Suzhou, my favorite spot in China so far, is a photogenic city located in the Jiangsu Province of China with a vibrant, thousands-age old culture. The "Venice of the Orient" has become a place of discovery for tourists and locals alike. More than 2,500 years of history remains here within its ancient architecture and exquisite water roads. My experience felt surreal to say the least - to realize the number of generations that have lived here and to know my ancestors may have passed through these water canals. Suzhou can be considered a "paradise on earth" of sorts. Why? First, it enjoys mild temperatures all-year-round (like San Francisco, but warmer). Second, it contains a vast number of elegant gardens. And thirdly, it comes with a natural allure and electrifying charm the moment you step foot into the city.
Below, you can observe elements of traditional and contemporary styles of dress on a couple fair ladies. The Chinese seem to find comfort in vibrant colors and patterns. Take for example the strings of red lanterns, the collection of laundered blankets, and their jacket game. There is simply not enough time to capture its beauty, so I opted for another set of street fashion photos with a few village photos sandwiched between. Enjoy.
According to the World Population Review, the Chinese population is rapidly growing close to 1.4 billion people. Among the millions upon millions of dark haired, brown-eyed beauties, the fashion styles come in diverse varieties from province to province. I only observed bits and pieces of street fashion in southern China, which in no way represents the entire country. The small batch of people I photographed mostly wore bold colors and patterns, sometimes combining traditional and contemporary styles of dress; and a few others wore structured neutrals and classic stripes. Couples often matched their outfits as a display of affection.
These photographs were taken at the beautiful memorial site for China's national father, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. He is commemorated for taking China's nationalist party into victory over its long line of imperial dynasties (circa 1911 - 12). His leadership marked the beginning of modern China without monarchy rule. In order to view his tomb, get your sneakers ready because you're required to walk up more than 12 flights of stairs. If you're excited about history and an aerial view of China, it will be worth it.
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Today, I depart from San Francisco for a journey through China (6 days), Thailand (6 days), and Taiwan (5 days) with layovers in Hong Kong and Tokyo if those count. A challenging part of traveling to Asia is the plane ride there. My direct flight from SFO to PVG-Shanghai will take a grueling 13 hours clamped to an inflexible chair surrounded by flashing tv lights and terrible movies. I'll arrive on Friday, May 20 around 6pm.
To kick off my Asian adventure, I compiled a short list, in no particular order, of to-dos before I take off.
1. Deep-scrub my bedroom. Returning to an irresponsible, disastrous bedroom after a trip is on my list of "top-most-hated-things".
2. Polish my Mandarin with Youtube videos playing in the background while I clean. This will never happen.
3. Pack half a suitcase with 50% underwear and toiletries, 20% actual clothes, 10% workout gear, 15% being three pairs of shoes (eg. black sandals, white sneakers, and Nike trainers), and 5% miscellaneous. The percentages don't accurately reflect the size of these items, therefore they're completely irrelevant and written purely for my own satisfaction.
4. Free up storage on my phone and Canon 60D. Dropbox says there's 18 hours left in uploading Canon movies. I haven't even started on my phone yet.
5. Check the weather. Pack sunscreen.
6. Gather various mosquito repellants. It doesn't matter what environment I'm in, whether it's tropical, suburban, or New York City, a mosquito is sharpening its needle for me right now.
7. Bring fibrous oatmeal and probiotics. I know my internal systems - they need an extra boost when I'm traveling to Asia. Those squatties better watch out.
8. Attach glow sticks to my Taiwanese and US passports so they don't disappear in my bag.
9. Read The Thousandth Girl, a twenties-something writer's guide to living in Taiwan.
10. Call Mom so she knows I didn't forget to board the plane.
11. Memorize the itinerary (Shanghai > Bangkok > Taipei) because Mom will quiz me later.
So long, farewell, San Francisco. I'll see you on June 6th.
This is a "throwback" post.
A "later-blog" post.
A "Damn, it's about time you updated your blog!" post.
So, my younger sister Shaina visited San Francisco for a week over the winter holiday. A key element in our relationship is, conveniently, photography. Being nearly a decade apart, we didn't grow up together like siblings who have a narrow age gap. When I left for college in 2008, I milked my post-high school years by spending most of it on campus and traveling to popular metropolitan areas like Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City several times a year.
When I did go home, we practiced lifestyle photography by taking pictures of one another, but rarely together. Because we had a tragic collection of memorable pictures (besides my toilet bowl hair days), I asked a photographer friend to accompany us to the De Young Museum, a fine art museum located near Golden Gate Park in SF.
P.S. I used to be at least a head taller than Shaina in middle school. Now, I can't hide my shrimpiness. If you haven't guessed already, she's the baby in the pictures, the fourth child of the Lieh family.
I am playing "Loudspeakers" by MONA on repeat while I write.
This year, I plan to continue what I started in 2015 - to exercise my "maker" hands within photography and videography, and to collaborate with others who share the same passions. Side projects, in my experience, have complemented my professional growth as a designer because they challenge me to 1) ask perceptive questions daily and 2) be critical as long as it adds constructive value. Very rarely do I teach myself a new skill without reaching out to fellow makers for their expertise. The last thing a self-professed creative needs is the incapability for teamwork.
These side projects feed off of my search for fulfillment, spiritual awakening, and my desperate need for an excellent story. Being in the maker's space, I have realized not only the gift of imagination, but have experienced glimpses of divinity and design co-working together. My love for storytelling grows from my allure with fictional worlds and redemptive character development catalyzed by war torn conflict. Rewind to the classroom where my fourth grade teacher read aloud to her students. Ms. Mason transported us into worlds with heroines who found strength in intelligence and love through deep friendships. In them, I tried finding bits of myself.
In my early twenties, I began appreciating documentary filmmakers and vloggers like Wong Fu Productions, JackGap, and Michelle Phan. Their Youtube channels inspired me to dabble in film as I watched their cinematography transform one video at a time. Based on my journey with previous projects, my work ethic normally reaches a hyper-enthusiastic few weeks before I begin seeking the next big thrill; therefore, I am practicing persistence with llaurestine.
Before shooting a scene in llaurestine's intro video, I photographed a friend steadying my Canon 60D over a 5th floor railing. I named this photo "endurance" as a reminder to regain perspective when I feel tempted to leave my work unfinished.