Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category



September 10, 2010

Less than three weeks to our short getaway to Bali for J’s wedding, but I’m once again having itchy feet.

It’s my fault, really, surfing airline sites for their year-end airfare deals is like a buffet spread for someone on a diet.

I feel like going somewhere that is familiar and hassle-free; like to Osaka for ramen, or to Perth for Margaret River wine.

But, is it really bad that I have only been in this new company for less than six months (I think it’s closer to four), and I have already taken more than 15 days’ vacation leave?

Not to mention I must consider the impact of my leave plans for 2011: Greece with the girl friends, the couples’ getaway with the married peeps to Hokkaido, photog trip to India and visiting the boyfriend’s brother in Canberra.

Sometimes I wish I wouldn’t have people judging me for all the time I’d be away from the office. I don’t know how D does it, jetting off to somewhere spectacular every other month (or more).

P/S : And, whatever happened to the promise I made to the boyfriend that I wouldn’t travel anywhere for five years after our exorbitant trip this summer? :p


Adventures in the Land of the Midnight Sun – The Final Chapter

August 14, 2010

4 July 2010 The Best of Svalbard

“Strange. There is always a sadness on departure. It is as if one cannot after all bear to leave this bleak waste of ice, glaciers, cold and toil.”

– Fridtjof Nansen, 1912

What a trip! The last three days really picked up the pace; I didn’t have any time to write, so I’m cramming it in while waiting to board the plane at Longyearbyen airport.

14 polar bears, I believe, was our last count. Not to mention countless exciting wildlife encounters and just being immersed in the immense beauty (each day a little different from the next) of the Arctic Svalbard.

I’m hard-pressed to find just five images that really encapsulate the experience for me, but I hope these come close:

Cruising the Ice

Jagged peaks

Curious Walrus

Whale Karma


And in true spirit of the expedition, just as we thought the trip was winding down after all the formal farewells on the last night, came one of the most magical experiences of a lifetime. It was past 11pm when, as we stood on the forward-looking decks under the midnight sun, white-beaked dolphins danced for us by the ship’s bow and a magnificent blue whale – the largest living mammal on the face of the earth and exceedingly rare – surfaced just a few feet from us.

An apt tribute to an absolutely amazing vacation.

Here’s the final list of wildlife sightings:

  • Polar bears
  • Blue whale
  • Fin whale
  • Sei whale
  • Minke whale
  • Beluga whale
  • White-beaked dolphin
  • Walrus
  • Reindeer
  • Ringed seal
  • Bearded seal
  • Puffins, and a bunch of other sea birds


All praise for the staff and crew of the National Geographic Explorer on Lindblad Expedition’s “Land of the Ice Bears” voyage from 27 June to 4 July 2010, especially our excellent expedition leader Tim Soper and the awesome team of Naturalists and Photographers. I’m also grateful to Chris Harter from AdventureSmith Explorations who helped us put it together – Chris really went out of his way for these somewhat troublesome and suaku travellers from the tropics. (To those who are interested, I would be happy to put you in touch with him).

Next dream vacation the boyfriend and I are working towards : a 24-day voyage to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands on the Explorer by 2020.

For now, it’s goodbye to the polar wilderness that has so drawn us in over this short visit. Indeed, there is a strange sadness about it. And an even stranger longing to return.

Edit >> All photos are up on my Flickr site : Arctic Svalbard 2010


Pig is at Longyearbyen airport, Svalbard. 78 degrees, 13 mins north, apparently.


Adventures in the Land of the Midnight Sun – Chapter 8

August 11, 2010

2 July 2010 Ice Art

Looking for beauty in the frozen planet…

Ice Art I

Ice Art II

Ice Art III

Ice Art IV


This post was written on board the National Geographic Explorer.


Adventures in the Land of the Midnight Sun – Chapter 7

August 10, 2010

1 July 2010 In search of Big Foot

We finally saw a polar bear (or “ice bear” as they are called in this part of the world) after four rather frustrating sightings that we quickly lost.

We were beginning to think they were mythical creatures. The passengers sat around trading conspiracy theories over hot chocolate – like how Lindblad had merely placed a stuffed toy on the ice while we were not looking before promptly leading us into a fog.

This bear was sleeping out in the vast, open ice. It was quite a distance away, barely visible through my 400mm lens, but we managed to creep up on it a bit – at least, as much as a 6000-ton vessel breaking through the ice can creep – before it awoke. As we stood out on the decks in silent awe (I believe I was squealing under my breath), it decided the huge, approaching chunk of metal wasn’t something it was keen to stick around for.

The bear scampering / lumbering away while sneaking furtive glances back at us is a sight I will never forget.

Ice Bear


This post was written on board the National Geographic Explorer.


Adventures in the Land of the Midnight Sun – Chapter 6

August 7, 2010

30 June 2010 Into the Fog

Not much activity on board today as we sailed right into a fog in pursuit of a polar bear, and spent the next 12 hours trying to navigate out of it.

But I was grateful for the down time, and that I got to capture some pretty haunting images.

Eerie calm before the fog


Midnight sun

Into the fog


This post was written on board the National Geographic Explorer


Adventures in the Land of the Midnight Sun – Chapter 5.2

August 7, 2010

29 June 2010 Apache Blessing

The boyfriend got me a bracelet from the ship’s Global Gallery which I absolutely adore to bits.

The lovely piece by San Francisco-based jewellery designer Jeanine Payer is hand-engraved with an Apache Blessing which reads:

May the sun bring you new energy by day / May the moon softly restore you by night / May the rain wash away your worries / May the breeze blow new strength into your being / May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty / All the days of your life

Apache Blessing

Apparently, it was meant to be for Christmas, but yes, he isn’t very good with surprises.


This post was written on board the National Geographic Explorer


Adventures in the Land of the Midnight Sun – Chapter 5.1

August 7, 2010

29 June 2010 Fjord of Sorrow

This morning we landed at Sorgfjorden and joined the National Geographic photographers for a photo hike. The name translates to “Fjord of Sorrow”, but it was the fjord of amazing experience for me.

It was such an honour to have really excellent photographers such as Lindblad’s Mike Nolan in the company sharing their knowledge and experience with us. The landing site was simply beautiful with so many photographic opportunities that the allocated three hours just weren’t enough. In a 100 meter radius there were walruses sunbathing on the coast, endless stretches of Arctic tundra, a lone cross atop the hill, the unmarked graves of men who had died during a French-Dutch whaling conflict in the 17th century, driftwood (even though there was not a tree in sight) and a trapper’s hut.

The weather is finally starting to feel like the Arctic, but my Muck Boots and Mammut jacket are keeping me warm and toasty.

Old rugged cross

Long hike

Trapper's hut

Expert naturalist and talented wildlife photographer, Mike Nolan

The afternoon was spent on the ship’s bow with our cameras in hand. Trying to spot an ivory bear on the white ice really is an exhausting task, however.

I discovered that 400mm really isn’t all that long for shooting wildlife (heck, even the 1000mm Mike was kind enough to let us try didn’t seem satisfying enough), but I do love my wide-angle.


This post was written on board the National Geographic Explorer.

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