Photos of the Great Ocean Walk

Here are my best photos from the Great Ocean Walk, a 110 km trek I did last month along the rugged southeast coast of Australia.

 

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Photos of Hualien, Taiwan

Here are my best photos of my final destination in Taiwan, Hualien County, and some music that has inspired me recently.

View from a oceanside park in Hualien

(Above five photos) A parade held by a local temple near my hotel.

(Above three photos) Local market vendors.
This is a famous Starbucks in Hualien County made from shipping containers

(Above three photos) Some of the great food I had in Hualien.

(Above two photos) Qingshui Cliffs north of Hualien.

(Above four photos) From national parks and other nature preserves in Hualien County.
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Recent Photos of Bangkok

Here are my best photos from the last six months of life in Bangkok.

Color Photos

(Above two photos) An egg vendor and her daughter.

(Above two photos) Monks in Thailand gather alms every morning and pray with those who donate. Traditionally food is given but I’ve heard that recently it’s become acceptable to give money as well.
A character in Lumpini Park near my condo. This man is almost certainly not a real monk.
These sidewalk whiskey vendors are especially common in working class areas of Bangkok. A shot of Thai whiskey normally costs 10 baht (about 0.30 USD). I remember a few years back when I first noticed one of these places a motorcycle taxi driver drove up, had a quick shot of whiskey without getting off his bike and then drove off into the night to look for his next fare.
An animal rights demonstration in front of a park in central Bangkok
A young student performing for extra money in front of Lumpini Park near my condo
This man and other blind people perform in front of a luxury hotel in central Bangkok

(Above three photos) Local vendors
A famous shrine in central Bangkok surrounded by luxury shopping centers
Progress marches on and I’ve definitely noticed that these mad jumbles of electrical lines are becoming less common than they used to be. I liked the way this one was silhouetted against the bright lights of an Izakaya (Japanese style bar).
In Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries spirit houses (shrines to the spirit of a place) are set up outside homes, residential and commercial buildings and even construction sites. This one is particularly elaborate – the main shrine in the upper right of the photo is typical but the mannequin parts, clothes and reclined wooden figure are over-the-top embellishments I’ve never seen before.
Sunset from my condo balcony
Sunset from the other side of my condo building

 

Black and White Photos

A sidewalk chess game

(Above six photos) You see a lot of street performers around Bangkok and I’ve noticed that it’s immediately apparent which ones need to do this to survive and which ones are comfortable middle class people doing it for extra income. For example, the elderly man in two of the photos probably needs to do this but with the young girl in the first photo you get the sense that her agent/mother is  on the phone to negotiate the terms of her client/daughter’s next gig. 
Sidewalk vegetable vendor

(Above two photos) Street food vendors
A lottery ticket vendor
A motorcycle repair shop
A large church in central Bangkok and an (unrelated) football field
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Photos of Chinese New Year

Here are my best photos from Chinese New Year (Feb. 5-19). The first set is from Bangkok Chinatown and the second is from around Em Quartier, an upscale shopping center.

Bangkok Chinatown

This man and his granddaughter were watching a traditional Chinese New Year dragon dance (below)

This monk was blessing passers by with holy water
New Year’s prayers at Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, the largest Chinese temple in Chinatown

(Above two photos) Votive candles at the same Chinese temple.
An attendant lighting votive candles at another Chinese temple
In the years that I’ve been living in Bangkok I’ve noticed that the police are getting stricter with street vendors…but only a bit – there are still lots of areas where vendors can set up their cart or plop down their wares on the sidewalk and Chinatown is famous for this. With the huge crowds I assume the Chinese New Year period is a busy time of year for street vendors.
A lottery ticket vendor

(Above two photos) Buddhist amulet vendors.
This woman is making Chinese dumplings
One of many vendors selling balloons to young children on Chinese New Years Day
Chinatown is full of old Chinese food shops like this
Traditional beauty treatment. This was out on the sidewalk on a busy street.
Another street vendor
A Thai doughnut vendor
Another street food vendor
Chinatown is famous for Thai Chinese seafood

(Above two photos) Lanterns decorating Chinatown for New Year
A final shot before taking the subway home – light trails in front of Hua Lamphong, Bangkok’s main train station.

 

Around EM Quartier

(Above two photos) This upscale shopping center invited customers to paint their own lanterns and displayed the best of them. Chinese New Year decorations appeared as soon as Christmas decorations came down (which wasn’t until late January).

        

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Photos of Penang

In the last post I shared photos of Entopia, Penang’s butterfly conservatory, where I spent my first full day on the island. Here are the best photos from the other seven days in Penang.

People

This is from a weekend arts and crafts market

(Above three photos) Street food vendors
A jewelry vendor
An old furniture shop
One of several tables set up outside a cheap liquor store in the old area of Georgetown, Penang’s main city. I was told this place is a popular night time hangout for local expats.

 

Monkeys

One quirk of this set of photos is that there are more shots of monkeys than of people. Penang was actually heavily populated but I spent a lot of time in nature areas (botanical garden, national park etc.) and these were full of macaques.

 

Street Art

One of the joys of strolling around Georgetown’s old historical area was stumbling upon a lot of cool street art.

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The Butterflies of Penang Were Terrific; Was I?

In my last post, “Aligning Toward a Better You,” I wrote that significant personal change occurs only when we have a clear target and make consistent efforts in that direction over an extended period of time. To be a better cook, you need to cook several times a week, regularly challenging yourself with new recipes and techniques. Whipping up the same three favorites when you get tired of takeout isn’t going to help. And neither is an expanding library of cookbooks.

One of my own ongoing goals is to keep improving my photography. While traveling in Penang, Malaysia, earlier this month I realized that a fun test of my progress would be to compare the photos I took at a butterfly conservatory there to those I took at one in Goa, India, about two years ago. This post appealed to me for another reason: everyone loves butterflies, and in this post I share two different sets of photos from two different countries, taken two years apart, so readers can judge for themselves.

My favorite post from my trip to India two years ago was “Waiting for Butterflies,” about my visit to the Butterfly Conservatory of Goa. It included an essay about how the day started badly but ended well, and what I learned about how to make the most of challenging circumstances. The essay was followed by a set of photos from the Conservatory.

After the trip to India I had additional opportunities to photograph butterflies at the Bronx Zoo in New York; the Medellin Botanical Garden in Colombia; a butterfly farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand; and the Buddhist Museum in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I’ve shared photos from all but the final location. Then, earlier this month, almost two years after the Goa trip, I traveled to Penang, Malaysia, for a week. The high point of that trip was a visit to Entopia, the island’s large butterfly conservatory.

Early in the Goa butterfly post I noted that butterflies are really difficult to photograph well:

To start, they’re small and flutter around from flower to leaf to branch, without staying in one place for very long. (In Thailand, a man who hops from woman to woman without settling down is known as a “butterfly man.”)

And, for a good photograph, you need to have the camera focus on the tiny subject and blur what’s in front and back of it. Finally, you need to be close enough to capture the butterfly’s intricate beauty without scaring it away.

Shortly after visiting Penang Entopia earlier this month it occurred to me that one really good way to measure my progress with photography would be to assess how much progress I’ve made with this particularly difficult subject in the two years between Goa and Penang.

In comparing the photos from these two conservatories, it’s important to note the vast difference in quality of the facilities—Goa’s Conservatory was like a bumbling junior high soccer player who shows up to matches stoned and never washes his uniform, and Penang’s Entopia was like a confident World Cup MVP who dates super models and stars in Italian underwear ads in the off season. As I wrote in the Goa post, I’m glad I made the trip because I like butterflies, and more importantly that excursion taught me a lot about how to make the best of difficult circumstances, but turning that day into a 3,000-word essay and a set of butterfly photos is one of my own odd quirks as a human being. If you find yourself in Goa, I can’t recommend a visit. Truth be told, the Goa conservatory was small, poorly maintained, and had a relatively small number of butterflies.

Penang’s Entopia, on the other hand, is a world-class facility and is regularly featured on lists of the world’s best nature conservatories. Over 15,000 butterflies from 60 different species flutter inside a huge diaphanous dome, which lets in just the right amount of soft sunlight, flattering both the butterflies and the immaculately maintained flower gardens.

Given that Penang Entopia is vastly superior in size and quality to the Goa Conservatory, it’s natural that my collection of photos from that visit is much larger, and of course I don’t get any credit for that. I’ve included 24 photos in the Penang set below, and I probably could have included double that without watering down the quality. (I took about 1,200 photos that day, so the photos below are roughly the top 2%. There were of course lots of bad photos from both Goa and Penang—as I noted above, taking good butterfly photos is really, really hard.)

While it’s meaningless to compare the number of photos or diversity of butterflies, it’s entirely fair to consider the average quality of each image and assess whether or not I’ve made significant progress with my photography in the two years between the trips. As I’ve noted in other posts, I think we improve mainly by practicing the skill we want to improve. According to my photo management and editing application (Photos for Mac), I took about 70,000 photos between Goa and Penang. Beyond taking lots and lots of photos, I often critique my shots soon after taking them: What’s good about this image? How could it be better?

I think readers are the best judge of quality, so here are the two sets of photos. The first is the starting point in my saga of photographing these lovely but challenging subjects, while the second from just two weeks ago represents my current level. Am I getting better? It’s a question I’m constantly asking myself.

The Penang Photos (at Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm), January 2019

The Goa Photos (from Butterfly Conservatory Of Goa), February 2017

   

 

 

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Best Photos of Taipei

During my recent travels in Taiwan I spent about one week in Taipei. Before researching the trip I imagined that Taipei was another large, ugly Asian city. There are, truth be told, a lot of these – for example, while Tokyo, Shanghai and Bangkok are endlessly fascinating no one would call them beautiful. As I read up on Taipei though I learned about the large number of nature areas in the city (including a big national park), endless cultural attractions, a world class zoo and lots of promising markets.

My growing impression that Taipei (and the rest of Taiwan) had much more to offer than I expected was the major reason I decided to travel there this fall instead of returning to Nepal, and the trip easily exceeded my expectations. Far from being an ugly Asian city, Taipei was quite clean and well organized and you could easily spend a week or two doing nothing but hiking in Yang Ming Shan National Park and the city’s many other nature preserves. I shared photos from my first day in Taipei in this post. Here are the best photos from the remainder of my time in the city. 

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Photos of Taiwan’s Alishan National Scenic Area

On my recent travels in Taiwan, my next stop after Taipei was Alishan National Scenic Area, perhaps the most popular of Taiwan’s countless nature reserves. I stayed a few kilometers outside Alishan in Fenchihu, an old village set among thick bamboo forests and verdant tea plantations. Here are my best photos from both Alishan and some hikes around my B&B.

Monks walking in Alishan. This and other nature photos in this post are from hikes in Alishan and around my B&B near Fenchihu, a few km outside the Scenic Area.

Continue reading “Photos of Taiwan’s Alishan National Scenic Area”

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