Friday, April 25, 2008

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Glacier walking

In the South Island of New Zealand, there are 2 famous glaciers on its west coast - Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Here, you can undertake one of New Zealand's top attractions : glacier walking!

There are trained guides who will lead a small group of tourists up onto the glaciers, and all equipment will be provided for. In fact, you can't go up yourself, and have to signup with one of the agencies there. There are several options available, and for those who have the budget or are less walking-inclined, there are helicopter rides up as well. Me and my friends went to Fox Glacier for a half day trek up onto the glacier.

The 2 glaciers in New Zealand are quite special in that they recede down quite low, onto a temperate rainforest! According to my guide, there are only 3 such glaciers that exist side-by-side with a temperate rainforest, 2 of which is already in New Zealand. The other is in Patagonia in South America. It was indeed quite fascinating hiking through a rainforest, and suddenly finding myself onto a chilly glacier.

Walking on the glacier itself is not hard; you're equipped with crampons, or spikes that you can attached to your shoes. These will help bite onto the glacier ice when walking. Of course, you can't go round running, and due care is still required. In fact, our guide is pretty strict in us maintaining our walking discipline. Certain parts, "steps" will be cut onto the glacier ice for us to climb up! Fun!

There are crevasses, caverns, holes and ice formations. The cold blue glacier landscape is really quite a sight. For those taking pictures, do note that you may have to adjust your exposure settings as most camera's auto exposure may result in underexposure in all-whitish scenes. Other than that, have a great time!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Songkran Festival

Songkran festival, also known as Water Splashing festival, is the Thai traditional New Year. It is celebrated on April 13 every year, and lasts 3 days. Their belief is that water washes away bad luck, and I guess thats where the water splashing gets really serious in the celebrations.... ;)

Everywhere you go, you will get wet. But its fun! The locals will travel around in their cars/vans and just splash water at everyone along the way. Along the roads, kids armed with Super Soakers or equivalent water guns spurt water at tourists and locals alike. Not only will you get soaked, you'll get smeared with a white powder which of course, mixed with water, becomes a gooey stuff....

There have been reports that ladies have been molested or taken advantaged of during these celebrations, so do take note if you're going to experience it. Otherwise, its realy a blast, literally!! Oh, similar festivals are also being celebrated around neighbouring countries on the same dates,. These include Laos, Myanmar, and even Sri Lanka, so you do have plenty of choice :).

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sakura season!

Hanami, or sakura viewing is a huge event in Japan and not just for the locals. Tons of tourists will throng the parks, and photographers go ga-ga. Sakura season usually start from end March to early April, with usually 1 week of full bloom or mankai. Part of the challenge in planning a trip to Japan for sakura is the logistics of airtickets and accommodation at the right time!

Considering that the top camera brands like Nikon and Canon hail from Japan, it's no wonder that the Japanese's passion for photography is apparent, especially during this season.
There is the young and the old ....

... and there's SLRs to camera phones...

.. and when it come to the poses, it's not the subjects but the photographers that are a sight!!!

Sakura season is a top draw in Japan, and rightly so. It was one of my most memorable experience in Japan walking through a sakura filled park!