Friday, July 20, 2012

USA Atlanta Georgia: World of Coca Cola - It's the REAL THING!

Now who have not heard of Coca Cola, also fondly called Coke? Who has not at least have a glass of Coke in his or her lifetime? For some, Coke is the almost like a stable diet.
Coca Cola is not just a carbonated soft drink. Coca Cola is just not any carbonated soft drink. Coca Cola is an icon of our very existence. Coca Cola embodies the celebration of life. Over the years, Coca Cola has reached the farthest part of our globe and the unique curvy bottle is probably one of the most recognisable item in our lives. To some of course, it is the root of all evil, a constant temptation that throws our diet program out the window ....

Do you still remember the movie "Thank God is Friday" where the entire story line started with an empty Coca Cola bottle being dropped from the sky? Do you still remember the catchy "I'd like to buy the world a Coke...It's the Real THING" Coca Cola song? This commercial was probably Coca Cola's most successful advertising song in 1971, sang by a group of teenagers on a hill in Italy. I certainly do. I grew up with Coca Cola but little do I realise and know how big this drink and the impact it has to the world till I visit the WORLD OF COCA COLA in Atlanta.
The formula of Coca Cola was created by John S Pemberton in 1886. He was a respected pharmacist who was looking for something unique to refresh customers who were coming into soda fountains in the late 19th century. Candler who recognised the potential of this formula bought over the formula and the right of Coca Cola from Pemberton for USD2300! In 1915, a company bought over the rights from Candler for a cool USD25 million. The purchase was financed via a bank loan and the collateral for the loan was nothing more than THE FORMULA of COCA COLA! The formula was kept in the bank vault in New York until the loan was fully repaid, after which the formula was moved back to Atlanta.
The Vault, entrance into the history of Coca Cola, with all her stories, myths and facts. Therein, lies the actual vault that still locks the actual formula today.

Robert W. Woodruff who became the President of the company in 1923 was responsible for the expansion of the brand for the next six decades, making Coca Cola available in at least 53 countries around the world during the six decades.

The success of the formula of Coca Cola sparked off many imitations as well as claims on the origin of the formula created by Pemberton, some coming as far as India. So secretive was the formula that it was apparently reported that only two persons in the world then knew of half of the formula each and they were never allowed to travel together.
A statute of Dr John S Pemberton offering you a cup of Coca Cola

Between 1960 to 1981, the Company embarked on the introduction of other drinks such as the popular Sprite and Fanta. Diet Coke was introduced in 1982, the very first extension of the Coca Cola trademark.
The World of Coca Cola in Atlanta is located on the southern edge of Pemberton Place at Downtown Atlanta. Opens daily from 10am, this is the place to get first hand knowledge of when and how Coke becomes what Coke is today. As you walked through the different sections, one will begin to appreciate this drink that we have all grown up even more.
The main entrance of the World of Coca Cola with a wall lined with multiple TVs displaying the many happy faces of people who is enjoying Coca Cola around the world and in the center, a collection of seven giant size uniquely decorated Coca Cola bottle from seven different countries around the world which include China and New Zealand.
The history and story of Coca Cola explained .....
Inside the Vault, one will be introduced to the many stories, myths, facts or fictions and trivial facts surrounding this extremely successful product around the world ....
..and of course, the biggest secret of Coca Cola is the secret formula of this addictive drink...what exactly are the ingredients that make up this carbonated drink that has taken the world by storm, a formula so secretive that a bank is willing to provide a loan of USD25 million way back in 1915....
In the "Taste It" section, you can take your taste buds on a trip around the world, sampling over 60 different beverages. Before you leave, you will also receive a free commemorative bottle of Coca Cola produced here.
and of course, there is the Coca Cola souvenir store where you can purchased anything with the Coca Cola branding. All you need is your plastic card or good old US dollars.
So, here we are. At the center and birthplace of Coca Cola, the drink that we all have grown up with, the drink that some can not live without, a drink that the curvy bottle has been made an international immediately recognizable icon, a drink that have sparked off so many imitations and wannabe over the years and the drink whose formula has become one of the world best kept secret that still leaves many dumbfounded and ever curious ..

So, the next time you pick a bottle or a can of Coca Cola, it is just not a bottle of carbonated soft drink that you are is a culture that celebrates life. I know I will look at Coca Cola from now on with a different perspective ....

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sights at 33000 feet!

I am now in Atlanta Georgia for a week before I proceed to San Francisco. Simply looking forward to capture some interesting shots of both these cities. We took a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore for our first transit. Checked into the transit hotel for a night and left from Singapore to Narita Tokyo on Delta Air at 6:10am for our connecting flight to Atlanta from Narita.

The flight was relatively long. It was a 6 hours flight from Singapore to Narita and another 12.5 hours from Narita, Tokyo to Atlanta, US. I loves travelling and seeing new places but I absolutely dislike the long hours spent sitting in the plane with absolutely nothing to do.

For such a long journey, I would normally prefer the aisle seat because I have more leg room and also I can get to the washroom no matter how many times I like without having to wake up the another passengers. Hence, I would have no reservation whatsoever, ordering my beer and wine.

However, all aisle seat have been taken and we got the window seat instead for the sector from Narita Tokyo to Atlanta.

For whatever reason, I just could not sleep the entire trip and I was awake practically the entire 23 hours end to end. Flying from west to east and almost half way across the globe, I have the opportunity to see something rather magnificent...the sun setting on one side of the globe and catching her again rising on the other side of the world.

I must said the experience was simply amazing.

I stored my Nikon in the cabin bag above and because I was seating next to the window, I was unable to get hold of my Nikon. Fortunately, however, my wife was carrying our old Canon Ixus 860 in her handbag. This old faithful point and shoot compact camera was our very first digital camera.

Despite her age, (we had her for over 4 years now), she still does a pretty decent job capturing these amazing shots at 33000 feet above from my window.
I was quite engrossed with the in-flight movie and my beer with the window shade down. When the movie finished, I opened the shade and I was greeted with this amazing sight. We were flying approximately 31000 feet then at about 987km/hour. At that point in time, we were flying over the Pacific Ocean. The feel was like we were literally floating on a bed of fluffy white clouds.
 As we flied from west to east, and while crossing the Pacific Ocean, I caught a glimpse of the sun setting on our side of the globe (6:05pm Malaysian time). I have captured lots of sun set setting over the horizon by the sea but seeing the sun setting behind a sea of swirling clouds was totally out of this world ....
As we approached the West Coast of USA and flying in from the Canada airspace, the sun rose from the other side of the globe. Finished with her job in brightening the lives of millions there, she rose to begin her job now to provide warm and cheer to those living on this side of the world.
The warm and bight golden sun ray caught being reflected on a sea of fluffy and swirling white clouds, not something that you would see everyday ....
As we flew into North America, looking down, one could see the vast and rugged terrain of North America. This is truly a big big country with very diverse terrain and landscape.
Another thing I like about sitting next to the window was the opportunity to see GOD's wonderful creation of clouds. Honestly, you can never find two identical clouds formation just like you will never find two identical snow flake. The above clouds formation is known as altocumulus clouds, normally found between 6,500 to 20,000 feet. We were then flying between 31000 to 33000 feet above sea level.

So, if you are flying the next time, and if you happen to have a window seat, have your camera ready and every now and then, open up that window shade. You could be greeted with another magnificent sight that will simply blow your breath away.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jeju Island : Seongsan Ilchulbong (God's Masterpiece)

Seongsan Ilchulbong, also known as Sunrise Peak is one of the hottest attraction of Jeju Island.
Jeju Island (Island of Gods) herself is a volcanic island created naturally through volcanic eruptions almost 2 million years ago. Seongsan Ilchulbong is known as a volcanic turf cone, naturally created by a hydrovolcanic eruptions upon a shallow seabed approximately 5000 years ago. In another words, Seongsan Ilchulbong literally rose from the seabed as a result of natural volcanic eruptions under the sea.
This magnificent natural creation stands 180 meters tall with a crater measuring 600 meters in diameter and 90 meters high. The crater resembles a giant punch bowl. However, there is no crater lake here as the volcanic rock is too porous to retain any water. Reported to have 99 sharp rocks surrounding the crater, Seongsan Ilchulbong resembles a giant crown.
Seongsan Ilchulbong is located at the most eastern tip of Jeju Island and hence is a perfect place to watch sunrise, hence she is also known as the Sunrise Peak. The park has a time table for the entire year of when the sun will rise each day so that visitors can timed their visits. However, if one wants to watch sunrise from Seongsan Illchulbong, one would have to stay overnight at Seongsanri, in order to rise early and make the 20 to 40 minutes climb, depending on your fitness, to the summit.
The climb up can look daunting. When we were at the foot of the hill, we were wondering whether we could actually reach the summit because it definitely looks like a long climb. Word of caution here. If you are visiting Seongsan Ilchulbong, make sure that you do not come in your evening wear and high heels! Apparently there are over 500 steps to climb and walk to reach the steep hillside before you commence you climb to the summit. Honestly, I did not bother to count because I was more concerned of making sure that I reach there.

The beauty of the walk and climb is that, each step that you take makes you want to take the next one and before long, as you look down and over the cliff, a magnificent scene will greet your eyes and take your breath away. Suddenly, you feel all alive (still puffing and grasping for air mind you),  and marvel at one of GOD's masterpieces. 

Truly, He is the Master Sculptor but then again, if HE can CREATE the entire universe, what is a small volcanic turf cone......
The view of Seongsanri village below from the half way mark up to the summit...Truly breathtaking...
A natural rock formation that resembles the head of bear along the climb to the summit ...
Finally ....we MADE the summit of Seongsan Illchulbong at 180m ....
Now, this is a scene that you don't see everyday and definitely not your normal postcard picture of Seongsan. Caught this little boy helping nature by contributing a bit of nutrition to the beautiful purple flowers that are aplenty at the foot of the hill.....

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Jeju Island : Seopjikoji (Romance is in the air)

Now that I am done with my post on my latest travel to Beijing, I will get back to write about my trip to South Korea 2 years ago. Yupe. This is a backdated post but I guessed I better write it down and share of this wonderful country and the places that I have the privilege to set foot on and experience them first hand.

I have blogged about Seoul in some of my previous posts. From Seoul, we took a flight for a 4 days 3 nights stay at the romantic and beautiful Jeju Island down south. If you are visiting Korea, Jeju Island is a definite MUST SEE and MUST VISIT location, especially if you are visiting in Spring. (We went in Autumn. So I guessed I would have an excuse to go back again .....:))

We managed to arrange for a private English speaking tour guide cum driver and he was simply magnificent. In fact, he made our stay in Jeju Island even more enjoyable through his jokes and detail explanation of the places we visited.

I will start off with our visit to this picturesque location at the eastern tip of Jeju Island, known as Seopjikoji (Bump in the Land).
The moment you set eyes on Seopjikoji, you will be greeted with a vast open meadowy green (spring) or brownish, yellowish (autumn) field, fronting an open ocean. There is literally not a single tree from the jagged rocky shore line. Only vast open spaces. With the strong ocean breeze blowing into your face as you, holding the hand of your loved one, take a slow climb up the long winding stairs to the lighthouse and chapel, you will feel a deep sense of liberation and romance. Romance is certainly in the air!
Beyond the clift as you looked down, you will see jagged and interested rock formations, stretching out to the clear blue ocean with waves splashing ever so majestically against the shore line. At the end of the long climb stands a lone lighthouse, standing like a sentinel, gravely watching and warning the ships that passes by below. From the lighthouse, you will get an awesome bird eyes view of the entire coast and shore line of Seopjikoji. And then, there is one single unique solitary rock jutting out called the Seondol Rock. 
Because of the beauty of this location, many korean movies have been shot here. One famous one of course was the Korean drama, "All In" starring heartthrob Lee Byun-hun and raising star Song Hye-gyo filmed in 2003 which include a chapel, convent and daycare center. The small white chapel was featured in the movie where Song went to become a nun after finding out that her friends have been implicated in the murder of a local mobster. The entire set was destroyed by Typhoon Maemi and was eventually reconstructed, now with a small casino. Now, I am not a Korean drama fan and the only movie I managed to finish was Dae Jang Geum (Jewel in the Palace).
The skies were rather gloomy when I was there in autumn and hence I could not capture this picturesque location with clear blue skies and equally interesting clouds formation. Otherwise, this would have been one perfect set for landscape photography. Nevertheless, I was still happy with the outcome of the pictures of this breathtaking site and like I said earlier, I will definitely revisit hopefully in Spring and breath in the romance that is in the air ......

Monday, July 2, 2012

Beijing China : Mutianyu, Great Wall (A deserving Wonder of the World)

How can I visit Beijing and NOT go to the Great Wall of China. After all, she is one of the seven wonders of the world, something that I have been taught since my primary school days. Even as a child, I have also marveled at the Chinese military strength and my early exposure to the stories of the Three Kingdoms simply made me dreaming of a visit someday...someday.....

And finally here I Beijing and an opportunity to visit the Great Wall....
On the day of our departure and since our flight was at 1am in the morning, we had time. We made arrangements with this driver highly recommended by a good friend and we booked him to take us out to visit the Great Wall. Since it was a Saturday following a public holiday on Friday in China, he recommended us to visit Mutianyu, a less crowded section of the wall which is located about 70km away from Beijing.

Although supposedly less crowded, there were still plenty of tourists and buses. There is a cable car ride from the foothill to the levels of the wall costing RMB80 (RM40) for a return trip. This is highly recommended for the less adventurous as hiking up from the foothill to the wall is still some distance away and there is still plenty of walking and climbing to be done on the walls herself.
The cable car ride with a section of the wall in the background....

I was simply thrilled the moment I stood on the walls looking up at the ridges and down on the valleys below. Suddenly I became a child, reliving all my childhood memories and of the drawings I had made of Chinese warriors fighting on horse backs and arrows raining from the wall on the enemies below. Suddenly, the memory of grandmother going through my drawings and encouraging me comes flooding back....

Mutianyu is one of the most interesting sections of the Great Wall. Unlike the more popular Badaling and the Juyongguan, Mutianyu is not only less crowded but has also some of the features not found on other sections.
Mutianyu stretches a total of approximately 2.5 kms over the mountain ridges with sharp drop of cliffs on both sides, covered with pine forests. The wall is approximately 7 to 8 meters tall and is approximately 4 to 5 meters wide. This section of the wall was reconstructed by General Xu Da of the Ming Dynasty (16th Century) on remnants of a wall originally built by the Qi Dynasty (550-577).

This is the section of the wall with probably the most watch towers. A total of 22 watch towers were built along this 2.5 km stretch, approximately one watch tower every 100 meters. The Mutianyu section connects the Juyongguan Pass on the west to Gubeikou on the east, and remains as one of the largest construction scale and best quality sections of the wall, built to protect the marauding nomads from the north against the capital and the imperial tombs.
Built using granite, this section of the wall is also unique because both the outer and inner parapets are crenelated with merlons (small openings on the wall of the fort) so that arrows can be shot from both sides of the wall on enemies, a feature apparently rarely found on the Great Wall.

Because this section is less crowded, there are certain sections of the wall where you could find yourself alone with her for a short instance and that moment is simply magical. 
As you stand over the wall, looking over the ridges from one of the many watch tower to another watch tower and as your eyes scanned over the horizon, over the forests below, just for a brief moment, one could almost sense the importance and urgency of a tower guard looking out for any invasion from the north. You can also imagine the scene when soldiers fully armed and ready to do battle were rushed to the wall, as the alarm was raised .....their eyes peeled on the enemies' movement below with their bow bend, ready to sent that one arrow into the hearts of their targeted enemies...defending their homeland, their families and their Emperor from the barbaric tribes who will show no mercy if they breached the wall .....
...and suddenly you are snapped back to the present by the clicking sounds of cameras and loud chatters of eager tourists, cramping to get that perfect picture of them and one of the seven wonders of the world.....

...and that my dear friends, is the Great Wall of China. You might see it a thousands times on National Geographic, postcards and movies but nothing, nothing beats being there yourself because no picture, no movie and no video could capture and translate the essence of her greatness and her beauty .....See you there soon......