Lands From the Mongol Empire by Kim Lau


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Many considered the Mongol Empire to be the greatest land empire in history. Under the rule of Genghis Khan, the Mongol Empire spread and stretched, covering the area we know today as Iran and also Russia.

Kim Hang’s photographic documentation of Asia started in 2005 during a 10 months journey through Asia. His explorations continue thereafter, progressing from the initial focus on the Silk Road, to the wider coverage of Asia East To West. Realising that the historical Mongol Empire encompassed a large area of the Asian continent, Russia and Eastern Europe, he set out for a 13 months journey in September 2013, supported by Olympus Corporation for his equipment and travel costs. Inspired by the historical travellers like Marco Polo and Ubn Batutta, he aspire to inspire likewise, and especially youths, to develop interest in Asian-focused humanities.

Clubsnap now has the exclusive privilege of showcasing the best works from Kim Lau’s Lands From the Mongol Empire.

Please click the below links for more images:
Lands From the Mongol Empire by Kim Lau










At the same time, Kim will be online on Clubsnap on July 15 between 8PM to 10PM to facilitate the first-ever Ask Me Anything session. Stay tuned and subscribe to this thread to be updated when it’s happening, and join in the discussion with Kim live!
 

ortega

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#4
is there a significant difference in culture as you travel across borders, did the Mongolians influence the people in any way?
 

Jun 18, 2007
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Tampines
#5
How would describe this expedition? Have you achieve what you set out to do?
 

Jun 18, 2007
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Tampines
#6
What are the challenges you encounter on this expedition? And which part/location from the expedition leave the most impression? Why? If you were to revisit just one location again where would it be?
 

Dream Merchant

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What did you find out about the main food offerings in the different regions? How were they affected by religion, culture, and geography? Could you give an example of the food and practice that left a lasting impression on you? Any food slash cultural festival shots?
 

wonglp

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Jul 20, 2007
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#8
With the wide area you covered, are the people receptive to photography across the regions? Any cultural beliefs or gesture one needs to take note of?

Given the weather resistance of the gears you carry, did that serve you well throughout the trip? Any tips would you like to share in terms of gear handling to budding travel photographers?
 

kimlau

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May 17, 2015
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#9
Thanks Clubsnap for organising this. it is my honour to be featured here.
 

kimlau

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May 17, 2015
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#10
How different are the Republic of Mongolia from the Chinese province if Inner Mongolia?
\

Very different indeed.

Landscape - you can see that they are similar, but the Chinese site is built up with housing and factories. Use a bit of imagination, you can see the Mongolia-style landscape... steppes, rivers etc.

People - I made a mistake by going to the capital of Inner Mongolia - Hohot, only to find more people from Shanxi area. yes, you do spot a few Mongol people when they speak, but nothing. I went to Xanadu, asked a elderly man about the Charkar tribe, because they are mainly the Charkars there, no avail. You can't tell really.

I failed totally in capturing Inner Mongolia proper, it is difficult. The best time will be Naadam, and mainly in the Xilingol area, and into the Hinggan area.
 

kimlau

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#11
Would like to ask what a typical 1 week itinerary would look like? And if a week is enough?
It differs from place to place. There are some area that I need to focus on, and that will go slow. Sometimes I am constraint by visa... like the journey up to Russia, I moved briskly through eastern Europe, to arrive in Russia on time.

Brisk 1 week: From place and place travelling. Sometimes I get lucky by meeting the right people who point to the correct direction. For example, Hungary... just the capital and most importantly, the plains related to the Mongols, thats just 5 days.

Slow 1 week: Taking time to sink in, and 1 week pass fast, but slow in producing. I like this more. For example, Ushguli, I went there once, back to Mestia (to and fro is half a day), and decided to go it seriously because I think they represent the Georgian Caucasus.

Hectic 1 week: Lock myself up to do editing and posting on the road. Not my favourite.
 

kimlau

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May 17, 2015
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#12
is there a significant difference in culture as you travel across borders, did the Mongolians influence the people in any way?
Well... it really depends which border crossing.... I love to do border crossing, the most interesting thing!

Distinctive border crossing :
Zhangmu (tibet) to Nepal.... very different. You feel it immediately.
Iran (East Azerbaijan) to Armenia : Mosque to Cathedral
India to Pakistan through the Wagar border : Pakistani hospitality felt immediately, tea invitation right at the border
Herat(Afganistan) to Masshad(Iran): relief! back to modern times

Similar culture border crossing:
With the former SSR (Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan)... they are mainly Turkic, there used to be no border. Food is also similar
Azerbaijan and Armenia - despite religious and political differences, they are all Caucasians, similar looks, food and music. Georgians a little different.

The approach of this project is to link all up based on Mongol influences during the 12th century.
I am also surprised how Iran was influenced by the Mongols... see Soltaniyeh, Takt-e-soleiman and Alamut
 

kimlau

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May 17, 2015
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#13
How would describe this expedition? Have you achieve what you set out to do?
It was definitely an experience of a live-time, where you take time to indulge into a subject; finding the place, finding the people, encountering people, photographing...

I think its more of a personal experience, but I love to share. Not everyone is into this, but I had people coming up to me and really admiring the extent I had covered.

Am I done? Not yet. There are unfulfilled parts: Goldenhorde (Eastern Europe and Russia) has plenty more to cover. Yuan Dynasty...inner Mongolia is clearly missing. There's still remnants in Yunnan...
 

kimlau

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May 17, 2015
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#14
What are the challenges you encounter on this expedition? And which part/location from the expedition leave the most impression? Why? If you were to revisit just one location again where would it be?

Challenges:
Dealing with transport people, tour operators, bureaucracy... especially Russian bureaucracy. I was planning to get Russian visa in Kiev, the only place in the area that accept non residents. Suddenly Crimea goes to Russia, and Kiev embassy close. I was in Istanbul, and no way out. I flew back to Singapore just to do visa.

Equipment breakdown. Its inevitable that equipment breakdown. Body, Lens, flash etc...
Olympus supported me:
Georgia - lens sent to me, and cannot retrieve due to taxation issues... pay and you get your stuff.
Egypt/Istanbul - trying to purchase new lens, but 2 times more than market price. Deferred to Istanbul. Istanbul, minor repair, and a new lens from Singapore shipped. Import tax problems.
Moscow: First minor repair. Flying from Volga to Siberia, stop over in Moscow again for a camera body.
Beijing: Minor repair and cleaning.

Greatest Impression: Afghanistan. Its just not easy to be there. Everything turned out OK there, thanks to all my friends there. Bear in mind I didn't pay for tours nor security... its quite an adventure.

To revisit again.... thats a tough question. I will make a point to revisit some of these places say... 10 years down the road.

But if there's just 1, I think Afghanistan/Pakistan will be... its the people factor. Its rather complex though... meeting Pastuns in Pakistan versus Afghanistan is just different. Security if of course, a concern.
 

kimlau

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May 17, 2015
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#15
What did you find out about the main food offerings in the different regions? How were they affected by religion, culture, and geography? Could you give an example of the food and practice that left a lasting impression on you? Any food slash cultural festival shots?
Food....is definitely affected by religion, culture and geography. In think geography plays a big role.

I go cheap most of the time, so whatever that comes along, I will just do it. There are not so much variety anyway.... not like Chinese, Indian, Singaporean style... we eat too much.

Central Asia fare: Lagman (from Chinese La Mian (拉面)), Manty from Chinese Dumplings, big, meaty and mutton filled.... they are my stables, with bread.
Iranian fare: Iranian has a good variety, I love the strong breakfast with sheep brains, bone marrow, internal organs.... good for the men, they say.
Caucasus: Not much impression really. But Pork for Georgia and Armenia... and you find them in Azerbaijan too (Muslim).
Afghanistan: Simple but tasty.
Pakistan: its meat everyday, Krai and bread. Occasional plov (rice).
Russian: They import everything, so everything is really expensive. I have to cook with my little rice cooker.
Mongolia after Russia: at least you get noodles and manty
China: is Heaven coming from Mongolia. Vegetables, Greens...rice, noodle, roast duck!!!
Egypt: Healty falafel... is the thoroughfare.

yes... you will loose quite a few KG.

Lasting impression on food: Clay-Baked potato and chicken... quite a process.

Food shots - unfortunately none. Its rest time when it comes to food. But yes... the only one is the video linked above.
 

DC rookie

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Apr 20, 2008
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#16
Wow. For such an expedition, what's your gear like? Sorry if my question is more 'shallow' than the rest, but I'm planning a trip too
 

kimlau

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May 17, 2015
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#17
With the wide area you covered, are the people receptive to photography across the regions? Any cultural beliefs or gesture one needs to take note of?

Given the weather resistance of the gears you carry, did that serve you well throughout the trip? Any tips would you like to share in terms of gear handling to budding travel photographers?

Photographing people is always the challenge, and what I observe, many like landscapes and scenery more.
The challenge in photography people is about time. You need to set yourself up in a place, to spend a couple of days at the least to do people. Many a times, you don;t have the luxury to do this. For example, I needed to do more Mongol linked races like Kazan Tartars, Nogai, Astrakhan Tartar, but they are difficult because I did not feel comfortable. Starting with Kazan, I had high expectations, but I fail to connect within a couple of days, and some unfavourable comments online while I try to linked up. That feeling went on to Astrakhan... despite the great settings, I didn't feel comfortable, so there end up with nothing. Still, this is an important part of the project, and I have to try again, with more time and greater connections.

Most people will not be receptive unless they are comfortable with you, and you with them. It will take some time for people to receive your focus on them, and if they know what you are doing, they will be happy to do it for you. I insist on getting photos to people I photographed....and that quite a bit of effort on the road.

Cultural beliefs. more like Religious beliefs... photographing a women in the staunch Muslim world is almost impossible for a Man.... it will be different if you are a women. For example, walking in the plains of Bamyan (Afghanistan), my friend and I requested from the husband of a women working in the field, the man eventually said yes, but the women said NO.... thats reality. We need more women to capture women from the Islamic world.

That said, Muslim in South East Asia are usually fine.... after some convincing.

Weather sealing is an absolute necessity, its the first line of defence. Even with that, you do stupid things like leaving your camera at the edge of a bench, and you moved, and the camera fell. Its ideal to have 2 camera body, a spare copy of an important lens, but weight is the forever issue. 5 months returning back to Singapore, I developed shoulder tendonitis, and still trying to find a way to heal it properly. So... weight is a killer.
 

DC rookie

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Apr 20, 2008
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#18
Oops! Forgot to ask also...what advice(s) would you give to someone who's planning a long expedition/trip like yours?
 

kimlau

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May 17, 2015
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#19
Wow. For such an expedition, what's your gear like? Sorry if my question is more 'shallow' than the rest, but I'm planning a trip too
Olympus E-M1 X 2
m.Zuiko 12-40 F2.8
Zuiko 50-200
Panny 7-14 F4
m.Zuiko 45mm F1.8
m.Zuiko 12mm F2.0
m.Zuiko 75mm F1.8
FL-600R
Lee seven5 filters
polarizer for 12-40
Surui travel tripod
Gitzo video head
gopro
macbook air
in F-stop fill-in with Deuter bag ActTrail 28 bag

Can do without the primes...but I need them mainly for portrait, video etc...
 

kimlau

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May 17, 2015
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#20
Oops! Forgot to ask also...what advice(s) would you give to someone who's planning a long expedition/trip like yours?
Well... I had been doing this for many years. 2 times for a year, and 4-5 weeks per year.

To set out for a long trip benefits from the felling of continuity, something that short trips (a month) does not offer. In a way, its just a cheaper way to see the world.

I think for most people, the travelling experience is important, where you get to enjoy a little. Lugging around camera equipment is not a joke.
But for me....doing photography leads me closer to the land, the people, and I am forced not stay longer in a place. Thats good actually.
8-days Europe (6 countries) - thats one of the most preposterous proposition.

Spending a year or so is not a short time, when money is concern. So, I advise anyone to look into making use of this time to not only experience, but to create something, even only if for self appreciation. Truth is, its afterall, more of a personal experience.

Did I plan all that much? Yes, I had to read quite a lot, make contacts. No...I never had a fixed plan, everything is situational. I will be lucky if things get going.

For example, I planned to do Shamans... willing to pay some money, but never encountered one proper. We even drove to place in Eastern Mongolia, but he was not there, and before, I visited Orkhon island at Lake Baikal, a stronghold of Shamanistic activities... ended up with native Russian running business... and a bushfire hazed up the entire place.... so I am still short of Shamanistic encouters.... It will come one day.
 

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