September 30, 2011

Pashupatinath Temple Reflected

Kathmandu, Nepal, 2010

This is a very small portion of the Pashupatinath Temple, one of the most significant Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site, reflected in Bagmati River.

For James' Weekend Reflections. Details better seen enlarged.

[SkyWatch] Skies after the Storm

These sky images I captured today may look pretty so-so to you, but to those of us here in the Philippines who just got battered by yet another hellish typhoon the past days, the blue and white is heavenly.

Manila, 2011

After billboards caused serious injury to man and property during a typhoon last year it was decreed that billboard canopies be rolled up before the high winds rolled in. 

While I stayed safely under cover in my home, inconvenienced only by a 20-hour cut to internet access in my area, other photographers far braver than I captured the havoc. 

The city is quickly being cleaned up, but sigh, the blue skies may be short-lived. We are bracing for another storm predicted to land on the weekend. So if you don't see me online...
I'm linking with SkyWatch Friday.

September 29, 2011

X is for Xiao

This is the Chinese character for small or little. In pinyin - the spelled sound and official phonetic system - it is xiao.

To my ears, the X is pronounced in between the English S and the SH. Xiao, then, is pronounced: shiao... or she-ow (and you can thank me for not getting into tones).

You can remember this character by visualizing the arms down, legs together... in contrast to the character for big or large, da - , which has the arms up, legs apart.

In China, xiao as a preface makes a common term of endearment. You often hear a waitress called xiao mei (little sister). Among friends, xiao is put before the personal name. For instance, my Chinese name is Fu Lian, so, if I were younger, people close to me and in the same generation could call me Xiao Fu.

The most famous xiao is Deng Xiaoping, 鄧小平, the diminutive paramount leader of China from 1978 to 1992 who made a big impact by raising millions out of poverty. Perhaps the most famous line attributed to him is: To get rich is glorious!

Shenzhen, 2010

Propaganda posters, and these days billboards, are evident throughout China. This one, featuring Deng Xiaoping, says: Continue the party's basic direction without hesitation for 100 years

The modern city of Shenzhen you see behind Mr Deng was little more than a fishing village when I first entered China in 1985. Today it is a thriving metropolis of 14 million people. That's no xiao feat.

X is the letter at Alphabe-Thursday and I'm also linking to Signs, Signs

September 28, 2011

September 27, 2011

[Our World] Tree Trimming

Tree trimming is done for various reasons - safety, health or aesthetics.

Close to my home in a suburb in Manila there is a long boulevard lined with eucalyptus trees. I've noticed that once a year, the branches of these trees are completely hacked down and I've yet to learn the reason.

A few days ago, I captured these men at work and thought they'd make an interesting story for Our World Tuesday. It's a pity I missed seeing how the man got up into the tree.

Manila, 2011

First he attaches a rope to the branch that is about to be felled.

Then he hacks the branch with a machete, leaving what to me looks like a rather crude cut. And I see he wears no safety equipment of any kind.

But down it comes! The men on the ground ensure it doesn't hit the home.

And soon the boulevard will be entirely denuded of its shade-giving branches. You can see the trunk left standing on the left of the one being worked on. The first time I witnessed this I was pained.

Yet then I saw that within mere weeks, new healthy branches sprouted out, and before long, the boulevard was once more lush in green. I'm thinking that the tree trimming does make the tree stronger and healthier, despite the violence to its limbs.

Is there a moral to this story?

September 23, 2011

The Pons Cestius

Rome, 2007

The Pons Cestius, rebuilt in 1888 with materials from the original bridge dating back to the 1st century BC, crosses the Tiber River in Rome. 

I'm linking with Weekend Reflections and Sunday Bridges.

September 22, 2011

W is for Windmill

Aptly called giant electric fans by the locals, twenty whopping windmills grace the northern coastline of Ilocos Norte facing the windy North China Sea.

Ilocos Norte, 2010

The 23-storey windmills standing 236 meters apart were installed in 2005 and were the first source of clean energy in the Philippines. Together they produce over 30-megawatts of electricity and supply 40% of the province's energy needs. Yet, to put this into some kind of perspective, the entire province consumes only about half the energy of one of Manila's larger shopping malls!

It's hard to grasp the sheer size of the windmills. Each windmill with 41-meter blades stands 70 meters tall and weighs 104 tons. Its tapered tower of steel measures 4.2 meters thick at its base. Look again at the relative small size of the people in the first photo!

There's plenty of environmental incentive to build these alternate energy projects. But unfortunately, without government subsidies, this renewable energy source would hardly be financially viable, even considering this privately-operated one stands to earn millions of euros in carbon credits.

This final photo was taken near sundown from a platform built along the highway specifically for tourists to view the spectacular scenery.

We're sharing stories with the letter W at Alphabe-Thursday and the shadow shot is for, well, Shadow Shot Sunday.

September 21, 2011

J is for Jizō in Japan

Everywhere we went in Kansai we found, by the sides of roads or in temple gardens, small groups of stone statues, sometimes in mixed sizes, often dressed in bibs/aprons of red or white.

Kansai, 2009

I learned that these are common depictions of one of the most loved Mahayana Buddhist divinities, a bodhisattva named Ksitigarbha, venerated in Japan as guardian of children and travelers.

Parents leave offerings of caps or bibs, flowers, and stones, with these statues called Jizō (or more respectfully, O-Jizō-san), often as pleas to reduce the suffering of their children alive or dead.

The Jizō are believed to be responsive to sincere prayers of faith, so maybe that explains these coins tossed for good fortune.

J is the letter at ABC Wednesday. Go check out the other creative offers this week... or better yet, join the fun!

September 20, 2011

[Our World] Hawking on the Streets

If you've visited this blog regularly, you know my camera has a soft spot for street vendors or small stall vendors. Just click on vendor and you'll see the variety. So looking back, I'm a little surprised I haven't posted a Manila street hawker before... they sure are a ubiquitous sight. 

 Manila, 2011

What I like about them is their spunk. Some may find them a menace on the streets, but I consider them the most entrepreneurial of spirits, something I can relate to. They are ambitious, persistent, constantly testing their markets with new products, and not afraid to ask for the sale. 

They're full of can do and never say die. And, scurrying in and out among the moving traffic, they certainly are risk takers!

I captured the first three fellas last week, all within minutes of each other, unfortunately through the windshield, so the clarity in these images is less than ideal. This last one taken some time last year may be my favorite photo of a Pinoy hawker I have taken.

This is my post for Our World Tuesday and Walk in the Street.

September 17, 2011

Marmot in Mongolia

For Camera Critters and Scenic Sunday, I am taking you back up into the vast alpine belt of the far western Mongolian province of Hovd. There in the desolate wilderness we did not see many wild animals. 

So when our driver Magsar spotted this furry ball, he stopped the van and went out for a closer look. 

 Mongolia, 2007

What his keen eye had seen is this little creature. 

It's a marmot, a Mongolian marmot, a rodent species closely related to the squirrel and groundhog. Marmots live in mountainous areas, eat mainly greens and hibernate in burrows through the long winters. This chubby little fella looks pretty well satiated to me, don't you agree?

A final piece of trivia: Marmots are hunted during a designated season - usually late summer or early fall when their furs are perfect - and are roasted on an open fire with hot stones in the cleaned belly to cook it inside and out. You can read about boodog, this Mongolian cooking style, in gory detail here.

September 16, 2011

Golden Computer Centre

The Golden Computer Centre in Sham Shui Po is the mother of all IT centers... anywhere in the world! Decades ago, when I was first in Hong Kong, it was the place to go for all things pirated... movies, software, video games, you name it, they had it. It's been totally cleaned up and now is strictly monitored by IPR authorities, yet still today it has the broadest and cheapest selection of hardware and software for enthusiasts to buy and build their own computers, as well as to check out the latest and greatest in cameras and electronic gadgets.

It's also where earlier this year I found another cool car reflection for James' Weekend Reflections.

 Hong Kong, 2011

[SkyWatch] Another Bay Sunset

Manila Bay, 2011
Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer to your goal.
     ~ Elbert Hubbard (American writer 1856-1915)
[enlarge for a more magnificent view]
Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
     ~ Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali polymath 1861-1941)
Linking with skies from around the globe at SkyWatch Friday.

September 15, 2011

V is for Vittoriano on Piazza Venezia

Rome, 2007

Vittoriano on Piazza Venezia was nicknamed "the type-writer" by the Romans and 'the wedding cake" by American GIs of WW2. I still can't help but be impressed by the grandeur of Mussolini's white elephant.

This is my letter V for Jenny's Alphabe-Thursday

September 14, 2011

I is for Irony

No time for a long post today, so I'm just sharing a little irony... 

 Manila, 2010

You'd think they'd use a bit of that magic rustguard on their premises.

For ABC Wednesday, where the letter is I, and for Signs, Signs.

September 13, 2011

[Our World] Good Catch in the Fish Market

For Our World Tuesday I like to show you a little slice of life in my corner of the world, wherever I happen to be. I am at home in Manila these days and I recently accompanied my honey to the market again... and, as usual, while he picks, I click. The stall owners recognize me by now and humor me.

Today I focus on the seafood area.

Manila, 2011

This magnificent lapu-lapu fish (grouper) not only looked fresh, when steamed by my honey, it tasted like a piece of heaven!

It's my favorite fish. What's yours?

September 11, 2011

Queen of the Tropics

This is my pictorial ode to the lovely hibiscus. I fell in love with this flower just this year, although of course I've seen it around for decades. And only recently I learned that here in the Philippines it is called gumamela, a word that rolls pleasingly off my tongue right into my ears. Amazing how shifting my attentions can open up a whole new world. And how the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

With several hundred species of this genus of the Malvaceae or mallow family, I can only show you a very few I've seen around in my neighborhood. You can read more about this versatile flower in this wiki.

Manila, 2011

I am linking with dozens of other stunning flowers at Today's Flower and Weekend Flowers. The top image is offered to Shadow Shot Sunday and then there's Macro Monday. There's plenty to please at all these wonderful memes.

September 10, 2011

Pool Reflection

Guangdong, 2010

Lilypads and lines reflected in a pool at the internationally acclaimed Crosswaters Ecolodge I showcased in an earlier post here. Mouse over to see the image in color.

Joining global reflection hunters at Weekend Reflections and monochrome enthusiasts at Weekend in Black and White.

September 9, 2011

[SkyWatch] Variable Skies

We've been seeing a lot of this lately, and no, sad to say, it's not a monochrome... just a dreary gray, even when the sun tries hard to poke her head through the clouds.

But at times it did get better... with fluffy white clouds in a brilliant blue sky.

And then there was best, a sunset over the bay, making the nameless bridge a mere silhouette.

Manila, 2011

Check out the hundreds of amazing skies from around the world linked at SkyWatch Friday. And you'll find interesting bridges at Sunday Bridges.

September 8, 2011

U is for Urban Art

On my business trips from Asia to America, I am sometimes able to add a a few days to meet up with a friend. One such rendezvous happened in June of 2003 with my longtime friend Leesa, an urban art consultant in Vancouver. 

Leesa works with municipalities and developers to integrate commissioned art into public spaces in order to create significance for the people who use those spaces. (We are not talking graffiti.)

She wanted to check out how the Los Angeles Metro was implementing its highly praised public art program, and I was game to tag along. 
From bus stops to rail stations, streetscapes to bus interiors, construction fences to poetry, Metro’s Art Department has commissioned more than 300 artists since being established in 1989. [source]
We explored the Green Line and were delighted with the way artists had woven their stories into the environment: walls, ground, seats, stairs.

Here are just a few of the photos I got. You can read about the artists and their project descriptions on Metro's excellent website.

[photos enlarge when clicked]

Los Angeles, 2003

Do you agree with me that Metro achieved its goal?
Metro commissions artists to create engaging and thought-provoking artworks to make your journey more inviting and pleasurable. The artworks weave a multi-layered cultural tapestry that mirrors Los Angeles County’s rich contemporary and popular cultures.
Besides having quality face-to-face time, Leesa and I had a blast riding the Metro. Today you can take a free Metro Art Tour on the first Thursday and Saturday of the month. When next I return to LA, I will surely continue to explore this people-friendly transit system.

U is the letter at Jenny's Alphabe-Thursday. Go check out how others creatively play with this letter.