Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Traditional Dance

Another from Bhutan (note the monk peeking over the fence):



Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More Video -- From Bhutan

This is a video of monks preparing for a festival.



While I'm In A Posting Mood

Here's a video of our visit to a Zulu school and village in South Africa.


Back From A Kill


This shot was taken at Hluhluwe Game Reserve in South Africa.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sonamarg


More Kashmir ... this is the trek up Sonamarg to the glacier.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kashmir



This is a picture of the houseboats on Nagin Lake in Kashmir, India. In more peaceful times.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Another Favorite Shot



This one was taken outside of a school in a small village in Zulu-Natal, South Africa.
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Spinning



This is one of my favorite shots, my daughter spinning prayer wheels in a temple in Bhutan.
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Seasonal Frustrations



One of the downsides of going to New York for business is that I never have the time to really enjoy the City. Particularly at this time of the year, I am reminded of what a great place it is and regret having to catch a train home rather than leisurely strolling and shopping.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

By Popular Request




I've just added a menu to the sidebar that will take you to the photo galleries of some of my recent trips.

Really, I think I have too much "stuff" in too many places -- one of these days I'll organize my web-existence into a neat little space somewhere. Someday.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sigorney Weaver Works The Polls




(Yes, I know, not travel-related but I had to give a nod to election day.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hollywood Florida At Night


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Trip Map

Better late than never, here's a map of our recent trip:
more...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Trip Photos

Trip photos have been uploaded to Kodak Gallery for your browsing pleasure. This post's title is the link.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Egypt:The Blog -- Day Sixteen

Cairo is a difficult city in many ways and has definitely worn us out. But that's not to say that we've given up. Today, our final day, we toured Islamic Cairo - the Citadel, a few mosques, and the bazaar. Frankly, all were pretty unimpressive but Ellery did some good bargaining for tchotchkies.


It's been a really great trip but its definitely time to come home.







Monday, September 1, 2008

Egypt:The Blog -- Day Fifteen


Well, vacation is almost over and I think Ellery is ready to be home. Me too, just a bit. There's only so much new information and experiences that the mind can take in at one time.

This morning started with an early drive through the countryside surrounding Cairo to Saqqara, home of the oldest pyramids, including the Step Pyramid of Zoser. Unlike the Pyramids at Giza, the Step Pyramid is surrounded by the remains of an ancient temple complex where you can really get a feeling for the power that these early Kings had. The area isn't excavated well, but the entrance, a long corridor of columns between which there were once statues, gives one a sense of what must have been here. And in the distance, you can see even more pyramids (which I presume are in Dahshur).

More inspiring, however, is the nearby tomb of Titi. Inside, the hieroglyphics remain relatively intact, and are carved on every wall and ceiling. The detail is truly amazing, how the fine lines and exquisite drawings and even many of the colors and tints remain. No pictures are permitted inside but even if they were, I doubt it would convey what it is like to be surrounded by the life story of one king etched on walls 5,000 years old.

We returned to Cairo through the same lush, palm-filled, farmland, past water buffalo, donkey carts, and herds of sheep and goat, and made our way to Coptic Cairo, one of the oldest parts of the city where the narrow streets lead to Greek Orthodox churches and even one Synagogue.

Then it was lunch at an incredibly tacky buffet restaurant on the Nile (note to self: don't ask a tour company to include meals) before returning to the hotel for an afternoon swim.

Although we have tried several times throughout this trip to visit a hammam, we have been spectacularly unsuccessful. The one we went to in Aqaba didn't have women's hours on the day we went, and it seems that all the "good" ones in Cairo are either closed or booked full due to Ramadan. So tonight I suspect we'll head to the main part of downtown Cairo for an easy dinner and a visitor's eye view of what happens during Ramadan when the sun goes down.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Egypt:The Blog -- Day Fourteen

Another wonderous day -- meaning another Wonder of the World.

We started the day by heading to Giza and seeing the Pyramids and the Sphinx. While not exactly in Cairo, they are part of this city. Except for the spectacle of the edifices themselves, and the life around them (the stalls, camel drivers, etc.), there's really not much "there" there, especially not after Petra. Still, they are something that should be seen, and were.

Then it was the mandatory "guide takes you to factory (shopping)" part of the trip. Surprisingly, it wasn't rugs, but instead perfume and papyrus paintings. But like rug buying, they were part of the experience and worth the detour.

Next was on to the Egyptian Museum. As everyone says, it is amazing how much is crammed into it, hundreds and hundreds of artifacts, mummies, sarcofagi and the big one: the artifacts of King Tut's tomb, including the gold mask that wasn't in the touring exhibit. (No pictures allowed, unfortunately).

Finally, we took a sunset felucca ride along the Nile to watch the sun set.

Cairo is definitely a dirty, crowded city, but not at all like the insanity I expected. Traffic moves -- no traffic lights, but many police directing the mash of cars, buses, tuk-tuks, and donkey carts. People dart in and out of it but none of it seems hectic or crazed. And right now, from my hotel balcony, I can hear a woman singing "Killing Me Softly" at an outdoor restaurant mixing with the sound of a muezzin calling the Muslim faithful to prayer, which is a perfect summary of the diversity of this city.

Tomorrow Ramadan starts and I'm really looking forward to seeing the city after dark, when people who have not eaten or drank all day come out and eat, drink and party until the early morning hours.

The Pyramids, The Sphinx

Been there, done that.
Cairo is far more civilized than Delhi.
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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Egypt:The Blog -- Day Thirteen

Yesterday never really ended … at about 1:00 this morning, we arrived at Mt. Sinai and almost immediately climbed on our camels (yes, we’re wusses but we were more interested in making it to the top on time than in winning any fitness contest) to begin the climb to the top. We reached the end of the camel road at roughly 4:00 a.m., giving us an hour to make the final climb to the top before sunrise.




Of course, we were not alone, not by any stretch of the imagination – there were hundreds making the walk with us in the dark, carrying flashlights and breakfasts. It was really quite a sight to see the long row of swinging flashlights behind us and in front of us, forming a luminescent caterpillar up the mountain. As at Karak and Petra, we were not alone. Small stands dotted the trail, offering everything from tea to cokes to snickers bars, not to mention camels for those who realized mid-climb that it was quite a hike and blankets to keep warm at the top of the mountain. Our guide was terrific, helping us up the steep steps, making sure we got good camels, keeping the touts away, and making sure we had a good climb. (Immediately, the difference between the tour company in Jordan and the one in Egypt was apparent. The Jordanian agent was very nice but definitely had cut some corners; the Egyptian agency made sure we had a good guide and paid him and the camel owners enough to make sure we were properly taken care of).

As soon as we arrived at the top we staked out our position and … Ellery fell asleep! Got to hand it to that kid, she’s adaptable. As the sky slowly brightened, a group in front of the old church started singing hymns while another group of Germans seemed intent on laughing at their piety, but for the most part,
everyone sat still and watched as the mountains around and below us revealed themselves. Because of the haze, you don’t really see the sun rise as much as the slow dawning of the day, but it was a magical experience. Ellery and I quietly sang the Sh’ma, in part in response to the hymns, in part because it just seemed right.


After a while, pictures were taken and we made the 2 hour trek down the mountain for a quick trip to St. Katherine’s Monastery at the base of Mt. Sinai.

Then it was back to the car and the long drive across the desert, under the Suez Canal to Cairo, where we quickly settled into our hotel overlooking the Nile.

Jordan:The Blog -- Day Twelve


Nothing much to report today, as we spent nearly all of it at the hotel pool.

Around 8:30, after a lengthy chat about U.S. politics with Rami, the owner of one of the travel agencies in the hotel, we hopped on a boat to cross the Red Sea to Taba, in Eqypt, where our Egyptian guide and drivers were waiting to take us to Mount Sinai. (There were two drivers, we were told, because one is not allowed to drive through the desert more than 200 km without a “spare” driver).

A few closing thoughts on Jordan. It’s a wonderful country, spectacular really. And the people are so nice and friendly and open, a real contrast to Israel. It wasn’t perfect, of course (our guide in Petra, for example, managed to get me to pay him far more than I should have, for example, but in the scheme of things, the small bit extra was far more valuable to him than to me), but in the scheme of things, for a developing country, it was a superb experience.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Aqaba: The Last Day

It's amazing that this part of the world doesn't just spontaneously combust from the heat.
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Jordan:The Blog -- Day Eleven

Another great day in paradise, albeit one with little to report on.

Ellery and I spent the morning simply hanging by the pool trying to keep cool in the heat.

The afternoon was another incredible experience – this one underwater as we took a boat to the coral reefs just south of Aqaba for several hours of snorkeling in the truly crystal clear waters. It was impossible to tell really how deep things were because you could see forever. The fish were plentiful, from neon purple ones hiding in caves to bright yellow and black ones in enormous schools surrounding us to blue and yellow striped ones hiding in the coral. And can I just say … I truly love my daughter. She jumped right in – literally, from the deck of the boat, and swam sometimes with me, sometimes exploring the reefs on her own, happily discovering yet another wonder of life on earth.

The day ended with a strange request to our cabdriver: "Could you please take us to the hammam (Turkish Bath) next to the Pizza Hut?". No place lacks fast food.

Tomorrow we leave this relaxing place first for Mt. Sinai and then for the crazy, crowded, bustling, overwhelming city of Cairo. It will be yet a different experience from everything we’ve done so far, so we’re ready for it, but at the same time we’ll be sorry to leave Aqaba and Jordan behind. This is an amazing country; I could easily come back several times over to take it in again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jordan:The Blog -- Day Ten

Were it not for the fact that I’m in pain and it’s about 110 degrees here in Aqaba, this would be another perfect day. Even so, it’s pretty damn good.

As with most injuries, it isn’t until the next day you feel it the most, and so it was with my fall from the horse. As I woke, each breath and each movement caused excruciating pain. As luck would have it, my German traveling companion is a nurse, and after confirming that I had a bruised, and maybe cracked, rib or two, she brought out the drugs. I thought I carried a fairly sophisticated first aid kit for third world travel, but it was nothing compared to hers. A few pills later and I was, if not as good as new, at least comfortable. So after a quick shower and breakfast, the four of us set off for the protected area of Wadi Rum.

Like the sights of the previous day, the protected area is vast but not as empty. After climbing aboard our open-air landcruiser, we passed through gates to the park and through a small Bedouin village full of children and camels and goats. Then it was through the desert again, this time with red sand all around, and mountains on both sides. We made a few stops to take it all in, climb into caverns and the like. Not a major event, but a good way to start the day.







From there it was on to Aqaba, which on a cooler day might actually be paradise. OK, not the town of Aqaba, which Ellery and I wandered through tonight, but the hotel we’re at, the Aqaba Intercontinental. And boy, did we need it … a pool that’s more like a river through the hotel, huge palm trees shading everything, and a beach with water so clear that it seems like you can see through it forever – even more amazing given the fact that this is a working port, with huge freighters docked just off-shore.

After the pharmacy delivered more of the wonder drugs (I had written down the name of the pills and drugs here are cheap, no prescription needed), Ellery and I sat at the pool and swam for most of the day, returning to our poolside room to nap, shower, change into clean clothes and eventually enjoy a nice walk into town for dinner.

Jordan:The Blog -- Day Nine (Part 2)



After we left Petra, it was time to continue on to Wadi Rum, the desert made famous by Lawrence of Arabia.

We were picked up by our guide (whose name I could never quite get) in a beat up old Jeep with doors that didn’t close right and an electrical system that shorted out quite frequently. It was perfect for the journey we were about to embark on. Already in the Jeep were our traveling companions, a mother and 20-something daughter from Germany.

We stayed on the paved road for a bit, and then cut off across the wide expanse of desert. Here we were all alone, circling the Wadi Rum protected area which we will visit tomorrow. The mountains – rock formations rising from the sand – were astounding, and changed dramatically as we drove around them, as did the sand, going from a light tan to a vibrant red. The jeep became stuck in the sand several times but somehow always made it out.

About an hour into the drive, we made our first stop, gathering dried twigs to make a small fire. Our guide brought out an old copper pot and we drank sweet tea while surveying our surroundings. We stopped a second time at sunset, truly in the middle of nowhere, and sat on the sand to watch the sun disappear over the mountains.

A short time later we arrived at our destination, a tented camp on the outskirts of the protected area. There we were greeted by 6 other travelers – a couple originally from France but working in London, and four Hungarians who had driven to Jordan from Budapest through Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Syria – now *that’s* a road trip. After a dinner of salads and grilled chicken and conversation, we called it a night, an end to a perfect day.

Jordan:The Blog -- Day Nine (Part 1)

This was one of the most spectacular days I’ve ever had traveling.

We started early in the morning, before 8 a.m., and headed directly to Petra. At the entrance, we were met by our guide for the day, Mohammed. Although we would not have done so ourselves, the tour company had arranged for us to ride a horse to the opening of the Siq, the narrow canyon that hides Petra from the world. All started well, with me and Ellery on the same horse. I guess we looked so comfortable that the horseman handed me the rope reins. We walked on for a bit and then I lifted my camera to take a picture, which resulted in the reins falling on the horse’s neck. Big mistake, as the horse immediately took off at a fast pace. Ellery and I held on for as long as we could but it was no use; eventually we both tumbled off onto the hard, stony ground. I was a quite scraped and bruised; Ellery fared much better, and we soon were back on our horse for the rest of the way.

As we entered the Siq, Mohammed did a wonderful job of explaining the history of Petra, the various small carvings and water canals hidden in the walls. I told Ellery that at some point we would come to a corner and she would be amazed. I didn’t realize that, even having seen photos and movies, I would also be amazed. Mohammed told us to close our eyes and then pulled us to just the right point, where the massive Treasury building just comes into sight through the rocks.

Really, no words can describe the sight that unfolds in front of your eyes – and it isn’t just the iconic treasury building. Petra is vast and there is no way to see it all in one visit. After the Siq, a wide path opens and all around, on every mountain, is another building carved into the side – they are up high in the mountain and down low underground. For once, the crowds seem to actually enhance the experience, as everyone walks, open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

Again, like Karak, Petra is alive. Along the path are stalls selling trinkets, places to sit and have a glass of tea, and offers of donkey and camel rides through the site. Mohammed pulled us aside, off of the path, and up into the mountains away from the crowds. Ellery was like a mountain goat and couldn’t be contained, climbing well ahead of me and often Mohammed as well, in and out of caves with vivid layers of color, above and below carved halls and tombs, on top of pillars and around statues. As amazing as the view from the path was, the views from on top were even more spectacular, as you could see the entire ancient city unfold. At one point we stopped in a cave where two Bedouin women offered us tea, and we sat there and took it all in.

Eventually we came back down to the path, and walked through a small site of Roman ruins that are being excavated by professors and students of Brown University. Our tour – about 4 hours of climbing and walking – ended just past these ruins, where we grabbed some cold water and rested. Although we contemplated taking donkeys up to the Monastery, a building high in the hills similar to the Treasury, we needed to make our way back to the gate for the continuation of our journey, sadly knowing that there was so much that we missed. So, we leisurely (and safely) rode the donkeys back to the Treasury.