Monday, May 31, 2010

Alien Outpost

This radio tower on the summit of Mount Titlis in Switzerland reminded me of some alien outpost on some distant strange planet, which given the location is not too far from the truth. The day we were there at the summit ranged from bright sunny and clear conditions to thick swirling clouds with snow and even a short walk away from the cable car station you could easily get lost in the low visibility.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Galeries Lafayette

In Boulevard Haussmann in the IXe arondissement of Paris sits the world famous Galeries Lafayette department store which is certainly by far the most beautiful store I have ever been in. The flagship store in Paris has 10 storeys and a stunning glass dome over the main part of the building.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

President Cafe

The President cafe is a mamak style restaurant in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur offering many of the local favourites such as roti canai, nasi campur, mee goreng, nasi briyani and ayam goreng. It's a wonderful place to stop for a teh tarik and a snack which is exactly what I did during a photo walk in the area to capture images of the famous Coliseum picture house.

Mae Fah Luang Art & Cultural Park

The Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park on the outskirts of Chiang Rai, Thailand was originally started as the office of the Thai Hill Crafts Foundation. Through purchasing and marketing handicrafts, the Thai Hill Crafts Foundation helped preserve the traditional skills and support the livelihoods of ethnic minorities. Subsequently the Princess Mother of the Thai royal family initiated a youth development programme and Mae Fah Luang became a home for hundreds of youths from remote areas with no access for schooling. The area had lodgings for the ethnic minority youths who came to attend schools and also learn about living in urban areas, among other aspects of modern life in Thailand. These young people were from the immediate vicinity of Doi Tung and neighboring areas such as Payao province. In addition to textbooks or classroom lessons, the late Princess Mother believed in acquiring skills from actual experiences. Students learnt how to live as a community, developing their social skills. Having shared responsibilities, they cared for the younger, learnt about time management, worked in shifts to clean their lodgings, farmed, gardened, and tended vegetable plots. The goal was that this training would help students grow into dedicated, hard-working, ethical leaders of their communities.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Up and Away

I had the opportunity two years ago to take a hot air balloon trip in Austria. For the photographer it's very restricted in some sense as you cannot move at all given the very small passenger basket you are in. You can of course take many aerial photographs which are wonderful but here I took a slightly different view looking directly upwards to the balloon canopy. Using a wide angle lens and crouching as low as I could in the basket you get a good perspective of the balloon, the burners and of course our excellent balloon pilot Josef (Sepp) Huber who was probably one of the world's top balloonists.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ye Olde Smokehouse

High up in the Cameron Highlands three hours from Kuala Lumpur by car you can find the Old Smokehouse Hotel. This English mock Tudor design hotel built in 1939 takes you back to those nostalgic colonial days. The restaurant offers a traditional English breakfast and for dinner you can enjoy many of the favourite British dishes. The afternoon tea at the Smokehouse is certainly worth the drive, serving up traditional scones with cream and strawberry jam. Close to the hotel is an 18 hole golf course where you can enjoy a game in the cooler air of the highlands.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Batak House

Most of the people who live around Lake Toba are ethnically Bataks. Traditional Batak houses are noted for their distinctive roofs (which curve upwards at each end, as a boat's hull does) and their colorful decor. Batak is a collective term used to identify a number of ethnic groups found in the highlands of North Sumatra, Indonesia. Their heartland lies to the west of Medan centred on Lake Toba. In fact the "Batak" include several groups with distinct, albeit related, languages and customs (adat). While the term is used to include the Toba, Karo, Pakpak-Dairi, Simalungun, Angkola and Mandailing. Occasionally it is also used to include the Alas-Kluet people of Central/Southern Aceh, but usually only as relates to language groups.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lucky Lottery

A lovely smile from a lottery ticket seller in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Red Hot Chilli Pipers

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers played a dinner concert on 22 May 2010 at the Hilton Hotel, KL for the Selangor St. Andrew's Society. The event was a sell-out with the band playing two red-hot sets which will be remembered for a long time to come by all that attended. You can view photographs from the event here and a video seen here.

About the Chillis
Winners of the Prime Time BBC One show 'When Will I Be Famous' with a blistering set Rock Bagpipes that astounded the viewers and critics!

"The Red Hot Chilli Pipers are sassy, sexy and hugely entertaining. They are enormously talented musicians who are so skilled they make it all look effortless. This album stirs the blood and will enliven any party." - Lorraine Kelly

"Bag Rocks! The Red Hot Chilli Pipers are great live performers with passion and enthusiasm that has captivated the world - great ambassadors for Scotland. I'm a fan!" - The Duke of Argyll

"It's a unique musical experience" - Max Clifford

Since they performed with The Darkness on T in the Park's legendary Main Stage in 2004 and walked away with the top prize on UK BBC One primetime TV talent show, 'When Will I Be Famous' in 2007, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers haven't stopped for a breath, other than to inflate their bagpipes!

Taking their signature 'Bagrock' to the masses, The ‘Chillis’ have fast become a global phenomenon, rocking farflung shores from Beijing to New York and everywhere in between.

Their first CD with REL Records ‘Bagrock to the Masses’ achieved platinum sales in Scotland and was the highest selling CD from a Scottish record company in 2007. 2008 saw the band record a brand new live DVD and album entitled BLAST! The Chillis showcased the addition of brand new elements The Chilli Dancers and The Horn Supremacy which cemented their reputation as one of the most exciting live acts around.

Featuring the classic Red Hot Chilli Pipers sound - a fusion of traditional pipe tunes and contemporary anthems - 'Bagrock' includes the likes of 'Clocks' by Coldplay, Queen's 'We Will Rock You' and a rock medley of Deep Purple's 'Smoke On The Water' and AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck'. 'Flower of Scotland' and 'The Hills of Argyll' get a look in too, Chilli style of course!

Responsible for the phenomenon of bag rock are the Chilli's founding member and musical director Stuart Cassells, who as well as rocking all over the world in recent years, was the recipient of the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2005 and the first person to gain a degree in bagpipes from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Joining Stuart and proving that three pipers are always better than one, are Grade 1 pipers Kevin MacDonald and Willie Armstrong. Twice world champion snare drummer Steven Graham and Malcolm McEwan make up the band's percussion section with back up from rock 'n' roll drummer Steven Black.

Completing the line up are the youngest Chilli, Chris Russell on keyboards and Gregor James (otherwise known as The G-Man) on guitar.

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers have headlined huge festivals, packed out famous venues and performed at the biggest of corporate events.

Putting a modern spin on incredible piping and astounding drumming with an emphasis on showing off and putting on a show guaranteed to amaze any audience; The Red Hot Chilli Pipers really are a genuinely unique experience.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Terracotta Warriors

The Terracotta Army is the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang the First Emperor of China. The terracotta figures, dating from 210 BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. The figures vary in height (183–195 cm - 6 ft–6 ft 5in), according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. Many archeologists believe that there are many pits still waiting to be discovered.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sail & Anchor

Fremantle, Western Australia has some wonderful old buildings and the Sail & Anchor bar is a great example of this exhibiting the typical colonial style architecture. Fremantle's streets are filled with some of the best examples of mid-Victorian and Edwardian architecture. St Johns Anglican Church, Fremantle Town Hall, Fremantle Markets, the Round House Western Australias oldest public building are fascinating to examine. But just about anywhere you look, fine old buildings stand well preserved amidst the newer, trendier establishments. Many of Fremantles offices, galleries, restaurants and shops are housed in these grand old buildings. A visit to Fremantle would not complete without having a coffee or meal on South Terrace, otherwise known as the Cappuccino Strip. This cosmopolitan area houses many coffee houses, restaurants and pubs where people congregate to unwind and enjoy lifes simple pleasures amongst the buzzing atmosphere, day or night, anytime of the week. The Sail and Anchor is on South Terrace and was Australias first pub and microbrewery. 

Seconhand Oars

If you are ever in dire need of some seconhand oars this is where you need to go ....... a little town in the Clare Valley wine region, Adelaide, Australia. Now you know!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Katoey at the Chiang Rai Night Market

This could be a photo in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro during carnival time ... but it's actually a couple of katoey (or lady boys) at the night market in Chiang Rai, Thailand making their way flamboyantly through the crowds after their cabaret show on the stage.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Forest Fresh

There is something refreshing and relaxing about a walk in the shade of a pine forest as you look up into the branches reaching for the sky and taking in the aroma of the pine leaves. This image of a small pine forest was taken in Fremantle, Western Australia and provided a welcome relief from the heat and brightness of the sun.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Aoraki Mount Cook

Aoraki/Mount Cook (70,696 hectares) is New Zealand's great alpine park. It has the highest mountains and the largest glaciers. Aoraki/Mount Cook Village and all visitors to the park are dwarfed by the immensity of the landscape that surrounds them. Aoraki/Mount Cook was formally established as a national park in 1953 from reserves that were established as early as 1887 to protect the area’s significant vegetation and landscape. This park is located in the central part of the South Island, deep in the heart of the Southern Alps. Aoraki/Mount Cook village lies within the park with Twizel the nearest town outside.
Aoraki Mount Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain at 3754 metres. There are 27 other mountains in this alpine backbone which peak at over 3050 metres, and hundreds of others not far short of that, all making up the famous Southern Alps.
Sir Edmund Hillary
A statue of Sir Edmund Hillary is situated at the Aoraki/Mount Cook Village with views in the background of Mount Cook which he climbed in 1948. Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, KG, ONZ, KBE (20 July 1919 – 11 January 2008) was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist. On 29 May 1953 at the age of 33, he and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers known to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. They were part of the ninth British expedition to Everest, led by John Hunt. He was named by Time magazine as one of 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
Hillary became interested in mountaineering while in secondary school, making his first major climb in 1939, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier. Harry Ayres, along with Mick Sullivan led Hillary and Ruth Adams up the south ridge of Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak, on 30 January 1948. He served in the RNZAF as a navigator during World War II. Before the successful expedition in 1953 to Everest, he had been part of a reconnaissance expedition to the mountain in 1951 and an unsuccessful attempt to climb Cho Oyu in 1952. As part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition he reached the South Pole overland in 1958. He would later also travel to the North Pole.
Following his ascent of Everest he devoted much of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he founded. Through his efforts many schools and hospitals were built in this remote region of Nepal.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Petaling Street

Petaling Street is in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is infamous for pirated clothes and accessories such as handbags and watches along with bootleg DVDs and CDs. Petaling Street however does not exclusively offer pirated products. Haggling is a common sight here and the place is usually crowded with locals as well as tourists.
The area has dozens of restaurants and food stalls, serving local favourites such as Hokkien mee, ikan bakar (barbecued fish), asam laksa and curry noodles. Traders here are mainly Chinese but there are also Indian, Malay, and Bangladeshi traders.
See also my earlier blog on the Toy Man who I photographed in Petaling Street.

TSS Earnslaw - Vintage Steamship

In Queenstown, New Zealand you can have the opportunity to take a cruise on the vintage steamship, TSS Earnslaw. Launched in 1912, the TSS Earnslaw is the largest and grandest vessel ever to ply Lake Wakatipu. Today, the TSS Earnslaw is believed to be the only coal-fired passenger-carrying vessel still operating in the southern hemisphere. The TSS Earnslaw makes several trips daily across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm on the western shores.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Wee Shoppe

The Wee Shoppe sits on the seafront at Kinghorn, Scotland which is very close to my home town. Here you can buy a selection of snacks, hot drinks, cold drinks, sandwiches, burgers, chips or ice cream and sit out on the esplanade to enjoy the view over Kinghorn Bay. There is nothing to beat the simplicity of an early Sunday morning bacon buttie washed down with a mug of steaming tea as you take in the fresh air of the sea and the wonderful views over the Firth of Forth.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hold up in Chiang Rai Night Market

I was standing in the night market in Chiang Rai, patiently waiting on my wife who was shopping in some trinket shop when i turned to see a guy holding up a woman at gunpoint. I also quickly realised that the woman was selling a collection of wooden toy guns and this customer was just playing the fool with one of her products, as you can see from the expressions of the onlookers.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Retreat of The Glaciers

The Franz Josef (Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere in Māori) is a 12 km long glacier located in Westland National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. Together with the Fox Glacier 20 km to the south, it is unique in descending from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres above sea level, amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest.
The area surrounding the two glaciers is part of Te Wahipounamu, a World Heritage Site park. The river emerging from the glacier terminal of Franz Josef is known as the Waiho River.
As many other glaciers around the globe this glacier is receding and based on past variations, scientists expect that Franz Josef Glacier will retreat 5 km and lose 38% of its mass by 2100 in a mid-range scenario of warming. I compared my photos of the Franz Josef glacier, taken in October 2006, with some photos taken by Trey Ratcliff in March, 2010 and could certainly notice that the glacier has receded in this time.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Bon Om Tuk

The Cambodia Water Festival or ‘Bon Om Tuk’ in Khmer is the largest festival in the Cambodian calendar and an amazing sight to behold! The 3-day Water Festival is of great significance as it celebrates the end of the rainy season, the start of the fishing season, and also the unique natural phenomenon - the flow of the Tonle Sap river changing direction! And not only this, the Cambodia Water Festival also coincides with the full moon of the Buddhist calendar month of Kadeuk, this full moon is traditionally a good omen promising a bountiful harvest.
The largest water festival is in Phnom Penh but the image above was shot during the same event on the river in Siem Reap.
The Water Festival is truly a national event, many villagers throughout the country have spent almost a full year preparing their villages boat – elaborately and brightly decorated dug out canoes with large eyes on the prows to ward off evil spirits. Thousand of Khmers come over the three days to watch the races and cheer on their villages boat, which can be up to 20 meters long and contain up to 60 oarsmen, frantically paddling and chanting as the do battle in highly competitive races. The origins of the Water Festival dates back to the powerful navy of King Jayavarman II, the 9th century founder of the great Angkorian Empire, and the main purpose is to make the god of the river happy so he will provide many fish and the rice crop will be plentiful.
During this time there is a carnival atmosphere, and as well as the river banks being lined with exuberant spectators there are also live concerts, hundreds of food stands, games of chance, fair rides, and at night fireworks light up the sky and people dance in the street. This truly is Cambodia’s Mardi Gras!

Hilltribes of North Thailand - Video Slideshow

Following my earlier post on the Hilltribes of North Thailand here is a video slideshow of the images and video I shot. A better quality version can be viewed here.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

You Can Never Hold Back Spring

You can never hold back spring

You can be sure that I will never
Stop believing
The blushing rose will climb
Spring ahead or fall behind
Winter dreams the same dream
Every time

You can never hold back spring
Even though you've lost your way
The world is dreaming, dreaming of spring

So close your eyes
Open you heart
To the one who's dreaming of you
You can never hold back spring

Remember everything that spring
Can bring
Baby, you can never hold back spring
Baby, you can never hold back spring

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Butcher's Breaktime

This butcher in the market in Siem Reap, Cambodia had a unique technique for taking a break during the busy day .... a hammock strung over the meat table! Simple, ingenious ... but perhaps not particularly hygienic.

Charles Bridge, Prague

The Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic is a famous tourist attraction and the problem with that is trying to capture a picture of the bridge in its glory without people spoiling the view. I was lucky enough to be staying almost directly next to the Charles bridge so an early morning start gave me the opportunity to grab some images without hordes of pedestrians. The advantage of this also was the wonderful soft morning light and beautiful sky.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Wartburg is a car manufactured in East Germany. The name "Wartburg" derives from Wartburg Castle on one of the hills overlooking the town of Eisenach where the cars were manufactured.
From the 1950s, Wartburgs had a three-cylinder two-stroke engine with only seven moving parts (three pistons, three connecting rods and one crankshaft).
This particular Wartburg was spotted in Budapest, Hungary.

Interflora - Vietnam Style

Flower and plant delivery by bicycle in Ho Chi Minh City by a man in an appropriate "green" hat.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Bridge with a View

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House are iconic images of Australia so why not see them both by taking a walk across the bridge on the pedestrian walkway. You will be rewarded by a magnificent panoramic view across Sydney harbour to the city and of course the wonderful Sydney Opera House.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Balinese Baths

Bali has a large number of luxurious hotels and this one in Ubud is in an idyllic setting with a wonderful swimming pool reminding me of some ancient Roman baths.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Prague Tram

Early morning commuters on a tram in central Prague, Czech Republic. Using a slow shutter speed (1/10s, f2.8, ISO 640) and panning the camera created this image with background blurring and a sense of motion.