Category Archives: China

My Favorite Captures of 2015

With February 2016 nearly upon us, I wanted to take some time a reflect on the previous year and share some of my favorite photos of 2015. When it comes to photography, I consider myself to be much more an enthusiast than a professional. I thoroughly enjoy taking pictures just for fun of it. It’s definitely an added bonus when I capture a decent shot of something that means a lot to me.

2015 was one busy year, especially when it came to work. Holding down a full-time job while living in Hong Kong and finding the time to do extensive travel was pretty difficult. Nonetheless, I tried my best to plan my vacation days around public holidays in order to get more time to travel. As such, my travels in 2015 led me to Myanmar, China, Indonesia, and back home to the United States for an early Christmas. According to Adobe Lightroom, I snapped over 2,000 photos during this time so choosing my favorites certainly wasn’t an easy task, but I tried my best to narrow it down to a few from each country. Take a look!

Myanmar

DSC_0152

Reaching an impressive 325 feet into the sky, The Shwedagon Pagoda is Myanmar’s most sacred Buddhist pagoda. Containing various important relics related to the spiritual teachings, it is believed to be the oldest pagoda in Myanmar, dating back to the lifetime of the Buddha. As a result, thousands of pilgrims visit this site every day, making it a unique, lively and magical place to witness.

dsc_0213

During a two hour wait in the extremely busy Yangon Central Railway Station, I was approached by a big family who asked me to sit on their mat while I waited for my train. The mother, in broken English, told me all about her children and introduced me to her son who was more than excited to have a photo taken. You can see them here sporting thanaka, a natural paste made from ground bark that is used as a natural sun screen. These, among many others, were just a taste of the curiosity and hospitality that can be found in all corners of Myanmar.

DSC_0549

Bagan is Myanmar’s most famous destination and it’s easy to see why. This ancient city is home to thousands of Buddhist pagodas and temples dating back to the 11th and and 13th centuries making them nearly 2,000 years old. My friend and I spent the entire day exploring this vast landscape, wandering amongst the temples, and discovering the hidden statues found in the various temples. Bagan is truly magical and it was easily one of the most memorable places I traveled to in 2015.

China

DSC_0895

The Li River which traverses from Guilin to Yanhshuo is considered to be one of China’s most famous scenic areas. Surrounded by towering karst mountains, rollings hills, and hidden caves, it’s the perfect place to catch a bamboo raft and leisurely float down the river. Listed as one of the world’s top ten watery wonders by National Geographic Magazine, it’s a beautiful place to witness as it offers a quintessentially Chinese experience in a mostly natural and untouched setting.

DSC_0933

Named after its moon-shaped hole, Moon Hill is one of Yangshuo’s most iconic and scenic sights. Standing at over 1,200 feet high, Moon Hill offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area and valley below. The 800 step climb to the top is well worth the view and, for those seeking something a bit more adventurous, why not try one of the fourteen rock climbing routes up the the large rock. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional climber, this scenic destination offers the perfect backdrop for a challenging, yet fun adventure.

DSC_0949.jpg

There’s something about water buffalo that completely puts me at ease and sends me to my peaceful place. I could easily spend hours watching these majestic creatures wandering through the rice fields and munching on grass. An odd, the water buffalo have become my my favorite animals. I have witnessed these gentle giants in nearly every Asian country I have visited thus far and I have grown to really appreciate their gentle manner.

Indoenisa

dsc_0892-2

Bali was probably one of the most surprising places I visited. Due its touristy nature, I was expecting it be highly developed, but it’s actually quite easy to find peace and quiet throughout many parts of the island. Case in point, the Jatiluwih Rice Terrace; 700 meters above sea level, this beautiful rice terrace is considered to be Bali’s oldest and most complex agricultural system. Designated a UNESCO Cultural Landscape, Jatiluwih offers a breathtaking panorama and a tranquil retreat from the island’s more developed areas.

DSC_0051

From vast rice fields to relaxing beaches, Bali has a lot to offer as a travel destination. This is the Yellow Bridge which connects Nusa Lembongan to Nusa Ceningan. These two islands are only a short boat ride from the main island of Bali, yet it feels as if they are hundreds of miles away from the busy shores of nearby Kuta and Sanur. The quiet shores of Nusa Lembongan are the perfect place to unwind and relax and live life the way it was meant to be.

DSC_1228

And what is a place without its people? During a four day stay in the palatial Alam Puisi Villa I was invited to attend a New Year celebration which included four traditional Indonesian dances. The dancers were only too happy to be captured, in fact, spectators were invited to join the dancers on stage to welcome in the new year. It was the perfect way to ring in 2016.

The United States

DSC_1066

New York City is a truly unique and unrivaled destination. From the city’s Great White Way to its five distinct boroughs, there a few cities like it in the world. Not to mention, Gotham has one of the most iconic skylines around. There is no better place to catch a glimpse of this glistening skyline than the Top of the Rock. Whether you call it the Big Apple, the Capital of the World, or the City that Never Sleeps, you’ll certainly never run out of things to do.

DSC_0995

Christmas in New York City is a magical experience. From ice skating in Central Park, viewing the windows along 5th Avenue, or taking in the sights of the world’s most famous Christmas tree, the city certainly goes all out for the holidays as it transforms itself into a twinkling winter wonderland, making it one of the best of times to visit the Big Apple.

DSC_1106

The September 11th memorial is an unusual one for this list, it’s not exciting, it’s not a major tourist attraction but it is a picture I hold in high esteem. This image depicts the beauty of the memorial and the importance of such a space in the city of New York to both its citizens and its visitors. The tone of the memorial is hardly morose, but pensive, a reminder of what so many have lost and what we must never forget.

Advertisements

Wander Pi Wednesdays: Shanghai’s Chinese New Year

Every Wednesday, I’ll be sharing one of my favorite photos from my travels.

Tomorrow is the start of the Lunar New Year which is one of the biggest celebrations in Asia and nowhere is it celebrated on a grander scale than in China, where it’s better known as the Spring Festival. The Spring Festival is the most important traditional holiday in the People’s Republic of China. People from all over the country travel hundreds of miles to reunite with their loved ones and feast upon traditional dishes. Cities across the country are transformed into festive playgrounds. This photo was taken in Shanghai during last year’s celebration (The Year of the Horse) where every year, the Yu Garden is transformed into an even brighter and more colorful landscape as it’s filled with hundreds of lanterns.

Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai!

DSC_9307

The Great “Wild” Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is easily one of the most famous and recognizable landmarks in the world. Known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it has become China’s most popular attraction. People from all over the world travel to the People’s Republic to experience the ancient grandeur and beauty of the wall resulting in many parts of this historical attraction being inundated with tourists. Thankfully, the Great Wall of China is 5,500 miles long with Beijing covering only 342 of these miles. Thus, there are parts of the wall that can still be explored on a more personal basis. One of these sections is Jinshanling.

864

While Jinshanling is a bit of a trek from Beijing, about a three hour drive from the center of the city, the end result is well worth the extra time. I absolutely loved this section of the wall. Jinshanling is isolated and stunning. I found the scenery to be quite extraordinary and unforgettable.

878

I really enjoyed trekking along this portion of the Great Wall. The vistas of the surrounding landscape were truly impressive and I found the area to be authentic and natural. It offers an organic mix of restored and untouched wall and, most surprisingly, I didn’t see a single tourist while exploring this area.

899

I spent nearly three hours climbing up and down parts of the Jinshanling section, which measures nearly seven miles in total. The hike was rather challenging as the varying depth of steps and sheer steepness made it feel like quite the workout, especially in the summer heat. While the steps and elevation changes can be difficult, the rewards are magical and it is totally worth the pain. Hiking up this remote part of the wall made my experience at the Great Wall even more memorable.

922

If you’re planning to visit the Great Wall, I highly recommend taking the time and making the effort to visit the Jinshanling section of the wall, you won’t regret it. Very few portions of the wall can compare to the natural beauty and authentic quality found at Jinshanling. Here, you won’t have to worry about battling through crowds of tourists or dealing with ruthless vendors. It’s simply the Great Wall in all its natural splendor, the way it was meant to be experienced.

Exploring the Ancient City of Xi’an

China was probably one of the most overwhelming, yet surprising places I have visited thus far. There is without a doubt an endless amount of things see and do in the People’s Republic of China. Since moving to Asia, I have traveled to the mainland quite a few times and with every visit, it still continues to astonish me in a unique way. From the smoggy streets of Beijing to the glistening skyscrapers of Shanghai, it’s a country full of sightly contrasts, immense development, and historical grandeur. Even after all my visits, I have yet to even touch the surface of this vast country. Beyond Beijing and Shanghai lies a plethora of vast rice terraces, green forests, grand mountains, barren deserts, ancient villages, along with a few other mega cities.

Located in Central China lies the ancient city of Xi’an..

999

Xi’an is more than 3,000 years old and was the ancient home to 13 dynasties and 73 emperors. Today, many remnants of these powerful dynasties can still be found. Unlike the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, the roots of skyscrapers have yet to start spreading in Xi’an. Thus, the city of Xi’an tends to feel more intimate and more at home with its rich and historical culture. The amount of treasures that can be found in and around the city are tremendous.

994

Xi’an is most famous for the Terracotta Warriors; a collection of sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. These sculptures were buried with the emperor to protect him in the afterlife. Wandering amongst these ancient wonders was a neat experience, but there is so much more to explore in Xi’an than the popular Terracotta Warriors.

1212

From Mount Hua to the ancient city wall, there is plenty to see and do. I found that the best way to explore the city was by bicycle. There are plenty of rental shops located in the city, including one on the city wall. From here you can bike along the wall and explore as much of Xi’an as you can. The Ancient Bell Tower and Wild Goose Pagoda are only a short bike ride away from the wall itself.

1019

I really enjoyed my time in Xi’an. There is a very different feel in Xi’an when compared to Beijing and Shanghai. The pace of life is slower and I found it be a refreshing change from the madness that comes with a major city. If you have time, I highly recommend adding Xi’an to you itinerary when traveling throughout China.

290899_10100766562529429_8810327_63593372_7425332_o

Vertigo Atop Mount Hua

I consider myself to be a big hiking and outdoor enthusiast. I love being challenged, especially when it’s within nature’s playground. I often plan my travels around the amount of outdoor activities a destination has to offer. I love adventure, but even I have moments when I second guess some of my more adventurous decisions. A few years ago, I traveled to Xi’an, China where I hiked Mount Hua’s insane cliff path. I learned about the hike while reading an article in Travel and Leisure magazine; “World’s Scariest Hikes.” Their website had a video link of the hike and after watching it, I knew it was something I had to do one day. The hike became the inspiration for my trip to China in 2011!

1151

Mount Hua is known as “The Number One Precipitous Mountain under Heaven.” It’s one of the five sacred mountains in China and has a long history of religious significance. Various Taoist temples dot the mountain’s five peaks. It’s a place where many local tourists travel to as part of a spiritual pilgrimage. My friend and I boarded a bus near the Xi’an train station and two hours later arrived near the base of the mountain. Since we were limited on time, the cable car took us halfway up, but we were able to hike the rest of the way. The view from the top was stunning.

1156

The mountain’s cliff path was our ultimate destination. After hiking for about three hours through the clouds and in the rain, we finally arrived. It was an incredible sight to see. The path appeared even more intimidating in person, to the point where I was doubting my ability and talking myself out of attempting it. It looked scarier than I imagined; a straight descent along small metal bars that were built into the mountain.

1166

The fact that it was raining and everything was wet, thus slippery, made the situation seem even more precarious. For a very lengthy moment, the thought crossed my mind to back out of the whole thing. Meanwhile, my friend had strapped right in to his harness and started on his way. After about 15 minutes, I gave the cliff path one final look and thought to myself, “I came all the way to China for this moment; I can’t back out now”. I put my stuff down, strapped myself in, and made my way down to the path. I would have truly regretted it had I not. I was surprised how safe and at ease I felt once I started making my way down. It looked much scarier than it actually was.

1177

The experience was truly amazing. It was quite the rush, almost spiritual like. Every thought and worry I ever had seemed to disappear for a moment as I took in all the beautiful scenery around me. There’s just something indescribable about nature when you see it on such a massive scale. It made me feel so small, yet, on top of the world.

1183

It was easily one of the most impressive natural sights I have ever seen. The whole experience was breathtaking and one that I highly recommend trying while in Xi’an.