OK, so I haven’t been taking any photos or posting much of anything. This post is an attempt to get back to taking photos and posting again. Life’s been busy, but I hate that I’ve neglected this blog.
Anyway, little to say about this shot. It’s a mountain Buddhist temple at Lion’s Head Mountain, Miaoli County. I’ll stick to this single shot today and hopefully there will be more to come soon!
On Monday, I posted about the Big Buddha of Baguashan (八卦山), a large Buddhist monument near Changhua City (彰化巿) which sits atop a small mountain overlooking the city. Here are some more shots from that trip:
Above: A visit to this statue includes a beautiful panoramic view of Changhua City. I didn’t even try to capture it all – but the viewing platform gives a good view of about 180 degrees.
Inside the statue is a large amount of varied Buddhist art, which is narrated in English and Chinese by conveniently-located plaques near each display. While the bottom floor is a temple proper, the upper levels include areas to learn about the stages in Buddha’s life and important moments in Chinese Buddhist history.
Above right: behind the statue is a large temple dedicated to Confucius (孔夫子) and Guan Gong (關公), the Chinese god of war. I’m not sure what was on the top level as I didn’t have time to look, but you can certainly see a melting of Buddhist and Chinese culture in this temple complex.
On the way up to the temple is a line of about 50 Chinese gods. They make for some interesting photography as each has a different personality, expression, and look.
This is a second post featuring Bangkok’s Wat Arun Temple. The “Temple of the Dawn” is the tallest temple in Bangkok and is situated on the Chao Phraya River. Some of the best possible shots of the temple across the river need to be made on a moving boat due to the congestion of people and buildings on the shore. Check out my first post about Wat Arun for more.
These dancers, which took some stylistic inspiration from the Buddhist “1,000 Hands Dance” – a mostly Chinese phenomenon - recently performed at a Tibetan Culture Festival here in Jhubei. While this dance is not Tibetan, it was the first time I saw such a performance.
For the posed shots, the 35mm f/1.8 was great. I mixed it with an upward-pointing SB-600 to get a sort of glow and kept it from being used directly. The 70-300 without the flash was useful for the actual dance.
While I’ve posted about Wat Pho before, I wanted to share some more of these golden Buddhas at the temple. I actually took a second chance to visit the temple and take photos as the complex itself is huge. The second time, I played around with depth of field and took my time in the hallways which connect the main buildings.
Wat Arun, known as the Temple of Dawn, is located across the Chao Phraya River from Wat Pho. It is the tallest temple in Bangkok, and visitors can climb to the top of the very high central tower for 50 baht, about $1.65 USD.
You’ll have to take a ferry to get to Maharaj Pier and then another to cross the river. The cost? 15 baht to the first pier, a whole 3 baht to the Wat Arun pier. Not bad at all, but it is a bit time consuming waiting for boats to come in.
Wat Pho, one of the most important Buddhist sites in Thailand if not the world, is a temple dedicated to the “Reclining Buddha,” a retelling of the last moments of Siddhartha Gautama’s life before he entered nirvana. While this is not the largest standing or reclining buddha in the world, it is an important part of the Bangkok experience and a main tourist attraction, being next to the Grand Palace.
Above Left: Bowls used for “wishing coins” given to visitors line up along a side of the temple interior. Right: A gold-plated buddha. The gold flakes on the statue are left by the faithful – this is a very common practice in Thai Buddhism.
Notice the tophat on this statue. This statue as well as the one to the above right were given by the Chinese as gifts and placed here by the Thai monarchy.
Apsara, the traditional Cambodian ballet which dates back thousands of years, is a dance form which is a bit of a mainstay of southeast Asian culture. Many people associate the dance form with Thailand, but Cambodia and Thailand probably share this form as a result of their Hindu-influenced strains of Buddhism.
We saw this performance in a pretty luxurious hotel (which we didn’t stay at) which offered a dance and a dinner for about $25 – a fortune for a meal in Cambodia. Also included was a form of Cambodian folk dance.
While we were seated near the front and I soon noticed photos were OK, I had trouble with the stage lights being unpredictable, not wanting to use flash (though others did), and the movement of the dancers being much quicker than I had realized.
Left: I included this image from Angkor Wat to show you how similar these dancers are. They could be apsaras or devatas, and I’m am not 100% certain.
Above: a representation of the killing of a demon. I believe this relates to the Hindu story of the Ramayana, detailing the stealing away of an Indian princess named Sita and the rescue of her by Rama, an avatar of Vishnu.
Today’s image is a standard scene taken by thousands of photographers before me. I woke poor Yuling up at about 4:00am to meet Thean, our tuk-tuk driver for the two days of exploring temples. We then hopped in the back of the tuk-tuk at about 4:40 and rushed in after buying our park passes.
I was startled and amazed at a few things after seeing this scene in person for the first time. The first is that the water in front of Angkor Wat is NOT the famous moat around the complex as I had thought before. It is a manmade pond on the northwest corner of the complex that looks east for the sunrise. It DOES work wonderful for reflections and the fact that there are some breakfast stands to the left doesn’t hurt, either.
The second thing that startled me is the huge mass of photographers and tourists who group up around this small lake for that one picture. In the future, when I see documentaries of Angkor Wat talking about this as a “remote jungle temple complex,” I will laugh. The site itself is in the hands of the tourists now, for better or for worse.
While I’m glad I woke up for the shot, part of me is startled by how little reward there is in getting an image like this – I think this is why I like the concept and practice of street photography, which is infinitely more interesting. With that said, I’m not complaining about my chance to get “the Angkor Wat shot” I was looking for.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be processing and posting shots from my recent trip through Cambodia and Thailand, which took us from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap to Bangkok and Ko Samet. It was an exhausting yet rewarding trip, though we definitely saved time for the beaches of Thailand at Ko Samet near the end.
I’m still trying to contemplate how different the two countries are. Both are based in the same lines of cultural, religious, and historical ancestry but are bitter enemies. I will consider some of these differences in future posts, but should start off with something both countries have very much in common: Theravada Buddhism.
These monks were wandering around Angkor Wat on our third day in Cambodia. The older monk was showing about eight or nine young monks, boys around the ages of 8-10, around the temple complex. In Thailand and Cambodia, monks are not always dedicating their entire life to service in the monastery, so I’m guessing these boys may have recently entered service and will remain living the lives of monks for a few months at most.
While an obvious language barrier existed, it was interesting to see them explore the temple almost as tourists themselves. They were nice enough to stop for some photos as another tourist took a photo of the group with the eldest monk’s cameraphone.