Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Patagonia from the Air

I was just chugging along in my Santa Cruz trek in Huaraz region of Peru when I overhead the guy behind me mentioned about flying from Punta Arenas to Santiago. He was saying something along the lines about having the most amazing view of Mt Fitz Roy in Patagonia. This jolted me alert as I had been contemplating flying down to the Patagonia region due to my limited schedule, but somehow had never thought about the ability to see the famed mountain from the air. I spoke to him briefly, and before I know it, my heart was kinda set on the flight.

Of course, it was all down to the flight cost. I have been searching on and off and it was only in Cuenca Ecuador when I finally settled down to confirm my plan. Apparently in summer, there are flights from Santiago to Puerto Natales and I managed to find, on the Chilean LATAM airlines site, a flight from Santiago to Puerto Natales at US$87 all-in! Considering that this 3-hr flight saved me a few days of travel southwards, and likely money as well, as the long distance buses while comfortable, do add up, it was a done-deal. And of course, there are the views :).

The tip from my trekking friend Thomas was, on the northbound flight, seat on the right. So for me, I had to seat on the left. 23.5hrs to my flight, I login to the airlines website to check-in and select my seat, and to my horror, all the leftmost window seats are all taken! I had to settle for a middle seat and kept a tiny flicker of hope that I might still get a window seat somehow.

Well, the flight was quite full. So there I was, a fidgety figure frequently looking wistfully over to the window and trying to take pics. The lady at the window seat was very understanding though, but it was still rather inconvenient stretching across (her chest) to the window to take the pictures. But ironically when Fitz Roy came into view, I still did not recognize it and wondered briefly which beautiful mountain was that!

Cerro Fitz Roy and even Cerro Torre partially covered

Somehow, up to this duration of the flight, it did not occur to me that beside Mt Fitz Roy, there are more to Patagonia from the air... At some point, some guy at the front mentioned Perito Moreno, and an internal lightbulb connected. I was almost standing up, craning my neck to its limits but alas, the clouds seemed to have thickened quite abit further south and I could not even catch a glimpse of it, or even what I am seeing. I can only cross my fingers and my toes and take whatever pics I can. When the plane flew over the Towers of Paine, the clouds eased up a little just to tease me with a glimpse of where the Towers are. It was a little disappointing.

Torres del Paine covered

Torres del Paine covered

Nevertheless, I'm really still quite happy to see the landscapes of Patagonia from up in the air. While I have seen the famous landmarks of Patagonia on land (Cerro Fitz Roy & Torre, Perito Moreno glacier, Torres del Paine), it would be cool to be able to see all of them in the air in one flight. And that commercial flight path just allowed that. The notorious weather of Patagonia had allowed me to see one and I guess I should be contented.

For those who's doing the Patagonia route should consider this flight. Aside from Santiago, you could also fly from/to Puerto Montt as I believe the flight route down to Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales should be the same. Aside from LATAM, Sky Airlines fly some of these routes too and they have affordable fares if booked in advance! And remember, for southbound, get the window seat on the left. For northbound, get window seat on the right. And hope for good weather (less clouds)!

In the meantime, enjoy the views below! :)

Look at the colours of the lakes!!

That's a glacier I believe!

Can see its a glacier but doesn't look like its Perito Moreno

Sunday, September 18, 2016

9 Most Iconic Architectural Pieces in Southeast Asia

Today's blog post is actually not written by me. I have decided to include articles and posts from other writers and bloggers, and today's guest post is from the folks at Tripovo, a startup based in Kuala Lumpur.

9 Most Iconic Architectural Pieces in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is one of the most notable havens of enchanting historical sites and fascinating buildings. And over time, the region has built some contemporary structures to keep up with the shifting culture.
No! South East Asia is not just paddy fields and a big jungle filled exotic felines and orangutans. It is so much more than that, you, not well travelled European (serious though, my Eureopean friends think Asia is a big rice field). Enjoy the virtual trip as we zoom in some of the most iconic structures in Southeast Asia. All these architectural pieces are definitely worth a visit!

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

This architectural and luxurious marvel is located in the heart of Singapore. Marina Bay Sands is a high-end resort that caters a hotel, mall, museum, skating rink, casino, theatres and restaurants. What more could you ask for? And to sum it up, it is considered as the most expensive stand-alone integrated resort. Book your trip to Singapore, maybe?

Light Show at Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands, Image Source : aotaro, Flickr

Petronas Towers, Malaysia

When you talk about Malaysia, most travelers could think about the iconic Petronas Towers. These towers are the most popular buildings in Kuala Lumpur and they were once the tallest structures in the world. It certainly deserves a spot on our list!

Petronas Towers at Night 2
Petronas Towers, Image Source : Colin Capelle, Flickr

Shwezigon Pagoda, Myanmar

The golden Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan is one of the most significant, oldest and impressive religious buildings in the country. The structure sparkles bright in the whole city. Such a golden sight!  
Shwezigon pagoda in Nyaung U (Myanmar 2013)
Shwezigon Pagoda, Image Source : Paul Arps, Flickr

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is a mesmerizing masterpiece of Angkorian architecture. The structure served as a  temple to the Hindu god Vishnu and a personal mausoleum of the monarchs. The interior details of the temple depicts the historical events and mythological stories which is still visible in the country up to date.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The Temples of Angkor, Image Source : Juan Antonio, Flickr

Pha That Luang, Laos

Pha That Luang or 'The Great Stupa' is the most significant Buddhist shrine in Laos. It is a golden  fortress bordered by towering walls and splendid interior designs. The large golden stupa covered with gold, portrays the beautiful architectural Lao style - classical and regal.

Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang Temple, Image Source : Stefan Fussan, Flickr

The Grand Palace, Thailand 

The architectural design of the Grand Palace was inspired by Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand. The Grand Palace is a large complex of buildings that illustrates the finest Thai style, such as artistic crafts, paintings and Buddhist sculpture. To add, Thailand in itself is such a great place for everyone its cities Bangkok are great for nightlife and shopping. No wonder it is such a hit amongst the Western crowd.

The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace, Image Source : Jason Eppink, Flickr

University of Santo Tomas, Philippines

In the frenzied city of Manila, Philippines, University of Santo Tomas stands out as an attractive and peaceful sanctuary. UST is the oldest university in Asia and is one of the world's largest Roman Catholic colleges.

University of Santo Tomas
University of Santo Tomas, Image Source : kila.adame@ymail.com, Flickr

The Turtle Tower, Vietnam

Aside from the ever popular Halong Bay and wonderful waterfalls, Vietnam is also packed with iconic structures. One of the most notable buildings in Vietnam is the Turtle Tower of Hanoi which is a very popular destination for tourists.

Hanoi Sword Lake Turtle Tower
The Turtle Tower, Image Source : HoangP, Flickr

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, Brunei

The splendid work of art was named after Omar Ali Saifuddien III. The royal mosque which is located in the capital of Brunei, is considered as a symbol of the Islamic faith in the country. Definitely a majestic sight to witness.

The golden domed Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, Image Source : Jorge Láscar, Flickr

Wisma 46, Indonesia

Wisma 46 is the tallest building in Indonesia. It is commonly known as the Fountain Pen building. The structure dominates the Jakarta skyline and other commercial buildings in the Central Business district with its exceptional design and stature.

Kota BNI
Wisma 46, Image Source : BxHxTxCx, Flickr

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Travel Photography with the iPhone

Technology has changed the world - how we live, how we travel etc. And of course, how we take photographs. I started photography using film, but of course progressed to digital, and once I laid hands on a DSLR, I have never looked back. Naturally, my DSLR have been an integral part of my travels.

It was barely 2 years ago when I finally found a compact camera that I could comfortably bring for general travels in place of a DSLR. The image quality and capability of todays compacts have become pretty impressive. But all these while, I've never considered mobile phone cameras to be anything serious - until late last year. In December last year, I finally laid hands on a iPhone 6s plus.

In February, I embarked on a 3-month trip to parts of Central America (Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba & Panama), including a "transit" stop in Spain. I brought my iphone along, and my experience have completely changed my views on mobile phone photography.

Here's sharing my views and experiences on the iPhone (particularly the 6s plus) for travel photography :

1. Image Quality
First and foremost for me when choosing a camera is that the image quality must be good. And I think this is the main reason why I have not looked at mobile phone photography as I've always thought that the resultant images are not up to par. But I have under-estimated the progress of technology! Turned out the iPhone's camera is mighty impressive. In fact, since the iPhone 5, Apple has made significant improvements to its camera system. I find its images really good!

2. The best camera is one that is in your hands
Well, its a well known saying, and so darn true. Now, I am someone who tries to carry my  camera with me all the time. With a casing, my compact camera can fit into my pocket (barely) and most often than not, I bring it along when I carry a pouch or a small bag. But a mobile phone? Most of us carry it all the time! So in essence, now I have access to a (good) camera almost all the time!

3. Street Photography
I discovered that a mobile phone camera is excellent for street photography. For some strange reason, when you bring up a huge SLR to your face, people tend to react to this. Bring up a mobile phone to take a photo, and well... people may not even know you are taking a photo of them! I am also pleasantly surprised with the iPhone's quick focusing system, and in my 3-month trip, I find myself taking more street photos than I normally would.

Invisible Street Photography
4. iPhone Camera App
The default camera app in the iPhone has quite excellent features, two of which I like alot - the Time-Lapse and the Pano. I have been creating panoramic images and time-lapse videos using software on my desktop, which entails certain amount of effort and time. So I take images with my DSLR or compact, and then when I get back from my trip, I do the crunching. For long trips with gazillion photos taken, sometimes I had forgotten that I had taken a sequence of photos which was meant for making a panorama. With the iPhone camera app, creating a panoramic image and a time-lapse video is downright simple. True to Apple's style, everything is intuitive and easy. My video and pano is ready there and then! And a really good job at that!

Excellent in-camera panorama
5. Add-on lens
For travel photography, my main "complaint" of the iPhone camera so far is its fixed lens. Nevertheless, there are add-on/clip-on lens in the market that help address this somewhat. The common add-on lens are for fisheye, wide-angle and macro. I was again, pleasantly surprised at the results, especially for the macro lens add-on. It enabled some extreme closeup photos. And these add-on lens are infinitely lighter and easier to bring around than an actual macro lens!!

A macro clip-on lens does wonders!
6. Posting/Sharing on Social Media
I have been sharing my travel images online and in social media for some time now. I have my own website and blog, where I put up my image galleries after each trip. For on-the-fly or in-the-field sharing of images, I use Instagram. I believe that Instagram was developed as a mobile photo-sharing platform, and so I use it as such. By mobile photo-sharing, I meant that the images are either direct from a mobile device or a wifi-enabled camera, have not gone through any desktop processing, and often "in that moment". Today, many use it just as a photo-sharing tool to reach the masses, where the images are usually post-processed to perfection already. Whatever the case, for me, I have been using a wifi-enabled camera to send the images to my mobile to post to Instagram. With the excellent image quality (see point 1 above) of the iPhone, I now post to Instagram direct. And with a travel data sim card, I can now truly do mobile photo-sharing on the go.

So, as mentioned earlier, I took alot more photos from my mobile than I would have in all my past trips. It has, in fact, become my always-with-me camera. Below is a gallery of Instagram posts I have done with the iPhone 6s plus throughout the whole 3 months. Check it out and hope you enjoy the images of central america and Spain! You can also go to my Instagram gallery to see the other non-iPhone photos taken during the trip.

(You can click through the image to open another window to see full captions and hashtags etc)