THE GRAND PALACE OF SIAM

The Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand has been the official residence of the Thai monarch since the 1700s. The complex is an architectural masterpiece covered mostly in gold with accents of red, green, purple and blue. The intricate details found in the carvings, mosaics, embroideries and sculptures are equally as magnificent as the structures. This palace is probably the most visited and most photographed place in Thailand with millions of photographs of the halls, pavilions, courtyards and gardens available online. This was my second visit in fifteen years and instead of capturing the palace on eye level, I decided to point my camera upwards towards the beautiful and colorful geometric structures that decorated the roofs. There are actually as much beauty on the rooftops as there are on the ground. Another reason for doing this was also because of the large number of tourists inside the complex. The crowd was just enormous and I thought they took away the magical atmosphere of the place. So here are some of my shots of the palace above eye level and I hope you all enjoy looking at them.

THE FLOATING VILLAGE OF KOMPONG PHLUK

The Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and along its shores are villages that are highly dependent on its ecosystem for their food supply. Two of these villages, Kompong Khleang and Kompong Phluk, have now become major tourist attractions because of the houses built on stilts to stay above water and also due to their proximity to Siem Reap. Our tour guide took us to the floating village of Kompong Phluk, which was the closest at around 15 kilometers from Siem Reap. This was a nice change of scenery after all the trips to the temples. The village sits alongside a river that is snaking its way towards the Tonle Sap Lake and our boat took us to the very heart of this village sailing past humble homes and friendly villagers. We continued sailing towards the lake and passed by a mangrove forest, which I will feature in another post. I’m glad I brought my DSLR with me during this tour for better quality photos as at one point I was so dependent on my iPhone for travel photography and has since regretted doing so. Here are some of the photos I took of the floating village of Kampong Phluk. The muddy water was a beautiful complement to the earthy tones of the wooden stilts and houses. Thankfully, the sun was out that day creating beautiful shadows with the stilts as well as saturating the colors of the water, the houses and the vegetation around the village. I hope you guys enjoy these series of photographs and don’t forget to like and leave a comment. Till my next post…stay safe everyone!

BAYON: THE TEMPLE OF MANY FACES

Bayon is an ancient Khmer temple located in the middle of Angkor Thom, which is the last capital city of the Khmer empire. The temple’s most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and smiling faces carved on the roofs of all the towers in the complex. Interestingly, all the faces look similar and our guide told us that scholars suggested it was a representation of King Jayavarman VII. This ancient city is now part of the modern city of Siem Reap, Cambodia. I arrived in Cambodia on the last days of the rainy season and during my visit to the temples, the skies were leaden with overcast. Although, the sun trying to break through the clouds created a golden haze making the colors of the temple richer. The temple is every photographer’s dream destination from the carved facades, the stone statues, the towers with faces and the bas-reliefs on the galleries, there is just a bounty of subjects to photograph. I took hundreds of photographs in all available angles and these are some of my favorites. Hope you all enjoy looking at them and maybe they will inspire some of you to visit Cambodia in the near future.

THE MANY FACES OF TONLE SAP

A visit to Siem Reap means hopping from one ancient temple to another, however, there is another noteworthy visit nearby…the floating villages of Tonle Sap Lake. The village of Kompong Phluk is the most visited and just a few kilometers from Siem Reap. It offers a very good contrast once you finally had your fill of temples. Our private guide took us there on our last day in Siem Reap. The drive through the Cambodian countryside was truly a humbling experience. Watching people go about their lives in simplicity made me reflect on my life and how I’d like to live it moving forward.

I can no longer recall how long the drive was but I remember us parking beside a river and then hopping on a wooden boat that was to take us to the village. The water was muddy and looked like milk chocolate but with the sun out and bright I thought it provided an earthy and rustic tone to my photographs. As we sailed into the village I saw all these houses on stilts, although I didn’t expect to see a lot of human activity assuming that people stayed indoors to evade the prying eyes of tourists. Instead, we found ourselves cruising through a busy village. People busy with household chores, children playing, women paddling boats with stuff to trade, men fixing fishing nets and families just busy working together. It was fascinating to see all these people living in such an unusual environment. Of course I immediately got busy with my camera. I took a lot of photos of the houses, the river and the edge of the lake but for this post, I am featuring the many faces of Tonle Sap Lake.

THE BRIDGE TO BAYON

Angkor Thom is located in the Kingdom of Cambodia and is the last capital city of the Khmer empire. In the heart of this ancient city is the temple of Bayon, which is known for the multiple carvings of serene and smiling stone faces on its many towers. The city is surrounded by a moat and on it’s south gate entrance is a bridge lined with statues of gods and demons. Thankfully, our guide decided to have us walk through the bridge instead of driving by it so I was able to walk up to the statues and took as many photographs as my memory card can accommodate. It was such a thrilling and magical experience.  I can just imagine the sense of awe people felt as they walked across this bridge many centuries ago.  I’m glad they were able to preserve these archeological sites for us and for future generations to appreciate. Here are some of the photos I took of the bridge, the statues and the entrance gate to the ancient city of Angkor Thom.

BENG MEALEA

The temple of Beng Mealea in Angkor, Cambodia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the many temples built around the Angkor Wat period. After I was told by our guide that we were visiting multiple temple ruins for four straight days, I was worried I’ll eventually get tired of them. To my amazement, every temple we visited was as magnificent and unique as the other. For Beng Mealea, I like that they kept the forest that encroached on the temple complex. They didn’t uproot the trees and the stone slabs were still covered in moss. It felt like we were discovering the place for the first time. This was one of the many archeological sites we visited that I really enjoyed photographing. Aside from it’s beauty, the place was also almost deserted allowing me to take photographs minus the crowd of tourists. Here are a few of the many photos I took during my visit. Enjoy them and I hope you can take time to leave a comment. Thank you.

MEN IN ORANGE

Buddhist monks have always fascinated me…their meditative and simple lifestyles require them to abandon a life of pleasure in order to reach Nirvana. Based on those basic requirements, I obviously am not going to become a monk. LOL! Their orange robes are also very eye catching and mystical at the same time. I saw a lot of them during my trip to Thailand and Cambodia and always wanted to photograph them. I was instructed not to come too close but it was okay to take their photos from a distance. I had so many opportunities to photograph them during the trip but decided not to until I photographed them by accident. I was in Angkor Wat taking photos from across the moat when these two monks walked past in front of me just as I was clicking on my camera. I photographed them by accident and the photo turned out perfectly. It sure was my lucky day. The other photos were taken after the one above during the tour around the Angkor Wat complex. 
I call this photo the Orange Phantom…again I tried to keep my distance when taking their photos but this monk walked too fast and so I ended up with a photo of his back. I do like the mood of this photo with the all the shadows and spot lighting…very mysterious.
These last two photos were taken while driving out of the Angkor Wat complex. There was a brief traffic jam and these monks were patiently waiting for their tuk tuk to start moving.

PUERTO DE PUNTA DEL ESTE

Punta del Este, Uruguay was one of the stops during my South American cruise last December of 2018. These photos were taken at the pier while waiting for the tender to take us back to the cruise ship. I’ve been meaning to post these photos years ago but keep forgetting. These were actually taken using my old iPhone 7 Plus as I didn’t bring ashore my DSLR. I love how the clouds made the sky look very dramatic in these photos. The old yet colorful boats tossed by the tide also added a rustic feel to the composition. iPhones really capture good photos although the lack of depth always makes me regret not taking my DSLR with me.

COLORFUL BERMUDA

June of last year I went on an 11-night cruise along the New England area onboard the Celebrity Summit, which then crossed the Atlantic to Bermuda for a 2-day stop before returning to New York. It was my first time in this British territory and was amazed by the beautiful mix of Caribbean and English vibe on the island. The colorful houses look like a page out of a children’s book while the white sandy beaches with endless torquise blue waters is a piece of heaven on earth. I took multiple photos of the beaches and coves but will post them another time. For now I’ll be featuring the beautiful Bermudian landscape and the charming and colorful homes that dot it.

ANGKOR WOW!

Angkor Wat is located in Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia and is one of the most magnificent archeological sites in the world. The complex was built in the early part of the 12th century then neglected around the 16th century resulting to the jungle recapturing the complex. Visiting this architectural wonder, which is listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, is both a breathtaking and fascinating experience. My jaw got sore saying “wow” multiple times while exploring this humongous temple complex. If ever you get the chance to visit this place, spare an entire day to explore it as there is so much to see.  I took hundreds of photographs clicking on everything from panoramic views to close ups of the intricate carvings on the walls. Here are some of the photos I took during my visit a few months ago.

STEEL CITY LIGHTS

Two years ago I traveled to Pittsburgh to celebrate my partner’s birthday who once called this city home. Pittsburgh was named City of Steel due to the many steel-related businesses that once flourished here. I made reservations at Altius, a fine dining restaurant on top of Mt. Washington offering elevated cuisine and breathtaking views of the city. Thankfully we were given a table by the window so we got to enjoy panoramic views of Pittsburgh from sunset to night lights. I do have to mention that food and service was excellent at this restaurant so I highly recommend a visit if you guys find yourselves in Pittsburgh in the near future. These photos were taken at a viewing area close to the restaurant and I used a DSLR to take them. I had to mount my camera on an iron fence to stabilize it and minimize shaking so the photos won’t come out blurry. The last two photos were taken inside the restaurant using my iPhone 7Plus.


The photos below were taken inside Altius Restaurant using my iPhone 7Plus.

LADIES OF THE MOAT

I’ve always wondered what my initial reaction would be when I see Angkor Wat for the first time. Would it be a jaw dropping moment? Would it take my breath away? Or would it be a disappointing experience? My anticipation was further built up as the sunrise experience I signed up for was cancelled due to inclement weather. I was able to go later in the day, once the rain stopped, however the sun just made a very brief appearance that day. I was looking forward to photograph every nook and corner of the temple that day but the gloomy weather made photography a challenge resulting to less vibrant shots. The moment I stepped out of the van, my heart started to beat insanely, and got wilder the closer I was to the temple. For a moment, I thought my heart stopped beating when I stepped up to this flatform and saw the Angkor Wat complex rising majestically across this body of water, which I initially thought was a river but later found out was a moat. It was such a magical moment…an experience I would cherish for the rest of my life. In the moat I noticed this boat with four women scooping what looked like reeds out of the water. I got riveted to what they were doing including the pile of reeds on their boat, which I thought made an interesting shot. I immediately pulled out my camera to photograph them while at the same time captured a reflection of Angkor Wat in the water. I was there for less than 10 minutes and I already got myself these magical shots. Angkor Wat is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and I made sure I took as many photographs as possible, all of which I would feature in my next few posts. For today, photos of these ladies cleaning the moat stole the show from Angkor Wat and will be the main feature of this post.

THE HOUSE ON A ROCK

I went on a cruise of the New England area last June of 2019 aboard the Celebrity Summit cruise ship and one of our stops was Newport, Rhode Island. The town is famous for its Gilded Age mansions and so I booked a tour of the Doris Duke mansion, which I will feature at a later post. What actually caught my eye during the trip was this house perched on top of a rocky island in the middle of the Narragansett Bay. The house, built in 1905, was named the Clingstone although locals call it the House on a Rock. The original owner was the nephew of Joseph Wharton, founder of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, until it was sold in 1961 to an architect relative for only $3,600, which was the amount owed in back taxes. The house caught my eye as we were sailing out of Newport just as the sun was setting. I thought it was beautiful with the silhouette of the Newport Bridge rising majestically in the distance.

ANGKOR IN ROUGE

The Banteay Srei is a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva located in Angkor, Kingdom of Cambodia. The temple was built during the 10th century and is smaller in scale compared to other temples around the area but it features the most elaborate carvings making this one of the most beautiful temples in Cambodia. It’s unique color is due to the red sandstone used as primary construction material. It was raining during my visit and the wet walls enhanced the redness of the sandstones. This temple complex is about two hours drive from Siem Reap but is a must visit due to its beauty and unique color. Here are some of the photos I took during my visit using a Canon Rebel T6s.

PHRA BUDDHASAIYAS

The Phra Buddhasaiyas is the main attraction at the Wat Pho temple complex in Bangkok, Thailand. This golden statue of Buddha in a reclining position is famously and aptly known as the Reclining Buddha and is one of Bangkok’s most visited sites. The temple is always packed with tourists so photographing it can be quite a challenge with so many people competing for the right spot to capture the perfect shot. Thankfully I went early so it wasn’t so crowded and I was able to work on my angles.  

Last time I was in Bangkok was 15 years ago and so much has changed since my last visit. However, revisiting this magnificent statue brought out the same sense of amazement I felt the first time I saw it many years ago. This time though I made sure I had my cameras ready and photographed every inch of the temple’s interior. The first three photos were taken using my GoPro Hero 7 Black with a wide angle setting while the rest were taken using my Canon Rebel T6s. I had to take a number of test shots to capture the perfect lighting, something one can do with a DSLR but not with a GoPro. I wanted to capture the serenity inside the temple at the same time highlighting the “goldness” of Buddha. These are my favorite shots!

TIAN TAN BUDDHA

I visited Hong Kong in the fall of 2019 and despite the protests occuring around the city, I went ahead with the trip and glad that I did. A friend who lives in Hong Kong told me I should be fine as I will be in the city during the week and most of the protests occur on weekends. True enough, I had a great time in this amazing city with no untoward incidents during my stay. One of the highlights of my visit was a trip to the Tian Tan Buddha, which is considered one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. Located in Lantau Island, this famous landmark is best accessed through a cable car ride with amazing views of the HKG airport. This famous landmark sits on top of a hill and one has to climb almost three hundred steps to get close to it. At first I thought this was an ancient shrine but after a quick Google, I found out this was just built in the early 90’s. Still it is quite a magical experience climbing up the steps and coming face to face with Buddha. The photo above was taken inside the cable car as it was approaching the final station close to the statue. The photos below were taken at the steps during my climb as well as on the base of the statue at the top of the hill. By the way, I was told it was bad luck to look back during the climb so I didn’t. I’m not superstitious but I adhered to the instructions just to be safe…I didn’t want any protests/riots to spoil my vacation.

TA PROHM

The ancient temple of Ta Prohm was the first archeological site I visited in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The complex was just breathtaking with the roots of trees growing out of the ruins. In fact, this temple looks exactly in the same condition in which it was found. During this leg of my Asian trip, I hired a tour guide to show me around for five days and he was very informative about the places we visited. Unfortunately, I was too busy taking photos that I immediately forgot the trivias he told me as soon as we left the ruins. Yikes! The only thing I remember about Ta Phrom was it being used as set for the film Tomb Raider. Here are some of the hundreds of photographs I took around this magnificent complex.

INTRAMUROS

I have lived in Manila most of my adult life and I’m embarassed to admit that while living there I have never been to Intramuros, the old walled city of Manila. During the Spanish colonial times, the seat of government was found inside the walls of Intramuros and was also home to the Manila Cathedral as well as other churches, schools, universities and businesses. Also found inside the walls is Fort Santiago, a fort that once served as primary defense of the Spanish government in the Philippines and the center of the spice trade to the Americas and Europe. During the Second World War, the entire city of Manila was leveled down including the buildings inside the walled city resulting to major losses to our heritage. Thankfully, the Philippine government allocated money in the restoration of the walled city and work is still ongoing to this day. Last November of 2019, I visited Intramuros for the first time with my parents joining me. The photos in this post were all taken around the Fort Santiago area of the old walled city of Manila.

DANCING LIGHTS

The nightly laser light show in Hong Kong always generate a lot of oohs and aaahs both from tourists and locals alike. The show is every eight o’clock in the evening at the Island side of Hong Kong and best viewed at the Kowloon side of the city. For four evenings I was able to enjoy this breathtaking show from my suite at the InterContinental Hong Kong. Unfortunately I was unable to open a window so all these photos were taken behind a glass partition. I used my Canon Rebel T6s for these photos pressing my lens flat into the glass window then turned off all the lights and pulled the curtain behind me to prevent my camera from capturing any reflections. If you plan to visit Hong Kong, stay at the InterContinental and get a room with harbour views to enjoy this nightly show at the comfort of your room.

THE GUARDIANS OF PHRA MONDOP

The Phra Mondop (The Library) is an architectural masterpiece located inside the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. The building’s intricate decors plus the abundance of gold is the perfect representation of Thailand’s amazing culture. When I visited this magnificent royal compound three months ago, I thought I was going to run out of memory space in my camera. Every nook and corner was a photographers delight. Every inch of the compound was worth becoming a subject. I went for expansive angles to capture entire structures at the same time zoomed in to capture tiny details such as the materials covering the walls. In this series I am featuring the guard-like statues erected around the building. Their presence must have been intimidating to visitors especially those who saw these for the first time more than two hundred years ago. These statues actually look like they are ready to hit you with their clubs in case you misbehave. I admit that I envy the Thais for their colorful culture and I also salute them for ensuring that they remain preserved and protected for future generations to enjoy.

GIANT GOLDEN KISSES

The Phra Si Ratthana Chedi is a golden stupa or chedi, which is part of the Emerald Buddha temple, inside the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. This stupa, which looks like a giant Kisses, is one of the most symbolic icons of Thailand often used for their tourism materials. These photos were taken during my trip to Bangkok last November 2019 and unfortunately we were there close to lunch time so the lights were a little harsh and the photos not as dramatic had these been taken earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon when the richer colors of the sun would reflect on the golden surface of the temple. Anyway, all these photos were taken with my GoPro Hero 7 Black using a wide lens technique.

THE PEAK

A trip to Hong Kong isn’t complete without visiting Victoria Peak, an elevation on the island side of the city with breathtaking views of the metropolis and the harbor. The Peak, as locals call it, is accessible by a funicular tram from Central Hong Kong as well as by vehicle or by hiking up the hill. I took the tram as the station was just a short walk from my hotel. The Peak also happens to be the most visited place in Hong Kong and is probably every photographer’s dream spot for a bird’s eye view and panoramic shot of the city. Here are some of the photos I took using my Canon Rebel T6s during my trip to this fabulous city last month.

SUNSET IN HONG KONG

I just returned from my three-week trip to Asia and happily I could say I had one of the best trips of my life. Asia is such a mystical and enchanting region and each country has so much to offer with one place amazingly much different from the other. First stop of my vacation was in Hong Kong, which had to be booked last minute due to the ongoing protests. Thankfully I have a friend who lives there so I got pointers on what days the protests are least likely to happen…weekdays. I booked a suite at the InterContinental Hong Kong and my room offered panoramic views of the city the kind we see on postcards and travel magazines. I took hundreds of photographs from my hotel room window capturing Hong Kong’s iconic views and here are some taken at sunset.

LADY LIBERTY

I’ve been to New York City numerous times but have never made it to the Statue of Liberty. Twice I booked a ferry ride around Manhattan and both times they were cancelled due to bad weather. Somehow fate seemed to be telling me I needed to stay away from Lady Liberty.

Last year I finally became a naturalized citizen and during my trip to New York early this summer I thought it was the rightful time to pay the lady in green a visit. I was filled with excitement waking up to a bright and sunny morning then catching the metro to downtown and waiting for the ferry to take me to Liberty Island. As the ferry sailed closer, a strong sense of exhilaration took over me when I came face to face with the Statue of Liberty. As an immigrant to this country, I can now relate how those early Europeans felt when they were greeted by this colossal statue as they sailed into the New York harbor more than a hundred years ago. My journey may have been much easier compared to those early immigrants but all the years of waiting for my employer to inform me that I can finally move to America was quite a stressful experience indeed.

As I walked around the complex I recalled the lines from “The New Colossus” a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus, which were inscribed on a bronze plaque and placed on the pedestal of the statue. The famous last stanza of the sonnet goes: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

My visit to the Statue of Liberty was both gratifying and liberating. It was the culmination of my long journey to this land of milk and honey as well as a validation to my American Dream.

THE VESSEL (TKA)

The Hudson Yards in New York City has a new architectural landmark called The Vessel (TKA). TKA is acronym for “Temporarily Known As” since the new construction does not have an official name at this time. The architect is actually encouraging the public to come up with a name and submit it at their website at https://www.hudsonyardsnewyork.com/whats-next. Here are some photos I took of the Vessel with my GoPro Hero 7 Black using the wide-angle lens mode. Access is free but you will need to get your tickets in advance as entry is on a schedule basis. I lined up around 11AM and got a ticket in 5 minutes for a 12 noon entry…Unfortunately, I got hungry and decided to eat and missed my schedule…so no photos from the inside. LOL!

I DREAM OF VENICE

Venice is a place like no other…walking around this ancient city is like being in a dream. The narrow alleys, the endless canals and the magnificent architecture evokes a magical atmosphere one will never experience anywhere else in the world. During my visit to this water world, I felt like I crossed to another dimension and found myself in photography heaven. Every nook and corner of this city is just worth photographing with the one above being one of my favorites. This was taken from the Ponte dell’Accademia at around 10 in the morning on my way to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. I love how the Grand Canal looked deserted despite it being taken in the middle of the morning. The photo also looks a bit eeriee with the ominous clouds and the absence of any signs of life like an abandoned city in some post apocalyptic film. However, one can’t deny the beauty that this ancient Italian city exudes thereby making it one of the most visited cities in the world. Photo was taken using an iPhone 7Plus.

TWILIGHT AT THE END OF THE WORLD

The city of Ushuaia in Argentina, famously known as the southernmost city in the world, is also referred to as the End of the World. Last December of 2018, I embarked on a cruise that took me to the very tip of South America with a stop at this remote yet thriving city. Ushuaia is a major tourist destination and also serves as the key access point to the Antartic islands. The photographs in this post were taken from the topmost deck of the ship capturing the port, the city as well as the snow capped Martial Mountains in the distance. The bluish tinge in the photos is primarily due to them being taken around the blue hour of twilight. I was also able to explore the Tierra del Fuego National Park right outside of the city but will feature my photos on that trip in another post.

ARCH OVER THE HOOVER

A trip to Las Vegas isn’t complete without a side trip to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon, although, the dam is oftentimes just a brief stop on the way to the Grand Canyon. When I visited Las Vegas last February, I decided to book a tour of just the dam in order to explore the entire complex including the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, an arch bridge that spans the Colorado River and connects the states of Nevada and Arizona. Before the bridge was built, all traffic goes right on top of the dam with everyone slowing down to observe and take photos resulting to major traffic jams. The bridge now allows continuous driving for regular commuters while avoiding the tourists on the dam below. The bridge just like the dam is considered as a major fear of engineering being the highest concrete arch bridge in the world. The tour included a walk on the bridge providing us a bird’s eye view of the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the Colorado River. Here are some photos I took of the bridge during my visit to this architectural masterpiece.

THE WATERWORKS

Last weekend I flew to Vegas just because…the original plan was to drive to Orlando and hit the parks but unfortunately the weather forecast wasn’t ideal for outdoor activities so I decided to head somewhere else. My last trip to Vegas was in 2017 so I thought another visit was just right on time plus the fact that the weather forecast was ideal. In an hour I booked my flight and a room at the Bellagio Hotel with a view of their fabulous fountains. I specifically booked the fountain view room so I can take night shots of the strip and the dancing waterworks. To my dismay, the hotel windows were covered with dust that my DSLR captured every molecule of the desert sand that was stuck on the window. I tried adjusting the focus on my lens to no avail. I decided to try my iPhone 7Plus by pressing it flat on the glass window and lo and behold the dust was nowhere to be seen in my photos. Of course the quality would have been much better had I used my DSLR but somehow my iPhone did an awesome job as well.

LA MANO (THE HAND)

La Mano or The Hand is a sculpture by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal located at Brava Beach in Punta Del Este, Uruguay. Punta del Este was one of the stops of my South American cruise and to my luck an Argentinian friend was in town for the summer and offered to show me the city. We made this our first stop in an attempt to avoid the bus loads of cruise ship passengers who will swarm around this sculpture in an instant like a colony of bees. I intentionally left my DSLR on the ship for this stop so I used my iphone to take these photos. I wished the sky was clear that day but somehow the clouds provide a unique perspective to the photographs.

TRAVEL SERIES: CELEBRITY ECLIPSE

I easily get seasick so I’m probably the last person you’d think would jump on a cruise ship in an instant. Surprisingly, I have been in more than a dozen cruises and am looking forward to my next one June of this year. I have sailed around Europe, Alaska, the Caribbean, South America and across the Atlantic Ocean and my goal is to have cruised around the world before I eventually leave this planet. A month ago I was on a two-week South American cruise on board the Celebrity Eclipse and had an amazing time even meeting new friends. The cruise started in Buenos Aires, Argentina sailing down to Cape Horn, Chile, which is the tip of South America, then up to Uruguay before docking back in Buenos Aires. The ship is almost 10 years old but is still in great shape thanks to regular maintenance. Celebrity Cruises is the premium brand of Royal Caribbean and has been awarded by several travel magazines as one of the best premium cruises in the world. Above is a photo I took of the main dining room while below are photos I took around the ship including a photo of my stateroom using my GoPro Hero7 camera. The ship’s interior is very tastefully decorated, which was made cheerful by the Christmas decorations during my cruise. The ship in itself is a destination complete with specialty restaurants, a theater, casino, game rooms, bars, swimming pools, gym, spa and more. My preference for Celebrity is primarily due to the quality of the service, food and the crowd it attracts…much older and relaxed, fewer children and lastly no bar fights. LOL!

Library (both photos above)

Theater

Casino

Entertainment Court (both photos above)

Grand Foyer (both photos above)

Shops on the Boulevard

Promenade Deck

Multi-Floor View

My Stateroom

FABULOUSLY DEAD

The Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires is recognized as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. It is where most of Argentina’s who’s who are laid to rest, probably so they won’t have to travel far to attend those high society parties in the afterlife. The cemetery is situated in the high end district of Recoleta and is open to the public seven days a week. The mausoleums are arranged like city blocks designed in Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Baroque and Neo Gothic architectural styles and decorated with elaborate statues. This cemetery is one of the must see places when visiting Buenos Aires. Below are a few of the many photos I took during my tour of the place.

OBELISCO DE BUENOS AIRES

Last month I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the first time and explored the city for a few days before embarking on a 2-week cruise to the tip of South America. I fell in love with this elegant city referred to as The Paris of South America that I promised myself to visit again and perhaps stay a little longer. One of the most prominent landmarks in the city is the Obelisco or Obelisk located right in the heart of the 9 de Julio Avenue, which happens to be one of the widest avenues in the world. This architectural icon was built in the 1930’s to commemorate the quadricentennial of the foundation of the city of Buenos Aires.  Fortunately, the hotel I was staying, The Palacio Duhau at the Recoleta District, was just a few minutes walk to the Obelisco so I made sure a trip to this landmark was included in my itinerary. By the way, one can actually climb to the top of the obelisk but with elevator access nonexistent it is a test of endurance climbing 206 steps to the top. I would say I was happy enough to appreciate it from the ground so here are some photographs I took of the Obelisk and its surrounding area also known as the Punto Obelisco. Happy New Year everyone and here’s to more travels as well as great photo opportunities this year.

CAPTURING SAVANNAH

Savannah’s historic district is a photographer’s paradise, there is an abundance of subjects from the colonial architecture along cobblestone streets to the historical monuments and oak-shaded squares. One couldn’t also miss the multitude of silvery Spanish Mosses hanging from ancient trees scattered all over the city creating a romantic atmosphere. I was in Savannah five months ago for an overnight stop on my way to Asheville, North Carolina and I stayed in a hotel right in the historic district to be in close proximity to photography opportunities. Unfortunately, I arrived late in the afternoon so I had to rush my way around before losing some much needed light. Had I done some advance research I would have probably stayed another night, although I now have a good excuse to plan for another trip. I walked around the historic district for about 3 hours and worked my way through neighborhood squares, alleys and even a cemetery. Every corner brought in a new surprise as well as more cursing to myself for such a short stay in such a gorgeous place. Gladly I was able to take a few good photos of beautiful Savannah, Georgia to add to my collection of destination photographs.

PASSEIG DE GRACIA

Passeig de Gracia is the most expensive street in Barcelona and in Spain. This tree lined boulevard is home to the most luxurious retail brands, five-star hotels and Spain’s most iconic architectural landmarks. Anyone who visits Barcelona will at some point find themselves walking and shopping along this famous street. During my trip to Barcelona in 2016, I decided to book a hotel in this area as I wanted to be right in the heart of the action. American Express Platinum cardholders have access to Fine Hotels and Resorts with free room upgrades, breakfast, early check-in/late check-out and even hotel credits. The Majestic Hotel & Spa Barcelona had the best perks at that time so I booked a suite room with balcony, which provided me great views of the city. This 5-star hotel is right on Passeig de Gracia and is just a block away from Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Mila and Casa Batlló and a few minutes walk to the Gothic Quarter, La Sagrada Familia and another famous Barcelona street…the La Rambla. Below are some of the photos I took while walking around this famous street. Barcelona is such a gorgeous city rich in history, culture, arts and architecture, however, my visit was brief (4 days) as I was only there to catch my cruise across the Atlantic back to America after traveling around Italy for a few weeks. I fell in love with Barcelona and I plan to visit again in the future and see the places I missed during my previous trip. I will definitely still stay in a hotel around this neighborhood due to its proximity to everything great in Barcelona.

THE BRIDGE

I have visited New York City multiple times but I have never made it close to the Brooklyn Bridge. I have seen it from a distance at the observation decks of the Freedom Tower and the Rockefeller Center but never standing in close proximity. Two weeks ago I was again at the Big Apple for a theater weekend and decided to pay Chinatown a visit for some dimsum. Finally, I found myself in the vicinity of this architectural masterpiece but still not close enough to take a photograph. I thought I would again miss my chance to capture it, however, on my way back to the hotel the cab I was riding took the ramp beside the bridge to get into FDR Drive. I realized this was the closest to the bridge I will ever be so I immediatly pulled out my phone just as we were speeding through and started snapping photos. The photo above may not be the sharpest, understandably since it was taken inside a speeding cab, but I do love the angle, the cloud formations and the rays of the sun filtering through the cables of the bridge. I also thought that presenting the photograph in monotone created a timeless mood to this remarkable feat of engineering. Aaaaaah…Brooklyn Bridge! It’s good to have finally captured you.

PLUIE À PARIS

The city of Paris is unquestionably one of the most romantic places in the world. Its tree lined boulevards and ornate facades, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe as well as the River Seine and all of its bridges all add to the air of romanticism that constantly envelopes the city. Aside from these, one thing that also made me fall madly in love with Paris was when rain started falling on it. The city sparkles and gleam brightly when wet…so instead of escaping from the rain, I walked into it with my umbrella and camera embracing the sense of solitude that it provided me. The photographs in this post were taken on the days it rained while I was in Paris. The first two were taken at The Louvre, the third one was at my hotel’s neighborhood at Avenue Kléber while the last one was right outside of Musée D’Orsay. I also decided to present the photographs in black and white to create a timeless look in them. The title is simply a French translation of the words “Rain in Paris”, which I thought sounded more sexy in French.

PARC GÜELL

Going through my old travel photos I found these pictures I took around Parc Güell in Barcelona, Spain. I thought I posted them ages ago but after reviewing previous blog posts I realized I have not. Parc Güell is a complex of gardens and architectural elements designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudi and was constructed from 1900 to 1914. It was officially opened as a park in 1926 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. This major Barcelona attraction was originally built as a housing development but unfortunately the project did not take off prompting the developer, Eusebi Güell, to convert it into a park. This sprawling complex is also an architect’s dreamland as it is filled with symbols inspired by politics, religion and mythology. As for photography enthusiasts, this complex requires a lot of stamina and patience….stamina for all the walking and climbing involved and patience for the throngs of tourists posing at every nook and corner of this complex. My biggest regret was not bringing my DSLR camera as I used my iPhone 7Plus to take all these photos because the idea of walking and climbing with a 3-lb camera hanging around my neck was just petrifying. I also focused my shots on the various angles, colors, curves, lines, materials and symbols around the park in order to minimize capturing the tourists scattered all over. Of all the photographs I took my favorite is the one above with the multicolored tiles and the city of Barcelona sprawled all the way towards the ocean. I only wished the weather was better that day as the gray clouds created a gloomy mood despite the colorful tiles and eccentric architecture. Barcelona is such a beautiful city with a rich history and culture so if this amazing city is in your future travel itinerary don’t forget to include Parc Güell in your must visit list.

IN MEMORIAM

Today we commemorate that fateful day in 2001 when America was attacked by terrorists and the whole world turned a corner and was never the same again. I was still in the Philippines when 9/11 happened but I followed every moment of that day on television watching in horror as both towers crashed to the ground. Twelve years later I found myself in New York City standing at the very spot where it all happened fighting my emotions while remembering the events of that day. The memorial is such a somber place and is deeply sacred not only to every American but also to every citizen of this world who lost a loved one, a friend and a countryman. I’ve been to New York multiple times and everytime I visit I always drop by the memorial to pay my respects. The photograph above was taken last year when I brought my parents, who were visiting from the Philippines, to New York for the first time. Next month I will be in New York City and just like my previous trips will revisit the memorial to pay my respects…although this time not just as an immigrant but as a proud citizen of this great and beautiful country.

BEHIND THE ABBEY

The Westminster Abbey is a magnificent piece of architecture housing more than a thousand years of British royalty history making it one of the most visited places in London. Unfortunately, photography is prohibited inside the cathedral so the closest to the interiors I could photograph was its courtyard. It would have been awesome to capture the interiors but the courtyard provided me with good enough lines, shapes and shadows. Most photographs we see online are usually the facade of this building but I decided to skip that angle and went for this. I know it does not scream Westminster Abbey but they always say not to capture the obvious so here’s one taken from behind the abbey.

AMERICA’S DOWNTON ABBEY

The Biltmore Mansion near Asheville, North Carolina is the largest privately owned house in the United States. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895, the estate remains under the ownership of his descendents to this day. A trip to Asheville won’t be complete without a visit to this expansive estate so as soon as my travel plans were confirmed I immediately booked my ticket for a visit. I took a self-guided tour of the house with an audio guide, which was a good soure of information about the Vanderbilt family as well as that of the construction and life inside the mansion. My exploration of the house took me not only to the family rooms, bedrooms, dining hall and offices but also to the kitchen, pantries and servants quarters. The entire place reminded me very much of the British series Downtown Abbey, which was about a noble family and their help during the Gilded Age. America may not be a monarchy but the Vanderbilts were the closest to royalty this country could ever have. Photography is allowed inside and outside the house but the photos I’m featuring on this post were all taken outside.

MIKRI VENETIA (Little Venice)

In the Greek island of Mykonos, a row of houses line up the waterfront with their balconies extending out to sea. These houses used to be the homes of the rich inhabitants of the island before they were converted into the shops, bars and restaurants that they are today. This part of the island is also known as Mikri Venetia or Little Venice due to similarities with the Italian city like its proximity to water. This area is also regarded as the most romantic as well as the most photographed part of Mykonos…aside of course from the famous windmills scattered around the island. During my visit to Mykonos a few years ago, I strolled through this part of town on my way to see the windmills but failed to pay attention to the beauty of the place. Thankfully I took the time to explore this area on my way back and was able to take the photo above. I think it was also perfect timing that the sun was about to set and the sunlight was turning a richer shade of gold. It made my photo softer, dreamier and more romantic. Greece is one of the most beautiful countries I have visited and I hope to visit it again in the future. Maybe if fate allows I’ll stay a little longer on my next visit.

THE GOLDEN EMPIRE

New York City is truly the microcosm of the world as this diverse metropolis hosts almost every possible ethnicity and culture that our planet holds. At one point in history, this city was even referred to as the “Capital of the World” and the “Seat of the Empire”. Today NYC is more commonly known as the “City that Never Sleeps” or “The Big Apple”, although, one thing that remains true about this great big city is that it still is the center of world trade, culture and global politics. Even the line from the song New York, New York remains true to this day…”if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere”. As a photography enthusiast, I always wanted to singly capture the vibrance, energy and grandeur of this city despite the fact that every city corner already offers a unique photo opportunity. I eventually came up with this bright idea (hold your laughter) that to capture the very essence of NYC I should photograph the city from the top…so up I went to the viewing deck of the Rockefeller Center to take my ultimate NYC photograph. The sun was about to set when I reached the viewing deck and the first thing I noticed was how the entire city was bathed in golden sunlight. As I scanned the city before me I couldn’t help but notice the Empire State Building, once the tallest building in the world and the emblem of greatness for old New York, standing majestically right in the middle of the city while in the far distance was the Freedom Tower, the symbol of the new New York, with its glass walls reflecting the rich colors of the setting sun. There on top of the Rockefeller Center I found my ultimate photograph of New York City capturing the old and the new with the rest of the world living harmoniously below.

CITY OF BRIDGES

Aside from being referred to as the Steel City due to its formerly colossal steel industry, Pittsburgh is also nicknamed as the City of Bridges for the 446 that connects the city to its surrounding suburbs. As a tourist, these bridges made my life very convenient as it made the areas of interest across the river from downtown easily accessible. I took these photographs on my way to the Warhol Museum using my iPhone 7 Plus as the extra weight of a DSLR would just have made the walk unbearable. On some occasions, I prefer the iphone over my DSLR for photography as its Pano mode allows me to take wide-sweeping views just like the photos on this post. Thankfully, the bridge I had to cross to get to the museum was one of the prettier ones with a lemon yellow paint making it stand out against the concrete skyscrapers and rich blue sky.

PITTSBURGH: NIGHT AND DAY

Two weeks ago I went on a road trip driving through eight US states starting from South Florida to Savannah, Georgia followed by a few days in Asheville, North Carolina then through the Blue Ridge Parkway to Harrisonburg, Virginia then Uniontown, Pennsylvania before culminating in the City of Steel: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My ten-day trip took me to various terrains from the beaches of Florida, the valleys and mountains of the Carolinas and the rivers and forests of Pennsylvania. This was my first time in Pittsburgh and the city truly impressed me from the quality of the museums, variety of restaurants and the convenience of their public transportation allowing me to explore the city extensively. One of the highlights of my stay was dinner at the Altius Restaurant in Mount Washington where I got to enjoy a spectacular view of downtown Pittsburgh at the point where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers meet to form the Ohio River. I took two photographs of the city one before sunset prior to stepping inside the restaurant and another after dinner when bright lights illuminated the city. I was torn between the two photographs so I decided to play with both by using the Pixelmator App on my iPad Pro to create a night and day effect for my post above.

FALLINGWATER

The Fallingwater House in Mill Run, Pennsylvania was designed by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufmann family who once owned the Kaufmann Department Store in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This weekend house was built on top of a waterfall and is considered one of Wright’s most notable works. I was visiting the area before heading to Pittsburgh so I booked a tour that allows photography inside the house although it meant waking up very early to make it to the 8:30 AM schedule. The great part of that tour is you get to enter the compound first and take photographs without the throngs of tourists filling up the house. The compound also has a viewing area where you can photograph the house from a distance. It was raining hard that day so I was a little worried how the weather will affect my photos or that I may not be able to hike to the viewing area without my camera getting soaked. Thankfully the rain finally stopped and the dark and gloomy weather allowed me to play with long exposures for that cotton effect on the waterfall that I love.

Photographs below were taken from the viewing area using a Canon Rebel T6s.

Photographs below were taken inside and around the house using an iPhone 7 Plus

SOUTHERN CHARM

Savannah, Georgia was never on my bucket list…In fact, I’ve watched a number of movies filmed in this town and listened to friends rave about it and still the place never stirred any desire for me to visit. Yesterday, I started this road trip to Pittsburgh (another place missing on my bucket list) and Savannah became an inevitable stop for the night en route to Asheville, North Carolina. I booked a hotel right on the river district and was totally dismayed by what I saw. That section of the town was uninspiring and didn’t look the way I expected it. Anyway, I decided to give Savannah a chance so I started walking farther into their historic district and glad I decided to do so. Block after block of historic homes surrounding beautiful neighborhood squares astounded me. Thankfully I brought my camera with me so I immediately got busy taking shot after shot. The photo above is of the Forsyth Fountain and is my favorite of the dozens I took. I am also including other photos I took around town and hope you guys enjoy looking at them.

THE CHICAGO HARBOR LIGHTHOUSE

A few years ago I found myself in Chicago, Illinois to attend a reunion with some of my former classmates from Physical Therapy school. It was my first time to the Windy City so I was keen on visiting and photographing every prominent landmark around the city. Fortunately, my former classmates organized tours that took us to almost every tourist spot in Chicago. One of them was a cruise on Lake Michigan, which took us far out into the lake to adore the magnificent Chicago skyline. During the sail away the cruise narrator pointed out this lighhouse at the end of the breakwaters, which was originally built to mark the mouth of the Chicago River until it was moved to it’s current location after the breakwaters were extended. I took multiple photos of the lighthouse but unfortunately immediately forgot about it after the trip. Four days ago I was going through my old travel photos and found this of the lighthouse. I also noticed how pretty this specific photo looked with the cirrostratus clouds in the background. What’s most interesting is that I discovered this photo exactly 6 years after it was taken in May 21, 2012…some would say it’s just pure coincidence but it could also mean fate just reminding me that my friends and I are up for another reunion.

THE LONG WALK

Today the whole world watched a fairytale unfold as American girl Meghan Markle married her prince charming, Henry Charles Albert David fondly called by everyone as Prince Harry who is a member of the British Royal family. The wedding was held at the St. George’s Chapel inside the compound of the Windsor Castle and was broadcasted live for the whole world to see. Watching the festivities on tv this morning brought back memories of my visit to Windsor three years ago. I was in London for vacation and booked a day tour to the royal compound where I got to explore and photograph Queen Elizabeth’s weekend home. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the buildings so most of my photographs were just of the facades. While walking on the grounds in front of the castle, I saw an arch with an opening to a view of a long road extending all the way to the horizon. I took multiple photos of the arch not knowing what the road was for. Today my question was finally answered…Prince Harry and Meghan was carried down this road on a horse drawn carriage to greet thousands of well wishers. The road is called The Long Walk and it connects Windsor Castle to a park called Snow Hill. According to legend, King Henry VIII sat at Snow Hill to wait for news about the execution of his wife Queen Anne Boleyn. But today a new legend about this road has been made…it will now be known as the road where someone’s fairytale became a reality.

THE WINDMILLS OF MYKONOS

Aside from being known as Greece’s party island, Mykonos is also famous for its windmills which has become the iconic symbol of the island. When I visited Mykonos a few years ago, I hiked my way across town just so I can photograph these quintessential features of the island. The walk was a delightful experience passing through narrow alleys between whitewashed cubic stone homes with the wooden parts painted in playful colors. The windmills, which were once used to make flour out of wheat and barley are no longer operational today. Fortunately, the town has managed to preserve them by turning some into museums. Somebody told me that some of these windmills are actually private homes but I’m not sure if there’s some truth to it.