Friday, July 30, 2010

Flight Over Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

If you visit the South Island of New Zealand a "must see visit" is to take one of the helicopter flights over the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers on the west side of Mount Cook. The snow fields high above the glaciers are incredible and we had the opportunity to land at one spot and exit the chopper to take some photographs in the dazzling bright light reflecting off the snow.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tasman Valley, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

This is the view back down Tasman Valley on the walk up to the Tasman glacier in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, South Island, New Zealand. What you don't see from this photo is just how strong the wind was blowing.
The National Park is a harsh land of ice and rock. Glaciers cover 40% of it. There are 19 peaks over 3000 metres including New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt Cook. The park is also part of Te Wahipounamu – South Westland World Heritage Area in recognition of its outstanding natural values. There is virtually no forest in the park. Instead, the park is alive with the most wonderful alpine plants. In summer, look for the striking giant buttercup, the large mountain daisies and watch out for the fearsome spear grass/taramea. Birdlife includes species such as kea, kärearea/falcon and the elusive rock wren/pïwauwau. The braided riverbed of the Tasman is home to the black stilt/kakï, one of New Zealand’s rarest birds.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Floating Cuisine

This takes "Meals On Wheels" to a new aquatic level ..... Lake Tonle Sap in Cambodia where many people live and do their daily business. This means floating homes, floating schools and churches and mobile food markets by boat.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sea of Yellow

A spectacular field of yellow flowers in the South Island of New Zealand close to Blenheim. The contrast between the colours of yellow, green and blue was quite dramatic.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kinghorn in the Kingdom of Fife

Kinghorn (Gaelic: Ceann Gronna) is a town in Fife, Scotland. The meaning of the name Kinghorn, or Kin-gorn, derives from the Gaelic, 'head of the muddy ground' or the more romantic 'blue headland'. A seaside resort with two beaches, Kinghorn Beach and Pettycur Bay, plus a fishing port, it stands on the north shore of the Firth of Forth opposite Edinburgh. According to the 2006 population estimate, the town has a population of 2,986.
It is known as the place where King Alexander III of Scotland died, it lies on the A921 road and the Fife Coastal Path.
The historic Royal Burgh of Kinghorn lies on the golden coastline of the Kingdom of Fife. The former castle in Kinghorn was frequently visited by the Scottish Court in the period of the House of Dunkeld. The King's castle, controlling the sea way, stood on the headland above Pettycur. A later structure, Glamis Tower, stood just behind the High Street. Both buildings have totally disappeared and the sites built over in modern times. It was because of King Alexander III wanting to return to Kinghorn to see his new wife that he fell on the horseride from Burntisland and was found dead on the beach of Pettycur bay.
The castle remained an important possession of the Scottish crown, and this was recognised by the creation of the Earldom of Kinghorne in 1606. A burn fed from the freshwater Kinghorn Loch above the town once provided the town with its water and subsequently provided the source of power to drive the machinery of flax mills. The old town was dramatically transformed in 1846 by the construction of the railway viaduct across the valley of the burn and the opening of Kinghorn Station by the Edinburgh and Northern Railway which had its terminus at Burntisland for ferries across the Forth to Granton. Much of the former horse ferry traffic from Pettycur bay was lost to Burntisland.
Following the opening of the Forth Railway Bridge in 1890,the North British Railway started to promote Kinghorn's picturesque sheltered bay and beach as a resort which led to considerable development of the town.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Streets of Madrid

Seeing all the reports and photos describing the celebrations through the streets of Madrid following the World Cup victory by Spain reminded me of my visit there last year. It was a wonderful city to wander through the back streets where you could find countless bars and restaurants tucked away amongst the interesting architecture.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gion Machiya

One of the many beautiful old traditional buildings found in the Gion district of Kyoto. Gion is a district of Kyoto, Japan, originally developed in the Middle Ages, in front of Yasaka Shrine. The district was built to accommodate the needs of travelers and visitors to the shrine. It eventually evolved to become one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha districts in all of Japan.
The geisha in the Gion district do not refer to themselves as geisha; instead, Gion geisha use the local term geiko. While the term geisha means "artist" or "person of the arts", the more direct term geikomeans essentially "a child of the arts" or "a woman of art".
This neighborhood in Kyoto has two hanamachi (geiko communities): Gion Kōbu (祇園甲部) and Gion Higashi (祇園東). Despite the considerable decline in the number of geisha in Gion in the last one hundred years, it is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment.
Part of this district has been declared a national historical preservation district. Recently, the City of Kyoto completed a project to restore the streets of Gion, which included such plans as moving all overhead utilities underground as part of the ongoing effort to preserve the original beauty of Gion.
Gion remains dotted with old-style Japanese houses called machiya, which roughly translated means "townhouse", some of which are ochaya or "tea houses". These are traditional establishments where the patrons of Gion—from the samurai of old to modern-day businessmen—have been entertained by geiko and geisha in an exclusive manner for centuries.
Inside the ochaya is a private and closed world where the evening's entertainment may include cocktails, conversation, and games as well as traditional Japanese music, singing and dancing. To this day, geiko and maiko (geisha in training) in full regalia can still be seen in the evenings as they move about through the streets of Gion to and from their various engagements at the ochaya' They dance and sing and they entertain for veryone
There is a popular misconception that Gion was a red-light district. It was a geisha district, and as geisha are entertainers, not prostitutes, Gion is not, and never was, a red-light district. Shimabara was Kyoto's red-light district.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a fjord in the south west of New Zealand's South Island, within Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. It has been judged the world's top travel destination in an international survey, and is acclaimed as New Zealand's most famous tourist destination. Rudyard Kipling had previously called it the eighth Wonder of the World.
To get to Milford Sound in the South Island of New Zealand requires a fairly long drive from Queenstown via Te Anau but is one of the most beautiful drives you will experience. Once you get to the end of the road at the upper reaches of the fjord there is nothing much there other than the spectacular view so many people simply make it a day trip and drive back. We decided to do an overnight cruise through the fjord on the Milford Mariner which again was a wonderful experience and highly recommended.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Meat Market

There are two meanings for "meat market":

  1. a market where meat is sold
  2. a place for a casual sexual encounter

.... now .... why did you click on this link!!

This photo was taken at the Old Market in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I love the uncanny stare from the pig's head and the sharpened cleaver at the ready for the next bit of meat butchering.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Balinese Farmer

In the rice paddy fields on the outskirts of Ubud in Bali I came across this wonderful farmer who spoke fluent English and was so enthusiastic about telling me about his rice paddies and his prize cow which he then insisted on showing me. I think the demeanor and delightful character of these Balinese people is hard to match anywhere and makes me think I must go back there again soon.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Tanah Lot

I don't know why I haven't posted a photo of Tanah Lot yet .... but here's one now! This is probably one of the most iconic images of Bali in Indonesia and many people gather here at sunset to take in the view. I was lucky enough to be there as a ceremony was in process so captured a line of the pilgrims making their back from the temple. 
Tanah Lot is a rock formation off the Indonesian island of Bali. It is home of a pilgrimage temple, the Pura Tanah Lot (literally "Tanah Lot temple") and a popular tourist and cultural icon for photography and general exoticism. Tanah Lot means "Land [sic: in the] Sea" in Balinese language. Located in Tabanan, about 20 km from Denpasar, the temple sits on a large offshore rock which has been shaped continuously over the years by the ocean tide. 
Tanah Lot is claimed to be the work of the 15th century priest Nirartha. During his travels along the south coast he saw the rock-island's beautiful setting and rested there. Some fishermen saw him, and bought him gifts. Nirartha then spent the night on the little island. Later he spoke to the fishermen and told them to build a shrine on the rock for he felt it to be a holy place to worship the Balinese sea gods. 
The Tanah Lot temple was built and has been a part of Balinese mythology for centuries. The temple is one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. Each of the sea temples were established within eyesight of the next to form a chain along the south-western coast. At the base of the rocky island, poisonous sea snakes are believed to guard the temple from evil spirits and intruders. A giant snake purportedly protects the temple, which was created from Nirata’s scarf when he established the island.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Georgian Townhouses of Edinburgh

Coates Crescent lies in the West End area of Edinburgh and like the New Town area has some fine examples of Georgian architecture. These townhouses built in an arch with cobbled streets is very typical of many of the streets in this area.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

San Vicente de la Sonsierra

San Vicente de la Sonsierra is a small town in the heart of La Rioja region of northern Spain with its distinctive castle sitting on top of the hill overlooking the River Ebro. La Rioja is a province and autonomous community of northern Spain with its capital,  Logroño. This region is well known for the famous Rioja wines. The three principal regions of La Rioja are Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja with each area producing its own unique expression of Rioja wine.