Heather Hapeta lives in Aotearoa-New Zealand: real travel, real adventures, real stories, real photos. Recent destinations Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and Hong Kong – now NZ destinations due to COVID travel restrictions
How can I take better photos you ask? Composition is everything, so use your camera settings to display the grid lines – remember the rule of thirds and focus the subject on one of the cross-lines to catch the viewers eye. It’s a good rule of thumb for all art.
Travel sharpens awareness of our surroundings; the different, the unusual and it’s these things, the view of a new eye that makes great photos. As a travel writer and author, I take many photos during my first few days in another country, a different culture.
If you want your photos to be more than a mere record of your travels try these simple tips.
Keep your camera with you: some of my ‘best photos’ are the ones I missed.
Filling the frame adds impact to many pictures
Eliminate the unessential, cut the clutter. Don’t try to grab it all.
Early morning and late afternoon have the most favourable light.
Avoid midday as overhead sun drains the colour.
Simple blocks of bright colour make bold statements
Look at other people’s photos to see what works, what catches your eye.
Do you have wanderlust? I have and consider it rather like a friendly disease or benign addiction – or are they oxymoronic?
Maud Parrish 1878-1976 (in Nine Pounds of Luggage) said “Wanderlust can be the most glorious thing in the world. Imagination is a grand stimulating thing, like a cocktail, but to find reality is the full course with champagne”.
As she travelled around the world sixteen times (with very little luggage and a banjo) I imagine she knows all about both wanderlust and reality.
When I read the above quote I wondered, what do those words REALLY mean? Imagination, wanderlust, reality – they trip off the tongue so lightly and yet maybe when I say I have wanderlust you may not know what I mean, or, when you agree that yes you too have it, maybe the attributes I give it – on your behalf – are way off beam.
Time for some market, or rather word, research: The Oxford Paperback Dictionary & Thesaurus (Oxford.1997) dictionary tells me that wanderlustis an ‘eagerness to travel or wander. Restlessness.’ Yep. Got that.
My eagerness takes the form of an obsession with travel programmes on television or radio, travel pages in magazines and press, in fact I even buy magazines with names such as Wanderlust, Sojourney, and NZ Wilderness. Why? So I can find new and exciting places to visit – places to add to my list – eager to get to places not so well known. Restless when I feel trapped.
Goal planning, and goal achieving are often different. So often the people who tell me, ‘You’re so lucky,’ also have dreams of travelling. But are they eager enough to do the necessary saving and budgeting at home to reap the benefits of being ‘lucky’ enough to travel? Usually not.
However I digress, back to the book of words: imagination. This evidently means having a ‘mental faculty of forming images of objects not present to senses.’ Guess that’s me thinking of lazing on an Indian river, or viewing polar bears. Being able to see the dollar or two saved this week as a coffee on the West Bank in Paris. Yes, I have imagination too: imagination that my back will always be able to carry a pack on it and I will stay in good health.
I also checked wander and lust as separate words and I certainly qualify there. To wander is to ‘go from place to place aimlessly, diverge from the path.’ Well I have done that all my life, and travelling has not changed it at all. I love to get off the beaten track, in fact to be lost is ideal, that’s when the wonderful, the unexpected, the amazing, the different happens. As long as I am found one more time than I am lost, I know all is well.
Lust. Another word close to my heart. My trusty Oxford tells me it’s ‘passionate desire’. Well, been there, done that, still got it, intend to keep it – what else can I say. Passionate for travel, new places, new foods, people, and experiences.
And finally, last on my list of words to check reality. This seems to be the boring one, the one that people often accuse travellers of trying to escape from. Not so. This is what can separate the traveller (with time) from the tourist (on a schedule) as the dictionary says it is ‘what’s real or exists or underlies the appearances’.
How often I have made some assumptions about people, places, and things, about actions, beliefs, and religions by believing the appearances – what I think my eyes are telling me rather that waiting a little longer and seeing what is real. We humans love to have order in our lives so make up stories to make sense of things. However, that does not make them real. Knowing the ‘truth’ is like having a secret shared and I value the people who I meet along the way who share their truths, and their realities, with me.
Nevertheless, ask three people to describe an accident they witnessed and each will be different. We experience things from within our own reality or context.
So do you have the wanderlust? Is your description of it the same as mine? There will be commonalities, and I suspect, for people with the overwhelming desire to wander aimlessly, most will not be seeking a cure.
I agree with you Maud, wanderlust is glorious, stimulating, and it sure does provide the meal of life with champagne-like bubbles.
These tours leave daily from Te Raukura where the waka are housed within Te Wharewaka o Poneke: a place I know quite well as I not only attended the dawn opening of this building (2011) but also where my weekly social walking group meets, at Karaka (cafe), for breakfast or coffee before we head off on a city walk.
Tuparahuia, our guide for the morning walk introduced himself while standing beside the four waka – including the largest, a single hull carved waka taua, Te Rerenga Kotare, which is used for ceremonial events and which, in the past, would have been a war canoe. Another way to experience the rich culture and history of Te Whanganui-a-Tara and the Te Atiawa people is to join a waka tour of the harbour on one of these traditional boats. (Bookings essential)
Alongside the water of Te Whanganui a Tara (Wellington Harbour) we hear the story of Maui and his brothers fishing up the North Island, otherwise known as Te Ika A Maui -the fish of Maui. Turning back towards the building we stand under the fabulous statue -made in the late 1930s by Christchurch sculptor William Trethewy – which depicts the legendary Polynesian explorer Kupe, his wife, and tohunga. Originally built in plaster, and for decades sitting in the Wellington railway station, in 1999 it was cast in bronze and placed on the waterfront to celebrate the millennium and as a tribute to all who have come to these shores. Under the gaze of these majestic, heroic looking, figures our walking tour continues and we hear the stories of Kupe and his discovery of Aotearoa New Zealand.
In front of the meeting house, on the atea (usually considered a sacred area of ground) is a stylised compass of the stars and constellations used by those early Pacific navigators: it was interesting to hear how those early waka had the 360° horizon marked around the canoe railings for easy navigation when they added their knowledge about the time of the year – something I’d not heard before.
Te Aro Pa (pa = community or village) was once one of the largest Māori communities in Wellington until the 1880s. It is often acknowledged that those early settlers would never have survived without the support of local Māori.
I recommend you take the tour yourself and hear all these stories, myths, and legends. We also examined the uncovered remains of two whare (buildings) which were uncovered during the demolition, then construction of an apartment block, in 2005. This tour, and others Te Atiawa provide, are a great way to understand the city’s history as you discover Wellington’s hidden Māori treasures.
Note: in Māori, as in many other languages, you do not add an ‘s’ to a word to describe more than on as there is no letter s in the language. Just as we say one sheep or 1000 sheep the same is for waka, kiwi, and Māori (etc) when being used as New Zealand English. In te reo Māori it would be te waka (the waka, ie one) or nga waka to show more that one. For more information about the language please see other blogs I’ve written, including this one I wrote for NileGuide Maori is one of three official languages in New Zealand – check it out here
Some photos for you . . .
Historical crane/boat welcomes its new neighbor
Food is part of all Maori events – breakfast is served
People gather in the dawn
Wonderful view of the great roof line
the bronze statue is impressive
Our guide talks about the effect of change in water levels
I used to think my mother was so brave when, holding my hand, she stepped out into the middle of Colombo street to board the tram. I was excited and scared at the same time. A few years ago I took my mother on a tram trip – in the restaurant car: she was delighted with the silver service and delicious meal.
Seems my family history with trams goes back even further as I have a tattered photo of my maternal grandfather laying, or repairing, tram tracks in the mid-1930s: a photo that had appeared in the Christchurch Press. It’s only a few years ago that I always had an annual pass for the tram as, living in the inner-city I rode the tracks frequently – especially if it was raining or I was carrying my groceries and vegetables.
Trams removed were from Christchurch’s streets in the mid-1950s, but returned in the mid-90s, mostly as a tourist attraction – back then, and during my travels on this trip, even as a local I enjoyed hearing the history of places we passed. Unlike many places around the world, taped commentary are played: here the drivers, or motormen as they are correctly called, speak freely about the city’s history and add their own personal touches. I hope this never changes as it makes these tours unique and personal. A travel writing friend of mine, Roy Sinclair, has been a tram driver here and provided historical context for the other drivers – he also tells me that the training is comprehensive.
It appears trams are simple vehicles, with a control to go, and a brake to stop, however, learning to drive them smoothly is not always easy, nevertheless it seems there are bonuses with the job. I recall one who used to recount his 15 minutes of fame when he co-starred with Kate Winslet in the 1990’s film Heavenly Creatures. As he said, ‘three days of work and I made it onto the film for about three and four seconds!
These motormen come from a range of backgrounds including; an economics professor, musicians, school principals, bank managers, and of course Roy Sinclair, an author.
On my most recent trip back to Christchurch (February 2016) I was a guest of Welcome Aboardwith a combo ticket to travel on the tram, gondola, punting and the delightful, and informative Caterpillar Tour in the Botanic Gardens – all of which will appear in another blog. Now, let these photos tell the story of our trams.
Plastic sheep seats block the way
End of the line by the Strange’s building
Travellers ride the rails
Prams and pushchairs travel on the front
The workshop is pristine
Slowly through the roadworks
Beautifully restored and maintained woodwork
Old and young enjoyed the workshop opened day
Tram 152 passes the Christchurch City Gallery
Passing The Arts Centre
Motorman happy with his job
Larry Day (left) Ian Wilson and Roy Sinclair before
How to be a good Facebook, social media, friend, or blog follower is quite simple. It’s called ‘netiquette’ an online version of etiquette. Basically, it’s just being a good social networking friend to both the person blogging, or posting on Facebook, and to your other friends too.
So how to be that good friend?
Just like all those funny, or cat video clips we watch and repost, it’s really helpful to your writing friend, or photographer, or artist, to repost their work too. Artists and writers need people to read their work or consider the artwork whether this is by pencil, paint or camera.
Another way is to comment on the piece, or ask a question, or tag a friend telling them, “hey Pat you will enjoy this” or “how about we go here on our next weekend break Peter”. Your other friends will value the fact you were thinking of them, and are introducing them to artists or writers or bloggers will no doubt trust your taste, after all you’re friends so will have much in common.
If you have read one of my books, could you also add a wee comment about it on Amazon. Links to my blogs, Facebook pages (four of them!) and other social media pages are on my webpage for easy access. www.kiwitravelwriter.com
So see, it is really easy to be a good friend to your writing friend, your favourite photographer, or local artist – and that tiny commitment will make a huge difference to them. Sitting at home, creating without any feedback, can be difficult, and for travel writers like me, it’s often the interaction I have with my followers that shows tourist destinations or activities that yes, this is a person we should invite to our city, country, or event. The more they can see that people follow me and enjoy my writing the more likely I am to get invitations or commissions to write.
One word of warning though, if you are anything like me, you need to do this instantly you see the blog or Facebook post or it will be gone forever, lost in all the other daily activity and busy minds! This doesn’t have to be a big chore, once a day would be wonderful.
And, if you repost blog links (or posts) to my pages on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media like StumbleUpon or Instagram, add a hashtag # (eg #kiwitravelwriter or #travel or #goodblog) I’d be really grateful: so, ‘thank you’ in advance.
Once again I see the dangers of travel. Not the rare physical danger of airline or vehicle crashes; not the occasional danger of being robbed or becoming sick, but the every-day common danger of your heart getting to know people and places. People we would not usually met. Then each week, hearing of train accidents, deaths in the Middle East, and riots in India, earthquakes or floods somewhere I’m conscious of that emotional danger.
Geography was always of more interest than history at school. One could have a stab at answering questions if I knew a couple of other facts. Distance from the equator could give clues to temperatures or climate. Mountains, plains, rivers all added up to some understanding of a place that dates and historical facts didn’t – well for me anyway.
Now travel gives me a different perspective to places. Geography remains important, history and religion helps to understand people and combined with travel experience, they give me a sense of, not exactly ownership or belonging, but something like kinship, I’m attached, I leave a bit of me in every place and take some of them with me
This feeling of oneness is particularly acute at times of high emotions; small countries meet a goal; someone overcomes an obstacle; a national team wins; and in particular, really acute in times of national pain or pride. I watch TV, or listen to the radio, tears or pain or pride well up in my eyes too.
My first real experience of this came after I’d been to Ireland and then shortly afterwards ‘the troubles’ flared up again. I was devastated that the wonderful little city of Londonderry (or Derry, depending on the history or map consulted) was yet again the centre of violence. Streets I’d walked down were now dangerous. That people I had maybe spoken to or walked past were now dead or injured had me crying in front of the TV.
Turkey and Greece had earthquakes, people in Israel and Palestine were killing each other, years ago London had rubbish bins removed from the street for fear of terrorism, New York and the New Yorkers I loved were traumatised, monsoon floods in Asia, and Egypt, a fabulous country with generous people, is grief-stricken with deaths after buildings collapsed and Indian pilgrims die during a festival.
Whatever the cause, when I think of the diverse people I’ve come to know, love, empathise with, or judge, when I see their pain I feel helpless. After all, what can we do to ease the pain – nothing. The one thing that would help – having loved ones live again – is way beyond anything we can ever do.
However maybe travel-writing that gives the texture, flavour and smells of a place helps bridge that gap between us and them. After all scenery and monuments are the same on everyone’s photos. It’s our experiences that offer the difference.
Travelling, or reading about travelling, help us realise people are not like those presented in the headlines of our papers or in the sound-bites of radio or television. Young or old, male, female, Christian, Pagan, Muslin, or freethinker as a Japanese friend describes herself, we’re all part of the human family and when a family member is in pain we feel it.
99.9999999% of the people I’ve met are kind and caring, helpful and generous, and of no danger to me – or you.
After 11 hours and some 9 thousand kilometres I arrive in Kuala Lumpur, (KL) Malaysia. An express rail link runs from the KLIA airport(s) to KL SENTRAL and for the first time I take it: arriving in the city more ecologically, and faster, than a taxi. From Sentral I caught the monorail for the last 6 mins to the hotel. The punctual rail system runs to and from the airport every 20 minutes.
In the heart of the city, the twin tower building is ideally placed in the entertainment and shopping district of this city. Playing on the ‘times square’ location it embraces the New York theme with Central Park being located on the 15th floor (pool, children’s playground, fitness centre, squash courts, sauna and steam room).
Central Park links the two towers and has great views of the city including the impressive Petronas Twin Towers and is a great place to relax … not that I had much time to enjoy relaxing by the gazebo! However, I did relax with a wonderful relaxing massage on the same level and can recommend the ‘wellness centre’ – Bunga Raya Spa – to rejuvenate your mind and body. I had their signature massage, which the masseuse said combines old traditions with modern elements. It used kneading strokes focusing on muscles and pressure points.
Some facts about this 5-star hotel: 650 rooms and suites with all the usual comforts to be expected at such a hotel. It’s worth noting they are also well set up for conventions of many sizes too with the Manhattan Ballroom holding 2000. (See their website, above, for more information about convention or conference facilities). As a travel writer I particularly valued the free Wi-Fi to update Facebook and Instagram as I don’t blog while travelling – too busy experiencing. After many hours in the air, relaxing in the full-size bath was wonderful too. (I recommend either KL, or Malaysian Borneo, as great stopovers on long-haul flights.)
Food-wise they cater to all tastes (American, Western, and Asian) and when I met with staff in the Broadway Lounge for a briefing then tour through the hotel, I tried their signature drink: Berjaya Kool. This was a refreshing drink of rose syrup, lemon grass, sugar syrup and sour red plum. The glass was rimmed with a granulated powder that I recognised but couldn’t place … it was the sour red plum and I just loved it. Try it!
I ate in three of the hotel’s restaurants: fine dining in Samplings on the Fourteenth, local and western food for lunch and breakfast in The Big Apple, and breakfast in a smaller restaurant which I believe was just for people on the club floor where my room was. All were impeccable.
As well as their excellent amenities, another bonus is that the hotel’s attached to 900-retail shops in the Berjaya Times Square Shopping (BTS) Mall –which is also home to movie theatres, bowling alley, and for adrenaline junkies, 14 rides at the BTS Theme Park. As I’m a wimp of the first order, and rides with names like Space Attack, Dizzy Izzy, and the Haunted Chamber, I did not ride any of them! If you have, or do, please leave comments below so others know what they’re like.
One of the many things I liked about the Berjaya were cards I saw that said (in part) that they will not serve shark-fin soup in their restaurants, a company wide policy made some years ago. It also says “Because sharks are at the top of the marine food web they serve a vital purpose to maintain the precious balance of species in the sea.”
By-the-way: I enjoyed my hosted stay at Berjaya so much I paid for, and stayed, another night – sort of says it all doesn’t it!
Check out some of the food options – and their award-wining Thai Chef, one of their many specialist chefs.
I’ve taken bike rides in Laos, Cambodia, Christchurch, NZ; and Bangkok, Thailand – sometimes as a guided day tour, mostly just hiring or borrowing bikes and doing my own thing. I’ve now also taken a bike tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and despite being caught in a tropical downpour it was fun. I’d not been on a bike for sometime so my nether regions where very aware of the saddle by the end of my time 🙂
As a guest of KL tourism I had a guide to myself, but groups of travellers can also have a guide – if booked beforehand – or you can just grab a map and enjoy the day stopping and starting as it suits – which is ideal especially for photographers – and of course it’s quick getting from place to places. The bikes have baskets (on the ‘women’s’ bikes) and a bell to warn pedestrians of your approach.
Many of the connections between footpaths and roads need you to get off as footpaths are often raised – I believe the council is looking at smoothing the way where possible. It was not a car-free time when I took the tour, but my guide was very aware of the traffic and car-drivers seemed considerate of us. I enjoyed the garden area in particular as it was mostly vehicle-free.
Beginning and ending at Merdeka Square, with bike route signs along the way, the ride showcased some of the city’s attractions such as the Perdana Botanical Park, KL Bird Park, the National Mosque, Merdeka Square and a number of other monuments and museums.
Mederka Square is full of historical sites and I believe you could spend a day here alone. It has buildings which date from the late 1800s This was where the British flag was lowered in 1957 and the Malayan flag raised for the first time – signalling the end of British rule and the beginning of the country being a sovereign nation member of the Commonwealth.
Before the ride I visited the interesting, and free, Kuala Lumpur City Gallery (just opposite the bike hire place and home to ARCH ) which is a beautiful Mogul-India inspired building and the amazing miniature model of the city certainly helps get your bearings.
Cycling is being promoted by the city council to encourage visitors and residents to explore this captivating city. In January, Mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib led more than 300 cyclists along closed public roads to give them a taste of what they could enjoy under their own steam. The ride followed the launch of “Kuala Lumpur by Cycle” in February last year (2013) and now KL has monthly Car-Free Days during which 6 kilometres city roads are closed to traffic for two hours on the first Sunday of every month. A cycling track on roads along the Gombak River is also planned so watch for more cycle routes.
“This is a very imaginative idea,” says Zalina Ahmad, director of Tourism Malaysia in New Zealand. “Cycling is a healthy and environmentally friendly way to get around and this will give people the opportunity to explore KL. Cycling is one of the best ways to get to know a city.”
So if you are eco-friendly or just want an enjoyable way to get around this often ignored city go ride a bike and visit KLs oldest parks and heritage buildings. Just remember no matter the season, in Asia make sure you have sunblock, umbrellas and waterproof gear in your bag at all times – and a plastic bag for your camera!
Malaysia Airlines’ has daily flights from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland (and every other part of the world) For information about visiting Malaysia – and do a search in my Malaysia category on this blog page for many more stories about my favourite Asian country.
John Noakes, the bus stop artist of Dunedin, New Zealand started the idea of painting bus shelters after seeing children hiding from the rain in dark bus stops. He painted about 65 of them – a fine legacy and makes for attractive driving along, and around, the Otago Peninsula.
Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, maintains several museums – all free to visit.
The Sarawak Museum, the oldest of its kind in Borneo, exhibits collections on the natural history of Sarawak: the beautiful building was opened in 1891 by the White Rajah, Charles Brooke. (Note: A film is soon to be made of his life which I’m sure will be fascinating)
Over the road by an elegant footbridge is the Dewan Tun Abdul Razak otherwise known as ‘the new museum’ and it’s an exhibition venue and has the offices of the Sarawak Museum Department.
Located behind ‘new’ museum is the Sarawak Islamic Museum which I had found hard to find – but well worth going to a few days later.
Other museums in Kuching include the Chinese History Museum, on the waterfront, and which is well worth visiting, the Kuching Cat Museum,( see my blog about it) and the Sarawak Textile Museum – opposite the Post Office and China Street. I found it a peaceful and informative place so well recommend it.
Another museum I just loved was the Art Gallery (beside the Sarawak Museum). Its beautifully and sympathetically restored – a great background to the local art work: I wish I had returned for a second visit.