Paris is always a good idea.

So naturally I decided to kick off my 2015 travels by revisiting Paree.

Fanny, my former classmate and old flatmate, now calls the French capital home, and was a lovely host during my short weekend stay, even succumbing to my request of visiting the ultra-touristy Montmarte.

Montemarte Paris Montemarte

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The first hazy days in Singapore

It’s been a week since I landed on the little red dot. I spent the first two days trying to hunt down my luggage because an elusive Mr. Chen took home my blue suitcase mistaking it for his. After I got my bag full of shorts and T-shirts back, I got excited to enjoy the Singaporean sunshine.

Singapore hazeBut, the sun has been struggling to shine its light on me and the other 5ish million Singaporeans because the city is enveloped in a thick cloud of haze. Winds are blowing the uncontrolled fires from the “slash and burn” cultivation of Sumatra onto Singapore. Take a look at these amazing NASA images that capture the fumes blowing from Indonesia to Singapore.

Singaporeans are no strangers to the haze from their neighbours drifting over their city, but it has never been this bad. The highest Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) record was set in 1997 with a value of 226. To contextualize the situation, a PSI of 300 is considered hazardous; 400 is considered lethal for the elderly and ill. Today, the PSI soared up to 402. Continue reading

T24 Project: Screening

I ended my first blog post about the T24 Project experience by inviting you all to the film screening of Wake Up so we could garner some votes to win the Audience Choice Award (since we were out of running for the Visual Thesis Award for being two minutes late). Turns out that if one or two of you folks came (big THANKS to those who did, by the way!) we probably would have won Audience Choice: we were the runner-ups while a very deserving team took home the award. Like us, the film Metro also couldn’t compete for the Visual Thesis Award and the filmmakers were first-time participants.

Win or lose, at the end of the day, the point of this was to challenge ourselves, make a film and be proud of it. Cherry on top: the film was actually very well received.

Blogger Alfonso Espina ranked Wake Up number 3 in his top five picks for the challenge and said: “With visually compelling cinematography and images on-screen, guided by an eloquent narrator, Wake Up successfully encourages the viewer to think about how they define the city.” Thanks Alfonso!

FilmArmy‘s Addison Wylie recapped the T24 screening in a video blog and said, “… that personal connection can be found in Wake Up. By using coffee to find similarities between it and a cityscape, was just something we could easily connect to. It’s an everyday element that we could instantly connect to and follow along with the story.” He also said that our film was “technically well made.” Thanks Addison! Continue reading

T-24 Project: Production

For better or for worse, my travel blog is turning into an autobiographical documentation of my encounters with film making. However, the last project I participated in (or the result of it) can easily classify as a travel log for visitors to Toronto. And coffee drinkers too.

Angie Torres, Jean-Francois Taylor, Amanda Cupido [all fellow J-school graduates] and I participated in the T-24 project hosted by Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival. At 7 pm on a snowy Friday evening we were given a question. We had 24 hours to make a film that answered that question and hand it in at 7 pm on Saturday.

What was the question? Well here’s a stab at answering that:

As soon as the question was handed out to the participants, they all ran out into the Toronto blizzard… except us. We huddled around a coffee table in Innis Hall and re-read the question. This time, however, it made much more sense. Continue reading

fin free short film

For the last two months, I have been helping co-produce a short film that celebrates the success of the Fin Free campaign in six Ontario cities: Brantford, Oakville, Mississauga, Pickering, London and Toronto. These cities, two of which I call ‘home’ in different capacities, have banned the possession and sale of shark fins in their jurisdictions. My friend, Maja Zonjic (a passionate shark activist and filmmaker) and I wanted to highlight the positivity of the movement and the passion of the supporters. Turning to our natural comfort zone of story telling, we picked up a camera and started filming people of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs to construct a linear narrative that tells a global, yet local, story of the Fin Free movement.

It seems like just yesterday that I was blogging about the highs and lows of my TV Documentary class. Last April, I concluded that blog post by saying that I wanted to buy myself a camera and keep making more films. Well, I bought myself a camera soon after but primarily used it for travel logs. When the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on board with Maja to give her a hand with this amazing project.

Somehow, we managed to pick the two coldest months of the year to film this project… and do so entirely outdoors. But before we could plug in the microphone and press record, we needed to teach ourselves many things about film making. We spent hours talking to the guy at Vistek, days considering buying versus renting, and months trying to schedule shoots with Fin Free supporters.

From elementary school children, to city counselors, to shark activists, to our friends and families: I was really impressed by the amount of people that were excited to be a part of this film. Furthermore, I was amazed that they all battled the bitter winter along with us.

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The bitter-sweet world of travel writing

When I realized that I could write well enough to score As in my grade 8 English assignments, and that The Amazing Race was the best show ever invented in the history of mankind, I decided that I was going to grow up to be a travel writer. Thanks to further pop culture influences by the 1996-TV show Travelers that I religiously watched every Sunday morning, I wanted to grow up to be like Michelle, Pearce and rest of the gang, globe-hopping with a camera following them as they experienced different cultures.

The first step towards achieving that lifelong goal was scoring my internship at Verge: Travel with Purpose magazine. I helped research several destination guides while sitting in my cozy bed, but day-dreaming of the gorgeous landscapes of Patagonia and Amazon. I did travel on my own during the two years of my association with the magazine but no matter how much I kept my eyes and ears open during my trips, none of the stories I brought back were good enough to meet the magazine’s mandate. Talking to my editor, I realized that you couldn’t land in a place and expect to find a story unfolding; I had to find a story, research it, set up everything, and then plan my trip according to the story requirements and not my desire to travel the place. But, then that’s work… not travel, right?

When I was at Daily Planet, Ziya Tong, former host of Island Escapes, told me how you stop enjoying travel when it’s considered work. I expressed my great interest in becoming a travel show host like herself, after which she presented me the realities of how that gig worked out for her: she flew for hours and once she got to the destination, she had to prep for the camera, show up at location and start shooting right away. What I took from that conversation was that she stopped enjoying travelling to these gorgeous places because she never got to experience the beaches, the culture and the scenery; she was always working to put the show on air for others to see these places. Continue reading

Contiki-ing/Camping in Europe

It was a last minute decision.

I decided on a Monday that on that Friday I was going to jump on a plane and fly to London, England for a three week adventure before I settled into my first post-university full-time 9-to-5er. Usually, trip planning is my second favourite part of the travelling (photographing being number one), but for this trip, I just didn’t have enough time to research, read blogs, compare prices and pick my hostels, hotels, trains and flights. So I decided to jump on an organized camping tour with Contiki.

Now… let me just get this out of the way: Everyone should do a Contiki! If you haven’t done one already, you should. If you have done one already, you should do another one. If you never planned on doing one but you are in the 18-35 age range, DO IT, because Contiki is awesome.

Moving forth… this was my second Contiki. My first one was sailing in a luxury cruise across Greece and Turkey, so camping was very different from that experience.

I like to travel simple and feel close to nature. Beautiful architecture and exciting urban planning replaces natural scenery in many parts of Europe so sleeping on the Earth is not a bad way to feel close to mother nature. Not to mention, pitching a tent (or getting the Aussie boys to do it for you), helping out with chores, looking for the one lonely hammer and sharing it between 14 tents builds a sense of community between a group of strangers that you just met. In fact, in 11 short days, this group became my family and it was hard to say good-bye.  I edited together a video memoir from the trip highlights. Take a look! Continue reading

Phnom Penh: The Prison

Walking through a row of cells in Prison S-21 of Phnom Penh

After spending a better part of our day in the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek near Phnom Penh, our tuk-tuk driver, Pom brought us to the Tuol Sleng Genocide museum, more commonly known as the S-21 prison. During the Khmer Rouge regime of late 1970s, all the Cambodian prisoners were brought here to be tortured. Our guide walked us through this former high school, telling us about the atrocities that were committed here. But it’s not his words that break your heart, its the fact that every preserved artifact, marks on the walls and dried blood drops on the floor are a sad story of their own.

Even though my hands were trembling from the horror of what I was witnessing coupled with heat exhaustion, I turned on my camera and captured everything I could in this historically important, but scary place. Also read about Sachin Seth‘s impressions of S-21 on his blog.

And here is part two of the two part series from Phnom Penh, Cambodia:

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Goodbye… For Now

On Monday, June 13th 2011 I graduated from Ryerson University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, or as we, the Class of 2011 likes to call it, a BJ.

From Frosh week of 2007 to the Convocation of 2011, I have grown with this city and the campus. As a relatively new immigrant, with a passion for writing, I came to Ryerson Journalism to feed my desire to write meaningful pieces. After four years of cross-platform training, I now find myself enchanted by the power of images and want to work in broadcast and photography.  Not only have I discovered my “calling in life” at Ryerson, I have also found some amazing friends who will do great things one day.

I’d also like to mention all the great groups and activities I have been part of at Ryerson and spent countless hours working with them (some hours really well-spent, some not so much): Ryerson Students’ Union, P-FACS  Committee, RSU Student Groups Committee, South Asian Alliance, Alternative Spring Break 2008 and Orientation Week (Shout out to my lovely Spirit Squad). Continue reading

Phnom Penh: The Fields

About 15 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh are the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. During the Khmer Rouge Regime of 1970s that killed an estimated 1.7 million, many prisoners were brutally murdered in these fields. This peaceful and quiet location has been the sight of the cruel genocide of Pol Pot’s regime and to remember those who lost their lives, the Cambodian government has built a 17-story memorial stupa, which displays skulls and bones that are still being dug out daily from these fields.

Skulls of the victims in the memorial stupa at the Killing Fields. There are more than 800 skulls in this stupa.

No photo can do justice to the heart-wrenching emotion evoked by the sadness of the fields. We tried to capture the experience of walking through these grounds on video and but nothing compares to being present there and hearing about the tragedies from people, directly affected by it.

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