Such a lot of world to see.

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Nusa Lembongan, Bali

A small island with big waves, Nusa Lembongan is thankfully still a bit off the beaten path in Bali. It’s about half hour boat ride from the south end of Bali  - close enough for a day trip for some people, but staying a few nights in a villa with a view is well worth it. There is surfing and scuba diving for those that are interested, but Lembongan is also a great place to come and relax. There are long , walkable,  strips of beach, shanty restaurants with great food, and a village with typical Balinese friendliness.  

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Island of the Gods

The island of Bali has a spiritual feel to it that is difficult to describe. It's a combination of so many things, but it makes people never want to leave. It's the bright colors of the jungle,   the tropical flowers and the local clothing, and constant subtle smells of burning incense offerings to the gods, and the way people are always calm, friendly, and smiling even while weaving in and out of traffic running late for an appointment. It's little idiosyncrasies, like the way people give blessing to the engines of the boat before leaving port, or how every property, be it hotel, business or residence has multiple shrines to the Hindu deities. There are temples dating back to the 8th century, shrines overrun by monkeys, and active volcanoes for you to climb.  Bali is an impressively beautiful place that is both accessible and affectionate to foreigners while still being very much an exotic destination.
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Central Bali, and Ubud in particular, holds the history and the most significant cultural areas of the old Balinese Kingdoms. Though now part of Indonesia, make no mistake, Bali is unique in that its history, and its people are tied inextricably to its rich Hindu culture.
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Click here for the full gallery. 
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Frontiers: Sandakan, Borneo

     

When travelling, it’s sometimes the most unassuming places that manage to leave lasting memories. On first impression, Sandakan is unremarkable, with it’s drab concrete buildings,  damp weather, and lack of noteworthy landmarks. So why Sandakan, and whats so special about it in the first place? 

 

First and foremost, this is a town on the frontier of wild Borneo. In Sandakan,  the jungle seems to be encroaching into the city streets from the hills. When it rains, as it does nearly every day, it’s torrential, and you’ll want to seek shelter. Though not cosmopolitan, Sandakan does buzz during the daylight hours, with its friendly fish markets, fruit stands, and curry kitchens. There is old industry here, in fishing and hardwood,  and new industry, with palm oil and the occasional tourist - really a lot going on for a small city. While typically Southeast Asia in many ways, there's a bit more of a sense of being on frontier, or at a dividing line between the new world, and an older, wild one.  This is a welcoming and foreign place, unassuming, and rough around the edges.  Click the link for more. 

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Borneo: The Lost World

There are jungles in Borneo, that are so isolated from civilization, so rich in rare wildlife, so full of untouched forests, that it feels like a separate world, locked in a pre-humanity sphere separate from our own. These rainforests have thrived for millions of years, with many bizarre and exotic species found only here. We only managed to scratch the surface of Borneo, a huge island with many opportunities for exploration. This gallery primarily looks at the wildlife in and around the Kinabatangan river and the surrounding jungle, and area teeming with wildlife, but also an area that has seen deforestation over recent decades in the form of palm oil plantations. Luckily there are protected areas and conservation efforts, and the further you get away from the coastal cities the more you are rewarded with this spectacular lost world. See some previews below, and the full gallery by clicking here. 
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A playful female Orangutan. "Orang Hutang" translates to "People of the forest" in Malay.

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Searching for wildlife on the lower Kinabatangan River.

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This female proboscis gives us an angry scowl to advise us not to come any closer.

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A brightly colored kingfisher patrolling the riverbank.

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A cave ceiling covered with bats and swiftlet nests makes for an abstract photograph.

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A dominant male orangutan , critically endangered, gorges on vegetation just a few meters from our cottage.

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A large crocodile in the Kinabatangan River.

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A monitor lizard, well camouflaged on a tree branch, possibly awaits his prey.

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Up close and personal with a large male proboscis monkey.

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A family of proboscis monkeys move along a sprawling tree.

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A young silver leaf monkey calls out for attention from her mother.

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The remarkable rhinoceros hornbill of Borneo

Tropical islands of Malaysia: Redang

To put things simply, Redang Island is a tropical paradise. To be more accurate, it's a group of very small islands off the coast of the Malaysian peninsula, that have the trifecta of great weather, lush jungle, and beautiful beaches - at least for six months of the year (the island and it's hotels are generally deserted during monsoon season).
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The central areas of the island are covered with thick rainforest. If you're willing and able, you can hike through it to find other isolated beaches you'll have all to yourself. In the jungle, you might come across giant monitor lizards, which can grow up to 200 pounds, but thankfully prey only on eggs, frogs, and small fish.
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Redang isn't a place for local culture, shopping, or nightlife. Instead,  it's a place to experience the beauty of the sea. While there is a small village, it's primarily populated with tourists looking to do snorkeling and diving.  Directly off the main beach on which the majority of the hotels are located, you can find a lively coral reef, where it's easy to find resident baby reef sharks and a huge variety of tropical fish. With a bit of luck, sea turtles, octopus, giant trigger fish, and moray eels are common sightings here as well.
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As a bonus, we got to take a self guided tour of Kuala Terengganu, a medium sized port city with service to many of Malaysia's eastern islands. Notable in "KT" are some spectacular floating mosques, and a Chinatown that dates back to the 17th century.
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Click here for the entire gallery!

KL is warm in many ways.

_DSC1718_a_v_tonemapped Kuala Lumpur sits in near the middle of Peninsular Malaysia, just about at the equator.  It’s one of Asia’s few truly multicultural cities, with Indians, Chinese, and local Malay (Bumiputera) people all laying the  historical foundations of what is today Malaysia's capital city. KL has experienced a sort of economical and societal breakthrough in recent decades, with the efficient monorails, the two new airports and the iconic skyscrapers serving only as physical evidence. _DSC1740 KL is often compared with Bangkok, its sister capital city some thousand miles to the north. And while Bangkok is bigger, and certainly more historic, it could be argued that Kuala Lumpur is the friendlier, more sensible city. With almost 8 million people in the Klang Valley around KL, it’s certainly not small either, but there is a near universal warmth in the people of this diverse city. It can still be chaotic, but we found there's almost a homeliness about KL that is rare to find so far from home. _DSC1933 Like many cities in Asia, some of the best parts of town are the bustling markets where locals and tourists alike congregate to shop, eat, and gather at almost any hour – day or night. Hawkers and street-side restaurants  call out that they have the best chili pan mee noodles, or the freshest seafood,  or the cheapest designer purses, top quality!  But these are also the markets where locals by wholesale goods, and congregate after work hours. These markets are the fabric that makes up the city of KL, with icons like the Petronas Twin towers, providing lovely inflections. Kuala Lumpur is a city of great and varied food, and great and varied humans. Humid mornings and humid afternoons.  It's a city where you can still find a tiny bit of that rainforest that stood there before the city ever was. This is KL, and it is warm in many ways. Follow the link here, and stay tuned for more Malaysia and Indonesia! _DSC1418 _DSC1964 _DSC1589 _DSC1505

Rain, Sunshine, & Sea to Sky.

Surrounded by mountains and alpine forests, nestled against the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver and the lower British Columbia mainland has the most epic combination of scenic landscapes and a dense, bustling metropolis. There are now at least 2.4 million people living in the area, yet the strategic urban planning, density, and natural geography means the area still manages to invoke a charming sense of wilderness. The Sea to Sky corridor to the North between Vancouver and Whistler is a quick getaway spoiled with friendly people and lovely scenery. I had a remarkably brief time here in May, enough to capture a few stunning vistas and left wanting more. To see the gallery for this trip, click here.  To see the Vancouver gallery, with images both new and old, click here. IMG_0880 IMG_0981 IMG_1098 IMG_0972 IMG_0827 IMG_0829 IMG_0890

Dubai

IMG_0270 From humble beginnings as a village of pearl divers and merchants, modern Dubai is often seen as anything but humble. Known now for its ambitious construction projects and record holding skyscrapers, Dubai is modern day symbol of wealth in the Middle East. "The City of Gold", as it has become known, Dubai is a city of ambition. It’s a fascinating place for so many reasons, and not simply its rapid rise to stardom nor its renowned megaprojects (though the way engineering has been pushed to the limits in Dubai is often breathtaking). It’s a city of controversy, with growing pains, and likely more to come. I’ll choose to not wade into the deeper controversies in this context, but I’ll say that Dubai is a living experiment. An experiment of multiculturalism in the Middle-East, and often a clash between worlds. A clash between times even, but yet, Dubai’s many modern marvels are not only a source of pride for the Arab world, but also a collaboration between cultures, and people. A week in Dubai is plenty of time to see the city, both its modern wonders and its less lauded communities that make the city tick. Often the contrast between such great wealth and such humility is quite prominent in Dubai, as these photos will appear to show two distinct cities. Often, however, such contrasts will exist on the same block. It’s not uncommon, in my experience, to see a Lamborghini pull stridently down a busy street of restaurants, where the food server is making only a few dollars a day. Or to see groups of people walking to midday prayer in worn sandals and simple garb, while on the next corner stands a grand strip of 5 star luxury high-rises.  While there is much excess, there is also a sense of humility and optimism. The mood is positive in Dubai, friendly, perhaps even carefree. Click here for my photo tour of Dubai. IMG_9794 IMG_9704 IMG_9851 IMG_9830 IMG_9817 IMG_9930

Gallery Update: Toronto

It's been about ten years since I first made an album of Toronto. At the time, I was still learning how to use my first Digital SLR, the first Canon Rebel at the time. I just can't run out of pictures to take in Toronto. There are 259 pictures in this album, after culling hundreds of others. Below are some newer captures from recent trips, enjoy the tour! Click here to go to the full gallery. img_8240 img_8403 july2014-196 img_8425 img_8399 img_8401 img_8452a

Gallery Update: Chicago

I've updated my gallery of Chicago with pictures from a recent stay - lots of architecture, streetscapes, and colorful views of this marvel of a city. Here's a link, with some highlights below. img_7821 img_7665 img_8170 img_7947 img_7763