Poetry by Photography: Love Locked Lovers

So many; Love locks hanging in the waning light
Yet none of them are really quite alike
Some are big and some are small,
Some have been weathered; rust and all
For one out of naivety, another perhaps assured,
But neither promise could be insured

For you and I, we are individuals all
Sometimes we just cannot predict a fall
But those who keep strong in the rain,
May find their love holds through the strain
And at the end of a time of trial –
Their love locks fused, never to exile

Some forlornly looking in quiet haste,
Others holding hands in rapid chase
Fingers are traced around an etch
While toes are tipped to peer past the hedge
Love locked lovers in embrace,
Navigating through life’s intricate maze.

April 2015, Sunset at Namsan Peak, Seoul, South Korea

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Intricate.”

Prose by Photography: The Song of the Sea

There we stood- in quiet anticipation, watching as the waves lapped against and over the smoothened boulders leaving trails of white foam, while Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak) rose up with its formidable rock face, basking in the sun. The water was a rich shade of teal, washing over the rocks tauntingly, challenging us to come closer. It looked cold. Really cold. For a moment I imagined falling into the strangely blue water, and shuddered at the thought of sinking into the sea and the things that might greet me beneath. To my right, a rugged-looking american photographer rubbed his hands together and stuffed them into the pockets of his grey windbreaker.

A moment ago, Jeju’s Haenyeo (also known as “women divers”) having suited up in black wet suits, singing with fishing nets slung over their shoulders, vanished into the embrace of the sea. I shifted around on my feet, feeling around the rock with the toe of my boot, careful to stay away from the water spray, and wondered how in the world these women could be so strong, so brave, and why they would choose such a challenging occupation or if it was even a choice at all.

A sharp whistle pierced the air, jolting me from my thoughts. Everyone’s gaze was transfixed upon the waters now. Sure enough, the Haenyeo were resurfacing. They were making some sort of whistling exhalation; a sound of victory as they resurfaced, bringing harvest from the sea. Even before they came close, I could see that they were smiling. It was something about the way they moved, the way they approached the shore, or maybe it was the deep pink flush of their cheeks that showed a surprising youthfulness.

What originally started out due to a need to survive, was no longer just that- and it occurred to me that perhaps these seemingly simple women had a wisdom after all. A wisdom that a large number of people in the world didn’t have – people who I knew were at this moment sitting in office cubicles, staring blankly at computer screens and dying to get out, when they could be doing something else. Something better.

A Haenyeo came by the spot where I stood and she looked up from her basket, at me. She smiled, as if knowing that I now understood that the message was as simple as this. Don’t let fear stop you like it’s stopping others from doing what they love, and you will be the early bird which finds its rewards.

Seongsan Ilchulbong or “Sunrise Peak”, Jeju Island, South Korea, April 2015

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Early Bird.”

Bongeunsa Temple, Seoul, South Korea (Gallery)

I’ve just returned from Spring in South Korea – a great time to go, with gorgeous and breathtaking scenes of Cherry blossom trees. On my first day in Seoul, I set up basecamp at a hotel in Gangnam-gu. Gangnam is a beautiful trendy district (made famous by Psy’s “Gangnam style” song) with lots of cafes and indie label shops, and lies to the south of the Han river, which winds horizonatally across the city. It is an area obviously loved by the teens to 20 somethings, but probably not so much the elderly because I hardly saw them hanging about.

Bongeunsa Temple lies in the eastern part of Gangnam-gu, just north of the sprawling COEX mall, and is an unexpected sight amidst tall buildings decked in glass. Near the entrance to Bongeunsa, street beggars sat or walked up to visitors waiting to cross the road at the traffic lights, holding their hands together with dark crinkles of toil etched into their tanned skin. Inside, there was a sense of quiet calm – especially in the gardens. I drifted from one building to another, drawn by the beautiful green and red-brown coloured paints incorporated into a simple but seemingly complex design and the neatly tiled roofs of slategray. Rows of brightly coloured paper lanterns folded into lotus flowers were strung across the ceiling of the main prayer building, and I watched silently as a lady unclasped her hands and lifted a flame to light a candle at the altar.

531, Bongeunsa-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 강남구 봉은사로 531 (삼성동)

Open all year round; There is also a 2-day temple stay activity should you wish to participate. Alternatively, there is also a 3hr programme where you can experience participating in different temple activities.

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul South Korea Things to See Travel Diary Blog

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul South Korea Things to See Travel Diary Blog

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul South Korea Things to See Travel Diary Blog

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul South Korea Things to See Travel Diary Blog

Travel Diary: Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

I remember waking up to this scene in the morning- watching as yachts slowly sailed out of the marina to sea, V-shaped ripples trailing in their wake. Once I escaped the veil of slumber, I excitedly sat up and pulled out my now-crumpled sheet of itinerary to see which stops I’d planned out for the day.

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Seaview Sea

Otaru, about half an hour’s drive northwest from Sapporo, has a small town kind of feel – we would walk along its wide, clean pavements, and make stops every few steps or so along the rows of shops, full of the most tantalising displays of chirashi don and fresh sashimi one moment, to dried seafood shops and souvenir shops the next. I guess part of the charm of Otaru was derived from not really knowing what might be stumbled upon. Full of historical buildings and some of the most incredible dessert shops, the town was bound to be full of pleasant surprises.

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Canal Street

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Canal Seafood Dried Shops

A day isn’t long enough for Otaru, especially if you have an affinity with food like I do. We would walk into glorious clouds of mouthwatering smells and be seduced by stalls selling a dazzling array of- very good, might I add- food with samples generously being offered to you as you stroll down the street; there’s no way anyone could go hungry in Otaru.

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Canal street side stalls

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Canal seafood Ika stuffed squid

And through the centre of it all, lay the beautiful Otaru Canal (小樽運河, known locally as Otaru Unga; featured picture)- a quiet, gentle body of water, mirroring the façades of the low rise buildings standing alongside it, delicately covered in a vibrant green, and also the clear blue sky. In the late afternoon, after hours of walking about, I’d sat by the canal on a cold stone bench, fleeing the sun for a moment of rest, and thought about how perfect this town seemed to be.

Prose by Photograpy: Memories from the Land with an Orange Sun

When I think of Orange, I think of Dubai. It might seem like a funny association, but in March, everything in Dubai is permanently painted in an orangey golden glow from the arabic sun- casting sharp shadows and reflecting off surfaces and into my lens, easily convincing anyone looking through my reel of photos that I’d photographed with a warming filter.

This was the first trip I’d taken with two of my closest friends, and orange reminds me of that as well. It’s a warm, happy colour – a colour which conveys smiles and friendship. We’d explored the souks (marketplaces)- drifting from one into another, into another, getting lost in the alleyways lined with handcrafted arabic slippers decorated with colourful threads one moment, and the next- being draped in shawls and pashimas by shopkeepers trying to make a sale. We laughed, asked questions, observed and took photographs.

City of Gold spice souk dubai bazaar marketplace travel diary blogThen there was the desert- a picturesque memory of undulating fine sand, drenched in orange as the sun began its descent, stretching like waves as far as the eye could see. Stepping out of the jeep, I was taken aback by how strong the winds were and the grains of sand rising up and about in the air, sometimes getting to the eyes or the camera lens, but I soon was so taken in by the beauty of the desert that I forgot all that.

Now, I only recall the dunes, like a smooth silk, rising, falling, rising, falling, and the feel of how my feet sank into the sand slowly and softly with each step, and looking on at the animals which have known the desert for years- and they, as if knowingly safeguarding the desert’s secrets, looked back from behind a soft woven veil.

My other stories from Dubai can also be found here.

Dubai Desert Sand Dunes Dune Bashing Camel Tour

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Orange you glad it’s photo challenge time?.”

Personal: From A Distant Hilltop

A horn sounded. I ran down the hill in an attempt capture a good picture of a passing train. Local Japanese turned their heads to the window, curiously watching as an asian girl in a striped blue shirt with grey jeans tucked into black boots sprinted towards them with a DSLR.

After the scene had passed, I turned back around to re-orientate myself after the sudden, unexpected flurry, and found my family at the spot which I’d left them at – still far away, standing at the top of one of the hills in the garden. I lifted my camera.

My uncle noticed me first and started waving. Then my parents and other aunts and uncles began to look in my direction. They waved enthusiastically and as I adjusted the lens, faces flushed with broad smiles and laughter came into clearer focus.

The itinerary for this trip was left largely to my cousin and I, and I was definitely the more particular of us both. Armed with TripAdvisor, trusty Google, and advice from friends, I’d mapped the routes, booked everything from hotels to restaurants, and read reviews and articles over a period of 2 months prior to the trip – I know that probably sounds crazy to most people, but I just wanted to make sure everything was as perfect as could be, you know?

Everyone knows I’m big on planning – from whom I need to catch up with and when, to places I want to go, etc. By any date, I usually would’ve mapped out my schedule for the next 2 weeks or so, and I typically kickoff each year with a list of projects and things that I want to achieve in the next 365.25 days. Most of my “free time” (to do whatever I might feel like doing) or personal time is planned for – “planned spontaneity” is what I call it, oxymoronic as that sounds.

When I look at this photograph, reward – that’s what it means to me. All that planning, researching, everything- that was all made worth it. My family- smiling, waving, sharing a good laugh, on the hill top of a garden in Abashiri, midway through our roadtrip in Hokkaido.

June 2014, 網走国定公園小清水原生花園 (Garden opposite Lake Tofutsu), Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Reward.”

Travel Diary: Kamui Kotan (神居古潭), Asahikawa, Hokkaido, Japan (Gallery)

Kamuikotan (神居古潭) literally means God-village in the native Ainu language and is situated by the Ishikari River, about a half-hour drive out from the city of Asahikawa. We made a stop at Kamuikotan with a slight detour to the west en route to Furano, via Takikawa. It’s a short stop which you can cover in about 15 to 20 minutes.

The lush foliage changes with the seasons – with cherry blossoms in early May, to auburn in the fall. Being central to Ainu folklore, the first thing you’d notice is the mystic calm about this place – the quietness is touched by the sound of the rushing the river below, quick and yet surprisingly serene. Crossing the bridge to the other side of the river, you’d ascend short flights of steps to find the old kamuikotan station as well as a locomotive reminiscent of a time past.
Kamuikotan Hokkaido Japan Asahikawa Travel Diary Tourism

Kamuikotan Hokkaido Japan Asahikawa Travel Diary Tourism Sights Kamuikotan Hokkaido Japan Asahikawa Travel Diary Tourism Sights