Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sewing Machine or Lens?

In less than a month, I will celebrate my birthday. It will be a different celebration this time since I'm spending a couple of days with my entire family in Singapore, instead of just with Ariel which has been the case for the past 8 years.

Anyway, I've been thinking of my "wish list" for quite some time now. At some point, I was considering an iPhone.

I have an iPod touch and I love it. So I thought my next phone should be an iPhone. Later I thought it to be impractical considering that we have "free" phone with Ariel's corporate plan. And even if I ended up adding a few thousand bucks for the Nokia N97 model that I opted for, it's still tons cheaper than if I got the iPhone. After all, I've always had Nokia from the very first analog phone. And I still have my iPod Touch, which I now use as a portable movie payer. I'm not much of a music person anyway.

Then I went on a weekend crop with some friends in Tagaytay.

I grew up with two dressmakers for grandmothers. I've learned to sew at an early age and my Barbie doll matched my own outfits. It was only natural that I use stitching in my scrapbooks. In fact, I've already bought 2 sewing machines - an old heavy duty one which survived the Milenyo flooding but is no longer working at optimal levels, and a small portable one that can't handle cardstock. So I went on a hunt for the perfect sewing machine. And I found this.

I showed this to Ariel in one of our visits to Anson's. I told him I am considering this as a possible birthday gift from him to me. Anyway, when we went on a weekend crop in Tagaytay, Mia brought her Singer baby and let me use it. In fact, I made a couple of layouts and cards with machine stitching. I got to use ALL of the stitches available in this baby. Needless to say, when I got back home, I told Ariel that this is what I want for my birthday.

That is until August 15th when I attended the food photography workshop by Mr. Ricky Ladia. I went home thinking "I've got to have a macro lens!"

I am still researching but this is what I have in mind, so far.

Of course, an L lens is out of the question unless I plan to make money out of it so this is the next best thing. Since we are going to Singapore, I thought we'll check out the prices there first before actually making the purchase.

Any reco from my photography friends? I really have to make a good decision here. I can't afford to buy new lenses every now and then so this has to be THE macro lens I will be committing with for the rest of my life, probably. Is there a cheaper option? :D

Friday, August 21, 2009

Our Adventures and Misadventures in Vietnam and Cambodia - Part 3

This is part 3 of our Vietnam-Cambodia adventure. If you missed the previous posts, check out Part 1 and Part 2 first.

My ankle felt a little better when I woke up at half past four in the morning. The swelling has subsided although it was still a bit painful. The massage did help. Advil helped, too.

Another early day. Our first stop was Srah Srang, best viewed at sunrise, according to our guide book. We got to the viewing platform around 5am. It was pitch black. Several kids followed us offering coffee and breakfast. We promised one kid we will have coffee after taking photos of the sunrise. We took our post in what we thought would afford us the best view. Before long, other tourists arrived and it became a little bit crowded. We were still able to get a couple of sunrise shots.
It was a beautiful spot, perfect for a relaxing morning coffee.
Keeping our promise, we went to have coffee in the nearby stall. We also bought some bread sustain us through the morning's activities. The coffee was very good, with a dollop of condensed milk.

After Srah Srang, we headed to Banteay Srei - about 20 kms north of Angkor, and almost an hour in our trusty Tuktuk. It was a great idea to start early as this temple is a bit small and can easily get crowded. Anyway, when we got there, tourists were already pouring in. It was a beautiful temple, made of red sandstone. The warm glow of the morning sun highlights the intricate carvings that cover most of the temple's surfaces. It was the most beautiful temple we've seen in Siem Reap.

Most of the outer structures are already in ruins but the carvings on the remains are still very much visible.

The inner structures are still well-preserved and are roped off to keep tourists from touching the delicate wall carvings.

Like most temples in Angkor, Banteay Srei is surrounded by a moat.

Just outside the temple perimeter, colorful souvenir shops line the street leading into the temple grounds.

Our next stop was a respite from ll the temple hopping we've been doing in the past two days. We went to the controversial Landmine Museum. It was controversial because the local government didn't support it at first thinking that it will paint a scary picture of Cambodia, and will not help boost tourism. It actually became a populat tourist attraction and even generated awareness and support for demining efforts in Cambodia.

The museum boasts of hundreds of detonated bombs and landmines, mostly collected by the founder Aki Ra.
Ariel and Sophal goofing off

After the Landmine Museum, we drove to Banteay Samre, a less popular but nevertheless spectacular temple. It's a little bit out of the way which may be why some tourists opt to skip this one.

While the north entrance welcomed us from the main road, we circled around the perimeter and entered through the east entrance instead.

Inside, it looks like a miniature version of Angkor Wat. There were very few tourists that time so we were able to take lots of couple shots, courtesy of our tour guide.

Our last temple for the day is Bateay Kdei which is actually just across Srah Srang.

The temple was in a very ruined state and it was a bit scary to walk along the walls as it felt like they were going to topple over us.

We asked our Tuktuk driver Kun and guide Sophal to drop us off at the hotel as we had an afternoon appointment at Quad Adventure. We were supposed to be picked up at 12:30pm and it was already noon. We quickly unloaded our gear bringing only our camera and wallets and headed to Apsara Burger just a few meters from our hotel. We grabbed a quick bite of Cheeseburger, fries and soda (USD8), and got into the tuktuk sent by Quad Adventure.

We were met by Herve, the owner. After a quick orientation and a test drive, we were off to the countryside. We opted to get just one ATV with Ariel as the designated driver.
We took the Discovery Tour which allowed us to see the beautiful countryside. We took short pauses every now and then to take photos of traditional Khmer houses, creeks, ducks, and kids playing. I felt like a Miss World contestant as we drove along the dirtroad. They would wave at us so I would wave back and smile, despite the fact that dust was flying all around us.

Ariel had a blast driving the ATV at full speed. I was hanging on for dear life fearing for that one bump that will send me flying out of my seat, and constantly whispering to Ariel to slow down a bit. Men and speed. Sigh. He had a great time. I could tell.

Our last stop was at the Chres Village School and Orphanage where we were able to see kids learning English and other languages. I consider this the highlight of our ATV adventure. We met some of the teachers, most of them volunteers, and watched the classes. We interacted with the kids during recess and even shared some of their snacks.

Not all the kids in the classes are orphans. Some live in the area and they go to the orphanage to learn English.

We spent a bit of time at the orphanage as our guide's motorcycle had a flat tire. We waited for the replacement tire to be sent from the Quad Adventure station.

When we got back to the Quad Adventure home base, we were handed cold towels which we used to clean up our faces. Ewww!
We tool a long shower when we got back to the hotel. Every inch of exposed skin was covered in red dust. Our clothes were very filthy and I had to clean my camera bag, too.

We decided to walk to Pub Street to take some photos along the way. Armed with our heavy tripod, we were able to take photos of the well-lighted Siem Reap river.

There were many couples dating along the river. If we weren't very hungry, we would have lingered a while longer.

After a few minutes walk, we were back at Pub Street.
We decided to try the Khmer BBQ. We were given an iron grill with hot coals inside and some kind of a channel around it for soup. We grilled the meet on top and cooked veggies in the hot soup. Yummy!

Wonderful day!

To view all the photos for day 3, click HERE.