SOARIN’ OVER LANTAU

Lantau Island is one of the largest islands in Hong Kong and is home to the 32-meter tall Tian Tan Buddha, which I featured on a previous post. The shrine is accessible in two ways, by car or via a scenic alternative using the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. During my visit, I took the cable car and even paid extra for one with a glass bottom for an added thrill. I’m not a big fan of heights but surprisingly I enjoyed the ride very much. I believe I also got so engrossed with my photography that the lofty heights didn’t bother me at all. The cable car took me across the bay, over lush mountains and into the Ngong Ping Village where a Starbucks, a monastery and the statue of Buddha are located. The ride took about 25 minutes and you get to see the Hong Kong International Airport at the start of the ride then the giant Buddha sitting on top of the mountain at the end part of the ride. I took a good number of photographs while inside the cable car and here are some of my favorites. The top photo was taken using my iPhone 7Plus while the rest below were taken using a Canon Rebel T6s.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 CHEDIS OF WAT PHO

The Wat Photharam is one of the oldest and largest temple complexes in Bangkok, Thailand. It is more commonly known as Wat Pho and is one of the most visited sites in Bangkok. One of the temples inside the complex houses the world famous Reclining Buddha, which is the sites main attraction. However, what most people do not know is that Wat Pho is actually the birthplace of traditional Thai massage, which to this day is being taught inside the complex. After exploring around for hours I treated myself to some foot massage, which was quite a heavenly experience. 

Around the complex are these pyramid-like structures called chedis, which remind me of the pawns on a chess board but much more colorful. These structures covered in beautiful mosaic tiles houses the ashes of members of the royal family. The larger chedis supposedly contain relics of Buddha.  The main photo above was taken using my iPhone 7 Plus while the rest below were taken using my Canon Rebel T6s.

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.

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.
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