This online shoebox contains random pictures, notes, whatever. I've been a professional writer-photographer for so many years now. It's a damn good excuse to carry a camera around.

Posted By Lester V Ledesma

#8) The Train to West Java

 

08

 

February 18, Indonesia: The cheapest seats have no frills in the Argo Parahyangan, and they promise a sweltering, three-hour ride in the tropical heat. Yet they also boast a feature that no swanky first-class cabin can ever have: open windows, and side doors you can hang from anytime.

 

On this train ride to Bandung from Jakarta, its easy to guess what I am planning to do. The trip is uneventful on its first hour, with the usual back city scenes flitting by. Once we hit the countryside, though, things get interesting. The railway slopes up and up, past greenery that makes Jakarta concrete a distant memory. Together with some seatmates – a group of Javanese backpackers – we rush to the train doors to ooh and aah at the surrounding scenery. We stick our heads out whenever the train crosses a mountain bridge. Below the carriage there is nothing but a thin strip of railway, and rice terraces far, far below. The cool highland wind, the stunning view, the rush. Priceless.

 

Of course, the adventure didn't end there - check out my article on The Ultimate Bandung Weekend.

 

#7) Osaka's Eat Street


07

 

March 30, Japan: There is Japanese food, and then there is Osaka food. For eight days in this country’s Southern culinary capital, I indulged in a food trip like no other. Osaka has been called “The Kitchen of Japan”, and a walk down its Dotombori district explains explain why. On one building façade a huge, motorized octopus beckons would-be gourmands to a helping of takoyaki. On another, a grinning chef robot brandishes kushiyaki sticks like they were nunchuks. There’s also those bizarre balloons that resemble fugu – the poisonous pufferfish – a tasty, somewhat deadly delicacy in these parts. All these came with the Osakan guarantee of perfection. And indeed, they all were. In fact, even the standard Japanese fare – the ramens, the gyozas, the katsu curries – seemed extra tasty when served under Dotombori neon lights.

 

My tastebuds were pampered, my olfactory senses caressed, but sadness accompanied this gustatory bliss. Because I knew that once I left Osaka, Japanese food would never again be this good.

 

 



 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma
Four months into 2012 and its already been a crazy busy year for me. Ten locations in 12 weeks, so many highlights, so many new experiences. So many new friends.

1st 
Quarter '12

And it's only April 2012!

 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma
#6 - Rap Bua Festival, Samut Prakan
Rap 
Bua

Colorful floats on water. Throngs of shouting, cheering people. Sounds like the usual fluvial parade. But this is Thailand, and there is nothing unusual about the way they do things here. Held near the end of the Buddhist rain retreat season, the Rap Bua is a taste of good old Thai Buddhist tradition mixed with Disney-style pomp and pageantry.

It's also off the tourist-beaten path - despite its location right under the nose of Bangkok's Savarnabhumi Airport - as I found out last October. Arriving in Thailand just as festival got underway, my companion and I hailed a cab and sped off, luggage and all, to the district of Bang Phli. We got there right in time for the fluvial parade, but by then the riverside was clogged with people waiting to see the main event.

Here's where Amazing Thailand justifies its nickname. Upon seeing these foreigners with their big cameras and bulging backpacks, the locals graciously made way. Chairs were given for us to stand on, and before we knew it we were right at the water's edge, standing a head above the crowd. And it got even better. The excitement was palpable when the floats appeared, and everyone bowed in unison at the sight of their object of devotion: the Luang Pho Tho, a centuries-old statue of the Buddha. Lotus buds were thrown in the air as the sacred image floated by, and there we were, firing away with a camera in one hand and a bunch of round, pink flowers in the other (the locals pressed them in our hands while we were busy shooting).

This was one of the precious few occasions when photographers weren't just observing. Our coverage, of course, ended not with a click, but with a toss and a prayer.


#5 - The Dolphins of Ozamiz

Dolphins

If you think dolphins are fascinating, try swimming with them at the MOAP dolphin conservation center, just outside Ozamiz City.

You don't know what the term "fish out of water" means until you get in there with these creatures of the deep. They approach you in pairs, hurtling just beneath the surface like dark gray torpedoes. Then they check you out, circling you while studying you with those big, black eyes. Welcome to their world. Dare to duck your head underwater and you'll almost certainly find yourself face-to-face with one. That unblinking look. That distinctive dolphin smile. That strange flicker of recognition borne from being distant cousins in the same mammalian family. There's a consciousness behind that dolphin face, and it's staring right back at you.


#4 - Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo

Shibuya

This was where they shot that climactic scene from "Lost in Translation", and believe me it looks just like in the movie. When the traffic light says "go", Shibuya's main traffic junction literally swarms with people crossing what must be Tokyo's busiest, glitziest intersection. But the main attraction isn't just this sea of black-suited salarymen, anime-haired youngsters and Gucci-toting sailormoon schoolgirls - it's the whole Sony-branded, Japanese-flavored futuristic scenery replete with huge video walls, screaming Kanji neon and piped-in video game music from speakers unseen. You want to experience modern Tokyo in twenty seconds? Go cross this street.

 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma
Lots of it!

Tsukiji

These frozen tuna await delivery to buyers at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market.

 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma
The two contrasting faces of Tokyo can be seen in its most modern and most traditional districts.

The silent serenity of Asakusa, home to the ancient Sensoji temple:
Asakusa

The glitzy lights of Shibuya, hangout of the city's younger denizens:
Shibuya

 


 
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