Category Archives: Travel

LOTR moment at Tongariro National Park

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A seagull checking on me while I was staring at the view of the Wellington Habour

I am in Wellington at this time being. Accompanying my daughter for her first-year University registration here in the city. Spent 2 weeks here with her, exploring the city and its surroundings while at the same time trying to make her comfortable with this new place where she would call her second home for the next 3 years.

Well, I got bored with CITY easily, flipped through the Free guide to NZ Arrival magazine that I took from the airport … the turquoise color of a lake in South Crater valley of Tongariro National Park caught my attention. But … naaaah! 8-hours walk of a total 19.4km would kill me instantly … so I think.

Then … I got really bored and kept thinking of that National Park. The view of the mountains … Mt. Tongariro 1967m, Mt. Ngauruhoe  2291m (Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings filming locations) and Mt. Ruapehu 2797m … make me more curious as I can’t hold it anymore and I purchased my Intercity bus ticket from Wellington to National Park station for the next day trip and booked my 2 nights stay at YHA hostel, National Park. I said to myself … fine, I just have a look at that place and walk around the easiest walk while enjoying my favorite air … the mountain air, hmmm nice … it feels like home.

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View in front of the hostel where I was staying. Well, look at that … thick clouds covering Mt Ruapehu. Not a clear weather to do the crossing

I don’t mind travel alone as I don’t have the urge to talk or even binge talk to anyone because most of the time my mind is always fully occupied with my own thoughts and imagination. I tend to forget about my surroundings too. My first time in NZ … ohh I love New Zealanders as they treated me more as a co-human than as a strange Muslim lady with a head covered wandering loose alone.

New Zealanders are super cool and very helpful too.

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The view of Mt Ruapehu without the thick clouds

The weather was not very good on the day that I arrived at the National Park. Raining with thick fogs surrounding the valleys. While contemplating either I want to do the crossing or just hang around and breath-in the natural ‘mountainous’ air, a group of people popped into the hostel front desk returning their gears. They just did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the rain and the thick fogs … and with their red and cheerful face even when they were soaking wet. Damn it … I said to myself.

And this guy from Thailand with a wide happy eye just bluntly tell me … hey! have you done the crossing? If you haven’t, you better just do it … even if the weather is like this … it would be worth every single second.

And guess what … I paid the 40 NZ dollars for the National Park return transportation and rented a waterproof boot, a walking pole and a raincoat. I fixed my mind … I am all in. I need to see what the havoc is all about. Well … well … well … bare in mind that I hate trekking, I am not well trained and I am not even sure which box to tick in as Lucy … the front desk lady passed me a form to fill in … which level of mountain trekker am I? should I tick the beginner box? As I am not even a beginner lol coz I am the type of person if given a choice where to park my car at the shopping mall … I would always choose the one very very very near to the entrance door.

Well … done with that. Lucy asked me … what makes me want to do this? And I said … hmmm, I just wanna get over this. This curiosity bugs me … and she laughed.

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The park signboard … I had a goofy feeling while looking at this

Omg … It was a beautiful sight as I first stepped in the Mangatepopo car park but as I looked at the signboard (above) I got scared again. Urghh I am gonna die … I told myself lol.

Overall, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is worth every second of the 8 hours walk despite the thick fog and the occasional rain. I managed to click a few photos with my iPhone while struggling to keep up with the trails.

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The beginning

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Moving forward with the running water sound coming from the stream along the way

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The moody and wet surrounding has that calming effect on me

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And the horror parts came … the trail starts ascending

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And this view as I looked down at my trails

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This is the point where we start descending and trolling along the longest 11.3km in my whole entire life. Honestly … I never walk this far in my entire life

As I continue for another 11.3 km trails to Ketetahi Carpak the weather started getting irritated. The fogs thicken, the temperature started to drop further down (9-12 degree) as the raindrops started to clouds my glasses … omg, I was standing on a narrow trail between 2 very steep craters while my feet were shaken due to lack of sugar aka energy and my glasses was clouded. The sulfur smell filled the air.

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This is the turquoise colored lake that I saw in the magazine, the one that makes me want to visit this place

I was tired … near to the ‘I want to give up’ mode. But this place even in its worst weather is uniquely beautiful and I couldn’t help wondering to myself … how would this place look like if the weather is beautiful?

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Passing a flat crater before trekking up again in thick fog

It was all foggy and raining the whole journey down towards the carpark and I didn’t take many photos as I was super-super exhausted. This trail is not for beginners but maybe for intermediate trekkers. You need to be well prepared if you decided to do the crossing. It was so hard for me and I still have sore muscles all over my body now (after 3 days).

I nearly cried at the very last 6.3km … as my feet could not take it anymore. Other trekkers passed by me one after another leaving me alone struggling with my incapabilities. Oh I hate that feeling of being left behind … but I kept my chin up and walk slowing imagining myself doing brisk walk at my most favorite park.

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Struggling even to lift up my iPhone, ohh I am not fit … something that I need to work on

Would I do this again? Yes … I definitely would do this again maybe in December when summer is here. I want to capture the beautiful landscape of this place in its most beautiful setting but I am gonna make sure that my body is fit enough to do this … so that I could see more and enjoy more of this place.

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I saw colorful plants along the crossing trail … very interesting

 

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The trail from my STRAVA 

 

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My shaky feet with that rented waterproof boot after the 8 hours journey. Yaaay! I walked 19.4km for 8 hours … victory!

I took the next day bus to Wellington with a victory and blessed feeling. Alhamdullilah, thank you oh Allah for giving me the opportunity and the will to do this. I love it …

I plan to explore more of NZ during this 3 years, taking it slowly and meaningfully. Learning to improve me … while inspiring my children and people around me to do more in life than just merely living. Anybody can do this … just do it, no excuses.

Bye for now

 

 

Cheers,

MM

New Zealand: Tongariro National Park February 27th to March 1st, 2018

 

 


Street thrill in Dhaka

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A woman we met at a village outskirts of Dhaka

It was all about capturing moments of human interest when I was in Dhaka, Bangladesh recently. My first time and like always, I have a zero expectation of this place … I was like ok Dhaka surprise me, please.

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Friends shading from the early morning rain on the street of Dhaka

It rained cats and dogs during the first 3 days of my 6 days stay. But being a hardcore wanderer … the rain couldn’t subside my curiosity. I was out wandering along the markets and back lanes of Dhaka … in the rain.

My first impression was that the street smells pleasant.

Surprisingly Dhaka is way cleaner than India, 10 times cleaner than India … I shall think so. At least the street is not treated as the public toilet by the 18.2 million city residents. People everywhere seemed busy and fully occupied here.

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A peak from the train window in Dhaka

My second impression is … the food is good.

It tastes about the same as in India, Pakistan and Nepal.  And my taste buds think that the biryani here is very delicious and I had mutton biryani for almost every day here too. Sharing a clip video ↓ of my obsession with mutton biryani … obsession lol?

We traveled in a big group this time around … 15 of us scattered around the street yet we saw completely different views. How awesome was that? When I saw my friends posted their version of ‘the street of Dhaka’, almost always I would pound my head and asked myself about why oh why I did not see it from their angles.

It is proven then … every each of us is unique in our own way.

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Hard life for an honest living in Dhaka

As I strolled along the streets, villages and some back alleys I saw hard work and hard life here … yet the people of Dhaka is rich in hospitality. Walking and talking with strangers has never felt a burden here … some even invited us to their homes for a cup of cha or tea.

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A boatman trying to make an honest living in Dhaka

To be honest, there are hundreds and probably thousands of Bangladeshi working here in my home country Malaysia. I see them everywhere and every day too. When I posted my whereabouts to a group of friends … they jokingly teased me on why the need to be in Dhaka when I can just hang out at Pasar Borong Selayang (a wholesale market in the heart of KL) or the famous Chowkit road and just be surrounded by them?

It is normal to have that tendency to treat foreign workers at your country home differently ( I guess I am guilty too)  but being in Dhaka … experiencing just a few days living in their home country does change my perspective.

I see them in a different way now … a more human way of looking at fellow humans trying their best to survive in the high-density human populated area on our one and only earth.

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Boats at Buriganga River in the middle of Dhaka

Would I recommend Dhaka for your next trip? Should I repeat for another round of trip exploring Dhaka?

………. absolutely, yes!

Thanks for dropping by here at my space… on the last day of 2017. Resolution time … resolution … resolution. Bye …

Cheers

MM

 

ps: my January article in NST bots on ‘People at Work’ with Dhaka as the background story. NST 01:18

 

 

 

 


Yes … the street of India

IND_9528Re-visiting my India’s photos for my latest NST assignment to celebrate Deepavali or Dewali. All these photos bring back memories of me surviving India and I think its time to repeat India again.

I am yearning to experience another round of emotional burst … in India maybe in 2018.

Sharing a few more photos of the bustling street of Old Delhi, New Delhi.

And my article on India for the NST readers is turning out well too, alhamdullilah. I am sharing it here for my own future reference.

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Bye for now.

 

Cheers

MM

 

ps- buzzing head … need to stay focus!


Secret Hideout in KT

IMG_2322I found a new secret hideout in Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia.

A simple, quiet and rusty place for an introvert soul, like mine … or let me rephrase it again, an OLD and worn out soul like mine. Lol … Selfish me, everything has to be like mine … mine all mine, no sharing and I do not want to share my soulmate either (if I ever have any) … gth! mental … oh yes!
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Pak Awi’s Yellow House located at Pulau Duyung, Kuala Terengganu

Kuala Terengganu has a few small islands in-between the mainland and Pulau Duyung (Duyung Island) is the largest island. I flew over the islands during a paramotor event last 2 years. Never occurred to me that there are interesting stories to explore down there on the islands.

 

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Well … Pak Awi didn’t pay me anything to promote his place so don’t get me wrong. I just love the place.

I found a new hidden place that I could stay for a few days or even weeks without creating a big hole in my wallet. A cool and safe place to go home to after hours and hours wandering around Kuala Terengganu.

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Lepaking at one of the bench 

What would I do here in Kuala Terengganu? Hmmm … I am going for a story hunting and I myself not sure what is the outcome gonna look like, lol.

I plan to hang around with the makciks (mid-aged ladies) around the villages listening to them gossiping he he he and the pakciks (middle-aged man) around the coffee shops or jetties reminiscing about life. Tengok berapa lama boleh tahan … the rest is a secret.

A few more photos of my new found hiding place before I end this post.

Last but not least … my all time favorite breakfast, Nasi Kerabu.  A blue colored rice mixed with fresh vegetables, salted egg, stuffed green chili pepper, a piece of roasted chicken and sambal (chili paste). Wallah … am hungry now … gotta run.

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Bye

Cheers,

MM

ps- sambil dengar lagu “kutuliskan kesedihan, semua tak bisa kau ungkapkan, dan kita kan bicara dengan hatiku” dan perut yang lapar


Enchanted by the Mongolian

Nomadic lifestyle caught my attention. After comfortably adopting a minimalist mindset a few years back, I started to like the idea of living my life more towards a nomadic mindset too.

Not that I wanted to pack my things and move from places to places … hmmm not yet I guess… but I sense (acewah! boleh plak sense lol) that with a nomadic mindset I could explore more in life.

And being able to experience living with a real life nomads in Mongolia even just for a few days was a nourishing moment for me. Approximately half of the Mongolian’s population is still leading a nomadic lifestyle, rearing their livestock freely throughout the entire Mongolian’s land.

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Origil lives in Terelj National Park, Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia

They live in gers, a big comfortable tent like moveable home and moves from a campsite to another for at least 4 times a year in search for the best place to rear their livestock and to protect themselves from the harsh climate especially during winter.

Living in ger would free them from the need to attend to house rentals or bank mortgages, a great step out of any financial burden.

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A family that we met in front of a Shrine near Ulaan Baatar

My first time in Mongolia … and my first experience with anything about Mongolian culture. The food … the people … the culture … the harsh winter, everything was totally new to me.

Our local guide, Alma had everything properly figured out for us in advance and we were like an empty shell that willingly waited to be filled with whatever Mongolian adventures by her.

The cold winter didn’t stop us from our quest to explore. There was one time when we were kinda lost in the middle of nowhere in an unfamiliar valley as the snow was quite thick that it covered the road trail (just some tire marks along a wide plain) … wow!  it was like surrendering yourself totally to Alma and Oyunna (our driver) and depending totally on her experience and her guts feeling.

Well … it was a very raw adventure for us … not complaining at all.

I will share a few photos of people that we met along our 8 days journey here in Ulaan Baator, Mongolia. Looking back at these photos … remind me of their warm hospitality and all the funny moments that we had experienced while trying so hard to blend in with their culture.

We stayed for two (2) days at Janat’s home, a kazakh Mongolian family. Watching him and his son Bota tendering their herd every morning and afternoon. Experiencing the nomadic life. Janat and his family members were super friendly. We even shared their everyday food too.

I tasted my first steamed horse meat and chewed on steamed cow testicle like a pro (just because I didn’t know that it was what it is). My first in everything … he he he

Living in a minimalist home in a ger … kinda cool too except that the toilet was sooo faaar aaawaayyyy … as in winter at lower than -17℃ with the strong icy wind chill, your mind refused to obey your bladder’s command.

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Grandma Dorjsuren with her daughter Enkhtuul (purple) and Oyunna (blue)

We stayed for a night with grandma Dorjsuren Dambiinyam and her hardworking daughter. To reach her place we have to travel for hours wandering on a roadless plain … towards a certain mountain he he he I was also lost track of our whereabout.

Grandma Dorjsuren looked like a reserve type of a person,  I could feel that she is quite a strict no hanky panky lady but her hug was so warm, it melts my heart. I like her … I think my soul like her very much.

Their gers were located hidden behind a small hill … but still, the sub-zero chilling wind was so strong that it shook our ger for the whole night. Oh well … I was tough like a nail stuck in a wall!

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Grandma’s home

We stayed for another one night at Grandpa Bor (80s) and Grandma Yandag (70s). The route towards his valley was very challenging as it was snowy and the plain was totally white covered by the thick snow.

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Grandpa Bor with his livestock

He claimed that at one time he owned 1000 goats and sheep before he distributed some to his children. Goats and sheep in extremely cold weather are of different species compared to the one in my tropical country.

When I showed him our goats species like Jamnapari, Boer and Saanen, he was so engrossed with it. He laughed so hard when he saw that most of our goats have long ears. Despite our language barrier, this man never failed to make me laugh with his weird joke … yeah weird because each time I have to take at least 5 minutes to digest his joke lol. Uhh … I can smell his sincerity.

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On our way to Grandpa Bor’s home. Oyunna manually changed the tire setting to 4×4

Hmmm … observing their nomadic lifestyle and listening to their stories on how they cope with the hurdles of shifting from one campsite to another makes me wonder again about how resilient they were towards the unpredictable life.

Having the opportunity to change their surroundings at least 4 times a year made them more flexible with life. I have respect for them …

And, being a nomad doesn’t mean that they are totally disconnected from the society. They are as alive as every human I met across the globe. They are fully equipped with all basic modern materials … solar electricity to power their electrical appliances, cars and trucks to transport them around.

Yeah … maybe I should learn more about this nomadic mentality and add it onto my minimalist lifestyle, use it to strengthen my self-mental so that I would be more resilient towards the hurdles in my life.

Looking back at these photos makes me yearn for my next adventure … I am still not sure where would I be heading to next. Probably a short weekend trip to Mt Bromo in Surabaya, Indonesia to observe the upcoming Kasada festival. In Sha Allah ….

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At the 10th Eagle Hunter festival in Ulan Baator

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return” ~ Maya Angelou

Cheers,

MM


A sub-zero journey

“If you want to catch a beast you don’t see every day. You have to go places quite out of the way. You have to go places no others can get to. You have to get cold and you have to get wet, too” ~ Dr. Seuss

Love … love .. love that quote by Dr. Seuss about hunting for beast at the most difficult and isolated place. A place where I should get wet and cold. In fact, the place that I went to was far beyond cold but freezing below sub-zero type of icy cold.

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We travel in 3 … Areza Mansor, Azli Wahab and me

I haven’t been to either North or South pole yet …so I am not sure how to compare the difference, but I was informed that here in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia -36℃ during winter is just normal. It’s darn cold enough for a tropical girl like me.

For almost 2 years, I have been wanted to explore Mongolia but friends kept on telling me that traveling there is difficult and expensive.

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Rashaant Village, Bulgan province, Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia

Early this year (2017), out of the blues I posted about Eagle Hunters of the Kazakh people of Mongolia on my FB timeline and my trekker friend (I met during my last trip) invited me to tag along with his backpacking trip from China- Mongolia- Russia- Europe trip. They planned to explore Mongolia and Russia via Trans-Siberian Railway. I decided to join only for the half of the trip (15 days) covering only Mongolia and Lake Baikal, Southeast Siberia.

After all … I always wanted to explore Lake Baikal too.

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Shuvuun Am, Valley, Altan Bulag village, Tuv province, Mongolia

The 3 of us started our journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing via flight, took the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Ulan Baator, Mongolia and continue to Russia.

My travel companions during that time around were gifts from heaven … my first time traveling with them but the understanding and tolerance between us were excellent, we wickedly clicked! A blessed again … alhamdullilah and I have no complaints.

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Resting time before lunch at Lake Baikal, I miss this moment

Some people loved to travel alone and some just couldn’t.

As I traveled along this trip, I realized that I don’t prefer to travel alone … having good companions while traveling especially when you were stuck on a train for days and when you were traveling in hard places like this was a blessing.

So … we spent 27 hours on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Ulan Baator (rm1340). Explored Ulan Baator and its surrounding in 8 days and continued the journey again to Irkutsk, Southeast Siberia via Trans-Siberian Railway from Ulan Baator to Irkutsk (35 hours for approximately rm822).

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Every day means of transportation here in Lake Baikal

Reached Irkutsk train station at a wee hour, grab a car (200 rubles/ 500 rubles)  in front of the station heading to Irkutsk bus station and tried to catch an early bus to Olkhon Island of Lake Baikal, Russia. Never thought that it would be this easy though.

The 10.00am bus to Olkhon Island was right across the road in front of the bus station (800 rubles per person/ 1100 rubles per person). The arrangement was quite easy but language barrier seemed to be the major problem as English language was like an alien language here at this side of Russia. (actual cost/ ripped off cost)

We stayed for 4 days in Lake Baikal exploring North (800 rubles) and South (1000 rubles) sides of the frozen lake. When we were there, the weather was a bit disturbing. It snow heavily a few days earlier and most of the frozen surface was covered with snow.

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Lake Baikal the frozen lake

We booked our accommodations via online and decided to go easy with our transportation arrangement as booking for transportation through the internet was quite expensive. We stayed in shared hostel in Olkhlon Island and discovered that arranging for transportation to and from the Island was surprisingly very convenient.

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Lake Baikal, Southeast Siberia, Russia

We took a public bus on our way back from Olkhlon Island to Irkutsk for 800 rubles per person and grab a car from bus station to our hostel, which turned out that it was just a few km away (200 rubles/ 500 rubles) lol. Well … opportunist is everywhere and things just happened.

We spent a day wandering around Irkutsk… an industrial city but in winter, there was nothing much to see. I would probably come again one day and wander around interesting places in Russia too. Who knows … right?

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My article in NST click! sharing tips on taking photographs in extreme cold

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Us in 3 at Lake Baikal, Southeast Siberia, Russia

Traveling as a true traveler (not a touch and go tourist) matures me but I do understand that not everybody is built for an extreme adventure like this. I admit it was tough especially when we have such a comfortable and warm life at home … and for me, if you want to experience and learn more about life, you gotta step out of your comfort zone. I am currently doing it every day now …

Owhhh … am very sleepy, I need my power nap! gotta run … bye

Cheers,

MM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Obsess with Faces

Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter? ~ Pablo Picasso

I am always puzzled when people ask me on what sort of photographer am I? And, before I could even finish answering that question … they’ll start pushing me into another question … do you shoot weddings? I guess everybody with a camera shoot wedding these days.

Not that I don’t shoot weddings. I do. I shoot weddings too if the price worth my effort. It seemed that everybody wanted a piece of a photographer. They expect diamond but paying peanuts.  Charging as low as RM500 to cover for a wedding is crazy. With the amount of effort, time and gears used to shoot the lovely groom and bride for a few hours … I think it is just cruelty and an insult to even consider offering that to a photographer.

Me … I tried my best not to negotiate with my potential customer, pay me on how much my work worth to you but bear in mind that I know how much I am worth.

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Pose 1: A sadhu that we met at Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Okay! back to my story for today. As at now … I am still obsessed with photographing human face. This is a series of photos that I took of a Sadhu in Kathmandu, Nepal.

He has a very long hair that he can even wear it as a turban. He has an amazing personality, charming and smiled politely during an hour of our photo session. Fyi, as you walk through the back lane of the temple you will stumble into a few sadhus that gather freely around the area. We spotted him and wanted to take his picture. And yes … it was not free.

Sharing some of his poses here.

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Pose 2: Capturing him in frames within frames

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Pose 3: Trying different angles that show his crown aka hairs

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Pose 4: He is a bit relax here with a hint of smile hidden under his mustache. Maybe he is amused by my antics

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Pose 5: Rapunzel … Rapunzel … let down your hair

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Pose 6: Namaste! My favorite pose of all

I love the earthy tone if his skin, his hair and his emotion shown on each poses. These pictures are a keeper moment for me. Gorgeous face …

Bye for now.

 

Cheers

MM