Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wadi Rum Dunes

This one was fun. Biggest dune in Wadi Rum.Alllllll the way down.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Having spent time in Doha and Dubai, it was really refreshing to scope out Amman in Jordan, to get a feel for the buzz of a true middle eastern capital city. Doha and Dubai are super modern, new, even botique-ish, and finding any grit, bustle, or history is difficult. They are the 21st century middle east. They say, however, that Amman is on route to become the next Dubai & Doha, given its economic prowess and political neutrality. Even if it does, being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, I can't imagine the materialistic feeling of those cities taking over completely.

The whole central part of the city felt like one big souk. Covered fruit markets, clothes markets, spice markets, toy markets, and more.  Lot of people milling around and hawking things. It seems to be centered around a large central mosque from which streets and markets diverge. Although I've been to a few mosques in Dubai and Istabul, I shyed away from entering this one as it seemed crowded and actually very much used for practicing Muslims and simply for congregating. One thing I love about the middle east, albeit probably just for the novelty of it, is the sound of the call to prayer radiating across the city over the speakers. It reminds me of how far away I am from anything very familiar, culturally and geographically. The call, in fact, can be quite nice, depending upon the voice and melody. It can definitely sound like a broken record too.

The city is home to well preserved Roman Amphitheatre, right smack in the middle. On a hill towering above it is the ruins of a fortress, with architecture spanning many eras. Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians, Nabataeans, Byzantines, Umayyads, Ottomans all had their share.

The city is built amongst seven large hills, making all the roads windy and hill walking difficult.  I decided not to test out the bus system, as I heard neighborhoods in some of the other hills are pretty westernized and don't have much going on. The historic center with all the hustle and bustle is where I spent most of my time (not having a host), but I did manage to huff and puff my way up one hill to check out a different neighborhood, Rainbow Street, where it suddenly turns very Western, shops begin having English signs (frozen yogurt suddenly appears, which is a complete contradiction to the old world feel at the bottom of the hill), and a more tranquil yuppy feel exists.

One night at the hostel there was an American girl that went out to get some cash. She came back without cash in hand, saying that men were asking her out to dinner and staring at her. She was dressed conservatively with a long dress on. So she asked if I could stroll around with her to ward off the eyegazers. Later, I stood on the roof of my hostel watching people walk below, and verified that surely the average middle eastern man is free of any tact. I saw several time women walk by and men do a 180 degree turn just to follow them for half a block to get a good look! Definitely wouldn't be a pleasant experience to be a single western woman here.

Whitewashed buildings
This is actually one of the tallest flagpoles in the world. What a claim to fame.
The amphitheatre from the fortress

A vegetable & fruit souk (with tons of these mini, sour green apple things)
Love it.

Spices, nuts, & grains
Delicious sugar cane juice
Central mosque
Nightfall. Mosque lit up in green.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gas Cambodian Style

Gas served up from Pepsi bottles test tubes, and barrels, by the families son, quite the norm in these parts.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tico Beachtime

The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica has some of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen, with the forest merging with idyllic beaches and oncoming waves, and a surrounding abundance of animals, insects, shellfish, and fallen fruits. These shots are from the sleepy town of Manzanillo (home to a whopping two beach view restaurants) and the nearby Refugio Nacional Gandoca-Manzanillo.
A lovely 10 km ride along the highway in the Costa Rican Caribe heat.
Mark, entering the park

Amerrrrican Mail

Makes getting your mail each day just that much more fun. Off of desolate highway 25 in central CA.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

World Currencies

3+ years of travels, 30+ currencies, 5 continents. No worries, 50,000 Vietnamese Dong, 2,000 Costa Rican Colones, 1000 Chilean Pesos, 50 billion 1993 Serbian Dinars, and 500 2011 Serbian Dinars aren't exactly worth the equivalent weight in gold. Scandinavian bills were a bit too valuable to keep :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Luxurious Lux

I visited Lautauro in Luxembourg a few days before flying back to the US. While not the most scintillating place in the world, it does have some redeemable factoids. For example, they speak luxembourgish (even the name is weird), which is some strange combination of german and french with their own twist to it, and a few Dutch like pronunciations tossed in there. Most Luxembourgish people can speak at least 4 languages.... Luxembourgish, French, German, and English. Sometimes more.

The old part of the city is set on the side of a massive canyon. I imagine this was handy for fending off those pesky invaders in medival times. An nice for dropping hot oil buckets on them. There are some narrow roads which traverse to the bottom and back up to the other side. However, for the lazy people, they built an elevator. It reminded me a lot of this elevator that I rode in in Salvador, Brazil. But being in Europe, and frankly in one of the richest countries in the world, this elevators purpose isn't exactly to skip over a dangerous favela. It's merely a convenient way of getting down the hill quickly. And it's cut through the rock, so no view on the descent :(

The setting really is beautiful at this time of year, with all the shades of greens and blooming flowers. Otherwise, it seems like a pretty boring place to live. Its a small country (only 20 minutes from the belgian border to the central station by train!), and from the people I talked to, you need to really try hard and use a lot of various methods to meet people and find stuff to do. Even with so many for

Lau showed up in a blazer. In a high class place like Luxembourg, you gotta wear nice clothes, or at least pretent. Not his typical bum clothes he has worn in our previous meetups in different countries. He lives in a city outside luxembourg, filled with Portuguese and Brazilian people, and so we took the train there after checking out the city and meeting up some girl Lau arranged a Russian-Spanish language exchange with online (in a Russian speaking 'Russians in Luxembourg' forum, nonetheless). That was odd, but interesting. We also went to a local pub in his town (the only one) for a drink and met some random local luxembourgish kids.

Bottom of the hill
Sporting his new shirt which I picked up in Cambodia for 2 bucks.


Tico (Costa Rican) food isn't exactly known as a home run, although it greatly surpassed any prior expectations of being just bland beans and rice. I really liked almost all the food I had there. This dish, chifrijo, is a serious grand slam. A layered dish of red pinto beans, rice, fried pork fat and beef chunks, onions, cilantro, corn tortilla chips, and tomatoes.

 This is also a super delicious dish called casado, just a mix of stuff, black beans, rice, patacones (fried plantain delicious), a salad, and either some shrimp chicken, or beef.

Guess this is why there are a lot of overweight people in Costa Rica. Good food, not of the slimming type, and large portions!