1. My 2008 trip season began very early ... on 2 January, I boarded a plane bound for Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City
2. The main purpose of the trip was, ironically, to see European architecture, namely the French colonial influence. I was surprised there were so many still standing.
6. This is actually quite a sprawling city, although you can clearly see the orderly grid in the centre. However, it seems the layout doesn't embrace the river so much. I've passed by Ho Chi Minh City a number of times in the air ... passing by, but could not get a decent aerial until my flight out.
7. Infrastructure is a major problem ... it seems there are no decent highways. We rumbled down the road with all the other cars, rare to exceed 80 km/h. Getting to a supposedly close place by the ocean took forever.
8. Remnants of the war against the Americans are readily accessible.
9. I made a number of visits to Singapore already in 2007, so I had a more targeted approach in my 2008 visit, only to be hindered by the hot and humid weather.
11. Recoloured shophouses look good, but in general, I'm not a big fan of making old buildings look sparkling new. It takes away the heritage value.
13. It's now February, and this is the first of two visits to Taiwan for the year. It happened to be just after Chinese New Year, but the festive spirit was alive and well. The lantern showcase was stunning.
16. Going up Taipei 101 was quite a great experience. Sure, it was expensive, but I had never seen a damper myself and that was worth the admission already.
17. Of course, there was the view. My first visit was disappointing because of bad weather. In fact, I never got a break during my almost month-long stay. The second visit saw much blue-er skies.
19. Then I made a brave decision to hike a hill to get this unique view. I had to go home to shower after this.
20. Night markets are quite the "thing" in Taiwan, and the key attraction is food ... lots of street food.
24. Then there are the more kinky things, such as a neat-looking veggie keychain.
25. Anyone want to play mahjong on the street?
26. Food is everywhere in Taiwan. I went on a "nature" outing to Jiufen, which is about an hour from Taipei. The scenery was great ...
28 ... but there is also food everywhere.
30. I also made a trip south to Taiwan's 2nd city ... a much grittier place. The good thing is it's only an hour and a half by high speed train, making Kaohsiung another good weekend getaway.
31. The main purpose of this visit is to see this giant monster.
32. There is actually an observation deck inside!
33. Given the enormous size, Tuntex is hard to miss from anywhere.
35. The British also meddled in Kaohsiung's affairs, and they picked a great vantage point with views of the ocean and the city on top of a hill.
36. My great Australia adventure began in March with Sydney being the first stop. By accident, I picked a window seat on the left, and I was not disappointed.
37. And I got to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in person. Living in the city centre, I got to experience the pains of watching the stores close so early, pathetic "late night" shopping, and the drunken scenes on Saturday night along George Street. Part of life in a bustling city I guess ...
38. Sydney has a wonderful quality of life, and the beautiful beach + suntan are never far away.
40. I spent quite some time plane spotting at a fence next to the runway. Thanks to fellow spotters from a Hong Kong aviation forum, I was happily satisfied with the results. Don't think I can get away with this type of photography in another major city these days without being arrested for conspiracy.
41. It was quite astounding to see so many people jogging and exercising during lunch time on a regular work day. I saved most of my energy until the weekend, when I had time to explore around and trying to find a great vantage point or two.
Brisbane / Gold Coast
43. I didn't stick around in Sydney for all my weekends. I flew up to Brisbane thanks to reward mileage and covered Gold Coast as well. I didn't know what to expect out of Brisbane at first, and in the end rushed to cover most of what I wanted in a half day.
44. The prize was Gold Coast, where I wanted to see Q1 in person. I got my wish on a beautiful blue day.
45. The view, again, was nothing short of stunning.
49. To think I actually wanted to get to that tip point on the left where the coast bends for a skyline shot. I think that's where Gold Coast airport sits.
50. Some more neat shapes and sizes.
52. Next stop was Melbourne. I ended up visiting this place twice because there was just so much to cover - both in and out of the city. One of my favourite shots was this skyline capture.
53. Australia is a wonderful place for nature tourism, and people appreciate these assets very much. The Great Ocean Road was a stressful but great tour to see a lot of scenery in one day.
57. Back in the city, I went up 2 observation decks. I liked the older one though. Eureka!
58. Melbourne is probably one of few major cities that has kept its tram network more or less intact over the years.
60. Melbourne does seem like a very organized city, with a well-defined grid centre.
63. Then there's the new stuff ...
65. ... and the postcard shot
66. Just as I was heading to the bus station for the ride to the airport, I realized I had missed something. Ironically, it was on the cover of my guidebook and I was told of this place by a good friend as well. Well ... I captured it right at the end, albeit not at the best time of the day.
67. I came very close to cancelling this trip. Swimming in the open ocean did not appeal to me too much at first, and I was hoping there were underwater submarine rides so I could stay dry. Thank goodness I didn't actually carry out my thoughts. I flew up on the Friday, on points for free again, and spent Saturday exploring a cordoned-off area in the outer reef. It was one of the most memorable experiences in my life.
70. The last city on my great Australia adventure to check off was Adelaide. I spent a couple of days here and I probably budgeted too much time. Again, I flew on points so this was a free flight, and I made it interesting too because I wanted to stop in Melbourne a 2nd time before heading back to Sydney. Adelaide was very manageable to explore on foot at a leisurely pace.
72. Is this a real garbage can?
73. Blue skies followed me everywhere .. except Melbourne ... but almost everywhere!
78. I was happy to meet a friend stationed in Adelaide. If it weren't for him I would not have made the trip at all. Thanks for convincing me to visit!
Now this takes me to June ... I'll bring more from the rest of 2008 in the next part.