Kayaking underground River Cave of Tham Khoun Xe.

laos-1All photos © Ryan Deboodt Photography
Beijing-based photographer Ryan Deboodt (previously) recently returned from a trip to Laos where he spent two days exploring Tham Khoun Xe, one of the largest active rivers caves in the world.
Stretching nearly 4.5 miles (7km) underground, the cave system is extraordinarily remote and Deboodt was permitted to photograph and film beyond where tourists are normally allowed to visit.
The immensity of the subterranean space is staggering, with an average ceiling of almost 200 feet (60m) and width of 250 feet (76m) it’s hard to imagine a space like this could exist underground.
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Deboodt brought an arsenal of camera and video equipment as well as a drone to capture the expansive interiors of Tham Khoun Xe.
See more images via A Trip by Air and Kayak Through Tham Khoun Xe, One of the Largest Active River Caves on Earth | Colossal

The Starry Night.

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Kelly Grovier describes the image as “an arresting distortion of what the eye actually observes in the universe around it”, comparing it with Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night.
Now one of the world’s most famous paintings, it was dismissed by the artist months after it was painted for being too abstract. “I allowed myself to be led astray”, the Dutch post-Impressionist wrote in a letter in November 1889, “into reaching for stars that are too big”.
Many would disagree with his verdict; Grovier concludes with a quote from Calvin and Hobbes: “If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently”.
Source: BBC – Culture – The most striking photos of the year

Circles of Blue, Thailand.

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While in Krabi, Thailand, Philadelphia-based photographer Will Strathmann captured an astonishing image of how bioluminescent phytoplankton surrounds swimmers in circles of blue light.
He posted the photo to Your Shot with the caption: “Sometimes you get lucky and stumble upon an experience that truly rocks your world… [I] heard that the bioluminescence were beginning to peak under the new moon.
Imagine swimming through the ocean as thousands of microscopic plankton light up at your finger tips, flickering blue as you move through the water.
While this photo doesn’t come close to the actual experience, I am proud I was able to capture, and now share this magical moment.
Photo: nationalgeographic)halo-effect-swimmers-bioluminescent-phytoplankton-thailand-will-strathmann
Source: Halo Effect: Bioluminescent Phytoplankton Surround Swimmers in Circles Of Blue Light | Bored Panda

The Beautiful and Wondrous Bagan.

imageWhat was likely a wondrous metropolis of ornate, gleaming temple spires ritual artistry, the former city of Bagan on the plains of central Burma is possibly even more beautiful and mysterious now that it is a jaw-dropping ruin.
During its hey day around the 12th century, the city of the capitol of the kingdom of Pagan containing well over 10,000 Buddhit temples, stupas, and pagodas.
Eventually the city was brought to ruin by natural disasters and hordes of rampaging mongols who made light work of the Buddhist inhabitants of the city. Down the centuries thousands of the temples and pagodas crumbled under their own weight or were destroyed leaving only a little over 2,000 of the structures today.
However this has done little to diminish the scope of the city’s grandeur.
Bagan,_Burma“Bagan, Burma” by Corto Maltese 1999 – Originally uploaded to Flickr as View over the plain of Bagan. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.
The almost impossibly ornate temples that remain rise up out of the overgrown foliage bursting from the plains look like the creations of a lost civilization, and while that is not strictly true as many of the inhabitants of Bagan would sire the generations that created modern Myanmar, a sense of mystery still pervades the city.
Still covering 26 square miles of land, the thousands of remaining temples and religious monuments are now a protected historical site. while some of the structures have fallen into complete ruin, many others look almost as if they haven’t aged a day thanks to modern restoration efforts.
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Bagan can be toured on foot giving one impressive perspective to the old city although the preferred method of experiencing the ruins (technically known as the Bagan Archaeological Zone today) is via hot air balloon.
Balloon rides are offered that bring visitors to a vantage point where they can view the thousands of temples at once.
via Bagan | Atlas Obscura.

The Pinnacles of Gunung Mulu.

Photo by Paul White on Flickr | Copyright: Creative Commons
Contributor: Max Cortesi
High atop the Malaysian mountain Gunung Mulu is an impressive alien landscape made up of sharp rock spires that rise up out of the surrounding jungle like spikes of angry earth.
The climb to the Pinnacle of Gunung Mulu is gruesome and dangerous, so much so that the national park is sometimes used by the Malaysian Army for training.
However those who are daring enough to make the trek to the top of the mountain will be rewarded with one of the most unique and stunning vistas in the world.

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The tall stone spikes known as the Pinnacles of Gunung Mulu are stark karst formations that were created as the soft limestone eroded away across millennia.
Hidden so far up the mountain, the formations are relatively untouched by man and the only people to be seen for miles are other pilgrims to the bizarre bit of topography.
It usually takes a couple of days to reach the rock outcropping that serves as a viewing platform for the Pinnacles.
Along the way hikers encounter pitcher plants and toucans along with the grueling terrain. However ladders and railings have been installed to help with the trek as much as they can.
The park at large is also home to a number of large caves that make an excellent accompaniment to a visit to the Pinnacles.
Edited by: EricGrundhauser (Admin)
via The Pinnacles of Gunung Mulu | Atlas Obscura.

Australian Families fight to repatriate remains of Korean Vets..

Photo: Private John Philip Saunders (centre) was reported missing in action on the Korean Peninsula in January 1953. (Supplied: Ian Saunders)
The search for answers.
“I just want closure — all the families feel the same way,” says Ian Saunders OAM.
His father, Private John Philip Saunders, was one day shy of 26 when he was reported missing on the Korean Peninsula in January 1953.
Now 73, Ian Saunders has used official Canberra war diaries and declassified Australian and United States military documents to try to piece together what happened to his father and other missing servicemen.
He has become a leading voice in the families’ campaign to repatriate remains, and is unhappy with the pace of Australia’s investigation into its missing.
“It’s taken too long,” Mr Saunders says.”[Australia has] recovered and identified remains, if we can, in all the wars that Australians have served in since the Boer War.
“So, why hasn’t the government done anything about it is a very good question.”
Source: Decades after the ‘forgotten’ Korean War, families of missing Australians fight to repatriate remains – RN – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)