Weekly Photo Challenge: Afternoon On The Pier

Afternoon On The Pier

Another day at the ocean. The beach at Paradise Village ends at a rocky pier with a small lookout hut. It’s a very popular place for people looking to beat the heat and take some photos; it’s not usual for small crowds to show up for the sunsets. But on afternoons like this, you can take a book and relax amongst the crashing waves. Large version available here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dog in Surf

Dog In Surf

For the next entry into the muse challenge, here’s another shot along the same coast in Nuevo Vallarta. I think everyone should walk along the beach at least once in their lives; it’s peaceful, quiet, serene…and you never know what you’ll run into in the waves. Kind of like this friendly stray that was enjoying the day; I was worried about approaching him, but he only followed me for a bit before going back to his own fun in the sun.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Glimmering Sunset

Glimmering Sunset

This week’s challenge calls for a muse. You might have noticed I have a thing for the ocean and sunsets. Granted, I’m a nature lover in general, but there’s something alluring about the ocean; it gives you a sense of scale and your location on the Earth. You can watch the sun vanish before your eyes, giving you a greater insight of the astronomy and physics involved. The horizon practically begs you to venture forth and find out what’s out there. The ocean is one Earth’s great remaining mysteries; you can just stand there and wonder what lurks beneath the surface. You can breathe in the salty air, feel the wind your skin, and hear the waves endlessly crashing onto the shore…Yeah, I love it. This is one of many photos I took during my most recent trip. I’ll be posting more throughout the week; though they won’t all be sunsets, they’ll definitely involve oceans.

Los Arcos Coconuts

Los Arcos Coconuts

When people go to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, there’s a good chance they’ll take a boat tour out to Los Arcos de Mismaloya. It’s a gorgeous place to visit. If you’d rather stay on land, however, you can take a road trip along the coastline and admire Los Arcos from a distance…and enjoy some fresh coconuts at the lookout! Large version available here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Just After Sunset

Just After Sunset

When I was taking sunset photos in Nuevo Vallarta, I had to share a pier with several other sightseers. Once the sun vanished behind the hills in the distances, most people left. However, I stayed an extra half an hour to see how the weather would develop. I was rewarded by one of the most vivid and colorful night skies in recent memory. Large version available here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vivid, Or: Vallarta Sunset

Vallarta Sunset

This week’s challenge calls for something vivid. Here’s one of a few amazing sunsets I saw during my trip in Nuevo Vallarta. Large version available here.

A Week In Nuevo Vallarta

Hey, folks! I’m baaaack!

*Crickets chirp*

…Ahem. Unlike my last couple of adventures, my trip to Nuevo Vallarta was planned for about six months before my departure. I went as part of a group of six family members, all in a two bedroom/bath timeshare at Paradise Village. Also unlike my previous adventures, it was made abundantly clear that this was going to be a relaxing, “traditional” vacation; going with family meant less opportunity to go exploring on my own, thus focusing more on the resort, beaches, and various tourist activities.

I was both relieved and disappointed; as much I love wandering around, Mexico is not the place to do it. In the weeks leading up to the trip, the US state department issued travel advisories for various areas of the country. In my apprehension, I took the time to look up the locations and contact information of the consulates, hoping that I’d never have to use them. This wasn’t my first rodeo in Mexico, though. In fact, I’ve been there more times than I have any other foreign country; I’ve been to Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Chichen Itza, as well as Puerto/Nuevo Vallarta twice prior to this trip. I also narrowly missed a trip to Acapulco, but that’s a story for another day. However, these all happened back in the 90s; Mexico has changed, and this was my first time going there as an adult. In the end, I resolved to enjoy the trip as much as I could within its limited scope.

To achieve that, I packed only the bare essentials: enough clothes, my DSLR, and a few books. I left my handheld gaming device behind for the first time; while it’s great for killing time on flights, I’ve come to realize how much of a distraction it can be. Same goes with smart phones; while nearly everyone else in my group was glued to their Internet and Skype, I purposely turned off my roaming and arranged for only texts to be available in case of emergencies. I’m not much of a phone person, so it’s not like I was missing anything. Without its temptation, I had to find a way to make a week revolve around little more than sunny weather and gorgeous beaches. I spent whole afternoons walking up and down Nuevo Vallarta’s shoreline, going barefoot on its flawless white sand and getting drenched knee-high in the surf. It’s something that everyone needs to do at least once in their lives; the seemingly endless horizon, the sound of the waves crashing, the cool sea breeze on your skin…that’s real living.

Paradise Village’s beach terminates with a long, rocky pier with a lookout on its tip. I made a daily habit of visiting it twice: once in the mornings to do some reading and watch the passing boats, and in the evening to photograph the sunsets. I took several great photos on that pier (you’re going to see some in the near future), and I wasn’t the only one. I was asked by at least a dozen other sightseers and/or families to take their pictures amidst the spectacular night skies and splashing waves. It’s remarkable how nature’s beauty transcends language barriers; everyone loves seeing a great sunset, no matter what country you’re from.

The same goes with wildlife; the beach had numerous gulls wandering around, waiting patiently for visitors to leave their food unattended. The hotel has about half a dozen parrots and a small group of Bengal tigers on display in its central hub. Every time I passed by, there would always be a small crowd of people trying to get some decent photos. The tigers were usually lazy and unresponsive, but I managed to catch one bathing one evening. The birds were far more friendly; I happened to find out when their cages were being cleaned, and got some nice, iron bar-free macro shots. During the hotel’s bird show (think of Letterman’s stupid pet tricks), I decided to embrace my inner tourist and had my picture taken with a scarlet macaw on my arm.

Speaking of touristy stuff, I took a city tour of Puerto Vallarta. It was a day’s run-through of the city’s marina, romantic zone, souvenir stands, the coastline near Mismaloya, and a tequila tour. The latter was rather uncomfortable for me; I don’t drink – the strongest thing I have is occasional root beer- so I was totally out of my element. I took a shot of mandarin tequila and struggled to swallow it down. It tasted like tangy cough syrup; seriously, what’s the appeal?! I also went zip-lining again (just over a year since Maui!) but that deserves its own entry/review. While most of my companions stuck to the hotel’s services – Paradise Village has its own shopping mall, complete with McDonald’s, Subway, Domino’s, and Starbucks within 3 minute’s walking distance – my mother and I took a bus out to the local Walmart, stocked up on groceries, and cooked in the hotel room. Any place that makes it affordable to eat three mangoes a day is a paradise indeed.

There’s more to write about, but I’ll stop here for now. It was a fun, relaxing week, and I’ve got tons of photos for you all to see. Stay tuned.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Golden Gate At The End Of February

The Golden Gate At The End Of February

This week’s photo challenge is all about reward. For me, nothing is more rewarding than taking a journey and finding something amazing at the end. Yesterday, I walked about 11 miles all around San Francisco starting at Market Street and finishing at Crissy Field. While I didn’t know where I’d end up, I enjoyed the sunset near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale, Or: Waipio Valley, Hawaii

Waipio ValleyThis week’s photo challenge calls for some scaling. I remembered this photo I took at Waipio Valley on the Big Island. It’s an incredibly beautiful and historically significant place; it was considered sacred land and the capital of the early Hawaiian kings. While the overall view from the lookout was amazing, I almost didn’t notice the (relatively) tiny waterfall at the far end of the shoreline. Fun fact: this was taken literally five minutes before the valley was engulfed in an intense rainstorm. I was lucky to get the shot.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity, Or: A Pacific Morning

A Pacific Morning

This week’s challenge calls for serenity, and it reminded me of a shot I took during a morning walk at the Kona Coast Resort in Hawaii.