My Tokyo Blues

Lost in Translation.  Tokyo at twilight viewed from Tokyo World Trade Center (circa 2017).

This is one example of those late melancholic posts.  I finally had the chance to see Tokyo a second time last Winter.  The first time was way back in the Autumn of 2013 when I was invited by a major Japanese furniture manufacturer to attend a 3-day convention.  Since then, I always remember Tokyo as a cold city (my first encounter with the outside world); the city I fell in love with and the one that inspired me to explore, to travel, and to discover more of the world around me.  I don’t know how I will do it; but after this recent trip, I promised myself (and my family) to return to this place at least once a year. 🙂

That photo of Tokyo Tower above is one of my favorites from this recent trip.  I have always wanted to capture Tokyo at twilight from that vantage point (at the top of the Tokyo World Trade Center).  It was not really the composition I had in mind though.  A new building was being built infront of the World Trade Center; blocking the iconic and signature view of the cityscape below as well as the silhouette of Mt. Fuji beyond and forcing me to shift the camera to place the tower on the left side of the frame.  This is another example of the importance of acquiring updated research before reaching your destination.  Still not bad really, as I ended with a different take of this beautiful city (at least for me). 🙂

Morning Calm.  Early morning at the Tokyo Imperial Palace Grounds (circa 2017).

Anyway, I should stop stalling.  I know I just needed to write (or blog) regularly.  I just simply miss Tokyo.  A protracted throwback is not really my thing and very seldom do I visit the same place twice.  But I honestly still have the blues for this city and still can’t get over those late night photography sessions out in the cold. 🙂  As always, I had my shot list on hand (which took me months to diligently prepare).  The thing is that long holidays are always short and chances are you will not be able to do all the things in your shot list (unless you’re traveling alone).  Besides, we took a couple of ad hoc day trips to nearby Kyoto and Osaka which required me to take a bit of time off from my rigid and regimented Tokyo photography schedule; to spend quality time with my family and in-laws.  Kyoto and Osaka however are different and wonderful cities (and the essence of a Japan trip for most travelers) which arguably deserve a separate visit as well as a proper write-up of their own.  Meanwhile, the unfinished tasks in my Tokyo shot list gives me a valid reason to come back next year. 🙂

It’s a good thing we will have our summer company trip next month; and that will give me enough time to let this melancholia of cold places to subside. 🙂  So I’ll just share them here: my incomplete and random postcards from this recent Tokyo trip and a few from my earlier 2013 trip as well.  I have to apologize for all that drama up there and for not being the supposedly informative Tokyo travel guide in this blog post.  The internet anyway is a far more reliable and accurate source of information and I do not want to bore you with my profuse writing.  I did label the photos though so you could look them up yourself. 🙂  I honestly enjoyed taking them and these I gladly share to those who enjoy travel photography and to travelers who plan to visit this beautiful and unforgettable city.

Enjoy the images as much as I do and always remain excited and inspired.

See you in my next post. Cheers!!! 🙂

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Macau Musings

St. Paul's Church Ruins (Macau)

The Ruins of St. Paul’s Church in Macau, China (January 2017).

This wanderlust has been an effective family therapy for us.  I’ve been writing here for a while but I forgot to mention that I work abroad (currently based in Singapore) and away from my family.  Like most overseas worker, I made it a point to go back to my hometown every 6 months and spend a week or so with my family.  But before that one week is over however, we were already crying; knowing it will take another 6 months or more for us to see each other again.  My father also used to work overseas when I was a kid; so I know how it feels like now for my own family.  Nowadays however, distance (and long distance communication) is dead and modest travel is available for everyone.  So instead of just me traveling alone, my family and I decided that (if I have the resources) we will meet regularly in some nearby foreign lands and explore those places together.  Parting ways at the end of those journeys however is stll difficult; but now, the sadness is eclipsed by the memories of those travel experiences .  Whatever. 🙂

Anyway, I am being cheesy and talking gibberish back there.  Sorry about that.  It’s been a month since I took the photos in this write-up and I really don’t know what to say about this recent trip.  Except maybe that I was glad my new employer announced the Chinese New Year break a bit early last year; which gave me enough time to plan on spending the week-long break in a place that’s Chinese.  I could have chosen Hong Kong (which would be the easiest), but decided to see Macau instead; a small Chinese outpost known mostly as a day trip destination for most people touring Hong Kong.  You can’t blame them; as Macau is generally a walkable city and most of the major sights are within walking distances from each other.

But that wouldn’t do justice to the beauty of this place.  I love Asian cities especially if it has a history of colonization.  Because the end product would always be a blending of cultures of sorts; confusing but exciting.  Which is very much like Macau.  Known as “The Vegas of China”, the city obviously comes alive at night with its megacasinos, luxury resort hotels, and shopping districts.  So the word “day trip” wouldn’t be correct. 🙂  But Macau is more than that.  A Portuguese colony for more than 300 years, it only became part of China in 1999; two years after the British withdrawal from Hong Kong.  Remnants of colonial architecture, churches, and grand public squares give the place a tangible Mediterranean flavor; oddly picturesque and peculiar in a city that is strongly and culturally Chinese.  You can walk through cobblestone lanes and hear people chatter in Cantonese; asking for directions to find streets with Portuguese names.  To add to this, megacasinos and modern high-rise hotels in ambitious themes and scale appear almost every minute in districts with well-preserved Macanese architecture.  I fell in love with the confusion almost immediately. 🙂  If you’re a fan of postcards, night photography, and architecture, your day trip to Macau will not be enough for you.

City of Dreams. One of the recently completed attractions along Cotai Strip in Macau.

Needless to say, food is a part of the general travel experience.  But you won’t find it here.  I’m a mindless eater and a really lousy food photographer (sadly) so you just have to believe me (or anybody else who has been here) when I say that the local food here is one that you should try and experience. 🙂  Obviously, my bias has always been towards the major sights and architecture of a place; which is my way of understanding a new city.  So a typical photowalk in Macau covers its 2 main islands; within any of the two you can do some exploring on foot as the major attractions are close to each other.  A bus ride however is needed to get from one island to another.

The Macau Peninsula holds the Old City Center, with its 2 most popular day trip attractions: The Ruins of St. Paul’s Church and Senado Square, a grand public plaza. It is also the site of some of the earliest hotels and casinos including the Grand Lisboa, Lisboa Hotel, Wynn Macau, and MGM Hotel.  Along the fringes of the peninsula are Macau Fisherman’s Wharf (a themed park) and Macau Tower with its open-air observation deck.  Towards the south are the integrated islands of Taipa, Coloane, and Cotai.  Taipa has well-preserved colonial houses. Coloane has Macau’s beaches, and Cotai is home to the high-rolling Cotai Strip (Macau’s version of the famous Strip in Vegas), an avenue of megacasinos, luxury hotel and shopping centers including The Venetian Macau and Galaxy Macau, as well as the recently completed City of Dreams, Studio City, and The Parisian with its Eiffel Tower replica.  As much as I would like to give a description of each of these (and for fear of boring you to death), I will just allow my personal postcards below to hopefully speak of the glitz and beauty of this city. 🙂 I tried to cover as much places as I can during my 5-day stay here but missed out on the important Chinese temples and colonial churches (which speaks so much about the place’s history) because of a rain shower on the day I planned to visit them.  Sorry about that.

Not surprisingly, I was able to take home more photos from this trip as compared to previous ones.  Only because my family and in-laws decided on our fourth day to take a day trip to Hong Kong to do some shopping (only to find out later that most of the stores there were closed for the holidays) while I decided to stay behind and catch up with my personal photowalk.  So what happened to that family bonding we were looking forward to that I was talking about earlier?  And I thought Macau is supposed to be the day trip destination (and not Hong Kong). 🙂  I hate to say it, but I have to admit that the brief moment alone helped me maximize my time.  Don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but I guess the travel therapy really worked. 🙂

So there you go.  My two cents worth on this beautiful and quaint city (which I think deserves more than just being called a day trip destination) and my first of many other adventures I am looking forward to in days to come.  Enjoy the postcards below.  Stay grateful and inspired.

See you in my next post.  Cheers!!! 🙂

(click on any of the images below to activate the photo carousel)

Liebster Award 2017

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The Venetian, Macau (circa 2017)

Two weeks ago, I was given the Liebster Award for bloggers by Audrey, author of the blog Living for Experiences.  I thank Audrey for this nomination as I did not expect people to be reading a lot of my writings and musings.  It is an honor to receive such a nomination.  Check out Audrey’s blog here and be inspired by her amazing insights on life and her useful tips on travel.

What is the Liebster Award?
Dating back to 2011, the Liebster Award is an award that exists only in the internet, and is given by bloggers to fellow bloggers to promote each other’s blogs.  Liebster in German means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.
As a sign of my gratitude and my appreciation of other writers, I would like to nominate for the next Liebster Awards the blogs I follow below because of their authors’ amazing zest for life and passion for adventure.  Do check out their sites.

My Nominees (drumroll please):
1) Jandreiventures
2) Yen and Again
3) Wandering Kakat
4) The Weekend Sightseer
5) Architecture Wander

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Rules of the Award
1) In a blog post, thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
2) Answer the questions sent by that person who nominated you.
3) Nominate other bloggers for the award and ask them a new set of questions.
4) List the rules for the nominees and display the Liebster logo in your post and in your blog.
If my nominees do not wish to accept the award, I am fine with that.  Although it would be great to know more about you my fellow bloggers.  If you are new to this nomination (or your first time to hear about it), you can click here for more ideas about the guidelines, questions to ask your nominees, and some latest Liebster logos you can attach to your post.  Remember to notify your nominees about their nominations and link them back to your blog post.

My Questions to My Nominees
1) What or who inspired you to start your blog?
2) What do you think made your blog successful (in terms of number of followers, visibility, etc)?
3) Where are you from and what top 3 places in your country / hometown would you recommend travelers to visit?
4) What are your Top 3 Dream Travel Destinations and why?
5) What place or country left the most impact on you and what is your most important take away from that place or country?
6) Any unique experience / advice / lesson you want to share with other travelers / bloggers?

Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian (Macau)

The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian, Macau (January 2017)

My Answers to Audrey’s Questions
1) What is the story behind your blog’s name?
I originally wanted to write a book about my specialized work in architecture but busyness caused that writing project to be shelved.  I picked up photography as a cure for tunnel vision and found myself writing about my photos instead.  My blog title (From Lines to Lenses) explains that shift from writing about Architecture (Lines, Drawings, etc.) to writing about Photography & Travel (Lens, Cameras, etc).  Pretty lame isn’t it? 🙂
2) Why did you start blogging?
I was already using photo-sharing sites before I started this blog, but found those free sites to have ever-changing formats and interfaces.  Having your own blog allows you to contol appearance, format and content.  Nowadays, almost everyone has a web presence, and owning your own blog (or domain) is a powerful medium to reach other people with the same interests.  If you have something to share (or if you love writing), the blog is a perfect venue to do that.
3) What according to you is the best thing about blogging?
I realized that there are many talented and creative people out there, and some of them are very inspiring writers and bloggers.  Blogging allowed me to reach out to other people with the same passions; and their experiences and stories help me improve my own skills.  I love photography and travel; and blogs are the best sources of travel advice and real-world experiences for me.
4) What is/are your goal(s) for 2017?
Other than my personal & career goals (which I think are too many to write here), I plan to see either Australia (Sydney) or the Middle East (Dubai) in the later part of this year.  As I am working in Singapore and away from my family, it will take a bit of logistic planning to travel with them to either of these places.  Meantime, I just came back from Macau and will be back in Hong Kong next week for a company trip.  Singapore also has 7 long weekends this year, so I will do a lot of road trips and photography projects around those long weekends.  I am also looking at the potential of earning revenue from my photography.
5) Where are you from and what is the common stereotype / misconception about your home town / state / country?
I am from Manila, capital city of the beautiful Philippines.  One of my former employers had a branch office in Manila but I heard the owner of the company never really visited that Manila office for fear of being kidnapped.  While crime is always present (what country doesn’t have one?), those isolated incidents of abducting aliens (and alien abductions 🙂 ) still will not take away the fact that my country has its own unique set of resources and beauty (I’m a good example by the way 🙂 ).  When traveling to the Philippines (or to any unfamiliar country), it is good common sense to have a friend or someone who knows the place well to guide and accompany you.  Each country I have visited has certain areas I was told to avoid, and I was wise enough to follow that advice.
6) What kind of traveler are you- spontaneous or planner?
The trips I take are never long enough so I do a fair amount of planning to maximize my time when I get to my destination.  With my trips planned around photography and with the speed at which I need to take pictures, a good deal of research about the places I plan to cover is always a key.
7) Share your worst travel experience ever.
All my travels so far were pleasant ones (thank God).  Most of the locals we encountered were kind to tourists; except for a few cranky ones inside crowded trains, buses and restaurants who are oblivious of the tourists around them.  Language is a challenge sometimes (my fault by the way) but adds to the beauty of the experience.
8) What is one important lesson you have learnt in your travels?
Not just one, but a lot actually.  Traveling helped me respect other cultures and to understand friends and colleagues who come from all sorts of nationalities and backgrounds.  When visiting another country, I also learn more about my own country than the country I am visiting.  Also, travel photography (being different from a family holiday) is best done alone to maximize the time (I apologize to my family who will read this 🙂 ).  To travel to take pictures is different from taking pictures while traveling.  If you have to do both travel photography and a family holiday, it is always best to plan the holiday sightseeing around the places you plan to shoot.  As always, I plan well and try to cover a place like it will be my first and last chance to see it.

So there you go.  Again, stay grateful and inspired.  My sincere thanks once more to Audrey of Living for Experiences for this wonderful Liebster Award.  Do check her wonderful blog at www.audreysimplicity.com

See you in my next post. Cheers!!!  🙂