are clearly indicated, and the most hardworking people I have ever seen.
I made Bangalore my first destination in India because a friend, Huggy, had been encouraging me to come to INDIA. COME TO BANGALORE, he commanded, much like the way he barged into my office when he was having meetings in the area and commanded me to dine with him. Not having any good destination in mind for the Good Friday weekend anyway, I booked the trip a month in advance. It cost $407 which I was told was a steal (usually $600ish). I also had many Bangalorian friends and acquaintances working here and when I mentioned the place they would suddenly have a dreamy look in their eyes and recall the good old days of zipping around in a motorbike. They seemed proud of me that I had chosen to go to this place on vacation, and before and after my trip I had received many messages from my work acquaintances, Banaglorians who wanted to know how my trip turned out to be.
On Nandi Hills
Sunrise on Nandi Hills
On a Sunday morning I went to the Chickpete / Chickpet area. Just in front of the long streets selling sarees, kurtas and household items, there is a flea market where people set up shop to hone their wares; be it fruit, pans, or sometimes, hair extensions. And that is a place after my own heart.
Makeshift stalls appeared, they consisted of baskets turned upside down, covered with a cloth, and all kinds of gorgeous fruit stacked neatly in piles. Generally not a fruit person, I went into a sublime state when I tasted this fresh, pink guava that had an amazingly sweet and fruity scent. The guavas were unlike the ones found back home that were gnarly looking and green, similar to a soursop. The ones in Bangalore were round, orange-sized and had pale yellow skins. I have never tasted anything like this! I knew why they were unpopular though, they had lots of tiny little hard seeds that could be unpalatable to swallow. We also bought fresh figs, what a delight, and a pomegranate, and if it weren't my last day there, I would have bought fruits aplenty!
Pink guava fruit seller
While on the motorbike I saw a hardworking lady, her shop stall was a makeshift covering and the goods were shoes piled on the pavement near the bus terminal. Her stall only sold shoes, and she was scrubbing and washing the dirt away on the items, scrubbing with a passion that most of us wouldn't possess. The shoes were shiny and clean, bereft of the dust that seemed to blow constantly on some roads. Elsewhere, I saw little girls threading flower garlands for sale without complaint. I saw men carting large amounts of produce, sugarcanes, sacks on their head, and they did it speedily and seemingly not unhappy about it. Even the auto-rickshaw drivers, many of whom we asked for directions, were just able to rest peacefully in the tunnels while waiting for their next passenger. I liked the auto-rickshaw very much, we took one during one of the nights out. Just call "Otto!" and a couple of tuk-tuk looking autos will come your way, stating their price. There wasn't any abject poverty that I had seen on this trip, even 2 hours far from the city, there are small villages, it's true, and barefooted people, but they seem happier than city dwellers as they walked hand in hand with each other in their village of colorful walls and dirt roads. I was told that even the beggars had mobile phones. Elsewhere there were cows on the roads eating trash but it seemed not all that disturbing to me. I hope I didn't contribute to their meal though.
Auto rickshaws near Chickpete.
Two village goats.
There were large graceful trees lining the roadways to the residences in Karnataka, a beautiful respite from the shade, that was one of the things I looked forward to seeing after long hours on the motorbike with Huggy. Tree lined avenues. There's just something majestic and soothing about riding through the road with the old trees beckoning your arrival.
At this time, I have already booked my next trip that is a little longer than a weekend (For this Bangalore trip I left Singapore Thursday night straight after work and came back early Monday morning) to Sri Lanka. I think one of the best things about travel is that you became more open and more aware of things, if not things happening in the world, then at least, things happening inside yourself, jauntily happy at the fact that you are capable to travel alone and book flights by yourself and find your way about without knowing the local language, you should be proud of yourself! And I think the most meaningful thing about this trip is that I made a new friend in Huggy. We graduated from being unreliable lunch buddies in Singapore to being able to talk about anything under the sun, and not just casual conversation. And so we will make our way to Sri Lanka next month, as good travelfriends.
With him, I spilled the beans on my innermost thoughts, the good and bad, why I really like certain books and authors, and being blunt about the type of things I dislike. I guess in most cultures there is a need to be diplomatic or inoffensive so he was really secretly impressed when I opined my true feelings. Later, I felt gushy when he said that he had learnt one thing from me, that was: To complain less. Aha! He was impressed by the fact that I had not let one peep of complain out any single time during the trip. (I did complain vigorously at the end when I learnt my flight was delayed for two hours, meaning that I would have to take a leave from work...)
I felt so gushy. Gush gush gush. And I found that we have something in common, when we are happy, we start to sing songs. Akin to a puppy wagging its tail in delight, we can't help ourselves. What are you singing, Huggy? He was singing a classical hindi song about first loves. Ah, how nice it is to have a happy weekend!
Friday, April 05, 2013
Photo from : http://shop.holstee.com/pages/about
Was at a work client's place last month and I saw this poster in their meeting room, while waiting.
Somehow, I felt that some of the words jumped out at me. It did help that they were in a bigger font. It's really meaningful if you take your time to read the words slowly to kill time.
I was so sure that I had found the love of my life last year.
But it's 2013, and things have changed, like the passing wind. I read the words: 'If you are looking for the love of your life, stop. They will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.' I have started going on journeys, and I hope that somewhere along the timeline, in fact, I don't hope, I just know, that this phrase will ring true.
Voila, I will 'travel often'. As much as it takes with the limited time and money I have; and not too much that I feel disenchanted - that does happen, at times. I have met a nice, incredibly sweet, strong, cuddly person.
It's 2013, after all. Let's see what happens...=)
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Relaxing in the late afternoon glow of the sun, I sat on this spot of Kuta, far from the madding crowd, enjoying a little isolation on the wet sands. A surfer in front of me had decided to do the exact same thing - he is nearer than he looks in this photo, because my camera was wide angled I looked to be quite far away. I think we both felt the same thing, that these 20 minutes or so (I had to get up after that duration, because I sunburn easily) that these 20 minutes was para, para Paradise. Oh oh oh oh oh-oh-oh!
Rawrr! Be very scared!
I'm so proud of myself for organizing this trip. =)
How this trip came about - my Dad had wanted to go to Bali - his first time - last year, as he had a Singaporean-Danish friend who asked him to visit. I had ridden a small horse for the first time last month at Mount Bromo and really enjoyed the experience, later asking our guide about good places to ride horses, he suggested Sanur, Bali. So already knowing we have free acommodation and local friends; we planned for this trip; knowing that the cost would not be too high. We also had budget tickets for a steal, going on airasia and coming back on tiger airways for about $200.
It's also the first trip for my father to do trekking in places other than Singapore and Malaysia so he was very excited. I have to add that I also sponsored his outfit, a sport jacket and track pants (though he did not feel as cold as me to put it on!)
Basically the rough itinerary:
Morning ride to horse-riding, back to friend's house
Went to Uluwatu, there is really an interesting row of shops and bars on the cliff. It was raining often so we hid at a cosy bar.
2 am journey to the Batur Caldera area from Kuta - as you can see from the map it's not so close by
Started trek around 4:30 , 5 am, for sunrise usually happens at 6:20 am.
Went down and around the village to a hot spring for an hour.
Lunch overlooking padi fields and the journey back, able to stop at any place you wanted - we only stopped at a coffee plantation and I got to see the producers of Kopi Luwak, the civet cats!
After some rest I spent a nice late afternoon and evening, walked more than half of Kuta Beach, walked half of the shopping area around Kuta Beach.
Went to some outlet stores and ONLY bought two pairs of shorts (one red, one yellow), a miracle!
Walked the other half of Kuta... =) Went for a massage and pedicure (flower on my toes!) at Poppies Lane, it was less than US$10, amazing. Became a shopaholic after getting over my initial reluctance to bargaining.
From the map you can see we really did go to so many places in this short time!
Horse Riding at Pantai Saba (Saba Beach)
Here at the Badung Strait in between the two temples, we did our horse-riding =)
I was amazed by the black sands of the beach which glittered in the sunlight. But it was also broiling hot and it made a deep tan on my shoulders!
Dad's first time on a horse, and first time to Bali!
The horse smiled for the camera. So funny!
On the black volcanic ash sands of Pantai Saba. It WAS hot!
My horse suddenly became camera-shy.
From this map it's clear to see the two mountains, Mount Agung (Gunung Agung) and Mount Batur (Gunung Batur).
We did the Batur Caldera trekking which went up and around the Toya Bungkah Village and Caldera Lake area, to about 1000m - at cloud level we could see the sunrise and the peak of the two mountains.
We also explored these places:
At Saba Beach
At Kuta Beach
It was a good idea to have a not-so-planned itinerary. Usually when I travel I try to stay with locals or ask strangers what is a good thing to do in the area. This way, I will often have some interesting experiences. In Chiangmai an old lady told me about the flower market and it was an amazing afternoon walking through the blooms. I loved the horse-riding last month at Bromo so much that I asked my guide where else would we be able to ride horses. He was from Bali and suggested Sanur, so it was through my independent research that I found this activity.
I didn't think that I would like Kuta as I have read so many unfavorable things about it, and it is true that most of the sales people along the beachfront will quote exorbitant prices like $10 for a bottle of mineral water and a chair, or $35 for a straw hat. (I managed to get the straw hat Dad wanted down to $5, after impressing upon them that I bought a hat the day before for that price. I lied, but I saved $30. Don't judge.)
However, there are some ways to get rid of the annoying and really very friendly guys who desired to teach you surfing, let you sit on their chair and offer you rides, drag you into their shop for a manicure (yes, it happens)
I wanted to get a more even tan as the horse-riding only browned my shoulders, so I took off my dress and walked the whole stretch in a bikini - the bikini bottom was shorts, and I felt disguised by a hat and sunglasses. None of the guys dared to have any more aggressive approach after seeing the bright color striped outfit of mine, they became shy, and so I walked the stretch in peace.
I enjoyed walking in Kuta actually, both at the long stretch of beach, and also at the long stretch of shops - there's such a great range of shops to explore and so many interesting things to see. So having an unplanned last day on Bali I immediately wanted to go back again. If you managed to walk past the annoying stretch and into St Poppies' Lane, you will love this part of Kuta. It's filled with many people also wearing nothing much, bunches of young backpackers, cheap beer, food, massages. A massage for an hour (or a pedicure or whatever you wanted) would set you back $5 (45,000), it's nice to tip the masseuse and see their happy faces. There's graffiti, great shops where you can do relaxed, undisturbed shopping and quote the price you think is fair. Some temples, beautiful and funny looking exteriors of shops and hotels. I could walk forever in this place.
For more on the trek read the earlier post:
Trekking up Batur Caldera
All photos taken by me and Dad.
Film: Lomography 400, Agfa Precisa CT 100, Kodak Ultramax 400.
Camera: Superheadz Vivitar UWS, Minolta Riva Zoom, Contax
Special thanks to Dad's friend, Emil Gerecke who kindly hosted us for the weekend in Kuta!