Weekly Photo Challange: Sky

I have the most beautiful view of the city from my balcony. Forget the expensive Sky Bar, Vertigo, and all the other high rise skyline view bars and restaurants in Bangkok, now made even more famous by Hangover II. My view also faces sunset, the hour of most unpredictable skies as that is also the time of the day the storms may come through in the 7-month long rainy season. I have long learnt to keep a tripod, spare battery and spare memory card standing at the entrance to the balcony, ready for a sudden shot. It is no accident that my camera supplies shelf is close by.

Nikon D80, fish eye lens

Topic provided by Daily Post blog.

Sandstorms, deceptive

Sandstorms are nasty business. I never really appreciated how sneaky those things are. We were caught in one on our last day of the Nile cruise. Fortunately, we weren’t flying. We were able to continue our sightseeing agenda on the ground. But now that I’ve lived through one, I realize how deceptively dangerous they are. Initially it just looked like smog in the air, albeit thick. By the time I realized the sand was actually clogging up my lungs, I have inhaled a whole day’s worth of grit. Check out the air quality in these before/during comparison photos.

Ondoy’s wet welcome

I was stuck in Manila when the first of a recent series of major typhoons blew through. We know Storm Ondoy (pronounced “on-Do-Oi”), internationally known as Ketsana, was approaching but reporting had treated it like a heavy rain storm that will blow through without event. In reality, yes, it was just that. A long heavy shower. No one just realised how heavy it would be.

We attempted to go sightseeing even in the weather. Oh, we saw, heard the rain. But we figured if we did some museum hopping I would get my Philippine culture intake.

What a trip. The taxi driver, perhaps annoyed that we wouldn’t play ball on the fare negotiation process, tried to drop us off in some obscure building near the hotel, insisting that it was the only museum in the city. Right. National Museum, which we requested? Manila Casa? San Augustin? Villa Escudero? Malacanang Palace? Nonetheless, we got kicked out in the middle of a flood.

We waded our way back. On a dry day, that walk may take us five minutes. Ten max with all the road crossings. That day? Over 45 minutes. First, fascinated, I took my time juggling my umbrella, backpack, and camera to take photos of sights and scenes. Then the rain weighed me down since my sweatshirt apparently collects water very well. Finally, we kept backtracking and zigzagging to avoid going anything more than knee-deep in the water.

The following morning, the local front page compared Ondoy to Hurricane Katrina. I was indignant. The winds in Ketsana, while strong, didn’t compare the Katrina’s 100mph+. In retrospect though, having seen the construction in some of the villages and outskirts, and having experienced the rain volume myself, I can understand that it needed to be brought up that the devastation is phenomenal and, given the poor infrastructure and questionable building standards, the damage is far greater than what an American city and county would have taken under the same circumstances.

Many more photos to come. In the meantime, for a bit more lighthearted view of our day:

Now just what was he trying to accomplish?

Winter challenge

I froze my pretty tush off in my week in Taiwan. Before you groan and roll your eyes, do my weather challenge. Turn your thermostat to 50. Fahrenheit. Don’t get cute on me.

And sleep in that for a whole week. No space heaters allowed. You can wear as many layers and double up as many comforters as you wish.

Once you made through 7 nights of that, you can snigger.

That’s what it’s like over there. They have no heating system. And the buildings are made of concrete and stone which retains coolness very well. No insulation or drywall or such. Just cold hard materials.


Bangkok really doesn’t get that hot in absolute heat. Someone once commented that Washington DC hits over 100F in the month of August more often than Bangkok does in the entire monsoon season (depending on the year can be a whooping mid-May through November).

The worst is the humidity. The folks who have been here longer than me pretty much all say that one never really gets used to it. One may learn to tolerate it but never completely get comfortable. That’s not a cheery thought given that the humidity stays pretty much the entire year.

To give you an idea, here’s a comparison of average July humidity levels in several cities, courtesy of BBC Weather:

Hong Kong
New Orleans
San Jose (CR)

On top of all that, July is actually a cooler month for Bangkok, thanks to the downpours.

The first two weeks, any physical exertion, even just a block’s walk, results with my being drenched with sweat. Which is pretty gross considering that that is how I start my day and I have to deal with it for the entire day.

By the third week, my body recognises a mere five percent drop in humidity… and appreciates it. I was cheered considerably when I noticed, one afternoon on the Skytrain, that some of the Thais are also sweating. Well, it’s not a good sign when even the locals can’t handle the weather. But it makes me feel less out of my element and less of a wimp.

I have now gone through two days without my shirt showing rather unbecoming sweat marks on my back. I have to feel quite pleased with myself.