TRAVEL

Travel photography from Taiwan, Asia and the USA.

Matsu Islands

The Matsu Islands (馬祖列島) are an archipelago of small islands, owned by Taiwan but very close to the Chinese coast, to the northwest of Taiwan proper.  They are an excellent few days away from Taipei or any other big city, have some great attractions, and a very laid back vibe.  The only negative, which really isn’t a problem at all, is that the islands are heavily militarized.  But other than seeing the old bunkers everywhere (And I mean EVERYWHERE) the military presence really doesn’t affect the mood, in my opinion.  In fact, I had several great conversations with solders, some of which said they really didn’t mind being stationed on those remote islands!

The Matsu archipelago is made up of 19 islands, but only a few are accessible to tourists.  Of those, I visited the “main” island of Nangan, Dongyin (and it’s very close neighbor Xiyin), and Beigan (and it’s very close neighbor Daqiu).  There are two that I would have loved to see called Dongju and Xiju, but they’ll have to wait for a different visit.

Before I go any further, let me highly, highly recommend Richard Saunder’s guidebook “The Islands of Taiwan”.  I would have been totally lost without it.  I’ve placed some links as to where you can buy it below.

Also, I’ve uploaded these pictures in a different way from before, so if you want to see them bigger (and sharper), just click on it.

Sunset over Turtle Island from Qinbi Village on Beigan Island, Matsu.

Sunset over Turtle Island from Qinbi Village on Beigan Island, Matsu.

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Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Indonesia – Part Two

This is Part Two in a two part photo essay series on my trip to Indonesia.  Check here for Part One.

Geography

Java is an active volcanic island filled with 38 dormant and non-dormant volcanoes.  The ecology goes from tropical in the lowlands to alpine on the tops of the volcanoes.  It’s tallest mountain is Mount Semeru, but one of its most famous is Mount Bromo.  Unfortunately, I don’t have many good photos from the top of Mount Bromo due to a cloudy morning, but I did still really enjoy walking around its crater.

Sunrise over Mount Sundoro, as seen from Dieng, Indonesia.

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Categories: Indonesia, PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Indonesia – Part One

In all my time living and traveling in Asia, I never had the desire to travel to Indonesia. I don’t know why, but it just didn’t have the appeal to me as much as places like Myanmar, Tibet, Laos, or even Thailand. But, in the summer of 2012, I was assigned to go to Jakarta to photograph an article, and my mind was opened up to Indonesia.

Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world with 238 million people. It’s a string of over 17,000 islands that straddle the equator between Southeast Asia and Australia. The people are quite diverse: 87% are Muslim, 9% are Christian, 3% are Hindu, and the rest have too many religions and cultures to count. 742 different languages are spoken throughout the archipelago, but Bahasa Indonesian is a common language understood by all.

My destination this time, was the “main” island of Java, along with a few days of R&R on the famous island of Bali.

Borobudur

Sunrise a the ancient Buddhist temple, Borobudur.

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Categories: Indonesia, PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Travel Image from the Archives

This travel image is from the famous Angkor Wat, Cambodia.  An amazing place to see and explore, Angkor Wat should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Buddhist Worship at Angkor Wat

The artwork at Angkor has the influence of two major religions, Buddhism and Hinduism. Here, like in India, it’s nice to see two very tolerant religions live side by side without conflict. It’s a peaceful message that many of the world’s other religions should take heed from.

Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL, Travel Images from the Archive | 2 Comments

Travel Image from the Archives

Here’s number two in this series.  This one is from a hill village near Kalaw, Myanmar (Burma).  The caption explains it all.

Myanmar Burma Buddhist Stupa

These kids are playing a game of tag on a stupa in a hill village near the town of Kalaw, Myanmar. These religious monuments are very common in Burma and can be found in every village.

Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL, Travel Images from the Archive | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Leh, India

Leh, India is a sleepy, remote town in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, once the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh.  It is set at just about the northern most point of India, and in fact sits very close to highly disputed borders with China and Pakistan.  The great majority of the local population is ethnic Tibetan, Tibetan Buddhism is the majority religion, and after spending months in Tibet, I can say that it has a very Tibetan feel to it.

I’m writing about Leh now, 5 years after I visited it, simply because I’ve been researching places to travel this summer, and this one is high one the list.  I’m afraid that it has been so long, that I really don’t have much to write about.  I’ll just give you a few memories, and of course a few pictures!

Hanging Prayer Flags

A Tibetan man hangs prayer flags near the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa in Leh, India.

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Categories: India, PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Smangus

Smangus (司馬庫斯) is one of Taiwan’s most remote aboriginal villages.  So far remote, that it has developed for itself an air of mystery and has become a popular, if not difficult to get to, destination.

I recently took a short trip there to help Taiwan Adventures develop a future tour to the area.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have as much time to explore the village and surrounding sights as we would have liked, but I will return soon with a better report.  Check the website or facebook page for more information about organized trips…  read on for more photos and information.

A thick, bamboo forest in Smangus, Taiwan.

A hiker enjoys the bamboo forest near Smangus, Taiwan.

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Categories: Must See Taiwan, TAIWAN, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shitiping 石梯坪

Shitiping 石梯坪 or (“Stone Steps” in Mandarin) is a small campground in Taiwan’s East Coast National Scenic Area.  The campground sits on a beautiful stretch of rocky geology formed by a mixture of coral reefs, sea erosion and cliffs.  The waters of the reef features some great diving and snorkeling in clear waters.

About a 6 hour drive from Taipei, Shitiping is located about 70km south of Hualien on Highway 11, not quite half way to Hualien’s sister coastal city, Taitung. It’s probably one of my favorite campgrounds in the world, and definitely one of my favorite places in Taiwan.

Lots of people come to Shitiping to go fishing with poles, or by snorkeling around the reefs.

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Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

I’m Really, Really, Really Sick of the Rain

It’s been raining in Taipei for 6 weeks.  Seriously.  I usually don’t complain about stuff like this, especially on here, but I’m going completely insane.

A bigger problem is that I also have writers’ block and even squeezing out this self-absorbed rant is difficult.  One of the big problems with writing a new blog post is that I have so much stuff from the last year that I haven’t written about, I don’t even know where to start.  I think I have 10, half written posts in my “Recent Drafts” folder, none of which I’ll probably ever finish.

So here’s my solution to that:  I’m going to throw up all (most) of the photos I want to write and/or talk about in this one post and just clear them out of the way.  Then I can get started one new stuff.  Chinese New Year is only a week away!

There’s actually A LOT of information here, if you click all the links.

To see larger galleries of images similar to each one below, click on each image…  To read more about each location, click on the links under each image.

A summer sunrise at my favorite campground, Shitiping, Taiwan.

The above image was taken at Shitiping Campground, on Taiwan’s beautiful east coast.

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Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Taiwan Adventures iPhone Travel Guidebook

Taiwan Adventures iPhone Guidebook is a brand new way to learn about Taiwan as you travel through it.  The “book” has over 900 entries featuring Taiwan’s best travel highlights.  Useful to tourists and expats alike, the APP has entries describing everything from renting a car or scooter to finding that western food that you’ve been craving.  A sample of the Guide is a downloadable from the iTunes Store for free.

Several of my colleagues and I have been working on this guide for nearly a year now.  We’ve traveled to nearly every corner of Taiwan to find you the most interesting places, both famous and unknown.  We’ve tried to push our favorite part of Taiwan – its amazing natural beauty, but have also scoured the cities for the best they have to offer.

You can get a small sample of the Guide for free from the iTunes Store, then the five divisions of Taiwan (Taipei City, Northern Taiwan, Eastern Taiwan, Central and the South) are a small additional fee.

All the entries have several photos (over 2,000 all together), many of which are exclusive to this APP.

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Categories: Must See Taiwan, TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventurers, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Longshan Temple 龍山寺

Longshan Temple 龍山寺 (aka Lungshan and Mengjia 艋舺龍山寺) is the oldest and most well-known temple in all of Taiwan.  What’s truly wonderful about it, is that despite being a major tourist destination, Longshan Temple retains it’s charm and genuineness by remaining a place of daily worship.  The area around Longshan can be quite interesting as well, and features traditional markets, calligraphers, traditional medicine shops, fortune tellers, and a place called Snake Alley.  All these reasons and more are why Longshan Temple is on my list of must see places in Taipei.

Crowded on Chinese New Year

Throngs of Buddhists and Daoists pack Longshan Temple in Taipei on Chinese Lunar New Year 2007.

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Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Myanmar Memories

Myanmar (Burma) is a remote country in Southeast Asia.  It’s a country that is isolated from the rest of the world for both geological and political reasons.  Travelers here are rewarded with very friendly people, and a culture set apart.  The years of isolation mean that Myanmar is one of the only places you can still experience true “old Asia” culture.

Myanmar has had some recent elections and I’ve had a friend ask me about traveling there, so it’s a place that’s been on my mind.  I went through some old images that I photographed there, and thought I’d share.

Sunset in Myanmar

This is just a beautiful sunset that I was lucky enough to witness in a beautiful part of the world. This is U Bien's bridge, near Mandalay, Myanmar.

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL | 132 Comments

Multimedia – Forgotten Tibet

The Tibetan provinces of Amdo and Kham are the subject of my first multimedia project in a long while.  Amdo and Kham are beautiful regions of the world that I’ve been lucky enough to visit twice recently…

Most westerners think of Tibet as being only what is today called the Tibet Autonomous Region (Xizang) in modern China.  But what they don’t know is that this is only one third of the historical Tibetan Kingdom.  Split off from modern day “Tibet” are the Tibetan Kham and Amdo provinces, now found in the Chinese Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces.

What is surprising though, is that these areas have become much better places to see Tibetan culture than Lhasa or many other places in Xizang.  With both Chinese and Westerners’ attention focused on Lhasa, these areas are much less traveled and have far fewer travel restrictions than Xizang.  That gives the Tibetans found there an sense of ease in their day to day lives and makes it a great place to explore.

If you’re interested in learning more or even visiting the region, have a look at my more in depth series of blog posts on the Kham and Amdo Provinces.

Cheers,
-Neil

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

Must See Taiwan – Shiding and Shenkeng

Shiding (石碇) and Shenkeng (深坑) are two small towns found just to the east of Taipei, Taiwan.  They’re both withing 3o minutes of Taipei’s  convenient MRT system and together, they make for a great day trip out of the city.

Shiding (石碇)

Shiding is a simple mountain village located at the convergence of two small mountain streams.  It’s got an old-time Taiwan feel to it, and in fact has many stores that are over a century old.  It also has two very clean, fish-filled streams that come from virgin forests high above, in the nearby mountains.

Tree roots overgrowing an old doorway in Taiwan

Doorways don't get much cooler than this.

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Hiking Jade Mountain 玉山

Jade Mountain (玉山) is Taiwan’s tallest mountain at 3,952 m (12,966 ft).  It’s located within the Yushan National Park (玉山國家公園) just next to the famous Alishan National Scenic Area (阿里山國家風景區) in the central mountains of Taiwan.  If measured from the nearby ocean floor, the Jade Mountain Main Peak rises an impressive 8,000 m in only 100 km.

Getting a permit to hike Jade Mountain is no easy task.  My friends an I applied 14 times before finally receiving a permit to hike it on a weekend (A big thanks to Stu Dawson for his tenacity).  We received a second round of good luck by getting perfect hiking weather on the 4th of July weekend.  The trail to the peak is beautiful, and this hike is an absolute must-do for anyone with an adventurous soul living in Taiwan.

The Jade Mountain Main Peak as seen from the West Peak hiking trail.

The Jade Mountain Main Peak as seen from the West Peak hiking trail.

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Categories: Hiking, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventurers, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

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