“As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled, so I, born in the world, raised in the world having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world
To keep the body in good health is a duty, for otherwise we shall not be able to trim the lamp of wisdom, and keep our mind strong and clear. Water surrounds the lotus flower, but does not wet its petals.”
The Buddha -- Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Closer Look

"Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain."
Henry David Thoreau

I try to keep my eyes closer to the subjects of interest because many times i discovered wonderful patterns and designs

Queen of the night is one of my favorite flowers. This particular kind starts blooming in the late evening into the night and at the same time releases an intoxicating fragrance. The flower is ivory white in full bloom. It wilts the next morning. This one is a closeup of the flower once it's over, my very first attemp to look closer :-)

Queen of the Night (Cereus)

Lotus is another flower that i love but the close-up below is of the leaf

Lotus leaf

At the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Garden i saw a group of cactus plants and the leaves have fascinating patterns on them

Leaves and thorns

I was waiting for my carwash and i saw this in one of the planters :-)


This water pattern looks like a meshed necklace


On the hiking trails i love to look closely at the tree trunks


and new growths like these at Eaton Canyon Nature Center

New Growth


Do you see the tiny 'feets' that cling so tightly to the walls?

Sign of Spring

One day i went to the beach and looking down on the sand i saw these forests

Sand painting

i was so fascinated so i kept shooting for hours. Some people gave me strange looks as if they wondered what i was looking at. You can click here for the slide show.

Later on the same beach when the sun began to set the reflection on the sand was quite spectacular



These were taken at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Wave 1

this one reminds me of the black jelly drink that i like very much when i was still living in Vietnam :-)

Wave 2

I have so much fun looking closer :-)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Amalfi Coast

This is the most beautiful coastline that i have been to. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When i went there in May 2004 the weather was fantastic, pleasant temperature in the low 70s and the sky was always clear, blue with floating white clouds.

We stayed in Maiori

and made day trips to nearby town like Amalfi

I love wandering the narrow streets, looking up to see laundry being hang above my head

browsing the colorful store fronts

making stop for the sweet treats :-)

The quaint, charming little town of Ravello was a little piece of heaven, with wonderful views of the coast and lemon orchards. This gem of a town has been the favorite of many famous figures from all walks of life, here's a list in case you wonder who they are :-). I sure envy those who live there,

the blue of the sea and sky seemed to merge into each other

Two of the most famous spots on the Amalfi Coast are located in Ravello. One is the historic Villa Cimbrone, built in the 11th century, which were frequented by many artistic, literary, and political figures like T. S. Eliot, Greta Garbo, Leopold Stokowsky, Henry Moore, Jaqueline Kennedy, Winston Churchill ...

The other is Villa Rufolo with breathtaking view of the coast from it magnificently manicured floral gardens

See the lizard?

Did you see the lizard? ;-)

The volcanic soil of the Amalfi coast was great for growing lemons and the thick, juicy skins of these lemons are used to create a sweet and tangy liqueur called limoncello which is found everywhere, served chilled, so refreshing and great for the warm Mediterranean climate. Limoncello is usually used as an after-dinner 'digestivo'

Driving up and down the coast could be a hair-raising experience because the road was so narrow, barely wider than the width of two buses, but scenery is nothing short of spectacular! Slide show for large format

Hope to be back someday ...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Paradise Cave

In December 2010 one of my co-workers showed me an article in the January 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine that made me thrilled. The article was about a newly discovered cave in VietNam and it was considered the largest complex of caves in the world. This system of interconnected caves was discovered in 2005 by scientists from the British Cave Research Association with the help of a local man. It is the most beautiful cave in the Phong Nha Ke Bang area, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The whole length is 31 km long but only 900m was opened to the public. The world's biggest cave, Sơn Động, is also in this complex.

I am not really into cave but this one is not like anything i had seen before. Looking at the pictures i was spellbound by the beauty and dream of the day to visit.

The opportunity came in January 2011 when i went back to VietNam with friends and family. When we came to Hue, the ancient capital, the chance to visit the cave materialized and after a road trip of almost 5 hours we finally arrived at the place. Once there we learned that the cave was only opened to the public since September of 2010 and it was closed from October to almost the end of December due to a big flood. The ticket price to visit the cave was $120,000 in Vietnamese currency and we paid an extra $100,000 for the ride on the golf cart to the cave entrance since we didn't want to walk the 1 mile road.

Paradise Cave

There were 524 steps up to the cave opening. I was so thankful that it was a cool day :-). This picture is at the 500th step

Paradise Cave

The hike up took us throug a forest setting and i noticed a lot of plants with name tags.

paradise cave

Once we reached the top we were give a presentation about the cave.

Paradise Cave

Then our tour guide led us to a staircase about 100 steps down before we ended up on the nearly 1 km wooden boardwalk through the cave. At the start of the staircase we were greeted by a huge column of stalagmite

paradise cave

the inside opened up to a grand space where the ceiling was filled with colors

paradise cave

paradise cave

at the end of the stairs i looked back at the cave entrance

Paradise Cave

from this points on i was speechless because as we went through the cave its beauty was beyond words. We were the only group in the cave and i felt like i was walking inside the most magnificent and grand cathedral ever built, colorful and serene, even the Sistine Chapel or Saint Peter Basilica were pale in comparison. The most elaborate Baroque churches in Europe or South America were mere imitations of what mother nature could do artistically

Paradise Cave

Paradise Cave

Paradise Cave

the colors of the rock are the things that set this cave apart from others, imho. I am glad that white light is used in most places

Paradise Cave

The formation of stalactites and stalagmites here are very unique

Paradise Cave

Paradise Cave - Động Thiên Đường

Paradise Cave

Paradise Cave

Paradise Cave

this one reminded us of the ceremonial house in central VietNam by ethnic people

Paradise  Cave

reflection pool where the water was still like a mirror

Paradise Cave

We spent about 3 hours in the cave and when the tour was over nobody wanted to leave. This place is truly a heavenly site and i felt so very lucky to have been there.

Slide show

National Geographic article 1

National Geographic article 2

Phong Nha National Park


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lake Bled

When i saw lake Bled for the first time while looking through a travel catalogue quite a few years ago i immediate fell in love with the place.

This tiny romantic town in Slovenia is located in the Julian Alps. The town is famous for the glacial lake Bled with a small island in the middle. The island is the only natural island in Slovenia. In the middle of the island is the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary where wedding is a popular event. The groom usually carries the bride up the 99 steps to the church.

My trip to lake Bled was in February 2008, it was kind of unplanned because i saw an online tour deal back in December which was hard to resist so i asked my aunts and their friends to join me.

The lake with the island in the middle and the charming town around was more beautiful than i expected. The walk around the lake was so picturesque and the sight of the island was visible everywhere. It was like in the fairy tale land.

There was hardly any tourist around, many restaurants were closed or on shorter hours, the streets pretty empty and i felt so at home there. In the afternoon the scenery by the side of the lake with fog rolling and the church on the island slowly became a silhouette was just breathtaking. The weather was quite chilly and foggy but i think it was great for photography because of the magical look.



We went up to the castle

lake Bled

for a tour and enjoyed so much the view down to the lake.

Lake Bled

From the bus to the castle i took this favorite picture of the lake and the island

Lake Bled

For lunch one day we chose Vila Bled which was the former residence of Yugoslavian president Tito. When we walked into the restaurant there was no light and looked like nobody was there, the dining room was empty. As we were wondering what was going on, a lady came out and we asked if they were open for lunch. She looked at us for a moment and said 'please wait', then she went inside for a moment and came out to tell us 'yes, we can serve you lunch'. The dining room looked elegant but kind of dated, imho. We had a nice meal, the service was warm and attentive.

vila bled

After the meal we strolled along the lake to get back to the hotel.

vila bled

It was getting late in the afternoon and fog started rolling in and i turned back to look at the island. The misty sight was quite breath-taking


Besides the island the town of Bled is also famous for a desert called Kremma Rezina which we could not miss since the best bakery in town was right down the street from our hotel. The custardy cake was great, not too sweet, and the bakery quickly became our daily coffee stop because it also has many other wonderful treats. I like this one even more than the Kremma Rezina :-)

For dinner we went to a local restaurant where we had wonderful brothy seafood soup and grilled squid with beer


From lake Bled we took the train to Ljubljana, the capital, which is a cute and lively little city with many art nouveau buildings and vibrant cafes along the river.

Slovenia slide show