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Benzilan – The Place I Barely Remember

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Panorama of Benzilan

Hit by an earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter Scale, Benzilan in Yunnan, China had temporary make-shift tents as accommodation for the people which lined the street outside our hotel. We got there at night & it was the start of a series of cold nights thereafter. And the hotel doesn’t have any lifts! I felt sorry for the guys who brought unbreakable chunky luggages. Walking up the stairs with such load is enough to bring on back pain. My room that I shared with Miss Lai was on the first floor, not that bad considering that I had brought a convertible Eminent trolley bag which I hauled up like a backpack.

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My camera backpack, the Lowepro Photo Sport 200AW was filled with 80% essentials (survival equipment) & 20% photographic gear. On the first 2 days, people on the trip got a little surprised as to why I had a relatively big pack but only carried a Samsung NX200 wherever I went. I began to whip out things…….Lifestrawâ„¢……Lifeventure Shelter 2 Bothy Bag……Gerber multitool…….Sealskinz gloves…..survival kit…….Fenix PD32 light…hiking pole…..travel pillow….thermal blanket……spork…….power bars…..soup packs……purifying tabs……Platypus drinking bag……..alcohol wipes……first aid kit…..Garmin 76CSX…..batteries….. I explained to them that survival was my priority when going out into the wilderness for my adventures. Photos are secondary.

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Nice bag, no?

If I was going to travel for an indefinite period through the cold, mountainous region, I wasn’t going to leave my safety to chance or the tour guide. If we had gotten stranded for whatever reason, at least we would have purified & filtered water to drink. I’ve never been to China before & didn’t know what to expect except that the people look very similar to me. 😀

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Angela posing.

Sandwiched between the demure Angela & the excitable Leong, their antics drove me to the toilet. I have never laughed this much, all 12 days mind you, at two contrasting individuals trying to take pictures & get along. Leong’s model-opportunisticism, both as the photographer & the one being photographed, was worthy of commend. He took very flattering shots of Angela but Angela felt that he did better with aunties & housewives making them look like stars. So the hammering begun. Leong was untameable. He went after cows, goats, yaks, whatever that moved……even other tourists, to get his portraits. He even managed to herd a bull back across the bridge over a torrential river! In witnessing such charismatic flaunts, I decided to document him. I don’t remember much about Benzilan or the journey thereafter except that I was always in stitches as the taunts & threats were continually thrown at Leong by Angela, should he not succeed at taking flattering shots of her again. Leong took his task seriously & clicked furiously to get that right shot afterwards!

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Feeling the pressure…..Leong has to perform, or else…..

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Leong succeeded to ask Alex to photograph him. Alex is a hotshot photographer!

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He got Uncle Nigel to take a shot of him too! How does he do it??? 😀
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He would make sounds through the lens hood….

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And the only time we stopped laughing was when he was deep in slumber…..

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I took him taking me.

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Benzilan was beautiful but I can only remember how much those two amigos made me laugh.

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Walking across the suspended bridge.

Arriving in Kunming, Dali & Erhai Village, China in 24hours

As far as my eyes could see out of the little pane on my window seat, we were descending into a mountainous region. Whatever I’ve seen in paintings of old China plastered on the wall of coffeeshops as I was growing up actually reflected what was before me. Landing in Kunming, Yunnan, China, my 12 day trip began. The superfluous road journey was enough to set my hip off if it weren’t for the BackJoy Posture+ seat that I had lugged along. Absolutely necessary for long car rides. Each day, we travelled between 150 – 350km, stopping along the way for scenic spots & photo opportunity. Given the chance, I would have loved to stay put longer in one place to experience the culture & life of the people.

Our first stop was at ErHai Fishing Village, a lake that the Chinese term as the sea for the never-ending sight of the horizon. Not getting much sleep from the night before when we arrived at The Ancient City of Dali (Dali Gusheng), I woke up to a temperatures too low for my liking. A cotton-loving girl donned in Uniqlo HeatTech, fleece & technical jacket is hardly anything to marvel at. I saved my waterproof ski pants for the coldest sector of my journey…….Yading, in Sichuan near the Himalayas.

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At dawn, these boats are parked by the lakeside.

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Boats parked.

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Fisherfolks row out to haul in the catch.

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Wheat clusters left by the road.

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Mode of transport for the village folks.

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Taking out the vermicelli noodles at the factory.

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Noodles hanging out to dry.

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Garbed in balaclava, beanie & hooded jacket.

This was our first stop on our long & arduous journey to Yading Nature Reserve. On the bus, there were 12 other photographers & an MPV with 6 people plus the driver. Travelling 350km upon arrival in the evening was anything but nice. The fun only began on the 3rd day when I was accosted by Leong Taoping (Long Bean Army as I called him) and the demure but bean-bashing, Angela.

Cherish Whats Left of Our Cities

Some of the issues I have had to deal with in my line of work are not your day to day operational issues where you can summon help from your peers, colleagues or subordinates. I get calls for help. Calls of distress. Calls of emergency nature that sometimes, I think I need to be equipped with not just a boat, a tent & a rations bag but a comprehensive first aid kit that includes a plaster big enough to cover hurts & an automated defibrillator to stun guilty parties out of their stupidity. And I’m licensed to use one. I train people to use them too. (Don’t try it on stupidity, it might backfire on you.) With so much happening, cycling & photography have become my best pastime.

Emergencies aside, I did find the time to board the KTM train to Klang for the Tourism Selangor Day Out on the 26 May 2012 for the Selangor Heritage Photo Trail & exhibition beneath the Klang City Bridge. Meeting Dian, Nigel, Hannah & David again was good as we explored a bit of the town to bring you the old charms of the place. David broke his leg when he jumped onto the boat fully kitted up & out of disbelief, I laughed out loud. I couldn’t believe it. Get well soon, David! LOL! Sorry, I always look at the brighter side of things, not laughing at your misfortune but at how it could happen to you! 😀

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We went into an old antique shop where I found an old pair of rollerskates amongst the knick-knacks that you won’t find anymore. There was an old ID card dated back in1894!

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Old radios, photos of yesteryears & even a magazine with the dashing young P.Ramlee were for sale. (Pictures above were taken with the Samsung Galaxy S3.)

Taking a walk around the shops was interesting because we came by many florists that had many kinds of fake flowers for decoration.

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The competition was launched by YB Elizabeth Wong, who was as usual, super punctual for the function.

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The event drew many studios, photography buffs & models who were dramatically made up to don on the Mardi Gras costumes.

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I never thought water meters were this artistic. I want the pink one…..where can I find it?

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Seeing veteran citizens using the bridge with their classic bicycles brought back nostalgic past of this town. We hardly see any old folks using the bikes in Kuala Lumpur any more. I had to ask if it was ok for me to take a snapshot of him!

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And I’m glad I got to be a part of this historical event under this bridge on that day, and was told that one of my photographs won the #TSDayOut Shot of The Day Competition! Thank you, Tourism Selangor!

All pictures here were taken using the Samsung NX200 unless stated otherwise.