28. July 2001 10:48
by Rene Pallesen

Mandalay . . .

28. July 2001 10:48 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments


Map of Burma

When I initially arrived in Yangon / Rangoon, I wanted to fly up Bhamo - one of the bigger towns north of Burma. I also considered exploring Myitkyinã - a town further north of Bhamo.

My Lonely Planet guide indicated that the only border crossing into China was to the east of Bhamo. My initial plans to Burma also included exploration of western China. However, I was disappointed by the military turning me back, despite the fact that my Lonely Planet guide said I could cross into China at Ruili.

I decided instead to fly to Mandalay, not only because it was cheap to do so, but it saved me a 20-hour bus ride there from Yangon.

City of Mandalay

I heard about a song for sailors.
“To be a real sailor, the sailor would have to have been to Mandalay way upriver”

I quite liked Mandalay.

The photo below, is of Mandalay Hill.
During World War II (20 March 1945), the British and the Japanese fought one another to gain control of the position on this hill.

Important Position in Mandalay Mandalay Hill facing east

The photo to the left is taken from the hill itself facing east - as you can see, it has an aerial view of the whole city, and puts any oncoming enemies at a disadvantage. Control of Mandalay was important during the war, as the soldiers were able to set up artillery and attack anyone approaching the fortress.

This hill was of big strategic importance.

The building you see near the shrine is a monument to the British regiment who managed to take control of this hill from the Japanese.

At the eastern part of the delta, a lot of logging takes place. There was a train line built that used to cart all the trees/wood for export to Thailand.

View of the FortressView of the Fortress

The moat around the fortress is man-made.
Although man-made, comes from the local river.

The original fortress was burnt to the ground.
The whole fortress covered an area of 2.5 x 2.5 km

Fortress at Mandalay

Fortress at Mandalay

Clocktower in Mandalay

The design of Mandalay was quite colonial, and surprisingly, most of the streets were at 90º to one another.

Overall, I found Mandalay the most expensive city to travel to in Burma.

No matter what one does in Mandalay, be it explore Mandalay Hill or the city itself, the locals always had “special” foreigner prices. It really annoyed me.

I tried to use local currency as much as possible. However, FEC (Foreign Exchange Currency) was more valuable and worth more to the locals. FEC is also used in China, and one tries to use local currency as much as possible. Any item you buy has 2 prices - and obviously it is cheaper to use local currency than to use FEC.

I must admit, even Mandalay Hill was not that nice for the price I paid to explore it. It was also expensive just to go into the fortress.

Surprisingly, I could not find maps of the area that was not more that 40 years old.

28. July 2001 10:47
by Rene Pallesen

Burma Religion & Politics . . .

28. July 2001 10:47 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments


Politics . . .

Queue for Rations
There is a lot of politics going on in Burma that an outsider should not get involved in - Burma is one of those countries where political opinions are best kept to oneself.

In Burma, use of the Internet and mobile phones is illegal. This is the government's way of controlling the information entering the country. Even access to equipment such as laptops is illegal - the country is so poor that many could not afford such a piece of equipment.

I saw many young women queueing for their rations. They were standing so close together that I thought they were lesbians! *laugh* The girls stand close together so another person cannot jump the queue by pushing in.

Girls Standing Close

Girls Standing Close
Young Girls Working on Roads

The girls here are very young, some have barely reached puberty and are doing some very hard work.

Young Girls Working on Roads

There is a lot of critique by Amnesty International, of Burma's use of young girls to provide maintenance for the roads.

28. July 2001 10:47
by Rene Pallesen

Medicine . . .

28. July 2001 10:47 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments


The Wares of a 'Medicine Man'
Medicine . . .

My girlfriend, Arumi, tells me one sees the wares of a 'Medicine Man' quite often throughout Asia.

Whether they sit by the roadside, or whether they own a shop in a building, one will see very similar items being sold around Asia.

The “pellets” you see here are in fact different types of roots such as ginger or some unknown vegetable, that have been sun or air dried.

The Medicine Man 1The Medicine Man 1The Medicine Man 1

You will see the antlers of various animals such as deer or even rhino. There are also skulls from different animals - some of these animals may be endangered species, but somehow you will see them being sold in these markets.

The Medicine Man 2

These skulls are definitely not being used as “trophies” around the house!

The Burmese, like many Asians, believe in using very 'natural' remedies to cure common ailments.

Tiger Skull

A Medicine Man may not necessarily be a “doctor” according to western standards - that means he may not have a university degree.

However, a Medicine Man, may be what we know as “witch-doctors”. Some of the remedies they know are very natural and useful.

Unfortunately, not all of these remedies work. Around Asia, you will see shops or Medicine Man selling items like tigers' paws and skulls, or ground ivory tusks. Many of these are sold as cures or enhancements for the sex life.

In Burma, there is virtually no wildlife left.

Selling Tobacco

You will even find that even tobacco is sold naturally.

Not in cigarette form, but in leaf form! The laws in Burma are not quite the same as they are here. Marijuana is also sold very freely.

Fruit of the Lotus Plant
Lotus Fruit . . .

Quite often in Asia, you may see lily pads floating on the water. In fairy-tales, you hear about frogs sitting on a lily pad.

You will be amazed to associate that this fruit here, comes from the flowers/plant growing out of the water near the lily pads.

The yellow seeds come from the flower itself. The seeds are used often in many Asian desserts, and said to promote better blood circulation.

While, the root of the lotus plant is also a delicacy. It is white when cooked, and has a crunchy texture, similar to that of the water chestnut. Mainly used in savoury meals, although used as a dessert as well.

Personally, I think it is too much hassle retrieving the fruit! *smile*

Created: 31 Oct 2001

28. July 2001 10:46
by Rene Pallesen

Schwedagon . . .

28. July 2001 10:46 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

Escalator leading up to Schwedagon

Schwedagon was a holy place with extremely large and beautiful temples.

To get to Schwedagon, you had to travel up very long escalators. I took this photo because these escalators were the only escalators I had seen during my whole trip in Burma. As Schwedagon is a very religious place for the locals, I guess to travel up these escalators give the sense of travelling to a higher and holier place.

Temples at Schwedagon Photo 1

The temples at Schwedagon were really impressive.

Temples at Schwedagon Photo 2
Another Temple

I was told that collectively, these temples were built with 39 tonnes of pure gold.

Cleaning Up

At the end of the day, the locals all contributed in cleaning the place. They clean all the tiles and are very organised.

Big StubaBig Stuba at Night

Buddhas at base of Big Stuba

Here is the 'Big Stuba'. All that gold...

Up close, the temples are a glorious sight. Especially at night!

Can you see those lights at the base of the Big Stuba? Each is a 'mini temple', illuminating a Buddha.

Lots of Gold

You can really see the magnificence of these temples!

Praying to BuddhaPraying to BuddhaIntricate Carvings

There are lots of rules or procedures about the way one prays to the Buddhas - very complicated to an outsider!

I saw a couple of the buddhists pour water onto the statue of the Buddha. Depending on the day of the week a buddhist is born, the individual would pour the respective number of bowls for the day of the week. A buddhist believes that by doing this, it would bring them luck.

At Schwedagon, I noticed there were hardly any tourists, mostly locals paying homage.

Can you see how intricate the carvings are in the foreground?

Praying Monk 1Praying Monk 2

Large Bell

The monks rung this bell to announce prayer times.

It brought luck to ring the bell.
For example, if you were born on the 1st day of the week, you rung it once to bring good luck. If you were born on the 6th day of the week, you rung it 6 times etc.

28. July 2001 10:45
by Rene Pallesen

Myanmar ( Burma ) 23 July ~ 5 Aug 2001 . . .

28. July 2001 10:45 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

myanmar burma 23 july 5 aug 2001
Click here for full size Map of Burma

Burma/Myanmar surprised me in many ways. I would have liked to see more of Burma than I did, but due to military restrictions, I only had access to certain parts of Burma and was not able to see any of the indigenous people along the border as I had initially planned.Burma is a very poor country. It was difficult to travel... travelling 100 kilometres could sometimes take up to 6 hours.

One of the most beautiful places in Burma, I thought, was Bagan.

I took many photos in Burma, and tried to order them in the following pages:
  • I spent some days in Yangon, which had a heavy colonial influence.
  • Schwedagon was another place full of temples, a place laden with pure gold.
  • Whilst travelling, I could not help notice how influenced the people were by religion, and Burma's politics is one thing an outsider should not get involved in.
  • I was fascinated by what the Burmese used for medicine. They also had some rather interesting local fruit.
  • Mandalay also had an interesting colonial battle history. Whilst there, I watched the “Mandalay Marionettes”.
  • With the restrictions up north, I did not get to see much. But you would not believe how the Burmese play volleyball!
  • Finally, at Mt Popa, I went there to see a local monastry, and saw a lot of wild monkeys there.

Yangon ( Rangoon ) . . .

One of the main streets in Burma

This is the city-centre of Rangoon. Rangoon is the capital city of Burma.

It is actually a pretty big city if you compare it with other parts of Burma on a map.

Most of the buildings are from the old colonial period when the British occupied Burma. Unfortunately they have not been very well-maintained.

Can you see the green bits on the clocktower?

Clocktower with vegetation growing on it

If you are thinking it is vegetation growing on it, you are right! There is quite a bit growing on most of the buildings in the city.

Colonial Building 1Colonial Building 2The Strand HotelColonial Building 3

Man feeding pigeons

There were so many pigeons!

I managed to catch a pictures of a pigeon flying mid-air - can you see the blurred grey thing near the tree in the middle of the photo?

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Created: 22 Sept 2001

15. June 2001 10:27
by Rene Pallesen

3rd Place in Photo Competition!

15. June 2001 10:27 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

competition photo 2001

I took part in a photo competition in November 2001, using one of the photos I had taken during my trip to Mt Cook in January 2001. This photo was of Kevin, the alpine guide from my group in the technical climbing course.

The following photo and comments appeared on the Planet Fear website, in the Front Line Photography Competition - not long after I was notified that I was one of 20 winners, and I was even more surprised to find out that I had come third!

The comments above the photo were my comments that I had emailed to them when I sent the photo. The comments below the photo were (one of the judges) comments about my photo.
3. Rene Pallesen

The attached photo was taken in New Zealand on the main range near Mount Cook. The valleys to the west are filled with clouds formed by the moisture from the forests underneath. The snowcovered mountains in the north are visible through the clouds. The photo was taking using a Nikon FM10 using a Fuji Sensia 100 film.

Kevin in the Clouds

Literally bathed in atmosphere. It would be easy to muff this high key exposure but Rene is spot on. The vertical format adds to a shot capturing all the euphoria of life on the tops. Reminds me of the legendary Mountain mag front covers.
~ Comment by Ian Parnell, Planet Fear
Feel free to see my photo on their website.

Also, you could go to the Planet Fear website to view the other winning photos.

15. January 2001 11:14
by Rene Pallesen

Mt Cook

15. January 2001 11:14 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

mt cook

Mt Cook

Mt Cook
Our ice-climbing group


Created: 18 Aug 2001 Last Updated: 16 Sept 2001

15. January 2001 10:59
by Rene Pallesen

Mt Cook ( 15 ~ 28 January 2001 )

15. January 2001 10:59 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

mt cook 15 28 january 2001
Above the clouds at Mt Cook - photo competition winner!Mt Cook ( 15 ~ 28 January 2001 )

I decided to do a Technical Ice-Climbing course with Alpine Guides in New Zealand.

I spent 10 days at Mt Cook doing a very challenging course, but I learnt a lot. I learnt all the techniques required to do ice-climbing safely. I also learnt the necessities of surviving in the icy mountains.

Prior to the trip, a lot of preparation was required. Everyday, I went jogging to build up my fitness, so by the time I left for New Zealand, I could run 3km on the sand without getting puffed. I also had to buy some of the equipment. I had to buy cramp-ons (looks like spiked metal soles) to attach to my boots; ice-axe and ice-hammer; a new Gore-tex jacket (I needed a new one anyway) and some other clothing and equipment.

The photo on the right became a 3rd-place winner in a photo competition.

Mt Cook

Our group consisted of 4 other doing the course. There were no prerequisites, other than a love for the mountains and a very high fitness level. Not all of us who do this course go on to climb the great mountains. We also discovered it takes guts and courage to stand on top of the world and feel confident. One cannot be an ice-climber if there is a fear of heights or if unsteady on the feet.

Our ice-climbing group

All of us in the group had come from different backgrounds. Søren was an experienced climber, who had aspirations of going to the Himalayas. Alan was a rock-climber who wanted to try the challenge of ice-climbing. Rob too loved the mountains and wanted the experience and challenge of being on the icey slopes of New Zealand. I had had quite a lot of climbing and mountaineering experience, but this was my first time ice-climbing.

The person holding the camera is Søren. I met him in NZ, whilst waiting for the bus for Mt Cook. To my surprise, he was a Dane living here in Sydney. He was a professional photographer (hence you see him holding the Nikon). He and I had similiar experience so our speed through the course was pretty much the same.


I actually ended up cracking a rib whilst on the course. I did this during a 'self-arrest' technique, where we actually throw ourselves down a steep slope and try to use our ice-axe to stop ourselves from falling any further. This technique is used in case you fall down a crevass and have nothing to hold onto.

Rob was the other person doing the course. He once dropped his ice-axe and one of us had to abseil down to collect it, as an ice-axe is a piece of equipment that is vital and you only carry one of these each.

We worked in pairs, but had to swap partners as our guide took turns working with each of us.
Søren doing a climbAlan doing a climb
Alan doing a climb

Ice-climbing is nothing like rock-climbing. You cannot use your fingers (well, they will freeze if you take your gloves off), so you really on equipment like ice-axe and ice-picks to anchor yourself into the ice. These pieces of equipment are really important, especially if you are sleeping on a ledge or stopping for a rest. Other than someone belaying you, using ice-picks to secure yourself into the ice is the backup should your belay fail.

We each took turns at ice-climbing! Alan is the one in the blue jacket, Søren is the one in the red.

I guess Søren has more photos of me climbing, whereas I can't take photos of myself!

In the following section, you will see a series of photos of Mt Cook.
If you want to have a look at the black & white version of this (quite artistic), click here.

Photo 1 of Mt CookPhoto 2 of Mt CookPhoto 3 of Mt Cook
Photo 4 of Mt CookPhoto 5 of Mt Cook

17. September 2000 10:58
by Rene Pallesen

Olympic Day Out ( 17th Sept 2000 )

17. September 2000 10:58 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

olympic day out 17th sept 2000
Olympic torch - lit

Last September, Sydney held the Olympic Games. I saw a lot of the events on TV but was disappointed with the coverage of other countries' involvement.

However, I did manage to be at Olympic Park during the Games and also see the first handball match - Denmark vs Norway.

I managed to get tickets for the game and had a very nice day with my girlfriend and the Lenehans. I also managed to get some pretty spectacular photos of the Olympic torch.

Olympic torch from afar

Me with Stadium Australia

Here is Stadium Australia, where the Olympic torch is held. Most of the major track & field events, as well as athletics were held here. It is a pretty spectacular building - and HUGE. During the Olympics, you could not go into just any of the buildings at Olympic Park. You had to have a ticket for an event before you could enter the building.

Stadium Australia

As you can see me, I am wearing my T-shirt supporting Danmark! This is one of the few days that I can wear the T-shirt.

It was a very sunny and warm day and the place was full of people. During the Olympics, you could only get access to the whole of the Olympic Park if you had a ticket. They had quite tight security, and had to go through a detector on the perimeter of the grounds after you got off the train/bus.

Dane in true colours!

The handball game started at about 2pm and we managed to wander round for quite a bit before going into the arena wear the handball was.

The food as amazingly expensive! Normally a fruit salad would only cost about AUD$3, cost up to AUD$8 that day!. Bottles of water was double the price. They really made it a money-making event for tourists! The funny thing too, we noticed that as you entered Olympic Park, all of the signs were in French and English, and all the announcements were given in French first, then English. It was most peculiar!

As we got closer to where the handball games were being held, we saw a lot of Danes and Norwegians dressed in country colours! Danes in red and white and Norwegians... well, there was a guy there who had lots of cow bells around his neck and attached to his clothes. He was wearing a traditional metal helmet and dressed in old-fashioned gear. It was amazing to feel all the atmosphere - just to be there.

True Danish spirit!Lance with Danish flags

We were all in the true Danish spirit! Even my girlfriend was dressed in a white T-shirt and red pants! We painted flags on our faces with some face paint. We were definitely there to support the Danish team!

Even Lance could not help get caught in the moment with us! *smile*

Handball match

A break in the handball game - Danmark vs Norway!

Danmark in red & white, Norway in blue & white.

We had pretty good seats - it was a matter of whoever got there first, had the best seats, although we had to enter through certain doors.

All the journalists and officials sat on the left. We even heard that the crown prince of Danmark was there for the game, even though we could not spot him. There were flags everywhere, Danish and Norwegian waving about. Everytime Norway scored, you could hear countless numbers of cow-bells being rung! A few times, some of the people tried to start a Mexican wave, but that did not work out.

It was a very fast and furious game. It was the only handball game that the Danish lost in the whole Olympic Games, and they eventually came first in the finals!

Group photo

Just after entering Olympic Park, we managed to get a group photo!

As you can see the place is very crowded but very festive - you just had to be there!

Olympic Torch at Sunset

A most glorious sunset!

After the handball match, we wandered around for a bit longer. The day had been quite warm, so the night was a beautiful clear night.

After the Lenehans left, Arumi and I had a look at a small Aboriginal art exhibition located at the Park. We sat on one of the few grassy patches, to watch the flickering of the lights and just enjoy the day.

We eventually went home, but Olympic Park was still swarming with people, who were there to watch events that went on later into the night. Although we did not get the chance to see any other events during the Olympics, it was definitely worth the day we spent there. We would have loved to see the final game when Danmark won, but as usual, we were not very organised...

Below, I have included photos taken on the night of the Closing Ceremony.

These were taken from Graham's apartment on a hill at McMahons Point. We had a spectacular view of the fireworks that went off after the Closing Ceremony. It was really windy on the balcony, but I managed to get some photos of the Olympic rings that were placed on Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Sydney Harbour Bridge at nightSydney Harbour Bridge at nightSydney Harbour Bridge at sunset

Perfect Moments Photography | Slideshow 2007 - new_years_eve_2007


2007 - new_years_eve_2007