Travel Theme : Bridges

Ailsa’s travel theme for this week (Where’s my backpack?) is BRIDGES.

This is a theme that I love to talk about. As a bridge designer and subsequently project manager for quite a few highway, railway and pedestrian / cycle track bridges from mid 1970s to mid 1980s; I have a special interest in bridges of all sorts. I have been keeping track of bridges of different historical ages, single span to multiple spans, short (just a single plank) to very long ones (suspension or cable stayed bridges), with stone and masonry as construction materials to wrought iron, steel, reinforced / prestressed concrete to even structural plastics, from straight to curve, from old style designs to the more modern bridges of streamlined aerodynamic designs. These are all my fields of interest.

Let’s start our journey from Scotland, UK. The Firth of Forth bridge is the first steel bridge built in the UK. It was opened on 4 March 1890, and spans a total length of 2,528 metres. The photo was taken in 1985.My beautiful picture

Going south into London,  we have a view of the Albert Bridge  which crosses over the River Thames in West London in West London,  connecting Chelsea on the north bank to Battersea. The bridge was designed and built  in 1873 as a modified cable stayed bridge. Again, the photo was taken in 1985. It is always a delight to stroll the river banks of River Thames, viewing bridges – including some of the notable bridges: the Tower Bridge and the Millenium Bridge..28-12-2004 10-03-56 AM_0003

We then crossed over the Channel to the European continent and ended up at Riga, Latvia. The Vanšu Bridge in Riga is a cable-stayed bridge that crosses the Daugava river  with a length of 595 meters. In the background is the TV tower.DSC_0197

Further on, we passed through Switzerland where we saw a reinforced concrete arch bridge with clean strong vertical supports springing from the curved arches.DSCF1124

We digressed into Budapest and have a great view of the bridges crossing this stretch of the River Danube. Our attention was immediately drawn to the Chain Bridge. This bridge was the first permanent stone-bridge connecting Pest and Buda, and only the second permanent crossing on the whole length of the river Danube. It is one of the iconic structure of Budapest, the most widely known bridge of the Hungarian capital.CIMG3363

Walking further on along the river bank, we reached the  Liberty Bridge. It is the third and shortest bridge of Budapest. It was built for the Millennium World Exhibition in 1896, its original name being Francis Joseph Bridge.DSCF0052

There is another bridge in the vicinity known as the Elizabeth bridge.Elizabeth Bridge was named after Queen Elizabeth, the spouse of Francis Joseph I assassinated in Geneva in 1898. With only one 290-meter span stretching over the Danube, the original bridge built in eclectic style was known as the longest suspension bridge of the world.DSCF0056

No mention of bridges will be complete without mentioning Charles Bridge in Prague. For many hours, I have been walking up and down the bridge, viewing the statues on both sides of the bridge and admiring the beautiful scenery.My beautiful picture

We finally ended up in Venice, Italy and was totally charmed by the well-known bridge which appears on many photos.CIMG0342

We then flew to Istanbul, Turkey and embarked on a cruise up the Bosphorus from where we had a breathtaking view of the suspension bridge which connects Europe to Asia. It is a gravity anchored suspension bridge with steel towers and inclined hangers. The aerodynamic deck hangs on zigzag steel cables. It is 1,560 m long with a deck width of 33.4 m.CIMG0567

From there, we took a plane to Hong Kong where at that time,  the longest single span cable-stayed bridge was being constructed. The picture taken from the shore shows the construction was extended into night-time to take maximum advantage of the time slot outside the typhoon season.Stonecutters 03_18_2009 007

Then we headed north and ended up at FengHuang city, China  where we were overwhelmed at the sight of this ancient multi-arched masonry bridge across the river.DSC_0027

We made our way to the Three Gorges, cruising up the Yangtze river, we passed by many bridges. One of these is a cable-stayed bridge of new construction.DSCF6280

We thought we have seen enough of modern bridges and, for a change, we decided to visit West Lake, China and viewed some of the old stone arch bridges in their serene surroundings which sent tranquility into our minds and souls.DSCF6488

As if we were not tired of travelling, we flew over 16 hours and landed at New York City. One of the bridges we like to visit is a stone arch bridge in Central Park. Is this the bridge shown in Richard Gere’s movie of “Autumn in New York” ?  We didn’t quite know but was greatly impressed by the romantic setting. We went on to see other bridges like the Brooklyn bridge and was awed by its beauty.CIMG0218

On our way back, we decided we would not do a non-stop flight to HK but stop at San Francisco. How could one miss the Golden Gate bridge?  We make a tour of the area and saw the mist rolling in under the bridge. What a sight!cimg5435

Bridges are aesthetically pleasing and are symbols of connection and overcoming obstacles. I love bridges for these reasons and these are the reasons for posting them. The above trip is, of course, based on a fictitious journey undertaken by the Retiree. In fact, it has been undertaken over different time zones, space, at different time, during different life stages of this retiree. It has been pieced together so that readers can have a global view of bridges all over the world – as a reminiscence of the retiree’s interest in his early career!

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge : Colors of Red, White or Red and White together

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is the Colors of Red, White or Red and White together

While it is not that difficult to find red or white separately; the challenge is more in having red and white together in a picture and that they are the predominant colors. Frankly speaking, red is not my color. This is not the color I usually encounter in my landscape photography. I only like it  if it makes pictures interesting.

In the pictures below, I have tried to showcase some pictures in which they are the main colors. Some of them can be considered pairs.

While in Hvar island, Croatia, we liked watching boats of flashy  colors in the Hvar harbor. The boats just swayed lazily in the blue Adriatic sea waters.CIMG3564

Hvar is a long island. At its far end, there is an enchanted little fishing town known as Sucraj. Here, we found red and white boats lying on the shore.DSCF0671

Langkawai, Malaysia is an idyllic island which we like going back again and agin for a visit. While wandering along some alleys, we saw these red and white flowers which overwhelmed the whole picture.DSC_0321

Lithuania, Baltic too has got some red flowers which stood out from the white  paving blocks in the pavement.DSC_0382

Wandering the street of Latvia, we stumbled upon this street side artist standing against a wall of red and white rectangles.DSC_0156

The palaces in Lativia, Baltic never failed to arouse our interest. This palace, which displayed some furniture and paintings, was once the residence of the royal family.DSC_0234

It appears that red walls in the upper portion and white in the lower portion were the favored colors of the royal family at the time.DSC_0238

Thanks  Cee for  coming up with this interesting theme for the photo challenge. For more posts showing red and white, please refer to

Travel Theme: Mountains

Ailsa’s Travel Theme for this week is Mountains

I was thinking hard as to which mountains I should feature.  I was wondering whether, again, I should show mountains from various geographical regions. Some of these could be spectacular, others may look all too familiar. However, I am uncertain that this is the most interesting way of going about it.

Naturally, I start looking into my archive, wanting to comb through to see what photos are to be included. The archives are in alphabetical order.  When I reached “B” for Beijing, I thought I have the answer. . . . .  . . .  . .  I would feature the mountains in Beijing around the picturesque area in Miutianyu where the Great Wall snakes through.DSCF2660

Surrounded by tree-covered mountains in Huairou County is the Mutianyu (慕田峪Mùtiányù) section of the Great Wall.   This section of the Great Wall dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when the wall was constructed over the site of another wall built by the Qi Dynasty (550-577).DSCF2719

It was  a hazy afternoon in late Autumn last year when we walked up the mountains. The sun illuminated the trees around us, showing the mountain in all its colors.DSCF2706

The sun was almost overhead, it illuminated the slopes and trees on both sides of the Great Wall as we made our ascent.DSCF2718

The views were breathtaking as we laboriously and gradually made our way up. Mutianyu is surprisingly well-preserved because of the solid granite blocks that were used during the original construction. The wall was renovated during the 1980’s at the direction of the Chinese government. Being 7 to 8 meters high, and 4 to 5 meters wide, the Mutianyu Wall meanders for about 2.5 kilometers and has 22 watch towers, forming a northern barrier for capital Beijing. It looks like a giant snake winding its way up the mountain ridges.DSCF2646

It was a long and winding road up the mountains. We walked up the mountains for a couple of hours, taking pictures along the way. With each ascending step, we felt the mystery and greatness of the wall. The Autumn foliage on both sides of the wall brought us warmth and colors.  All this added up to an unforgettable and inevitable sense of being part of eternity.DSCF2716

As we walked through different sections, we were awed at the beautiful scenery. Apparently the section that we walked is the most beautiful, as it is surrounded with trees and mountains beyond. As the wall twists and turns, so do the views that were spectacular.DSCF2653

The Great Wall is a romantic place for lovers too!DSCF2686

The views from the 22 watchtowers are breathtaking especially during the short Autumn season when the leaves have changed their colors. We climbed up the stairs and ladders of various watch towers and were rewarded with even greater views.DSCF2659

After walking for hours, the sun was starting to set. The sunlight cast giant shadows on the leeward slopes; leaving some tree tops of the taller trees illuminated.DSCF2673

The hills and trees appeared differently now, it was breathtaking to views trees against the light from the setting sun.DSCF2720

The 1400 step leads into a watchtower, where sound and time instantaneously cease.  Climbing down the narrow steps, one slowly came to terms that one was walking on timelessness. Thousands of years have gone by, but somehow, this wall remains. Grand and dignified, this wall has been a lone witness to the bloodshed battles in history. An inexplicable feeling of  timelessness remained for a long time in our minds.

Spring has Sprung !

Spring has sprung, at least in subtropical regions like Hong Kong.CIMG3033

There is an abundance of this flower blooming, signifying that Spring has finally arrived.

This is a flower which is quite unique in Hong Kong. It is known as the Hong Kong Orchid Tree or Bauhinia blakeana . So special that this flower is adopted as a logo on the regional flag and emblem of the HK Government .CIMG3023

This beautiful flower was found by a father of the French Mission in HK in 1880. The flower was then cultivated by twig planting. Research has found that this tree is in fact a cross between Bauhinia purpurea and Bauhinia variegata by artificial cultivation and cannot yield seeds or propagate naturally.

The related species Bauhinia variegata is also in full bloom with their light pink and white flowers. The picture below shows a tree with light pink flowers on the left and an adjacent tree with white flowers on the right.CIMG3039

If Spring has arrived in the subtropics, it won’t be too far behind in the rest of the Northern hemisphere!

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Black and White

I am happy to see that Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is Black and White.

I have been playing around converting the photo below taken in Bostwana from color to B&W. The original photo was very interesting but I think the B&W is not in any way inferior.DSCF1526

I came across a blog post which suggests that we should not preset a camera to B&W when we want B&W photos; but rather do a post processing on it. His other advice includes taking it on a grey day when the light is soft and use the lowest ISO.

I have some slides which were taken 20+ years ago and they have become decolored.  Converting to B&W seem to be a good way of keeping the photos interesting.

The photo below was taken in 1985 at Brighton Beach. I have shown it before but I couldn’t help showing it again as a B&W in a collection.Brighton B&W

Another photo taken in the same year is the Stlker castle in Scotland below. Like the other one, it become decolored and I think this is the best way of rescuing it.Scan10010

The photo below of the pyramid in Cairo, Egypt was taken in year 2000. Again, it has become decolored. B&W gives this a different mood.My beautiful picture

My picture of Istanbul, Turkey taken on a cruise when the sun was setting was almost monotonic, with a purple taint. The converted picture below seems only have changed the picture from pink to B&W.CIMG0595

Some of the pictures below are taken in more recent years. I can never forgot the difficult climb up the Wu Yi mountains, China when the sky was grey and misty. The photo below of mysterious mountain with a pavilion and tourists climbing up like (white) ants has implanted deeply in my mind.CIMG0328

The picture of West Lake, China below was taken last Winter. Post processing it to B&W does not make a big difference to the image as the picture was almost grey in  color when taken.CIMG1126

Back to the West. The picture below was taken in Dubrovnik, Croatia last May. It gives a different feel than the usual picture of red roofs to the houses.CIMG1541

Still on the same subject of Dubrovnik, the B&W picture below shows a close up version of the individual houses or structures in that picturesque area.CIMG1545

The picture of Trakai, Latvia has always been shown in color. The picture below is my attempt to show it in B&W, giving it a special character.Baltic Capitals  15-Aug-09 051B

How can I forget the beautiful Langkawai, Malaysia with the sun just rising and a boat lying on the shore . . . . .DSC_0386

I like both colors and B&W. Although, in the real world, it would be nice if many controversial issues would just be in Black or White so people do not have to fight over various shades of grey. Maybe, I should set up an opinion poll to see whether you like Colors or B&W!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Home

This week’s photo challenge is Home.

I would like to feature homes of animals ; like bird’s nest, fox holes, lion’s den, small crabs having a beautiful shell as home and tortoise carrying a hard “home” around. However, I don’t have such photos!

I also like to know how the other 6 billion people in this world live; what sort of residences they call home. I know a house is not a home. However, how often you are allowed to take pictures inside other people’s home. So my collection here are houses or other people’s home as they appear to a tourist.

I like homes with a lot of plants. My apartment has a lot of plants, houses with a lot of plants make me feel homey. We saw this house on top of a pharmacy in Annecy, France with a lot of green plants. The plants  spreaded out to several floors; we were drawn to it.DSCF1046

Not far away from this house are houses built on the edge of a river course in Annecy. What’s it like to live hard against a river?DSCF1050

Back in Fung Huang (Phoenix ) ancient city of China, we like these house along the river with a pagoda in the background.DSC_0013

High up in the tea plantation of ZhangJiaJie, we were intrigued by this house which has a bit of lake in the front. Access to the house is by way a series of stepping-stones in the water. The house seemed to have been wedged in between two stone faced hills.CIMG0309

This thatched house in Shirakawa-go in Japan is a very rudimentary form of a house, with A- shaped steep roofs and  located next to the paddy field.DSC_0165

I like houses overlooking rivers , lakes or seas. These houses overlook the Bosphorus in Turkey. The sun was setting, these houses just stood out against a darker background.CIMG0579

Even in the same country, the living condition of people can vary widely. In Cappadocia, Turkey, some people lives in limestone caves. In the picture below, you can see car parking just outside the limestone residences.CIMG0355

Many people do not have a view out to water. Although Dubrovnik, Croatia is close to the sea, these houses are bounded by the seawalls and do not have a sea view. Dubrovnik has a lot of sunshine, naturally, this is used for drying clothes.DSCF0919

In LiJiang, Yunnan of China, these residences have highly decorated window screens.DSC_0001

Further up the mountains of Yunnan, in a place now used to call Shangrila, hundreds of small houses cluttered together. All these houses have light colored slate tiles as roofing.DSC_0044

Near to the desert in Inner Mongolia, China, many people still live in tents which are called yurts. Some of these people, who may have ancestors related to Genghis Khan, are still nomads.DSCF2258

Undoubtedly, the above only features a small proportion of how the other 6 billion on this planet lives. I hope, some day, my travels can be extended to cover how some people lives in houses made of earth and cow dung, people living in boat shaped structures  etc. My present collection is, of course, limited by my travels.

Coming to think about it, no matter the shape or form of these houses, people still prefer their own beds and kitchens in their own homes rather  than those provided by modern hotels!

Travel Theme: Shadows

Ailsa’s Travel Theme for this week is Shadows.

Do I like shadows? Many times, the shadows just fall on my subject of interest leaving them in the dark or partially in the dark. In those cases, I only have the option of taking a bad picture or not at all. Sometimes, you clearly knew that, you may only pass through this place only once in a life time. So, reluctantly, you took a picture, hoping it may come out alright.

Other times, a shadow may make things more interesting. It may add to the atmosphere or making things more real by giving readers an idea where light is coming from and what funny shadow it casts. I like taking pictures with long shadows but I only have a few of those.

In this collection, I hope to show how shadows add to the picture rather than being a negative.

While walking the narrow streets in Lithuania, I noticed that the street was covered in the shadow resulting in the left hand side having a darker color contrasting with the bright color and details on the right hand side.DSC_0381

While strolling the shores of Hvar island, Croatia, we came across these white balustrades with interesting grey shadows.DSCF0471

The coastline of Hvar island never failed to impress us, these unoccupied benches by the seaside looked inviting. Their shadows imparted a sense of loneliness.DSCF0505

We found this garden by the side of Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The fountain was delightful; but I also like the tree with its shadows on the grass.DSCF1165

Walking around downtown Zurich, there was this statute casting a shadow in the background, making this statute really stood out three dimensionally from the background.DSCF1149

Down under in Australia, we enjoyed the tranquility of Lake Barrine not far from Cairnes. The boat trip on the lake brought us close to trees on the landside, with branches hanging down to the water. While the trees were in the shadows, the aquatic plants and lilies just stood out from the dark background as if the light have chosen just to illuminate them.CIMG0543

We have always enjoyed travelling to Langkawi, Malaysia. The setting sun was low down almost touching the sea. It cast long shadows on the chairs and tables by the beach side.DSC_0216

Again in Langakwi, the palm created a wavy but interesting shadow on the white sand on which it stood.DSC_0083

Last year, on our way to the YunGang Grotto, China viewing some of the biggest buddhas, we passed through this bridge which leads into the site. The bridge piers were basically in a shadow. Still, it couldn’t hide the fine details on the piers.DSCF2338

My pictures with shadows were taken mainly to highlight the portions not covered by the shadows. I must admit that the shadows in the pictures are not the main subject but help to enhance the overall quality. An inspiration from this Travel Theme is that, in future, I should also be shooting pictures with interesting shadows as the main subject.

A Word a Week: Island

This week from Sue Ellen is the word Island.

Have always liked islands – I like islands which are sort of small and idyllic.

Of the recent islands I visited, they include Langkawi (Malaysia), Koh Samui (Thailand), Hvar island (Croatia). I have also visited Guam, SaiPan, Hainan island and the outlying islands of Hong Kong (China) but consider the first three islands  more attractive. Some of the islands are in fact countries, like the UK and Japan, I do like their coastlines but they are so big that I rather prefer the smaller ones.

My post on Koh Samui – Island Hopping (  was  published in April last year. Recently, there has been a big surge in the number of readers. Many of the readers like the photos of the islands showing their different shapes and environment. There is one more photo, belonging to  the same family, which I would like to share – it shows four islands with different shapes and disposition. Together withe blue sky and blue sea, they look surreal.DSC_0664

Are we islands?

In a way, we feel we are all islands, in a common sea ( a quote by  Anna Morrow Lindberg).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

To me , everything is unique but also not unique in a different context.

All of us are unique. The tree outside my window is unique as having its own leaves, roots and life, but also not so unique as there are millions of similar trees in the world.

I was wondering what to show for this week’s photo challenge. Nevertheless. I have come up with a collection which I think is quite rare but you may still consider them not unique.

While travelling to Latvia, we came across this mound full of holy crosses. I have never seen the same before and my experience with so many crosses is unique.DSC_0258

‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ gives remembrance to the people shot into the Danube during the time of the Arrow Cross terror 1944-1945. Again, I have not seem something similar in my travels.DSCF0179

I have to resort to my old pictures as uniqueness is not discovered every day. Here are some puppets which I came across in Prague, they have a unique space in my memory.My beautiful picture

Scanned from an old slide, the picture shows the Thames Barrier when the sun was setting. This barrier is almost one of its kind, with movable barriers which protect London from unusual tides and surges.23-12-2004 2-50-09 PM_0000

The ‘Bird Nest’ in Beijing, built as a stadium for the Olympics is quite a unique structure which is yet to be copied or duplicated.DSCF2518

The ‘Hanging Temple’ in DaTung, China is unique in that when first built, the whole structure was supported by cantilever beams which were socketed into rock. Some vertical supports are now introduced underneath so as to safeguard against any sudden increase in crowd loading from visitors. The view is just spectacular.DSCF2434

White tigers are close to extinction; understand there maybe 200 of them. The images of the white tigers I have seen have stripes on the body. The one in the picture below, taken in Chimelong, China is almost completely white.CIMG1067

Understand there are quite a few places with free-standing limestone columns. However, those at Cappadocia seem to be the most impressive and picturesque.CIMG0373

The Terracotta Army in Xian, China must be unique. Few people realize that, when first produced, the army figures have colors. The colors only disappeared after burying underground for more than 2000 years. The picture below shows a head of the figure with some colors still intact (after more than 2000 years!).CIMG2372

Uniqueness brings excitement. Hopefully, you will find them unique.