Milkyway in Bali

The dark night skies are rare these days, even in many parts of the remote world we live in. As more people start living in these parts, electricity follows, filling the dark skies with their bright orange light.

Became obsessed with photographing the Milkyway and the night skies. My first image of the milkyway was a mistake shot while photographing the landscape in the chilly nights of Bolivia Salt Plains. I never knew it could exist in my camera. It looked very much like clouds with naked eye. How wrong I was about the cloud that turned out to be the milkyway, and that cloud was seen through my camera yet I was unable to see it with my eyes.

Living in the city where it is bright at night has created a yearning within me. I loved the night skies and the stars. Light pollution is bad everywhere, night photography is not easy even in remote parts these days, where a tiny amount of light can affect the quality of star gazing.

Staring into the milkyway is mesmerising to think we are part of this awesome galaxy.

Bali, Indonesia became a place for me to experiment, especially at Jutiluwati Rice Terraces. Had not planned for a shoot, the moon was pretty bright and the surrounding villages were all lit up during a pretty windy and cloudy sky.

Death by Coconut water

Sitting here drinking a packet of coconut water in a hot summer day reminded me of Strange Tales of Tamil Nadu. It is a cautionary tale of excessively drinking this innocent fruit, it might turn out deadly.

Tamil Nadu – South Indian state secretly practices the ancient custom of thalaikoothal , an involuntary euthanasia of elderly dependents, sick children or the incapacitated who are deemed too troublesome to be taken care of by their family members.  This is common in impoverished villages where families can’t afford the cost of caring for their old or the sick. Sometimes as with human greed, thalaikoothal is practised when property or money is coverted.

Thalaikoothal means head pouring, involving slow oil bath.

The old man is presented with a soothing oil bath in the wee hours of the morning, and fed with large amount of young green coconut water. The high potassium content in the coconut causes renal failure in the poor victim and the victim dies slowly while his relatives will decorate his deteriorating body with flowers and dresses him. Sometimes the whole family or the whole village would gather to celebrate his slow death, to mark the occasion to his eternal peace.  Death, it seems is a blessing to his sufferings of old age.

So concludes my strange recollection. An cautionary tale of drinking too much of a good thing. Don’t drink copious amount of young coconut water. It is bad for you. But not when you practice Thalaikoothal.

 

 

Here in Sante Fe and around New Mexico

I have to return to Sante Fe and the other New Mexico towns. While I was spending quite sometime around the area, didn’t really take the time to visit this quaint town of Sante Fe or even the other nearby ones.

Here’s some random images while I was out on a day visit to this desert town and around the other areas.

 

When in Colorado, go meet The Nighteagles

“You have to meet one of the most interesting people in the world, when you head out to Colorado” said a friend of mine.

And so I did.

The Nighteagles built their own house out of recycled materials, much like the famous Earthship houses in Taos New Mexico. Always into wonderful and unusual construction, I couldn’t resist the temptation to drive a whole day just to meet them.

Nighteagle is part Native American and part Middle Eastern, totally unusual combination of cultures. Skilled in construction, he took a few years building his own house and while I was there, was building an extension on top of his pre-existing level. Its a never ending process, one of the best things about building your own home.

We went over to his neighbour’s where I was introduced to the best thing about being in America. Guns, and more guns, in a personal shooting range on top of a hill. This was my first experience with bigger machines and larger bullets, not something readily available anywhere else, unless you are in a war zone. It was great fun, and a great session. Shooting from a huge weapon gave me a huge adrenalin high, an opportunity that would be great to repeat one day.

Stilt Fishermen of Sri Lanka

The famous Stilt Fishermen of Sri Lanka, where they fish at the southern coastal region, standing for hours to grab that lucky catch.

The last post mentioned my encounters with the lovely people around this coastal region of Sri Lanka.

These days, most of the retired fishermen stopped fishing and would pose for tourists instead.

One of the fisherman, Julius only does this for tourists, he is retired from fishing and gets some money from the photographing tourists. His son had moved to Japan to work, and had married a Japanese lady.

The whole area was pretty popular with the Japanese, and many young men in this area often marry and have Japanese wives. It was not unusual to have a son within this community to be working in Japan or somewhere else.  Just like these two lovely fishermen sons.

 

Sri Lanka Stilt Fisherman

When I first saw these famous Sri Lankan Stilt Fisherman from Steve McCurry’s travel images. I wanted to visit and find out how they  fish from such waters with the mere tiny stilts,

Much has changed since Steve McCurry taken that iconic image. These days fishing is difficult as fish stock has almost diminished, many fishermen would venture out in larger boats and go fishing for days.

Most of the stilt fishermen are pretty old and have largely retired. Posing mainly for the tourists who have invaded and changed the whole coast line into spas and pricey resorts. I am quite surprised how shallow these stilts were.

It was the monsoon season, not really idea to do much fishing, most of the time it rained for the whole morning, a daily affair. I stopped photographing places after that.  I spent a week here, mainly to relax and meet up with various people around the area. The Sri Lankans are incredibly friendly and very inviting. As always when you spend more time around the same area, folks would invite you into their homes for great home cooked meals and tell you their stories. This was how I passed my time, visiting homes.

It has always my favorite part of the journey, meeting people, having them share a part of their lives with me, however short it is. That tiny moments in life.

 

 

Open your eyes : The Photographer’s Discovery

I’m not a street photographer, it takes patience and skills to be one.

Being a Travel Photographer differs from street photography. However the same skills has help trained me to be more aware, more conscious of life, of people, of unusual folks out of the ordinary. I love making portraits of people like that.

This gentleman stood out among the crowded masses in a busy train station. Normally I would walk off, unconscious of what is happening around me. This man seem quite different from all the foreigners around this busy place. This city I am in, has more than 50% foreigners living in it, so it was quite a common sight.  I found out he is Austrian, living in Langkawai, Malaysia for the past 4 years. He decided to move out of his country and never went back. He looked kinda lost and was given wrong directions to his hotel. I asked I could help and perhaps make a few images of him. Unfortunately I was in a rush, would love to ask him about his life and I bet he has tons of stories to tell.

Maybe I should get into Street Photography just as an excuse to meet interesting people and listen to their stories.

The Thai Medium and the tattoos

Yantra tattoos are one of the most beautiful art works I have seen. This is pure skin art with a religious focus. It is said that to have these tattoos are a form of blessings, the Yantra or Sak Yant  gives protection or even magical powers. This is typical Thai and sometimes Cambodia influence, a mixed of the local pagan rituals mixed with this form of mystic Buddhism.

The monk went into a light trance and wore his mask, invoking the spirit power of that mask’s being. He chanted while giving blessings to a patron, while the rest of the devotees awaits for their turn. Using the same bamboo stick that is used for his tattoos, he blessed each chakra point of the devotee. In exchange each devotee gives an offering to the spiritual being that was invoked.

 

Anime Festival Asia Singapore 2014

 

Once again Anime Festival Asia come to Singapore. There were tons of Cosplayers visiting dressed in their professionally done costumes, most made their own costumes. It has gotten pretty competitive in dressing up as characters and many hobby photographers coming along joining in the event.

This is my second event, and I had truly enjoyed it, for someone not into Cosplay or even Japanese Anime, it has been quite an experience. These people take their costumes seriously and hobby photographers quite fiercely territorial in getting their money shots. This was the first time I had with so many willing models wanting to pose for a selfie or having the attention of photographers!

There was even a wedding proposal that happen right in front of me at the Festival!

 

Taken tons of images, won’t want to flood you with Anime fatigue.  You can find them all on my Facebook Page : TheTravelLust

Until Next Year!

Its great visiting the festival in the convention, but the main action is outside at the atrium, where Cosplayers set up their shoots and wait for photographers for their self portraits.

 



Cosplayers are highly competitive and lap up all the attention for mass hordes of photographers.  Every so often, a group of photographers will  form when a Cosplayer strut their stuff!

 


 

 

A Town in China with Roman Empire Descendants

At the edge of the Gobi Desert, Liqian, a remote town, YongChang county in China inhabits descendants of the ancient Romans with striking Caucasian features of blond hair, green eyes and that typical roman nose.

It isn’t a surprise that these Chinese look astonishingly Central Asian, this area of China was part of the  Silk Road, a 7,000-kilometer trade route that linked Asia and Europe more than 2000-2500 years ago.

What was surprising however, Chinese archeologists in 1990s found remnants of an ancient Roman fortification in this village.

The villagers practise a game similar to the ancient Roman bull fighting and also worship bulls. DNA testing in 2005 confirmed that some of the villagers have 50% Caucasian origins which lead to the conclusion they are descendants of the ancient Roman army. This however has detractors apprehensive due to the county being part of the Silk Route, where the Asians and Europeans intermingle.

Liqan Roman descendants

Cai Junnian has yellow wavy hair, a hooked nose and green eyes. A DNA test in 2005 confirmed he is of 56 percent European origin.  Image by Natalie Behring

“Mr Cai said his great-grandfather told him that there were Roman tombs in the Qilian mountains a day and a half’s walk away, but he had never connected them to the unusual appearance he inherited from his father. “People thought I had a skin problem,” he said.”

China roman map