2015 got off to a very cold start in Canada, then headed to the other side of the world and then to the bottom of the world.
Montréal gets quite cold in the winter, but at least there was some sun. Armed with plenty of gear covering up from head to toe, I was set to explore the outdoors and photograph places that I have been to before but with a better camera this time.
I suppose after all my trips around Europe, these historic buildings are not really so historic after all.
Nevertheless, the churches do look spectacular.
With bitter cold weather outside, these are wonderful heat breaks to warm up.
Rubber wheels on trains are a common feature on French trains. Here, the ride gets a bit bumpy and there is a distinct musical chime as the train accelerates.
Residential architecture is quite nice here - from rowhouses with long staircase entries to fancy mansion-like homes that scream bourgeoisie.
Downtown has seen much change in recent years, especially new residential condos that have popped up.
They call these streetcars here, and fleet renewal is coming. Hence, I took some time to photograph a couple of these set against a changing cityscape.
Don't let the sky fool you. It was COLD!
Bangladesh has been in turmoil for over a year, but tensions flared up again between political factions just before I arrived. There was no travel warning but we were told not to venture out at night as arsonists were targeting city buses. Every day, newspapers reported scores dead from the previous night's attacks.
Seems most people got around on rickshaws, which dominated the streets. Even the trishaws were outnumbered!
Back in Mumbai, I wondered how could their old buses run. Here in Dhaka, I think these types of vehicles are worth buying if they can survive decades of torment.
So you have been to Beijing and Shanghai and thought you have seen extensive collections of historic Chinese artifacts? Well, you need to explore the Yellow River basin, home to ancient dynasties and the start of the glorious Chinese civilization.
Outside the museum, it is a modern city, and you can't see much of the history that they dug up in the area.
You will find lots of modern buildings instead.
Shaolin kung-fu is famous worldwide, so their monastery in the outskirts of Zhengzhou has become a major tourist attraction. They charge a steep admission, which has resulted in a Disney-like theme park of renovated historic buildings and martial arts shows. While I expected a religious monastery to serve vegetarian food per tradition, there was a burger outlet right at the entrance. It was a bit of a waste of a half day.
Ride a double-deck coach with broken seats and insufficient ventilation for 2 hours to Dengfeng, then hop on a taxi and bargain hard for the rest of the way (20 minute ride).
The stele forest appears a bit more interesting, with so many of these in various states of disrepair. Too bad I couldn't go in but walk around the periphery only.
Easily accessible by high-speed train, Luoyang is a must-see for history fans. My first stop was the grottoes, hoping to beat the crowds. You need to visit this place first thing in the morning.
Every Chinese city has a pedestrianized street of some sort. This one is supposed to be historic but has been excessively commercialized.
You can't help but notice a property boom everywhere.
Don't bother going. Spend your valuable time exploring Zhengzhou and Luoyang instead. It's not worth the trip just to see this historic tower and a bunch of re-created fakes.
My original plan for Easter was to head to Japan to see the sakura bloom. But that got dashed as the weather forecast changed and the entire long weekend was expected to be cloudy and rainy. Frustrated, I searched for a cheap flight that was impossible to find with Hong Kong on the move for the long weekend. China was the answer. I had some unfinished business in Tianjin, and with a cheap last-minute flight, I returned to see more of this historic, yet overlooked city.
These are obsolete now that traffic lights adorne this intersection.
I guess this section is for retired brokers.
Having done the guide book itinerary already, I wanted to explore something different but without the tourists. Cockatoo Island offers deep insight into Australi's convict and shipbuilding history.
Ferries are a great way to photograph the city. Sundays are especially great since the maximum you will pay on your Opal card is $2.5.
Australia is in the midst of a property boom, so I went to see how the new suburbs and redevelopments are going. Wolli Creek is only a short ride to either the airport or city centre, but it feels quite serene except the occasional airplane taking off.
I explored a few more neighbourhoods looking for interesting residential architecture.
Seafood here is the best. I couldn't help but eat raw oysters all the time. Doyle's really offered the best but even the grocery store ones were delicious.
QVB is a historic gem but there were only 2 stores that interested me. Grab a dessert here.
Sydney is surrounded by water, which makes the quality of life so much better, as do the views from your windows.
I was lucky to have visited during Vivid Sydney, where many buildings were illuminated by fancy lights. I didn't like the opera house's show but the museum and Customs House were spectacular.
The best spot to view Customs House's show is at Circular Quay's platform, and there is free wifi in the station as well!
Goodbye, Sydney, and a wonderful first half of 2015!