Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

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

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Chilli Crab

When in Singapore, you must have a chilli crab. If you can take the heat, that is! I love ‘em, and on July 15th I headed to the East Coast Seafood Center my hosts.

Jumbo Seafood is the undisputed king in my book. They have everything known to Poseidon on the menu, and the crab is fantastic.


One of our number was not yet old enough to take the heat. He preferred the tasty (fried?) buns. Also, did I mention a few days ago that the 35mm f2 lens can practically see in the dark? 1/15s, f2, ISO 1600 on the Nikon D90.


And here’s a tasty chilli crab claw, coated in glorious chili-egg-sauce:


At this point, I was (obviously) recovered from the dumpling incident. This means I was ready to get up the next day and visit not one, but two zoos! One in the daylight, and one at night. Anyone ever been on a real safari? I’m dying to try it one day…

Posted 7 years, 7 months ago.

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The birds and the… more birds

Jurong Bird Park in Singapore is an entire zoo filled with nothing but birds. That sounded pretty interesting, so on July 14th I decided to try it out. On the way there I stopped for lunch at a Chinese dumpling place. Bad idea! More on that later. For now, let’s see what I could do with the 18-200mm VR and my D90!

The Birds & Buddies show, which I caught just after arriving, was awesome. I could do a whole article about that, but for now I’ll settle for a few photos. First up: did you know that birds can play basketball? First one to sink 4 shots wins!

Bird basketball

The next birds were just too fast. Even with ISO 1600 (above which it gets too grainy for me), they were still a wee bit blurry with wide-open aperture.

Through the hoop!

The birds-of-prey show had a bit more light. This show was also fantastic! They used fake baits (like a mock-rabbit with a piece of meat in it, and this rubber snake) with the trained birds.

Birds of Prey show

Tropical birds ruled the park. There were more brightly-colored fancy-birds than anything else. Lots of fop-and-dandy avians like these preening pretty-boys…

Some kind of brightly-colored birds - lovebirds?

And now one for the ladies among my audience. I waited a long time to get the perfect pose of these two black swans with their white-feathered baby. I didn’t know that was possible!? Maybe the little tyke is adopted.

Aww, look at the cute swans!

This is one bird for the catwalk. Natural sequins, and such stunning eyes! She was so tame, too; I was about four feet away when taking this photo. Make a turn, baby… show us the back of that dress!

The superb starling notices me

These two were getting friendly. And I must admit, there were children watching… two or three others, besides me.

Aahhh... get a room you two!

About this time, I was feeling unusually tired. On the bus ride home, it only got worse. Let’s just say, I don’t recommend the dumpling place I tried near Lorong Stangee and East Coast Road. Something I ate there caused a few hours of serious distress.

Because of the dumplings, I postponed my plans to visit the Night Safari. But rest assured, awesome shots of animals at night will be coming up soon!

Posted 7 years, 7 months ago.

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The Mer-WHAT?

After weeks of thinking about a fixed 35mm lens with a wide aperture, I finally caved in and got a used Nikon 35mm f/2 AF-D. The used price seems to be the same worldwide, and this newer autofocus lens only costs 30% more than an older manual-focus one. The wide aperture allows some nice foreground/background blur effects, and the lens can practically see in the dark. On my DX “crop sensor” camera, 35mm is like a 50mm on film cameras – the classic fixed lens size.

After buying my lens in Singapore, I walked around the city to see what I could capture with it. Here are some of the images from July 13th. First up, the Swissotel Stamford, where I stayed in 2008 when I visited Singapore during a business trip. In 1986 it was the tallest hotel in the world.

Swissotel Stamford

Marina Bay Sands is a huge new casino complex. It’s open, but apparently not yet completed. I love how the rooftop garden looks like a giant ship.

Marina Bay Sands, not fully completed

Let’s compare the concert hall, known locally as “The Durian,” to a real durian (the stinkiest fruit on earth).

"The Durian" - Concert Hall in Singapore

Now the fruit, which smells like rotting roadkill when ripe:

A display of durians in a fruit shop

Yeah, I can see the resemblance. But I can testify that the concert hall does not smell like rotting roadkill.

Singapore has a lot of rules and regulations. Eating or drinking on the subway: $500 fine. Smoking in public: $1000 fine. Chewing gum: forget about it. Graffiti: caning. How about this one – riding a bike through the underpass, $1000 fine. One sign is just not enough.

Underpass bike fine warnings in Singapore

Finally, here’s the Merlion, symbol of Singapore. That’s right – it’s half mer, half lion. I couldn’t believe how many tourists were trying to get a picture standing in front of this Merlion. More than I’ve seen in front of any other object, anywhere in the world.

The Merlion - symbol of Singapore

I tried to get a shot of the tourist lineup, but space was too tight. Maybe if I had a 15mm lens, haha. In fact it took several minutes to get to the rail for this shot, waiting for this and that big group to get done trading cameras so everyone had a copy of themselves in front of the Merlion.

Merlion crowds aside, Singapore is certainly a beautiful, clean, and impressive city! One thing for sure: the taxi drivers are all polite, use the meter, and don’t try to drag you to shopping malls.

Here’s a question: what was the most touristy attraction you’ve ever seen? Have you been anywhere that you thought, “I wish all these damn tourists would get out of the way so I could get MY shot!”

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.

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Solid Apartments

One thing I’ve noticed while traveling in Asia is that the nicer houses and apartments are very well built. My friends living there (businesspeople, expats, etc) live in solid concrete buildings with nice floors, high-grade appliances, security guards, and swimming pools:


On July 12th I headed from KL to Singapore via bus, so I didn’t take a lot of photos. I’ll leave you with a beautiful view over city buildings, framed by distant mountains.


Tomorrow, the bustling center of Singapore!

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.

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Yes, it’s all about FOOD

I’m sure there are more things to do in Penang, but we had our eyes on the local delicacies! Before heading back to Kuala Lumpur on July 11th, we stopped at a food fair and feasted on what the vendors had to offer. Laksa, Hokkien noodles (very spicy), satay sticks…

Satay sticks grilling at the Penang Food Festival

Here’s the spread at our table. On the far right you can see (if I remember correctly) chrysanthemum juice.

Feasting in Penang

On the way out of town we stopped at Ghee Hiang, a gourmet shop that sells buns, cakes, white coffee, sesame oil, that kind of thing. The buns are awesome, but the signage is even better. I couldn’t resist…

Ghee Hiang - poppin' fresh!

I’m not kidding when I say all we did was eat. Here was our delicious pork-soup-stew dinner, called Bah Kut Teh (thanks, JK!).

Tasty pork soup with herb broth

Alright, I promise, no pictures of food tomorrow – haha!

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.


Rotorua – Thermal Everything

I realized that a post from last month didn’t publish properly. So here’s a break between Thailand and Malaysia: a short flashback to New Zealand! On June 15th I woke up refreshed (and a bit cold) at the Cosy Cottage Holiday Park, in the thermal-spring town of Rotorua.

For those not familiar with such places, a holiday park is a combination of campgrounds, camper parking, and cabins / backpacker rooms. Like many places I’ve stayed in New Zealand, the heating in my backpacker room was not very good, so it pays to have a good sleeping bag if you travel in the winter. I didn’t, so I froze my arse off for two nights.

Cold room aside, his holiday park is pretty awesome. It has access to a beach on Lake Rotorua where you can dig a hole that fills with hot thermal water. Or you can soak in the thermal springs-fed hot tubs. For dinner you can cook food in a thermal-vent powered steam oven (more on that below).

Rotorua is all about bubbling, steaming hot thermal features – beaches, hot water, and boiling mud.

Boiling mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

By the way, try taking a picture of something that’s boiling. It’s not so easy! Boiling is all about motion, seeing bubbles rise and burst. A still frame of anything boiling is about one tenth as interesting as you might think.

Besides Rotorua town, I checked out two attractions: the Skyline area with a gondola, a tires-on-cement luge, and several other adventure activities; and Rainbow Park, a forest conservation area that helps raise kiwi birds and release them into the wild (among other things). Here’s a green tree gecko, a native of New Zealand:

A green tree gecko in Rainbow Park, Rotorua

To be honest, Skyline was a disappointment (seeing as I live near the Alps). The view was nothing spectacular. And I didn’t realize I could have hiked to the top of the gondola in about 15 minutes, rather than pay >$20 to ride in the (painfully slow) cabin. The luge was pretty cool – I would have done it a second time to try the “advanced” course if my gloveless hands hadn’t been nearly frostbitten from the cold.

I went back to Rainbow Park at night to get pictures of the kiwi birds. Unfortunately, just one was out and about, and he stuck to the darkest area in the whole enclosure. Since using the flash on nocturnal animals is strictly out, and I’d forgotten my tripod, here’s the best I could do. It’s a crop of a hand-held 2s exposure of a frenetic pecking bird. But it is a photo of the elusive kiwi!

A kiwi bird at Rainbow Park in Rotorua

It strikes me that “kiwi” can refer to a fruit or a bird, and is a friendly nickname for New Zealanders. So if you say “I had a kiwi last night,” it’s not certain if you ate fruit for dessert, broke a conservation law by eating endangered animals, or got lucky with a local hottie. Hmm…

Now, on to steam ovens! Here’s the rack of lamb before cooking:

Pre-cooking rack of lamb with rosemary

The lovely steam oven itself:

Volcanic steam oven at Cosy Cottage Holiday Park in Rotorua

And finally, the lamb after four hours of steaming in a volcanically-powered oven:

Rack of lamb cooked in a thermal steam oven

It’s very tender and moist, with a texture just like pulled pork barbecue! In fact, I’d recommend to use a lower grade of meat than prime rack of lamb, because I suspect this oven would make even the toughest pork or beef flake apart in moist tidbits. By the way, the cost of this hunk o’ lamb in New Zealand: $5 USD! I love this country.

Tomorrow, (a.k.a. 4 weeks ago) I’ll relate my visit to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. It definitely lives up to its name!

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.

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Penang – Culinary Paradise

On the morning of July 10th, we took in this great view of Penang from the lighthouse at Fort Cornwallis (an old British fort).

View from the lighthouse at Fort Cornwallis

Here’s a taste of the local cuisine. Laksa is a noodle dish mixed with some greens and fish paste, with a dose of chilis on top. This small outdoor restaurant is renowned as the best place in Penang to eat this regional specialty! Man, was it good. If you’re a chilihead, ask for it extra spicy.

Delicious Laksa soup in Penang

After lunch we headed to Kek Lok Si – the Temple of Supreme Bliss! This is crowned by the majestic Ban Po Thar, or Ten Thousand Buddhas Tower.

Ban Po Thar - Ten Thousand Buddhas Tower

There’s a great view of the temple complex (and the city of Penang) from the top of the tower, if you don’t mind six or seven flights of winding stairs.

View from the Ten Thousand Buddhas Tower

Definitely a lot of Buddhas (and their related statuary) in this place!

Lots of statues here!

For dinner, we went to a nice seafood market restaurant in Penang. My hosts chose some interesting dishes. The barbecued stingray was really tasty:

I eat Steve Irwin's assassin: the stingray!

And the female horseshoe crab, well, let’s just say it’s an acquired taste. Definitely worth trying once, for those with a sense of culinary adventure!

Grilled horseshoe crab - filled with shellfish-egg goodness

What’s the strangest seafood you’ve ever eaten? Leave a comment and share your crazy food stories!

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.

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More Bangkok Streets

On July 9th, all I did was travel, starting at 7am in Bangkok and ending at 12 midnight in Penang, Malaysia. It was one of those wearying days, so I didn’t take any photos. That means a bit of flair from yesterday’s street shots!

Juice and drinks are everywhere. This high-class shop had bottles instead of the ubiquitous bags-o-juice with a straw.

Fresh juice in Bangkok

There’s a lot of emphasis on uniforms, whether for workers or schoolchildren. Actually, I’m not sure if these are school or work uniforms!

Everyone wears a uniform in Bangkok

Traffic is a way of life. You’ll see jams at any time of day, and hear taxis / tuk-tuks complaining about it constantly.

Crazy Bangkok traffic at all times of day

I think this was one of the food stalls where you choose your ingredients and they cook for you. Although after closer inspection, I’m not sure. Might just be a fresh fruit or juice stand. Either way, there’s a plethora of good, fresh produce in Thailand! Oh yes, El Guapo, I would say you have a plethora.

Roadside food hawker in Bangkok

Thailand was a lot of fun and a lot of sweat, but somehow I’m happy to be leaving for less tourism-based areas. Up tomorrow, my first trip to Malaysia for sightseeing instead of business!

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.


An American in Bangkok

Jim Thompson: perhaps the most famous foreigner in all Thailand? He emigrated to the country after falling in love with it when stationed there just after WWII. Apparently he had a keen business sense, because he took Thai silk production from a cottage industry to a booming worldwide business.

In 1967, Jim Thompson disappeared while on a vacation to Malaysia. Even now, it’s unknown what happened to him – foul play, animal attack, or something else. Fortunately, his legacy lives on, as his home in Bangkok is open for visitors to see the beautiful Thai houses and Asian art collection that he assembled. I made my visit there on July 8th.

Traditional Thai houses are built on stilts to avoid damage from floods, and the ground floor around the stilts is mostly open.

Jim Thompson's House on stilts

Inside Jim Thompson’s house, no photos are allowed. But the excellent guided tour does explain a lot about this famous expat and his very original home (built from several old houses that he reassembled here). I highly recommend it for anyone visiting Bangkok!

Main entrance to Jim Thompson's House

Now for a street photo: this one was just too good for me to resist posting.

Fans and toys for sale!

The road where I stayed (Nana Soi 4) had lots of bars, where perplexingly hot and young women would talk to just about anyone. I wonder why?

Seedy bar in Bangkok

I was a little bothered by the obvious sex industry. But what can one do, other than avoid those bars. It’s frustrating that the low income society has driven women to this in order to support their families and children. So, visit Cabbages and Condoms and hope for a better future.

That’s all for today’s Bangkok adventures. Tomorrow, a day of travel – so I’ll show some more street shots!

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.


Street Buys and Santa Condom

Some of the people I met in Thailand were very nice, and the Thais I know in Germany are fantastic people. But if you’re a tourist in Bangkok, be very careful whom you trust. This basically means no one who drives a taxi, tuk-tuk, or motorcycle; and absolutely NO ONE that approaches you on the street with “helpful information.”

  • The attraction you want to see probably IS open, right now.
  • Unless it’s the palace, they probably WILL let you in with shorts/sandals on.
  • There is no “diamond buddha” at a special temple that’s only open one day a year (TODAY!).
  • The traffic always sucks; it won’t get better in an hour if you stop somewhere for shopping.

On July 7th I determined that almost no taxi wants an “honest” fare. One guy complained constantly about traffic after I refused his offers to stop for shopping, and tried to guilt me into leaving the cab. I persevered, and it took a whopping 15 minutes to reach my destination (not 1-2h as promised).

A second taxi was actually nice: took me right where I wanted to go with no complaints, for the metered fare, and actually HAD correct change. The third just wanted the flag drop (35 Baht, or about $1), then persuaded me to take the Skytrain to my destination. I took the Skytrain after it was clear he had no idea how to get to my destination, a small hotel in Nana.

Aside from taxicab craziness, here’s a selection of what I saw today. First, the Golden Mount (where the first cabbie didn’t want to take me). Great views of the city from the top of all these stairs.

Golden Mount in Bangkok

Second, here’s a lovely image from Wat Suthat Temple:

Photo inside Wat Suthat temple grounds

Now a street photo from my walk around the center of town. The small 3-wheeled vehicles are tuk-tuks, named for their annoying 2-cycle-engine noise.

Wat Suthat and the Giant Swing

After being hassled by several dudes on the street (“Don’t go to that temple! It’s closed today!”), I went to the farmers’ market. Mostly veg (for cooking) and flowers (for shrines), with a smattering of other stuff as well. Great local color!

Bangkok chilies at a farmers' market

Here’s where I ate lunch. Finally found something moderately spicy, although from what I found so far, the average Thai food (or what they serve Caucasians) is not nearly as hot as what I expected.

Lunch in a farmers' market in Bangkok

For dinner, I tried out a restaurant called Cabbages and Condoms. It promotes the use of birth control, in order to bring the skyrocketing population into check. Apparently seven children per family in a developing country is too much. The prices are much higher than restaurants the locals frequent, but the service and food are fantastic. Since the profits go to a very good cause, I was happy to splurge and spend $13 on my meal.

Plus you get to see lamps made of condoms, and great statuary at the entranceway:

Condom mannequins at Cabbages and Condoms

Yes, Santa Condom. I think I have a new theme party idea for Skydive Orange! What do the jumpers think?

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.

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