Chinese Drums & Lion Dance (舞獅)

Last Saturday we were at the official opening ceremony of the 2011/2012 Birdwatching season at the Guandu Nature Park (關渡自然公園). As is normal at auspicious event opening there is always some drums and a Lion Dance. The drums and dance in the video below kicked off the ceremony.

The performance was by some kids from the local junior high school and we think they did pretty well. The Lion dance has been a part of Chinese culture for a thousand years at least and is usually performed on auspicious occassions such as Chinese New Year or event openings (such as this one). This particular dance was only a couple of minutes long but they can sometimes go on for much longer depending on the occasion and the event. There are (as expected) regional variations in the costumes and the dances themselves (but you can look that up yourself). It is always good to see kids getting involved in cultural activities and we enjoyed the show (short and sweet as it was).


Hutong (衚衕) Life - Beijing

The picture below is one Queenie took in a Beijing Hutong (北京衚衕) on our trip there in August 2010 with Mom. I edited the picture and I just really liked the outcome a lot so wanted to share it. I will post a longer blog at some point with other Hutong pictures.

Hutong Life - Beijing - (by Queenie)

If you have any comments, please do share.


Hong Kong Park Bird Aviary

The Edward Youde Aviary in the Hong Kong park is a hidden treasure. We have been to Hong Kong many times over many years (and even been in the park) and never knew the aviary was there. Finding it in early 2010 was a treat.

Hong Kong Park Aviary

The aviary is named after Edward Youde, a long time governer of Hong Kong. The elevated walkway enables visitors to view the birds and vegetation from varying elevations. Apparently the aviary is about 3,000 square meters and has a fair variety of birds.The aviary is beautifully laid out, it was free and is worth visiting when visiting Hong Kong Park. The video below shows some of the birds in the aviary.

A few pictures of the birds in the aviary are shown below. There were quite a few birds and species on display. It was great to visit them and to see them in this habitat.

Hong Kong Park Aviary

Hong Kong Park Aviary

Hong Kong Park Aviary

Hong Kong Park Aviary

All in all the Eduard Youde Aviary in Hong Kong is a special place worth visiting.

Food in Hong Kong - Our Friend Ron Speaks

In 2009/2010 we travelled to Hong Kong with our friends Ron and Melody. We had an awesome time there. One of the features of travelling anywhere is the food we eat. Well, after four days in Hong Kong our friend Ron gave us his thoughts on the food. Some fairly interesting insights.

The food discussed in the video above is as follows

1) Reuben Sandwich
2) Cantonese Dinner
3) Dim Sum Breakfast
4) Hamburger in Stanley
5) BLT Sandwich
6) Breakfast
7) Fish and Chips and French Toast
8) Chicken Tikka

Really fun times. Queenie and I had an awesome time with Ron and Melody in Hong Kong.


Tattoo Art in Beijing 798 Art Zone

We saw these amazing pieces of Art in the Beijing 798 Art Zone when we took my mom there in 2010. As you can see the pictures were of tragic women with intricate tatoos all over their bodies. I personally loved the concept and enjoyed this particular gallery. It was unusual and differet from the usual landscape galleries and the propoganda galleries. Unfortunately we do not know who the artist is.

Tattoo Myself - Despair

As the picture above shows, the art pieces all depicted different women with tattoos in a different emotional state of being. The picture above shows amplifies in my mind the concept of tragic beauty. Beautiful woman, scarred body, committing suicide. Terribly sad and yet a powerful emotional image.

Tattoo Myself - Sadness

The picture above was without doubt my favorite. I liked the contrast between the black and the skin tone, the intricate detail of the tatoo, the horn off the eyes, the coy body posture, the submissive melting away emotion in the face. I just really like that piece.

Tattoo Myself - Girls Together
Girls Together

The deep red in the picture above adds an emotional flavor to the picture. I love the contrasting expressions in the girls faces (the one girl has two eyes open, the other only one etc.) and how the one has a piercing in the lip and the other the piercing in the eyebrow. The closeness of the girls also seems to imply security in friendship in dramatic times. And once again the intricacy of the art tattoos and the artwork on the wall and the headpieces is amazing.

Tattoo Myself - Back to You
Back to You

The shy, graceful poise in the pose for this picture is remarkable. The light skin tones contrasted with the actual tattoo provdes a gentle texture to the picture and makes it a compelling piece for me.

Tattoo Myself - Discretion

Another great picture. The shy, defenceless posture of the lady covering herself despite her circumstance. The big eyes, the elegant and graceful pose makes this woman alluring and beautiful.

Tattoo Myself - Gun to the Head

Loved this one. The defiance in the eyes and the wicked smile in spite of the necklace of thorns. The gun is the release from life. The one thing she has control of. The blood from the thorns, the tear stained cheek, defiance in the eyes, the gun in the hand. It is a tragic but powerful picture.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed and if you do know the name of the artist then please do let me know.


Osaka 09 Pt. 02: Tennoji Park

Tennoji park is a beautiful park in the middle of Osaka and quite close to where we were staying in Kyobashi. One of the reasons Queenie wanted to go there was to see the brown autumn leaves which makes Osaka so special in October.

Autumn Leaves in Tennoji Park
Autumn Leaves - Tennoji Park (Osaka)

I think the video below covers most of what can be written here about the park, so enjoy.

As you can see in the video above, the park was fairly empty on a Saturday morning and really peaceful considering it is in the middle of the city. We loved being there. There were a lot of people paintin and some people doing excercise. There were also many beautiful flowers and scenes. The pictures below capture all this.

Beautiful Queenie in Tennoji Park
Queenie in Tennoji Park - My beautiful wife in a beautiful park

Autumn Leaves in Tennoji Park
Autumn Leaves in Tennoji Park - the main reason for going to Osaka in Autumn is to see the trees changing color. It was really beautiful.

Flower Display - Tennoji Park
Beautiful Flower Display - This display was near the front entrance of the park area next to the lake. Really pretty.

Tennoji Park Trees
Beautiful Park - looking at this picture it is hard to believe that this park is in the middle of a busy city.

Tennoji Park Lake
Art Museum - The building is the art museum that is built inside the park

Osaka Samuraii - Tennoji Park
Kendo - This guy looked older but looked really fit.

As you can see from the video and pictures above, Tennoji Park is a beautiful place. If you are visiting Osaka it is probably worth the visit and add onto that the Art Museum and I am sure you will enjoy. We had a good time on a crisp but sunny Autumn day.

More pictures @ Tennoji Park - Flickr Set

Uzbek Tales Pt. 6: Weddings in Khiva, Uzbekistan

When we were in Khiva, Uzbekistan, we landed up eating dinner at a wedding party and on the second day we danced on the streets of Khiva. We had an absolutely awesome time and to this day Khiva holds special memories for us.

Wedding Couple - Khiva, Uzbekistan
Wedding Couple on Parade in Khiva

We arrived in Khiva in the dead of winter. The Lonely Planet said that when travelling in Uzbekistan in the winter, Uzbekistan is yours. For most of the trip we had bumped into one or two other travellers, but in the ancient walled city Khiva, we were the only ones. Needless to say all the restaurants were shut and most of the guest houses were shut too. We had met an English teacher and her students and we were wondering through the streets late on Saturday night looking for something to eat when we saw a huge party going on. Our new friends told us that it was a wedding party. So me being me, dragged everything and everyone along to look. I poked my head through the door to see what was going on and before we knew it Queenie, myself and our Uzbek friends were dragged into the hall sat behind a table, plov was served for us and vodka shots were flowing my way. What an awesome experience!

Khiva Bride
The Bride

Wedding Banquet - Khiva, Uzbekistan
The Banquet

The wedding was alive with a live band playing Central Asian music and a dancer. All the men at our table (and they were all men except for Queenie and the English teacher and students, took to us immediately and started downing vodka shots with me. Little were we to know that later in the evening we were to dance and I was to give a speech. We were later told that weddings actually go on for three days and this party we were in was the brides sending off party (the groom wasn't present) and that the groom and bride would be joined the following day so we didn't actually get to see the wedding ceremony.

Khiva Wedding Belly Dancer
The Wedding Dancer

Wedding Dancing - Khiva, Uzbekistan
Queenie Dancing

On the second day in Khiva we were wandering between the old mud buildings of the town when we stumbled accross a couple of wedding parades(see picture at the top). The bride, the groom and their entire entourage walks with them through the streets of the town to show the world they are married. We saw two entourages. The first thing we noticed was the flimsy dresses the brides were wearing. This is significant because it was FREEZING (close to 0C). If you compare what Queenie was wearing in the video below you will actually notice the difference in attire. The second think that completely blew us away was that both groups stopped outside the music museum in Khiva and out of nowhere music started and people danced in the streets.

Wedding Dancers - Khiva, Uzbekistan
Dancing in the Street

Wedding Dancers - Khiva, Uzbekistan
Dancing in the Streets

Both the sending away party and the wedding parades are showed in the video below. We hope you enjoy.

These two events made our time in Khiva unforgettable. It would not have been possible without the hospitality and the open hearts of the people there. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.


Osaka 09 Pt. 01: Arrivals on the JR

In 2009 Queenie and I went off to the Merchant capital of Japan, Osaka! Neither of us had ever been in that city before so we were looking forward to it. We arrived around 9 o'clock at night and jumped on the JR (Japan Rail) train direct from the airport to Kyoboshi, where our hotel was.

Osaka Samuraii - Tennoji Park
Kendo in the Park

The train ride from Kansai airport to Kyobashi took longer than an hour (closer to 90 minutes as I recall) but was comfortable enough. We were staying at the Keihan hotel right outside the station so it was convenient. What we didn't realize before going there was that Kyobashi was one of the main entertainment centers for Osaka. It was pretty interesting to arrive. Anyway, to start this journey off here is a video of us on the JR shortly after arriving in Osaka. Enjoy, and comments are always appreciated.

On this trip we spent a few days in Japan. We spent a couple of days in Osaka, a day touring in Kyoto and a day going out to Himeji Castle and then to see our friend Mike in Kobe. All in all it was a good trip. We will post more updates later.


Uzbek Tales pt. 5: Urgut Bazaar

Urgut Bazaar is one of the most authentic market we visited in Uzbekistan. The roads were muddy and dirty and everything from fabrics, to carpets to goat heads were sold. A truly original place and somthing that would be hard to emulate.

Free Apple  - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Queenie in Urgut Bazaar

Getting There

Getting to Urgut from Samarkand is easy: just take the bus. Many people suggested we rent a driver for a day, or hire a Mashrukta but at the end of the day we asked around and figured out which bus to take. It wasn't that hard! The bus was fairly cheap and since we were among the first to get on, we did manage to get seats. The trip itself from Samarkand to Urgut was (if memory serves correctly) about an hour, and it wasn't too uncomfortable although the bus did fill up the closer we got to Urgut.

The Market  - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Urgut Bazaar

Urgut Bazaar

The Lonely Planet we had says of Urgut that the town is "one of the best places to buy silk and old textiles in the country." However, the Lonely Planet continues saying "some readers report being disappointed by this markt, but that may be because they showed up on the wrong day. This market in only happening on Sunday and to a lesser extent on Thursday." Well we were definitely not disappointed, and we went on a Tuesday. The market itself was a hustle bustle of activity. From the crowded traffic in the street in the market entrance, to the bustling business of all the vendors and stalls in the market, the market itself was filled with color and sound. As the two videos show, the market is busy and the people incredibly friendly.

Outside Urgut Bazaar

Inside Urgut Bazaar

As you can see from the video above, the market is crowded with people and different foods. Actually, we found the market to be divided into distinct sections: food, fabrics, clothes, carpets etc. It was fairly interesting to drift through the different sections and see the different wares for sale. We later learned that the cotton for the fabrics and clothes was produced in Uzbekistan and shipped to Korea/China to be woven into fabrics and clothes. These were then shipped back to Uzbekistan to be sold. The controversy was that instead of building a fabrics/clothes factory, the government had invested a significat amount of money into building a car factory when they didn't have the technology or experience to do that.

Lunch - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Goat Head

Vendors - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Bread Stands

Vendors - -Urgut, Uzbekistan
Spice Sellers

Oil Sellers  - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Oil Vendors

Fruit - Urgut, Uzbekistan

Fruit Vendor - Urgut, Uzbekistan

Selling Bread - Urgut, Uzbekistan

Market Street - Urgut, Uzbekistan

Fabrics - Urgut, Uzbekistan

Carpets - Urgut, Uzbekistan

Queenie Shopping - Urgut, Uzbekistan

Lunch in Urgut Bazaar

One of the highlights for me was eating in the bazaar. We walked into the restaurant area of the market and found a restaurant serving shashlik (skewered meat) and plov (a traditional Uzbek rice dish). bearing in mind the market and restaurant didn't have the highest standards of hygiene, we were a little concerned but decided to try the food anyway. The food turned out to be awesome and we didn't get sick so the risk was worth taking.

Lunch in Urgut Bazaar

Market Plov -  Urgut, Uzbekistan
Plov - Part of our lunch

Fellow Diner - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Fellow Diner - this guy helped us order and chased off beggars

The People

Of course the best part of the market (as always) was the people. Always friendly, always smiling, always waving at us. We really did feel welcome and although we did draw a lot of attention our way, at no point did we feel uncomfortable. We were warned we should be careful of pickpockets so we made sure wallets and valuables were stashed away properly so nothing would get stolen but we we felt safe all the time.

Tajik Girl in Urgut Bazaar
Tajik Girl - notice the single drawn in eyebrow which is considered attractive in Tajik culture

Market Boys -  Urgut, Uzbekistan
Market Boys - these kids were so excited to see us and have their picture taken. They were really friendly.

Vendors -  Urgut, Uzbekistan
Worker - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Market Worker

Video Review  - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Reviewing Videos

Mother and Daughter - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Mother and Daughter

Shopper - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Out Shopping

Vendor  - Urgut, <br />Uzbekistan

Old Man in Urgut Bazaar
Old Man

Market Workers - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Market Workers

Urgut Bazaar - Mom and Baby

Market Girl  - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Market Girl

One of the great things of walking through the fabric section of the bazaar was the color of the sunlight streaming through the fabrics. The light was soft and colored and almost magical and seemed really surreal and out of place in a place like Urgut. Truly magical and added to the color and the splendour of the market.

Streaming Light

Fabric Shimmer -  Urgut, Uzbekistan
Fabric Shimmer in Urgut Bazaar

The Bus Home

So after drifting around the market for a couple of hours it was time to head off back to Samarkand. We found the bus (pretty easy) and jumped on. Now the conductor on this bus was really funny: the bus filled up pretty quickly and when a lady with a baby got onto the bus he insisted I sit down and hold the baby. The baby was horrified. No matter how much we protested he wouldn't let us stand. Even when old ladies got on the bus he insisted we sit and berated anybody who tried to take our seats. He also berated anybody who didn't want their photo taken and took photos of everybody (we haven't included those here). The bus was pretty full but by the time we got back to Samarkand it had emptied out.

Kid and Us - Urgut, Uzbekistan
With the kid on the Bus

Crowded Bus - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Crowded Bus

Fellow Passanger - Urgut, Uzbekistan
Bus Passenger

All in all it was an awesome day. We went to the market on the Tuesday and were duly impressed and would encourage all travellers to Samarkand to go to this market. It is colorful and loud and raw and real and it is what you are in Central Asia to see. Later on when we were in Bukhara we went to the local markets that were highly sterilized, super hygenic shopping places that show some level of modernization is creeping into Uzbekistan, but Urgut will take you back a few years, and its fun!


"Trafalgar Square" (1) 798 District (1) Africa (1) Airport (1) Archive (1) Art (1) Asia Art Center (1) Aviary (1) bagpipes (1) Ban Nam Dee (1) Beihai Park (1) Beijing (5) Birds (1) Bitan (1) Boracay (2) Bozburun (1) Buddhism (1) Buddhist Temple (1) Bunny Chow (1) Cafe India (1) canopy tour (1) cat (1) China (15) Christmas (2) Colombo (3) COPE (1) curry (1) Cycling (28) Cycling in Taiwan (8) dance (3) Dog (1) Durban (3) East Rift Valley (1) Eco Lodge (1) Elephant (3) Elephant Ride (1) Ella (1) Family (6) Fire (1) Flower Market (3) Food (2) France (1) Friends (19) Fulong (1) Galle (2) Galle Face Hotel (1) Gokova (1) Guandu Nature Park (1) hiking (2) Hong Kong (5) Hot Springs (1) Hsin Tien (1) Hualien (1) Hutong (1) Ilan (2) Japan (3) Jing Shan Beach (1) Kandayan Dancers (1) Kandy (5) Kandy Lake (1) Kaohsiung (2) Karkloof (1) Kayak (1) Keelung (4) Khiva (1) kitten (1) Koh Samui (1) Laos (9) Laos COPE (1) Laos Puppies (1) Laos Travelogue (3) Leofoo Village Theme Park (2) Library (1) Lion Dance (1) Little England (1) London (13) Luang Prabang (3) Marmaris (3) Matara (3) Mimi (2) Miscellaneous (32) Monkeys (1) Moses Mabhida Stadium (1) Namtha (1) Namtha. Huay Xuay (1) New Zealand (11) Nuawara Eliya (1) Nuwara Eliya (2) Osaka (3) Our Stuff (11) Pettah Market (1) Philippines (2) Photowalk (1) Pinglin (2) Pinnawala (1) Pot Pie Cafe (1) Pudding (1) Puppies (1) Puppy (1) Restaurants (11) Shek O (2) Shihmen Reservoir (1) Singapore (1) Snake Charmer (1) Snow (1) South Africa (12) Sri Lanka (17) street performers (1) Sung River (1) Sunset (3) Ta An Park (2) Tad Sae Waterfall (1) Taipei (18) Taipei and Taiwan Travel Guide (6) Taipei Fine Arts Museum (1) Taipei Hsin-Beitou (1) Taipei Restaurant (1) Taipei Video (6) Taiwan (24) Taiwan Video (5) Tamsui (2) Tangalle (1) Tangelle (1) Temple (1) Temple Lunch (1) Tennoji (2) Thailand (1) Tissahane (1) Train (1) Travel (62) Travel Guide (1) Travelogues (7) tuk tuk (1) Turkey (11) Unawatuna (1) Unawatuna Beach (1) Urgut (1) Uzbekistan (8) Vang Vieng (4) Vang Vieng Eco Lodge (1) Victoria Park (1) Vientiane (3) Vientiane COPE (1) Wattay International Airport (1) Wedding (2) Weherahena Temple (1) Willesden Green (1) Worship Team (2) Xindian (1) Yala Nature Reserve (1) Yangmingshan (1) zip-line (2) 六福村 (2) 北京 (2) 北海公园 (1) 大安森林公園 (1) 建國花市 (1) 新店 (1) 石澳 (1) 石門水庫 (1) 碧潭 (1) 花東縱谷 (1) 衚衕 (1) 金山海灘 (1) 關渡自然公園 (1)

Popular Posts