Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Motorbiking in Phuket

laelene Posted in video blog,Tags: , , , , ,

A beautiful sunset along the Thai coast as I hitched a ride from Patong Beach back to Phuket Town. You can read about that story here.

along the thai coast from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

A beautiful evening stroll

laelene Posted in photo blog,Tags: , , ,

UCLA has a lovely campus and Los Angeles has quite a skyline.

blimp floating over UCLA campus

I spotted a blimp and immediately went chasing after it for photos. Turns out the first one was to be the only one. Those things are deceivingly fast!

walkway leading from Bunche Hall to Broad Hall

The wide pathway taking us to the edge of North Campus.

view of westwood from atop Broad Hall

From Broad, we looked over YRL to the areas of Westwood beyond.

view from Bunche Hall looking towards Pauley Pavilion

Further to the west, you can see the lights of Pauley Pavilion nestled amongst the shadows.

view facing the residential halls

And nearly directly to the west are the res halls upon the Hill, with the ocean somewhere in the distance.

cluster of tall buildings along wilshire blvd

On the east are some buildings that line Wilshire Blvd going towards Beverly Hills.

trees lined up neatly, with lights

The gently-illuminated trees create a nice walkway.

palm trees in the dark

These palm trees stand watch in the courtyard by the North Campus center.

Little Miss Ladybug

laelene Posted in photo blog,Tags: , , ,

I hope the males of these creatures don’t have gender crises.  😛

Hiding away.

ladybug climbing down a stalk

Trying to run away.

ladybug climbing up stalk

Focus kept going towards the leaves.

ladybug facing forward

He/she's looking at me!

Suspended in time

laelene Posted in photo blog,Tags: , , ,

water streams hitting each other creating big splashes

As some water comes down and hits the water stream being shot up, horizontal splashes form.

smaller splashes of water

Check out all the shapes that appear and disappear in a fraction of a second.

water droplets suspended midair

And as the water falls down, it rains down in many droplets.

A rejuvenating experience

laelene Posted in photo blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The past week has been really hard on me, as the pressure to get a job grew and my parents and I had a tiff over my sleeping pattern and job search, among other things.  So, it was an absolute blessing that Opportunity Green was holding a retreat over the weekend.  One of the Board Members owns Casa Barranca, a fabulous estate out in Ojai.  People who had contributed to the Opportunity Green Conference back in November were invited to either stay the weekend or swing by on Saturday or Sunday to hang out.  Tucked in the hills of Ventura County, in a gorgeously maintained house from the early 1900s, I got to spend my weekend relaxing, enjoying nature, and chatting with some really amazing people.

pasta, salad, and schnitzel for dinner

Delicious potluck to start off the weekend.

Friday night I arrived thinking I was late for dinner, but it turns out the days drag out so peacefully and slowly there that dinner hadn’t even been thought of yet.  I hung around the kitchen, talking to some of the people I hadn’t really gotten to know prior to the conference – we were all so busy, after all!  It was already completely dark outside when I pulled up around 6:30, so it felt like 11 when we eventually got around to preparing the food.  I think it was more like 7:30-8.  But that’s the thing about being far away from the city and its lights and noise; time stretches itself to its very limits and you discover how much can be done in just a few minutes, a few hours.  There’s a serenity about Casa Barranca that relaxes you and lets you forget that you have an inbox full of e-mails or that your favorite TV show is on.  In fact, there isn’t a television in the entire place, which I found to be one of the best choices they could have made.

yoga studio at casa barranca, detached from main house

That yoga studio was to die for!

The house itself is absolutely lovely and you should definitely check out the virtual tour on the Casa Barranca website.  Besides that, there are a bunch of little bungalows or “teahouses” sitting around the property and small cabins as well.  You can easily fit 30-40 people without ever feeling overcrowded.  When I got a chance to first see the grounds during the day, it was even better than I imagined.  The yoga studio sits perched at the top of a hill overlooking part of the valley below.  There’s no better location to get in touch with your inner spirit and truly experience some Zen.  Between that and the house lies a little orchard, teeming with citrus trees of all sorts!  Since part of the grounds is an organic winery, I think it’s safe to assume those fruits were organic too.  I meant to pick one to try, but was so distracted by the beauty that I forgot to.  There’s also a chlorine-free pool and hot tub, small field to frolic in, a koi pond, a hammock, and so many great vantage points!

casa barranca wine tasting & gallery

A cute little shop in the middle of town!

The town is also a delight, with a main street that is lined up with little shops.  The Casa Barranca tasting room is right next to the ice cream shop (and thank goodness, because I got hungry pretty quickly and needed something to fill me!).  I felt slightly out of my comfort zone in their downtown, which didn’t have lights illuminating every inch of street.  When I was directed to the nearest ATM, I turned around too early because the lights stopped.  It seems that their town is so safe and quiet that they don’t need lights all over the place.  It was strange to be back in that type of place again, after years in the city.  At night when I went to sleep, I was struck by how absolutely silent it was out there.  It was completely dark as well, and laying there was such a tranquil experience.  The rest of the people had long since called it a day and were no doubt happily dreaming away in their respective beds.  I’m glad I had a roommate to share the space with, otherwise everything might have seemed too still.  But with another person in the room, I fell asleep easily as a long day caught up with me.

cool (and difficult) yoga pose

Can you believe it was only her first time teaching? She did a fantastic job and should totally be a yogi.

I slept in until 10:30 on Saturday, but was still able to enjoy a full day, complete with yoga, sitting out in the sun, chatting in front of the fireplace, going down into town to watch the Casa Barranca wine tasting (mentioned above), playing Spoons and BS, lots of opportunities to experiment with the ISO settings on my camera, an intense game of Jenga, and some hot tubbing.  It was really nice for the day to go on forever, since it allowed me to have a multitude of quality conversations with some remarkable people.  We talked about all kinds of random things, from what they do to what I want to do to what drives us and how we came to get involved with Opportunity Green.  In the mix was also random talk about crazy cat ladies and women who obsess over fake babies.  Sharing some of my ideas really helped me think about what it is I want from life and the like.

people walking along a hiking trail

We came across some great vantage points and learned to be grateful for every bit of shade we got.

On the final day, I got up at 9:30 when I was told we were leaving for the hike.  About a dozen of us headed out along the trail, making our way up the path in the morning sun.  After awhile, those of us with long sleeves began to regret the decision and the few who brought water found themselves sharing with the group.  We met some wonderful people along the way and got to play a bit with their adorable dogs!  Two of the people staying at the retreat had brought their dogs, one of which came along for our hike (even though she’s 13!).  The trip was absolutely worth the huffing and beads of sweat that began to form, as we were rewarded with views of so much greenery it was hard to imagine life back in the city.  It was a great way to spend the morning before heading out in the afternoon.  Though physically I was tired from more physical exertion than I had done in months, it was a great feeling and my spirit was lifted after being there.

And for more pictures of the weekend… I’m quite proud that some came out looking nearly like a DSLR took them, or so I think!

standing at the end of diving board looking down into pool

I went to have some fun on the springy surface.

landing after a short jump on the diving board

They tried to get a shot of me in the air, but the timing just wasn’t right. I had a blast anyway!

decorations inside yoga studio

Artistic pieces sit by the doors that open out to the view over the hillside.

view from yoga studio, looking out over hills and valley

The view that we saw as we did yoga in the studio.

buddha statue sitting outside yoga studio

The statue that sits to the left of the yoga studio entrance.

fire pit with log seats

The fire pit situated right outside the yoga studio doors.

a sitting log full of holes

I wonder if the tree was shot at or got infected with bugs?

a side path leading up to the house

This pathway led up to one end of the house, where the kitchen is located.

orchard full of orange, lemon, and lime trees

Looking the other way down the path, you see more fruits that you could possibly eat!

lone pomegranate on tree

Hidden amongst the green, orange, and yellow is this little gem, just barely clinging on.

sunburst-looking green plant

These plants grew in a patch just outside the kitchen.

bird of paradise flower

I love the colors of the Bird of Paradise.

plant with spider-like legs

It kind of looks like those 8-prong head massagers.

closeup of orange

Take a look at that freshness!

closeup of lemon with little white flower visible

There’s something really fun about the dimpled texture of citrus fruits.

purple iris flower

What a beautiful shade of purple! Absolutely gorgeous.

a dog laying on brick area

Jack, one of the dogs with us for the weekend.

a dog laying on brick

Jazzy, the other dog hanging out with us.

outdoor bungalow/teahouses for guests to stay in

One of the bungalows/teahouses scattered around the property.

looking inside bungalow/teahouse to see bed and fan

Inside each were two single beds, a little desk, a fan, and heater.

hammock overlooking view of mountains in distance

A hammock was put at the edge of the hill, with a great view of the land below.

sun setting through haze

It was a hazy day and the sun began to sink slowly.

setting sun casting hills in red

It soon became a brilliantly beautiful sunset. I love the details of the rocks in the distance.

festive display in window of casa barranca tasting room

It was so cozy, warm, and welcoming.

people getting ready to taste some wines

Everyone squeezed in to the bar for their share of the wine being sampled.

line of wine bottles in a row for display

Many of these were tasted that night, as Casa Barranca generously shared their products.

square coasters made from colored paper

Check out these awesome coasters recycling paper into a great new use! I think I remember reading they were from Vietman or Thailand or something.

funky-shaped leaves

Along the trail path were these funky leaves, complete with curling tendrils.

fence made of wood pieces

The kind of fence you used to hand make with an axe and nails.

a house perched on top of a hill with great views

Now that house is situated in a place with views in nearly every angle!

green metal crane sculpture in alcove along trail

A random sculpture tucked away along the trail.

cute white half-Chihuahua

Such a pretty little puppy!

muddy paw print on black leggings

I was trying to capture how there was a perfect little paw print on her leggings, but the angle isn’t quite right.

hill after hill in the distance

So many layers of hills!

a clearing area on the hill, perfect for sheep

We seriously expected some sheep to be grazing here. I thought we were continuing over this hill, but thankfully we cut down the mountain before then.

view that shows part of the town of ojai

You can see part of downtown Ojai now.

tall pines lining either side of a driveway

Now that’s an imposing wall to have for your driveway.

large pile of avocados

Back inside and we are made some fresh guacamole! I learned that putting bananas and avocados together makes them ripen faster.

fresh-made bowl of guacamole

There’s nothing quite like freshly-made, is there?

lounge chairs on rooftop area

There was this cool rooftop patio complete with lounge chairs for resting in!

view of backyard from rooftop

The view of part of the backyard from the rooftop.

outdoor room with screens

You can sleep here and feel like you’re outdoors without the bugs!

wine grapes in winter

Lines of vines of wine grapes! That’s just too fun to say.

Jealous much?  😉

Simple pleasures

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

DSC05171It was a lovely day today and I had an equally lovely time going on an outing with Skim for the afternoon.  We met up at Bugis MRT and got on a bus that took us out to East Coast Park, where we were able to rent two bikes and take a nice ride.  A mere two minutes into our journey we nearly crashed into each other, as I tried to unsteadily pass my camera to her.  I never knew my right hand was so weak at maneuvering!  The opposite was for her, as she had trouble with her left hand, so there we were, a complete screaming disaster as we saved ourselves from near destruction.  I then switched to be on the left side and we managed to make the pass so she could take some pictures for me.  Why we couldn’t just stop our bikes like normal people I don’t know.  It’s far less exciting that way!

Doesn't that look like fun?

Doesn't that look like fun?

We went along the path and enjoyed cooling breezes from the ocean, quiet stretches in woodsy areas, and navigating around the sudden influx of people that would come upon us.  It was a lot of fun to be out in the sun and going through natural areas as we chatted about a variety of things, like our thoughts on careers and the type of work we do.  Along the way we stopped to watch some wakeboarders, parasailers, and windsailers having fun out on the water.  I don’t know if I’m fit enough to do that kind of thing, but I’d sure like to try someday!  First I want to learn how to surf though, which hopefully will be good for my sense of balance.  I’m really interested in water sports in general, so I hope I get around to trying all of them at some point.

DSC05184The one thing that wasn’t so enjoyable about the ride was when our butts started to get sore about two hours in.  I kept shifting around in an attempt to put weight on different areas, but once we stopped for a quick snack, we both felt the soreness creeping us.  At first walking was a little strange and I wondered if this is how it feels to get off a horse after a long journey.  I’ve only ever been on horses for brief times, about an hour or so, so I never got the bow legs that others have.  We were right by the ocean at that point, so we went down to the water so I could at least say I touched the ocean water here.  It’s a lesson from my trip to Australia that I’ve never forgotten – going in the water is something so simple, yet it’s something I didn’t do in the Gold Coast, so I’ll never repeat that mistake again.

This time, I took some jumping shots and it looked so fun that Skim decided she’d get her feet wet for the sake of that.  Normally she wouldn’t want to touch that water because there’s a fair share of trash in it, but jumping over water is pretty awesome, so she just had to give it a try too.  What a fun day!  🙂

Afternoon adventure

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , ,

monkeys laying on ground together belly upI had a lovely afternoon out in the “wilderness” of Bukit Timah, where I spent a few hours exploring the playgrounds and playing with the monkeys.  I was worried that I wouldn’t make it at one point because when I got off the bus I had no idea where to go.  After some wandering (and going in the wrong direction), I finally found a sign directing the way and happened upon the Visitor’s Center.  As I was approaching, I was staring at these plants that fascinated me, so I was startled when I turned my head to find a baboon-looking creature not but a few feet away from me.

I spent a good amount of time near the building, following the primates around and trying to grab some nice shots.  I wasn’t sure where all the trails for hiking and biking were, so I just followed this wooden ramp up into the woods.  It took me at least half an hour to go a mere 100 feet because there were just so many cute monkeys along the way!  I was engrossed with them all – there were ones play fighting, grooming and eating ticks, hugging each other, swinging in the trees, and all sorts of other activities.  I’ve always had a huge soft spot for animals, so I spent some extra time just standing there watching them, taking pictures and videos and enjoying their antics.

a friendly monkey trying to pick ticks off me, but of course I have none

No qualms about approaching me!

When dealing with animals, I’m always immensely curious but slightly wary, since ultimately they are unpredictable creatures.  In this case, I was careful to not make loud noises or bare my teeth and to move slowly and predictably.  The older ones were still stand-offish, but the younger ones were curious as well and wouldn’t mind if I was close.  One of them even approached me and reached for my knee, trying to find a tick or two to pick, but alas, he came up empty.  Later on, I was leaning on a wall when I got approached by four of them and one even started to climb up my extended arm!  Their hands are so soft and warm; it was quite cute.

As for what was inside the reserve, I found some great play toys, including a zip line, suspension bridge, and slide.  I had a great time exploring the little paths they had that led to more secluded areas where you could appreciate the vegetation and quiet.  At the far point of the trail, there was a lovely lookout point that overlooked a beautiful quarry.  I wish I could have gone swimming there, with steep cliffs on one side and the woods surrounding me on the others.  Too bad there was a signal tower of sorts out there, or you could really start to imagine scenes from Hero, with epic battles fought in breathtaking environments (or maybe it was just that one scene with the lake).

rope bridge extended across small creekAll in all I had a fabulous time and if I get a chance, I’d like to go back at least once more.  If I lived here for a long period of time, this would be the type of place I’d want to visit every weekend and come running through.  I didn’t venture up the steeper trails since they mostly seemed to be meant for working out.  I do believe I was the only person there wearing flip flops and non-athletic clothes.  It’s a pity I didn’t bring my sneakers with me, but unfortunately they take up a lot of room that I couldn’t exactly afford.  Too bad there are no monkeys wandering in forests in LA for me to visit.

Retreating to nature

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , ,

I spent the day off exploring the Singapore Botanic Gardens, getting a chance to escape from the city for a few hours.  When I first entered, it looked like a public park of sorts, with fields dotted with trees and an asphalt path for people to walk, run, or rollerblade along.  Following the path deeper into the grounds took me to Swan Lake, where there were a couple of swans swimming around languidly.  A few were being fed various bread and cracker type substances, surrounded by hungry koi and curious turtles.  It was the cutest thing I’ve seen – three different species all swimming around each other peacefully.  I made my way around the entire pond before continuing along the path.  On the side with the grassy knoll and speckling of trees, dozens of families and friends were having picnics and otherwise enjoying the pleasant day.

Turtle in the top left area, fish in the bottom area, and the swan you can't miss.

Turtle in the top left area, fish in the bottom area, and the swan you can't miss.

That fish was not shy.

That fish was not shy.

I followed the signs to the Ginger Garden, where there was this cool waterfall with a little cave area behind that people could pass through.  I saw a family taking pictures of themselves behind the waterfall and wanted to do the same, but alas, I didn’t want to elicit outside help.  I also imaged taking a fun jumping shot in front of it, but that’s something I’d do if I was with a friend.  Not everyone can get the timing right and I don’t know how strangers would feel about trying to capture such a shot.  So, in my mind’s eye I took a note of how I would do things if only I had Panda with me and moseyed along.  I then reached the National Orchid Garden, where I got myself a ticket to enter.  I spent the next hour wandering up and down, in an out of their paths.  I don’t know how many species of orchids I saw, but some were curious-looking, some were gorgeous, some had strange patterns, some were plain, some were large, some were small, and all were cool to look at.

Some of the interesting things I saw…
pale pink orchids

If only I could find some Venus flytraps too!











And so many more! Look out for a photo album on Facebook.

I took countless photos and rediscovered some things that I want – Venus flytraps (though I couldn’t find any, there were plenty of pitcher plants that reminded me of my desire for a certain carnivorous plant!), tadpoles (I had one once, but dropped it and when I went to pick it up I squished it 🙁 – oops), and a water fountain (there was this cool one that looked like a cluster of plants).  On my way out, I wandered around the gift shop, contemplating things I might want to buy and ended up deciding to just get these small little rings.  I can’t figure out what material they are made from, but a lot of Chinese bracelets resemble this.  These, of course, are merely cheap imitations.  I have a bracelet that’s legit though and it’s quite cool – it’s made of some sort of stone and metal.

If only I could find some Venus flytraps too!

If only I could find some Venus flytraps too!

I was sooo tempted to try to bring some with me.  :(

I was sooo tempted to try to bring some with me. 🙁

Plant?  Nope, water fountain!

Plant? Nope, water fountain!

And finally, the rings.

And finally, the rings.

From there, is was then power walking for the next two hours, going through the patch of rainforest, Evolution Garden, Eco Garden, checking out Au Jardin (a French restaurant, as it turned out), and heading back to the waaay other end of gardens to exit again.  I got a bit disoriented a few times and made a few detours to some of the other attractions on my way back, including a gazebo, some desert plants, and lily ponds.  It was around 8 PM by then and I was ravenous, so all I could think about was getting to food.  I quickly made my escape and hopped on a bus to Orchard Road, but I tried to find this Din Tai Fung that I could see in my mind’s eye, but for the life of me couldn’t find in real life.  The front desk at Takashimaya shopping center was useless, so I wandered around, through a fashion show and a drummer circle.  Eventually I ended up at the bus stop that would take me back, so I got on and stopped along the way at Holland Village to have dinner at the Crystal Jade there.

What a day out!  I was drained from all the brisk walking, but it was so nice to see so much greenery, so many beautiful flowers, and so many creatures!  I really do love to retreat to nature whenever I can.  It clears my mind and calms me down.

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