All posts filed under: Visual Diary

bali

Solitary / Bali, Indonesia

It all started with two words: why not? That rhetorical question gave me my solitary adventure in Bali November of last year. My cousin just came from the island from her backpacking trip-around-the world and she had nothing but praises for the renowned tourist attraction. She said it would do me wonders to travel alone and just let myself be in the ‘Island of the Gods’. I have always travelled with family and friends and deciding to forge ahead by myself suddenly gave me an unexpected thrill. I had money to spare, time on my hands, and a resolve to know myself better, so why not? Thus began my most cherished season to find courage within me and beauty around me. Admittedly, the allure of this Indonesian tropical paradise has been enhanced with Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir (adapted into a film starring Julia Roberts), Eat Pray Love. But as I would find out, the charm of Bali is not only due to its breathtaking sunset beaches, mystical temples, and spa clubs; its real staying power …

huahin

Nature’s soundtrack inspires / Hua Hin, Thailand

Cities have their charms, but I always find myself drawn to the open landscapes and nature, mostly to recuperate and clear my thoughts. One of my commendable spots for such an activity is Hua Hin, a haven of serenity in a town of Thailand. Walk around Hua Hin and you can find people, sometimes with a book in their hands, sitting by the shore and watching the waves, and listening to the tranquil soundtrack of the ocean. Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, located an hour away from Hua Hin, is heaven on earth with waterfalls, caves, white sand beaches, and limestone caves that will leave you wanting more. Laem Sam Beach, accessible either by foot or by boat, gives you plenty of space to roam freely with its perfectly white sandy beach under your feet. The accent of the place seen in its combination of tropical palm and pine trees. En route to the beach, we hiked around the shore to the peak of the smaller mountain and marvelled at nature’s beauty. In front …

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No such thing as bad weather / Mount Rainier

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” -John Ruskin After three days of sunshine in Portland, we drove to our rented cabin in Packwood, Washington. Along the way, we met with bouts of rain, which felt like a sign of the coming two days we would spend just outside Mount Rainier National Park. The plan was to get a couple of days of hiking in before heading back to Seattle. I was especially looking forward to Skyline Trail from Paradise, which was a 5.5 mile trail that would take us four hours through views of Mount Rainier’s peak, Nisqually Glacier, and valleys of subalpine wildflowers. Alas, the weather on Rainier had other plans. The days we spent in and around the National Park were heavy with fog, and almost always raining. Looking back now, it felt like nature’s way of telling us to rest. Since parts of Skyline Trail were snowed in, we took …

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Between Cities / Japan

If I had to pick a favourite country, Japan would be it. With that being said, I’ll proceed with an obviously unbiased account of my trips there. Japan to the average person is mainly known for anime and sashimi, but let me tell you this: I don’t watch anime and I am averse to raw fish. So how is Japan my favourite country if I don’t indulge in these two things? Well, it’s their impeccable attention to detail that I find fascinating. I challenge you to find another Asian country that takes design and aesthetics more seriously than Japan. In Japan, it seems like no expense has been spared in making things look good and working efficiently. Traffic light consoles, directional signs, and even trashcans are well-made. This attention to detail is most apparent when you use their subway systems. You’ll find that trains arrive on time, down to the exact minute. Ah, the trains. You can get to almost any town by rail in Japan. I liken the train rides to a flipbook, where …

kerala india

More than tea and tuk-tuks/ Kerala, India

Bustling streets, people atop already full train carriages, and the Taj Mahal. That’s India, right? Well, not if you have been to Kerala. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I booked that random flight out to Kochi, a coastal city in Kerala. Upon touching down at the airport, I quickly established that life here is much more laidback than the other countries I’ve been to. The airport looked like a huge European colonial house, while the people who had gathered outside to welcome the arrival of their friends and family were chilling on their picnic mats. I felt like I was at a strange housewarming party instead of in an airport. Morning arrived, and so did the first bus. This is our transport through the winding and confusing streets leading out to Fort Kochi. A few minutes short of two hours later, we were there. Time passed by slowly here, and that time is best spent sipping on piping hot cups of masala chai. Fun fact: Tea is India’s national drink! As if …

alaska

Juneau, Alaska

Surrounded by mountains and waterfront, Juneau, the capital of Alaska, is a popular tourist destination. Rightly so, as it features Mendenhall Glacier and Mount Roberts Tramway as its main attractions. There are also plenty of shops to visit. Helicopter ride tours to Mendenhall Glacier are offered in town, while Mount Roberts Tramway is accessible from downtown and is just a short walk from the docks. With each of us fitted with a pair of glacier boots, my group and I boarded the turbine helicopter for a ride to the world-famous Mendenhall Glacier. We soared over alpine ridges and forests and were treated to sights of the impressive glaciers. The route took us through an endless series of jagged peaks, deep valleys and, above all, those deep-blue crevasses which stretched across the entire glacier. Descending towards our landing site, we flew past the Mendenhall Towers – rock sentinels that stood nearly 7,000 feet. The helicopter whisked off after dropping us at our site, leaving us to soak in Alaska’s outdoor serenity. With the strong, fresh Alaskan …

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Worth the climb, Mt Bromo

Two days in Surabaya, then southbound toward the east of Java, and off to Mount Bromo. It was an unforgettable experience. Long drives. Cold nights. A warm cup of strange Indonesian coffee. Packs of tourists. Hardly visible road paths. Sandstorms. 4×4 Toyotas. Tenggerese natives. Sand in your face making you choke. Incredibly thin air making you pant after climbing a flight of stairs. More tourists. Majestic horses. Steep climbs. Layers and layers of clothing. Experiencing the whole universe under a blanket of stars. Still more tourists.   Most people believe in the age-old cliche that it is the journey and not the destination that matters. I beg to differ. Mount Bromo was different. It IS the destination that supersedes any journey. The majesty that can be seen on location of the active volcano is just inspiring. There is something magical about the place. It was like filtered with a VSCO Cam preset or some nature fairy sprinkled pixie dust everywhere.   When morning comes, the sun would lay her hands on the sandy plains. I …

iran iskandar

Breathing space, Iran

Inhale. It took me weeks to find a way to translate your kind of beauty into words. The kind that robs the breath from my lungs and keeps my lips hanging on to your name. I long for the day my lips will meet yours again, Azizam. To have your December sighs resting like sparrows, nestled within the cavities of my collarbones. I am slouching now, under the gravity of your nostalgia. The burden of this longing is much too overwhelming. What is an honest way to pen down the complex conflict between fear and thrill landing at the airport in Tehran? Get a visa, and a whole new world in your palms. How do I find a number to round up the stars across the 60 miles of drive back to Yazd? I have never seen so much darkness and light at the same time. Or the way my feet sank themselves into the desert sands at Varzaneh, begging to never part ways from your earth? And when I treaded the entire spine of …

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On the road, Tainan 臺南

I found myself cycling on Minquan Road, and it was the first time I was doing so in a city where cars where whistling by and scooters were weaving through the usual traffic. I almost veered off course because the driver before me had decided to stop for a quick smoke. Tainan is the oldest city located in southern Taiwan and I have returned to live it slow this time. My third visit to this city would charm me all over again. It felt liberating to feel the wind caressing my face as I cycled. I had to keep my balance on the bicycle as the roads were filled with potholes. Houses along the roads presented their aged faces full of stories, their wrinkles on display – peeled paint, rusty metal gates, sidewalk cracks, layers of algae and patina, and splinters stuck out from unfinished wood windows. I am a certified caffeine addict and in every city I have visited, I have hunted for a cafe to satisfy my craving. I delightfully arrived at Gan …

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Yukon, Canada

Skagway, Alaska was one of the ports of call of the 7-day Alaskan cruise that I signed up for. Preferring long scenic drives and a smaller group, my friends and I opted for the bus tour over the railroad route alternative. The roads were shrouded in dense fog while the bus made its way up the Klondike Highway towards Yukon Territory, Canada. As the fog dissipated, we were greeted by views of scenic lakes and vast towering mountains dotting the valley ahead. The combination of lush rainforest greens and stark granite also produced a dramatic scene. Historical stories about the Klondike Gold Rush were shared by our bus driver while we covered Yukon Suspension Bridge, Caribou Crossing Trading Post, & Tutshi River. Over at one of the shops at the trading post, we had a satisfyingly delicious chicken barbecue lunch. After which, we decided to tick off an item from our bucket lists by riding a dog sled. We waited patiently as the eager dogs were chosen and leashed on to the rigging. This was …