Cherry Blossom Shower

Cherry blossoms at Osaka Castle, Osaka, Japan.

What is it about cherry blossoms that attract such an ardent following each year? Is it the delicate white and pink flowers that seem to smile at you? Or is it the glorious petal shower that descends like snowflakes when the wind blows? Or maybe it’s simply the scarcity of it, a hide-and-seek appearance that happens only once a year and lasts around two weeks.

These days you don’t have to fly all the way to Japan to see cherry blossoms. Many cities have their own cherry blossom trees, like in New York City and Washington DC. If you miss the season in March, you can head to Australia to try your luck in September as well. You could even plant one in your backyard if you have the right climate and soil conditions.

That said, where else would you get to see the trees against a backdrop of Meiji-era houses or the magnificent Osaka Castle? Only in Japan, of course. The trees may look the same, but the backdrop sure isn’t. To get the most authentic cherry blossom viewing experience, Japan is the only choice. So much for reducing the carbon footprint…

Read more about my trip to Osaka in:
Osaka Part 1: A City With Character


A Mosaically Perfect Fit

The Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea.

When I first saw this mosaic creation, I thought to myself: Hey, I can do that! All I have to do is buy some colourful (cheap) ceramic plates, smash them into pieces and then piece them back together. Who knows, it could be my first breakthrough as a mosaic artist!

But then things got complicated once I started to think about how I was actually going to do it. Like, how do I smash the plates into the correct shapes and sizes? Do I use a hammer? Throw them against the wall? And then, how do I make sure they would fit back together nicely? That would take some intense maths calculation right… or is it physics? As if right on cue, my head started to hurt. Guess it’s harder than it looks.

Well, so much for being a mosaic artist. I shall just be content with admiring this mosaic art from the Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea. Although maybe I could still smash some plates for fun. It does look like a good way to destress…

Read more about my trip to Tokyo DisneySea in:
Tokyo Part 3: Adventure at DisneySea

Classic B&W Charm

Street view of San Francisco, USA.

Sometimes the best photos are the ones I didn’t mean to take. Like during an aimless walk around the city and getting lost while doing it. Like while following an uphill path for no good reason. Like while peering down random streets from the unexpected vantage points (because it hadn’t been my intention to climb the hill).

Thanks to the brilliant world of free photo editors and filters, my random city shot of San Francisco turned into a classic-looking black and white masterpiece (well, sort of). Looks like anyone can pretend to be a photographer these days.

Read more about my trip to San Francisco in:
San Francisco Part 1: A Cosy Coastal City

Blooming in the Desert

Tulips at the Bellagio's Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Las Vegas, USA.

If I told you these tulips were found in the desert, would you believe me? Only if that desert is Las Vegas, probably. Las Vegas sits on an oasis in the Mojave Desert (meaning there’s water under the ground) and that’s why the city could be built there in the first place. Still, it’s an amazing feat to build an entire city complete with an international airport in the middle of nowhere and turn it into a world-class event and entertainment destination.

And as if in a bid to surpass Mother Nature’s limitations, hoteliers have built elaborate landscapes and lush rainforest gardens to add the missing greenery to Vegas, one of which is the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio where these blooming red tulips were found.

With massive water features like the imitation waterways of the Venetian and the Fountains of Bellagio, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you are in the middle of a desert. More drinks, anyone?

Read more about my trip to Las Vegas in:
Las Vegas: Larger Than Life

A Slice of Winter Wonderland

Bush covered in snow, Vancouver, Canada.

One day I had this great idea. I would strike it rich and buy a house with a big yard. I’ll plant trees, shrubs, bushes and flower beds to create my dream of a suburban oasis. I’ll water my green friends with love and watch them grow. And when winter comes, I’ll wait for the snow to fall and coat my garden with a dusting of icing sugar, just like this bush outside a friend’s place in Vancouver after snow fell through the night.

Only problem is (besides the part about striking rich), I live virtually on the Equator, which is at least 35° latitude in the wrong direction of any snow. Waiting for snow to fall where I am would rank somewhere in the vicinity of making pigs fly.

So, for now, this postcard is my only keepsake of a precious brush with a winter wonderland. Maybe one day climate change will bring snow to the tropics. Now that’s a scary thought…

Read more about my trip to Vancouver in:
Vancouver: A Very Liveable City
Whistler: Snow White, Show Bright

The Perfect Day

Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road, Australia.

What does your perfect day look like? Is it:
(a) a sunny day with the sun high up in the sky,
(b) a cloudless clear blue sky, or
(c) a carpet of green grass under your feet?

For me, it is all of the above. Plus, a cute pine tree for decoration!

This is the scene I found in the town of Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road. A clear blue sky meeting a lawn of green grass, a warm sun and a cool sea breeze.

It is the perfect kind of day for a vacation, a perfect day for a road trip, a perfect day for a picnic. When we chance upon Mother Nature’s paintings like these, all we have to do is slow down and enjoy the view.

Read more about my trip to the Great Ocean Road in:
The Great Ocean Road

Keep Calm & Paddle On

A Mallard drake in Lucerne, Switzerland.

I have a confession to make: I am obsessed with ducks. Every time I travel, these cute little fellas find their way into my photo collection. Like this Mallard Drake I found on his way out for a suntan in Lucerne.

Why the obsession? You see, in sunny Singapore where I come from, ducks are rare sightings (except the ones on the dinner table). But in the northern hemisphere, ducks are so commonplace you can apparently find them in any park, pond or lake.

Interestingly, seeing these ducks made my day more than any great historical building or impressive museum. Watching them sail the waterways with their oh-so-cute ducklings put a smile on my face. Impromptu pet therapy at work, I guess.

Then again, sometimes it’s the simple things that make a vacation great. We need not try too hard to plan the perfect vacation always. We should just go with the flow, keep calm and paddle on like our feathered friends.

Read more about my trip to Lucerne in:
Lucerne: Small Town Charm

The Hunt for a Red Box

A red telephone box on the streets of London.

When was the last time you used a payphone? Do you even know where to find one? Then again, it probably doesn’t matter. Who still hunts for payphones these days, right?

And yet, they do. In London, at least. For the red ones. Out of all the British icons, the Red Telephone Box has to be one with the humblest beginnings. Born out of necessity and painted red simply to make it easy to spot, it is now one of the most-photographed items in London. Tourists pose with it like they would a celebrity and spotting one on the streets can be as exhilarating as riding the London Eye.

But true to the smartphone era, these red telephone boxes are slowly disappearing off the streets. They won’t disappear totally though, which is a relief, because I can’t imagine London without them. It would be like a missing jigsaw puzzle piece: the picture just ain’t complete.

Read more about my trip to London in:
London Part 1: Old Favourites
London Part 2: River Thames & Hyde Park

Starry Starry Night

An Asterina starfish on the aquarium wall at the Oceanographic Museum, Monaco.

“Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight…” Like a twinkling star in the dark blue sky, this little fella makes an unexpected appearance, warming the hearts of those who chance upon it.

Only that this star resides not in the sky, but plastered on the aquarium wall at the Oceanographic Museum, Monaco. Say hello to the little Asterina Starfish. Though its presence is not the most welcomed in marine aquariums, it is most welcomed on my camera screen.

Read more about my trip to Monaco in:
French Riviera Part 3: Monaco

The Romance of Travel

The Eiffel Tower in Paris.

If the Eiffel Tower could walk and talk, it could have been the protagonist in a drama. One with many twists and turns, a story of rags to riches, a tale of rising from adversity. Ok maybe I exaggerate…

You see, the Eiffel Tower was almost never born. There were protests over its design and many questioned whether it was even possible to build a tower so tall. Even when it was brought into this world, there was a limit put on its lifespan – a mere 20 years. Fortunately, it escaped its fate of being dismantled with a new job transmitting radio and television signals. Gradually, people warmed up to it and the tower is now a symbol of Paris.

Today, millions all over the world flock to see the Eiffel Tower and clamour to have a picture taken with it. At 131 years and counting, the Eiffel Tower still stands tall overlooking the city of love and romance. Not bad for a metal tower that was meant to be a temporary exhibit.

Read more about my trip to Paris in:
Paris Part 1: City of Lights
Paris Part 2: Hidden Gems