Eve of Vesak Day in Brigh Hill temple – Singapore

For Buddhists Vesak Day marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. This is my very first time at Bright hill temple ; it is a huge compound in the center of Singapore.

Bright Hill temple also known as Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, is famous for the “3 Steps 1 Bow ceremony” on the eve of Vesak Day.

Above are monks who are opening the procession. The ceremony starts at 5pm and takes 2 and half hours to complete ending with the monks back in the main hall blessing the devotees with water.

Monks are followed by lay people who will queue all evening and a big part of the night. One people I know said he will go at 3am.

Below people queuing at the start of the procession

 

The main halls are also the occasion to pray and give offerings; mostly candles.

During the day itself, ritual is generally the bathing of the Buddha.

Most shots done with Leica M262 and Summicron 28mm, close ups with Elmarit 90mmF2.8.

Some film shots (with black border) done with Leica M6 on Fuji Xtra 800ISO with same lenses.

How to get there: Bright Hill is quite central  (like in the middle of the island) but may take some time to reach. You can get a bus there (check gothere.sg) which will take close to one hour from CDB or take a cab (more of less 15 SGD).

Devotees and temple staff are quite photo friendly, so as long as you are decently dressed and don’t go in the middle of ceremony you feel welcome to shoot. There is actually a small crowd of photographers.

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Eve of Vesak Day in Brigh Hill temple – Singapore

A morning in Myanmar

During our trip to Chiang Rai one of the most exciting activities available is to walk into Burma, for a few hours only. Driving one hour from our resort in Chiang Saen (already one hour north of Chiang Rai), we arrive in the Mae Sai checkpoint where it is possible to cross the border and enter Myanmar at Tachileik.

This in the Shan State; Tachileik boasts 50000 inhabitants.

Crossing the border is allowed provided that you leave your passport at the border and pay a nominal fee. Overnight stay is not permitted and I read that guesthouses in the border areas of Myanmar are not allowed to host foreign tourists.

The area close to the checkpoint has a busy market where Thai and Chinese tourists like to shop, for cheap counterweight of handbags, watches and so on. We rode a tuck tuck outside of this area in a more rural side of the city with its food market.

Aside from the usual colorful street life, a nearby covered market, shows more food stalls.

But also some fashion shops; tailors, housewares,…

A few streets from there, a Buddhist monastery, hosts young and old monks who were having their lunch when we arrived. There we could witness the ceremonial of meals, who its first, who last who eats what is not eaten by the others.

The main attraction in Tachileik may well be the replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Situated on a small hill. There are a few tourist / devotee stalls outside and food stalls on the parking.

One of the food stalls around the pagoda.

I tried one of these sweet pancakes, delicious. Grilled for you on the spot on the ground of the parking.

Our guide was very knowledgeable or the area and spoke fluent Burmese which made the experience very enjoyable.

3 hours in Myanmar, a new Stamp on our passports, time to head back in Thailand.

All shots with Leica M262 and Summicron 28mmF2.

A morning in Myanmar

NORTH THAILAND TRIP – PART 3 – WAT CHAIWATTHANARAM -AYUTTHAYA

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Ayutthaya is a city with many temples. Our second stop was at thee Wat Chaiwatthanaram. This temple is visible from a big distance for his big cheddi or stupa.

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After the very active Wat Phanan Choeng , Wat Chaiwatthanaram, is quiet one, mostly in ruins which apparently suffered from the flooding of 2011. You can find on the web beautiful, if not sad, pictures of the compound surrounded by waters.

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The site is very interesting, mostly by its big cheddi and the hall with broken statues of the sitting Buddha. The compound is very nice to walk and close to the river.

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NORTH THAILAND TRIP – PART 3 – WAT CHAIWATTHANARAM -AYUTTHAYA

NORTH THAILAND TRIP – PART 2 – WAT PHANAN CHOENG – AYUTTHAYA

The first place we wanted to visit was Ayutthaya an ancient capital, which also happen to be   a very busy industrial city, 90 KM north of Bangkok. We decided to sleep close the the airport (at the Novotel, so actually in the airport), and hire a driver and a guide for the day.

Ayutthaya has many interest, but mostly the Royal Palace and many temples. I have not posted any pictures of the Royal Palace, but actually it is not uninteresting. The vast compound is still supposed to be used today by the Royal Family. Constructions are of varying styles, and if your guide is knowledgeable and chatty as ours this makes for a nice visit.

Now more interesting are the temples; as in many big Thai city there are dozens of them; but due to time constraints we only visited 4; each very different.

After the visit of the Royal Palace, we headed to Wat Phanan Choeng. This is a big temple, famous for its (very) large, statue of sitting Buddha. This is a very busy temple specially on week ends; I am not sure if it is permanent but the day we visited the temple devotees were offering new orange robes for the Buddha. A extraordinary occasion to experience the devotion of Thai people.

Next we headed for lunch but nothing worth mentioning.

NORTH THAILAND TRIP – PART 2 – WAT PHANAN CHOENG – AYUTTHAYA

Alms ceremony at Wat Palelai – Singapore

Someone at the photo lab tipped me that Saturday that the next day, there will be an alms ceremony at Wat Palelai, a Thai Buddhist Temple located in Bedok, in the east of Singapore.

Devotees stood around the yard of the temple and gave their offerings to the monks who made a procession around the yard.

Later the monks gathered at their dining room.

There was 30 to 50 monks for the ceremony but I think only 5 are permanently staying  at the temple. Others are going through a temporary monk-hood.


This day was the fiftieth Singapore National Day, happy birthday Singapore. The ceremony was interrupted by the singing of the national anthem at 9am.

It was very nice to discover this temple and be able to attend this ceremony. I also met two people who always hang around the photo lab, so we could have coffee and chit chat a moment after the ceremony was over.

All black and white pics with Leica M6 and either 35mmF2.8 or 50mmF1.4. Film is Rollei RPX 400ISO. Scanned at home with Epson v500.

Color pics with the old faithful Nikon D700 with either the 85mm F1.8 or the 17-35 F2.8.

Alms ceremony at Wat Palelai – Singapore

The Agfa Isolette III in India

Nearly one month since the last post, unbelievable. And I have since shot some new film (and some more classic ones), been to India and back, I am so far behind on by processing and posting that it is difficult to know where to start. So maybe let’s start by the end: I have collected this week the two rolls I shot in India over the last holidays.

I brought with me the Agfa Isolette III that came back from repair in September; the camera is small and shoot 120 film. I just did two films in 10 days (actually only 20 shots); India is so overwhelming it is difficult to take the eye from the DSLR.

A quick word on the trip, but I will do a full summary later: we traveled from Calcuta to Benares (Varanasi) via Patna, Nalanda and Bodhgaya. These are amazing places, really worth the visit.

Nice encounter on the Ghats of Benares last week, two young film photographers from New Delhi, shooting with Olympus film cameras.


Buddhist monk outside the Mahabodhi Temple – Bodhgaya – India
The monk may be from Sri Lanka or Thailand from the color of his robes.
This holy place of Buddhism is full of monks and pilgrims meditating and a few tourists like us. Ask with a smile and they are all photo friendly.


Guy repairing his boat on the ghats of the Ganges in Varanasi.

Holy cow; there are really plenty of them in Varanasi, beware where you step.


Evening prayer to the Ganges river


Sahu at work; they are plenty in Varanasi as well, but less than I expected, they seems to be far more in Pashupatinath in Nepal.

Black and white pictures with Kodak Tri-x 400ISO, shots at 360 with a yellow filter.

Color pictures with Kodak Portra NC 400ISO, shots at 360 unfortunately still with a yellow filter, but the scanner corrected the colours nearly automatically.

All scanned with Epson V500, corrected in Lightroom.

The Agfa Isolette III in India

Mihintale – Sri Lanka

Mihintale is a mountain peak near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It is believed by Sri Lankans to be the site of where Buddhism started in Sri Lanka.
It is now a pilgrimage site, and the site of several religious monuments and abandoned structures.

The old monk keeping the image room of the dagoba on top of Mihintale hill

On top of the hill is a large Dagoba that can be seen from afar. A the back is the image room with its statue of reclining Buddha. This old monk invited us to have a look, leave our appreciation on the visitors look and offering. One opportunity to take the Hassie out of the bag.

The Daboba and prayer flags

The Rock opposite

Opposite le Dagoba is another rock which top one can climb, the surrounding landscape is breath taking, with a lot of water expanses that were man made if I remember well. You can also see old brick Dabogas under the vegetation.

The Buddha statue

A large statue of the Buddha can also be found on one side of the hill.

The Daboga at half height

This smaller Daboga can be found at half the height or the hill. At its back is a monastery.

Japanese Pilgrim

On our way down we met a group of Japanese Pilgrims chanting their way up the peak to spend the night at the monastery (so were we told). Apparently they come once a year for this.

Mihintale – Sri Lanka