Monday, August 27, 2012

Tarabuco Sunday Market

Local markets are always an attraction for me in my travels, and in South America, the local Andean markets make wonderful photographic (and shopping) excursions since they're typically very lively and colourful.

Just 1-2 hrs away by bus from Sucre Bolivia, Tarabuco hosts such a market. Every Sunday, tourists and locals alike would converge into this small Bolivian town. Aside from the permanent shops in town, locals from nearby villages also arrive to set up stalls. The town is home to the Yampara culture, one of the ethnic groups around the region, and so designs belonging to the Yampara on textiles, handicrafts etc can be found aplenty in the market.

In fact, Yampara attire, and especially their headgear, are apparent everywhere, being worn and sold by the locals. While textiles, weavings and handicrafts dominate the market square, more mundane stuff can be found as you move further away from the square - food produce, safety pins, kettles etc, the daily livelihood of the community.

Besides getting photos of indigenous people in their traditional attire, the Sunday market is a great place to get your souvenirs as well! There is relatively little harassing on tourists, and if you're looking to get ponchos or similar textiles, the designs in the market are beautiful! And perhaps you may even get an authentic handwoven one from the village! 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Life in the Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert is the driest desert on Earth, and so claimed many sources, including the National Geographic. And so, when I visited it, I was just expecting fantastic and memorable landscapes. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much more Nature provided.

The access town to the Atacama Desert in Chile is San Pedro de Atacama. From there, there are tons of agencies that provide various tours to see the sights around the region. There are also information both in town, and online, that caters to the independent traveler.

I took one of the day tours that visit the 'Altiplanicas' lagoons as well as a salt flat. And at the very first stop (Chaxas Lagoon), I got my first wildlife in the Atacama - pink flamingoes amidst a surreal lagoon. It was indeed a photographic heaven, as these beautiful creatures not only make wonderful subjects themselves, they also add additional interest to the already wonderful landscape and backdrop behind!

As I go further into the Atacama, I soon realized that the inhospitable looking landscape holds many more creatures. And as I mentioned earlier, they can certainly make your images stronger if you can manage to spot them and include them! Guanacos and vicunas are aplenty, and should be easy, but the eagles and the rodents that I manage to see, are alot more difficult to capture, let alone on a shared vehicle day tour! For those on a photographic quest should hire a private vehicle!

Or sometimes,  you could just get lucky, like me. We spotted a South American gray fox who stopped to pose for us! Wonderful indeed. But nevertheless, wildlife or not, the Atacama desert is certainly one of the highlights of Chile and South America even!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Supertrees, Gardens by the Bay

The landscapes of Singapore have been evolving so fast, with new buildings and landmarks appearing at breakneck speed. And so, when I came back from a year-long backpacking trip, I realized I have become essentially a tourist as well!

Now, just barely a month ago, Singapore unveiled yet another new icon and landmark - Gardens by the Bay. A 'superpark' comprising of 3 gardens covering over 100 hectares, it is giving Singapore a well-earned name of 'Garden City'. With 2 conservatories simulating different climates at other parts of the world, over a quarter million different plants can be found in the Gardens. It is indeed set to be one of the major attractions and icons of Singapore.

However, ironically, it is one of the man-made features in the Gardens that had become somewhat of a highight and icon for me (and many others). The Supertrees are huge tree-like structures that dominate large parts of the Gardens. These structures are modern wonders that supposedly provide various functions - from collection of rainwater to harnessing solar-power; from providing shade to providing lighting (shows). Indeed, when the skies darken, a music and lights show would provide the entertainment for the evening. And the beautifully lighted Supertrees does give a surreal ambience to the whole place! It also complemented the beautiful night scene around Marina Bay wonderfully. A worthy addition indeed!

So for those going to Gardens by the Bay, you may want to do so in the late afternoon and then finish off with a beautiful night view of the Gardens and Marina Bay!

And finally, a Happy 47th Birthday to Singapore!!!