Sunday, December 28, 2008


It has been a year full of impactful events - most of which is not particularly good. Earthquakes, terror attacks, and a financial meltdown, the news had been dark and the only spark I could remember was the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics (though it was not without controversy as well).

Amidst all that global events, in Sep 2008, a small local event took place. I got myself a Canon EOS 50D DSLR :). After 5 1/2 years of service, I retired my EOS 10D. It had followed me faithfully and unerringly in all my travels, and while "only" a prosumer DSLR, it had produced memories that's close to heart. As a tribute, I've posted a selection of its journey at Clubsnap :

The world gave a gloomy outlook to 2009. Let's all be positive. Maybe after the storm of 2008, there may be something over the horizon to smile about. To 2009.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, is the capital of the Indian State of West Bengal. It was my gateway from Singapore, to Darjeeling and the Himalayan state of Sikkim. However, I found it to be an interesting destination itself, esp for street photography and for those historically inclined.

The backpacker area is around Sudder Street, and here, for those who love street photography, you'll have the challenge of capturing the emotive scenes. There are lots of the homeless and poor around, and it will be certainly an experience for anyone who have only seen the streets of an affluent city like Singapore. Street photography was not my forte, and I was challenged a couple of times when photographing the locals on the streets. Every Sunday, there will be a mass feeding of the poor around Sudder Street, sponsored by a rich businessman. The poor and homeless will start to form a queue early in the morning, and it was an eye-opener for me. This is what travel is about!

One of the things you have to try when on the streets is their milk tea (chai) served on disposable pottery cups! Basically, you pay per cup (and just a small cup) and after drinking, you can just toss the cup away on the streets. So, you can actually see many shattered pottery pieces along the streets!! Interesting!

Not to be missed is the Victoria Memorial Hall, and the museum within. On weekends, lots of Calcuttans bring their families here for an outing. At the end of day, the memorial is particularly beautiful, and well worth bringing your tripod for! Check it out!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Nestled in the northeastern corner of India, deliciously close to Sikkim and Bhutan, Darjeeling holds its own as a major tourist attraction. A former old British hill station, it is now visited internationally, not just for a long relaxing stay, but also as a stopover for further trips like trekking in Sikkim.

Darjeeling is also famous all over the world for its tea. Its tea plantations are a legacy of the British, and its black tea is among the best in the world. Needless to say, a visit to Darjeeling should entail a visit to these tea plantations and with different types like organic, first flush, second flush etc, there will be something for everyone.

For non-tea drinkers (like me), Darjeeling has plenty of other things to offer. High on my list is its stupendous location, with fantastic views of the Himalayas, specifically Mt Kanchenjunga (8598m), 3rd highest mountain in the world! A short trip away, to Tiger Hill, you could even see Mt Everest! There is also the Himalayan Zoological Park with many rare Himalayan wildlife to be seen. And of course, the town itself - charming and relaxing, is an attraction itself!

I took an overnight train from Sealdah (Kolkata) to New Jalpaiguri NJP (Siliguri). From NJP, I took a shared jeep. which took another 3+ hrs to Darjeeling. There is also a "Toy Train" (an old choo-choo train for sight-seeing) that takes 7+ hrs if you want. Which ever the way you choose, Darjeeling is well worth checking out!

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Sighişoara may not ring a bell. A town in Transylvania, it retains a medieval feel to it, esp in the old town. The old town is known as the Citadel, mainly because it was a citadel in the days of old. So what is so special about Sighişoara? It was the birthplace of Dracula.

Well, technically, it's the birthplace of Vlad Ţepeș - whom which Bram Stoker's vampiric Dracula is loosely based. Vlad Ţepeș, also known as Vlad the Impaler, was a cruel prince of Wallachia. Not only were his practises cruel, his punishments were terrifying and brutal, one of which is how he got the name of Impaler... Today, the fact that this was his birthplace has generated many marketing gimmicks in the Citadel, it seems to me equally scary....
What is really special to me is that the old town contains a dreamy charm to it, so much so that I do feel brought back in time. The old cobbled streets, the street lamps, the peeling paint on old doorways, it was really enjoyable walking around the alleys. In fact, it gave me a feeling like what I had when I was walking in the old town of Lijiang in China! (The western medieval version!)

The highlight of the Citadel is the Clock Tower. Now housing a museum, it also provides a superb view of the new town below. The clockwork mechanism and the seven revolving figurines that represent the different days of the week is also very interestng, and well worth looking into. Guesthouses are aplenty here, so Sighişoara is certainly worth a stopover if you're going Romania!