TRAVEL

Travel photography from Taiwan, Asia and the USA.

Must See Taiwan – Jiufen 九份

JiuFen (Jeoufen), Taiwan (台灣九份) is a popular destination about an hour east of Taipei.  It’s popular with tourists and locals alike, but has a certain charm to it that can’t be missed.

I recently visited Jiufen for an evening and had a great time wandering around.  I wasn’t planning on writing a full blog post about it, but I left with some fun photos that I thought I might share…

Jeoufen Taiwan Old Street at Night

Jioufen Old Street, as seen at night after the tourists have left.

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Lhasa, Tibet – The Jokhang and Barkor

The Jokhang Monastery (ཇོ་ཁང་) is the most holy of Tibetan Buddhism’s holy places.  Unassuming from the outside, one needs to connect with the enthusiasm of the throngs of pilgrims walking around it to feel its allure.  As it probably will be for you, visiting the Jokhang is a once in a lifetime experience for many of the pilgrims.  Unlike you, many of these pilgrims walked to be there… and some of them even walked in a special way to show their devotion: They take three steps, say a prayer, and lie face-down on the ground.  Then they stand up, take three more steps and repeat the process.  The act of taking a prostrating pilgrimage can take the devotee years to reach the Jokhang from their home towns.  But many do it, as a sign of devotion and a way to help improve their karma in this life and the next.

Tibetan Buddhist Praying

Pilgrims and merchants walk and pray in the juniper smoke early in the morning on the Barkor at the Jokang Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet.

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Tibet, TRAVEL, UNCATEGORIZED | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Must See Taipei – The Jade and Flower Markets (建國假日玉花市)

The Taipei Jianguo Jade and Flower Markets (建國假日玉花市) are a must-see for anyone in Taiwan.  Located next to each other on Jianguo South Road, the two markets stretch for nearly a kilometer (1/2 a mile) under the elevated highway.  They are only open on weekends and can make for a wonderful escape from Taipei’s often dreary rain.  But even on a sunny day, the Jade and Flower Markets (along with the adjacent Daan Forest Park) make for a nice afternoon walk for tourists and locals alike.

a giant lily blossom for sale at the Taipei Jianguo Flower Market

A big, beautiful lily for sale at the Taipei Flower Market.

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Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

How to Shoot Travel Portraits

Learning how to photograph people while traveling can help your photography on the road and at home.  I use a few different methods to approach people whom I want to photograph while traveling, and I’ll try to explain that process below.  I’m sure there are many other techniques that other photographers might use, and if you have any you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments.

I’ll start out by telling you that I’m not an outgoing person at all.  I’m a shy guy.  I always find it difficult to approach people.  But I’ve learned that missing a good portrait because you didn’t ask hurts a lot more than getting rejected.  If you’re also a little shy, you’ll need to practice being more bold and get out there and ask people if you can take their picture.  I’m here to tell you that it’s not as hard as you think, and there’s even a little bit of a scientific process to doing it…

An blog post on how to photograph people while traveling

Kyoto, Japan - I was standing in this alleyway, waiting for someone interesting to walk by and pose for me in front of that nice wooden door in the background... Along came this Geisha. (See "The Trapping Approach")

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Techniques, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Yushu, Tibet (China)

Yushu (aka Jyekundo (སྐྱེ་རྒུ་མདོ་) in Tibetan) is an Autonomous Prefecture in the Qinghai Provence of China. Located 800km south of the nearest city Xining, Yushu used to be a daunting 12-16 hour bus ride from Xining in the north or about 10 hours to Gantze in the south (where I came from).  Now, it appears that Yushu has it’s own airport and has become quite a hot spot for tourists.

I was only able to spend two days in Yushu due to visa restrictions, but it left a wonderful impression on me.  I also did something a little different while I was there.  I only spent one day site-seeing, and I spent the other in the market, shooting lots and lots of portraits.  Click “Read the rest of this entry” to see some of my favorites.

Tibetan Woman Smiles

I was in Yushu just after a huge annual horse festival. This is an exciting time for Tibetans and they will often dress to impress. This woman is wearing some very expensive (and very heavy) jewelry in her hair.

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Portraiture, Tibet, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Dege, Tibet (China)

Located in a deep gorge to the west of Chola Mountain, Dege (སྡེ་དགེ།) is one of Tibet’s most revered and remote places.  It’s found in the far northwestern Sichuan Provence very close to the boarder of Xizang Provence (modern “Tibet”).  Dege (aka Derge) is home to the most important printing press in all of Tibet, the Barkhang (Parkhang) Scripture Printing House.

Dege is a full day’s bus ride from the nearest town, Ganze.  Basically, you need to drive all the way around the formidable Chola Mountain and sometimes you’ll think the bus is driving straight over it.  A perilous dirt road winds up and over Tro La (Chola) Pass at nearly 6000m (19,6850ft) – a lot higher than Mt Everest Base Camp!  The views from the bus will leave you breathless in more ways than one.

A man prays in front of the famous Barkhang (Parkhang) Scripture Printing Press in Dege, China (Tibet).

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Tibet, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Ganze, Tibet (China)

Moving northwest from Dawu (Daofu), the next town you come to is a dusty, unremarkable one called Luhuo.  I stayed here for a night, but quickly regretted it as I couldn’t find any decent economy lodging and even the local gompa (Tibetan monastery) wasn’t very exciting.

SO ON TO GANZE!  (aka Gartze, Gantze, Ganzi, and a few other spellings)

Despite being yet another dusty town, Ganze has a certain charm to it.  It’s a major town for trade and Chinese trucks can be seen (and inhaled) barreling down the main street.  Ganze is also about a full day’s bus trip from Kangding so if you’re on a long haul bus to Yushu or Dege or any other town north of here, you’re going to have to overnight.  I would highly recommend staying in the affordable, but quite nice hotel above the bus station.

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Tibet, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A Colorado Wedding

I was recently in Colorado to photograph a fantastic wedding.  The three day extravaganza was one of the best that I ever been to.

Set in beautiful Steamboat Springs, Colorado, this wedding could probably be described as an “alternative” one due to the lack of many of the traditional wedding customs.  The ceremony was deliberately designed to beautiful but quick… to leave more time for partying!

Events surrounding the sunset ceremony included: a rhinestone cowboy party, an 80’s dance party, hot springs, golf, fishing, pool-side lounging, mountain climbing, and even skeet shooting!  This was definitely a wedding to remember!

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Formosa Adventurers – FINALE!

If you know me personally, or follow my blog, you probably know that some friends and I entered a contest called “The Best Trip in the World” put on by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau.

It’s a contest that gave the opportunity for selected groups of bloggers to travel Taiwan for 4 days and blog about it.  We were one of the lucky groups selected and we completed our 4 day itinerary back in June. The final stage of the contest has arrived and we put our adventurers into a finale video, complete with a goofy music video at the end.

Remember that this was the first time any of us ever tried to put a video together and we had a blast!  We highly recommend that everyone get their friends together, plan a trip (to Taiwan, of course!), and make a fun video!

Also have a look at my friends’ websites about Taiwan:

Stu’s Taiwan Hiking Blog

and

Phil’s 老外的臺灣旅遊日記 (in Chinese)

Thanks again for all the support!
-neil

Categories: TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventurers, TRAVEL, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dawu and Tagong, Tibet (China)

Tagong

From Litang, I caught a bus (again, through some stunning scenery) to Xinduxiao where I had to transfer to a share cab going towards Tagong.

The Tibetan Monastery in Datong, Tibet (China).

The Tibetan Monastery in Datong, Tibet (China).

Tagong is known mostly for its beautiful grasslands.

It’s a town that has become very popular with both foreign and Chinese tourists because of it’s relative proximity to Kanding, a small city that’s a day’s drive to the southeast.  One can easily arrive in town and set up a tour and home-stay with some of the nomads that live in the nearby grasslands.

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Tibet, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Litang, Tibet (China)

Litang (ལི་ཐང།) is a small Tibetan town in western Sichuan Provence (四川), China.  Traditionally known as the Kham (ཁམས) Provence of the former Tibetan Kingdom, Litang is a dusty trade town in a high, grassy valley.

At an altitude of 4,014 meters (13,169 ft) it’s actually higher than Lhasa and one of the highest towns in the world.  Every summer, they hold one of Tibet’s biggest horse racing festivals, an event that draws Tibetans (and tourists) from all over.

Several famous Buddhists are from Litang including the 7th and the 10th Dalai Lama.  It has a beautiful, huge monastery (Litang Chöde) up on the mountain side overlooking the town.  This area has a long history of resistance to Chinese rule, from before the Chinese bombing of the monastery in 1956 to a recent riot at the horse racing festival in 2007.  During the PLA’s invasion of Tibet in 1950, Litang County was one of the strongest areas of resistance.

A Tibetan Cowboy waits for a friend on a remote mountain near Litang, Tibet (China).

A Tibetan Cowboy waits for a friend on a remote mountain near Litang, Tibet (China).

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Portraiture, Tibet, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Formosa Adventurers

Things are really starting to roll for our team!   Thanks to My Several Worlds, we have some more publicity for our entry to Taiwan’s “Best Trip in the World – 世界最棒的旅遊”!

If you haven’t seen our video, have a look below, then go vote for us and leave some comments!

Thank you all so much!

Categories: TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventurers, TRAVEL, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Formosa Adventurers

Formosa Adventurers” is the name of my and my friends’ group for Taiwan’s “Best Trip in the World – 世界最棒的旅遊” contest.  It’s a contest set up by Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau to promote tourism in Taiwan.

The way the contest works is that everyone who wants to give it a try uploads a travel plan, video and group introduction to the website.  From there, the contest organizers select 50 groups to complete their plans.  They give them 28,000 NTD (about $800USD) to do it.  After you finished with the 4 days, you upload a video and blog showing what you did.  Then, one group wins the grand prize of 1 million NTD (about $30,000USD) and gets to travel in Taiwan for a month, blogging on their experiences.

Not a bad deal.  And since this is what we do all the time anyway, it sounded perfect for us.

Our itinerary is (approximately) as follows:
(I’ll update this later, I don’t actually have the real one sitting in front of me now):

Day 1:
Train from Taipei to Hualien.  River tracing through one of the beautiful canyons down there.  Then that night, a visit to the night market.

Day 2:
White water rafting in The Rift Valley.  Followed by a train ride to Taidong and a visit to the night market and a few other sites in the city.

Day 3:
Paragliding just north of Taidong.  Then a visit to an aboriginal village for a cultural show and some Taiwanese Aboriginal Food.

Day 4:
Hiking through an ancient forest to a wild hot spring.  Then, the train ride back to Taipei.

So please watch the video below and go vote for us at Taiwan’s “Best Trip in the World” contest.

Thanks!!!!
-neil

Categories: TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventurers, TRAVEL, UNCATEGORIZED, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Shangri-La (Zhongdian), Tibet (China)

Zhongdian is a small Tibetan town in the northeast corner of Yunnan Province, China.  It was the southeastern-most area of Tibet before the Chinese invasion of 1950.  After China took control, they split it from the what is today considered Tibet (actually now called Xijang, or the Tibet Autonomous Region**)  In 2001, the Chinese government officially changed the name from “Zhongdian” to “Shangri-la“, but the local population still refer to it by its Tibetan name Gyalthang (རྒྱལ་ཐང་རྫོང).

Traditionally Tibetan, the town has had a large immigration of Han Chinese for decades and most of the new town has a real Chinese feel to it..   Still, the surrounding countryside and the old town has held on to its Tibetan feel and many locals can be seen going about their daily business in traditional clothing customary to their local Tibetan tribes.

I visited Zhongdian in 2005 and in 2007 and the amount that it changed in those two years surprised me, but it is an interesting study in the growth of modern China, and the part that tourism is playing.

Every evening, people meet in the old towns center to dance and sing.

Every evening, people meet in the old town's center to dance and sing.

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Tibet, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Hiking the Four Beasts Mountains (四獸山) – Elephant Mountain (象山)

Elephant Mountain (象山) is the most famous of the “Four Beasts Mountains (四獸山)” of Taipei, Taiwan and the most easily accessible.  It’s the third and last article in my series about hiking the Four Beasts MountainsPart one is on 9-5 Peak (Jiuwufeng – 九五峯), and part two is on Tiger Mountain (虎山).

Elephant Mountain is the most popular of the mountains for a good reason.  Being the closest to the city not only means easy access, but it means stunning views of Taipei, especially Taipei 101.

Taipei City and Taipei 101 as seen from Elephant Mountain

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Categories: Hiking, Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, The Four Beast Mountains, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

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