Travel Collection – 2 in Bangkok

Not sure had you read my Travel Collection – 1 in BeijingTravel Collection – 1 in Beijing

Now here goes another one of my picture story telling of why do i make this particular image and how do i approach towards the subject during travel in other countries.

As many of the pictures were taken years back. I may not remember all the small details anymore, but the scene still linger in my mind.

Portrait of a Monk

I was like a street hunter, with an eagle’s eye looking for picture opportunities in Bangkok. I can’t remember which temple i was at, there are so many temples everywhere in busy Bangkok. A Buddhism’s country that much devoted to the belief.

I wandered into this temple where i can see a row of golden Buddhas in line. I took the opportunity to rest myself from the heat of wave. While i was cooling down under the shelter, my eyes was scanning for my ‘prey’, not many visitors at that moment, kids were running around, a few monks making their way to the exit.  I capture some still life street photograph and that was about it. Something was lacking. But i don’t know what is that hollow point at that moment.

Often when i search hard for picture opportunity, that situation never appear. The moment i stopped seeking, the chance is presented and is up to you to grab it. Why do i say this? Is because much patience had already dry up while waiting or expecting for something to happen. If nothing occur as you visualise,  you may end up being frustrated, disappointed and even a waste of time.

What is the disparity between Waiting and Expecting?

Waiting – Not knowing what is going to happen next, unable to control the situation. (negative)

Expecting –  A desire to see a situation that is going to unfold. (positive)

Back to the temple. As i as was about to leave, i noticed a monk by himself standing in-front of the Buddha statue. Somehow that particular moment caught my attention. I  boosted up my confident, approached the religion man. Is a do or die moment, i don’t want to moan later why i did not even asked about it and regret for the rest of my life.

I can’t speak Thai, except for the basic “Sawadee kap”, palm together. I spoke in the most simplistic English and hand gesture to ask for a picture. Hoping he will understand. I was not nervous, but neither will i be disappointed if he rejects me.

The monk smiled, nob his head *throw fist on air*

I recalled having some difficulty in the composition, whether should he be standing at the side or the centre. I quickly made a few frames and concluded that standing in the centre would be better. Everything is all centralised from the background to the key subject. Is the the student being humble in-front of the Buddha’s teaching.

He did not smiled throughout, neither i want to control his expression. For street/environmental portrait. I decided to let the monk to be himself, and be respectful to him is important.

Personally i like this picture so much that i printed out 12 x 8 inch and hang it up on the wall.

Hope you enjoy this article, drop me a comment if you like it or how to further improve it.

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Happy International Women’s Day in Vietnam

International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day, is marked on March 8 every year. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements. Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries, primarily Eastern Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet bloc. In many regions, the day lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother’s Day and St Valentine’s Day. In other regions, however, the original political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner.

I’ll learn about International Women’s Day when living in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam 1 year ago. I have never, ever hear about such special occasion. Learning from my friend that there is such celebration. I understand women or company female co workers would buy flowers, arrange it nicely to present it as a lovely gift. Well most women love flowers, aren’t they?

Abundance of flowers in the Flower Market.

7th March 2011, i followed my friends to the Flower Street in Saigon in the early evening. Soaking into the atmosphere of this warming celebration in Vietnam. Muscling my way carefully through the hard-pressed streets. Witnessing my Vietnamese’s friend deeply involved in buying beautiful and fresh flowers at the Flower Street in Saigon. Making sure she got the best price and the freshest flowers she wanted. Hence i took this opportunity to capture the vibrant street images there.

Congested road at flower street in Saigon, too many motorcycles going in 2 different directions.

A busy florist

Probably is one of those days where business are blooming for most of the florist vendors. Doing all their best to pull in more sales from the visiting customers. Of course not every stalls will be flood with customers. Some stalls are extremely crowded, maybe is the quality of flowers or the competitive pricing they are offering. Some stalls were were rather quiet, maybe is the location or visitors yet to venture deep inside the market.

The 2 flower sellers happen to be biting their fingers, or eating something. But looks like a nerve wrecking moment to me.

A vietnamese flower vendor trimming the flowers for customer.

A vietnamese lady doing her flowers shopping in the Flower Market.

Night scene of Flower Street market. Can witness many vietnamese women buying flowers to prepare for International Woman’s Day.

Lastly, wish all my female friends a very Happy International Women’s Day. *MUACKS*

Portraits of motorbike taxi driver in Saigon, Vietnam

Browsing through my hard disk, found some pictures of motorbike taxi driver’s portrait i capture during my walk in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. Motorbike taxi driver known as xe om, are prevalent everywhere in Vietnam. Everywhere i visited or bypassed, it was a fascinating sight to see motorbike taxi driver sitting on their motorcycle practically for an extensive period. Eating, resting or even sleeping while awaiting for customer for their service, especially targeting the vacationers.

Discovering such interesting sights. I need to capture the portraits of these drivers on the street. With no idea of basic vietnamese language, no fixer with me. I boldly approached the more friendly looking motorcycle driver to ask for a picture. Luckily, they were pretty receptive of my presence. My approach in photography style remains the same, ask for permission than sneaking around with a long lens to capture the unsighted moment.

Armed with a 24mm prime lens to walk about, is kinda of difficult to shoot portrait with such wide angle lens. No matter what i got to make something out of it. During the process i realized most of them are sitting in different positions to make themselves comfortable. Check it out.

A smiling motorbike taxi driver sitting down at the side of his motorcycle.

This man can actually rest his entire body on the motorcycle to stretch one leg to relax.

The champion pose, i call it. He can turn side way to rest on his motorbike. Carry an air of proudness when i capture him.

This motorbike driver was more busy with his cigarette than looking into my camera, he allows me to shoot but not in the nicest way of presentation. :p

I guess when these drivers encounter terrible weather. They won’t have a single fare for the day. Waiting and watching to do ride their business in the competitive arena.

For other stories about Vietnam:
Illegal cigarettes in Hanoi , Vietnam
Houses in Saigon, Vietnam.
Road experience in Saigon, Vietnam
My first impression of Ho Chin Minh City
Capture Asia travel galleries of Ho Chi Minh and Saigon by Asia travel photographer Ricky Gui.

New hobby other than photography, still photography?

Photography is one of those many passions or hobbies that are able to turn it into a money generator. In another word creating a business. Setting up a business to do what you love. One must be highly self-motivated, massive drive and passion in this industry, to stay competitive at least. Welcome to the real world peers, perhaps no different from other jobs. Is like a stock market graphs, the lines went up, went flat, or during unpredictable times. It starts to get a little bit crumble. Is all parts and parcels of the business.

So after turning your PASSION into a career, what’s next? I mean what is your next hobby. There must be something new in your interest after shooting for such a long time. I know photographer who is interested in airplane models. So during free time he would be flying his proudly assembled plane around the open field. Another one was into fish, get a huge fish tank, throw in some fishes, deco it up nicely. That’s hobby am talking about.

For me i enjoy cooking, for sure am NOT a fantastic cooker, i know nuts about it. Cooking helps me to distress. It gives me a form of peacefulness in my mind. Handling a knife with respect is a must, i wouldn’t want to cut my own finger while chopping carrots into thin slices. I love to make my own korean soup. Popped into Japan and Korea supermarket to purchase the necessary items to dish up a decent meal, after some trials and errors of course. Luckily i got a very strong stomach.

Until recently, i purchased 2 filters that cost me more than a S$100. Is freaking crazy i know, photography is never a cheap hobby, remember that! Screwed it up to my lens, carry my tripod and started walking around to shoot some pictures. Surprisedly i like the result. Am not exactly a great fan of landscape images. I flip pages of all time landscape master, father of landscape, Ansel Adam’s work, i never closely study it. Look at Singapore, the island doesn’t have any mountain, only got Bukit Timah Hill! For goodness sake, i can only call it a knoll. Basically is a concrete jungle. There’s no classical landscape to shoot.

Eventually shooters use words such as Cityscape or Seascape. Anyway i come up with my own name call SingaporeScape, if anyone is using such name. Is all by coincident! Don’t start sending me hate or copycat email! SingaporeScape is one of the hobby that isolate away from the commercial photography work i usually do. I find solitary and peace being alone. Capturing what is pertaining to my interest, and what i always wanted visually. Am a massive fan of Michael Kenna photography work. Is simply breathtaking, simplicity and ambience.

Anyway here is one of the shot i created near Clark Quay. One of Singapore night life spot for tourists and locals.

I nearly gave up after walking for so many kilometers to search for interesting composition. The weather does play a part if is weak. Gloomy and shady, the funny feeling of pouring soon but kept holding back. It makes me thing twice should i release my tripod stands. I wanted to catch my ride home as i was tired. Looking at my watch is nearly towards magic hour timing. The weather was really not in my favor. I decided to persist a bit longer, started studying a potential composition then decide on a decent spot to release the three-legs. I choose to have a background, middle ground and foreground for the final composition. I exposed this shot for more than 2 mins. Very minimum adjustment in Photoshop.

I got hooked by what i have capture on my camera. I guess another new hobby for me to chase during my free time, however it is still photography. Something which i passionate about in life.

Houses in Saigon, Vietnam.

General population lived in the hems. Am amazed by the narrow backstreets that are full of alleyways. Following logically might results in ultimate confusion. Getting stuck nowhere with motor scooter horning my back. An aerial photo from the top will prove valuable of the disorientated maze.

A vietnamese old lady taking a walk in the alleyways. Wondering why so many telephone numbers on the wall.

As the houses are too cramped for large families, children are forced to play outdoors. Especially the evening when the streets came alive with children screaming and shouting while playing joyfully. Sights of boys chasing balls and girls jumping over the elastic skipping ropes. Somehow I felt am back to my childhood. In today Singapore society, kids are living in their youth of card games, expensive toys, PSP and computer game.

Houses are cramped in the cities, every available spaces is in use. People live on top of each other; there is no such thing as privacy living indoors. Space inevitably encroaches on that of others. Yet my Vietnamese friend never seems to complain about the hugging condition. She rented a space that is decent enough for her own living. Upon going through the main door with sturdy gate, what welcomes me was the kitchen. A fridge, washing machine, cooking area and bathroom. There is a fixed ramp at the door front. The purpose is to push the scooter into the kitchen domain in the night to prevent theft.

Next, climbing up an awful steep metal steps to access her room, is like worming through a tunnel to explore a strange contemporary world, desperately to feast my curious visual greed. I was taken aback by the condition. It like living in a concrete box, window covered up, the only door upstairs is inaccessible. The interior was very simple and non fanciful, all the basic requirement were there.

Here a picture around the room. Pardon the mess. :p
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For more about Vietnam. Check out my impression of Vietnam and road experience in Saigon

Road experience in Saigon, Vietnam

In Saigon, the city’s chaotic streets are filled with mainly motorbikes. The noise is constantly loud throughout the day. HCMC might still lacks the sophistication of Asia’s hot spots, which is its appeal. An Asian city where generic globalization hasn’t quite caught up – although it’s changing by the minute.

Motorcyclists on road, Saigon, Vietnam

Motorcycle is the main transportation for Vietnamese, People use them daily to work, carry everything they need. It a common sight to see people strapping a load bigger than it own body frame, very good skill indeed.

I took the motorcycle countless time during my visits. Fear not for first timer. You will experience the noise of the congested road, the polluted air, the mad rush of traffic and reckless driving skill in any junctions. Major junctions always prove to be a major challenge, not knowing who got the right of way at times. Sound of horn will be blasting constantly to alert they are coming behind and the side.

Motorcyclists on the street in district.

I have witnessed a motorbike accident on my first day. As usual the right of way was not practice. One dare devil motorcyclist riding out from the street without stopping for a seconds to check out road situation, was hit by another motorist on the main road. Both fell and few words were exchanged. Surprisingly motorbikes were quickly pick up and left the scene quickly, they must be really busy with their life! I stood there bewildered. As if nothing had happened.

Boys and girls all ride two wheels and roam the road, causing massive traffic jam. During peak hour when traffic can barely move, motorists would ride onto the pedestrian pave way. Risking getting a ticket fine, but the fastest way out of the maddness hot spot.

Motorbike rider speed through the ever congested road in Saigon.

My kind vietnamese friend always told me to negotiate the price before taking motorbike. Depending on the distance travel too. Sometimes i always pay a bit more like 20,000 dong, that’s about S$1.20! My friend would come telling me: “no that is too much.” Oh well.. It not the best of comfort as compare sitting inside an air-condition vehicle. But it takes me really quickly to the destination i want. Language barrier is always a problem when going to certain location. In this case i would hail the taxi, which costs much higher!

Only the main road is swarming with motorcycles only, think again! Even various smaller streets have view of motorcycles, plentiful. My friend would ferried me in her beloved bike, snaking through the busy market. I seems to have embark into another olden, futuristic world. The movement along the busy street was much slower, people shouting to sell their goods, children running around the street. my friend would suddenly pick up the throttle once an empty space is available to ride through. Is really fun to hang out with the local, picking up the culture and lifestyle really quickly.

Congested road at flower street in Saigon, too many motorcycles going in 2 different directions.

Oh how about this. Unlike Singapore, i barely see couples holding hands walking on the street. Those without wheels often pair off into couples to sip drink in the local coffee shop or eating ice-cream. A new experience for me seen in Southeast Asia. Probably only me and the tourists would roam the street to discover the inner beauty of the transforming city.

My first impression of Ho Chin Minh City

An interesting flight to other part of Southeast Asia few months back. First trip in Ho Chin Minh City (HCMC) was greeted by the sight and vibrant sound of motorists riding on the road, too many of it. I thought to myself, welcome to Vietnam. Looking the way how the country develop. Probably Vietnam shouldn’t be consider a 3rd world country anymore.

HCMC is a cosmopolitan, dynamic and younger than traditional capital, Hanoi. HCMC is formerly known as Saigon. After the fall of Saigon in 1975. Honoring Vietnam’s President Hồ Chí Minh, hence the city was name after him. Today HCMC is Vietnam’s main commercial and economic hub. The city’s have these frenetic raw energy and unique charm. Think of it as a giant magnet that attracts so many young people all over the country, seeking a better life.

Propangada of Uncle Ho’s poster

HCMC is Vietnam’s largest city and one of the densest urban areas on earth. The city is divided into 19 urban districts plus five other outer districts. District 1 is the city centre, where most of the hotels, restaurants, bars and tourist attraction are located. It contains the original French Quarter. Not forgetting the modern skyscrapers in the district.

Shot from the bottom of Bitexco Financial Tower in District 1

On the left – Saigon Centre is owned by Keppel Land Watco I Co. Ltd, a joint venture between Keppel Land International from Singapore and Southern Waterborne Transport Corporation (Sowatco) and Real Estate Saigon Corporation (Resco) from Vietnam. On the right – Bitexco Financial Tower, there’s a helicopter pad poking out of the building.

Plenty of property is sprouting out of the undeveloped lands. I was lucky to stay in my friend’s apartment, Saigon Pearl is one of the luxury apartment built, managed by Savills. Savills is a leading global estate provider, the company have 200 over estates and offices around the world.

Saigon Pearl

Readers might be wondering why am i talking about property and economic. This trip was a business trip, to understand the market with the company i might working with in future.

Next topic is transportation in Vietnam. Stay around for more.

Loy Krathong festival in Bangkok, Thailand

Asia travel photographer Ricky, travel to capital of Thailand, Bangkok. Documenting the Loy Krathong Festival in Southeast Asia.

Thailand’s Loy Krathong (or Loi Krathong) is one of the many traditional festivals of Thailand. It is an evening when Thais pay respect to the goddess of the waters by floating candlelit offerings on any and all waterways around the kingdom.

The word “Loy” literally means “to float” and “Krathong” means a raft. The raft is said to be about a hand span in diameter and is traditionally made from a section of a banana tree trunk. Throughout the years of evolution, the Loy Krathong raft has been developed to be made out of bread or Styrofoam as an alternative form.

Loy Krathong is celebrated during the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai lunar calendar and usually falls in November in western Gregorian calendar.

Thais will float their krathong on a river, canal or a pond lake. The festival is believed to originate in an ancient practice of paying respect to the spirit of the waters. Today it is simply a time to have fun.

Cutting through a home of squatters to Rama 8 bridge. Managed to capture a local cyclists with a bag of Krathong for making.

Local thais selling Krathong.

Thais and vistors gather at the foot of Rama 8 bridge.

This year the date of celebration is on 10th Nov 2011. Visitors can head to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai.

I will share more of my bangkok pictures of Loy Krathong fesitval and shooting experience on my next blog, stay tune.

Temple of Heaven – Beijing – China – Asia

The Temple of Heaven is a famously known UNESCO World Heritage Site, also know as Tian Tan. One of China’s best examples of religious architecture in history. Construction began in 1406 during the reign of Yongle, taking 14 years to complete. Emperor Qianlong later carried out an extensive renovation of the complex.

Map of Temple of Heaven Park

Why is it called Temple of Heaven? During the Ming and Qing dynasty, more than 20 emperors visited the Temple of Heaven every winter solstice. In their capacity as the Son of Heaven, to offer prayers, make sacrifices for a good harvest. Not only does it reflect the aesthetic ideology of the ancient Chinese people, it also shows their reverence and respect towards Heaven.

3 days before the rituals began, the emperor would not drink wine, feast on meat or pungent vegetables such as garlic and scallions. He only ate simple vegetables dishes and abstained from sex.

The Hall of Prayer for a Good Harvest is the largest wooden structure in Beijing. It’s elegant shape, traditional design and evocative style make it a cultural icon. The most redolent symbols of Chinese civilization.

Descriptions

Today Temple of Heaven is situated as a large and pleasant park that attracts thousands of visitors daily. Be there either in the early morning or evening to catch the old folks doing their exercise such as Tai Ji Quan or dancing regime. Sometimes busker performing their trade in the park to attract the visitors. Below is one busker i encountered entering from North Gate.

First he do this..

Then follow by this….

And finally WHISH!!!!

After exploring and understand the rich history culture, visitors can proceed to the park for a leisure walk if you going to exit by north gate and west gate. The park is clean and serenity, is a good place to take sit down and relax your tired feet after endless walking inside. :p

There are 250,000 square meters of ancient pine woods within the Temple of Heaven complex. About 60,000 trees growing in the site. There are 1150 of ancient pines and Chinese locust trees that are more than 300 years old, am totally amazed by such structure.

Temple of Heaven Park I

Temple of Heaven Park II

Or head west to the Flowers Garden to view the beautiful flowers planted.

Do take note visiting Imperial Vault of Heaven and Altar of Heaven requires to purchase separate ticket. The entrance fee to Hall of Prayer and park is 35 Yuan during peak season.

After viewing Temple of Heaven, walk down south along the Danbi bridge. I recalled during the autumn season the gardeners would put many pots of flowers to beautify the crowded walkway, plenty of local tourist would be standing around it taking pictures happily.

Imperial Vault of Heaven might need to queue to view the interior as it is only a one way path. The building is use for storing ceremonial equipment. Is difficult to take picture as insufficient light available. Is ok to check out the round altar that dominates the southern part of the site if you want.

Temple of Heaven must visit known for it’s five centuries of imperial ceremony and symbolism. A place where modern visitors get to admire it’s architecture unity and beauty.

My favorite image

A good destination to visit for tourist and travel photographer who first time travel in Beijing.

798 art zone in Beijing

The first artist set up Dashanzhi Art District, a newly vacated 798 factory in year 2000, soon it was followed by a number of Beijing’s best artist. The large spaces, affordable rents and ample natural light pouring through the huge ceiling windows. It has become a world-famous center of contemporary chinese art.

The East German built industrial complex was built in 1953. The 640,000-square-meter was rumored to be a secret weapon factory. In the 60s was split into more manageable sub-factories. Business however starts to decline in 1980s. Hence business started pulling out to the late 90s. Ended up many huge empty edifices.

In recent years, 798 art district has come under threat as developers Seven Stars group realize the area’s potential value. The lobbyist persuaded the Beijing government to make 798 a cultural showcase till the 2008 Olympics. Sadly with rising rental bills, ample artists have been forced to move further out of town. Many worry that the utopian ideal of an artists’ village may be coming to an end.

Strolling in the premise relax for my mind, peaceful and serenity i remember, the sight of early sunlight punch through the row of skinny trees.

Sun flair

There’s endless choice of pictures opportunity in 798 art district. Sharing some travel photos taken.

Graffti on the vacant factory.

Art display of singing dragons (my own interpretation)

Retired black 0751 locomotive at 751 train station exhibit in Beijing 798 art zone.

Art display – I interpret it as Marching Forward. The big leader took the lead for a new change, while the people behind follow to support.

One of my favorite picture. Showing the scale between human and industrial.

If you only have limited time, but passion for art. 798 art district is surely a travel destination must not be miss out in Beijing.

How to get there?
No.4 Jiuxianqiao Road
Chaoyang, Beijing, China, 100015
010-84562421
Fastest way is by taxi