Some observations from travels

Archive for October, 2011

Padi Bali

Padi Bali, is a generic term for the variety of rice traditionally grown around Bali.  The gentle climate and abundant supply of water from the valleys make for an ideal combination for growing rice.  Driving through Ubud and Gianyar areas you will experience the wonderful greenery all around you.  Upon closer observation you will admire the rice at its varying stages of their 210 day cycle.  Here are some images to enjoy.

The women on the fields are very hard-working using traditional ways of harvesting.  They even welcome tourists to help!

Aside from the mid-day heat, it’s very relaxing walking through the rice fields, green as far as your eyes could see.


Where you from? Where you going?

“Where you from?” and “Where you going?” are the two questions you get asked all the time by any Balinese on the street.  They are not being inquisitive or nosy, they use this to know where you belong on their big mental compass.  Liz Gilbert, on her famous book about being in Ubud, explained this quite well.  Balinese people are village people, they live within their group and knows where everyone was, where they came from and where they were going.  So when you bump into someone on the street, or anywhere around Bali for that matter, you will get asked these two questions.

Here are some wonderful images whilst walking along the streets of Ubud, Bali.

These were some of the many images captured in a matter of a couple of hours walking around Ubud.  Everywhere you turn you are welcomed by so many beautiful sights.  All you need to do is get out there and open our eyes (of course your camera shutter as well!)

Mempesona Ubud, Bali

Mempesona translate into enchanting, breathtaking or bewitching!  Enchanting is something charming, enthralling, captivating and fascinating.  That is my word for Bali.  This is our third time visiting this beautiful island, first was a couple of years back and the second was only five months ago.  By the amount of frequency that indicates that we really, really love this place.  In the past we chose to stay in Jimbaran Bay south of the island and mostly cocooned within the resort compound.  This time we chose to stay in Ubud, central part of Bali, for a change of scenery.

Ubud is known for its rich cultural and artistic history, and as the ‘Village of Painters.’  It is beautiful here!  The crowd is obviously a caste above those we’ve previously met around the beach areas of, for example, Kuta and Legian.  There is more emphasis on culture and history in Ubud.  Alternative and eclectic is an apt description of the atmosphere here.

These are images of the family shrine within our home stay compound.

We live in a home stay, which, I feel, is the closest way to experience real Balinese style living.  The home stay compound is within an authentic family compound and we are bombarded with daily family activities and sounds.  You will be woken up, very early, by the orchestra of birds and other sounds of nature.  These are some of the wonderful images that I have witnessed each morning.

Isn’t this the best image of a family welcoming the morning sun!

And the rest of the family members, including a cheeky (and moody!) Cockatoo.

Our home stay is centrally located along Jalan Hanoman, known for its temples, shops and restaurants.  Every morning we are served a pot of hot tea and breakfast of a generous bowl of fruits and a plate of some typical Balinese fare.  This morning was banana crepe, YUM!  Yesterday was a banana toasty, YUMMY as well!

This is such a great start to our fortnight here in Ubub and Bali!  I am looking forward to some real R & R!

Phuket on my mind

This was our second time to visit Phuket.  Previously we stayed at Hat Kata on the South Western side of the island.  This time we stayed at Hat Patong on the Western side.  Our hotel was old and seemed like it had seen better days.  Excellent location, though, right across from the beach and perfect view of the sunset.  But I would have to say Kata is still top on my list of the Phuket beaches.  Patong is much too crowded and messy compared to Kata.

Patong Beach

These colourful shrines are everywhere and they present with so much detail in them.

And then we chanced upon this Wishu Center which seemed deserted and neglected, but still showed its intricate details.

And some other interesting sights around the beach area.

As another day ends you’ll realise that the maddening crowd that you bumped into whilst walking around were probably here for the same reason…Phuket has its own appeal.  The Thai people are warm and friendly, the food is great and then you are shown some of nature’s best.

And it’s images such as these that stays on my mind about Phuket.

Sunrise over Samui

4am.  The duet of bells clanging and dogs howling sounded off to welcome a new day!  I wasn’t startled this time, I have embraced this sound on the third morning, as it woke me up from a fitful sleep after a bone breaking Thai massage last night.  I learned from one of the staff at the resort that this sound was to invite member for the 4am (and 6pm) prayers.  This is similar to the mosques’ call for prayers.

Went back to sleep but was determined to step out early so I don’t miss the sunrise this time.  The first image that welcomed me with an amazing display of yellow, grey and orange.  I thought I missed it, yet again!

The moon goes to sleep on the west.

But good things come to those who get up earlier.  Here it was, wait for it…

There it is…

This was such a glorious experience for me.

And day three of the banana flower from my backyard.

Our villa was generously appointed with an outdoor lounge with a work area but I much preferred this as a workstation as I could look up and enjoy the view.

The resort was practically deserted as it was low season, which I preferred, until it picks up again early in December.

This had been a wonderful and very relaxing experience for us and quite sad to leave behind.  We move on to Phuket.

Hat Maenam, Koh Samui, Thailand

On our second morning at this quiet part of the island I got to witness the sunrise, bit late, but I tried.  Earlier this morning I was woken up by the sound of bells clanging along with dogs howling to it, checked my watch, 4am!  The beach was waking up and everyone was on their way to start a wonderful new day.

Some remnants of past beach activities and a buddha on the edge of our resort’s property.  After a hearty breakfast we explored the neighbourhood.  We chanced upon a temple/learning centre/cemetery.

This grotto must have witnessed many a prayers in the past…

One of the oddities we saw on that compound was this wooden phallus.  Obviously important for them so I had to look it up!  The ritualistic belief of the phallus symbol started as a legacy to a Bhutanese saint -Lama Drukpa Kunley, before Buddism came.  It is widely used in paintings around Bhutanese homes and believed to ward off evil spirits and bring about good luck.  Popular amongst visitors on pilgrimage to the Chimi Lhakhang monastery, a shrine dedicated to Drukpa Kunley, being blessed by these wooden phalluses for their prayers to bear a child or for their child’s welfare.  Interesting!

And some more images around the resort to settle your minds down…

As the sun started to set I couldn’t help but capture the effects it had around me.

Reflections on the pool were amazingly clear.  I love it!

So off we go to experience Thai massage.  Another relaxing day ends and looking forward to tomorrow.

Sawadikah Samui

So we have moved on to Koh Samui, an island on Thailand’s lower western gulf coast.  Our resort is one of the many that line along the Hat Maenam beach northwest of the island.  It is known for is quiet beach and laid back atmosphere, compared to the busier and more touristy beaches.  We arrived at night but still had a good glimpse of the resort and the beach.

You will be welcomed at this thatch style airport.  It gives you a feeling that you are in a tropical island straightaway.

Temporary workstation, unfortunately, this will have to do for now.  Life here is unhurried.  So what do we do?  Sit back, cocktail in hand and chill!  I guess.

Sunset on Hat Maenam.  Gorgeous!  I just love the colours of sunset.

Ha Noi and the Old Quarter

On our second day at the wonderful Ha Noi we had a free day to wander around the city.  We chose to go to the Old Quarter and Old Market areas.  Intriguing!  Enjoy some of the images from this old part of the city.

We had coffee stop at this rustic cafe along the Hoan Kiem District.

A short walk further and you’ll be welcomed by the busy square along the Hoan Kiem Lake.

A French-colonial touch by the Metropole Hotel.

The grand Hanoi Opera House.

And the Neo-Gothic St. Joseph’s Cathedral.  It was beautiful inside the cathedral but we have to respect the ‘no-camera’ sign.  These sights are just some of the many beautiful and old buildings to experience around Ha Noi, it’s a shame we didn’t have time to see the Temple of Literature as everyone was raving about it.

The contrasts of images was an experience to be had.  The people were the same, some did not like their photos taken and some were too happy to give you a smile.  The social scene was also another part of the story.  Walking and driving around during the day you get to see the nice cafes, clubs and restaurants that changes its colours when the skies turn dark.  On our last night we met up with a friend, who worlds there now, at The Rooftop on the 19th floor of the Pacific Place.  Early in the evening we had dinner and the live band was playing jazz. After 9pm the music picked up its pace and the place buzzed with young socialites (or something that seemed like that.)

We left early the next morning and carried the sweet memories of Ha Noi on our next leg…Koh Samui.

Hello Ha Noi!

Ha Noi!  Welcome to another beautiful part of Vietnam!  We arrived in the evening and had a not very pleasurable start to our journey.  Our pick up driver from the airport drove very slowly as he was so busy on the mobile!  He was not just chatting, screaming would be a more apt description.  We had to remind him to tone it down a bit before we damage some ear hairs!  Then he took us to a wrong hotel…as he was busy with other chores aside from driving.  We found our destination at last.  This was a typical Groupon booking, you get what you paid for, type of transaction.  Our hotel is very basic.  But, I must say, very ideal.  We are smack bang in the middle of the Old Quarter, very central.

Early the next morning I walked out on the street and already people were busy with their morning deliveries.

Half-way into our 5-hour drive to Ha Long Bay we had a pit stop at a strategically located toilets/cafe/art shop place.  This was one of the ladies working on threading a poster sized artwork.  Very intricately done and very expensive as well.  And some of the silk art available for sale.

Ha Long Bay…one word, Magical!

This is an absolute Must See! destination.  We had lunch on our way out into the bay, then climb up the hill to get into the most beautiful cave.  Inside they put coloured lights amongst the stalagmites and it made the quiet cave into an orchestra of lights.  Beautiful!  Later on as we went closer into some of the limestone formations we were taken on small row boats to go even closer into the bay.  We got to see the floating village closer as well.  It was so worth the long bus trip.

When you’re within the formations it was very serene.  You only hear yourself gasp at the beauty of this place.  God is good, indeed!

Farewell Singapore

So we begin our journey into the new chapter.  We have left Singapore and on our way to our first leg of our journey, Ha Noi in Vietnam.

There goes our stuff on its way to Australia.  And here are a few final glimpses of Singapore.


And a shy bunny from the MINT Museum walking around (scaring children.)

We are so looking forward to this venture.