Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Day with the Seals and Seagulls

Today was a relaxed, chill day in the car.  In the morning, we stopped in the town of Kiakoura on the North East cost of the South Island to publish my blog from last night.  We are driving through rural areas and there is spotty internet.  We have to rely on our cell service internet stick and even cell service is hard to come by.  Kiakoura happened to have cell service and a grocery store, so we left stocked up, happy, and published! 

The best part of my day was hanging out at a long rocky point with seals and seagulls.  If I become a photographer, I would like to be a wildlife photographer.   Here, I was able to practice on all the marine life.  The shore was made up of large rocky points, tide pools, and sea weed.  Clinging to the rocks were large glimmering limpets, snails living in colorful shells that look like a flattened cone.  We saw only one or two seals, yet the area was said to be a seal reserve and birthing ground.  It looked as though most of the seals were hanging out on an island off the shore aways.  The only way to access it is by sea kayaks or boat.  Soon, we jumped back in the car and were off again.  

I spent the rest of the drive reading and taking pictures out the window of the van.   We soon arrived at a camping site outside of Blenheim with a few other campers parked beside us.  We walked over a small hill by our van to see a beautiful beach with high rolling waves.  It was still rainy, so we went back inside the van to cook lamb and have a nice New Year’s Eve.  Tomorrow we will drive to the small town of Murchison.  There, we will whitewater kayak and hang out for the next couple of weeks.  I am excited to see what that will be like.  I wish you all a happy new year!

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Exploring in Our New Cozy Mini Van

We arrived in New Zealand yesterday and spent almost all of today sleeping.  I turned over in my cozy minivan bunk and looked down on my parents sleeping below.  They were just waking up and they wanted to see the time.  They invited me down and we checked the cell phone.  It was 3:20 in the afternoon!  We had slept seventeen hours!  We quickly got out of bed to make breakfast and be on our way before dark. 

Our minivan is cozy and snug.  At the front end there are the driver and passenger seats.  Behind them is the kitchen area, including a small sink, a stove, and several cabinets.  The kitchen area is small, probably only a square meter or a square yard.  Behind the kitchen, there is a large bed about two meters by one and a half meters.  This is where my parents sleep.  I sleep above on a long bed, folding out at night and stored away in the day.  I love the small inclosed space and I am excited for the upcoming month we will spend inside. 

After a good breakfast of eggs and potatoes cooked on the small stove, we were ready to start exploring.  The drive today was long and rainy.  My parents sat in the front seats while I did math on the their bed.  Occasionally, I would ask them to stop so I could get out to take photos of the farm animals and the landscape.  The road lead through small mountains and along rolling hills and vast, green, lush, farm fields.  In the fields, were llamas, cows, deer, and a whole lot of sheep.  I was surprised by the lack of crops.  All along the road were trees and long grass.  The scenery was beautiful even in the rain. 

After a few hours of driving, we drove into a small town for dinner.  Because of our late start, It was dark and all the restaurants were closed except one.  We were all sick of Thai food having spent five months in Asia.  We then walked into the only open restaurant in town, Thai Siam!  After dinner, we jumped back in the car and drove for another half an hour where we set up camp in the dark.  Tonight, we will set an alarm for nine AM to prevent “over sleeping”.

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic! 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Zealand and Good Times Ahead!

Last night, we took a long, droning ten hour flight through the night from Bangkok to Sydney, where we changed planes and headed for Christchurch, New Zealand.  I could not sleep because of pure excitement to see a new and different country.  We arrived in New Zealand early this morning and were picked up by a nice man from the rental car company.   My family and I had previously reserved a camping mini van.  We picked up our rig and drove for several hours.  The land scape is wide, lush, and vast, with rolling hills.   Scattered throughout are cows and sheep.  We have arrived in New Zealand!  I am tired from lack of sleep and cannot write a full length blog. 

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!    

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Good bye Asia!

Today, Dec 28, is the last day of Asia!  In the morning, my parents did some shopping while I stayed behind at guest house watching a movie.  They came back with my Christmas surprise!  I had thought they had given up the search a couples of days ago!  They brought me a waterproof case for my new camera!  After my dad showed me the case, an amazing thought came through my mind.  We were leaving for New Zealand today!  We quickly traveled by subway to the airport and we are now in the lounge!  I am sooooo excited to see how it feels not to be in Asia!  I think five months is too much time to be in Asia.  See ya in New Zealand! 
Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ambiguous Asia

A Shrine in Thailand
We have traveled in Asia for five months and will leave tomorrow.  We have been to China, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India, and Thailand.  I was fascinated by all the astonishing things I saw.  Asia is extremely photogenic, requires immensely difficult traveling, and has captivating culture.

My photographic inspiration and my best photos were created and guided by the sheer “photogenicness” of Asia.  Things that I find photogenic are things that are different from what I am used to seeing.  The street vendors selling vegetables and other goods amazed me.  The open, rusting vehicles driving on dirt roads, and children carrying pots on their heads motivated me to grab my camera.  The different people and their faces told stories of tragic and ecstatic events in their lives.  One would almost never see such things in the US.   All this created my love and inspiration for photography, not to mention the amazing photo results which I never knew I had in me.

Intriguing Tibetan Faces
My Nepalese Friend
Bhutanese Kids Playing in the Hay
Kid Carrying Pot on Shoulder in India

Though my love of photography sparked in Asia, the continent had many challenges that we had to face.  The first challenge was language.  Often people selling or doing business with us could not understand what we were saying or what we wanted to buy.  In India, several rickshaw drivers drove us to the wrong place because they could not understand where we wanted to go.  In addition, we could not understand what they said to us, either.  We communicated with our sparse local language and their sparse English.  Another challenge we faced was the chaos!  Streets were loud and unorganized, and throughout most towns we could hear the constant sound of redundant honking and engines roaring.  In some places, there were even no street lights and we had to run out in traffic and play a common Asia game: see who stops first, the car or the pedestrian!  In addition to language issues and chaos, the food rarely changes.  Almost everywhere throughout the continent we ate rice and curry.  After a couple hundred meals, rice and curry starts to get old! 
Indian Kids on the Street

Of all the notable aspects of Asia, the one that stands out primarily is the culture.  We experienced intriguing religions, spectacular clothing, and very tricky haggling. Religion is distinct and important in Asia life.  At every meeting or event we were blessed by the ancient religious tradition of that specific area.  Buddhists placed Khatas around our necks.  Khatas are white, silk scarves only to be given to others, but never to oneself.  Hindus gave us the Tika blessing by placing flowers around our necks and sticky rice and dye our foreheads.  Once, we were all given a magnanimous gift of turbans, carefully and accurately hand wrapped.  It touched me that people would put that much time just into welcoming us! 

Another captivating religious aspect of Asia were the festivals.  One Hindu festival, Dashain, really impressed me.  This festival lasts for nine days.  On the first night of the festival, townspeople go from house to house receiving the Tika, eating food, and merry making.  On the second night of Dashain they do the same, except they go from village to village. 

The Tika Blessing, Nepal

Throughout Asia, the clothes and fashion changed in different countries.  In Tibet, women wore yak fur garments and heavy jewels hung from their ears and hair.  In Bhutan, men wore thick, plaid, coats that functioned more like a dress.  In India, women dressed in colorful fabric called saris, with long scarves wrapped around them. 

Tibetan Attire
Men's Bhutanese Attire
A Group of Indian Women and Men in Saris and Turbans

Another interesting aspect of Asian culture is the haggling.  Salesmen offered triple the correct price for items and we had to argue for several minutes over what we thought should be the correct price.  We knew we did well if the salesmen did not look happy when we left.

A Salesman in Lhasa, Tibet
A Group of Tibetan Women Huddled Around a Table
Indian Woman Asking for Medical Care
Indian Woman in a Sari

Asia offered amazing photos opportunities, gave us difficult challenges, but was filled with bursting culture flowing out of society like a glass of spilt juice.  However, I am extremely happy to leave.  The challenges and the food have overwhelmed me and New Zealand is going to feel sooooo good!

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!                 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Wat Phra Kaew

Today is one of our last days in Bangkok, Thailand.  After a lesson of math, we left the hotel to eat breakfast and to see some amazing temples.  The bulk of the day was spent exploring a Thai temple complex, looking at the the town, and taking photos.

We explored Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, a walled area with colorful temples and the residence of King Rama the first, built in 1782.  I found the temple architecture spectacular.  Scattered throughout the complex, we found twenty to thirty shining, colorful buildings.  The largest structure was somewhat narrow and very long with a colorful roof.  At every corner of the roof were spiky points curving up towards the sky.  Another remarkable building was a tall, golden, circular tower.  There was also a brownish gold monument that had several animals and other sacred figures carved into the upper sides.  All around the temples were human sized statues of Thai Buddhas.  Gold was used on almost every building we saw.  Painted on some of the lower walls of many buildings were murals telling unknown tales of ancient battles and daily life.  The Thai temples looked somewhat similar to Tibetan temples except these were much more opulent.   

After looking at the temple, we explored some of the city on our way home.  Initially, we walked through a market where people were selling food.  After eating a quick snack of mango, we took a taxi boat down a canal that runs through Bangkok.  The boat was crowded, but it got us a little closer to our hotel.  Once ashore again, we still had a ways to walk.  We passed through Chinatown which I found rather similar to the rest of the city, with the exception of some Chinese lettering and a few lanterns.  From Chinatown, we took a taxi back to our hotel. 


Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!