Tag Archives: Travel Photography

Keep Bending Forward

26 Mar

Sometimes we try so hard to keep moving forward when really, all we need to do is keep bending forward. Challenge yourself to really stay and hangout in Forward Bend sometime this week. Be passive, breathe deep and watch yourself gradually progress forward.
Forward Bend 1 Forward Bend Smile Forward Bend Lock


Welcome to the Jungle: A trip up the Kinabatangan River

18 Feb

Arriving in Sandakan, a small city in Eastern Sabah, Borneo, we did what most do and headed straight for the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. In Borneo, the allure of seeing these endangered primates in their natural habitat is too much to pass up and Sandakan is one of the top spots to do so. With two scheduled feedings daily visitors are guaranteed to have amble time to observe the highly intelligent creatures.

The close proximity of the feeding platforms provides onlookers a chance to ooh and awe at the remarkable characteristics of their cousin apes. Their wide range of facial expressions and dexterity in their almost eerily human-like hands alone, stand as evidence why they are, in fact, not so distant relatives after all.

The ease of access, proximity and regular daily feedings indeed make Sepilok ideal for most people. Those well thought out conveniences, however, led to one major problem for us the two of us… HUMANS.

When we heard of the chance to see this amazing species and many more in the wild, virgin rainforest, we signed right up.  After a two hour drive from Sandakan, followed by a 45 minute boat trip up the Kinabatangan River we arrived at Kampung Bilit, our camp for the night. Our guide from the local village, Lim, stood smiling with an out stretched hand and in a loveable Malay accent said, “Welcome to the Jungle.”

Walking the long wooden dock to the camp we watched a two foot long, blue-tongued monitor lizard slowly crawl off into the dense thicket of trees. Above the entrance to the camp a Crested Serpent Eagle sat perched, waiting for his next meal to slither by.

Before getting back into the boat to search the river and its many tributaries we questioned our guide about the rich variety of species native to the area and how many we could actually hope to see. “Proboscis Monkey we see no problem. Macaques, of course can see too many. Birds of so many kinds. Kingfishers, Hornbills.  We just look, ok?  Crocodiles. Yes, I think. Maybe we go at night. Pygmy Elephants need to be  very lucky to see it. Snakes, Leeches, Scorpions all watch out for. Ok?”

While we hoped to avoid several of these inhabitants, we were excited to spot a crocodile albeit a bit uncomfortable with idea of doing at night. Honestly, we were so stoked to see the monkeys that we didn’t really hope for much else.

Almost immediately, our guide spotted a huge Orangutan just outside the jungle camp. Lim referred to the solitary male as  “our local resident”. Not far down the river we saw the first of several dozen groups of Long Tail Macaques. This particular family group was occupying the better part of an entire fig tree for their daily grooming session.

The area is know for its great variety of birdlife and draws serious birders from around the globe. While Chinese Egrets aren’t exactly a rare find, they are still impressive in their size and grace.

Most of the boat trip was spent viewing the ever so unique Proboscis Monkeys. Borneo is the only place in the world where they can be found and on the Kinabatangan we found loads of them. The single alpha male is easy to spot. Just look for the longest nose and biggest belly. While the females, have a smaller more upturned nose. These rather large, endangered primates are excellent swimmers and use their distinct noses as a sort of snorkel.

Nearing the end of our tour and the onset of dusk, we were satisfied with our sightings but still hoped for a crocodile when our driver suddenly sped towards an abrupt movement in the water ahead. We got there just in time to see two Borneon Pygmy Elephants climb out of the river and trample a path off into the rainforest. Aware of our great luck, yet wishing our sighting had been a bit longer, we turned in time to see a large male enter the river.

A full unobstructed view of this highly endangered, purely wild, magnificent creature swimming the width of the river just before our eyes was an unforgettable moment. The beauty of dusk cast yet another sense of awe over us, as we headed back up the tributary, ending our “so lucky to see” river tour.

During dinner, a very odd looking Bearded Pig walked right up to the camp. Luckily for the pig, most of the local villagers are Muslim. Instead of this unusual looking swine being treated as an easy meal, one of the staff called out “Maggie” and tossed some scraps her way.

The night cruise was a bit unsettling at first, knowing that in the darkness there was still  an endless amount of critters, crawlers, creatures, and crocs. Once on the river, the break in the trees opened to a sky littered with stars. The moon light with the slow hum of the nocturnal chorus actually turned out to be quite calming. We spotted a few Buffy Fish Owls and a pair of Blue Eared Kingfishers but no glowing red eyes of a crocodile.

Early the next morning, the river was a stunningly peaceful setting to view the wide variety of bird species. Storm storks, Broad Bills, Oriental Darters, Rhino-horn Bills, and fishing Hawk Eagles capped off our Kinabatangan sightings.

Just before leaving the jungle, we noticed a sign posted: tree seedlings for sale. Planting it seemed only a tiny contribution in the ongoing fight against deforestation. It still felt good though, physically putting in one more fruit bearing tree to help sustain the host of endangered species living there. After all, we plan to return one day for the crocodiles that eluded us and hope to again be appropriately greeted with a “Welcome to the Jungle”.

“TrekkShopping” with the Hmong Women

31 Dec

Sapa Northern Vietnam

Trekking and shopping are generally two activities I consider mutually exclusive, but for the women of the Hmong and other indigenous tribes in Northern Vietnam, they are as intertwined as the rice paddies are to the mountains.

The mountainous area surrounding the small town of Sapa is a combination of stunning natural landscape, human ingenuity, and deep-seated cultural roots. Set against a backdrop of the tallest mountain in Indochina, the hills have been transformed into hundreds of man-made rice terraces. The vast cultivation of nature’s most beautiful crop upon mountain after mountain was a marvel to my modern world eyes; as was the time and intricacy that goes into the traditional clothing and crafts produced by the tribal women.

We arrived in the crisp early hours of morning and were immediately adopted into a small group of Black Hmong women, who took it upon themselves to stay with us the remainder of our three day stay.

As soon as our bags were dropped off, the women began us on their tour of the little town. They pointed out the sights, steered us clear of over-priced shops, taught us about their clothes and tribes, and were fascinatingly inquisitive and giggly. As the early morning warmed into the afternoon we informed our new girl gang that we needed to prep for that day’s trek. That was precisely the moment we realized that the large woven baskets our new friends carried on their backs were not in fact full of vegetables or whatever sundries we had assumed and simultaneously the moment that we realized we had indeed underestimated “souvenir space” in our packs.

It seems their laborious sales tactics and patience in befriending every customer must have stemmed straight from the lengthy hand-made production process itself.

At a higher altitude, they cultivate hemp and use it to produce their fabrics. Nearer to their homes, neat plots of indigo plants are grown, which to my amusement were not at all blue. After the fabrics are dyed then dried over and over again, they begin the embroidery. The details and attention that go into each garment, pillow case, bag, hat, or blanket is amazing. They also produce hand-made silver which they carve and craft into bracelets and earrings. All Hmong women begin to wear earrings early in life and the size seems to grow with age.

Our group of Hmong women and young girls remained with us until our last day. We trekked over 40 kilometers together as they walked us along the hills sides on narrow ledges of the rice terraces. They took us to their waterfalls and schools. We took turns inquiring about one another’s lives and culture.

We stayed overnight in their village and woke to the same crowing roosters. They even walked with us back into the small town of Sapa on the day of our departure. As we waited for the bus which would take us to the overnight train ride awaiting us, we thought surely our purchasing had come to an end. We made one last attempt to refuse anymore of their hand-made goods by informing them that we were quite honestly out of cash. At which point one of our faithful friends told us “if you don’t have the dough, the ATM is right over there”.

So, a big thank you to our wonderful new friends for your hospitality and care.  We won’t forget the beauty of your homeland and we certainly can never forget learning how to shop while trekking through beautiful Northern Vietnam.

Shred Gnar Gnar

14 Dec

Courtesy of The Keegan Gibbs Blog

Courtesy of The Keegan Gibbs Blog

If you haven’t already, head over to The Keegan Gibbs blog and get your drool on. This surf culture photography at it’s very finest, guaranteed to get you all wet and sandy.

Halong Bay

27 Nov

Halong Bay Vietnam

Holy Hanoi: a sensory overload pho sure

17 Nov

Sitting down to write this post I find myself saying the exact same thing I did when I stepped out of the airport taxi into the center of the Old Quarter distract: “Where the hell do I begin” to be honest I think that was my second sentence that actually followed “so, we have to cross that traffic with this luggage; how good were you at playing Frogger?”
Okay then, just as I did in the Old Quarter, Hanoi : I’ll start with traffic laws. There were none. There weren’t stop signs or cross walks. There weren’t traffic lights, not red, green, yellow or blue. There were seemingly no police officers or traffic cops or crossing guards. There was no end to the honking. There was no law and no order.  However, there seemed to be some rhyme and reason within the chaos. Most of the time the streets were like a perpetually moving organism and as long as you didn’t collide with it; it somehow seemed to keep spinning.

Other times, it came to a complete halt with you stuck in a van, trapped in the middle of an intersection, surrounded by hundreds of honking cars, weaving scooters, bell ringing tricycles, pedestrians with no sidewalk, push carts and pull carts, and ladies carrying huge baskets of fruit, all of us heading to some destination and no one getting there anytime soon.

After successfully crossing the street and therefore feeling as if we had completed an amazing race challenge, next up was finding food. I’m sure that Anthony Bourdain would have just sat at any one of the hundreds of “restaurants” that occupied literally every side walk, but as a recovering vegetarian I was a little suspect, but fortune favors the brave. We sat down on the tiny little step stool next to the miniature card table.  We didn’t need to order because she was only serving one dish and a damn fine dish it was. Bun Bo, immediately became our favorite Vietnamese dish.

Image courtesy of Eat Drink & Be Merry

Served with two draft Tiger beers, our “restaurant” also became a perfect place to pause our turn on Frogger, take in the sights, smells, and sounds; and watch the beauty buzz by us as we sat on the tiniest of stools, on the sidewalk in the middle the Old Quarter in Hanoi, Vietnam.

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