Tag Archives: Photo

Posts of the best photography will be included in this section

500 Camels in Bahrain

Photo tour: Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain

I’d seen camels before, but never this many, and never like this.

Business tourists visit Bahrain ask, are there camels in Bahrain? There’s lots of of camels in Bahrain, but the reason might surprise you. Here’s the quick story he shared:

My guide told me that the King of Bahrain (actually Sheikh Mohammed) wanted camels, and thus 500 camels were brought to what became the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain. He decided to open up this Royal Camel Farm to the public. I’d never seen so many camels!

Camels in Bahrain at sunset

Bahrain consists of mostly desert, making it the ideal habitat for camels.

Feeding a camel at the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain
Feeding a camel in Bahrain

Despite being called a camel farm, the camels here are not for eating. Sheikh Mohammed set up the farm to preserve the presence of the camel in Bahrain which, before the advent of the motor vehicle was the Bahraini’s foremost mode of transport. Indeed, the Arabian Peninsula has a huge cultural connection with the camel, and for the Bedouins of the past, the camel was revered as a sacred symbol of life amid the inhospitable desert. –Time Out Bahrain

posing with a camel in Bahrain at the Royal Camel Farm
posing with a camel in Bahrain
meeting the camels in Bahrain
this photo reminds me of the creature in Star Wars that they ride

I mostly just observed and took photos, but camel rides around the farm can be arranged.  You can also play with them, feed them, watch them, or take photos with them. If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s also the occasional sale of camel milk.

cute camels in Bahrain

Note, the post is called “500 Camels” because that’s what my guide/driver called it, but it looked more like 150 or 200. Either way it’s a lot of camels, and waaaaay more than I had ever seen.

so many camels in Bahrain! Royal Camel Farm

my guide shows some love to the camel in Bahrain
my guide shows some love to the camel in Bahrain

Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain

Visit Bahrain Royal Camel Farm info

Where is the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain?

Junaibiya Highway in Al Janabiya (near Manama), Bahrain

Hours: open to the public every day.

Sunset at the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain
Sunset at the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain
Besides the spitting, the camels in Bahrain were very friendly!
Besides the spitting, the camels were very friendly!

Camel in Bahrain

This destination wasn’t even on my list of things to visit in Bahrain, but ended up being a highlight!  I trusted my driver a bit more to improvise from my prepared list, but that trust was short-lived. The next place he showed me was… the Bahrain King’s Parking Lot. I’m serious. I tell the quick story here.

Do camels really store water in their humps?

For some reason people learn that camels store water in their large humps, to allow them to live in desert climates. That’s not actually literally true; they store fat in their humps, but it is a crucial part of how camels bodies allow them to live in hot deserts. This video on how Camels store water explains it in just 2 minutes. Enjoy!

 

9 Amazing underwater photographs of sharks and dolphins

Amazing underwater shark photographs, plus photos of mantas, whales, and dolphins Bull shark closeup, in Fiji. I'm terrified just looking at it! Photo by Alexander Safonov

Bull shark closeup, in Fiji. I’m terrified just looking at it! Photo by Alexander Safonov

Mantis shrimp, in West Papua
Mantis shrimp, in West Papua. This might be my favorite of the group.
Gigantic Manta ray and photographers in Raja Ampat, West Papua
Gigantic Manta ray and photographers in Raja Ampat, West Papua. Photo by Alexander Safonov
Ragged tooth shark in Aliwal Shoal, South Africa
Ragged tooth shark in Aliwal Shoal, South Africa. Photo by Alexander Safonov

Underwater photographer Alexander Safonov took some amazing photos – close-up shots of sharks, dolphins, gigantic manta rays, sperm whales, and more. Buy these photos here

Dolphins prepare for lunch
Dolphins prepare for lunch. Photo by Alexander Safonov

Check out the full slideshow of Alexander Safonov’s impressive underwater photography.

Hammerheads everywhere!
Hammerheads everywhere! Photo by Alexander Safonov
Sailfish
Sailfish – Photo by Alexander Safonov
Hammerhead shark closeup
Hammerhead shark closeup. Photo by Alexander Safonov
Sperm whale in Ogasawara Islands, Japan
Sperm whale in Ogasawara Islands, Japan. Photo by Alexander Safonov

Photographer Alexander Safonov is originally from Voronezh, Russia. He’s lived in eastern Asia since 1998, spending a decade in Japan first and currently residing in Hong Kong, according to a profile in the Telegraph. Buy a copy of his photographs here.

Source: Amazing underwater photographs of sharks and dolphins by Alexander Safonov – Telegraph

Bayon Temples Cambodia -216 smiling faces

Bayon temples – 216 gigantic faces

Welcome to the Bayon temples, built end of the 12th Century. The Bayon temples feature 216 faces, a nearly surreal masterpiece unlike any I’d ever seen. Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman’s capital, Angkor Thom, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Bayon temples, along with Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, are easily the best 1-2 day trip you can take in southeast Asia. Here’s a 29 photo tour:

Reflections of Bayon in Angkor Thom
Reflections of Bayon in Angkor Thom. Brilliant photo by Mike Behnken
Bayon temples in the Angkor Thom area of Siem Reap, Cambodia near Angkor Wat
it’s 90-degrees fahrenheit, but I kept reading about killer mosquitos. They said it’s crucial to get vaccinated, and cover yourself from head to toe.

Who are the faces of?  They Bayon faces are said represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions, or even the king himself. Here’s the explanation:

Initially the faces were believed to represent Brahma, the Hindu God of creation depicted with four heads. When it was later established that the Bayon was not a Hindu temple but a Buddhist one, archeologists believed the faces to be of Lokeshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. The similarity of statues of Jayavarman VII and the face towers had led some to believe that it is the King himself whose face is depicted on the towers.

Bayon Cambodia -003

History:  Bayon was the state temple of Jayavarman VII, a powerful ruler in the late 13th century (Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII). The temple sat at the center of Angkor Thom, a walled city that served as the capital of the Khmer Empire.

There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers, in the Angkor Thom area of Siem Reap, Cambodia near Angkor Wat
There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers

There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers, measuring as tall as 7 feet just for the face, across 37 towers.

The white and green spots on the face are lichen (fungus, green alga).
The white and green spots on the face sculptures are lichen (fungus, green alga).
Photo by Tartarin2009

The Bayon temple was “intended to evoke the form of Mt. Meru—the cosmic mountain at the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. In keeping with this cosmic symbolism, the plan of the temple is based on a ‘yantra’, a symbol used by Tantric Buddhists as the basis of mandala diagrams that represent the layout of the universe. The temple honored not just one deity, but a host of gods found throughout the Khmer empire. Its central shrine held an image of Jayavarman VII, who perhaps imagined himself as a god-King ruling in the name of the Buddha” [source]

Bayon temples, built end of the 12th Century, capital of the Khmer Empire , Cambodia
Welcome to Bayon, built at the end of the 12th Century, capital of the Khmer Empire
our guide explains how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war
our guide explains how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war

our guide explains how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war

Facing in four directions on each Bayon tower, the faces are thought to represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions.. Cambodia
Facing in four directions on each tower, the faces are thought to represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions.
Bayon In the Golden Hour Bayon temples in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
photo by Lee Phelps Photography
Aspara dancers at the Bayon temples Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Aspara dancers
great photos of the Bayon temples in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
so many great photos of the Bayon temples in Angkor Thom
photo from from the vantage point of the Bayon temple's the upper terrace, Cambodia
photo from from the vantage point of the Bayon temple’s the upper terrace
Bayon temples at Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia, near Angkor Wat
photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Smiling face of Avalokiteshvara at the Bayon temples at Angkor Thom, Cambodia
Smiling face of Avalokiteshvara
nearly every wall of the Bayon temples were sculpted. Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
nearly every wall of the Bayon temples are sculpted
Central structure tower of Bayon, in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Central structure tower of Bayon
A scene from the eastern gallery shows a Khmer army on the march in the Cambodia ruins
A scene from the eastern gallery shows a Khmer army on the march
scene from the outer gallery at the Bayon temples. Our guide said it shows Chinese expats negotiating with Khmer merchants at an Angkorean market.
This scene is from the outer gallery at the Bayon temples. Our guide said it shows Chinese expats negotiating with Khmer merchants at an Angkorean market.

walls of Angkor Thom in Cambodia walls of Bayon in Angkor Thom in Cambodia

face to face at the Bayon temples
face to face at the Bayon temples of Angkor Thom near Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

faces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodiafaces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodia -014

my face between the faces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodia

wide shot of the Bayon temples in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
photo from Tushar Dayal

faces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodiafaces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in CambodiaBayon temples in Angkor Thom are an impressive display of Khmer architecture

entrance to Bayon temples, in the Bayon complex - Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodia
entrance to Bayon temples area

I’ve included links to learn more of the history of the Bayon temples at the center of Angkor Thom, in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

How to get there: it’s a short flight from Bangkok, Thailand. Do it!

Amazing Angkor Wat in Photos

35 photo tour of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temples

Angkor Wat is one of the most impressive sites in the world, and was immediately a highlight of my southeast Asia trip. The temples are breathtaking!  While you need to visit them in Cambodia to appreciate it, below is a photo tour of the experience.

Angkor Wat at sunrise
Angkor Wat at sunrise. This brilliant photo is from one of my favorite travel photographers, Trey Ratcliff at Stuck in Customs

Angkor Wat is located in Siem Reap, in Cambodia. Along with Angkor Thom, Bayon, and Ta Prohm, Angkor might be the best two-day trip you can take in all of Asia.

Angkor Wat, in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Wat was built by the vanished Khmer empire. It was constructed during the reign of King Suryavarman II, who ruled from 1113 to at least 1145.

the walls of Angkor Wat are filled with details carvings, each depicting the rich history
the walls of Angkor Wat are filled with details carvings, each depicting the rich history
Angkor Wat in Cambodia
photo by JonJon Pascua
Buddhist monk explores Angkor Wat
Buddhist monk explores Angkor Wat
The Library at Angkor Wat.
The Library at Angkor Wat. Photo from one of my favorite travel photographers, Trey Ratcliff
There are more than 1,860 carved Apsara dancers in Angkor Wat.
There are more than 1,860 carved Apsara dancers in Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat entrance - Angkor Wat at Visit50.com
“Angkor Wat” translates to “The city that is a temple.”
The Battle of Kurukshetra is the subject of this bas-relief at Angkor Wat.
The Battle of Kurukshetra is the subject of this bas-relief at Angkor Wat.
Count the arms...VERY powerful!
Count the arms…VERY powerful!

Scholars say the temples of Angkor Wat were built for funerary purposes, since its bas-reliefs are meant to be viewed anti-clockwise, a direction that was associated with death in the Khmer empire. This is Angkor’s only temple with tombs, despite the “Tomb Raider” movie being shot at nearby Ta Prohm, where there’s no tombs.

naga - the long causeway is decorated with mythical snake-like animals called naga
naga – the long causeway is decorated with mythical snake-like animals called naga
 this stone sculptures depicts the 8 arms of Vishnu, the powerful Hindu god, but with the head of Buddha. When Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple, the head of Vishnu was replaced with the head of Buddha - Angkor Wat at Visit50.com
This stone sculpture depicts the 8 arms of Vishnu, the powerful Hindu god, but with the head of Buddha. When Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple, the head of Vishnu was replaced with the head of Buddha.

“Angkor Wat” translates to “The city that is a temple.”

a devata graces the walls in Angkor Wat. Devata is another word for deva, the Hindu term for deity
a devata graces the walls in Angkor Wat. Devata is another word for deva, the Hindu term for deity
a youthful monk learns to read the future
a youthful monk learns to read the future
a monk at - Angkor Wat - Visit50.com
They say Angkor Wat took 30 years to build, which seems like a long time, until you see all the rich detail on nearly every wall

Angkor is located in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap literally translates to ‘defeat of Siam,’ which is today’s Thailand. It’s a conflict that goes back centuries, between the Siamese and Khmer people.

Raided. They stole the heads!
Raided. They stole the heads!

 

"Angkor Wat" translates to The city that is a temple - Visit50.com
“Angkor Wat” translates to The city that is a temple
Cambodian wedding photo shoot
Cambodian wedding photo shoot. I saw wedding photo shoots both times I visited, so perhaps it’s a popular spot for wedding photos.
Anchor Wat was under repair when we went
under repair when we went – the green tarps typically aren’t there

reflection of the temple towers in Siem Reap, Cambodia - Visit50.com

The walls of Ankor Wat tell stories of war heroes and battles from their troubled past - Visit50.com
The temple walls tell stories of war heroes and battles from their troubled past
Ankor Wat and the reflecting pond
my first time in Cambodia and the reflecting pond

amazing Angkor Wat - temples in Cambodia
Photo from ITLWMT

temple - Visit50.com

"Library" - their true purpose remains unknown. Most likely they functioned broadly as religious shrines rather than strictly as repositories of manuscripts
“Library”. While its true purpose remains unknown, scholars say it most likely functioned broadly as a religious shrine, rather than strictly as repositories of manuscripts
devata at the entrance
devatas at the entrance
guarding the walls
guarding the walls of Angkor Wat
The walls at the entrance are 8 meters high and 3 km long, and flanked by a moat.
The walls at the entrance are 8 meters high and 3 km long, and flanked by a moat.
The "swimming pool" - looks good for being 1000 yrs old!
The “swimming pool” – looks good for being 1000 yrs old!
Cruciform gallery separating the courtyards
Cruciform gallery separating the courtyards
look closely at everything - from a distance this looked like a pile of rocks
look closely at everything – from a distance this looked like a pile of rocks
tower - Visit50.com
closeup of one of the towers at Angkor Wat

Impressive Petra!

Petra, one of the 7 Wonders of the World

Petra in Jordan is impressive – established sometime in the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans – they carved the entire city out of the rock. They didn’t build columns – they kept carving the rock until they had columns. Given the back-story, it’s some of the most impressive architecture I’ve seen.  I highly recommend visiting Petra.

The Monastery at Petra, The Monastery of Petra, (aka Ad-Dayr or Ad-Deir in Arabic), in Jordan
The Monastery of Petra, (aka Ad-Dayr or Ad-Deir in Arabic)

Petra was named one of the new seven wonders of the world in 2007; it was  declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.

The Monastery is massive - Petra, Jordan
The Monastery is massive! Petra, Jordan
at the Siq, the narrow passageway to Al Khazneh ("The Treasury") at the ruins in Jordan
at the Siq, the narrow passageway to Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”)

You may recognize this spot (above photo) in Petra from the film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The movie’s fictional “Canyon of the Crescent Moon” was modeled on this 250-foot-high (76-meter-high) sandstone slot canyon known as the Siq, which that leads directly to Al Khazneh (the Treasury). Siq pictured above.

in front of Al Khazneh ("The Treasury") in Petra, Jordan
in front of Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”) in Jordan

Established possibly as early as 312 BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, the site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”.

camel at the ruins in Jordan

Indiana Jones and the  Last Crusade – where was Petra featured?

At the film’s climactic final scenes, Harrison Ford and Sean Connery burst forth from the Siq and walk deep into the labyrinths of the Treasury in their quest to find the Holy Grail. But, as usual, archaeological fact bowed to Hollywood fiction when Indy came to Petra.

In reality, the Treasury is nothing more than a facade with a relatively small hall once used as a royal tomb.-Nat Geo

petra by photo by seetheholyland.net
photo by seetheholyland.net

There are dozens of tombs and other carved or constructed structures and sites within Petra.

photo by Maureen

Petra!

Petra’s located in Jordan, in the Middle East. Other highlights of my trip to Jordan included the Dead Sea and the Wadi Rum desert.

Hong Kong architecture photography

Incredible Hong Kong photography that makes the Hong Kong architecture look surreal

Photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze captured Hong Kong’s architecture  in his Vertical Horizon photography project. He’s made it into an 80-page book of photos from his 2012. The 26-year-old French photographer captures the city’s skyscrapers from vertical angles – all looking up. So cool!

Hong Kong photography by Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze

Quarry bay - Photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze captures Hong Kong’s soaring heights in his new book, Vertical Horizon. It's a Hong Kong photography project featuring Hong Kong architecture
Quarry Bay

These vertical angles were captured through a wide-angle Sigma lens with a 10 mm focal length. Unlike a fisheye lenses, he says a sigma lens avoids distorting the urban landscape’s straight lines.

This photo reminds me of the Guggenheim museum in NYC, but it's actually in Hong Kong. The photo is part of the Vertical Horizon photography project, a Hong Kong photography collection featuring Hong Kong architecture
This photo reminds me of the Guggenheim museum in NYC, but it’s actually Tai Hang.
Hong Kong photography - Vertical Horizon of Hong Kong architecture
love the brilliant colors

Hong Kong photography - Vertical Horizon of Hong Kong architecture Hong Kong photography - Vertical Horizon of Hong Kong architecture

French photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze shot these in 2011 and 2012 for this Hong Kong photography project
French photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze shot these in 2011 and 2012
Wan Chai, an area known for nightlife. It's part of a Hong Kong photography collection featuring Hong Kong architecture facing up
Wan Chai
Hong Kong photography of Tsim Sha Tsui, an urban area in south Kowloon
Tsim Sha Tsui, an urban area in south Kowloon

Check out the full 80-page book of photos at the link below –
Vertical Horizon (English and Chinese Edition)

Book - Vertical Horizon photography project, featuring Hong Kong architecture facing up

The Vertical Horizon project is a similar style to the awesome architectural photography of Peter Stewart.

To see more posts on Hong Kong, including some of the best Hong Kong architecture.

 

Sunset Silhouettes – Boracay Beaches

Sunset Silhouettes!

Imagine visiting a place where every afternoon was the most amazing sunset you’ve ever seen…until the next day. Boracay island might be paradise, and made for some amazing sunset silhouettes.  Loved it!

Sunset Silhouettes - Boracay Beach Paradise!
this is one of my favorite photos from Boracay – I want to go back!

Boracay was easily my favorite part of the Philippines. We saw some of the most amazing sunsets – this post has some of my favorites.

Sunset Silhouettes - Boracay Beach Kodak Moment, Philippines
definately a “Kodak moment!”

Nearly every day in Boracay finished with one of the most beautiful sunsets I’d ever seen!

Frisbee Silhouettes! The Boracay beaches were fairly empty until around 5pm, when the sun began to set
Frisbee Silhouettes! The Boracay beaches were fairly empty until around 5pm, when the sun began to set

the gorgeous sky made for some awesome sunset silhouettes in Boracay Philippines

The gorgeous Boracay sky turned orange, red and purple, and made for some awesome sunset silhouettes.

Sunset Silhouettes - Boracay Beach -008
These kids were adorable!

capturing the sunburst in my hand

There’s nothing quite like experiencing a breathtaking sunset.

Julian captures the Boracay sunset with his SLR
My friend Julian captures the Boracay sunset with his SLR. We couldn’t get enough of these

Want more sunsets? I’ve put together all the sunset posts on Visit50.com at this link.
Julian enjoys the sunset in Boracay

How to photograph silhouettes

Assuming you work in Auto mode, turn your flash off. The key to photographing silhouettes is to meter on the background sky, instead of the subject. Most cameras autofocus as soon as you press the shutter halfway. Aim at the bright part of the sky, then press and hold your shutter halfway. Keep it pressed halfway as you adjust to what you want in your frame. When you’re ready to take the photo squeeze the shutter fully. Bam!

Want more sunset silhouettes?

I also put together some of our favorite jumping photo sunset silhouettes in Boracay with red and orange sky backdrops.

By popular demand, I’ve started to organize the series of Sunset Silhouettes at this link. Enjoy!

Baby Monkeys in Borneo!

Baby monkeys – Long-tailed macaques

What’s the only thing more exciting than seeing animals in the wild?  Baby animals in the wild! Check out these photos of baby monkeys – baby long-tailed macaques:

Baby monkeys - baby long-tailed macaque hanging on to the mother long-tailed macaque in Borneo | Baby monkey in Bako National Park, Sarawak region of Malaysia, Asia

I saw these Long-tailed Macaques in Bako National Park, in Malaysian Borneo. This below photo reminds me of the photos of monkeys in Bali.

Baby monkey - Photo of a baby long-tailed macaque hanging on to the mother long-tailed macaque in Borneo | Baby monkey in Bako National Park, Sarawak region of Malaysia, Asia
notice baby monkey’s little hands and feet grabbing on

These baby monkeys were so adorable that we almost forgot that they’re wild animals.

Baby Monkeys in Borneo - crawling

Long-tailed macaques are the most commonly seen type of monkey in southeast Asia; I saw them all over, from Indonesia to Cambodia to the Philippines. Male members leave the group when they reach puberty, according to Wikipedia.  Long-tailed macaques are also referred to as crab-eating macaques

They are opportunistic omnivores and have been documented using tools to obtain food, according to the American Journal of Primatology.

Baby Monkey protected by the parent in Borneo - Baby long-tailed macaques in Borneo, Bako, Malaysia

Baby Monkeys in Borneo - Baby long-tailed macaques in Borneo, Bako, Malaysia

These baby monkeys in Borneo were cute, but there’s competition for cutest baby wildlife from my Asia trip.  My southeast Asia trip has already produced opportunities to see baby elephants in Borneo, baby monkeys (macaques) in Indonesia, and baby apes (baby orangutans). Which set of baby wildlife photos did you like best?

Carrying her baby monkey in Borneo - Baby long-tailed macaques in Borneo, Bako, Malaysia

I also saw other types of animals up close as well – tarsiersmacaquesproboscis monkeyssharkspythons, camels, and more!

Brunei architecture – stunning!

Brunei architecture

Introducing the tiny Islamic sultanate of Brunei, located in Borneo, between Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysia), and is one of the smallest countries in the world. Brunei architecture was stunning!

My trip through Brunei began in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), where there’s impressive mosques. We also strolled through Kampung Ayer, a entire village on stilts.

Below are some views of their illuminated golden-domed Omar Ali Saifudien Mosque and Jame Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque (29 golden domes!)

Brunei's Jame Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque (29 golden domes!)
Brunei’s Jame Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque

Above is my photo of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, with its gleaming gold dome.

Brunei is about the size of Delaware, with a population of 415,000, and the government provides free education, health care, pensions and low-interest loans for the purchase of homes and cars. The Brunei sultanate become the richest man in the world in 1984, at $40 Billion, and reportedly now has $20 Billion.

Oil is the source of all wealth, and when Shell began pumping in the 1970s, it soon became known as “the Shellfare state.”

Brunei has such amazing architecture! View from inside the Brunei mosque
Amazing architecture! View from inside the mosque

Brunei - inside the mosque - Visit50.com

Although a tiny state with a small population, Brunei has one of the highest standards of living in the world thanks to sizeable deposits of oil and gas. A guy was telling us the Sultan gives every citizen a stipend, and keeps raising the minimum salary, so everybody’s making good money if they have a job. Any job! Rumors persist that they’re running out of oil, and he just gave the citizens more free money to bribe their acceptance.

Brunei only gained independence in 1984, but has the world’s oldest reigning monarchy and centuries of royal heritage. The Sultan is the only remaining Malay Islamic monarchy in the world; he comes from a family line that dates back over 600 years. The first sultan ascended the throne in 1405, founding a dynasty of which the current sultan, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, is the 29th ruler. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has been on the throne for 38 years and is one of the world’s richest individuals.

Sharia law??

This post has focused on the architecture, but that doesn’t mean I’m a supporter. Brunei captured the world’s attention when Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah unapologetically implemented sharia law. “Theory states that Allah’s law is cruel and unfair but Allah himself has said that his law is indeed fair.”

Vanity Fair has an excellent article about the latest, which came to attention when celebrities started boycotting a new Beverly Hills hotel that the Brunei Sultan owns:

Sharia calls for, among other punishments, public flogging of women who have abortions and amputation of limbs and death by stoning of homosexuals, adulterers, and thieves.

Homophobia

Brunei is homophobic, to say the least. And – it’s getting worse.  Last year they added laws that include

“fines and jail time for offenses such as missing Friday prayers, having a baby outside of wedlock, propagating religions other than Islam, and engaging in indecent behavior. But more draconian measures are on the way – including flogging and amputation of limbs for heavier crimes. The final phase, which allows stoning as a possible punishment for sodomy, will begin in 2015.” —  from MSNBC.

Asian Elephants in the wild

Facts and photos of Asian Elephants

Asian Elephants are incredible. So primitive, so old, and the baby elephants are so cute! We were on a river safari in Borneo when we saw a whole family of Asian Elephants (aka Asiatic Elephants or Elephas maximus).  After seeing them in the wild, I was really curious and learned some interesting Asian elephant facts. My photography is below, also with  Asian Elephant facts that I found interesting are below:

  • Elephants are the largest land animals living today. They’re massive!
  • If you thought human pregnancy was challenging – check this out. Asian Elephant pregnancies last 22 months, baby elephants can weight 260 pounds at birth.
  • At full size, male Asian Elephants can weigh up to 12,000 pounds (5400 kg)! Females weigh up to 9000 pounds.
  • Elephants typically live for 60 years in the wild (80 years in captivity).
  • Asian Elephants can be up to 10 feet tall at the shoulder. They’re much smaller than African Elephants in mass, but are taller.
  • They have up to 20 pairs of ribs and 34 caudal vertebrae (bones that make up their tails).
  • Asian Elephants have 100,000 muscles in their trunk!
    Asian Elephants have 100,000 muscles in their trunk!
  • Trunks are the single most important feature of an elephant, with 100,000 muscles in their trunk. It’s used for feeding, watering, smelling, breathing, drinking, touching, sound/communication, washing, and also for grabbing things.
  • Asian elephants have a fingerlike feature on the end of their trunk that they can use to grab small items (African elephants have two).
  • I noticed they don’t have the same number of nails on each foot so I looked it up. Asian Elephants have five nail-like structures on each forefoot, and four on each hind foot.
Baby Asian Elephants at Sungai Kinabatgangan in Malaysian Borneo
I didn’t realize it was a baby elephant until the adult elephants came up behind

Super smart! Elephants have incredible memories and, like many primates, have very large neocortexes and are thought to be very intelligent.

Hungry Hungry Elephants? Elephants eat roots, grasses, fruit, and bark. An adult elephant can consume up to 300 pounds (136 kg) of food in a single day!

  • Endangered: Since 1986, Elephas maximus (scientific name for Asian Elephants) has been listed as endangered as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations. In 2003, the wild population was estimated at between 41,410 and 52,345.
  • Top predator: humans. That’s right, they’d be doing fine if not for poaching and deforestation.
Did you know: Asian elephants are known to be right or left tusked.
Did you know: Asian elephants are known to be right or left tusked. Elephant trivia

Did you know?   Elephants can be a “righty” or a “lefty”

  • Ivory tusks are used to dig for water  and rocks, to debark trees, as levers for maneuvering fallen trees and branches, for marking trees, as weapon for offense and defense, and as protection for the trunk.
  • Asian elephants are known to be right or left tusked. [this surprised me]

Close-up of an Asian Elephant in Malaysian Borneo in Sabah - Sungai Kinabatgangan - Visit50.com

Adorable Baby Asian Elephant in the wild in Sabah Malaysia/Borneo! Visit50.com
I never thought I’d find Baby Elephants to be adorable but look at it!
we were THAT close to the Asian Elephants
We were THAT close to the elephants on the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, eastern Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. It is the second longest river in Malaysia,
Baby Asian Elephant close-up, taken at along the Kinabatangan River (Sungai Kinabatangan) in Sabah, eastern Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. It is the second longest river in Malaysia, in Sabah, eastern Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. It is the second longest river in Malaysia - Visit50.com
Baby Elephant close-up – loved having my D-SLR lens to zoom in to snap this photo

I photographed the Asian Elephants on this page on The Kinabatangan River, located in Sabah, eastern Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. It is the second longest river in Malaysia. 

If you’re visiting, and are interested in the same adventure – I booked mine through Nature Lodge Kinabatangan. Note, they said seeing elephants is rare and unexpected. They typically spot crocodiles, monkeys, lots of rare birds, and occasionally an orangutan (but all the way up in the trees).

Additional resources: Trip AdvisorLonely Planet, Wonderful Malaysia.

I’ve often been asked, which camera should I buy to get photos like these?  I’ve been putting together a post to answer that here.

Slideshow – elephants (and baby elephants) in the wild! [flagallery gid=6 name=”Gallery”]

It wasn’t the first time seeing baby wildlife in my trip – the baby orangutans and baby monkeys in Borneo were adorable!  I also saw other types of animals – tarsiers, macaquesproboscis monkeys, sharks, camelspythons, and more! Thanks to Nat Geo, Wikipedia.