Category Archives: Travel

Almirante, Panama

In a previous blog post, I’d written about Alisha and my “off the beaten path” adventure in Panama (you can read that previous blog post here).  Something I didn’t mention in the entry was the small village in which we grabbed a 20-minute water taxi to take us to the next town over.

After riding in a pick-up truck for several hours, our driver turned off the paved road rattled his way down a dirt path. After a few minutes, we arrived in Almirante, Panama and a small concrete building along the water.

The water taxi station was, essentially, a boat-house, big enough for only a couple boats. The floor was so filthy I couldn’t tell if it was an actual dirt floor, or a cement floor and was just covered with an inch or two of dirt.    The docks appeared to be hap-hazardly constructed, or the wood was pilfered for other things (I couldn’t tell which). The amount of garbage floating around was stunning.  Children were wandering around, watching us watch them.

In situations like this, it’s difficult for me to raise my camera to start snapping photos.  I don’t want to appear like a standard tourist and fire away, taking pictures of people, but I also want to record the situation for my own interest.

After waiting about ten or fifteen minutes, the water taxi arrived and chaos ensued.  The boat held about two-dozen passengers, and people were barely out of the boat before others started piling in.  Alisha and I had our bags with us, and they were quickly taken by the dock worker and thrown in the back of the boat.  We quickly sat down as close to them as possible. It seemed like only mere seconds the boat was tied to the dock, before we shoved off and were making our way through into the bay and across part of the Caribbean Sea.

Before our boat hit warp speed, we slowly crept through the village of Almirante and its ramshackle huts.

August 2007. (0187)

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Preparing for Launch

Early one morning in Bali, Indonesia, a group of fisherman are prepping their boat to launch it out to sea.

October 2010. (6354)

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Ocean-view Basketball

I don’t play basketball, but if I had a court like this near my house, I’d probably start playing basketball.

February 2009. (2422)

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Damnoensaduak Floating Market

This picture was taken from within the Damnoensaduak Floating Market, located a short car ride outside Bangkok, Thailand.

People have complained the market has become touristy over the years, and while yes, tourists do go through it, schoolchildren and locals do as well.  It definitely made for a fun morning and a unique experience.

October 2010. (4893)

 

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Young Monks, Ancient Temple

Bhuddism is alive and well in Cambodia, and it has existed for several thousands of years through various empires kingdoms.  Then, in the mid-1970’s, when the Khemer Rouge came to power, Bhuddism was made illegal and followers either fled, went into hiding, or were executed.   As a result, overall numbers of monks went from (roughly) 70,000 to a mere 3,000.

So, while we were exploring Angkor Wat, Alisha and I were passed by a group of teenage monks, exploring the temples just like we were.  It was nice to see so many young monks around the area, as their religious history is almost starting anew, and these kids are a big part of it.

October 2010. (5888)

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Young Reveler at Carnival in Brazil

My wife and I love attending different celebrations around the world. It’s interesting to see so many similarities between so many different cultures.

In Pamplona, Spain, we watched a small boy and his grandfather keeps tabs on things while the Running of the Bulls took place below their balcony.  In the above pictures, taken in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a father carries his daughter through mayhem on the safety of his shoulders. She was dressed for the occasion, but still wide-eyed as the revelers celebrated around them.

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Stack of Skulls

Not far outside of Prague, in the Czech Republic is the Sedlec “Bone Church.”

The church contains bones of an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 people, most of whom died during the Black Plague in the mid-14th century. Legend has it, a local half-blind man just stacked bones wherever he could, and later a woodcarver was hired to put the bones into some semblence of order. (It’s clear the woodcarver he had some “fun” with his task.)

The result were various bones arranged in different designs, from a stack of skulls along the steps downstairs to an enormous chandelier containing at least one of every bone in the human body.

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Lobster Traps

From Rockport, Maine, these are a row of lobster traps. I’m fairly certain they were more for decoration then actual use, but lobster traps are always interesting to me.

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Tribune Tower Windows

Tribune Tower Windows

While I was shopping around for the right look of my website, I stumbled upon the following text everywhere:

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Nunc tempus felis vitae urna. Vivamus porttitor, neque at volutpat rutrum, purus nisi eleifend libero, a tempus libero lectus feugiat felis. Morbi diam mauris, viverra in, gravida eu, mattis in, ante. Morbi eget arcu. Morbi porta, libero id ullamcorper nonummy, nibh ligula pulvinar metus, eget consectetuer augue nisi quis lacus. Ut ac mi quis lacus mollis aliquam. Curabitur iaculis tempus eros. Curabitur vel mi sit amet magna malesuada ultrices. Ut nisi erat, fermentum vel, congue id, euismod in, elit. Fusce ultricies, orci ac feugiat suscipit, leo massa sodales velit, et scelerisque mi tortor at ipsum. Proin orci odio, commodo ac, gravida non, tristique vel, tellus. Pellentesque nibh libero, ultricies eu, sagittis non, mollis sed, justo. Praesent metus ipsum, pulvinar pulvinar, porta id, fringilla at, est.

Phasellus felis dolor, scelerisque a, tempus eget, lobortis id, libero. Donec scelerisque leo ac risus. Praesent sit amet est. In dictum, dolor eu dictum porttitor, enim felis viverra mi, eget luctus massa purus quis odio. Etiam nulla massa, pharetra facilisis, volutpat in, imperdiet sit amet, sem. Aliquam nec erat at purus cursus interdum. Vestibulum ligula augue, bibendum accumsan, vestibulum ut, commodo a, mi. Morbi ornare gravida elit. Integer congue, augue et malesuada iaculis, ipsum dui aliquet felis, at cursus magna nisl nec elit. Donec iaculis diam a nisi accumsan viverra. Duis sed tellus et tortor vestibulum gravida. Praesent elementum elit at tellus. Curabitur metus ipsum, luctus eu, malesuada ut, tincidunt sed, diam. Donec quis mi sed magna hendrerit accumsan. Suspendisse risus nibh, ultricies eu, volutpat non, condimentum hendrerit, augue. Etiam eleifend, metus vitae adipiscing semper, mauris ipsum iaculis elit, congue gravida elit mi egestas orci. Curabitur pede.

Maecenas aliquet velit vel turpis. Mauris neque metus, malesuada nec, ultricies sit amet, porttitor mattis, enim. In massa libero, interdum nec, interdum vel, blandit sed, nulla. In ullamcorper, est eget tempor cursus, neque mi consectetuer mi, a ultricies massa est sed nisl. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos hymenaeos. Proin nulla arcu, nonummy luctus, dictum eget, fermentum et, lorem. Nunc porta convallis pede.

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Wall of Xi’an, China After Sunset

Wall of Xi’an, China After Sunset

My friend currently teaches English in the city of Xi’an, China. I give her tons of respect for doing something that so many of us say “I’d love to do that one day.”

In the fall of 2010, my wife and I went to China for a bit to explore and see what we could find.

One of the things we found was in Xi’an, they have the enormous wall surrounding the “old city.” Anyone can wander around on top of it for a small fee. The wall is amazing to see and experience, as the craftsmanship is extremely well done. It stands about 40 feet (12 meters) tall and has a watchtower every 400 feet (120 meters).

If you’d like to scope out my friend Joy’s adventures of an English teacher in China, click your way over to http://joysabroad.blogspot.com/ and follow along. My wife and I visited Xi’an before Joy moved there, so it’s extra-awesome knowing a lot of the places she writes about, but she does write in a way that you don’t have to visit to get an idea of what is going on.

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Venturing into the Great Unknown

This is the start of one of my wife and my’s greatest adventures.

While spending time in Bangkok, we kept passing by a set of railroad tracks running directly through town. There was something about the tracks that caught my attention, so before we left I wanted to make sure I grabbed a photo of them.

On our final day we dared to cross the street (an adventure in and of itself) and stood along the sidewalk looking down the lines as they disappeared into the distance. The two of us suddenly found ourselves walking down the tracks, heading to a destination unknown.  We didn’t know how far we’d go, if we’d get ourselves into trouble, or if we’d re-inact the scene from “Stand By Me” where we jumped out of the way of a passing train. Either way, we were in it together.

As we quietly walked down the tracks, we constantly surveyed the scene. Our plan was to only walk a little bit, until things got a bit “seedy,” then we’d turn around. The thing is, we never felt scared. We walked with genuine smiles on our faces because our favorite part of travelling is experiencing local cultures.

This. Was. Local. Culture.

As we walked, we passed a gentleman in nothing but a towel washing his cat with a garden hose. We passed small shops selling snacks and drinks (we bought bottles of water). We smiled and waved at children. We got out of the way when a ten year-old boy rode by selling ice cream from a cart mounted to the tracks.

We were definitely taking the road visitors rarely take.

Eventually, the railroad tracks crossed another major street, and what lay ahead on the rails drifted off into nothingness.  We chose to head back via another roadway, and found ourselves passing children rummaging through debris, looking for anything worth selling. We passed a cart selling fried beetles and bugs (which, I’m about 50/50 on wishing I tried some/glad I didn’t).

In the end, we wandered down awesomeness. My wife does really, really well with taking a deep breath and plunging in. (While in China, we somehow wandered into a gentleman’s private museum for deceased family members, but that’s a story for another day.)  I’m proud of my wife and the courage she has to take a deep breath and just go with with flow. She’s my best friend and my favorite travel buddy, and she pushed the conservative me into going down railroad tracks I wouldn’t normally chance. As a result, I have images and experiences I will never forget. (One of my favorite pictures from our walk down the tracks resides in the Asia Gallery.)

The above picture was one of the first taken on our walk.

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Docks of Positano, Italy

Earlier this week I shot an e-mail to a cousin I’ve never met. He lives not far from Milan, Italy, and I’ll be in his neck of the woods later this year.

I’m a big believer in family and, while I’ve been to Europe before, this is the first time I’ll be going knowing family who lives there. When I clicked “send” on the e-mail, I was far more excited then I thought I’d be.

I like the idea of visiting friends and family when I’m in the neighborhood, and I really like the idea of an international twist to it.

In honor, the above picture is from Positano, Italy. My wife and I visited there in 2005 on our first trip together out of the country. We spent the day lounging on the beach; she napped in the sun, I watched the boats come and go while playing with rocks. In the evening we took a taxi to the top of the mountain for a fantastic Italian dinner at a restaurant overlooking the village.

I’m really looking forward to the prospect of going back to Italy, but this time meeting up with family.

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Fishing Boats Coming and Going

Thirty years ago, the village of Jimburan in Bali was nothing more of tiny fishing village with a morning market. Most of the time, it was just the local restaurants buying food for the night’s specials, but somewhere along the way things exploded.

Jimburan is now loaded with posh 5-star resorts and famous grilled seafood restaurants, and through all of it, the local fisherman still call this place home.

Each morning they all go out and then later come in with hordes of fish to sell at the market. The surrounding beach was great to people watch. Fisherman were practicing their livelihood, while their wife and children were down the beach collecting shells.

In the above picture locals just sent a boat out to sea, with dozens of boats anchored in the background.  (I have pictures in the Asia Gallery of how the boats are pushed out and carried in.)

It was one of my favorite mornings in Bali, as we just wandered and watched the locals do their thing.

1010. (6408)

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Bottle Caps

While in Switzerland, we wandered to a pretty spectacular cave (Trummelbach Falls) where glacier water roars through a river system deep within in a mountain.  Upon exiting, there was a small snack-shack near the parking lot where one could grab a bite to eat or a bottle of beer, while reliving the awesomeness of nature one had just witnessed.

In this snack-shack was a small bucket of bottle-caps. Since I like images with a lot of things tightly bunched, I asked the girl behind the counter if I could take a picture.  She looked at me and said, “Picture?  Take the whole bucket with you?”

I just took a picture.

August 2008. (0145)

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Town Hall of Brussels Belgium

I’m one of those people that hears so much about something, and how awesome that something is, then when I finally get to it, my reaction is “Eh” at best.  This holds true for everything from movies to travel destinations. So, when Alisha and I rolled into Belgium, we fell in love.

Belgium falls very much “under the radar” for European counties.  Think about it: The main locations that come to mind are London, Paris, Italy, Ireland and Amsterdam.  Places like tiny Luxembourg to the Euro’s capital of Belgium are quickly dropped from itinerary — if ever brought up — by most travelers to Europe.

While in the Netherlands, Alisha and I bought train tickets and headed to Brussels and Brugges.  We had a fantastic time, as the people were super-nice and the food was great and the chocolates were out-of-this-world.

I’m oftentimes asked about places to go all over the world.  I usually ask “What for?” because a honeymoon and a vacation are two different things.  Either way, Belgium is towards the top of any list.

March 2006. (0289)

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Mountain Pass Bike Ride

While driving through Ireland’s “Ring of Kerry,” we ended up passing this bicyclist a few times.  We’d pass him in our car, then stop and take a few pictures of the scenery, before he’d go peddling by on his bike.  Eventually, Alisha and I would get back into the car, only to pass the rider, and a few minutes later, he’d pass us again while we were stopped.  Other times, like the time we saw him in the above picture, he passed us a few times while we sat there.

Turns out his name is David and he was on a “Bike Across Ireland” trip with some friends.  He was waaaaaaay ahead of his buddies, so to kill time he would peddle up the various hills, only to coast down to the bottom and peddle back up again.  He did this a few times, which is part of how was saw him so many times.

During the course of our day, I eventually introduced myself and would later e-mail him a bunch of pictures from his adventures.

Aside from the dreary weather, it seems like a fantastic way to see another country.  When I ride my bike around Chicago, it definitely affords more opportunities to “take it slow,” and enjoy the scenery.

June 2011. (1532)

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Camels Crossing the Desert

While in Egypt, we were enjoying the view of the pyramids when (what appeared to be) a school group wandered by on camels. Their destination was the Pyramids of Giza, and the students’ starting point was about 200 yards/meters behind me.

In Egypt, most everything with tourists is based on bartering.  For example, if I wanted to ride a camel through the desert, I’d have to haggle with the camel’s owner for a lengthy period of time before we agreed upon a suitable price. I couldn’t image bartering for a camel ride for 30 kids.

February 2006. (0130)

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Mekong Delta Fisherman and His Traps

Doing a daily photography blog post, I’m oftentimes scrolling through my pictures looking for something for “today’s post.”

Usually I try to vary the images from a close-up picture of something small to a large, expansive wide shot; other times it’s as simple as trying to follow-up a black and white photo with a bright color image.

Then there are pictures like today’s, where something about it grabs my attention and it becomes a blog post.  There have been past images, like the one about dragon fruit in Vietnam, where I spent some time with the picture adjusting brightness and such.  Then there are images like the one above, which is pretty much directly out of the camera.

October 2010. (5122)

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Sociable Weavers

Driving through Namibia, Alisha and I saw some of these enormous piles of debris in random trees.  Aside from being a giant mish-mash of sticks and such, there seems to be no method to the madness, and some trees have them, bust most don’t.  We stopped at one point to get a closer look and, obviously, take a few pictures of one of them.

Not knowing what we were looking at, we moved on.

A week later, after arriving in South Africa, I was reading a local book and it had a picture similar to the one above, and the accompanying article went on to discuss Sociable Weavers.  The birds, apparently, hold the record for building the largest nests in the world.

Seeing the birds’ nest first-hand, I’m not one to disagree with that statistic.

July 2011. (2778)

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Please Use Other Door

From the ancient Preah Khan temple, near Siem Reap, Cambodia, is a room that has since collapsed, filling a doorway with rubble.

October 2011. (6173)

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