Let’s go Cambodia – our way to Phnom Penh

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bus journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

bus journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

After we left Angkor temples, we took a 7-hour bus to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. I was leaning on the seat, looking at the scenes from the bus windows that I had never seen in real life. The extremely poor villages and living. The journey was eye-opening.

We traveled on a gravel road by bus. There were shacks built on wooden stilts off the ground beside the road we traveled, for clearing the floods of the next monsoon. These shacks mostly built facing the road, with the backyards used for agriculture.

We took a look daily life of the villagers on our way: most of the villagers farm the land or fish to obtain their food, and they live with minimal or without electricity, safe drinking water or any other support. So the place was totally dark at night, with only lights of vehicles on the road visible. What amazed us was the sardine like quality of transportation, vehicles such as motorbike, car or truck was overloaded with passengers or goods.

On the half of our journey, about 4-5pm in the afternoon, we stopped at a village for some fresh air. I don’t even know the name of the place, yet without wasting the few minutes I’d got, I quickly took some shots of the people living there. They seemed to us like strangers.

Most of us would never experience life like the Khmer villagers. Such living conditions gave us the impression of a poor and an unhappy life, many of the villagers however seemed contented and happy with their life: kids running wildly, women relaxing in hammocks, men having drinks and chit chat together. This situation reminded me of an old Chinese story:

When Chuang-Tzu (an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE) was talking with a friend about some fish in a pond.

He said, “Look at those minnows darting here and there. How free and pleasurable is the life of a fish.

His friend pointed out to him, “You are not a fish – how do you know that their life is free and pleasurable?” – in other words, you aren’t a fish, and you are making an assumption about what kind of life a fish leads.

Chuang-Tzu retorted, “You’re not me. How do you know that I don’t know what makes a fish happy?” – in other words, you are also making an assumption about what I know or don’t know.

Our mind creates our world, thus contentment is the key to happiness. We have to consider ourselves always to be very fortunate to have what we have now in our life and learn to appreciate them.

The 7-hour journey in fact broadened our mind. We then continued to Phnom Penh.

May all beings be happy. Sharing some shots I took when we stopped for a short break:

road signs

road signs

villagers

villagers

Khmer father and child

Khmer father and child

food stall

food stall

my friend, Zam (left) and a Khmer boy

my friend, Zam (left) and a Khmer boy

on hammock

on hammock

lollipop, melt in mouth

lollipop, melt in mouth

my friend, Amy (left) and the villagers

my friend, Amy (left) and the villagers

adorable Khmer kid

adorable Khmer kid

sharing the candy

sharing the candy

smile?

smile?

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Greenpeace celebrates Thai GE-free Rice Strategy on Farmers’ Day

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Handout picture taken on June 2, 2011 shows a Greenpeace activist posing for a photo on a 3D artwork representing an organic farm, at the Museum of Siam in Bangkok. Thailand´s rice masterplan recently outlined a policy aimed at keeping Thai rice free of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).  (image from Athit Perawongmetha/AFP/Getty Images)

Handout picture taken on June 2, 2011 shows a Greenpeace activist posing for a photo on a 3D artwork representing an organic farm, at the Museum of Siam in Bangkok. Thailand´s rice masterplan recently outlined a policy aimed at keeping Thai rice free of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). (image from Athit Perawongmetha/AFP/Getty Images)

Greenpeace today celebrated Thailand’s Rice Masterplan for keeping Thai rice free of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). The GE-free rice policy, a key strategy in the Thai Rice Masterplan, protects Thailand’s thousands-year old rice heritage from the inherent risks posed by genetically-engineered (GE) crops.

For the occasion, Greenpeace unveiled a gigantic eco-friendly 3D artwork of an organic farm, an illustration of healthy, ecological farming, at Museum of Siam, Bangkok.   The event comes ahead of the National Rice and Farmers Day on June 5th to celebrate the pride of Thai rice tradition and wisdom of Thai farmers who can produce safe food without the need of GE.

“The Thai government’s strategy to keep rice production GE-free is an acknowledgement embedded in government policy that genetically-engineered (GE) crops are unnecessary and a risk to a sustainable future for farming.  This is a victory for rice farmers and consumers because it affirms the commitment of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to keep rice farming sustainable and rice crops free of environmental and health risks associated with GE crops,” said Natwipha Ewasakul, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

“Greenpeace supports this strategy and we are happy to assist the government keep rice GE-free from now on.  We also welcome government commitment to keep this GE-free policy beyond 2011,” she added.

The current Thai Rice Masterplan conceived by the MoAC covers the enforcement period of 2007-2011.  The plan committed to strengthening the nation’s rice production while promoting farmers’ livelihoods and consumer confidence.  Keeping Thai rice GMO-free means that Thailand maintains its global leadership in rice production.

Greenpeace maintains that GMOs  threaten the future and biodiversity of rice in Thailand, and will make farming, and farmers, dependent on agricultural inputs exclusively owned by giant multinational corporations who control GMO technologies.

The huge 3D artwork presented by Greenpeace today during the festivities stands for the millions people around the world who aspire for a sustainable and secure future of food.  It was first launched in December 2010 front of the European Commission in Brussels, to accompany a signature petition by 1 million people clamouring for GE-free farming.  The petition, organized together with Avaaz [1] is an unprecedented EU-wide citizens’ initiative aimed at the European Commission calling for safe food and stopping genetically modified crops in the EU. The artwork is an ecological farm symbolizing the future of agriculture with no GMO crops, surrounded by the 1 million names.

“The policy asserts how the need for agriculture that is good for the planet and people is important to our country and our economy.  But it’s not just Thailand who stands to benefit from such a bold move.  Consumers around the world know that they can trust Thai rice. These 1 million people know that GMO crops are bad for food and farming and this demand is shared by people in Thailand,” said Natwipha.

Greenpeace and the Thai Farmer’s Network also organized a Thai rice exhibition which traces the history and tradition of Thai rice, Thai rice varieties and the profound relationship between Thai people and their staple diet. The exhibition also highlights the threats and dangers of GMOs.

The 3D art work and the Thai farmer network’s exhibit will be open to the public from 2 to 5 June 2011. Meanwhile, Greenpeace’s exhibition on Thai Rice and GE-free farming will be open from 2 to 30 June at Museum of Siam, 10.00 am – 6.00 pm (daily, except Mondays).

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.

[source: http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/Press-Centre/Press-Releases/Thai-GE-free-Rice/]
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Prewedding – Tong Poh-Ling and Goh Seng-Chin

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Prewedding - Tong Poh-Ling and Goh Seng-Chin

Prewedding - Tong Poh-Ling and Goh Seng-Chin

Congratulation to Tong Poh-Ling (Pohling) and Goh Seng-Chin (Goh) who just got married early this month!

Last month before the two tied the knot, photographers like Kenn-Wai, Fred, Angel Wee, Hanne, Andrew Gan, Angela Gan and I decided to give Pohling and Goh a special gift. We would like to present them a prewedding album in which photos shot and compiled by us.

Each of the guys has their unique style in shooting. Thus I was excited that I could join the session together because it was a good opportunity to learn them. We met out for a discussion as always before the shooting, planned a two-day sessions and selected a few venues in Melaka for making the photo album. Each would need to contribute a few shots and teamwork makes the dream work.

That morning, Pohling looked absolutely fabulous and Goh was just charming. We were all geared up. Although I spent half a day with the beautiful couples and fun-loving photographers, we enjoyed the session together so much. As for the outcome, I was fascinated by the way all of them worked and how they produced their images. There were so much things that I learned from the guys.

Thank you guys for the wonderful time and happy married life to Pohling and Goh. I hope you hold each other close in best or bad times and have trust and faith all the way.

May all beings be happy. Sharing some of my shots of Pohling and Goh’s prewedding:

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Sea Biscuit the tough turtle gets back in the swim of things after losing his flipper

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Washed ashore: Sea Biscuit has learned to dive and swim like normal creatures after being rescued as a hatchling found on a beach in 2009

Washed ashore: Sea Biscuit has learned to dive and swim like normal creatures after being rescued as a hatchling found on a beach in 2009

When Sea Biscuit lost her left flipper, it could have been a turtle disaster.

But thanks to her human friends at Oceanworld Manly in Sydney, the little battler is now diving and weaving gracefully through water.

The green sea turtle could fit in the palm of a hand when he was rescued after washing up on a beach as an exhausted hatchling in 2009.

On the crest of a wave: Flipperless green sea turtle Sea Biscuit is able to swim and dive again after a two-year rehabilitation programmed in Manly, Australia

On the crest of a wave: Flipperless green sea turtle Sea Biscuit is able to swim and dive again after a two-year rehabilitation programmed in Manly, Australia

Sea Biscuit’s infected flipper had to be amputated and it had taken him a long time to gain weight and strength.

‘She had been through quite a big ordeal for such a small turtle,’ said handler Marina Tsamoulos.

The turtle had to be painstakingly encouraged in her marine enclosure.

‘We rehabilitate with the hope we can release them back into the wild,’ Ms Tsamoulos said.

‘Sea Biscuit has recovered but she is still growing … she will stay in Oceanworld for now, but that will be reviewed in the future.’

Green sea turtles spend their formative years drifting on ocean currents, grow to four-and-half feet and weight more than 47 stones. They live an average 80 years in the wild.

Restored to health: Sea Biscuit swims past handler Marina Tsamoulos in the tropical reef aquarium at Oceanworld Manly, north of Sydney

Restored to health: Sea Biscuit swims past handler Marina Tsamoulos in the tropical reef aquarium at Oceanworld Manly, north of Sydney

[source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1389231/Sea-Biscuit-tough-turtle-gets-swim-things-losing-flipper.html]
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Let’s go Cambodia – Angkor Wat

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black and white Angkor Wat

black and white Angkor Wat

After Ta Prohm Temple, we headed to the symbol of Cambodia, Angkor Wat. The daily pass we purchased before granted us the access Angkor Wat, checked by security certainly. Most people will have heard of the famous Angkor Wat, in fact it is only one of the many buildings of an ancient civilization.

Some background of Angkor Wat,

Angkor Wat is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. It is the world’s largest religious building.

The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country’s prime attraction for visitors.

Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the later galleried temple, based on early South Indian Hindu architecture, with key features such as the Jagati. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology: within a moat and an outer wall 3.6 kilometres long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers.

Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west; scholars are divided as to the significance of this. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs and for the numerous devatas (guardian spirits) adorning its walls.

The modern name, Angkor Wat, means “City Temple”; Angkor is a vernacular form of the word nokor which comes from the Sanskrit word nagara meaning capital or city. Wat is the Khmer word for temple. Prior to this time the temple was known as Preah Pisnulok, after the posthumous title of its founder, Suryavarman II.

innocent kid at the entrance of Angkor Wat

innocent kid at the entrance of Angkor Wat

Back to our journey.

Everyone was excited at the entrance of Angkor Wat when we saw Angkor Wat through the windows of the bus. As soon as the bus stopped, we jumped off the bus and rushed to the entrance. Many children approached us and trying to sell us some stuff such as souvenirs, food, books etc.

It was noon and Angkor Wat was so crowded with foreigners and even locals. We would have tens of people blocking the view everywhere we tried take photos. Nevertheless, it was alright for me because I wished to snap photos of unique and interesting people.

From the entrance, there is a long causeway connects to the gate of the temple. I took a long walk over the huge water reservoir and moat surrounding Angkor Wat and reached the gate.

There were a few couples wearing traditional Khmer wedding costumes and had their wedding photos taken with the magnificent background. This is probably a good place for couples to have their wedding albums beautifully done.

There I started to take shots of the interesting people, including wedding couples, and an old man who seemed like a fortune teller, and monks who were not as many as I expected. Then I set my way towards the temple it had take a long walk again from the gate to the main temple. On my way before reaching the doorstep of the main temple, I met many adorable children and again I had their photos captured.

Standing in front of the main temple, whole place just looked amazing. However the weather on the day was not that good. It was windy and some drizzling. The best time to go to Angkor Wat would be dawn when the sun is rising from the back of the temple, and when the weather is fine and calm. In that case, we would probably get a perfect silhouette of Angkor Wat stands against the orangish sky while its reflection is mirrored in similarly beautiful orangish water. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way.

As I continued walking towards the central complex, I found many statues and many of those were headless, due to pillaging and looting. Making my way through the passageway and steps to the central complex, I snapped photos of many wall-carving which are similar to those in Ta Prohm Temple, such as the devatas (minor female deities). Surprisingly many of the bas-reliefs had well stood through the test of time and remained beautiful, despite centuries of wear and tear and invasions from tourists and looters.

bas-reliefs everywhere

bas-reliefs everywhere

After minutes of walk, I found my myself to be at the central complex, where I could see the lotus-like-towers. The steps to the top of the towers are small steps, less than half of my foot, and steep, the height of each step is longer than its tread. I decided to climb up the tower to have a better view of the whole compound, but time was running out. We were given only 45 minutes to tour Angkor Wat which I only had couples of minutes left when I reach the the central complex. I knew it would take some times to walk out the temple and I had leave then.

I took a few last shots of the locals praying there and quickly made my way to the bus. Forty-five minutes would never be enough for Angkor Wat. Not to mention people who want to know every piece of its stories and take wonderful photos. It would be worthy to spend at least 3 days in Siem Reap and visit temples of Angkor numerous times and different times of the day.

locals praying for blessing

locals praying for blessing

Our exploration to Siem Reap was such a short time, half a day to visit the town, Ta Prohm Temple and Angkor Wat. However, we were glad we made it and hope to see the place again. I believe there will be surprises each time we go back.

So there we were, and continued the trip to the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh in a long bus journey. Goodbye, Siem Reap!

Sharing more shots after the click. May all beings be happy.

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Killer landslide hits Hulu Langat orphanage

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One of the injured children being taken into Ampang Hospital after the landslide at Rumah Anak Yatim Hidayah in Hulu Langat (photo from thestar.com.my)

One of the injured children being taken into Ampang Hospital after the landslide at Rumah Anak Yatim Hidayah in Hulu Langat (photo from thestar.com.my)

KAJANG: A landslide hit an orphanage Saturday (21st May 2011) afternoon killing 13 and leaving three still buried.

Firemen and villagers managed to pull out nine soon after the landslide hit Rumah Anak Yatim Hidayah, Madrasah Al-Takwa, Jalan Felcra Semungkus, 14th mile, Hulu Langat, near Kajang at 2.30pm.

At 10.45pm, a boy was pulled out alive after being buried for over eight hours.

The dead and alive have been sent to the Ampang and Kajang Hospitals.

“Two landslides occurred simultaneously. All the victims did not have time to escape,” said Selangor CPO Datuk Tun Hisan Tun Hamzah at a press conference at 6.45pm.

A total of 49 students and caretakers were there but 24 escaped unhurt.

The orphanage was partially buried by the landslides at about 2.30pm on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Deputy IGP Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar said that rescuers were being hampered by wet soil and rain.

He also appealed to the crowd of onlookers to stay back and allow the rescuers to do their work unimpeded.

Bernama reported that in Alor Gajah, Malacca, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil directed the Social Welfare Department and the ‘Skuad Sayang’ (Caring Squad) to provide immediate assistance to the orphans and family of the victims.

“I will get in touch with the police to obtain detailed information and the actual cause of the landslide so that my ministry can take follow-up action to assist the victms,” she said.

[source: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2011/5/21/nation/20110521165352&sec=nation]
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