Author Archives: Matsuda Mashimaru

About Matsuda Mashimaru

Be yourself - everyone else is already taken! - Oscar Wilde

Flying to the mystery island

04.05.2017: They fly and explore various places around Malaysia with their engine powered wings during weekends, public holidays or special events. Being an adventurous spirit, I frequently join them for cross-country (XC) flying trip around Malaysia. Exploring and gliding through the airspace and seeing Malaysian’s landscape from a different perspective.

My alarm went off at 5 am that Sunday morning.

Earlier than usual as I needed to rush to the pre-planned take-off site of my next flying adventure. I had my quick shower, grabbed my camera bag and my flying equipment then drove for an hour to Antara Gapi, Serendah, Hulu Selangor.

Our take-off site was a public area. An open area up on top of a small hill in the middle of Antara Gapi’s town.

Heart of the eagle

A small group this morning, 6 paramotor pilots and me as a tandem passenger to one of them. They seemed to have something in common with me, an explorer spirit and I labelled them as my explorer PPG friends. They glided gracefully through the airspace exploring our Malaysian tropical landscape with their motors neatly tucked behind their back and their wings on top of their heads.

Riding on a paramotor tandem trike is different from riding pillion on a motorbike or on an aeroplane, as the passenger sits in front while the pilot sits at the back as he needs to control the glider and the throttle. So, passengers have a first class view of whatever in front of the trike.

We were heading to Sungai Tinggi Dam, Hulu Selangor, 33 km away from our take-off site. It would take approximately 45 minutes of flying hours to reach the place and another 45 minutes to fly back. As usual, I would be riding tandem with PPG pilot Tazza. I tagged along with them whenever they need a photographer to help capture their flying adventure.

Tazza would check on his pre-flight checklist while I would get into my seat; reorganized my cameras and my radio; set my prayers and wait for the clearance to takeoff.

A flock of bird

The clock was pointing at 7:30 am and morning lights started to rise from the horizon, pilots would take their turn to spread their wings, fire their motors and take-off safely from the ground. The air tends to be calmer early in the morning and as the light hiked up higher on the horizon, thermal heat could rock their gliders. So, they need to be fast because the air could be unpredictable.

Our adventure started when every pilot has successfully airborne, as they would glide out of Antara Gapi in one group. We were heading to Selangor river, approximately 6.3km northwest of Antara Gapi, and we would trail along the river.

We flew above small towns, some housing areas and lingered around hundreds of fishponds along the river bank. Hundreds or maybe thousands of birds loitered around the ponds probably looking for early breakfast and as the pilots glide through the area the birds ran berserk fearing the sound of their engines. It felt so good flying side by side with the birds, you could almost feel that you were part of the flock.

We were cruising along the Selangor river until we reached the North-South Highway and we then headed up to the North, flying parallel along the highway for about 10km. Once we reached near Bukit Tagar, we then crossed over the highway heading northwest to Sungai Tinggi Dam.

The view was way beyond words. I have travelled and witnessed countless beautiful landscape around the world but I have never expected to experience such rich and mesmerizing views from a place just 1-hour drive from my home.

Such peace and serenity filled the air and the landscape right beneath was such an amazing sight. I could see layers by layers of hills with a sign of thick mist in between the gaps.

Immersed in nature

Hulu Selangor area has a very diversified landscape. The area is relatively unspoiled, surrounded by mountains and secondary tropical forest. Flying with paramotor over the area is another option for the adventurous explorer who wishes to experience a variety of landscapes in 1 hour and 45 minutes.

When you are flying above at a certain height, your brain may get a bit lost on trying to figure out the right direction. It was a free highway up there hanging on the air,  as there were no physical road and signboard to guide the way. It is critical to be 100% sure on the direction as ppg pilots could not refuel gas while they were on air.  Getting lost was not an option.

So, it is crucial for them to depend heavily on GPS, altimeter and whatever mobile app that could track their flying routes and location.

The mystery island

As the pilots glided forward, I noticed a change in the atmosphere around me, the air felt much colder and windier. And, as I turned my head to my right I saw the mesmerising view of Sungai Tinggi dam. Dramatically, at that time the morning light was super golden.

The place felt mysterious. I understand now why the pilots called this place the “Mystery Island”. I had the urged to scream, not that hysterical scream but a delightful scream.

“What is this place? What is all this?” I screamed through the radio and my pilot friends were screaming and cheering at the same time too. What a beautiful moment. Honestly, the view from high above has yet to disappoint me, amazing experience.

Each cross-country flight that I tagged along was always a unique experience and it never felt the same to me. I blamed it on the character of the air, the moment of the light and the altitude of our location. We spent another five minutes hovering around the dam before the leader decided that it was time to turn back to Antara Gapi.

Time to hit the ground

We followed a different and shorter route on our way back, as we needed to save on our fuel.

The flight back was as smooth as I could remember like a breeze. We were all in a joyful mood as we have once again achieved our target for the day. Once we reached Antara Gapi safely, we flew a few rounds above Antara Gapi’s town and successfully landed back on the take-off site. To be able to experience flying especially via paramotor is a true blessing, a privilege and addictive too.

Flying cross-country requires detail planning on both the route and the safety of the journey. Of course, they have to comply with certain rules and regulation before they could start their trips. Proper NOTAM needs to be requested from the authority and if the rules stipulated that they could not fly exceeding a certain height, then they need to adhere to the rules.

For those who yearn to experience a different way to explore the surrounding of Hulu Selangor, Malaysia you can always try a tandem flight via paramotor from this group of explorer PPG pilots. They can be contacted at https://www.facebook.com/janjifly.janjifly.

Thank you for spending your time reading my experience and journey. Till we meet again.

Cheers

MM


Shadow

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#morningshadow

There is so much drama in shadow.

Appear during the absence of light. Shadows drag along a sense of mystery in any art composition including photography. The element of shadow and light in Chiaroscuro and Rembrandt lighting technique are some of the tricks that I, as a photographer has to master. I am currently learning to appreciate shadows. Trying to understand how to be more artistic with shadows.

In reality, I hate shadow.

Hate is a very strong word.

Let me rephrase my word … I don’t really favor shadow in life. I try to avoid people with shadows too. I adore transparency … simple and easy, no hidden agenda, no secret plotting. I want to live my life as simple, less shadow and as minimal as possible.

I associate shadows with hidings and secrets. It was a thrill at first trying to figure out the mystery behind the shadow. But once I figured out the game and the implication, it becomes tiring.

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#slowshuttershadow

I fall in love with his shadow … knowing that the shadow is just feeding me fairy tales all along, I choose to play his game.

A shadow doesn’t commit to anything … always hiding and trying to avoid any form of commitment. Never willing to own up anything because the shadow is never real. After a while … when lights come the shadow fades away, completely out of sight. Leaving me alone again facing the reality of life.

That is how I see shadows … untouchable, unreachable, irresponsible, commitment freak and unpredictable. Chasing shadow is tiring. It feels like you are riding on a merry-go-round, round and round with no end. Happiness never works in hiding … happiness needs transparency, sincerity and commitment.

I want to let the shadow just be the shadow. Not wanting the shadow to be my savior anymore. I could be my own savior. After all, that is what shadows do best… it stays hiding.

I would look at the shadow only from my camera viewfinder from now on. Focusing on hunting for its shape whenever light appears and figure out on how to embed its artistic shape into the canvas of my composition.

I am living my moment and always in need of good sleep. Time for a quick snooze.

Bye for now

Cheers

Matsuda Mashimaru

 


another visit to Northern Vietnam

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End of season. Meo Vac. Ha Giang. Northern Vietnam. September 2018

My second visit here at Northern Vietnam and my first was five years ago.

This time around we covered Sapa, Y Ty, Ha Giang, Dong Van and the Ban Gioc waterfall in Cao Bang. We drove along the road close to the border of Vietnam and China starting and ending at Hanoi.

Acres and acres of dreamy layers of paddy field.

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Mysterious. Dong Van. Northern Vietnam. September 2018

The road is narrow, long, rough and winding but the view is worth the pain.

Due to its small road,  I think the best way to enjoy the landscape view here is with a motorbike. Riding slowly along the narrow path in between the layers and layers of paddy field and explore the life of Vietnamese ethnic minority here.

For the Muslim, halal food is difficult to find along the way. So, be prepared with your own food arrangement. I turned into a vegetarian whenever I travel, but it seemed like being a vegetarian here at Northern Vietnam is also very tough. Since I am aware of what I want to explore here … a little struggle on food has not dampened my spirit.

Just be a little flexible and creative on my diet choice then I would definitely survive.

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Me. Sapa valley. Northern Vietnam. September 2019

Our local guide during this trip is uniquely interesting.

An adventurous girl, she claimed that she is always lucky with the weather. During the week … yes indeed! the weather forecast predicted that we would have a strong storm for the whole week throughout our visit but the weather decided to treat us fairly with at least 50% sunlight, 30% foggy moody grumpy weather and 20% light rain. She is indeed our weather lucky charm.

I accepted the gloomy weather during this trip ‘as is’, not complaining.

Plan B. The best time to capture clouds movement. Slow shutter landscape shoot and time-lapse video. So at each location, rain or shine, I make it a point to capture time-lapse moments. Each recording takes up to at least an hour for a 5-second interval of at least 7 seconds time-lapse video using my GoPro.

Sharing my time-lapse video here at my youtube channel.

Gorgeous beautiful world that we stayed in, Masya Allah. And … I am grateful that I have the eyes to see and a heart to feel. I want to see more, I want to feel more.

Bye

 

Cheers

MM

24.01.2019

 

 


Am I lucky?

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Sweet little girl. Dong Van. Northern Vietnam. September 2018

How not to get bored of traveling?

My way? Planning for each travel trip is very important to me. If I plan to be at a place for say 14 days, I would plan on my everyday itinerary together with my backup plan if anything doesn’t go according to my plan.

Flexibility help reduces my anxiety.

I travel to do and see things I can’t at home. I hope to learn more about myself and being flexible allow me to be more open to a new self-experience.

My planning reflects my commitment to creating a unique different moment in each place that I visit. So that I could recall how does that place makes me FEEL years after years later.

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Sapa. Northern Vietnam. September 2018

I am glad that I am into photography. Morning light and afternoon light is always my favorite hours. So, I would be up very early in the morning and stayed until the last light, hunting and experiencing local festivals, market crowds, treks the hills to have a peek of the enchanting landscape, walking through a strangers village to have a look at how is life on this other side of the world and so on. The moment of learning and experiencing humanity is always a satisfying moment for me.

Wandering is a lot easier if you have a clear direction on where to go. Sharing some photos during my trip to Northern Vietnam last year. Will share more story during this trip on my next post. In Sha Allah

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Ban Gioc waterfall. Northern Vietnam. September 2018

And last question … am I lucky? Yes, I feel lucky therefore I am lucky. Have a good day dear reader. Bye.

 

Cheers

MM

10.01.2019

 

 

 

 


on how to photograph children

Sharing tips on how to capture my favourite subject … our little children in NST BOTS/ click!

On the street or in the studio, these 5 essential tips would definitely help create the cultivating ambience for our little subject for us to capture their growing up moment.

Sharing it here.

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Photographing the little ones. Monday 07.01.2019

It’s Friday. Enjoy your weekend.

Cheers

MM

11.01.2019

 

 

 

 

 


the FEEL

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Sapa. Northern Vietnam. September. 2018

A friend asked me.

After so many places that I have been to, do I not feel bored?

After a while every place would look the same, she claimed. She travels a lot too. Covering common touristy places that normal tourist would go but yes, I think she has a good point there.

We tend to overdo things.

And when we overdo things, we’ll get numb and bored.

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A farmer.Dong Van. Northern Vietnam.September 2018

I call it the “touch and go” kind of traveling … get to your next stop, the Instagram famous spot,  then click here click there in 30 minutes run to the bus to the next stop, click here click there in 20 minutes back to the bus again and repeating that for 7 days while covering for 6 continents (I am exaggerating here yah).

After a few trips like this … places will look the same, there is not enough time to FEEL. The reason we travel is to experience the FEEL. Every place offered a different opportunity for us to FEEL but we need more than 30 minutes to explore the new surrounding and experiencing FEEL.

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Hmong people. Dong Van. Northern Vietnam. September 2019

How not to get bored while constantly traveling? Create a unique moment for each place that you visited. To do that … you need to do slow traveling.

Take more time at each place. Breath the air. Wander along the street. Explore local markets. Stay at the local’s home. Trek the mountain. Cycle around the town. Hangout at the local restaurant. Join the local festival.

Time for bed. It is 11:25pm on 03.01.2019. Will continue my rant on my next post. Goodnight.

Cheers

MM


Calmer 2019

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Dong Van. Northern Vietnam.September.2019

Another new year.

Feeling obnoxious. Adding up another year to my age. 2018 was not a very productive year and the mental exhaustion sometimes makes me want to quit from being the nicer me. Maybe this is maturity.

Overthinking. Fear that something might go wrong if I choose a different path. People of my age prefer to just choose the most comfortable path. But I always have that rebellious voice aka conscious voice that I want to listen to.

It seems like maturity took a heavy toll of my childish inner self. I am still not sure how to deal with it. Give it time … maybe Allah will show me the right path.

In the meantime … life goes on.

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Kashmir. India. October.2018

Happy new year to y’all who dropped by here reading my online journal.

Resolution? Naaahhh … no new resolution for me this year. I will always do what I always do … giving my best effort in everything that I do. I am not brave nor I am strong. If pushing myself to survive is this adventurous, damn …I would do this, again and again, for a million time.

Time for bed. It’s 12:04 AM now. A new year. A new day. A new challenge. Have faith.

Bye

MM

02.01.2019

 

 

 

 

 

 


Playing tourist in Kashmir

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A man from Uttar Pradesh that I met in Kashmir. He works at a brick factory outside Srinagar

I wanted to visit Kashmir. Heard so much about the beauty of this place but I could not find the right time.

I want to visit Kashmir in autumn.

Autumn this year, I was in New Delhi waiting for my connecting flight to Srinagar, Kashmir. I happened to read the local newspaper on the latest news about the current unrest and unsettled situation in Kashmir. The struggle has been going on for years … I heard.

As I landed at the Srinagar airport, I have to fill in pages of immigration and security forms. Full armed police and military personnel are seen everywhere in the town. Yes … I mean it, everywhere.

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Nomad shepherds preparing their cattle for winter

There has been a fresh attack recently killing few people from the public. You can feel the tension rising in the air and shops around the Srinagar town choose to remain closed for a few more days. But despite the unrest situation tourist still continuously flock here, undeterred by the chaos. Just like me and my friends …

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A brick factory located outside Srinagar

Kashmiris knows that their main economic source of income comes from tourism. Rest assure that tourists and travelers are well taken care of despite the unrest situation, my local guide said.

I wonder … why is it so many unrest or chaos places in our world?

I played “the tourist” this time around. Instead of wandering freely around the streets … I hesitantly followed the group leader. Yes, my heart struggled to tame down my curiosity and my feet were itchy to just walk around and explore my surrounding, the way that I always did whenever I am in a strange land. But if you decided to be in a group, it is best to just stick to the group’s tempo.

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Me sitting in front of our shikara enjoying the view of Dal Lake

But … honestly, playing “the tourist” sometimes is relaxing, just pure vacation.  No waking up early in the morning or staying at secluded location hunting for sunrises or sunsets. No walking aimlessly around villagers hanging around with what they said the ‘unpredictable’ locals. Food is well served … on time, no hunger, no gastric acid like always, lol. Well pampered accommodation … I even get my own hot water warmer beg, sweet. Not complaining though … I love it.

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View from the peak of Apharwat Mountain (3,950meters)

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Another side of Dal Lake, Srinagar

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Kashmir apples

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Dashing view of Sonamarg

I am not gonna continue ranting about how beautiful this place is but I would come here again in autumn of whenever years … just to spend more time walking on the streets and wandering around the villages here in Kashmir, enjoying human to human moment … In Sha Allah. I have all sort of plan now in my head on where should I wander and what should I do here.

Just a friendly reminder for photographers who plan to visit Kashmir. Staying light with your camera load is highly recommended as entering and existing Srinagar airport is quite a nuisance due to the tight security check.

I wrote an article about Dal Lake of Srinagar for NST Bots. Sharing it here together with my timelapse video of Kashmir landscape.

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Am off now dear readers. Need to work on tonnes of my travel photos and put it on sale at Shutterstock, I need to generate extra money for this travel addiction of mine.

Bye.

Cheers,

MM


That’ll be fun

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keep your head up boys and survive the best way you could

For months I tried to find the excuse to re-visit my childhood hometown. Being born and raised during my teenage life in Tawau, Sabah, this place has a soft spot in my heart. I miss the food … I miss my old childhood friends and I miss talking in the Sabahan dialect too.

This time around, my excuse is … I am re-visiting islands around Semporna for the second time. Had a good deal return ticket from KL to Tawau and spent a few days hanging out in Tawau with my childhood friends while enjoying the weekends at the islands surrounding Semporna, hunting the light with some new friends.

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the sea gypsies of islands surrounding Semporna, Sabah

I miss the salty air and the beautiful endless open sky. As we were speeding off to Selakan Island from Semporna jetty, I can’t help reminiscing the old sweet years when I used to spend my weekend doing island hopping with my compact camera. Carefree years … when my camera was just so light and the years where I carried my flippers more than my camera.

I am feeling old … only old people reminiscing their old sweet memories.

My second visit to this beautiful place. The first time in 2015 when I was still fresh in this photography world, at that time everything looked new and exciting to me. Guess what … the second trip is as excited as before, I am born to do this … to wander around my surrounding and just fall deeper into my own world while doing … the THINKING, lol (so much to think about).

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gypsy girls swinging carefreely

Timbun Mata, Bodgaya, Maiga, Selakan, Gusungan, Ormadal and a lot more surrounding islands that we can explore. The setting of each island looks damn good during sunset and sunrise. And, I noticed something different this time around with my new travel mates … they play with the drones more than their cameras.

A new way of enjoying our beautiful surrounding which is aerial photography. Now everybody can fly … me? I think I would just stick to my paramotor addiction. Flying with a group of motivated adventurous paramotor pilots and enjoying the raw aerial view with my own eyes, self-satisfaction. I get to feel the fear of the unknown circumstances while flying … while the drone players fear that they would lose their drone signal and later would lose the drone.

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a girl drying fish at the beach in Maiga Island

What makes a place interesting?

For me … it’s the people that reside in the place that makes the place compelling. In here the sea gypsies people are well blended with their nature. Life is simple.

But for a thinker … you’ll get worried just by looking at the children paddling here and there aimlessly. I always believe that every child needs to go to school, at least to learn reading, writing, calculating and reading the Quran.

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Zainab and her lunch for today

By giving that basic skill to our children we fulfilled at least the very minimal responsibility as a parent to them. Giving them the skills will help them make a better choice in life. It is up to the parents though. I saw a few schools here in some islands. Maybe they just choose not to send their children to school.

Ahh well … enough worrying, at least they are happy with their choice of life. As I said earlier … it’s a simple life, no ruffles.

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sunrise in Maiga island

I always want to say this at the end of my writing … that I want to visit the same place again and again. 3 days 2 night is not enough … it was cloudy during the 3 days that we were there and on the second day, we were chased by the storm during sunset at Bodgaya Island. I think a week would be good.

The cloudy stormy sky is the best time to capture time-lapse as the clouds would move rapidly. Sharing my time-lapse video here for y’alls. Amazing moment captured using my small gopro6.

And last but not least, belanja a picture of me under the stormy cloud for my fan out there (perasan … lol am being cynical here) and for those people who are not so my fan, please underestimate me, that’ll be fun. Annyeong …

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Underestimate me please, that’ll be fun

 

Cheers

MM

ps: if life gave you lemon, make lemonade.


Reciprocal kindness

I hate the word ‘busy’.

Oh … I have been busy, much busier than you (competing which each other on who is busier).

For me, the word ‘busy’ is like an excuse … oh, I could not spend my precious time with you, as my dear you are not worth my time, I would rather spend it with someone else which is more important than you. That is why you are so busy.

Hmmm … me being grumpy at my introductory paragraph. Excuse me … lol.

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A carrier horse in the middle of Peshawar market

Me? I have been busy too and like always I admit that I have been crazy busy catching up with I dunno, maybe work, life or just recuperating from my back-to-back trips. And … despite being busy,  I make times for my loved ones. The 3-ones that I always cherish, my pets too and my mom.

But …always a satisfying feeling despite how tired I am right now … ‘do what you love, love what you do’. I guess that I love myself the most when I am wandering around the stranger’s land more than when I am at home worrying about my unpredictable future.

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Kalash kids in front of their home

I was in Pakistan for the second time last July with my travel mates.

We wanted to visit the Kalash people of Pakistan. Took a domestic flight from Islamabad to Chitral and a jeep ride to the remote area of Kalash Valley, Northern Pakistan. Reside between the mountain of Hindu Kush, this place is geographically harsh but for a person who loves nature, ahhh this place is beautiful.

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I am not sure what is going on with these 2 children from the Kalash valley

In a country dominated by Muslims, this mountain people of Kalash is still holding on to their ancestor’s belief. Estimated around only 3000 Kalash people who are still practising the culture and their ancient pagan religion. Some of the Kalash people converted to Muslim, abandoning their traditions and adopting the Muslim lifestyle but still staying together around the valley.

The Kalash girls and women dressed up in a thick embroidered black robes with matching head gears and heavy bead necklaces every day. While the man adopted the same Kurta shirt as the rest of the Pakistani man. They have a colourful lifestyle and I think it is interesting to explore more about their culture.

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My article in NST on how to photograph other culture

Summer has just started when I touched down in Islamabad.

It was interesting as I always choose to travel to certain places either during the end of winter, spring or autumn and never in summer, as I prefer staying home in my hot and humid 24×7 country more than experiencing the heat of summer of another country.

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Morning chai at a street in Peshawar

In Chitral and Kalash Valley, the summer heat is the same as at home but the air is drier and windy, which made it bearable. But in Peshawar during Summer is … wow! challenging, due to the greenhouse effect temperature during the daytime is very warm (38’C feels like 42’C).  Walking along the small alleys in between markets with the heat is not something that I look forward too but well … I survived Peshawar.

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Busy street of Peshawar’s old city market

I always wanted to visit Peshawar.

My late university professor was from Peshawar (he passed away from dengue a few years ago). He told me that tomatoes in Peshawar are as big as mangoes. It makes me curious. Where got such thing as tomatoes as big as mangoes. I told him that one day I would love to visit his hometown, Peshawar and check out the tomatoes. And he said, ‘Please don’t go to Peshawar, that place is a dangerous place to walk around’.

My curious mind will never listen to NO. Oh … and I checked out the tomatoes, the size is still the same size as our tomatoes back home in Malaysia.

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Busy street of Peshawar old city market

Walking on the street of Peshawar as a woman with a camera is not easy as you need to adhere to the local custom. Proper dressing is required. I wore my favourite black abaya and yes, it helps with the heat. But my gender becomes a hindrance for me to walk alone on the street and yes, I need a male companion to be able me to walk around the market. Thank God my local companion is very helpful and friendly, so my wandering process went smoothly.

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Morning crowd around my hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan

When I am at home now, recuperating, I asked myself … what do I remember the most about Peshawar?

Uhhhh … the food.

I tasted the best lamb stew ever (better than in Xinjiang). The food tastes different from Islamabad, Chitral or Skardu. I was told that food in Peshawar is delicious due to the influence of Afghanistan, as Peshawar is just 57km away from the Afganistan border. And now I wonder … about the food in Kabul. Is it good? Hmmm curious mind.

I overstuffed myself with lamb and chicken every day, 3 times per day in 11 days. Never in my life that I’ve been eaten overload of animals in a day … Masya Allah. A happy Masya Allah actually as I lurvvveee lamb. I need extra energy for the walking (aka wandering) and extra strength for me to carry my heavy camera bag, lol.

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My breakfast … roti

What an experience.

I could see myself exploring Pakistan again and again. Maybe I should start strengthening my knee and my legs so that I could hike up on those beautiful mountains surrounding Skardu and enjoy the smell of the glaciers. I should start tomorrow … lol  In Sha Allah.

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A little lady from the Kalash valley

Time for bed. Catch you again on my next post. Bye for now …

Cheers

MM


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