Category Archives: Backpacking

Reflection – Photography 2016

First and foremost, before I started writing down my thoughts on Reflection – Photography 2016, I searched through my archives, found my reflection articles for the years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. I wonder what happened to my years 2014 and 2015? That is a mystery for me to solve.

The year 2016 had a significant impact on my photography due to unforeseen circumstances outside of photography, in my professional and personal life. If you would like to know more about what really happened, I wrote and posted on what happened to me over the past three quarters of 2016 on my personal site, it’s inside the archives or you can also read Reflecting 2016 – Part 1 and 2.

Fellow photographer friends mentioned to me that they haven’t seen me post and share as many photographs, compared to previous years. They were spot on, great with details and observations. A quick look at my Flickr collection on the 2016 memories, I got 34 albums inside this collection, partly due to the fact that my Hokkaido 2016 autumn photographs (7 sets) and 3 sets of portfolio works have not been uploaded yet. Therefore, I might have 44 albums of photographs for year 2016 memories collection in my final count for this album.

That’s my Hokkaido Photo GuideTsuyoshi Kato san, during my Hokkaido October 2016 trip.

With the exception of my Hokkaido 2016 autumn photographs, the year 2016 would probably be a year of not too much excitement nor mind blowing for my photography. It’s probably due to the other circumstances that had severely affected my photography, most crucially, my personal projects were all put aside.

This cute penguin from Jurong Bird Park basically sums up my Photography 2016 Reflection –

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017.

Time to resurrect my personal photography projects and rejuvenate my photography in year 2017!

A dream, an inspiration to produce/print my own travel story book

I am a travel wanderlust deep inside, even though I didn’t travel as much and to as many countries that I would love to. One of the countries that I love, that most of my family, relatives, friends and readers would be able to see it from my sharing, is Japan.

A few weeks back, while reading and searching for photography books in the library, I would also look at travel section books. Most recently I found this book titled “日本鐵道美景”, published in Taiwan, showcasing gorgeous Japan Railways (JR) landscape sceneries and JR trains in action. I was in awe and totally mesmerised by those photographs showcased inside the book, the locations on where you can go and photograph them. Deep inside my heart, I am thinking of photographing JR railway sceneries in my next Japan trip.

Most recently, I found this book in the library, on Hokkaido personal travel stories by Milly, titled “一個人的幸福旅程-北海道“, that is also published in Taiwan. Similarly, I am also very inspired by this book and thinking of combining my 2014 and 2016 Hokkaido travel stories together into a mini e-book / PDF book as well as printing them out as a physical book. I am wondering how it would turn out?

To be honest with everybody, I don’t know how to produce and print a proper book with ISBN standard and registration. This is my dream, my inspiration to produce and print my own travel story book, on Hokkaido, using my travel stories of 2014 and 2016. I only have my stories and photographs, I don’t know how to do a proper and professional book layout, I don’t know the process of editing and getting the final stories edited.

This new journey that I just discovered, it’s daunting yet I can feel the excitement and adrenaline, an experience something similar to my Hokkaido photo book that I printed in 2015. I am going to discover this new journey of producing and printing my own travel story book.

It’s going to be another difficult journey with an unbelievable goal and outcome at the end. This is not so much about earning money, these are my own photography artworks and travel stories, my pride and joy. I am definitely going to face a lot of obstacles in many aspects. I am going to think, plan and work it out step by step, no rush, no pressure.

A dream, an inspiration, a new personal project discovered for year 2017 and unearthed deep inside my heart and soul, it’s like my calling.

Smarty (prescription) Sunglasses for my photography and outdoors

Sunglasses, how does come into the picture for my photography website? This accessory is not directly linked to photography and mainstream photography accessories. The sunglasses is more of an apparel, essential and important especially for those who spent time outdoors in their work and leisure. A pair of sunglasses in my personal humble opinion is very useful and important for photographers like me who are taking photographs in the outdoors (events, wildlife, travel) and also for those who love the great outdoors!

Nowadays, there are many more sunglasses brands, models and designs available in the market. I owned other sunglasses previously and still have them today but they were not prescribed to my short sighted eyes. I have been searching for prescription sunglasses and couldn’t really find suitable ones over the years. When I read about Smarty Sunglasses by The Lens Men, I decided to read up and research more about Smarty Sunglasses and they were able to do a prescription sunglasses!

There are other alternatives too e.g. wearing contact lenses or going for lasik surgery. After weighing the options available and based on my personal preferences, I chose the prescription sunglasses method. Therefore, I decided to visit my friendly and trusted optometrist The Lens Men (my last two pair of spectacles were with them). Prior to going down, I had a chat with The Lens Men via Facebook and they were responsive to my queries.

I was lucky that The Lens Men happened to run a promotion program – Sporty September on their Facebook page in the month of September 2016 with custom Rx packages featuring Essilor’s Crizal Xperio are 30% off, I managed to make an appointment the final week of September and get my Smarty prescription sunglasses, at The Eye Site, sister company of The Lens Men! Some might feel that it’s a bit pricey for a prescription sunglasses, I view it as an investment for my photography and outdoors. I managed to raise some funds for my Smarty prescription sunglasses from selling off old smartphones during my de-cluttering process.

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Smarty Sunglasses S14516

When I was at The Eye Site getting my Smarty sunglasses done up, I initially wanted the model S14509 because I really liked this design. However, the friendly folks at The Eye Site advised me that based on my the degrees for both my eyes, it is highly not recommended because the prescription lens will look really thick and not suitable for that particular frame. After listening to their professional and detailed explanation, I looked at other alternative models and I chose S14516 instead. I waited for about 1 week+, I was finally able to collect my Smarty Sunglasses and I realised why the folks at The Eye Site / The Lens Men advised me not to go for the initial model S14509 because my lens would be quite thick!

With photography master Yip (centre) and photography master Jensen Chua (right) at Singapore Zoo

Finally, after searching for some time, I finally have a prescription sunglasses for my photography and great outdoors. I brought it to Hokkaido recently in October and it came in very handy when I was on Mount Tokachi, with snow on their slopes (while it is still autumn season), facing the sun and snow, my Smarty sunglasses really helped me a lot, protecting my eyes too! Although I have to lift up my Smarty sunglasses to view the photos on my LCD screen on my camera, it’s just a minor action to do and I can live with this action, as long as my eyes are protected from the glaring sun.

As a person who love the great outdoors, a photographer who shoots quite a lot outdoors too (wildlife, events, sports), a pair of sunglasses to me is a must have. Add in a prescription based sunglasses, it’s really ideal for me! I found this prescription sunglasses with the Smarty Sunglasses via The Lens Men and The Eye Site, friendly, professional and knowledgable folks, this is my third pair of glasses with them!

Time to explore more outdoors and taking photos with my prescription Smarty Sunglasses!

F-Stop Loka Review

Photographers, let me ask you a question, how many different types of photography bags do you have? I realised that I do have a number of different types and sizes of photography bags over the years, from sling/messenger bags to backpacks.

First and foremost, let me consolidate my very own photography bags listing that I had used over the (probably last 10?) years that I had been photographing

  • Crumpler Wonder Weenie Messenger Bag with Crumpler bunion insert (still around after more than 10 years already!)
  • Crumpler photography backpacks x 2 (gave away)
  • Crumpler Messenger Bag (gave away)
  • Safrotto photography backpack for big prime lens (traded away)
  • Manfrotto Bravo 50 camera backpack (gave away)
  • Kata 3N1-33 DL photography backpack
  • Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Bag (Messenger Bag)
  • Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag
  • Manfrotto Roller Pro VII Black Case
  • F-Stop Loka camera backpack

* Camera bags listing correct as of, when this article was prepared and written*

There is a camera bag for each different photography purpose/assignment/requirement, a camera bag for each occasion. While I do have extra bags in certain areas e.g. camera messenger bags, it is still useful to have backups and rotate the bags! Camera bags are like big and small accessories for the photographer, we really want to have more different kind of camera bags!

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Finding my ideal camera bag took me quite some time before I am kind of settled down with camera bags that I really wanted and suits my photography assignment and needs. The F-Stop Loka photography backpack is at the moment my best camera bag investment till date. Although the F-Stop Loka that I bought was a used camera backpack that I took over from fellow photographer friend Weili of ByTheWei, this camera bag was something that I never regret buying (not like some of the other camera bags).

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The Loka camera backpack is well designed and well thought out. It is also very comfortable with its back padding, making it ideal and excellent for carrying my Canon DSLRs, big prime lens (300mm f/2.8) and my other lenses (70-200mm f4 and 17-40mm f4) during my wildlife/birding/sports photography. These equipment setup can be really heavy and taxing on my shoulders, neck and back, therefore, a sturdy and reliable camera backpack like the F-Stop Loka really does the trick and work for us “heavy duty” photographers.

IMG_9135It is ideal for overseas travel, the size and length of the Loka camera backpack fits the carrier hand-carry luggage size (just don’t squeeze too many stuff and fill the Loka camera backpack to the brim). Currently, I am considering to use it for my local photography usage and not just overseas travel usage because of its excellent padding and support for my shoulders and back (even though it does look a bit big when I use it for the smaller events photography coverage here). The Loka camera backpack can be configured with the purchase of additional internal compartment units (ICU) that can be fitted into the F-Stop Loka camera backpack. I currently have two ICUs for my Loka camera backpack, for lightweight/travel and heavy duty photography requirements.

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Photography by Renhao

Since I like my F-Stop Loka camera backpack so much, I did two photography profile shoots by fellow photographer friends Renhao and Jensen, docked in my wildlife photographer gear setup and outdoors clothing/hat. I might have just created my own photographer branding and trademark profile with my F-Stop Loka camera backpack, outdoors apparel and my Canon photography gears setup! At the moment, the F-Stop Loka has met most (if not all) of my different types of photography needs and requirements, maybe in the future, I might have the need for the F-Stop Mountain series camera backpacks. Sometimes, I found that unzipping the back padding and followed by unzipping the ICU, it can be quite a hassle since the ICU is designed to fit in very nicely inside the Loka camera backpack. I hope I can get used to unzipping it without too much hassles! The F-Stop Loka camera backpack is an excellent and lightweight, ideal for most photography assignments and travel photography. If you are planning for extra heavy duty and extreme outdoors photography, do take a look at their F-Stop Mountain Series camera backpacks!

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Photography by Jensen

The prices of the F-Stop series of camera backpacks can be pricey and on the high side, on top of that, you still have to factor in the costs for additional ICUs for your F-Stop camera backpack. Personally, in my humble opinion, the F-Stop camera backpack is worth the (photography accessories) investment that you will not regret. For your information, the Loka has now been replaced by the Loka UL!

In Singapore, F-Stop equipment are not that common and it can be pretty hard to find a retail outlet that carry F-Stop equipment and also have stock. Therefore, it might be easier to purchase it online from F-Stop website. Alternatively, if you are traveling out for holidays, you can check out the camera shops in the country that you are visiting (they might have it).

I am excited with my F-Stop Loka camera backpack investment and I am looking forward to many photography adventures together with it!

Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01 Review

Canon recently introduced its first, new and exclusive range of camera bags to their extensive family of camera gears and accessories. The range of camera bags by Canon, cater to all levels of photographers for their digital SLR and compact cameras collection. When I first read about the new range of Canon camera bags, I was impressed and keen to take a look at their professional series camera bags, especially the Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01. I was looking for a heavy-duty camera backpack for my serious photography (and for my assignments too) needs!

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1Dmk3 with 300mm f2.8, 70-200mm f4, 17-40mm f4 and 580ex2

The opportunity to test and review the Canon new camera bags came true and I had the Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01 passed to me for review. Due to the nature of my full time job, I was only able to test it on the weekends. A serious enthusiast/professional photographer usually has a number of different types of camera bags to suit the needs for different occasions and photography shoot requirements. A professional photographer usually need (and will need) a professional camera backpack to put at least 2 camera bodies, a number of lenses (3-5 lenses) and photography accessories such as speedlites, extra batteries, storage cards etc. That’s where the Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01 comes in handy and highly suitable for the professional photographer (or serious enthusiast photographer) in you.

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Comfortable, thick and wide shoulder straps of the Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01
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15inch MBP fitted in nicely!

Let me share with you the pros, cons and thoughts on the Canon Professional Backpack RL BP-01 –

Pros

  • Shoulder straps paddings are thick, comfortable and wide.
  • There are many pockets to store photography accessories.
  • There is a top load opening to keep/take out your DSLR camera with lens attached.
  • Waterproof zips at side pockets.
  • 15inch laptop can fit in nicely.
  • A poncho to cover the bag in the event of rain.
  • There is a clip on the camera strap to lock the strap from becoming loose.
  • The professional backpack can carry up to 2 DSLR bodies (can put in 2 x 1D series bodies) and 7 lenses + accessories
  • Detachable waist strap paddings.
  • Comfortable and ergonomic back padding.
  • Hand-carry luggage size.
  • Can carry tripod and trekking poles.

Cons

  • Waist strap padding is not wide enough.
  • Hand strap on top of backpack is not thick enough.
  • No side hand straps.

The Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01 is the size of a hand carry luggage [External Dimensions: (W x H x D) 350mm x 530mm x 320mm] and it should be suitable for hand carry luggage check in at major international airports [Changi Airport hand carry luggage size: 55cm (L) x 40cm (B) x 20cm (H)]. Do check with the respective airlines and airports for hand carry baggage size limits.

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Top loading method to slot in your Canon DSLR with lens attached!
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Check out the clip that helps to lock and prevent the strap from becoming loose!

Q: Which group of photographers is the Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01 suitable for?

A: I think the Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01 is highly recommended for

  • Sports / Wildlife / Outdoors photographers (with a possible camera setup combination such as 2 x 1D series DSLR bodies, 300mm prime lens, 70-200mm zoom lens, 17-40mm wide angle lens and tripod).
  • Wedding and Events Photographer.
  • Enthusiast photographer with a wide range of DSLR camera bodies and lenses combination.
  • Travel Photographer (on assignments).

In my personal and humble opinion, the Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01 is a well thought out and well-designed photography professional backpack, especially in the areas of bringing out the most camera gears that a photographer needs without compromising the comfort of the photographer. While it may not be the most aesthetically beautiful and colourful backpack, I don’t think it is meant to be. The Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01 is designed for the serious/professional photographers with a “work horse” backpack and you don’t need it to be fanciful at all.

I am currently on the look out (and researching) for a rolling (trolley) camera backpack. The introduction of the Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01 gives me a good alternative for serious consideration in lieu of a rolling camera backpack. I would definitely consider the Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01 when I am looking for a heavy-duty professional camera backpack.

On a side note, photographers do own a number of bags, from the small pouch to the mid size messenger bags, mid size backpack and professional backpack. There is something suitable for our various cameras setup and requirements. Sometimes, photography bags are never enough and only photographers will understand this unique photographers language and practices. That’s why, for the serious enthusiast and professional photographer, the Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01 might be/is suitable and ideal for you the photographer.

If you are keen to own the Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01, it is now available at a Retail Recommended Price of SGD $289.

* I would like to thank Canon Singapore and Ogilvy Public Relations for the opportunity to review the Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01. *


Created with flickr slideshow.

Yangon, Myanmar

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been an intriguing country with a long history in Southeast Asia. With her doors closed to the outside world for many decades, Myanmar is slowly opening her doors to the world again, welcoming visitors back to the Golden Land. Their doors opened up a few years ago and many opportunities appear, slowly opening up to the world, with tourism and travel being one of the key industry sectors to benefit Myanmar in her quest for economic development and growth.

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I recently went for a short 4D3N trip to Yangon (with 2 nights in Yangon), Myanmar, my maiden trip to the Golden Land and I was really looking forward to it. Coming from different perspectives of a traveler, photojournalist and hospitality graduate, my 4 days of adventure was a fruitful and interesting travel photography adventure. Besides being a leisure trip, it was also an ideal timing to observe the business opportunities in the tourism, travel and hospitality sectors.

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The streets of Yangon left me a deep impression for a very different reason, left hand drive like the United States of America, vehicles of both right hand and left hand drive are allowed on their roads in Yangon. Different brands and types of cars are filling up the roads and it’s starting to get crowded. There aren’t any motorcycles allowed on the roads in Yangon (they only appear in the night). The public transport buses is going to be a challenge for the international visitors, the culture of riding public transport is kind of no rules yet you know how to board and ride the buses to your destinations. Taxis are your home sedan cars with a taxi sign pasted on top of their roof, operating without meters.

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Urban landscapes are slowly changing and more high-rise apartments are appearing in Yangon. The mixture of new and very old buildings together side by side is a common sight and this is probably going to change in the next 3-5 years. I can sense the change in the air, new building constructions, buildings and sub-urban hubs. The changes will take time and it’s happening right now in Yangon.

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The culture and lifestyle is like going back in time, where the pace of life is not that fast and furious yet (with the exception of the traffic on the roads). The markets and roadside stalls, give Yangon its distinctive sights and character. I had an interesting time walking down the roads and trying to discover some old photography treasures within them, although unsuccessful, I might just try again to find some treasures there! For street photography lovers, you would love Yangon for its roadside markets and stalls, and the night street scenes at their Chinatown.

One of my best travel photography memories there in Yangon was the Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s absolutely gorgeous, grand and amazing. No simple words can describe, just photographs and being there personally to soak in the stature and ambience of the Shwedagon Pagoda, will you feel the words that sometimes travelers can’t describe. I didn’t get to spend enough time there and I probably need at least a half-day trip to Shwedagon Pagoda when I visit Yangon again in the future. The colonial building in the heart of the Downtown area, where the Sule Pagoda is located, shows the roots and connections with the British Empire.

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What are the opportunities for Myanmar in their travel and tourism sectors? In my personal opinion, it’s primed for some big massive growth and expansion. There is a need for more accommodation and Yangon is going to be the springboard for travelers moving out of Yangon to other world famous areas such as Bagan and Mandalay. The coastal areas and many islands located at the Southern part of Myanmar are a really huge potential area for tourism and hospitality expansion, an area that I will cover about shortly in another post.

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Maybe we need to give them 5 to 10 years; maybe they can do it with a shorter time frame. Along with new infrastructure developments, relaxation of visas into Myanmar, we will probably see many changes and improvements. Let’s hope that the markets, lifestyle and roadside stalls are still a part of the new country in the future. Myanmar is definitely a photographer’s dream destination; check out my earlier post on 7 Days in Myanmar! I am planning a trip in the future to their famous destinations such as Inle Lake, Bagan, Mount Popa, U Bein Bridge in Mandalay and Kyaiktiyo Pagoda a.k.a. Golden Rock. I will love to produce my own personal 7 Days in Myanmar travel photography book in the future!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to the Golden Land!


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

My Photography Thoughts ~ Mahalo 2012 and Aloha 2013

Mahalo it’s Thank You in Hawaiian. Reflecting back in the year 2012 and thanking the year 2012, counting my blessings, the moments, events and things in 2o12 that I was given the opportunity to document and photograph down here on my photography site and my Flickr 2012 collection.

In the year 2012, I had very fulfilling times in photographing and documenting

– Heritage, History, Conservation and Preservation

  • Old Places
  • Traditional arts performances
  • Traditional business practices
  • Ancestors trail hunting at Bukit Brown

– Arts and Cultural Events

– Photography Reviews Opportunities

– Photography Contributions and Engagements

– Dragon Scout Group

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As I welcome a new year 2013, there were thoughts going inside me whether I should or I would be writing photography resolutions for the year 2013? Reading Outdoor Photographer Magazine Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Photographers, it got me thinking hard and deep inside my heart. By writing down what I think, plan, strategise and want for my photography in 2013, it would be my thoughts, ideas and desires for my photography.

Here’s to Aloha photography 2013

– Continuation of where I left off in 2012 in the Heritage, History, Conservation and Preservation, particularly Bukit Brown and Old Romances

– My own photography exhibition (where, what’s the theme, when – seeking, searching and dreaming my own answers)

– Sharing and building up my FB Photography page to share my stories and tips for my friends and supporters

– Taking more many different photographs and sharing here on Flickr !

– Curating and adding selected photographs to my Photography Portfolio on 500px!

– Upgrading myself to another level of my photography, in terms of skills, knowledge and experiences. The areas that I am looking at are lighting and portrait photography (indoor and outdoor), black and white (street and abstract).

– Travel to locations whereby I can go trigger happy with my camera

– Sharing and teaching photography

Would you like to walk with me in my photojournalistic journey in 2013 ? You’ll Never Walk Alone with my photojournalistic journey !

DSG Hawaii Overseas Exchange Day 8 – Big Island Day 2

Day 8 of Dragon Scout Group (DSG) Hawaii Overseas Exchange Program, Day 2 on Big Island, Hawaii. After an exciting Day 1 on Big Island, the boys and girls woke up in the chilly morning for a morning PT, running from the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) towards nearby areas in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I didn’t join them and stayed back taking photographs of the KMC, the surroundings, enjoying the morning breeze walk with Wayson and Sterling. I had a nice hot coffee with Wayson and Sterling, chatted at the staircase leading up to our accommodation. Thereafter, Wayson, Sterling and myself picked up breakfast and lunch packages from KMC admission office for the boys and girls later to have their breakfast.

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After the DSG boys and girls were back from the morning PT, it was rest time and breakfast time. We all had packed our daypacks, cleared our things from the bunks and got ready for our Big Island Day 2 adventure. Soon, we were on a road trip along Crater Rim Drive, heading towards the coastal area, the Chain of Craters Road. The Chain of Craters Road is a 38mile (62km) round trip that descends from 3700 feet (1128m) to the coast. Driving downhill towards the coast, what we saw were vast giant land of lava flow that were hardened/solidified since 1986. The road trip was very quiet and peaceful outside because there weren’t much traffic at all. However, during the road trip, my rental van was singing in the van while it was heading towards the end of Chain of Craters Road. We had our first stop at Kealakomo Overlook and Picnic Area (if I get my facts correctly). The view was special, vast open flat lava land, it never seemed to be ending anywhere that our eyes can view. I simply had to take a group photo of DSG here, we were going to leave our Dragon Scouting footprints here!

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Continuing our road trip downhill, the coastal and shoreline became more visible. Being a landscape and travel photographer myself, I just took photographs from our van tinted windows, the views were simply breathe-taking beyond words of description and composition here. The photographs that I took simply spoke for itself the beauty and aura of Mother Nature’s gorgeous natural artworks. Driving downwards and reaching the flat coastal plains, we soon reached the end of Chain of Craters Road because the road was closed and no longer accessible by vehicles due to the young 2003 lava flows. We disembarked after parking our vans and started trekking along the road. Passing by the huts and restrooms and barricade, we just trekked on the road, unable to really see what was ahead, the scene seemed never-ending. However, straight ahead, we saw something sticking out of the road, black and totally sealing the road off. This was the young 2003 lava flows, the youngest land on Earth being rewritten into the history books. Trekking on the uneven lava land, the adventurers from DSG continued their exploration, soon, we found a signboard that was placed there “Road Closed”, that suited the location perfectly 100%.

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After many photo taking by the boys and girls from DSG, we took a Group Photo there with the “Road Closed” signboard. It’s simply can’t be missed and I loved it how DSG had been leaving many Dragon Scouting footprints in Hawaii. We then begun to trek towards the coast line, where we can watch and enjoy the beautiful ocean waves and breeze. The views were simply gorgeous, yet it could be dangerous since there weren’t any barricades around the edge of the cliff and it was a vertical straight drop. Therefore, the teachers, along with Wayson and myself, being adults, had to ensure that the DSG boys and girls were kept a safety distance and being looked after carefully at all times while they were looking and enjoying the ocean breeze and waves splashing against the cliff. Although our plan to view the lava flow around this area wasn’t available, we still enjoyed ourselves a lot trekking and exploring the End of Craters Road.

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After many photographs were taken, we returned back to our rental vans and started our return journey uphill towards Kilauea Visitor Centre. We stopped by the Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku) and this was a very popular tourist attraction with coaches, rental vans and private cars parking nearby and hordes of people walking towards the Lava Tube. Therefore, there was a bit of queuing up to enter the Lava Tube cave. This was a pretty short trek because the other half of the Lava Tube cave was closed to the public. This was an eye-opener on how lava once flowed this tube (given the size and height of the tube/cave). After finished trekking and exploring Lava Tube, we departed Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, had our quick lunch nearby from Volcano Village. We drove back to Hilo, whereby the rental vans would be returned and getting ready to board our domestic flight from Big Island to Oahu. Before that, we visited Rainbow Falls Lookout, that had a nice pool of water below yet no waterfall due to the dry weather that day. We then drove toward Big Island Candies for shopping and rest, some of them bought cookies while I just bought ice cream and rested. Sterling and Wayson went to refuel the rental vans that were due to be returned.

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In the late afternoon, we reached Hilo Airport, the boys and girls rested, did their reflections and wrote down their thoughts and stories on their second day in Big Island while Wayson and Sterling returned the rental vans. Once they were back, we entered the immigration area, waited for our flight and returned back to Oahu. Our hosts were there to pick us up from Honolulu Airport and we were now headed for Waikiki, our hotel was the Aqua Aloha Surf Hotel, located at 444 Kanekapole Street, Honolulu, HI  96815. We collected our backpacks that were brought to us by our Hawaiian friends from their home, waited at the hotel lobby. Once rooms were assigned, we went to our rooms, dropped our bags and quickly went for dinner in their respective groups. I had a quick dinner at the nearby International Market Place and went back to my hotel room for a good sleep and rest after helping Janice and Guan Ying to prepare for the farewell dinner video. It had been an awesome 8 days in Hawaii and tomorrow would be our last night in Hawaii!


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

DSG Hawaii Overseas Exchange Day 7 – Big Island

On the 3rd December 2012 (Hawaii Time), the day that we had been looking forward to in our Dragon Scout Group (DSG) Hawaii Overseas Exchange itinerary, it’s Day 7 and we would be flying over to Big Island from Oahu for a 2D1N adventure. Waking up early in the morning, leaving the DAV campsite and heading for Honolulu Airport, we checked in and waited for our domestic flight to Hilo, Big Island. It was a short flight around 45mins to 1hour and with the beautiful weather in the sky, we saw beautiful white clouds and saw the islands of Moloka’i and Maui below us.

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Soon we arrived at our destination, Hilo Airport. Sterling and Wayson went off first to pick up the 2 rental vans nearby Hilo Airport. Once they were back, we started our adventure in Big Island. First up, it was lunch at a nearby eatery, always fun to taste local food, their portion is always upsized according to our standards. I ordered a large meal and shared around. When we finished our lunch, we continued our journey and our first stop was the famous Mauna Loa Macdamia Nuts plantation and factory. It was shopping time for Macdamia Nuts, souvenirs, looking at the production/packing line of Macadmia Nuts factory from the glass windows. We didn’t take up too much time there and soon we were on our way to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, something I was eagerly looking forward to during this whole trip! Do follow Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Facebook!

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As our rental vans traveled uphill towards Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the weather got cooler and we knew we were reaching soon. We reached the entrance of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where the ticketing booths were located, continued driving in and we reached Kilauea Visitor Centre. At the Kilauea Visitor Centre, we learned about the geographical landscape on how Hawaii was formed, the flora and fauna on the islands of Hawaii. We watched a video presentation at the Kilauea Visitor Centre before starting our exploration around the Kilauea Visitor Centre area. Our first location was Volcano House, a short walk from Kilauea Visitor Centre, that was the start of our eye-opener adventure in Big Island. The vast open volcano land view was simply breathe-taking beyond words, it shows the beauty of Mother Nature and her creations. This was just a part of the viewing locations for the Kilauea Caldera, it’s really really big and vast!

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Continuing on, we trekked back to Kilauea Visitor Centre, hopped back into our rental vans and began our Crater Rim Drive adventure. We soon reached the Steam Vents (Wahinekapu) and spent some time there, exploring the steam vents. It’s really strong and hot, like a hot sauna into your face! I asked the DSG boys and girls to take a group photograph there in front of the steam vents and they had a “hot” time while we were photographing away! The Sulphur Banks (Ha’akulamanu) was nearby too and we started trekking towards there from the Steam Vents. The flora and fauna were unique, there were lush greenery with beautiful flowers from the road walking inwards towards the Sulphur Banks. However before moving closer towards the Sulphur Banks, it became dry and barren with strong sulphuric activities and smell. After photo taking and exploring around the Sulphur Banks area, the DSG boys and girls trekked back towards the rental vans and we drove towards Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

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I didn’t know much about this region at all, it’s very beautiful and I was mesmerised by the beautiful creations of Mother Nature, the vast land size, the geographical and geological nature of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It’s a hidden gem! From Hawaii Volcano Observatory, the views were so gorgeous and amazing. All the DSG boys and girls cameras went into overdrive mode and started photographing the sceneries, themselves and with their friends of this beautiful place. I also went a bit overdrive too, however, there were times I just paused, sitted down there, just silently viewed the entire Kilauea Caldera from left to right, like a panoramic eye. I haven’t had such an opportunity to sit down, relaxed and enjoy the gorgeous artworks of Mother Nature. The time there was very Zen, tranquil and peaceful for me, this was something very special inside my heart and soul (the Boy Scouting / Outdoor Adventurer / Traveler spirit) that had been missing from my life for quite a long time.

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Our DSG boys and girls visited Jagger Museum and learned more about the Kilauea Caldera, looked at the volcanic rocks and the history of this area. Wayson and Sterling spoke to the Park Rangers Office and one of their Park Rangers kindly brought DSG for a short tour/presentation of Kilauea Caldera. Our boys and girls were grateful, they were attentive when the Park Ranger was sharing his knowledge and stories of this area. His talk was very interesting, captivating our DSG boys and girls, listening attentively. Our Park Ranger host was so great that tourists also flocked behind our DSG boys and girls, and listened to his sharing together too! When he finished his sharing, we all had to take a photograph with our lovely Park Ranger host!

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It was dinner time and we left Hawaii Volcano Observatory for Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) for our dinner and accommodation. They are a pretty good place to stay while visiting Big Island especially for group tours and it’s definitely worth considering! Do check out their KMC website for more information! After dinner, we drove back towards Hawaii Volcano Observatory for another different view of Kilauea Caldera. It was pitch black darkness, except for 2 main things, the glowing fume from Kilauea Caldera and the many many beautiful star trails above the Hawaii Volcano Observatory. While we weren’t able to view a real life lava flow, we were quite close to the volcanic activities and right in the heart of volcanic land.  This time again, I was brought back to my heart and soul again, like it was earlier in the day. Taking photographs, enjoying the night Hawaii Volcanoes National Park sceneries, sitting down and relaxing, I wished I was able to spend more time there at night, photograph the star trails and concentrate on photographing the glowing fume. However, time was not on my side and I didn’t have my tripod, telephoto lens and remote control. Therefore, I want to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park again with my full gear of camera equipment.

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Due to time constraints, I couldn’t spend more time there during the night at Hawaii Volcano Observatory. We needed to head back to KMC for washing up, rest and recovery. The place was warm and cosy, nice beds with thick blankets. The dormitory was just like going back to Army Days for me except it was more relaxing! After a group debrief and personal reflection time for the boys and girls, we all had a good night’s rest before continuing with Day 8 adventure on Big Island, Hawaii.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

DSG Hawaii Overseas Exchange 2012 Day 3 – Coastal Scenic Drive

Day 3 of DSG Hawaii Overseas Exchange program 2012 began each morning with the standard routine PT regime, duty patrol preparing breakfast and having the Flag Break ceremony. The schedule of activities started to get more interesting and exciting from this Day 3 onwards. The schedule was filled with coastal scenic drive to along the highway towards the Southeastern tip of Oahu, up along the coastline towards northern part of Oahu. After dividing the group into 4 vehicles, 2 x 12 passenger rental vans and 2 sedans. We started our coastal scenic drive along the highway.

Hanauma Bay

First stop was Hanauma Bay, is a very beautiful and scenic location, it’s a marine embayment formed within a volcanic cone and it is a very popular tourist destination. The view from the top was superb, the waters were crystal clear and clean. Due to time constraints on our schedule, we didn’t go down to Hanauma Bay. Instead, we took many photos around the top of the mountain overlooking Hanauma Bay and the crystal clear waters of Hanauma Bay.

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Lanai Lookout, Halona Blowhole, Sandy Beach Park

We continued driving along the highway and stopped at Lanai Lookout (based on Google maps and my photographs), another great location for photo taking of the gorgeous Oahu coastline. We all enjoyed the sea breeze and sceneries, taking many photographs and relaxing.

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Continuing the journey along the highway, we stopped at another lookout, that is very popular since we spotted other tourists there too. This was Halona Blowhole Lookout and our Hawaiian hosts shared with us that the blowhole would shoot sea spray high into the air through the cave/hole during windy days when the tide is high and the ocean breeze sends the waves hitting the shore. However, the weather in the morning was very calm and relaxing thus we couldn’t get to see the Blowhole in real time action. Nevertheless, that didn’t dampen the spirits and morale of the boys and girls, they were busy taking photographs of the sceneries, natural surroundings, friends and with our Hawaiian hosts.

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As we continued our journey, we reached Sandy Beach Park for a toilet break and stretch break because our next destination is Makapu’u Lighthouse and there is no toilet facilities around the area when we would be trekking up towards the lighthouse. Sandy Beach Park is a very relaxing place, we can feel the strong sea breeze blowing towards us.

Makapu’u Point Trail

The coastal scenic drive continued and soon we reached the base of our trek, the Makapu’u Point Trail. This is also a very popular trail and it’s listed on Hawaii State Parks hiking trails information. After parking our vehicles, led by our Hawaiian hosts,  the boys and girls trekked up towards Makapu’u Point Lighthouse, it wasn’t too much of a difficult trek for us. The weather was great except it was a bit hot and dry. The views along the trek up were really beautiful, the vast open land and mountains, the open blue ocean on the other side. Being the main/chief photographer, I tried to trek up faster than the rest of them, in order for me to take more photographs of them trekking up towards Makapu’u Point Lighthouse. This task proved a bit challenging, having to move up and down the lead patrol to ensure that I am in front ahead of them. The views up at Makapu’u Point were magnificent and very rewarding for all of us even though we were a bit tired out, we were able to view the windward coast and offshore islands –  Manana Island a.k.a Turtle Island, the historic red-roofed Makapu‘u Lighthouse built in 1909, which produced a gorgeous, breathe-taking and stunning photograph against the deep blue sea below (that I got it captured down here!!)

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After resting and taking many photographs at Makapu’u Head, we all climbed up further towards a higher point where the ridge line was. There were old World War II pillion boxes and the view was just as magnificent. It was a great trek and DSG took a group photograph up there, with their distinctive coloured school t-shirts against the beautiful clear blue sky and weather, DSG conquered a peak and unlocked another achievement to their impressive history! The Makapu’u Point Trail is definitely one of my favourite highlights of my 10 days Hawaii trip and I personally enjoyed it a lot!

Kualoa Regional Park

After a lunch break somewhere along the way (I can’t recall our lunch location), we proceed with our drive towards Kualoa Regional Park, located at the edge of Kane’ohe Bay on the Windward side of the island. It was a nice park and looking across the ocean, we can see an island, it is known as Mokoli’i Island and it is also known as Chinaman’s Hat. We all took a longer break here, group photo taking, relaxing and enjoying the sea breeze.

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North Shore and Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle

The coastal scenic drive continued up towards the Northern side of Oahu, we had 2 stops, one to look at surfers in action and the other to see the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle along the beach (I would fill in the details for both beach locations once I am able to obtain them). From the surfing action along the beach, we can see that it’s a big sport and following up here in Hawaii. At the other stop, at approximately this address location – 61 Kamehameha Highway, this was where we walked towards the beach area and spotted the Hawaiian Green Sea  Turtles, protected and kept a distance away from human beings. The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles is protected as a threatened species under State and Federal laws. For more information on the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, please visit Malama Na Honu website. Remember to treat the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle with respect and do not feed, touch, tease or disturb them!

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We were then on our way back to our campsite for dinner and rest time after a very eventful coastal scenic drive for the whole day. During the night, the 4 patrols presented their skit  to their peers and teachers-in-charge that they prepared for the upcoming Scouting Exchange with the local Hawaiian Scouts. It was fun to watch them in action and each patrol had their unique strengths in each of their skit. Therefore, their skits were combined together, taking the best out of each patrol’s skit, mixing it together into one united DSG skit, that would be presented during the night when the local Hawaiian Scouts arrived for the exchange program.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.