Tag Archives: photo

A Diagram of Enlightenment: Borobudur, Indonesia

Borobudur, located in central Java, Indonesia, is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and one of the oldest and most important Buddhist structures. Lost to the jungles and the earth until the mid-19th century, it was first completed around 825 CE, when Java and much of modern-day Indonesia was predominantly Buddhist and Hindu. By the 14th century, the Hindu and Buddhist dynasties declined, giving rise to Islam in the archipelago.

Today, Borobudur and its nearby Hindu companion, Prambanan, are sources of cultural pride for the predominantly Muslim country of Indonesia. Much like Angkor Wat of Cambodia, Borobudur and Prambanan connect to a mighty and mysterious past when traders from India, the Arabic world, and East Asia converged in the region to form great dynasties.

The monument is meant to portray a sort of “diagram” of Enlightenment. From above, Borobudur represents a Buddhist mandala or map of the universe, and this is noticed when climbing the monument. As the pilgrim ascends the monument, one sees bas reliefs of different stages of  Gautama Buddha’s life as well as the law of karma. In addition, statues of the Buddha represent certain meanings with mudras, or the positions of Gautama’s hands. These seating positions take place inside and out of stupas, or places for meditation which resemble cages. As a result, the top of this monument leads to the Buddhas being commonly referred to as the “caged Buddhas” of Indonesia.

Above: Tour groups, mostly from Indonesia, descend on Indonesia’s most-visited tourist attraction. Notice the school group at bottom right. Western tourists can expect to be asked to be included in quite a few of the locals’ photos!

Above: Buddhas sit in their stupas along the exterior of the temple. Notice the missing heads of some Buddhas. As with Angkor Wat in Cambodia, many heads are missing due to treasure hunters.

Above: One of the more complete statues which has survived the elements and treasure hunters.

Above: These two shots show the extensive bas reliefs along the sides of the temple. Stories of teaching, enlightenment, and the results of karma are told. Many of these reliefs are being slowly torn apart by the elements, including the harsh monsoon rains.

 

 

Above: A Buddha sits in a half-open stupa near the top of the temple. On a clear day, Mt. Merapi, an active volcano, is present. We seemed to have had too much haze to see it clearly.

Above: Caged stupas near the top.

 

In addition to Borobudur, there are two other temples in the area. The larger and more impressive of the two is Mendut, which also consists of a Buddhist monastery. Actually older than Borobudur, it is a starting point in a yearly religious pilgrimage for local Buddhists. It is geographically located in a straight line connecting Borobudur on one end, Pawon in the middle, and Mendut on the other side.

Above: Mendut temple.

Above: Main statue in Mendut Temple.

Above: The adjacent Mendut Buddhist Monastery. Notice the Javanese architecture in the main building to the left.

Further Reading: Borobudur Wikipedia Article and Mendut Wikipedia Article

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Older Photos from Throughout Asia

As I was digging through my Flickr archives today, I noticed that I don’t post very many photos at all here! My Flickr account, small by some standards, just passed 6,000 photos recently. This is a miniscule amount of what I shoot, as I think I have 25,000+ photos in raw/.NEF format on an external hard drive.

Anyway, it’s good now and then to take a look at older shots, especially with my lack of digging out the camera these days. Here is a mix of places and subjects:

Above: Bangkok, Thailand: monks disembark from the Chao Praya Express boat.

Above: Bangkok, where I got stuck in the middle of after-school rush hour. Somewhere near the Chao Praya river.

Above: Ryukyu drum performance in Okinawa, Japan.

Above: Traditional “hanbok” style Korean dresses in Seoul.

Above: Taipei’s Ximending district, sometime around Chinese New Year 2013.

Above: Somewhere in Naha, Okinawa.

Above: Khmer folk dancers in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Above: Bas relief, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

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24 Hours in Beijing

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here, but I’ll hopefully be getting the camera out again as I’m back in Taiwan. I recently went through Beijing and was “stuck” with a 24-hour layover. This allowed my wife and I to explore some of the city through the subway. We only spent a few hours really exploring as we were a bit jet lagged after a 13-hour flight. Shots below.

Above: Tienanmen, translated as the “Gate of Heavenly Peace,” the iconic red central building at the heart of Tienanmen Square.

The Imperial Ancestral Temple in the Forbidden City (above and below).

Above: Tiananmen Square from across the street near the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Visible is the “Monument to the People’s Heroes,” (foreground) and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.

Above and below: more street scenes around a large market/shopping district. Near Donghuamen and Wanfujing.

  

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Weekend Post: Cambodia Slideshow

I’m doing something I don’t normally do and posting on the weekend to show off a slideshow I made of my time in Cambodia, with special emphasis made on ancient Khmer culture and the ruins of Angkor Archaeological Park.

The music in this slideshow comes from a recording made by Tara Alan and Tyler Kellen. They recorded a group of landmine victims playing traditional Cambodian music for their blog about bicycling around the world, Going Slowly. While they seem to be back according to their posts, you can get a lot of insight about world travel through their ginormous website. They were nice enough to allow me to use their recording. Remember, you can buy CDs of this music from the musicians themselves, who frequent areas around the temples.

I recommend seeing this video at full screen and if possible, at 1080p quality, the highest available.

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Another Slideshow

I’ve decided to create another slideshow – this time in two parts to shorten the length to about two minutes. While I’m finished with both, I’ve only posted the first on Youtube so far and it can be seen below.

The theme I’m going for here is “Ilha Formosa – Taiwan Today” due to the very general nature of these photos. The first video includes some more traditional scenes while the second video will have a modern twist. Make sure to watch at 720p or 1080p HD quality and at full-screen to get the full impact.

Make sure to check out my first video slideshow and a video I created of the Pingxi Lantern festival for Chinese New Year 2011.

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Getting Ready for a Break

Next week is the beginning of Chinese New Year, and it seems like things are already winding down.  I’m planning on showing some family members around and am looking forward to exploring southern Taiwan.  In addition, we’ll be taking part in New Year’s festivities, so it’ll be a loud week, if anything!

These were taken while walking around a year-end celebration in the community.  Lots of reds here, as you’d expect!

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Long Exposures in Taichung

One of the more difficult types of photos to take is the ever cool looking long exposure.  Usually done at night, these are made by setting the Aperture to a high number (my lens goes to f-stop 22) and holding the shutter open on “bulb” mode.  If you hold it too long, and it’s bleached out.  Too little, and it’s too dark.  Oh – and don’t wobble it… most people do this with a tripod and remote trigger.

These photos are some pictures of traffic at dusk using this method.  I was actually very happy with this set because it’s the first time I’ve gotten this moving traffic in this way.  I’m going to have to try more techniques, like the black card – which should let me keep the shutter open longer and get more movement without bleaching things out.

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Luce Chapel, Taichung

This set of photos looks like it could have been taken in the US – a chapel on the campus of a private Methodist-founded college in Taichung by the name of Tunghai University.  Taichung is Taiwan’s third largest city and geographically in the center of the country… its name “台中” actually including the chracters for “middle of Taiwan.”*

All photos are HDR except for the last which is made with a single exposure.  Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, I changed the layout and theme of this site – let me know if you do/don’t hate it if you want.  I went with the black background because this oddly became a photo blog – something I never planned on starting.

*Lots of Taiwanese cities are like this.  台北 (Taipei) simply means “north of Taiwan.”  The city I live in, 竹北 (Jhubei or Zhubei) refers to being “north of bamboo.”  Just south of 竹北 is 新竹, or Hsinchu.  The “竹” character refers to the bamboo which I’m guessing used to be in the area while, if you haven’t noticed, 北 means “north.”

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Jhubei Night Market

While I have already made a post about the ShiDa Night Market, I was recently excited to visit a market here in Jhubei which is obviously easier to get to, still very large, and occurs weekly.  As I said before, night markets are pretty common here in Taiwan, and you can expect some very good food to go along with your visit.

Above, we have some common scenes: crowds and food.  Both of these are huge things to contend with… and when I mean “content with” food, I mean that you have to choose.  One of the choices, below, is known as Chou Dofu, or “Stinky” Tofu (臭豆腐).  臭豆腐 is a form of tofu which is first fermented – so you can imagine it lives up to its name of being “stinky.”  I had the chance to try this in Houston and hated it as mine smelled and TASTED like feet, and was quite apprehensive to try it again here in Taiwan.  I certainly smelled it… Yuling wasn’t fooling me extremely well when she tried to feed it to me as I finished off my barbeque corn.  I told myself, though, that I’d give it another go, grabbed it with my chopsticks… and…

…it wasn’t too bad, actually!  I even like it more than the Taiwanese “kimchi” or cabbage, which goes pretty well with it… if you ever eat it, though, do yourself a favor and DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT read the Wikipedia article on how it’s made before you do.  I thought about this while eating it, and it almost ended very, very poorly. I can at least add this to the pig intestine, duck blood, chicken feet, chicken gizzard, and beef tongue that I’ve had so far… and with the exception of that tofu, I apologize to any vegetarians out there.  Just make sure you hang around the Buddhist monasteries for food if you come to Taiwan… everyone else is a definite carnivore here.

Anyway, on to some more photos…

Again, a reminder: sometimes photos are heavily cropped to make them more interesting – to see this photo, just click on it and you’ll see a larger size in Flickr.

So the above photo is representative of some of the carnival-style games they had.  In the front of the rows, you’ll see some basic items… snacks, soda, whatever.  If you can throw a ring around it, you’ve got it.  Further back?  Beer bottles.  With beer.  A little bit more?  A full bottle of whiskey.  Hmmm.

…gotta love the flavored corn.  I tried my BBQ corn at a different stall, but will be visiting this one in the future.

…and another stall cooking stinky tofu on skewers with cabbage…

…sashimi, anyone?

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From the Peak (Hong Kong Post 2)

On the second day of our Hong Kong trip, we took a walk around the city as I searched high and low for a Nikkor 70-300mm lens, the second of my collection since purchasing my DSLR.

While I didn’t get the lens at first, we did get to tour the Lower Manhattan-esque Central District of Hong Kong. I honestly wasn’t enthralled as other than the fact that I was walking up steep hills and sharing narrow sidewalks, it felt as if I’d seen it all before. However, we did get to a series of ridiculously long escalators, which took us most of the way up the mountain. Closer to the top, we eventually encountered the “Peak” cable trolley – which took us to the top of the city for a spectacular view. Photos below.

The two above photos show our trolley on the way up (first photo) and the way down.  You can see the grade on this hill – it was actually very steep… I tried not to think about that too much…

…an HDR of a lion “guarding” the city…

…and the city itself, with a regular single exposure.  Too bad it was a dreary day, as it didn’t help my lighting at all…

…and the trolley going down the mountain.

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