New Extended Cut of Travel Geek Documentary Hong Kong & Macau out now!


In addition to the newly published Travel Geek Documentary: Philippines, I have taken my reader response and YouTube subscribers’ comments seriously.  And in that, I have spent many hours re-editing, refashioning and finally re-releasing this new, extended version (call it a “Director’s Cut”) of the original Travel Geek documentary from Hong Kong and Macau.

Like the documentary from the Philippines, this film has been hugely successful (by my meager standards, anyway) on YouTube and Vimeo, collectively bringing in more then 10,000 views and 40 new subscribers since its release in June, 2012. That’s 1,400 views per month!  Almost 50 per day!

So I am very excited about this new edition.  And hopefully, this will motivate new attention and attract new subscribers (wink, wink) from this blog and it will be passed around and enjoyed in its new, longer rendering.

Below, it is my pleasure to announce Travel Geek Documentary: Hong Kong & Macau (Extended Cut, Feature Length).


If you liked this video: Subscribe to me on YouTube

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Original video description on YouTube:

The director’s new release of Travel Geek Documentary: Hong Kong & Macau, includes, among other things, the ability for YouTube to broadcast it worldwide.

This extended cut of the Hong Kong & Macau Travel Geek documentary features extended scenes, a copyright-free soundtrack and additional footage not shown in the original version.

Original Description:

Follow Cyle O’Donnell, the Travel Geek, as he visits China’s two Special Administrative Regions. Nearly being arrested for filming in casinos, jumping off the world’s tallest bungy jump and sneaking around a black market in Hong Kong’s notorious underworld are just a few of the sights in this edition of the Travel Geek series.

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Journal 54: Back from Macau


So I just returned from the Macau and Hong Kong trip and I feel like I have been walking through the desert for weeks.  I can’t believe how exhausted I am.  I don’t know if it’s because I am getting older or because the area is so small that visitors feel they can walk the entire thing and not be completely wasted afterward.

But I can assure you, I am completely wasted.

Having said that, though, I can also say that I have seen the entirety of what Macau has to offer and, as always, I enjoyed my time in Hong Kong.

I only spent one day in Hong Kong this time, but it was great to get out and do a photo-walk of my favorite places thereabouts.

I visited an old friend in the market north on Nathan Road and I got to do one of my favorite things on Hong Kong Island, which was to ride the double-decker buses and shoot the views from above.  And I even ate at one of my coveted places – Agave.

I haven’t eaten good Mexican food in a long time.  So it was a welcomed visit to the restaurant.

As always, it was very expensive.  But I think that I came away with some great experiences.  And the film that is currently in post-production will be released soon – hopefully by Sunday.

Well, this is just a short journal to highlight the upcoming media from the trip.  And I also wanted to make the point of apologizing that I have not been able to release my book as planned.

I guess I just bit off more than I could chew with everything going on and also trying to stay on top of the release.  I will hopefully be able to squeeze it in there with all my edits (photo and film) for the upcoming documentary.

And then, of course, there’s the long-awaited Taiwan Documentary that I have been filming for and working on since January this year (2012).

So there’s lots happening.  And I hop that this weekend greets you all well and that I can get this film out, get the book released, give away my free copies to all promised recipients and then get on to finishing the Taiwan documentary.

Until then, I will be steadily and dedicatedly working!

Headed for Macau


Greetings all.

As the journals from the Philippines unfold, I will be headed to yet another filming trip in the Chinese Special Administration Region (SAR) of Macau.  I hope to be taking a chopper over to Hong Kong.  But that might not be in the cards.  But that might pale in comparison to the plans I have for diving off the tallest bungee experience in the world — the Macau Tower.

The video below details the gear that I will be bringing along for the ride and using for filming, blogging and hopefully releasing a video while I’m there.

The journals from the Philippines will still be released.  In fact, the last journal is slated for April 4 at 1pm EST.  So at that point I should be prepped to announce the book release and be finished with all the journals from the Southeast Asia portion of the blog.

Far East Asia is being filmed and documented now and I hope to have much more of that by the end of the year.  But until then, enjoy the rest of the SEA journals and I will see you stateside!

Author Spotlight: On Gordon Mathews


Today’s Author Spotlight from the Travel Geek, is Gordon Mathews.  He wrote a book called Ghetto at the Center of the World.  This book really appealed to me since I bought it while I was staying at the Chunking Mansion — the location the book discusses.  It’s an odd place, that’s for sure.  But nowhere near as odd as it becomes in Mathew’s world.

He’s a professor at Hong Kong University and has studied the place by staying at a room there (I think I read) at least once a week for three years preceding the book’s release — and presumably even longer.  And while I don’t want to spoil it for you, I also don’t want you not knowing what an amazingly telling non-fiction this book really is.

From interviews with sex workers to anonymous inspirations from heroine traffickers, Mathews really digs in deep — almost as would an investigative journalist with a penchant for the underworld.  And in that, he brings to the surface all the gritty details of the amazing goings-on with the big, white elephant stationed at the heart of the world’s foremost megatropolis.

Be sure to visit my photography website for HDR photos of Hong Kong.  And support the blog and buy a print!

Here’s my video review of Mathews and his 2011 book, Ghetto at the Center of the World.



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journal 41: Hong Kong and the 16-story Chungking Mansion


Hong Kong is a massive rush for any first-timer.  It’s even more so at any time during rush-hour.  It was amazing when I found a street, like the one above, that wasn’t completely packed with foot traffic.

Laborers throwing bags of rice from a truck; rich folk chatting away on their Blackberries; book-reading, iPod-flicking zombies pausing just inches before bumping into passersby as they come barreling into their shallow field of vision.  It’s a maze of trollies, Mercedes, buses, overhead walkways and cryptic alleys selling everything from pantyhose to Christmas lights.  And amid all this, surprisingly no other photographers.

For this trip, I made a special effort to work a my new style of photography that I have been wanting to integrate into my repertoire.  And it requires a tripod with a nice head and the ability to hold at least 8Kg of camera body and lens attachments.  So there I was, mid-sidewalk, setup and ready to shoot as the sea of people flowed around me, and I got the sense, for the first time while traveling, that I was no longer worried of being the victim of any type of robbery.

I know that sounds strange, but I am constantly on the lookout for quick hands, have an ever-present eye on my bag and know where all my camera gear is at all times.  But I suppose I took more comfort than usual in the massive swell of bodies in motion all around me.  I wouldn’t have been able to chase anyone down, shout at someone or for help or have much chance of even knowing if I was actually the victim of pick-pocketing.  But I was at ease nonetheless.

I guess that feeling came mostly because I was a point of attraction in the street.  So all the eyes peering in my direction acted as a web of security for anyone ballsy enough to approach and steal something from me.  It would probably be the equivalent of walking onto a stage in the middle of a ballet and trying to steal a tutu.  It was pretty refreshing, actually.  After all, this is no small city; and indeed no city which was unfamiliar with crime of all kinds.

But before I start a tangent, I want to discuss some items that will be shortly upcoming for this blog, blog #41, the content of future blogs and the big plans that I have for the future of the blog in general.  

For this blog, I’d like to introduce a new technique that I have been interested in since my Korea trip.  I wanted to do more of it on that trip, but I limited it mostly to gathering a style, hammering in the technique and then working on solid post-production.  This new technique is called High Dymanic Range photography, or HDR for short.

This type of photography consists of creating several frames of the same image at different exposures and capitalizing on their ability to draw from different gradients of light to maximize the feel of “being there,” visually speaking.  As you’re standing in a place, your eyes do a much better job of analyzing light as it truly appears.  The problem that cameras innately have, is that they can expose for only one temperature of light at a time.  This can be manipulated with the use of filters, multiple masking layers in editing and of course the software itself has, to some extent, the ability to draw out the other underexposed areas.

But when a camera can bracket several exposures almost simultaneously, it makes the work of getting the right all-around exposure pretty easy business.  And with new technology, powerful thinking by photographic creatives and lots of financial backing, software has come about that makes that process much easier.  But while HDR not only increases the amount of time needed to dedicate for still images on location, but adds a step in an already very tedious production process for large catalogs of images (that ultimately I have to deal with after every trip), it is much more rewarding once the final product is in.  The image at the top of this blog is the exact result of what I am describing here.  It is the way light hits the eyes naturally, exposing the under-eve locations of the scene just as would your eye’s quick and long-adapted ability to do so.

This image is another one of my favorites from the Hong Kong Collection.

This dramatic lighting comes from the multiple exposures that were created during a series of high-speed, continuous shooting that my Nikon has the ability to do, freezing the action sequence in a way that makes it possible to layer several different exposures into a single image.

But more about that later.  Another part of the plans that I have for this blog is the addition of two very exciting things.  I will be adding a discussion section of the newest gear that I am interested in like photographic equipment, travel guides and equipment, books, different websites that I keep up with and lots more to make things interesting.  And the other point that I am excited to be bringing to the blog is a photography contest!

I will be hosting a new photo contest each month with prizes for first and second place.  And lots of cool extras for participants.  But since this blog can’t handle that kind of memory (or won’t, really), I have opened up a new website that I will be announcing shortly.  There are some really great things afoot, so be sure to stay tuned for the latest on what’s happening.

And as for the blog that will be carried over to the new site, I want to also introduce new features that I have wanted to implement and that I think will really be good for the site (and that you will enjoy seeing).  Firstly, I plan on putting up lots of videos.  I liked seeing them in other blogs that I subscribe to and I have regretted not putting more emphasis on that here.  Travel videos, tutorials, discussions on the latest gear that’s out there are all going to be part of my upcoming videos.

Secondly, I will also have a member’s area where you can log on, post links to your site, get your photos seen, link to your twitter account or Facebook and even start discussions of what interests you in the worlds of travel, writing and photography.

I want to form a community where I, and others, can come and keep up with others out there traveling, writing and doing what they love (and all those who live vicariously through them).  But I will be discussing that more in upcoming blogs.  For now, though, I have the great Hong Kong to blog about.  Don’t worry, I will be talking about my newest favorite gear in this blog as well.

Lastly, I have several books slated to be published next year and, as well as portraits and landscapes, I will be hosting them on this and my photography site.  I will give some of them away as prizes and will also host books by other authors like me trying to gain more exposure.  I will, of course, be doing this overseas, so you’ll have to be willing to wait a few weeks for delivery if you’re the lucky winner.  But I will get you your prizes, I promise.

But I don’t want to stray too far from the norm of the blog just yet.  So in light of the mention of my interest in discussing books, I wanted to point out one that I purchased while I was in Hong Kong.  It’s a great read and it’s written by Gordon Matthews, a professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who’s taken a really interesting avenue for his research.  He’s stayed at least one night at the Chungking Mansions each week for the three years preceding this book (and I am willing to bet, a few more).  In his book, Ghetto at the Center of the World, he describes the Chungking Mansion as a dilapidated, 16-story commercial and residential structure in the heart of Hong Kong’s tourist district.  It’s home to a remarkably motley group of people including traders, laborers, asylum seekers, drug dealers, prostitutes  and even foreign workers who return home once every few months.

Of course, I stayed there as well.  And I have to say, the research alone that went into this book had to be pretty entertaining.  Every night there was some really amazing activities afoot right outside the gates.  The on-duty security guards mostly laughed along with the residents at what was happening.  But I didn’t feel unsafe (mostly) while I was there.

I can say, though, that this little building that would be boarded up and locked down for fear of collapse in many other countries, was a truly amazing oddity to be sandwiched amid the looming towers in the multinational headquarters of the world’s financial mecca.  Multinational corporations and global companies might barely even lift a proverbial eye brow in its direction.  But this dusty edifice probably had more character attraction on one floor than several of its goliath neighbors put together.

Anyway, it’s a great read if you get the chance to pick it up.  But what better way to paint a picture of my experience in Hong Kong.  It was really great.  And the people were something unexpected, too.

As far as the city goes, from the cobbles in the alleyways to the marble floors at Starbucks, this, like many other huge, Asian cities, was basically a huge shopping mall.  But the people were what made it surprising.  Mostly they kept to themselves.  But when bumped into (which was a rare occurrence indeed) there was always a hand wave and an apologetic look which was normally followed by an “excuse me.”  And that reminds me, everyone speaks English in Hong Kong.  So if you’re on your way there, you don’t have to worry about brushing up on your Cantonese first.  But while you might not want to carry all those extra pieces of luggage through this unforgiving maze of concrete, you may want to overpack your wallet.  This place is EX-PENS-IVE.  And by no means should you take that lightly.  You will go through more money here than most other places you’ll go.  Make no mistake about that.

Not only is the exchange rate very difficult to quickly calculate mentally, it’s also difficult to bargain with people here because they’re so used to catering to so many currencies that they will try and work into other denominations to make it sound like a better deal.  Talk about a headache.  My calculator was the first thing to materialize when I approached any booth, table or counter — long before the money came out.

The trip wasn’t that long, really.  All I had to do was get my residence visa worked out for Taiwan and check into my Myanmar tourist visa for my next visit there early next year.  So the rest of the time was spent in book stores, checking out the sites, photographing amazing street action and, oh yeah, the best part: sailing through Victoria Harbor and Kowloon Bay.  I have wanted to do that for so long.

Downsides to HK: if you’re not used to walking on inclined planes, you’ll be dead within hours of arriving.  That, or you’ll simply never get anything done.  Walking is everything.  And everything is slanted vertically.  So start your hikes early in preparation for a visit.

Upside, you can get anything you want here (and I mean that literally).  And for being in Asia for the last three years, it’s nice to get an American cheeseburger and fries with real pickles and real ketchup/mayo and all the trimmings.  Quite enjoyable.

Don’t forget to drop by the website, cyleodonnell.com, and check out the new Hong Kong gallery.

Until next time, happy trails!