Category Archives: photograph

Surfing Outback


This week LGS is stepping in the ol’ time machine (otherwise known as my dusty photo album) to go back some 15 years.  It was not the best of times for me.  I was very  stressed, terribly unhealthy and quite unwell.  During this dip in my life, I took a trip to Australia to visit relatives.  I was so worn out that I slept most of the time there.  But I did go on a road trip with them towards the interior of Oz.

Our journey started from Perth and we made our way south for hundreds of kilometers to Albany before we struck out to the north and inland towards the heart of the continent.

 

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As it was spring, the journey started lush and green and colourful (Stirling Range National Park)
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Canola fields
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After the Stirling Range, we endured seemingly endless boring kilometers of flat, dry , dusty featureless landscape (the wild flowers were pretty though)
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Any distraction from the long drive was welcome.  Even a dog cemetery.
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But there were beautiful things to see if you took your time to look
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And there were local inhabitants to meet
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Finally, we made it to our destination of Hyden.  This is where we spent the night.
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Near by is the Hippo’s Yawn Cave.  Caves nearby have aboriginal hand paintings.
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And finally, this was what we traveled all those long dusty kilometers to do!  To go surfing! (Wave Rock, Hyden)

No chance of drowning or shark attack here!

 

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Gardens by the Bay


Some of you came by and left happy birthday wishes last week.  I was not able to immediately reply because I was in neighboring Singapore and was too skinflint to spring for the cost of wifi.  Nevertheless, thanks for the messages which I appreciated even though I don’t normally observe that day in any special manner.  ( I am still annoyed and have been for many years that I can no longer claim to be an ‘irresponsible’ teenager).

Anyway, I spent most of my birthday on the open road, driving to Singapore.  However, the point of this post is to share with you my experiences at one of Singapore’s more recent attractions, the Gardens by the Bay.

The place is located on reclaimed land within a stone throw away from the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel (well, it’s a stone throw if Hercules was doing the throwing).  There you will find open gardens showcasing different types of flora to which admission is free and is a great place to walk around and get some serenity in the midst of bustling Singapore (avoid school holidays and public holidays though when the people throng through like sardine schools).

However, there are also the very spectacular Supertrees.  These are tall 25 -50 m structures shaped like trees with a spreading canopy but most special of all is that vegetation has been encouraged to grow on the structure creating a natural green and living wall.  At night, the Supertree Grove is lit up and twice a night a very beautiful light show is performed.  The Supertrees are also linked by a walkway that allows you to take in the Supertrees and the view of the gardens from several storeys up.  These Supertrees alone are probably worth making the trip to the Gardens.

However, there are two enormous greenhouse like domes; the Flower Dome and the Cloud Dome.  The former is basically a large climate controlled greenhouse for plants including arid desert plants and flowers.  When I was there, the focus was on orchids.

The Cloud Dome is a massive structure that  houses a huge man-made hill complete with waterfall.  The uniqueness is that the whole structure houses plants normally found in tropical cloud forests.  Apart from the spray from the waterfall, the dome creates its own mist cloud every few hours to keep the riot of vegetation happy.  It is quite the sight.  Walkways bring you in and out of the structure so that you can get views of it from a distance, up close, from above, by its side and from below and every other possible view.

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I hope you enjoyed the photos.  It is a great place although the price of admission to the two domes seemed a little bit steep and although the cloud forest dome was very stunning, I found the variety of plants there more limited than I had expected.  As for the Flower Dome, I have seen far more impressive floral displays elsewhere.

So, overall, I think it is worth a visit especially for the Supertrees.  For the rest, I hope they will work at improving it further.

Moon River


I took a bit of liberty with the title of this post. It isn’t about the Andy Williams’ song by that name. Sorry if I misled you.

This post is actually about a photograph I took of a bridge in South Korea. I had previously posted about going to Hahoe Village which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The village lies within a loop of the Nakdong River.  Nearby is the town of Andong and it is there that we find Woryeong-gyo or the “reflection of the Moon on the river” bridge.  

The Woryeong-gyo, with a length of 387 m, crosses the Nakdong River and is the longest wooden pedestrian bridge in South Korea.

There is a legend associated with the bridge.  It is said that the construction style of the bridge resembles that of the mituri which is a type of traditional straw shoes made of paper, mulberry, bush clover, hemp, and rice straws. The legend speaks of a grieving wife who expressed her love for her deceased husband and her deep sorrow by making a pair of mituri sandals using her own hair.  The bridge, so they say, commemorates her act of devotional love.

So in short, the bridge is about romance.

Mituri sandals
Mituri sandals

I got there on a cold winter night and I did indeed get to see the reflection of the moon on the river.  It was indeed a beautiful and romantic spot.  I might have enjoyed it more if I was not busy shivering and bracing myself against the chilly blasts of wind coming off the water.  It took me many cups of ht tea later to feel warm again and to regain sensation in my fingers and exposed ears.

Still, despite the shivering, I managed to take this hand-held and long exposure photo of a pavilion located near the middle of the bridge.  Sure, it ain’t perfect but I am still rather pleased with how it came out.

Ladies and gents……….(drum roll)………… the spirit of ethereal love as seen at the pavilion of the “reflection of the Moon on the river” bridge  on the Nakdong River.

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Pavilion on the Reflection of the Moon on the River Bridge. (Photo by LGS)

Squirrel’s Secret Spot 15: Korea – Hahoe Style


My nephew’s wife (would that be my niece-in-law?) is a lovely Korean girl.  So I guess it was just a matter of time that there was a family vacation to Korea to get to know the culture better and that is what we did last September.

We did make a trip to Gangnam to witness the Gangnam Style made famous by Psy ( the ladies wanted to do some shopping)  but for me, it was just a cityscape like you could find almost anywhere in the world and filled with overpriced designer goods.  So the real Gangnam like the Gangnam Style video just left me cold.

Instead, the highlight of the trip for me was our visit to Andong Hahoe Village.  This UNESCO World Heritage site is a snapshot of Korean life that has remained relatively unchanged since the Joseon Dynasty at around the 16th Century.

Hahoe Village is beautifully located within a bend of the tranquil Nakdong River with beautiful sandy beaches and the imposing Buyongdae Cliff on the opposite bank.  It’s name actually means “Village that is enveloped by water”.

Its buildings represent the architecture of the 16th Century and the Confucianism philosophy ascendent at that time.  Indeed the village was suppose to be an incubator of intellectuals and court officials of the Joseon Dynasty.

However, what really makes this special is that the place (unlike many) has not been put on for tourists – it is still very much a real, working, living village with the villagers still living a mostly traditional life.  A real time capsule with insight to the Korean psyche.

The villagers still work the land.  Paddy fields, vegetable gardens, and orchards are found both in and around the village.  Traditional crafts like mask making are still practiced and traditional costumes are still worn especially at weekends.

I loved the place.  Hope you will enjoy the photos (all photos by LGS).

Oh, and the beef bbq Korean style in Andong is mucho delicious. A must try.

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Fire in the Sanctuary


The Fire Burns Bright in Heart's Sanctuary (Photo by LGS)
A fire blazes bright and warm,
Where darkness once held reign,
It lights the garden of my heart,
Through wind, clouds and rain.
 
Where once I wondered at the sky
where flickering stars glitter bright
 my eyes, my soul now inward cast
at dancing flames and laughing light
 
And in its glow, I dare to dream
To rise beyond earthly bounds
To soar on spirit wings and hope
To the symphony of nightly sounds
 
A fire blazes bright and warm
Within the sanctuary of my heart
At peace, I in slumber rest
Assured that I am under its guard

Poem and Picture by LGS.

Kecak


Our friend Mago does a series on his blog called “Sunday Music” and just recently he covered a song by Annette Hanshaw (1901-1985).  In his post, he included the use of that song in an animated version of the Ramayana story.  A rather unusual combination which you should check out.

Anyway, this reminded me that I had a related post that had long been on the back-burner and I decided it was time to bring it to a boil.

In Bali, Indonesia, there is a dance called the kecak dance in which dancers enact the Ramayana story with musical accompaniment provided by the rhythmic, hypnotic chanting of a large group of men.  It is quite an experience.  I have had the good fortune of witnessing it twice.  Once, I saw it as part of a dinner performance at an international beach hotel in Nusa Dua (which is where all the photos  below were taken) and once at a sunset ceremonial performance at the clifftop temple at Uluwatu.  Of the two, I really must recommend the spectacular setting at the Uluwatu temple which also includes a fire dance.  If you are ever in Bali, this is definitely one of the highlights not to be missed.  To tantalise you, I have included a video by Hawaiian filmmaker and reknown hula dancer Kimokekahuna at the Uluwatu temple.

The Ramayana is a classic Hindu story.  In brief, the kecak dance is about the hero Rama and his beautiful wife Siti.  One day while in the forest, Siti sees a golden deer and begs Rama to capture it for her.  He leaves Siti under the protection of his brother Lakshmana and chases after the deer.  Sometime later, Siti is misled into thinking that she hears Rama calling for help.  Fearful for her husband, she pleads for Lakshmana to go and search for Rama.  Lakshmana is reluctant to do so at first but eventually gives in to her pleas and disappears into the forest looking for Rama.

But it was all a ploy to get Siti alone and unprotected and she is kidnapped by the demon King Ravana and taken to his kingdom of Lanka.  The rest of the story is about how Rama defeats Ravana and rescues Siti with the help of the white monkey king, Hanuman and his army of monkeys.

 

Kecak Dance and Dinner at the Grand Hyatt, Nusa Dua, Bali.

 

The Bad Guy Appears

 

Fight! Fight! Fight!

 

Left to Right: The Golden Deer, Little Tourist and Some Character that I Can't Remember

 

The Bad Guys After Losing Again

 

The White Monkey King Giving Me the Thumbs Up

 

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Mongolian Beasts


This post is about two beasts that I encountered in Mongolia.   The first is the rare Przewalski’s horse.  When we think of wild horses, we might often think of the American Mustang or other such horses.   However, these are really just domesticated horses that have gone feral.  The Przewalski’s Horse is the only surviving true wild horse.   It is a possible ancestor of the modern domesticated horse.

It has 68 choromosones whereas the modern horse has only 66 chromosomes.  It also has faint striping on its legs which is a sign that it is a more ancient species.  Scientists believe that it and the modern horse diverged from each other some 160,000 years ago.

The horse is named after the Russian geographer and explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky; hence its unusual name.  However, the Mongolians call it the Takhi.     The Takhi disappeared from its home range in the Mongolian Steppes in the 1960’s but since 1998 an international effort has successfully introduced takhi taken from zoo populations and reintroduced them into three Mongolian  protected areas.  This is a rare example of a successful reintroduction of a species into the wild and the Mongolians are rightly proud of this.

One of the places to see the takhi is in Hustai National Park near Ulaanbaatar.  However, you still need a bit of luck to see them.

We first saw the Takhi against this spectacular backdrop.
Rubbing It's Behind on the Rough Rock
The Herd

 

My blogging friend  Geewits always speaks of “synchronicity”.  By this she means, the strange phenomena when suddenly a topic or an item keeps appearing in a short period from different sources.  Well, this second beast of this post is an example of synchronicity.

Just before going to Mongolia, I did my Halloween post which was about the Beast of Gevaudan.  While researching for the post, I discovered that some cryptozoologists proposed that the animal may be a surviving member of a group of wolf-like animals called Mesonychids which were believed to have gone extinct 32 million years ago.

When I was in Ulaanbaatar, I had the opportunity to visit the Mongolian Natural History Museum and guess what I saw there?  The top part of a skull of the Andrewsarchus mongoliensis.  This animal is known from fossils dug up from the Mongolian Gobi Desert and is thought to be the largest of the Mesonychids.  What would be the odds about posting about this and then coming face to face with its fossil within a week in a foreign land?  That’s synchronicity.

Hopefully I will now not meet one of these creatures alive and biting.  That would not be synchronicity.  That would be a story from the Twilight Zone.

Andrewsarchus mongoliensis skull