Journey to Shangri-La

I have been publishing articles in bodymindsoul magazine in the last few issues. In Vol.13, an article on my most memorable adventure to date in Shangri-La county, Yunnan, China was published. You can find it from page 38 to 42 in the magazine.

Shangri-La article

Shangri-La county in autumn time is cold and beautiful, especially in the Mount Meili National Park. We hiked 24km uphill in one day to reach our lodging for the night. After 2 days, we hiked 20km back out. It was the hardest physical challenge for me, which made it all the more memorable.

 

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Photography trip to Kuala Kurau

In early September 2017, I joined a photography trip to Kuala Kurau, Perak organised by the Selangor Branch Photogroup of the Malaysian Nature Society. I then wrote an article about it, and it was published in the October issue of the Pencinta Alam, which was the national newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society.

Here is the article published in the newsletter:

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Here is the article text in plain HTML format:

Photographing Fishing Villages, Paddy Fields and Wildlife
By Khor Hui Min

The last time I joined a photography trip organised by the MNS Selangor Branch Photogroup was many years ago. We took photos for Dr. Ruth Kiew’s plant book in 2010. At that time, I did not have a DSLR camera yet, and the coordinator Alex Foong was wondering aloud when I was going to get one.

Then, in early 2017, I bumped into Alex Foong in Ikea, of all places. He asked me if I had sent in photos to be considered for the first-ever Photogroup exhibition at WhiteBox, Publika in June 2017. I said that even though I had put it into the Pencinta Alam while editing it, I had forgotten about the deadline. I asked him when the deadline was, and he said the deadline had already passed, but the committee was still looking for more photos to add to the pool for consideration. Please send by tomorrow, he said. So, I went home and looked inside the folders of my hard disk and managed to find a few to submit. Three were selected for the exhibition and the rest was history.

The natural progression of things led me to join a photography trip to Kuala Kurau (8-10 Sept), organised by KK, George and Alex. The trip had about 24 participants, mostly with assorted DSLRs.  Our trip started with a visit to the Taiping Zoo and Lake Gardens.  Although it rained at the zoo, I was lucky enough to get a few good shots of the beautiful animals, before the rain became too heavy. My favourites for the day were the Baby Hippo, Crowned Crane, Flamingos, African Spoonbill, Milky Stork, Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron, Lions, Axis Deer, Bawean Deer and Sambar Deer.

After we all arrived at the meeting point, we proceeded to Kurau Inn Homestay, which was about an hour’s drive from Lake Gardens. It was a lovely place to stay in the middle of a traditional village and surrounded by paddy fields. My room upstairs was spacious and had nice comfortable beds, fans, air-con, as well as a little pantry with electric kettle, mugs, forks and spoons, mini fridge, small dining table and chairs. The common area upstairs was big and airy, and our trip participants would gather for evening chit-chat after dinner there.

The next day, we drove out at 6.15am to set up our tripods for a sunrise photo shoot at the nearby bridge. In fact, we set up on both mornings there, but since it was the rainy season, there was thick cloud cover that blocked most of the sunrise. It was nice on the bridge, and I particularly enjoyed the blue hour before the sunrise. Besides setting up to snap photos of the sunrise, we also busied ourselves taking photos of the fishing village lining the river on both sides of the bridge, the fishing boats and the fish cages floating in the middle of the river.

On the first evening, we went to the seaside to take photos of the sunset. Instead, we took photos of dark thunderstorm clouds rolling in and flashes of lightning. In the waning light of the setting sun, I thought the landscape was really dramatic, accentuated by the strong winds. I loved it.

Other highlights of the trip included snapping photos of smelly salted fish as they dried in the sun along the road, and salted eggs in the Joo Hong Chan salted egg factory.

On the last day, we visited a small cockle processing plant beside a river in Kuala Gula, but since it was Sunday, it was closed. I entertained myself by snapping photos of the docked boats and makeshift jetties, while most of the group had a discussion with the boss of the cockle processing plant.

Last but not least, it would not be a great Photogroup trip without endless varieties of food, to which we owe KK our thanks. We sampled the hawker food of Kuala Kurau for breakfast and lunch, and enjoyed delicious pre-ordered seafood dinners beside the river.

All in all, it was an enjoyable and productive photo trip, with great company and wonderful food. I shall look forward to future Photogroup trips.

Bali Day 1: Uluwatu

I went to Bali in September 2016. However, for this second trip, I brought my parents and brother with me. Bali is one of my favourite places, and I was sure they would like it there too.

Since we touched down in the afternoon, Kadek brought us to the Uluwatu temple complex, because then we could stay till sunset to watch the Tari Kecak, and it was all good. Tari Kecak will be featured in my next blog post. 😉

I took over 600 photos over three days, and here are some of the photos I finally selected from our visit to Uluwatu.

Uluwatu
My favourite photo of Uluwatu 🙂

Uluwatu is such a breathtakingly beautiful place that I just could not stop taking photos. There was a pathway all along the cliff, linking the various temples in the complex, and I walked a long stretch of it. Since our visit coincided with Galungan, the temple complex had more visitors than usual, and was beautifully decorated.

Uluwatu
Up the pathway to the peak in the Uluwatu templex complex

There is a signboard outside the temple complex that says visitors should keep their spectables and other shiny objects such as mobile phones hidden, because the monkeys will steal them. This warning should not be taken lightly. I was wearing my specs while walking near a place where people engaging in ceremonies walked down a tiny steep flight of stairs down the cliff to the beach below. There were a few monkeys there, and one particularly big and fat male just walked towards me on the stone wall and grabbed my specs off my face! There was a large group of caucasians there. Although they were not speaking in English among themselves, they understood me, and started to throw food items at the monkey perched on the wall, until he threw my specs into the bushes behind the wall. Thankfully, my specs were not broken, and I thanked all the people who helped me retrieve it.

Uluwatu
Down the pathway, all along the cliff of Uluwatu

Our trip to Bali conincided with Galungan, which celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma. The festival period stretches over a 10-day period, where a series of Hindu religious ceremonies are performed. Galungan is considered to be a very important festival in Hindu Bali. To read more about the series of Hindu ceremonies performed during Galungan, visit the Galungan ceremonies page of Wonderful Bali.

At Uluwatu temple complex
At Uluwatu temple complex

The specific ceremonial days of the festival start with Tumpek Uduh and end with Tumpek Kuningan. Here is the list of specific ceremonies of Galungan:

  1. Tumpek Uduh
  2. Sugian Pengenten
  3. Sugian Jawa
  4. Sugian Bali
  5. Penyekeban
  6. Penyajaan Galungan
  7. Penampahan Galungan
  8. Galungan Day
  9. Umanis Galungan
  10. Ulihan
  11. Pemacakan Agung
  12. Tumpek Kuningan
Galungan at Uluwatu temple complex
Galungan or penjor kuningan at Uluwatu temple complex

The most obvious sign of the Galungan festival are the penjor – bamboo poles with offerings suspended at the end. These penjor are installed along roads, and at the entrances to temples. Penjor are also called galungan.

Galungan at Uluwatu temple complex
Galungan or penjor kuningan at Uluwatu temple complex

Preparations start at Tumpek Uduh, which is 25 days before Galungan Day, at the Saturday of the 7th week of the Balinese Pawukon calendar, Wariga. Thus, the total length of the ceremony period of Galungan is actually 35 days. This is equivalent to 5 weeks, which is one Balinese month.

Elephant statue at Uluwatu temple complex
Elephant statue at Uluwatu temple complex

There are often two Galungan celebrations per solar year. The Galungan dates for 2015-2017 (as listed in Wikipedia) are as follows:

2015 July 15 July 25
2016 February 10 February 20
2016 September 7 September 17
2017 April 5 April 15
2017 November 1 November 11
Uluwatu
A Caucasian couple dressed in traditional Balinese garb on their way to participate in a ceremony in Uluwatu

To see more 2016-2017 events in Bali, visit Bali Spirit.

Other articles I wrote on Bali:
Bali Day 1: Tari Kecak and Fire Dance
Bali Day 2: Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple