What I Learned at the Floating Market

floating market thailand

The Floating Market in Thailand is touristy and mostly aimed at tourists but it still had a very authentic feel to it. It was loads of fun and something I could have regretted not doing! There is almost no difference between what you can find in the floating markets and downtown Bangkok, but the experience of buying something from a store that comes to you—rather than a store that you come to is unique.

I also learned a few things on my visit there.

  • Patience among the local people – The canal is narrow and there are no rules who gets to go first or which way is the right way. The wooden boats bump into each other but it’s interesting to see how the water taxi drivers maneuver their boats in the jam. Even when the canal is stuffed with boats and looks like a total zoo, there were no shouting or bad mouthing each other. They just go along with their business transporting people through the canals.

floating market vendor

  • Friendly vendors – they call out customers, yes but I did not feel they were pushy. They always had a smile of their faces and if you decide to buy from another seller beside one seller, they don’t make a fuss.

friendly vendor

  • Cheap eats – At the side of the canal are small open cafeterias offering a lot of cheap food from Thai noodles, cold teas and coconut ice cream! (Photo below is our local guide and coordinator enjoying a bowl of hot noodles for late breakfast) Also, it’s amazing how much you can stretch your money with the fresh produce available. And amazing how the fruits can taste so sweet! I also recommend the very popular Mango with Sticky Rice.

cheap eats

  • Great photo opportunity – Although very touristy, the sights sounds and smells are just fabulous and needs to be captured.

floating market photo opp

Lastly, I am fascinated by these people who live with not much everyday yet manage to flash a smile to everyone. They seem to be happy, contented people always ready to embrace the start of the day, despite the chaos or the heat. That’s something missing in the people I see in richer countries (for example, in Japan).

If you are planning to visit the floating market, remember that this is indeed a tourist trap and it gets crowded. Go early or else the ability to linger and savor the experience will be diminished by the intense crowd.

Oh and before I forget, the most important thing I realized (yet again) is that I suck at haggling.


A short research on the floating market will give you a lot of information, especially from Tripadvisor including being ripped off when renting boats, overpricing of goods, etc. Be sure to do a research before you go. I went there with a local guide hired by the Tourism Authority of Thailand so we didn’t have to worry about these kind of stuffs.

** This is a part of a series of posts about my blog trip to Thailand. You can find my other Thailand related posts here. **

Photos taken using Canon EOS 550D

The floating market in Thailand

** This is a part of a series of posts about my blog trip to Thailand. **

Floating Market Thailand

I’ve covered almost all facets of my travel to Thailand last year but have not written about our trip to the floating market. What is a Thailand trip without mentioning the floating market?

Thailand floating market

The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is located at Damnoen Saduak District, Ratchaburi Province, about 105 kms from Bangkok. According to history around 1866 King Rama IV ordered that a 32 kms long canal be dug at Damnoen Saduak. Here’s the canal where we took a boat ride going to the floating market:

Canal to the floating market

While ours was a motor boat, powered by, uhm, motor, we passed by a small wooden boat powered by girl power. A lady manually rowed through the canal carrying tourists!

Thailand floating market

After passing through the narrow canal, we came out to what looked like a flooded neighborhood!

big part of the canal - floating market Thailand

Just before arriving at the floating market, we came to a narrow canal again and saw these on the side. I wonder if the dresses won’t get wet when motor boats drive through roughly?

Dresses for sale at the canal

We arrive at the entrance of the floating market. The fresh fruits already caught my attention.

Thailand floating market

Isn’t it amazing how none of these guavas fell on the water? At least as long as I was watching it.

guavas at the floating market

The canal is narrow and boats come and go in both directions.

Thailand floating market

We went to the floating market in the morning. Aside from fresh produce, there were boat peddlers selling food from grilled meat, vegetable noodles and other staple breakfast stuff. I remember the aroma every time I see the photos.

grilled sausages at the floating market

The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is no doubt a tourist trap. In fact, one Google search with the keywords, “thailand floating market tourist trap” and you’ll know it is included in the World’s 12 Worst Tourist Traps.

Grace at floating market

~ Hot and sticky (forgive the shiny face) ~

Indeed there were plenty of tourists (us included) but we arrived by 9am and it was just busy enough to make it feel “markety” but not overcrowded. The food is very cheap, fruits are very fresh and delicious.

Also, it was lovely to see the actual homes of real Thai people living along the canal and their day to day lives. I think our guide asked the motorboat driver to take the less traveled canals and so we’re able to see how the Thai people lived. Women were washing clothes in the water, families were having lunch, the dogs were running in the yard – all everyday life in this area. When I travel, I like to see how the people live in the area I’m visiting.

Tourists tourists

~ Tourists, tourists, tourists everywhere ~

So tourist trap or not, the floating market is a “must do” while visiting Thailand. Just make sure you have a good guide (I recommend ours! I will write about him in the next post) or do a research from the internet so you won’t get ripped off when you use the boats, etc.

All in all a great experience, otherwise how would I still be reminiscing about it after more than a year?

* Photos taken using Canon EOS 550D

The Royal Grand Palace, Bangkok

** This is a part of a series of posts about my blog trip to Thailand. **

We were still buzzing with activity on the fourth day of the blogger’s trip to Thailand. Today there’s a hotel transfer, day trips to the Royal Grand Palace in Bangkok and a cruise along Chao Praya river.

The dazzling, spectacular Grand Palace, undoubtedly the city’s most famous landmark is no doubt a tourist trap. Everyone goes there but even if you hate the crowds, you simply must pay a visit.

The royal palace, begun in 1782 when Bangkok was founded as the capital of Thailand, consists of several buildings with highly decorated architectural designs. I love these little statues under a big column because it looks like they are carrying the whole structure.

Each of them even have different facial expressions. I wonder what they’re called.

The above picture is a statue that guards the main entrance of the building.

For just about 150 years, Bangkok’s Grand Palace was not only the home of the King and his court, but also the entire administrative seat of government. Within the crenelated walls were the country’s war ministry, state departments, and even the mint.

Thai Kings stopped living in the palace full time around the turn of the twentieth century, but the complex remains the seat of power and spiritual heart of the Thai kingdom.

A strict dress code applies. The Grand Palace with TheTemple of the Emerald Buddha is Thailand’s most sacred site. Visitors must be properly dressed before being allowed entry to the temple. Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves (no tank tops. If you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks (in other words, no bare feet.) Women must be similarly modestly dressed. No see-through clothes, bare shoulders, etc. If you show up at the front gate improperly dressed, there is a booth near the entrance that can provide clothes to cover you up properly (a deposit is required).

Each one of us was screened and the gate guards told me to keep the bolero on to cover my shoulders – the material was thick and it was a hot day. Bad dress choice!

One of the highlights of the Grand Palace is the Boromabiman Hall, built by King Rama VI and every king since has lived here at some time. The building has a lot of western influence and almost resemble that of the palaces in England.

At one corner of the Palace, we saw two guards practicing for the changing of guards ceremony.

Our guide talked non-stop of history, origin and use of the Grand Palace (which I could only recall less than half now). What an interesting place, we even went inside the main hall of worship but were not allowed to take photos.


  • Go for a guided tour
  • Go there early
  • Dress modestly
  • Apply sunscreen
  • Bring a bottle of water
  • Take lots of photos!

Here’s a video of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Enjoy the virtual travel!

Video credit:ShepherdFilm>

Learning to cook Thai at Amita’s

** This is a part of a series of posts about my blog trip to Thailand. **

Having the opportunity to eat authentic Thai food in Thailand was one of the things I was most looking forward to when I was offered to go to Thailand for a familiarization trip early this year. I love their food, I always have. I read our itinerary: Thai cooking classes! Learning to cook authentic Thai food! in Thailand, no less!

Our tour guide took us to the Chao Prahya River where we boarded a boat going to Amita Thai Cooking School. The cooking class is popular for being hands on, taught in a charming school/home by Tam and her husband (they lived in LA for several years).

Tam and me

~ me and the lovely Ms. Tam ~

A van picked us up at the hotel, to the dock where we traveled by boat, saw Temple of Dawn, Thai way of life along the Chao Prahya river, and then arrived at the school.

Chao Prahya River Bangkok

The Temple of Dawn, as seen from the river.

Temple of Dawn

When we got off the boat, Ms. Tam She ushered us into her lovely home and garden and served us this refreshing lemongrass mint cold tea.

lemongrass juice

It even came with a straw made out of lemongrass stalk! It was a refreshing drink on a hot and humid day in Bangkok.

Our welcome drink was accompanied by tempura style vegetables, no, plants – suntan flowers, some leaves I don’t know and a white and blue flower. It was delicious.

garden flowers tempura

Ms. Tam’s lessons are held in an antique canal-side home in Thonburi, making it the homiest of Bangkok’s Thai cookery schools. First, we listened to Tam’s lecture of what we would be cooking that day.

listening to tam

The dishes we were about to prepare: Thai green curry, papaya salad, satay and a mango dessert. I can’t wait!


She explained the four delicious dishes before leading us through her nursery herb garden to pick first-handedly fresh Thai ingredients for our dishes.

Tam's garden

Tam’s delightful garden is literally overflowing with herbs and other plants. Jasmine plant:

jasmine plant

Tam tore leaves off small shrubs or pulling roots out of the ground, showing us those herbs which we otherwise buy as dried in jars outside Thailand.

After the garden tour, it was time to get our hands dirty…

Ingredients for Thai green curry

~ ingredients for Thai green curry ~

Preparing green papaya salad with one of Tam’s staff (we are assigned one each). I can’t believe how easy it was to make this tangy appetizer/salad. Just pound and mix away everything and it’s done!

Cooking at Amita's Cooking School

Here’s the green curry and the papaya salad:

green curry and salad

It was a memorable day, we got on a boat, saw amazing sights, cooked, ate, laughed, toured the wonderful spice garden, walked around their charming Thai home, four hours of time spent with truly gracious people at Amita’s.

And of course, gobbling that authentic Thai food which I couldn’t believe I was able to cook myself!

blogger team at tams

** Recipes of the four dishes will be posted from tomorrow. **

Each Cooking Class at Amita Thai Cooking School has been designed as a half day course in the morning from 9.30 am to 1.30 pm, there are thai cooking class every day of the week (except on Wednesday which is closed). If you first need more information or have questions on our Thai cooking class, please contact us: info@amitathaicooking.com

Net price per person: 3,000 Baht

Included in price:

  • 3 hour hands-on cooking experience of 4 dishes
  • Visit our herbs and spices garden for an introduction to the essence of Thai cooking
  • Lunch
  • Welcome herbal drink
  • Recipe of the day
  • Transfer by car from your place of stay in Bangkok to Maharaj Pier
  • Boat transfer from Maharaj Pier to Amita Thai Cooking Class
  • Return transfer by car to your place of stay in Bangkok

* Photos taken using Canon EOS 550D and Canon PowerShot SD960IS

Back to the past: Plearn Wan in Hua Hin

** This is a part of a series of posts about my blog trip to Thailand. **

Plearn Wan

Love retro? Plearn Wan in Hua Hin, Thailand should not be missed.

Plearn Wan is a huge wooden complex designed based on the old wooden shops in the past, with shops and stalls selling food, souvenirs, etc.

Plearn Wan

Plearn Wan roughly translates to “Good Times from the Past”. It’s an old-fashioned village setup in retro style.

Plearn Wan

Plearn Wan

In fact the rustic wooden stalls and old timer shops that line the sides of the streets take you way back in time.

Plearn Wan

A coffee shop back in the olden days.

Plearn Wan

They even preserved all the old cans for that back to the past feel.

Plearn Wan

The cafeteria was empty at 4 pm but the shop keeper said Plearn Wan comes alive when night falls. I wish we could go back and see the place more vibrant.

Plearn Wan

I don’t know who buys these toys except for collectors but they surely are unique.

Plearn Wan

Old style pharmacy.

Plearn Wan

There are a lot of food sold at Plearn Wan but this freshly baked bread stopped me at my tracks! You have no idea how much I restrained myself from buying one of these!!

The breads were still hot, in their individual baking pans. Focus, focus!! Big, heavy dinner later so I had to pass up for bread.

Plearn Wan

We only live once, I know. I should have bought but I chose to get away from the store, as fast as I can! I went to a non-food stalls and took photos to distract my protesting will and appetite.

Plearn Wan

I was doing just ok until I came upon an intriguing steamed delicacy made out of thin, sticky paste with sweet filling.

Plearn Wan

If I was not too stuffed already (and there’s a festive dinner waiting in a couple of hours), I would have tried this. I didn’t (again).

Plearn Wan

Lastly, there are retro postcards you can buy to send to your friends and family back home.

Plearn Wan

Should be a joy to receive these special postcards in this world of electronic communication.

* Photos taken using Canon EOS 550D and Canon PowerShot SD960IS

Visiting Mrigadayavan Palace, Hua Hin, Thailand

Mrigadayavan Palace

** This is a part of a series of posts about my blog trip to Thailand. **

The Mrigadayavan Palace is a charming beach side groups of wooden pavilions used as a summer palace by Thailand’s King Rama VI. The atmosphere is cool with a verdant greens and there is an ample supply of fresh water. I never realized how much I miss seeing lush greens after living in Dubai for almost five years until I saw the gardens in the palace.

Mrigadayavan was known as the ‘Palace of Love and Hope’ because this is where the King and his wife spent their days anticipating an heir.

Mrigadayavan Palace

This all teak summer palace raised by concrete pillars and linked together by a series of walkways was built in 1923 by HM King Rama VI.  The King himself drafted the original style and design and Italian architect Ercole Manfredi drew the final plans.

Mriyagadavan Palace

When we were there, the sea breeze was so soothing you would want to make time stop and just soak in all the fresh air.  Look at this: the feel of the wooden floor makes the palace ambiance feel so homey and just warm.

Mriyagadavan Palace

Wouldn’t you love to sit on these sofa with a good book?

Mriyagadavan Palace

The King and Queen would take in fresh the fresh sea breeze and relax in this nature-filled atmosphere of this beachside retreat – a great respite to the stuffy and formal environment of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

Mriyagadavan Palace

~ Fresh sea breeze all year through ~

The open dining room where the king used to entertain his guests.

Mriyagadavan Palace

There are 16 buildings of golden teak, in Thai-Victorian style, all connected by elevated airy walkways designed to catch the breezes from all directions.

Mriyagadava Palace

There’s a long corridor leading to the sea.

Mriyagadavan Palace

Continuing the story of the royal family in this palace: The queen became pregnant four times, but unfortunately, she was unable to carry her pregnancies to full term.

Mriyagadava Palace

This summer palace’s walls are witness to the story of the King and the Queen – including their fallout and the King marrying another woman. A daughter was finally born, but only hours before the King died.

A more detailed Royal Love Story can be found here.

Mriyagadava Palace

It is said that plays would also be staged regularly at this palace, with the King himself taking part. It was during one such performance that brought together the royal playwright and the actress Tew Abhaiwongse (the King’s would be second wife) together.

Mriyagadavan Palace

The palace had been neglected since King Rama VI passed away in 1925. It was not until 1965 that King Bhumibol, the present king, ordered the palace to be renovated.

The palace is open for viewing everyday except Wednesday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is 30 bahts for adults and 15 baht for children under 15. Dress restrictions apply – so no shorts, short skirts or totally sleeveless T-shirts are allowed. Sarongs and T-shirts are available for those who turn up wearing any of the above just before you enter the building. Also no shoes are allowed to be worn, but you are given a bag to carry them around with you, so you can put them on again when exiting the building at the other end.

Next up: A visit to Plearn Wan – Hua Hin’s nostalgic village; something like a time machine, a step back into the Hua Hin of yore.

* Photos taken using Canon EOS 550D and Canon PowerShot SD960IS

Elephant Sanctuary in Hua Hin

** This is a part of a series of posts about my blog trip to Thailand. **

Thai elephant

After our sumptuous lunch at the Hua Hin Vineyard, we went to an elephant sanctuary in the outskirts of the beach town of Hua Hin.

Historically elephants are revered in Thailand. But recently, in reality they are savagely broken, beaten, overworked, starved and killed in order to make tourist dollars for their mahouts (owners / trainers). They routinely get sick, get hit by cars, spend all day walking the streets exhausted and starve: the fruit which the tourists buy for them is not enough to feed them. There are several ‘elephant sanctuaries’ in Thailand to help these elephants.

Thai elephants

They are very lovely creatures. Despite their size, they look meek and their eyes look sad (at least that’s how I see them).

I really love to touch them, like how one of my companions in this trip did in this photo. I can’t even get near the elephant and used the zoom in my camera!

Thai elephants

I made my attempt(s) though. And tried hard not to look like shit pretended I wasn’t having a semi-nervous breakdown! This is the part where I wish I had elastic hands that I could extend to touch the giant elephant without getting closer to it!

Thai elephant

I was more comfortable with the baby elephant. This one’s very cute!

Thai elephants

You can’t really blame me – even I am afraid of dogs. Even chihuahua’s. I mean, mostly chihuahuas and other nasty small, overactive dogs!

Thai elephants

We left the sanctuary thinking about those lovely elephants, wishing hope and recovery for most of them and a great fulfilled life ahead!

Next up: Visiting the Mrigadayavan Palace (one of the king’s summer home)  in Hua Hin

* Photos taken using Canon EOS 550D and Canon PowerShot SD960IS

The Grape Escape – Hua Hin Hills Vineyard

** This is a part of a series of posts about my blog trip to Thailand. **

new latitude wines

You didn’t think there’d be a vineyard in South East Asia, did you? I imagined vineyards in France, California and other ‘cooler weather’ places but tropical Asia? Thailand?

During the last couple of years Thailand has become a grape and wine producing country. The wines  produced outside the traditional geographical heartlands of the wine country, like wines in warmer, tropical countries like Thailand are called “new latitude wines”.

“For years we have drawn two bands around the globe, roughly between latitudes 30 and 50, to denote those parts of it deemed suitable for viticulture,” Jancis Robinson, the well-known British wine expert, wrote of the new phenomenon on her Web site.

“But all this is changing fast. Advances in refrigeration and irrigation techniques, not to mention much greater control over how and when vines grow, have opened up to the grapevine vast tracts of the world previously thought unsuitable for viticulture.”

Hua Hin Hills Vineyard

The vineyard was located in a valley. It was beautiful. I couldn’t wait to see it closer.

Hua Hin Hills Vineyard

Wouldn’t it be nice to go around the vineyard on top of an elephant?

elephant in vineyard

Then lunch happened. And to everyone’s pleasure (oh not everyone, two members of our group do not drink alcohol at all), wine tasting.

wine tasting

A plate of great food and a couple of wine glasses later, we did not have time (and energy) to go down the vineyards and see it up close. And besides, maybe a little bit tipsy. It was really hot at mid day and after a heavy lunch with alcohol, an average person would just want to take a nap.

I am so that average person.

So no vineyard tour, but there were fresh grapes in the restaurant.

Grapes at Hua Hin Hills Vineyard

Anyway, I’ve developed a really bad habit of diving into my the food on my plate first forgetting to take pictures and this bad habit followed me to Thailand! I only remember taking photos of my food when the spoon is already in my mouth, the food on my plate not appealing anymore due to its incomplete form! So frustrating – it happened during our lunch at the vineyard too. I had something really good so it’s a pity I have no proof to show it!

I’ll blame it on the wine.

The wines available at the vineyard – I am not sure which ones I/we had.

wine at Hua Hin Hills Vineyard

Hua Hin Hills Vineyard

By ‘we’, I mean our group:

Bloggers at Hua Hin Hills Vineyard

(one of us didn’t want pictures of herself online so the sticker…)

Now that wine is such a popular interest in so many parts of the world, vineyards are springing up at equally low latitudes in such unlikely places as Vietnam, Southern India, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Bolivia, Peru, among others.

* Photos taken using Canon EOS 550D and Canon PowerShot SD960IS

Visiting the huge statue of Luang Pu Thuad

** This is a part of a series of posts about my blog trip to Thailand. **

Luang Pu Thuad

Day two and we are still in Hua Hin, Thailand. After our visit to the Hua Hin Train Station and Flintstone Hill, we went to Wat Huay Mongkol. In our itinerary it says, “home of the sacred Luang Pu Thuad statue revered by the locals” – of course we don’t have any idea what it means till we got to the place.

Luang Pu Thuad

Wat Huay Mongkol houses the largest statue of Luang Phor Thuat in Thailand in a park-like setting. From far, the size of the statue is already obvious, much so when we got near.

Luang Pu Thuad

And nearer:

Luang Pu Thuad up close

There were lots of visitors there, including foreigners like us and local Thai people.We all went up the stairs to get nearer. I was curious what the people were doing there.

Luang Pu Thuad

The Luang Pu Thuad statue sits on a pedestal with four other smaller images in niches where the faithful pastes gold-leaf in honour of the monk. Here are the people with thin pieces of gold leaves pasting it on one of the the smaller statues.

Luang Pu Thuad

Luang Pu Thuad

An excerpt from Luang Pu Thuad’s life story and as told by our tour guide:

Luang Pu Thuad became famous during the 16th century when he saved the people from draught. There was the time where there was not enough drinking water, and the weather deteriorate day after day. According to an account related by villagers, a monk was sighted in a small boat which moving along the river. He was in deep meditation and prayer. After he’d finished chanting, he lowered one of his legs into the river, and within short while, the river is filled with clear and clean drinking water. A miracle had happened. This bit of good news spread throughout the province and to other parts of Thailand. The monk was no other than Luong Pu Thuad himself. The people highly respected and graciously revered him from then on.

Also, it is said that amulets in the likeness of the monk (with varieties impossible to count) bring great protection and good luck. If you are amulet collector, dont forget to buy the amulet there. I didn’t buy any because I was not listening to the guide regarding the protection and good luck part. I could have bought one to keep. Maybe next time!

Going down again, there’s this three headed elephant at the foot of the statue where people walk under. Locals say walking under the three headed elephant will make some of your wishes come true. I do remember, walking underneath it wishing for a baby soon.

3 headed elephant

Little did I know I was already with child here! Anyway, Thailand really loves elephants, even the water fountain has got elephants on it. How cute are these?

baby elephants fountain

We saw a monk in meditation in the shelter nearby. Local people gathered around him but I have no idea what they were doing. They must be praying?


At the other side, there are statues where people paste the gold leaves.

gold leaf

A golden statue.

Golden Buddha

Up next: Hua Hin Hills Vineyard for wine tasting and lunch. Yes, there’s a vineyard in Thailand!

* Photos taken using Canon EOS 550D and Canon PowerShot SD960IS

Flintstone Hill in Hua Hin

** This is a part of a series of posts about my blog trip to Thailand. **

Buddhist Altar

Just before we left on the way to Hua Hin Station and other places in our itinerary, I took a picture of a Buddhist altar right outside the hotel.

Closer, it’s like a miniature house. There are lighted incense sticks with smell that reminded me of my in-law’s Buddhist altar in Japan.

Buddhist Altar

Then just like how my mother in-law offers the first scoop of cooked rice in the morning, the Thais offer typical breakfast food on a platter – rice, fried egg, a piece of fruit and cold drink.

Buddhist Altar offering

Our guide called out to get on the van…off to my second day in Hua Hin Thailand! To Flintston Hill we go!

Hua Hin town

Fred and Barney weren’t in Flintstone Hill, just us – a group of bloggers from the Middle East participating in a familiarization trip to Thailand. We did want to shout “Yabba Dabba Doo!” when we reached the top, after catching our heavy breath. “Khao Hin Lek Fai” or Flinstone Hill is Hua Hin’s popular view point that offers spectacular panoramic view of this coastal town.

Do we look like we’re out of breath here?

Bloggers in Flinstone Hill

(One of the participants did not want to photos of her posted so I blacked her out)

Yeah we might be ok breathing wise, after all, the fresh mountain air cleared our lungs and renewed our strengths but – the sun was so fierce that day. But we’re all professionals, maintaining our smiles and all. After the camera clicked, we dispersed like ants, looking for shade!

Just so you know and if you are curious – I am the one with the red tank top frying my arm skin in the hot, hot sun! Here’s another pic of me, looking out to the sea, braving the steep sight below.

Panoramic Hua Hin

There is a new park at the top of the hill with many flowers, shrubs, trees and bamboo groves. Next to the first view point there is a statue of king Rama VII with an information about his life.

King Rama VII

We did not spend much time on the hill because of the heat. We just took photos, listened to the guide’s explanation about the history of the town (in short form, of course!) and went on to our next destination.

Next up: Still on Day 2, to Wat Huay Mongkol, home of the statue of the sacred Luang Pu Thuad, Thailand’s most revered monk.


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* Photos taken using Canon EOS 550D and Canon PowerShot SD960IS