Kuala Lumpur

Today we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – a fascinating city and culture.  I have learned through this entire trip and have reinforced the idea that much of Southeast Asia has been influenced by India, Britain, China, and the Islam world.  Malaysia is no exception and has the additional influence of the native Malays.  It’s an amazing meld of confluence.  By the way, the name Kuala Lumpur means the confluence (Kuala) of mud (Lumpur) which represents the two rivers that converge.  In our excursion today, we were introduced to the Muslim influence, the Buddhist influence and the Hindu influence on this wonderful city.

Our first stop along the way was the Blue Mosque in Shah Alam just outside of Kuala Lumpur.  It was breathtaking.  

We then visited the Buddhist temple filled with Chinese influences.  The temple was filled with all sorts of red lanterns and beautiful displays.  

In the garden area, there were sculptures representing each of the Chinese zodiac symbols.  My sign was the year of the Dragon and Rich’s was the Ox.

We then headed into the Indian neighborhood and visited the Hindu temple.  I entered the temple – not before taking off my shoes – and took a photo in the temple as a ceremony was underway.  I snuck this photo in without anyone seeing me.  There’s also a picture of the area where people wash their feet before or after the temple.

We then headed to the Royal Palace.  Malaysia has a government very much based on the Great Britain model – a parliament, prime minister, and yes, a king.  In Malaysia, however, the king is only king for 5 years and they rotate the title among the 9 ( I think that’s right) sultans across Malaysia.  Very interesting model.  And it can only be a king – queens do not possess any power.  They also have a similar process to Buckingham Palace where the guards change at specific times.  The royal guards here, however, do not seem as stiff as their British counterparts as you’ll see from the photos.  Also, yellow is the royal color.

 

Off we went to the war memorial that was very impressive. 

Our last stop was the center of Kuala Lumpur and its distinctive architecture.  We stopped at the Twin Towers which is the highest twin towers in the world and a distinctive symbol of Kuala Lumpur.  Although we didn’t get to go the top, the towers were very impressive.

 

It was a fascinating day in Kuala Lumpur and I’m very glad that we were able to see it.  Kuala Lumpur is not as impressive as Singapore but it still has a lot to offer.  There still remains a lot of competition between Kuala Lumpur, or Malaysia in general, and Singapore but Singapore is definitely on top.  I do believe, however, that Kuala Lumpur is a thriving and beautiful city that has a lot of potential.  It’s amazing to see the integration or maybe just partnership between the very different cultures.  I believe that we will see more of that in the days ahead.  Meanwhile, we have one more stop tomorrow in Malaysia and it’s the city of Penang.  It also has a long history and potentially has much to see.  

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Posted in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Singapore

What a great place Singapore is!  Everything you’ve ever heard about it is absolutely true.  It’s beautiful and so clean.  Everything is organized in a very deliberate fashion and English is spoken everywhere.  We arrived early this morning and had to meet our excursion group at 8:10am – a little earlier than usual but not a serious problem.  We chose to do the Ins and Outs of Singapore excursion which included a multitude of public transportation with a relatively small group.

Our first stop was in Chinatown and we entered a Buddhist temple.  We’ve seen our share of temples but this one was quite impressive.  We entered into the front part of the temple and observed a monk performing some prayers but then stepped into a much larger area that included 50 or so devotees chanting and reading from Chinese scrolls.  It was very impressive.

 

We then entered a famous Hawker Market that contained both dry and wet items for purchase.  The first photos demonstrate the food that was for sale even though Wednesday was an off day for many of the vendors.  The vegetables you’ll see were all packaged in plastic bags and looked very fresh.  You’ll also see an eatery (unfortunately closed) that garnered a Michelin star.

 

And then we entered the downstairs area which was full of fresh fish and other items – a ton of poor little frogs.  The single fish you see in the tank was the hit of the market – it sells for $100,000 not to be eaten but to be held in someone’s tank.

 

We then were taken to a Trishaw Park where we were driven around the city for approximately 30 minutes.  It wasn’t too scary even though we were mixed in with all of the normal traffic…. Singapore, by the way, drives on the left side of the road.

 

We were also offered a one day pass on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) which was as clean and organized as you could ever imagine.  It’s all automated with no driver at the wheel.

Next, we took a boat tour of the Singapore River which offered some amazing views and panoramas of the city.

 

Rich and I ended our tour by having some authentic Singapore lunch along the river and then back to the ship.

I had always looked forward to visiting Singapore on this cruise.  I wasn’t disappointed at all.  Singapore and its people are truly beautiful.  Its people are a mix of Chinese, Malay, and Indian and make for an interesting melange of cultures.  Everyone on the ship enjoyed their excursions as well and thought that Singapore so far was the highlight of the cruise.  

We’re off tomorrow to Malaysia and our first visit is Kuala Lumpur.  The temperatures and humidity continue to challenge us but it’s all good.  Stay tuned for more adventures.

 

Posted in Singapore

Koh Samui

I know it’s been a couple of days since I’ve made a new blog entry.  With all of the traveling between Siem Reap and Bangkok and then to the port, I just haven’t had time.  The bus trip from the Bangkok airport to the port where our ship was docked took almost 3 hours.  Here’s the map of our current locations and the route to Singapore.

 

As I’m writing this post, we have a full day at sea.  We visited the small island of Koh Samui yesterday and had a nice time.  Of course, we’re still experiencing 95 degrees and very high humidity – I don’t think that’s going to change in the near or distant future.  Our excursion on Koh Samui included a trip to a beach resort where we enjoyed drinks, food, and the scenery.  This resort is typically visited by Australians, British, Germans, and a few Americans.  Here are a few photos of the entry to Koh Samui.

 

We spent 4 hours at the resort and enjoyed a very nice Thai buffet including all sorts of treats – sorry, no photos of that.  But we managed to see this jet skier rocket man in the bay as everyone watched.

 

And here are a few photos of the scenery at the resort.

 

We returned to the ship and got ready for our dinner at the Chartreuse restaurant.  I took these last photos as we left Koh Samui.  I’ll try to take some photos today onboard the Voyager as we sail to Singapore….I can’t wait to see Singapore.

Posted in Koh Samui, Thailand

Cambodia

We left Bangkok early in the morning and caught our flight on Thai Smile Airways to Siem Reap.  Isn’t that a cute name for an airline?  They were amazing… For only a one hour flight we got a box lunch/breakfast with drinks and fruit.  I now believe Thai Smile is an appropriate name.

We were met at the airport by our Regent Cruise Line representatives and were quickly whisked off to our hotel in Siem Reap.  Here’s our welcome…

 

After our lunch at the hotel, we visited two temples – Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom.

As we entered Ta Prohm, we encountered a group of performers who were seeking donations.  They were victims of land mine explosions and we subsequently witnessed more victims over our 2 days here.

Here are some of the photos I took at Ta Prohm.  You’ll see that much of the temple is in ruins but also entwined with roots of these incredibly old trees.  The roots were amazing to see.

The three children at the end were so cute I couldn’t resist taking their photo.  And of course, they never looked at the camera. 

Next we went to Angkor Thom whose grounds are immense.  This temple is quite different in that it’s quite high and requires a lot of steep climbing.  Mind you, this all took place in the afternoon at 95 degrees and with extreme humidity.  It was a grueling series of steps up and steps down – no handrails either.  

I asked Rich to take this picture of me without realizing how sweaty and clammy I might look.

 

As we left Angkor Thom, we had an opportunity to take photos of the South Gate in all of its splendor.  

 

Today we visited Angkor Wat and realized how extraordinary a site it actually is.  At the height of its dominance, the area and temple housed over a million people – larger in population at the time than any city in Europe.  During its long existence, it was both a Hindu and Buddhist temple making many of the wall reliefs vivid representations of its long history.  Additionally, Angkor Wat was victimized by thieves over the years and lost all of its gold adornments.  It was truly spectacular.

I was also fortunate enough to have a photo taken with these temple dwellers – it only cost $1.  They told me to place my hands a certain way but I don’t know what that meant.

I also then got blessed by this monk.

Although he allowed me to take his picture (also for $1 donation), it was a little embarrassing.  He didn’t speak English very well, I was extremely nervous and forgot to take of my shoes as I stepped on his mat. That probably puts me in some bad karma but I couldn’t understand what he was telling me.  At last I got it, took off my shoes and knelt in front of him.  He placed a red yarn on my wrist and proceeded to bless me with not just one offering of water but 4 or 5.  I kept my camera lens down for fear of getting it wet.  Here’s part of the ceremony.  

And then our final photo from Angkor Wat.

After returning to the hotel, we took a Tuk Tuk to Pub Street in Siem Reap.  We had lunch and drank a few Angkor beers – they were $1 in most places.  Here’s what it’s like to be in a Tuk Tuk.

 

I caught this woman on a bike as I was practicing some of my street photography…. I love her! She saw me with my camera and responded accordingly – she’s my chick on a bike!

As I close this post, I also want to share some of the extreme compassion and empathy that both Rich and I felt about the Cambodian people.  We heard horrific stories of their recent past of civil war, body mutilation from land mines and other atrocities.  The Cambodian people we met were gracious, kind, and beautiful individuals. Not knowing what to expect before we came to this country, we were so pleasantly surprised by the culture and history of this great country.  I hope that their country thrives in the years ahead.  

Next….we fly back to Bangkok tomorrow morning and board the SS Voyager in the afternoon to begin our long journey to Dubai.  Please continue to follow and share some comments.  Thank you.

 

 

Posted in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Siem Reap

Last Day in Bangkok

Today was a fairly leisurely spent day.  By now, we know our way around fairly well – at least from our hotel perspective.  We didn’t have too much planned for today but I definitely wanted to visit two more temples that I had investigated.  Luckily they were both across the river from one another.  

We decided to take the tourist ferry on the river to our destination.  The temples were located only about 4 stops away.  The ferry is extremely reasonable and crowded.  The cost was 15 baht (50 cents) per person – you can’t beat that price right?  I took the following photos from the pier as we were waiting.  

I liked the colorful set of boats and also wanted another panorama of the city from the river.

Next, we were off to Wat Arun.  This temple and its surrounding area was massive.  You’ll see from the photos how high the actual temple is.  We weren’t allowed to go beyond the second level but that was frankly enough for both Rich and me.  The steps to that level were extremely narrow and steep with no guard rails to be found.  We both literally inched our way up each step but found that descending was equally as challenging.  Anyway, it was an incredible site.  

Whereas Wat Arun was relatively devoid of crowds, Wat Pho was just the opposite.  You see, it’s the home of the giant reclining Buddha and I certainly wanted to capture that moment.  Getting a clean shot of the Buddha was very difficult.  First because of the amount of people standing in your way and secondly because of its immense size.  Nonetheless, here are photos I captured.  

For our last dinner in Bangkok, we decided to go to the authentic Thai restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.  Oddly enough, the restaurant is across the river from the hotel but the hotel provides a private boat to the other side.  Of course, we’re not staying at the Mandarin.  No worries, we got there without an issue and enjoyed not only royal Thai cuisine but traditional Thai entertainment.  Here’s a look at our set dinner menu.

To top off the evening we got one last photo with some of the dancers of the performance – they’re all beautiful by the way.

Another big surprise was our trip back to our hotel.  We determined that we would need to get the boat shuttle back to the Mandarin and then get a taxi back to our own hotel.  When we left the restaurant, we boarded the boat – we were the only ones onboard – and then we were surprised that the shuttle took us directly to our hotel…. we never told them where we were staying!  Door to door service in a very unique Bangkok way.  Here’s our captain and a parting shot of the boat.

Such a great ending to our stay here in Bangkok – a dynamic and beautiful city with lovely and friendly people.  We’re up tomorrow at 5am and we join the group – fairly large I think – that’s bound for Siem Reap, Cambodia. This should be quite an adventure.  Please follow us there – and oh yeah, don’t forget to drop us some comments.

Posted in Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok

Today was our first full day in Bangkok and very fortunately with a private guided tour.  Here’s our tour guide, Wanida – such a joy!

Okay, let me start by saying that I won’t be able to tell you which temples we visited or what their names were.  We both had a hard time just following along.  I understand that there are 400 temples in Bangkok but we only visited three.  So you’d think that we could manage the names and locations… right?  No such luck.  I was too focused on taking pictures and Rich humored and managed Wanida.  So let’s start with the first temple we visited – just incredible!  The Buddha was solid gold.

From Wanida we learned so much about the varying types of Buddhas.  For example, Wanida asked us on which day of the week we were born because it had some significance to the corresponding Buddha.  That last picture with the expanded hand represented the day upon which Rich was born – Saturday.  Since I was born on Wednesday, that Buddha was not in town…. or at least not in that temple.  It was fascinating to see the reverence and honor that the Thais demonstrated in all of the temples.  Every temple required us to remove our shoes before entering.  They also had guards to make sure that men wore no shorts and women were dressed appropriately – it was very comforting to experience.

We then crossed over the street to another small temple where I was able to photograph the Buddha and then later a resting monk.  I asked whether I could photograph him and also offered a small donation – he agreed but didn’t look too cheery.

Next, we were off to the Grand Palace.  This visit was truly, truly unbelievable.  First of all, the temperature today was around 90 or so degrees and extremely humid – but we were so thankful that it wasn’t raining.  Then, there were the crowds of visiting people…. also unbelievable.  The crowds were incredible – and let’s not forget all of the women with umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun.  It was truly a montage of unending umbrellas – and of course, they were always in the way of my photos.  So let’s view some of those photos that I took on the grounds of the Grand Palace.  The Emerald Buddha, which is the highlight of the tour, is not reflected below because photos of any kind were not allowed.

I especially liked the picture below because I believe that the sunlight burst is a sign of good luck – at least that’s my story.  I was so lucky to capture this.

Our next adventure was an hour long cruise along the main river in Bangkok and then the canals around the city.  Wanida got us a private boat excursion through the waterways with a few stops along the way.  One of the first was at an offshore temple where we purchased bread from a monk to feed the fish – that was amazing.  And then a woman vendor who approached us as we floated by.

We ended the day a little unexpectantly.  We had planned to have dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant but didn’t like the vibe once we were seated.  Instead, we walked to the highly recommended Sky Bar on the 64th floor of a new high-rise.  Although the view was outstanding, the drinks were extremely expensive and not exactly to our liking.  I didn’t have my camera but here’s what my iPhone captured – check out the moon sliver at the top.  

That’s it for tonight.  What a great day in Bangkok. We love the city and especially the people.  One more day and then we’re off to Cambodia.  Please continue to follow us and by all means, make some comments.

 

 

Posted in Bangkok, Thailand

One Night in Bangkok

One Night in Bangkok.  Do you remember that song?  It was 1985 and I thought about it as I’m writing this post.  What a wonderful city Bangkok is.  The people are magnificent.  Do you know that they bow and press their hands together as they say thank you….. and everyone does it.  They’re truly wonderful and respectful people.  

Well we didn’t experience much of the city today because we got here shortly after 2pm.  Thunderstorms abounded and actually caused the delay of our luggage at the airport.  Fantastic hurls of lightning and the boom of thunder.  Oh yeah, and it’s still 85 or so degrees and very humid.  

We’re staying at the Royal Orchid in the middle of the old town area.  It’s beautiful and right on the river.  Here are a few photos of the area.

Since it was raining, we decided to have dinner at the hotel in a wonderful, authentic old Thai restaurant.  Here’s what we had… a small amuse bouche from the chef – fried cod, a medley of satay, very spicy hot and sour soup, spicy shrimp, and pork wide noodles.

 

All in all, a great way to conclude our first night in Bangkok.  Check out that song.  

In the meanwhile, I’ll end tonight’s post with this dance video from our night at the restaurant….. lovely.  Good night and follow us again.

Posted in Bangkok, Thailand Tagged , |

It’s April and we’re traveling around the world.

The countdown has started to April 16th.  That’s when we begin our Asia trip….we’ve never been to Asia before. 


I characterize this trip as a trip around the world.  How so?  We fly from Los Angeles to Hong Kong and then to Bangkok, Thailand.  There we board the Seven Seas Voyager and cruise to Dubai.  At the conclusion of our cruise, we fly from Dubai to London, and then London to Los Angeles.  A complete circle of the globe.  

Here’s our complete itinerary

  • Bangkok for 3 days
  • Siem Reap, Cambodia for 2 days
  • Ko Samui, Thailand
  • Singapore
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Penang, Malaysia
  • Phuket, Thailand
  • Galle, Sri Lanka
  • Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Cochin, India
  • Mangalore, India
  • Goa, India
  • Mumbai, India
  • Muscat, Oman
  • Dubai

 Check out the map – it’s interactive!

 


I’ll be taking plenty of photos along the way with my lightweight camera gear.

It’s my Fujifilm X-T2, equipped with 18-135mm and 10-24mm lenses, and my very compact Fujifilm X100F.  They’re both ultra light and just the right amount of gear to take travel, street, food, and location photos.  Oh yeah, there’s also our trusty iPhones which we carry all the time.


So please follow us along as we share the sights and experiences of our cruise, Tribute to the Emperors.  Our first blog post will probably occur around April 17 or April 18.  Just bookmark this website and join us.  Comments are very welcome!

 

 

2 Guys from Pasadena – Marc & Rich
2guysfrompasadena@gmail.com

 

 

Posted in Photography

With An End To March

We’re almost into April so I wanted to post a few pictures from last month and this month.  

The annual Chinatown Golden Dragon parade occurred this year on February 17th.  It’s always a great time to get some candid shots of the participants and parade goers.  I really had a tough time getting photos this year because of the number of bystanders – they weren’t standing by, they were standing in front of me and the camera.    Nonetheless, here are a few sample shots.

The Arroyo Seco in Pasadena is always a great photo opportunity because of its beauty.  I spent much of this day in March getting different perspectives of the views and particularly of the La Loma Street bridge.  

The next series of shots were all taken at the Huntington Library and Gardens.  I try to visit the Huntington at least twice a month.  It’s so interesting to see how the gardens change throughout the year.  You’ll see photos of some very interesting blooms and some stunning vistas in the Gardens.  I’ve posted a photo of Blue Boy as well.  They’ll start refurbishment of the painting later this year and I’ve heard that you’ll be able to view the process in the gallery.  More to come.

Thanks for checking in.  Be sure to check back in a couple of weeks as we start our trip to Bangkok and other Asian sites.  The trip begins the week of April 16th.

Posted in Photography

A New Start in 2018

Here we are in the month of February and I’m just now beginning my blog posts for 2018.  I’ve decided that this year will include some new creative efforts and will also focus more on my photographic skills.  

I have a newly acquired Fujifilm X100F which has given me greater opportunity to focus on street photography and a simpler way of embracing creativity.  It’s a joy to use and offers so many features at your fingertips.  I particularly enjoy the film simulations that Fujifilm X cameras offer thus adding to the creativity element.  Within this post, you’ll see my many efforts at adjusting the film simulations to create a different photographic perspective.

Let’s start with my recent trip on LA’s Metro Gold and Red Lines in an effort to capture some of the artwork within certain stations.  If you haven’t seen some of the station artwork, it’s really worth a day on Metro.  Here are a few samples:

One of the most attractive stations is at Highland and Hollywood.  The patterns and forms are stunning.

And then there are the people watching aspects of Metro – always an interesting way to spend the day…

All of these photos were taken with the X100F. It’s a great camera to capture people in a very discreet way without alarming them with a large DSLR.

Some final photos of a close up of camellias in my yard, a shot of Pasadena City Hall, and a day with Rembrandt at the Norton Simon Museum.

I’ll keep posting on my blog and hope to share some more creative work this year. Meanwhile, please follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

Thanks for taking the time to follow me.

Posted in Photography