Travel list 2015

Link: 2014

Link: 2013

Link: 2012

2015 has been disappointing. Hoping for a more fruitful 2016!

1. Krasnodar, Russia (March 2015)

2. Sochi, Russia (March 2015)

3. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (August 2015)

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4. Phnom Penh, Cambodia (August 2015)

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5. Siem Reap, Cambodia (August 2015)

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6. Xiamen, China (October 2015)

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7. Wenzhou, China (October 2015)

8. Bangkok, Thailand (November 2015)

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Street food of Penang

Penang unexpectedly became one of my favourite places in South East Asia. I marveled at the beautiful architecture of its atmospheric old town, the interesting street murals which turned every walk and every turn of corners into tiny bite-size adventures, and of course, at its legendary food. It pains me to say this as a Singaporean, but when it comes to our regional cuisine, Malaysia wins hands down. From street carts to restaurants, in Penang, there always seems to be something to eat. Hunting down the next best thing can become an obsession.

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My trip was met with a lot of rain, but it didn’t dampen the mood, nor stop any of these street food vendors out cooking a storm in the alleys of old town Penang.

1. Hokkien Mee

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Technically, I had this in Kuala Lumpur, but this can be found in Penang too. This can also be found easily in Singapore, but Malaysia’s version tends to use the thick udon-like noodles giving it an unfamiliar texture.  The generous fried pork lard adds much flavor to the char fried noodles, though it may be a nightmare to the health conscious.

2. Char Kway Teow

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The most ubiquitous fried noodle in Penang as every store and street seems to be selling a variation of this popular dish. This didn’t taste too different from the ones I am used to having in Singapore.

3. O jian

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Another street food staple in Penang, O jian, which means ‘Oyster Egg’ is one of my family’s favorite. This version used charcoal to fry the egg though I think it was just a gimmick. The oysters are plentiful and fresh.

4. Dim Sum

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The Chinese community in Penang seems to be predominantly Hokkien, so it was very surprising to find the street where I stayed to house a few restaurants serving Dim Sum, typically served as breakfast for the Cantonese. This restaurant was very popular and it was busy throughout the day, even at night. Eating here was quite an experience, with old ladies pushing down carts along the restaurant isles, recommending us what was good on that day.

5. Kway Tiao Thng

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This deceptively simple rice noodle soup (Kway Tiao stands for flat rice noodles) was a good break from all the other unhealthy fried food which I’ve had. This stall was a surprise find, and seems to be extremely popular with locals. The fish balls are made from eels which is rather unusual. This stall also served the best iced coffee I’ve had.

Travel list 2014

Link: 2013

Link: 2012

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1. Hualien, Taiwan (May 2014)

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2. Tainan, Taiwan (May 2014)

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3. Taipei, Taiwan (May 2014)

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4. Bagan, Myanmar (June 2014)

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5. Lake Inle, Myanmar (June 2014)

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6. Yangon, Myanmar (June 2014)

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7. Chiang Mai, Thailand (June 2014)

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8. Luang Prabang, Laos (June 2014)

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9. Hanoi, Vietnam (June 2014)

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10. Tunxi, China (November 2014)

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11. Hongcun, China (November 2014)

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12. Hangzhou, China (November 2014)

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13. Shanghai, China (November 2014)

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14. George Town, Malaysia (December 2014)

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15. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (December 2014)

People of Singapore

I believe that the best portraits are taken with a short lens and at a distance as close as to the subject as possible.

It’s unfortunately a skill I have not master (not to mention the courage to approach a subject and ask for his or her permission to do so).

Until then, I prefer taking pictures of people at a non-infringing distance.

With enough background captured into the picture, it is perhaps able to better tell a story that close up portraits may not be able to.

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Nikon D610

After almost 3 years with my entry level DSLR (and getting increasingly frustrated with its limitations), I have finally found the heart (and pocket money!) to upgrade my camera to a full frame semi-professional Nikon D610. It’s also the first time I have shot with a prime lens, specifically, a 50mm f/1.8 and that takes some getting used to. Last weekend I took my new toy out for a test run shooting at various places in Singapore. It was fun exploring my own country and looking at it through a view finder. I felt like a tourist.

As the pictures on this site has been cropped to 623 x 415, the quality of these pictures do not appear too different from those in my previous posts. But at full scale, the difference is apparent. There are still plenty to learn, so I hope to do more of this in the next few weeks!

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Lake Inle, a tonic for the soul

With the local bus departing from Bagan eastward, scenes of the fiery red temples of the plains were no more. Like a new kid on the block eager to show off his toys, I was treated to a tasting platter of Myanmar’s geographical greatness- its friendly yet unfamiliar road side villages, its dusty terrains, its green rolling mountains, and eventually a scene of a vast carpet of grass soaking in the late afternoon sun, granting only the sneakiest peak of the pristine lakes hidden beyond. It was 10 hours later that I arrived at Nyaungshwe, gateway to the capital of Myanmar’s placid lake side living, Lake Inle. The contrast with Bagan was incredible.

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Lake Inle was not part of the original plan. As I would like to visit Luang Prabang in Laos, the easiest means of getting there is to catch a Monday flight from Chiang Mai, Thailand. With 3 days to spare after Bagan, my next destination was a tossup between Mandalay and Lake Inle. The latter just sounded so much more interesting, and I was not disappointed.

Arriving at Nyaungshwe, the largest town in the vicinity, it is hard to fathom the vastness of Lake Inle. Nyaungshwe itself has not much going for it, though it’s the most convenient base to explore the region, with good array of travellers’ amenities (by Myanmar’s standards). It was here which I witness one of Myanmar’s wonder- a ferris wheel ‘powered’ entirely by human strength. Sadly, it being off season during my travels, I didn’t actually get to see it work.

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The only way to explore Lake Inle is to hop on a hired motored boat, the choiced method of transportation for locals too- though the tourists’ version is probably less rickety, its boatman speaks a few word of English and the actual boat itself even comes with a wooden armchair and life jackets (which i wore during the entire trip with no shame, much to the amusement of the locals who zoomed me past).

The boat journey from Nyaungshwe was a slow meandering past the town’s canals into the main lake, followed by an exhilarating full speed burst toward the southern end of the lake. Formed around the lake are interesting floating markets, villages on stilts, gardens, water-bound temples and ancient ruins. Amidst the sun set, stunning views of local fishermen peddling their boats with their bare legs were as unforgettable as they were timeless. It was a fascinating sight of how peoples’ lives revolve around the lake, and how the latter came to life at the presence of its inhabitants.

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Whether it is the image of the fishermen taking a bath at the muddy water at the end of a hard day’s of work; or of their wives using the same canal to wash up their dishes after a sumptuous meal; or of their kids cheerfully cooling themselves in the scorching sun, life at Lake Inle is a demonstration of contentment at its simplest.

Lake Inle is almost non-descript, yet strangely intoxicating. It’s a tonic for the soul.