Wadi Rum is where strange cliffs and rock formations float over a sea of red sand.
In the movies
The 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia piqued my interest in the Middle East, recounting the tales of British military officer T.E. Lawrence and his role in the Arab Revolt. It's as much a historical drama as it is a grand
On this sacred mountain is a mosque, a shrine, and the likely location of a prophet's tomb.
A place of great sanctity
This is an important place to many people so I spent a bit more time than I ordinarily would learning about its history.
The mosque I'm visiting was built in 1363 by the Sultan of Egypt over a
The rose city gets its nickname from the red sandstone it's carved from.
A center of trade and culture
These amazing ruins are in dry desert today. It's incredible to imagine that an ancient city once existed, that you might have stepped through lush gardens here and dipped a cup into one of the many water channels running through for
We hire the driver who took us to Umm Qais, Aljoun, and Jerash to take us to Petra from Amman, making several stops along the way.
This is the "City of Mosaics" known for the Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics found here from the late 19th century onwards.
One of the most important of these mosaics is the Madaba Map,
When I visit Jerash in 2014, its Wikipedia article had two subheadings: "Ancient Jerash" and "Modern Jerash". A few months later, archaeologists discovered two skulls dating from the Neolithic period, inspiring the need for a third subheading, "Neolithic Jerash", and joining Jerash to a list of only a dozen or so neolithic sites from around the world.
This is mind
In the late 12th century, Saladin's nephew built this castle to protect the land from Crusaders.
One of a series of castles
Aljoun is one of a chain of castles built to repel the Crusaders. It was also part of a communication line made up of fire beacons, heliographs, and pigeon posts. Messages sent from Damascus could reach as far
Umm Qais sits on the northwestern border of Jordan. From its hills you could throw a stone into Syria or Israel. Lebanon is not too far off either.
When I visit in 2014 there are some concerns about safety given the situation in Syria. I exercise especial caution here; Damascus is only 65 miles away and ISIS/ISIL not much
Amman's the capital of Jordan and also its most populous city.
Amman's a sprawling city that hasn't built up vertically, which gives it some charm.
Little storefronts line its busier streets. Shops often sell similar goods in a cluster. On one block is a gold souq, on another a souq for only coals and other household fossil fuels.
Rectangular buildings cover the seven hills of Amman. This is a historically rich city occupied in the past by many civilizations whose influences still show.
The Roman Theater is only a five minute walk from my hostel so it naturally becomes the first place I check out.
It was restored a few decades ago although apparently with materials
The Cloud Forest of Monteverde is as magical as it sounds.
Along the continental divide
My trip starts by hitching a ride in the back of a pickup.
Its engine handles the mountain passes like a champ. Gravel grinds and growls underneath, sounding the occasional "ping!" each time a pebble tags the underside. Above, there's a ton of rattling, presumably
This place is volcanic.
This post is about numero dos.
Stories about a crater
Rincon de la Vieja (The Old Woman's Corner) is an active volcano. Its name comes from a Romeo-and-Juliet-esque tale of a princess who sneaks away from her home to meet her lover, the Prince of a rival tribe. The princess has a newborn with the prince
600 million acres of wilderness, zero bars of cell reception.
Camping on easy mode
I arrive at Denali prepared with hearty rations. Aside from camping equipment, the trunk's loaded with canned beans, beef jerky, PB&J ingredients, crackers, and granola bars. My rental Corolla will accompany me to the campsite where I'll park and pitch a tent a couple
This is the ultimate weekend drive.
A brief note about the route
When I visit in late 2013, information about Panorama Route is scarce. Google Maps was missing almost all of the main attractions (some of which I drove past). These notes and the map at the bottom of this post are for anyone who want to do the drive
There's plenty of wildlife in the veldt and woodlands of Kruger.
Getting to camp
Our guides pick us up from the Olifants rest camp where we've parked. We pack our bags into a trailer hitched to our safari vehicle and hop in. It takes us a couple of hours to get to the camp we'll stay at for the next
The thrill of watching ice melt.
I take my last bus ride in Argentina to El Calafate, a hub for tourists visiting Los Glaciares National Park. It's one of the stranger towns I've been to, half American suburb, half middle-of-nowhere outpost.
Some neighborhoods have neat little houses with manicured lawns lined up in a row along cleanly paved
Take it from me. Never hike in sandals.
Inching towards Mt. Fitz Roy
The trail to Laguna de los Tres is the most memorable I've hiked so far, if not for the landscapes then for the blistering pain I'd feel in my legs and feet for days to come.
The trail itself is about 26km (16mi) long with 700m (2,
Have you taken a single bus route that lasted 30 hours?
The dusty road through Patagonia
My first encounter with Argentina is through a book, Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia. Its curious tales are the primary inspiration for my visit to Argentina, especially to Patagonia.
I find most of the route to be mundane. For one, I can't read on account
This is the land of mountains, lakes, and chocolate.
Circuito Chico is a popular loop on the outskirts of Bariloche, a paved road that offers panoramic views of the surrounding lakes and mountains. I bike the circuit to see the scenery and wander the popular (and well landscaped) ski resorts nearby.
The other side of the circuit as
I spend a quarter of my time in Chile at a museum.
A weekend in Santiago
My favorite way to explore a big city like Santiago is by bike, so my first order of business is to rent one. I try to see as much as I can in the short term I have. Even on a bike, however, I'm
Land border crossings are as exciting as waiting in line in customs at an airport. At least this one's scenic.
Bring a book, bring music
The other travelers who have done it tell me it takes quite to get to Santiago from Mendoza and vice versa. There's the distance, which on a perfect day would take about 4 hours to
Mendoza is popular for its vineyards and its fine wine.
I rent a bike from a shop nearby the bus stop and pedal to see the vineyards. My plan is to see maybe two or three different wineries and bike around to shoot some landscape photos.
I start at Bodega la Rural. It's one of the area's largest
Pouring rain floods Salta's streets, turning our trek to the parking lot into an adventure itself.
It takes us half an hour to drive the few blocks we need to leave town. Good thing nothing's flooded outside of Salta.
Our first stop is Purmamarca, a small town known for its views of the mountains of
The roads that wind through Northwest Argentina's mountains, valleys, hills, and plateaus make for good driving.
Five of us from the hostel rent a car for a couple of days. Our first destination is Cachi. We catch some spectacular views on the way there.
These huge fluffy clouds are awesome.
We reach the plateau at 3,457m above
Two blocks from my hostel is the main plaza.
Plaza 9 de Julio
July 9th, 1816 is when Argentina declared its independence from Spain. It's an important date from which thousand of important plazas, avenues, streets, etc across Argentina are named.
In Salta, Plaza 9 de Julio takes up its own block. It's flanked by several restaurants, a huge cathedral,
Carnival conjures in my mind images of vibrant colors in motion, of brightly dressed revelers crowding the streets, shakin' it down to the music.
The capital on holiday
But the only sign that it is Carnival in Chaco's capital is the absence of activity. Inactivity. There is no dancing. There is no music. In fact, there are hardly any pedestrians
1.75 million liters or 464 thousand gallons of water pour over the falls each second. That's a lotta water.
From the lower trail
These falls are just insane. They're breathtaking, magnificent, spectacular, etc.
From the lower falls it's possible to see most of the 275 distinct falls crashing from one terrace to the next, emptying into the Iguazu River
My visit in Beijing lasts four days. Four cold days. Beijing's coldest days, in fact, since the early 80s.
Temperatures during the day peak at -10°C (14°F), which is really unpleasant.
I force myself to go outside on my second day there. My plan is to casually explore the district my hostel's located in by foot to orient
When the rest of the world slumped into recession, China dropped a few trillion RMB on stimulus. NBD.
Part of that stimulus went into a huge infrastructure project that made the high-speed train I take possible.*
In the next six hours, it'll convey me across 1,300km of high speed rail to Beijing.
I'm not sure what's more mind blowing,
This is my seventh visit to this city made in 2012 and my first during the winter. It takes place right after my trip to Laos.
Paintings of West Lake
There's no better way to get around than by bike.
Years ago I bought a bike for RMB 150 (~ USD 20). I'm disappointed to learn that it's rusted through after
Laos' capital. Compared the Luang Prabang, the buildings are taller, the roads are wider, and the construction sites more numerous.
The trucks are bigger as well.
A day in the capital
All of the hostels downtown are booked to capacity to my surprise. I spend an hour looking for lodging before settling on a pricier hotel.
There's no time to
You don't know you like Karsts until you see Karsts.
Northern Laos is has lots o' mountains
The ride from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng is one of the bumpiest I've ever taken.
Nausea compels me to pass out for most of the ride. Each time I awake, however, I muster the strength to combat my carsickness to grab my
Enjoy this natural fish spa for the low, low, entry price of LAK 20,000 (USD 2.50).
This is still the most expensive entry fee I've had to pay in Laos.
What's a fish spa
It's one of those spas where you dip your feet into a bucket filled with water and little fish. The little fish nibble dead
Luang Prabang has a week-long film festival.
As locals commute home, I decide to take a quick trek to the top of Mount Phousi to watch sunset.
On my way down, I spot the night markets setting up. Red and blue canopies pop up over the main road directly in front of the Royal Palace. For dinner, I'll grab
Monastic life in Luang Prabang begins at the break of dawn.
One morning I rise early to see the morning alms ceremony. It's still dark when I leave, but several locals are already outside. Most have prepared bamboo baskets typically filled with sticky rice that's still steaming, although veggies, meat, and sweets enter the mix.
From their temples,
Luang Prabang of Northern Laos has a special place in my heart.
A protected city
A lot of what I love about the city is made possible because of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the number of local ordinances that protect the city's culture and appearance.
It's why this city hasn't built up vertically, why there
Writing this post makes me salivate.
The incredible food experience I had in Singapore I owe almost entirely to Sk, the receptionist at the hostel I stayed at. He covered my map in blue ink and surfaced all of the best eateries in town.
My eating tour starts with the best bak kuh teh I've ever tried at
My visit to Singapore begins at the over-the-top Marina Bay.
Feats of (expensive) engineering
The Marina Bay is full of examples of what humans can build. All of it occupies reclaimed land (Singapore's landmass has grown 20% since its independence, see this satellite timelapse).
Esplanade, the S$600M concert hall shaped like a durian. Completed in 2002.
Marina Bay Sands,
There's a place that every foodie in KL needs to check out.
A street full of food
Every night Jalan Alor, the street, closes itself off to vehicular traffic and turns into a giant food court. It's really impressive.
I wonder what the history is behind Jalan Alor. Did some of the restaurateurs start taking over the sidewalks decades ago,
Malaysia's diverse population translates to a vibrant mix of flavors.
Straight from the stands
Good street food is as common to Penang or Kuala Lumpur as Starbucks's are to Midtown Manhattan. That is, they're everywhere.
They're also extremely efficient. I can get amazing food lickety split. It's great.
Man Jian Kueh, a flour pancake with crushed peanuts, brown sugar, and
At the outer edge of Kuala Lumpur's metro system is a terminal stop for Batu Caves.
The first thing I (or anyone else who visits) notice is the huge statue of Murugan. It's enormous. There's something like 300 liters of gold paint that went onto the statue's surface.
Giant stairwell for comparison.
I climb the stairwell a hundred meters
George Town, Penang is full of surprises.
One of the first things I notice here is the architecture, a mashup of East Asian, South Asian, and European influences.
I take delight in finding street art here. Drawings blend appropriately with their medium (usually aging walls, chipped and cracked). One neighborhood seemed particularly supportive of street artists. I felt
Koh Samui's airport provides a solid A+ experience.
A stop for partygoers
This island is fully developed for tourists and more importantly, it knows its clientele.
Trucks rigged with loudspeakers cruise around, blaring ads for Muay Thai fights. Street markets sell sleeveless shirts with inspirational messages (e.g. "drugs saved my life"). This island is close to the one that
I drop USD 350 to get my advanced open water diving license while living in a resort suite. What a deal.
Diving in the Gulf of Thailand
I didn't have my underwater camera at the time, but take my word for it. There's so much color off of Koh Tao. Both fish and coral are vibrant and abundant. If you're
It seems every other tour company offers this day trek itinerary, which features at a minimum an elephant ride and some hiking in the countryside.
Far from the city
Our tour begins at the Akha village that specializes in weaving. Colorful scarves, shawls, and throws decorate the village, draped over horizontal bamboo strips throughout.
Some tours devote an entire day
Thousands gather in Chiang Mai release paper lanterns into the sky for the week-long Yi Peng festival.
The lifecycle of a lantern
Ignition. Lift Off. Cruise. Burn out. Land.
A fallen lantern.
Interestingly enough, no one expressed any concerns about fire. I dispense with my worries as well—do as Romans do.*
It's rather alarming to see a paper lantern
Near Chiang Mai on Doi Suthep stands Wat Phrathat beaming.
- Chiang Mai - A city in Northern Thailand
- Doi Suthep - A mountain that stands 1,700 meters high
- Wat Phrathat - A Buddhist Temple about 7 miles away from Chiang Mai
- Wat - A Buddhist Monastery or Temple
The outer courtyard
One of the first things I
There's a train barreling down towards you and you're out there, what, buying hot chilies for your homemade hot chili sauce?
What are we, mad?
Here's the scoop. Maeklong is a railway line that happens to have a market built around a part of it. Vendors bring their wares here and set up right along the railroad. Customers walk over
Tourists are pitched on the romantic concept of a floating market. I came here with my family and together we rented a pricey (even after a lot of haggling) canoe.
It's much like hiring a private driver for an hour. Our canoe paddler takes us up and down the canals for an hour, stopping by shops at our request.
From a descending plane, Hong Kong looks like a glimmering gem sitting on blue velvet.
Gleaming skyscrapers reach as tall as the mountains behind them. The urban sprawl extends as far as the eye can see. Lights on the harbor indicate junks and barges but hang off the city like little ornaments.
Just like the movies
I step foot outside
Hong Kong is one of my favorite places for street photography.
One of my favorite things about this place is how much of the local economy happens out in the open. On every corner are people doing what they do daily to make a living, exposed to the view of everyday passersby. This attribute is also why this place
I follow the most literal interpretation of Toucan Sam's words to find my first breakfast in Hong Kong.
For those who aren't familiar, Toucan Sam is the cartoon mascot for Fruit Loops, a fruit flavored (I know, gross) cereal. His catchphrase is "Follow your nose!"*
With nostrils open
My hotel is near a few different food markets. Before I can
There's a seaside fortress, a cave, and a strange beach that I check out.
The day begins with a driving tour through Old San Juan to Castillo San Cristóbal. Street side parking is difficult to find and I end up going to an underground parking lot. It's strange to think that even the prettiest destinations have the same concrete
Come Christmas time the residents of Culebra repaint their homes a vibrant color, foregoing the lights that are common elsewhere.
Culebra Island is east of the main island. I leave San Juan pretty early to make it to the Ferry station in Fajardo on time. This is my second time here.
As with my first trip, I book
The Island of Enchantment is home to a rainforest, the only one found in the U.S. and its territories.
Through lush greens
This is also the first rainforest I set foot in and each turn that the rental car maneuvers reveals a new feature, a new kind of broad leafed tree or a different kind of hanging vine. The