Archive | August 2014

Climbing an Active Volcano: Mount Bromo, Indonesia

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Everyone in our tour group got up super early to see the sunrise at Indonesia’s famous Mount Bromo. However, we decided we wanted to avoid the crowds, and have this active volcano for ourselves. So around early morning, we leisurely found our way to this natural wonder. Upon reaching the site, I remember thinking, “Wow this is beautiful!”

This was the first time ever that we had stepped foot and climbed an active volcano. When we reached the top we could see the sulfur gas bubbling and escaping from the interior of the crater. The smell was extremely strong and not very pleasant. But we managed to escape from the smell, found a decent place to rest and admire the landscape from the top of the volcano. It was another great and adventurous experience!

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These last two photos show the view of the surrounding landscape from the top of Mount Bromo.

The Endless Sahara Desert of Egypt

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With not even a map in hand, Jason and I walked slowly through the Sahara Desert. For hours, we saw nobody except endless sand and dunes. Walking up the dunes was hard but fun. The curiosity of seeing what was on the other side of the dune was more than enough motivation to keep moving forward. Once at the top, I felt something really beautiful. It was a sense of freedom. It felt like we were the only survivors on the planet. There were no people or footprints to be found anywhere. The feeling of being surrounded by so much space and the beautiful soft sand of the desert was freeing.

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Stunning Cappadocia, Turkey

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This is beautiful Cappadocia in Turkey. This region is formed of soft rocks made by volcanic deposits. It was absolutely amazing to see how people historically carved out spaces for their homes, churches, and monasteries from these rocks. Cappadocia, with its natural beauty and huge monasteries, was simply picturesque.

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We had the fortune to meet some knowledgeable young boys, who toured us around the monasteries. The spaces were extremely small, and walking from one room to another was definitely challenging. It was hard to believe how people once inhabited these spaces. This was one of the most amazing places we visited during our 3 weeks in Turkey.

Picking Tea Leaves in Darjeeling, India

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These Indian women work very hard to diligently pick tea leaves at the tea plantation sites in Darjeeling, India.

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After touring the nearby Happy Valley Tea Estate, I learned that a great amount of effort is put forth not only by the women picking the tea leaves outside, but also the workers who work in the tea factory. It was a very educational trip that left me with a deeper appreciation for tea. By the way, the green tea I drank in Darjeeling was wonderful!

Kerala, India’s Kathakali Dance

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These talented artists prepare for their upcoming Kathakali dance performance in Fort Kochin, Kerala, India.

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Aside from the elaborate costumes and make-up, the actual dancing was very impressive. This was one of the most entertaining and memorable dance dramas, I have ever seen. I was amazed by how the artists used only body movements and specifically their eyes, to tell the entire story. What is the most memorable dance performance you have seen?

Chivalry in Old Age

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We were dining at a restaurant in Gunung Mulu National Park in Borneo, Malaysia, when I noticed this lovely couple. A few moments before I took the picture, the elderly man had opened
a soda can for his wife. It was such an adorable and cute act of chivalry. What a gentleman! And of course, what a lucky lady!

Cambodia: Leaving an Impression

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There are so many young and poor children in Cambodia selling merchandise around Angok Wat and other major temples. These children were particularly friendly. It was admirable how hard they work to sell even the smallest item.

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I remember this one particular girl, who left a realy impression on me. She insisted on giving me a bracelet and a paper, on which she had drawn some colorful pictures, for free. There was nothing else to it. She just wanted to give me whatever she could despite her poverty. I recall thinking, “Wow, so poor yet she has such a big heart.” I still have that bracelet and paper, which reminds me of not only that girl but of her generosity.

Seeing Wild Orangutans in Borneo, Malaysia!

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Watching wild orangutans swinging and eating in the rainforest was an incredible experience. With no bars between us and the orangutans and having heard stories of them attacking some visitors in the past, I felt a bit anxious. However despite the fear, I was more excited to see these incredible animals. It was lovely to see them roaming around so freely and happily. I particularly loved seeing the baby orangutan with its mother. It was so cute!

Riding a Steam Locomotive to Darjeeling

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A group of local women gather outside the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway station to relax. This is a small town located in the state of West Bengal, at an elevation of about 6,710 ft (2,045.2 m). When we visited in mid-April, the temperatures were fairly cool. Riding this steam locomotive up to Darjeeling was a very unique and memorable experience due to the small size of the train and the picturesque views of the Himalayas.

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An Israeli prays at the Wailing Wall

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An Israeli soldier, prays at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, Israel. It was also a common sight to see very young soldiers with weapons casually walking around the city. It created a very disturbing and uncomfortable feeling for me. Perhaps, it was due to the presence of Israeli soldiers, I am not sure, but I could definitely sense the tension in the air as I wandered through the streets of Jerusalem. Now, this was back in 2009. Today, with the all the unrest happening in Jerusalem, I could only imagine the chaos and tension in the city. What are your views on the recent violent uprisings in Jerusalem?