Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

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Phu Quoc, Vietnam

I’m just back from a 3w trip to Vietnam. Let me tell you, Vietnam is the country of adventure! It seems relatively safe, if you manage to avoid the touts, cheats, and duplicitous taxis/motorbikes.

The final stop on my journey was Phu Quoc island in the ocean off the southwest tip of Vietnam. As it had been a long and stressful trip (avoid night trains!!), this last stop was just for relaxing on the beach. The choice was Bo Resort with their long private beach.

Bo Resort Beach

It’s a bit more pricey than some other resorts, but in my opinion worth it (we paid $64/night with breakfast for a bungalow for 2). The grounds of Bo Resort are well kept, the beach is much cleaner than most areas of Vietnam (only some trash washes up from the ocean), and it’s a nearly deserted private beach belonging to the resort. There’s a limited number of guests allowed, around 40. During my timelapse videos (several hours), only 2 dogs and 4 people crossed the frame.

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(filmed with a Nikon D7000 and some filters like the Tiffen Variable ND and a circular polarizer to get 5s+ long shutter speeds in full sunlight)

One note about Bo Resort: the bungalows are open (think geckos and mosquito netting) and have no A/C. If this really bothers you, think twice. But if you’re there in a cooler season (temps *below* 30C at night), the lack of A/C wouldn’t be a big issue. When I was there it was HOT.

The Bo Resort restaurant is a bit pricey ($4-8 for most entrees which is a LOT for Vietnam), but it’s very high quality ingredients and beautifully prepared in a French-Vietnamese style. Way better than almost everything else I tasted in Vietnam. They clay pot caramelized shrimps were one of the culinary highlights of my 3 week trip.

Here’s a gratuitous distant thunderstorm with stars above the clouds… photography junkies may now start drooling…

Bo-Resort-Thunderstorm

Thanks to Bo Resort for helping to relax a bit at the end of a long adventure vacation!

Posted 5 years, 7 months ago at 2:45 pm.

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Shuni-e Fire Ceremony

The yearly Shuni-e ceremony at Todai-ji temple in Nara, Japan must be one of the ancient pyrotechnic wonders of the world. Reportedly it’s been held every year since 752! And this temple complex is a world heritage site. Yes, the temple is made of wood.

According to Wikipedia, “Every night, ten select believers (eleven on March 12) shoulder large pine torches as long as 8 meters and weighing as much as 80 kilograms. Girded with swords and staves, the torch-bearers climb a flight of stairs and run along the balcony of the Nigatsu-dō, showering sparks on the public below. It is thought that these sacred sparks will protect the recipient from evil. The monks also chant, perform ritual circumambulation, and wave swords to ward off evil spirits.”

Here’s a short video of the ceremony on Mar. 11th, 2012.

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Taking photos of this is hard. You will want a VR- or IS- stabilized lens, a wide aperture (f/2.8 or wider would be nice), and a big D-SLR sensor. Times of 1/15 to 1/3 second at wide aperture can yield nice shots without having to pump the ISO too high.

Shuni-e Torch 1

Here’s another shot, with the torch-bearing monk in motion! He is running along the walkway while twirling the torch on his shoulder.

Shuni-e Torch 2 in motion

For my final trick: tell me this isn’t the most amazing shape you’ve ever seen made of glowing sparks.

Shuni-e Torch 3 bird

If you ever plan to visit Nara, the first half of March is the time to do it!

The one tip to get a good place in front of the Nigatsu-do balcony: arrive early. If you are late you will be half a kilometer away in a parking lot with a crappy view obstructed by a big tree. (To get a decent photo from there you’ll need a tall tripod and a 400mm+ pro lens costing six thousand dollars).

On this (Sunday) night, I arrived at around 5 for the ~7pm ceremony start. I had my choice of viewing position, so got an awesome spot. After a short thunderstorm (which thankfully cleared) and a nice hot coffee from a vending machine, this amazing ceremony was the reward!

Posted 5 years, 8 months ago at 9:48 pm.

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