Leaf patterns


It is said that a good photographer can take a picture of an everyday object and make it look interesting. Well, I haven’t got to that stage yet, although I am positively surprised at some of the images that I snap somewhat randomly. Like this one, standing outside a Bali hotel, waiting for a taxi.

My intention was to get a picture of the waxy leaves overlaid, one over the other. When I looked at the image on a bigger screen later, I was pleasantly surprised to see the green patterns, shading and veins that I had also captured. It made me think that I should make a mini project of photographing random everyday things.

Spring green

~ Spotted Cow

Taj Mahal at dawn

Taj Mahal at dawn

The Taj Mahal at dawn. This is one of those instances where I lugged my tripod around northern India only to find that I wasn’t allowed to take it into the Taj Mahal compound ! I’ve been told since that I should carry a bag of lentils to substitute for a tripod when I need one. Handy tip, although not one I’ve remembered at any point when it would’ve proved useful.

~ Spotted Cow

Stripey scarf


I was thinking about writing a post on India’s varied forms of transport, i.e. bicycles, trishaws, tuk tuk taxis, cars, camels, etc. But then I remembered this Jaipur man with the multi-coloured stripey scarf.  We love stripes here on the Wandering Cows, but it doesn’t tend to come up much as a theme. So I thought Jaipur Man with Stripey Scarf warranted a standalone blog post, given his sartorial elegance.

~ Spotted Cow

On location

Ha Long Bay panoramic

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, is a location made famous in James Bond’s Tomorrow Never Dies … although I did some research and found that it was filmed in Thailand because of a dispute with the authorities.

Nevertheless, I almost expected to see 007 do running double leap somersaults and catapult himself into the limestone mountain scenery. No such luck. But the dreamy scene is no less spectacular for it.

~ Spotted Cow

Karst mountain, Ha Long Bay Tourist boats at Ha Long Bay

Singapore eating


I caught up with Very Stylish Neighbour and her Argentinian boyfriend over clingy noodles, dumplings and chicken wings. They were telling me about their trip to her hometown in Singapore, and in particular, his impressions.

He wasn’t prepared for the heat and humidity, thinking he was Argentinian and it wouldn’t be an issue. Even more so, he was astounded as to how often Singaporeans eat and think about food. He described a day when they went to lunch, had an after-lunch snack/dessert, followed by soup on getting home, and a discussion about what they were doing to do for dinner !

Chopsticks at the ready.

~ Spotted Cow

Chopsticks and condiments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra


This monkey looks like it is imploring the heavens for extras. Food, that is. The little rotters are bold and will take any edibles off you.

The photo was taken at the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali. It’s my contribution to this week’s Extra, Extra theme in the Weekly Photo Challenge.

~ Spotted Cow


Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Move

Officers on a boat ride

On the move, albeit at a leisurely pace. I imagined that these young officers were enjoying their day off by taking a boat ride down the scenic river. Have you noticed that their “driver” is rowing with his feet?

This Weekly Photo Challenge picture was taken in Vietnam, at Tam Coc, which is a (return) day trip from Hanoi.

~ Spotted Cow

Hanoi’s Old Quarter

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a photographer’s paradise because everyone plies their commerce on the pavement. Historically, each street had its own trade – Cloth Street, Silk Street, Tinsmith Street – although sadly many do not exist anymore and some have changed custom to keep up with the times. Still, it remains buzzingly atmospheric – not least due to the regular hum of motorcycle engines – and you can spend hours walking around, shooting pictures.

~ Spotted Cow

bamboo shop Hanoifan repairer Hanoi restaurant Hanoi food shop Hanoi

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

Commercial life in Hanoi takes place on the street, especially in the Old Quarter. This café is typical. The shop front is shallow, with just enough space for the proprietors to lounge, waiting for customers. And the stools and tables sit on the sidewalk.

~ Spotted Cow

Hanoi cafe

Visiting Uncle Ho

Ho Chi Minh, venerable leader of Vietnam in the 40s, 50s and 60s, is embalmed, lying in state at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.

I thought I was clothed respectfully enough in my summer dress, but my sleeveless arms were offensive. I was ushered off to buy a cheap scarf to cover up.  When I got back in the queue, it moved at a fairly good pace, winding round the block until I stepped into the mausoleum itself.  It was heavily air-conditioned.  You’re not allowed to put your hands in your pockets. No talking, no mobile phones, no cameras, no hats, no daypacks.

Uncle Ho was lying in a glass box, like a waxwork laid down for the night. You can see up his nostrils when you’re standing at his feet. Do you know that the body is sent to Russia every September for upkeep ? It’s a bit disturbing, looking at a corpse of man who died 4½ decades ago. However, any unsettledness is eased quickly. It takes less than half a minute to walk around before you exit.

You can then drop by next door and see Uncle Ho’s lurid yellow palace (no entry) and check out his car collection, both of which sit adjacent to a well-tended lake.

I don’t think I’m inspired to do a world tour of embalmed dead leaders. For the record, I believe the socialists in glass cases are Lenin, Stalin, Chairman Mao, Kim Jong Il, Ferdinand Marcos, Eva Peron … and more recently Chavez.

~ Spotted Cow 

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh's palace

Ho Chi Minh's cars

Ho Chi Minh

Tea in the Malaysian hills

The British founded Cameron Highlands as one of their colonial hill stations, a cooling respite from the Malaysian heat and humidity. They also grew tea here.  You’ll spot the odd now-retro Land Rover when you drive up the winding roads into the tea plantations.

We dropped into the BOH Tea Centre for a refreshing cuppa.  BOH is the largest Malaysian tea producer and you’ll see their tea boxes in all the local supermarkets. The cafe has a truly glorious view of the tea plantation.  When you manage to pull yourself away from it, you can go for a walk among the tea leaves or there are factory tours every half an hour, which take you through the plucking, sifting and drying processes.  I was horrified to find out that tea-bag tea is pretty much the lowest grade tea, just one notch up from the leaves they sweep off the floor !

~ Spotted Cow

BOH Tea Centre Boh Tea cafe BOH tea boxes

Motorbikes in Hanoi

Everybody gets around on motorbikes in Hanoi, and from what I’ve seen, they carry their entire lives on them. At the beginning of 2013, they counted 36 million registered motorbikes in Vietnam. It makes crossing the road a bit of a challenge, especially in Hanoi’s Old Quarter where there are hardly any traffic lights and motorists don’t seem to obey them anyway.

I worked out that you need to do what the Vietnamese do, which is to cross the road VERY SLOWLY. Always go forward, don’t run and never go backward. The motorcyclists anticipate your movements and weave in and out, between road pedestrians. I tailed several locals before I had the nerve to cross on my own.

Needless to say, air pollution is a big problem and the fumes smell.

I’d like to hear stories of other travellers renting motorbikes in Asia.

~ Spotted Cow 

Motorbikes Hanoi Motorbike Hanoi 2

Malaysian butterflies

There’s a butterfly farm up in the Cameron Highlands hills in Malaysia, where you can walk through a garden of freely roaming butterflies. It’s either a mini-magical experience or a nightmare, depending on your disposition towards these winged insects.

For those of you in the Love Is Like A Butterfly camp – technically, a lepidopterist – you’ll be able to see the protected Raja Brookes Birdwing, Malaysia’s national butterfly.  My father pointed it out to me. It has a bright red head, and black wings decorated with leaf-green triangles.

~ Spotted Cow

Rajah Brookes Butterfly Farm Butterfly Farm 2

Taj Mahal at sunrise

The Taj Mahal is one of the world’s most photographed buildings, and yet it still has the power to take your breath away.

When I was in school, I read that the Moghul emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal to commemorate his wife Mumtaz.  The tomb is built of marble which gives it an air of coolness and serenity, which – true or not – is how I imagine this eternal wife to be.

We were there – the bro and I – at 6.45am to watch sunrise. It was an effort given that we had arrived into Agra well after midnight, courtesy of an unhurried Indian train. But it was worth it. The marble changes hue with the mist and the sun rise, and you will be clicking away with the best of them.  There will probably be a queue to get your picture taken on the same bench that Princess Diana did.

The Taj is most impressive in its entirety, but get up close and inspect the inscriptions and the inlays.  Also, make your way over to Agra Fort after stopping for breakfast. Late in life, Shah Jahan was imprisoned at the fort by his son, in a tower whose balcony has a view of the Taj Mahal.

~ Spotted Cow


TajMahalMirror monk

Infinity gates

Before we went to Japan, I saw a picture of these seemingly infinite rows of orange gates and I knew we had to go there.

This is at the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, dedicated to the gods of wine and sake.  It’s a peaceful site with wooded paths running up the Inari mountain, and small shrines and eating stalls dotted along the way. The gates – known as torii – are behind the main shrine building.  They are even more impressive in person. When you stand at the head of the gate, it winds round in a tunnel of orange sunshine.  The inscriptions on the posts look like lines of prayers, but I later discovered that they are the names of the people & companies who made donations for the gates. Look out for the fox statues which guard the gates. They are the Inari messengers (… sounds very Twilight !)

~ Spotted Cow



To market, to market …

Ubud, Bali

… to buy a fat pig.  You can do just that at the Ubud public market. There is a stall that sells suckling pig or babi guling, the local specialty. The market is located across the road from Ubud Palace in a multi-storey building full of stalls that spill over into the car park and onto the street. Vendors sell flowers, fresh produce, cooked food, fruit juices, sweets, temple offerings. Get up early, and by early I mean around 7am, otherwise you’ll miss the good stuff. Remember to bring your camera. Many of the vendors are happy to pose for photos, especially if you ask them nicely.

Spotted Cow

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Monkeying around in Bali

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a must-do in Ubud. It’s a lovely green forest with pathways, strewn with Balinese sculptures and lots of monkeys scurrying around. The monkeys are long-tailed macaques, for those in the know. They are everywhere and they are not shy about coming forward, especially if there’s fruit on offer.

Beware if you are carrying plastic bags. The little – and big (!) – mischief makers aren’t embarrassed about tearing apart your shopping bag to get at what they think are food parcels.

There is a small temple in the forest.  Ladies, if you’re not appropriately dressed, they’ll rent you a sarong to tie around your waist.


Spotted Cow

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