Posted on May 15, 2016
And I was not disappointed. It was not really the best time to visit this place though. We did miss the spring blossoms (since my daughter had to wait for the school year to end before we could get here) but the weather was the most pleasant with the air still cold and chilly despite the sky being bright and sunny (the closing of spring and the beginning of summer) which made this trip one of the most memorable. This is one of those places that lightning gets to strike only once. But unlike lightning however, tourists make it a point to hit this place at least twice in their lifetime. How can you blame them? Seoul is one of the most beautiful and tourist-friendly places on the planet (at least in the region I have visited). It is a shopping haven for travelers (you ask the ladies) and a food mecca for the adventurous. The locals are the most friendly; going the extra mile to make the tourist experience memorable and speaking the most sweet-sounding of all languages (even though I didn’t understand). I apologize for that. Maybe we listened to too many Korean songs and watched too much Korean drama while we were there 🙂 . It is a very lovely and picturesque place with old neighborhoods preserved and nestled within a modern and bustling metropolis; with different seasons providing new perspectives on every familiar scene. Despite the ravages and destruction of war, Seoul has come a long way to emerging as one of the world’s 21st century cities. This is one model city enjoying a comeback that should not be missed.You have to believe me. The photos in this post don’t do justice to the ultimate bliss of actually being here. I originally wanted to do several posts about this trip with each post corresponding to each day I spent here; but then decided not to. As much as I wanted to relive the experience, I also did not want the memory to linger any longer than it should. It is one of those “I-wanted-to-stay-but-I-had-to-leave” situations you sometimes find yourself in. Again, too much of that Korean drama 🙂 . Besides, I also messed up my itinerary for my personal photowalk and committed the grievous sin of seeing most of the places I planned to shoot but actually forgetting to shoot some of them. It is because the place is so beautifully distracting and the local food so sweetly unnerving. All those preparations and plans to photograph the place with a fresh pair of eyes and from new angles all went down the drain. I just simply didn’t care about doing original photography but just immersed myself in the moment. I don’t even remember ever complaining about long walks and large crowds. It was a welcoming change from previous tropical ramblings.
What am I talking about anyway? Okay, I’ll spare you the Korean drama. This is one place you definitely have to see. But don’t take my word for it. You just have to be here. I am trying to make sense and order out of a disorganized bunch of random photos from my distracted photowalk and trying to write the names of places and their descriptions as I remember them. So I share them here: my must-see places in Seoul (the Seoul I love); not in the order of their importance but in the order I found them worthy to be salvaged from my camera’s memory card 🙂 . Enjoy the images and stay inspired.
Gyeongbokgung Palace: Gyeongbokgung is the largest of Seoul’s four main palaces and perhaps the most recognizable of all the city’s attractions. It has served as the principal residence for Korean royalties. Much of the palace’s structures were destroyed during the 20th century Japanese colonial rule. What you see now are mostly accurate recent reconstructions. Take time to walk through the palace grounds beyond the Throne Hall to admire two beautiful floating pavilions: Gyeonghoeru and Hwangwonjeong.
See you in my next post. Cheers!!!
Posted on December 22, 2015
I could have called this post “A Year in Review” or “My 2015 Travels” but I thought it would be a cliche. We always do this year-end post or write-up where we cross out a few items in our travel bucket list (or any bucket list for that matter) and admittedly, this post is in some ways no different. But it’s a little bit more than that. As I was writing the draft for this post, I breathed a prayer of thanks to my Maker for helping me get past a year of office work marked by an organizational mayhem caused by some internal special elite force who obviously refused to work for the common good. We are happy that we were able to neutralize that group and have put them all in the past. Peace has been restored and now we are back to doing the things that we are supposed to do, and that is (as a colleague puts it) “to work hard, to play hard, and to travel harder”. 🙂
Looking back at my calendar, I noticed that I did spend a large amount of time travelling. I realized that in part, these sporadic wanderings somehow helped to put a lot of things in my life and work in perspective and has enabled me to better understand my peers who come from all sorts of backgrounds and temperaments. Funny thing though is that I only started travelling recently (just this year actually). These however are not extravagant travels but are rather short trips within the region and to neighboring countries. Travelling is never cheap (even the ones done on a budget). 🙂 And if you’re like me travelling with a family, you understand how challenging it is both financially and logistically.
So why this sudden passion for travelling? Well for one thing, I needed an excuse (an expensive excuse) for learning and practicing photography. 🙂 In the past, I also passed off a lot of opportunities in the office for free travel. And lastly, I got this big scare from a fitness consultant a few years ago (which is perhaps my real and silly reason for this travel frenzy). The consultant took a quick BMI check and told me I have a somewhat high level of fat in my system (which is quite surprising considering my thin body frame) and that I might even get a massive heart attack by age 45. I was not sure if he was just trying to make me sign up for a gym program. Anyway, I didn’t buy into the program but I did freak out a bit after that. I did give it a thought and made a few lifestyle changes over the following months. Alongside those changes is a list of the places I wanted to visit (kinda like a 1001-places-to-see-before-you-die sort of stuff). So I told my family that from then on, we will meet regularly in some distant foreign lands and we’ll explore those places together. 🙂
I am still doing the things that I love very much and care passionately about; but now with more of the things I really don’t like to do but I needed to do (e.g. exercise, strength training); and eating less of the food I love and more of the ones I really didn’t care about before (e.g. greens). Nowadays, the only time I eat with reckless abandon is when I am travelling. 🙂 When eating in another country, you should have a mantra. I have one (something I learned from my church apprentice). “Counting the memories and not the calories” is a reminder of why we eat and travel and why nothing that you eat in any foreign land will have any bad, real-life impact on your health and body. 🙂 Kidding aside, eating is my excuse and the best way for me to learn and to experience another country’s culture.
So here you go. My postcards from 2015 (the very cliche I was trying to avoid). Sorry for this. I didn’t mean to brag or boast about these modest travels. I just turned 45 three months ago and still feeling quite grateful (and obviously still alive at the time of this writing) for each day I receive past that 45-year mark. 🙂 I am currently looking at travelling outside the region. It may take a while for this to happen as it will require a more challenging planning strategy. Meantime, enjoy the images as much as I do and I hope I kept you inspired and always grateful.
1) Visiting Victoria Peak and Victoria Harbor (Hong Kong: Fabruary 2015): Didn’t have much time to take so many photos but tried my best not to miss these spots. I have seen this view of Hong Kong so many times that it was almost a cliche. But seeing it personally gives one a different kind of high. Taking photos at night in Victoria Peak was a challenge with children either knocking the camera tripod or extending their arms into the camera’s frame. Not to forget the crowd behind me pushing each other to capture a photo.
2) Anniversary with the missus in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia: April 2015): Kuala Lumpur is just an hour away by plane from Singapore. So it would be a sin to miss the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. As an architect, I made sure I didn’t miss this one as well as other places of interest.
3) Team Building in Bali (Indonesia: May 2015): I think our company did well the previous year so we had this weekend in Bali. It was not the best part of Bali but it was a great opportunity to connect and re-establish relationships with our colleagues.
4) Road trip to Legoland Malaysia (Malaysia: July 2015): I found myself stuck during a public holiday so I decided to take this last minute road trip. The decision was perfect as the journey ended with me being reminded of why I became an architect in the first place.
5) Photowalk at the Bund and Pudong Districts in Shanghai (China: September 2015): I quite enjoyed this one despite the long-haul flight. The weather was pleasant with the air starting to get cooler (the beginning of autumn) and the skies a perfect blue. There’s no need for me to saturate the sky colors in the post-editing of the photos. Not to forget the amazing architectural wonders in this area.
6) Visit to Bangkok (Thailand: November 2015): It was quite sad I didn’t have my family to join me in this trip. Nevertheless, Bangkok surprised me with its unique flavor and twist to every experience possible. Not to forget the food that you could enjoy just almost anywhere in the city.
Enjoy the holidays!!
See you in my next post. Cheers!!! 🙂
Posted on July 22, 2015
This day trip to Legoland Malaysia just happened without much planning. To be honest, it was a result of simply having nowhere else to go. Legoland Malaysia is just a 1-hour bus ride from Singapore (where I am currently based) so it’s funny and embarrassing to admit that it was one place that I had yet to visit. I finally got my chance during a public holiday. The holiday fell on a Friday and I suspect some office colleagues already planned their long weekend somewhere really nice. And here I am. Stuck. I needed to go somewhere too. Somewhere. Anywhere actually.
But honestly, maybe at the back of my mind I already had a reason for visiting this place. I wanted to go back to how I started; on how I became an architect in the first place. When I started this blog, I was hoping to share about photography and the places that I will be able to visit; with perhaps a detailed account of what I will do and eat during each day of the trip in those places. It’s what most bloggers do :-). And believe me, I wanted to do the same. But then, I realized you might as well buy a travel guide. The accounts about the places (and the food) will be more convincing.
One of our life coaches taught us the lesson of the empty cup. It’s a reminder to be teachable; on not to think so much of yourself as someone who has already arrived; and not to underestimate the power of a small person or place to teach or remind you of something important. That happened to me here. So, may I request that you indulge me once more in sharing my gleanings on this recent road trip and I promise next time, I will write about what most bloggers write in their blogs :-). Thank you very much.
Nearly everyone I know who grew up in my generation had their affair with the LEGO. There were other toys before that but most did not offer much of a breakthrough compared with the creativity and imagination inspired by the LEGO. I loved drawing when I was a kid and our bedroom walls were proof of that passion. I know my parents had no problem repainting them regularly. I had the drawings and the building blocks of the LEGO to work and to build with. Growing up, I believe I enjoyed the high feeling created by the smell of freshly poured concrete and the way things were put together. Everything fell into the right places. I knew I had to build. I wanted to be an architect. And so an architect I became. So now needless to say, I found this Legoland trip right up my alley.
At the facade level, the place looks just like your usual theme park designed only for children. And like most theme parks I know, the place could be really hot and sweltering (sadly though, it actually rained most of the afternoon). Unless you’re a LEGO fan, have children, or just plain curious; I am not sure you’ll think of coming here almost all by yourself. But what awaits inside is something that can thrill people of all ages. Honestly, for a moment I was a child again (I was trying my best not to make it sound like second childhood).
The park has several attractions (namely: The Beginning, Lego City, Miniland, Land of Adventure, Imagination, Star Wars, Lego Kingdom, Lego Technic, and Water Park). Depending on who you are with, your interest and your bias; you could spend an entire day in just any two or three of the attractions. I tried some of the rides (the “adult-friendly” ones) if only to make use of the RM235 I paid to get to this park :-). The last time I took a crazy ride was with my daughter when she was 12 years old. I was a little younger back then and I was happy having created that memory for her. Nowadays, I would have none of it :-).
Not surprisingly, what caught my attention was Miniland: a miniature showcase of some of the iconic buildings of Malaysia and Southeast Asia. LEGO released its architecture series a few years ago and featured some classic American buildings as part of its collection. But to see some of the Asian buildings in a LEGO rendition and in a very impressive scale was a real treat. I have seen some of the actual buildings so I couldn’t help but look closely at the miniatures. The level of accuracy and detailing was absolutely incredible! Back in our time, models were made using wooden blocks or cardboard to show clients the massing and placement of buildings. Those however did not include details as we know them now. Much of what’s to be expected was left to the actual completed structure.
But you know what surprised me the most at the end of this visit? It’s actually the kids and the families working together on the LEGO. I don’t know where I’ve been lately but honestly, I haven’t seen that for quite a while. I grew up in a time without computers. It wasn’t always the best of times but it somehow taught me the ever-increasing value of face-to-face conversations, collaboration and high-touch, tactile activities; especially in these times when our kids have more facebook friends and high-tech gadgets. It makes us want to consider carefully the balance of the types of toys we give to our kids. Maybe it’s the reason themed places like this still thrive. People still do recognize its significance after all.
My daughter also grew up without a computer. I didn’t decide on that. I just couldn’t afford it back then :-). The only good that came out of it was that she learned how to draw and to work with her hands (yes, she also knows how to draw. I even tried to sell her the idea of taking up architecture, but in vain). Thanks to the upcoming movie installment of the Star Wars saga, the LEGO is back again with its Star Wars characters collectibles; and it’s a funny and creative way to get my daughter interested in the LEGO (of all things, she bought a Darth Vader key-chain / LED light to start with). Now, whether or not this interest will lead her to the path of her lifework is another story. Until then, I wait :-).
See you in my next post. Cheers!
Click here to browse through the photo gallery of this day trip.
(Note: Legoland Malaysia is Malaysia’s first international theme park that opened in Nusajaya, Johor, Malaysia on September 15, 2012. Located at 7 Jalan Legoland, Bandar Medini 79250 Nusajaya, Johor, Malaysia.)
Posted on June 11, 2015
Hi there. Needless to say, this will be my first post. I already said quite a mouthful about myself in the About page. So while I am developing the contents of this website, allow me to share my favorite photography and travel quotes.
And my favorite (from my daughter). She must have read this somewhere;
Okay. Enough of the talk. Let’s start taking some pictures 🙂
See you in my next post.