Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro Tanzania Hikers on Plain with Peak

Lemosho Route / Day 2

We got our wake-up call at sunrise. Because we’re so close to the equator, days are consistently close to 12 hours year-round. The longest day in a year is about 12 hours and 19 minutes with sunset at 6:42 PM. The shortest day is about 11 hours and 55 minutes…

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro Footprints in the Dirt

Lemosho Route / Day 3

We gained another 2,000 or so feet today, but it was very different terrain to yesterday. It was much flatter, and without the effects of altitude would have been a pretty leisurely hike. We really only started climbing about halfway, as we got to Fischer Camp (named in memory of…

Ngorongoro Crater Long-Crested Eagle  Feeding

Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania isn’t quite what I’d expected. The overall size is about what I’d expected, but there’s no lush forest. Instead, nearly the entire crater floor is remarkably flat and covered with short grass, very different to nearby Tarangire National Park. It’s basically a giant paddock. This…

Mt Kilimanjaro Stars and Camp at Lava Tower

Climbing Kilimanjaro

We’re in the heart of Africa. The equator is only a little over 200 miles to the north. To the west and south, we’re looking out over the plains of Tanzania with their lions, elephants, and giraffes, although the animals are all too far away for us to see. In…

Lake Manyara National Park Elephant

Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara is really two lakes. Well, it is depending on the time of year you visit. In the dry season, with the water level low, it basically splits in two. The northern end, where the Simba River feeds in, is swampy with fresh(-ish) water. There are reeds, plants, and…

Newark New Jersey Downtown Aerial Photo at Night

Newark at Night from the Air

Newark, New Jersey, isn’t exactly known as a jewel of the American northeast. But from certain vantage points, it can actually be quite pretty. Glittery, even. A recent job in the Newark area required hanging out of a helicopter to get some footage. On the way back from the site,…

Tikal Mayan Ruins and Morning Mist

The Mighty Maya City of Tikal

There’s a deep, guttural growl coming from somewhere out in the misty darkness of the jungle. Then there are more of them. And they’re loud. We’re still hours before dawn, but it’s already hot and muggy. All around us is jungle. There’s only four of us–three of us, plus our…

Wat Si Saket Vientiane Laos 2000 Buddhas 337-0125286641x

Wat Si Saket, Vientiane

Wat Si Saket (or Sisaket Temple) is probably the oldest temple in the Lao capital still standing. But it’s newer than it looks, having been built in 1818–so many of the others have been the victim of a string of wars in the 20th century. Just across the street from…

Hanoi One Pillar Pagoda Branches 327-0535413038

Hanoi’s One Pillar Pagoda

The One Pillar Pagoda is almost a thousand years old. Sort of. In another in a long line of despicably pointless destructive acts committed by colonial military forces, the French destroyed the nearly 1000-year-old pagoda in 1954 on their way out. The Vietnamese government subsequently rebuilt it. The version that’s…

Tran Quoc Pagoda Hanoi Monk Praying

Hanoi’s Oldest Pagoda

At about 1400 years old, Tran Quoc Pagoda is Hanoi’s oldest temple. It sits on the tiny Golden Fish Island on West Lake (Ho Tay), joined to the lake banks by a causeway. It’s a picturesque spot, but the temple wasn’t always here. Originally, in the 6th century, the pagoda…

Blue Mountains Australia

Australia’s Blue Mountains

Australia has some incredible landscapes, but its mountains don’t hold a candle to those on other continents. At only 7,310 feet, Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, is less than half the height of the next continental highest peak (Western Europe’s Mont Blanc at 15,771 feet). And it’s positively squat compared…

Mt Kilimanjaro Tents and Stars

Lemosho Route / Day 4

We awoke to frost covering our tents. And because we’re on the Western side of the mountain and in the shade, the morning sun takes a while to warm things up. Today we gained about 1,500 feet today in a fairly straightforward hike. On the way, we crossed from the…

Mt Kilimanjaro Beautiful Sunset Above the Clouds

Lemosho Route / Day 5

It turns out the wind was just taking a break, not disappearing for good. About 2 am it came roaring back with a vengeance. Our tents are taking a battering–even these good quality expedition tents are caving in, with the roof constantly hitting us as we lie in our sleeping…

Mt Kilimanjaro Crater Camp Ice Glacier

Lemosho Route / Day 6

Our guide was right when he said that today would be the hardest day of the climb. But it was “very doable,” he kept saying. We also found out why we’d had to sign waivers for the Western Breach back to Londorossi Gate. A couple of American climbers and a…

Mt Kilimanjaro Summit Uhuru Peak

Lemosho Route / Day 7

It’s summit day. We’ll reach 19,341 feet, by far the highest any of us has been without being in a plane. It was cold last night. Our water bottles froze solid inside the tents. And it’s cold as we head off before sunrise. Compared to yesterday’s climb up the Western…

Mt Kilimanjaro Rainforest

Lemosho Route / Day 8

We’re almost done. But first, we have some things to take care of. We’ll be saying goodbye to most of the crew at Mweka Camp. They’ll be packing up and heading down, going home. Some will probably be heading back up the mountain within days, working on another expedition. Heading…

Mt Kilimanjaro Stars and Camp at Lava Tower

Climbing Kilimanjaro: Tips, Gear Recommendations & What to Expect

Here are some of the lessons I learned for next time I climb Kilimanjaro, along with some tips and gear recommendations. I’m by no means a hardcore mountain climber, although I’ve spent a good bit of time backpacking, camping, and traveling on all seven continents. But there are things about…

Vietnam Military History Museum Tank Exhibit

Hanoi’s Vietnam Military History Museum

Perhaps more than any other country, Vietnam’s self-identity over the last century has been defined by war. First, it was ejecting the French colonials. Then a brief repulsion of the imperial Japanese. Then the Americans. As tragic and destructive as that history of war is, it is also both important…

Quan Thanh Temple Hanoi Elephant Statue

Quan Thanh Temple

Quan Thanh Temple sits on the southeastern corner of West Lake (Ho Tay). While not especially large, the temple is one of the city’s oldest–it dates back to the 11th century–and amongst the four designated as its most sacred. At the heart of the main shrine is an impressive bronze…

Luang Prabang Haw Pha Bang Royal Palace Museum Naga

A New Home for Phra Bang

From its fearsome gold naga King Cobras guarding the main stairs, its incredibly lavish gold and red interior, and multi-tiered roof, the Haw Pha Bang at Luang Prabang’s Royal Palace looks ancient and definitely royal. It was indeed royal. It’s purpose-built to be the official home of the Phra Bang,…

Imperial City Hue Vietnam Ngo Mon Gate and Bridge

The Citadel in the Imperial City of Hue

The thick stone walls of Hue’s Citadel are certainly solid, towering above a moat fed by the Perfume River. For nearly a century and a half, from 1802 to 1945, those walls protected the royal capital of Vietnam’s Nguyen dynasty. Within the Citadel, the Purple Forbidden City was an inner…

Jade Emperor Pagoda Ho Chi Minh City Shrine with Incense

Jade Emperor Pagoda

Nestled in a quiet, hidden little enclave in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, the Jade Emperor Pagoda offers a calming sanctuary from the bustle of the busy streets outside. It’s a small Taoist pagoda built by the Chinese community in 1909. It also goes by other names–Phước Hải Tự (Luck…

Ho Chi Minh City Hall in Saigon at Night

Ho Chi Minh City Hall

There’s some irony in the Ho Chi Minh City Hall being a stately old French colonial building. Built in the early 20th century, it’s only slightly less ornate than the building it’s clearly modeled on–the Hotel de Ville in Paris. In front of the building is a large statue of…

Cho Dong Ba in Hue Vietnam Shallots

Dong Ba Market (Cho Dong Ba)

Hue‘s Dong Ba market (Cho Dong Ba)–like so many of the markets around the world in places people rely on markets for their day-to-day food and merchandise needs–is a bustling, crowded affair with things for sale crammed into every available space. As with pretty much everywhere that there’s buying and…

Standing Stones of Hintang near Sam Neua Laos

The Standing Stones of Hintang

No-one is quite sure who put them here or why. The standing stones of Hintang (or menhirs, if you want to be technical) aren’t nearly as grand as their cousins like Stonehenge or Easter Island. And they’re even overshadowed by the nearby jars that give the plain its name. But…

Luang Prabang’s Morning Market

Southeast Asia’s morning markets are much more interesting than the night markets. The night markets are mainly for tourists. Sure, you can find cheap t-shirts, knock-off backpacks, colorful paintings, and pretty lights. But you haven’t really come all this way for those, have you? It’s at the morning markets that…

Luang’s Prabang’s That Chomsi

It’s a steep climb up to That Chomsi. But from the stupa at the summit, there’s a wonderful view out over Luang Prabang and the Mekon. At least, there is when the weather is clear. It’s just across the street from where the morning market sets up, and it’s here…

Phonsavan Morning Market Cooked Food

Phonsavan’s Morning Market

If it walks, crawls, swims, flies, or slithers, it could well turn up on your dinner table in Laos. Sure, you can buy chicken or beef or pick up some freshly caught river fish. But if you have a craving for bamboo rat, porcupine, winged critters, snake, crickets or other…

Churchill War Rooms London Updating Map

The Churchill War Rooms

This was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s underground command bunker during some of the dangerous days of the Blitz. With V2 rockets terrorizing London nightly, a small number of government and military officials, with a skeleton support staff, and, for meetings, the Cabinet, continued coordinating the war effort from the…

Reunification Palace Tank Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Ho Chi Minh City’s Reunification Palace

The palace isn’t used much anymore. It’s an historical relic of an era that ended only 40 years ago. And it was only in use for less than 8 years, between October 1967 and 21 April 1975. In the sprawling grounds are vivid reminders of how it all ended, with…

Trevi Fountain Rome, Italy

The Trevi Fountain

Rome is up to its eyeballs in famous landmarks. The jagged, partially crumbling walls of the Coliseum. The immense dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral. The elaborate grandiosity of the Vatican. The sparse dignity of the Pantheon. And then there’s the Trevi Fountain. Tourists crowd into the cramped plaza all day…

Niagara Falls Viewing Telescope

Niagara Falls

“Niagara” has become synonymous with a mighty, overwhelming flood, not by height or volume alone–nearly 100 falls are higher, and at least two carry greater flow–but because of the 186-foot leap of a tremendous amount of water. National Geographic, April 1963 They’re not the highest falls in the world or…

Musee des Instruments de Musique Keyboard

The Musical Instruments Museum of Brussels

The Musical Instruments Museum (Musee des Instruments de Musique) in Brussels has a lot to see, but it has even more to hear. This is a museum for the senses. But not the usual ones. Sure, you can look at the exhibits. You can read them if you read French…

Mannekin Pis Statue in Brussels Belgium

Mannekin Pis

The Belgians are a quirky lot. (But gosh they make great beer and chocolate!) There aren’t too many places that would proudly embrace as a national and city icon a small bronze fountain statue of a naked little boy peeing. And it’s not like this is some bawdy, oddly voyeuristic…

Brussels Royal Museums of Fine Arts Main Hall

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

To appreciate the contrast all these changes made one must have known Brussels in the days before the war. It was not only the gayest but the happiest of cities. In the population there was a fine joviality, that joyousness that came down from the days when Rubens and Jordaens…

Conwy Castle (Conway Castle) in Wales

Conwy Castle

Castle Conwy is imposing and impressive, just as it was meant to be. But as you stand on top of the turrets looking out over the waterfront and town, it becomes very clear that the primary thing in King Edward I’s mind when he commissioned its building was the cardinal…

Vietnam Museum of Revolution Statue and Artillery

Museum of the Vietnamese Revolution

Unsurprisingly, Vietnam takes its revolutionary foundations very much to heart. They’re shown off and commemorated in the national Museum of the Vietnamese Museum in downtown Hanoi. Established in 1959 and apparently only infrequently updated since, the museum is a charming clash of ideas and history. It’s housed in a yellow…

Gentoo Penguins Waddle on the Ice in Antarctica

Penguins in Antarctica

Seals and whales first attracted humans to Antarctica. But that didn’t go so well for them–they were hunted nearly to extinction. These days, penguins are a major draw. And it’s no wonder–for comical antics and all-around cuteness, penguins are hard to beat. On land, they’re clumsy and slow. In the…

Exterior of Trinity Church Bellingshausen Station Antarctica

Trinity Church, The Church at the Bottom of the World

Trinity Church is not the only church in Antarctica, but it may well be the most elaborate. Featuring ornate iconostasis that you might expect to find in Russia but is oddly out of character with all the other boxy, utilitarian, prefabricated buildings on an Antarctic scientific research base, it’s a…

Kayaking in Antarctica at Petermann Island

Kayaking in Antarctica

There are worse places to be than gliding silently at water level amongst the icebergs, seals, and penguins of Antarctica. Exploring narrow and shallow passages that not even the zodiacs can pass through. Weaving through the brash ice. Looking down through the crystal-clear water. Drifting quietly by a leopard seal…

Living Area of Wordie House Historic Antarctic Base

Wordie House, An Antarctic Home Very Far Away from Home

Candidates, SINGLE, must be keen young men of good education and high physical standard who have a genuine interest in polar research and travel and are willing to spend 18-30 months under conditions which are a test of character and resource. — London Times advertisement for the Falklands Island Dependency…

Humpback Whale in Antarctica at Sunset

The Colors of Antarctica

When you think of Antarctica, you probably think of lots of white and blue. And then some more white. I did. So I was surprised to find that it’s a lot more colorful than that. I didn’t expect to find so many other colors, some subtle, some striking. For an…

Reflections in the Lemaire Channel Antarctica

Gliding Through the Glassy Calm Waters of Antarctica’s Kodak Gap

That the Lemaire Channel is nicknamed “Kodak Gap” is a pretty good indication that it is reliably scenic. Steep rocky mountains covered in glaciers and snow rise almost vertically out of the water, creating a narrow channel less than a mile wide at its narrowest point and just under 7…

Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels, Belgium

Cathedral of Saints Michael & Gudula

Most churches count their blessings to have one patron saint. This one has two. And, as it happens, they’re both also the co-patron saints of Brussels. It wasn’t always that way. There’s been a church on this spot since at least the 11th century–perhaps even two centuries before that. You…

Our Lady of Pilar Basilica

Despite a checkered history, Our Lady of Pilar Basilica has survived as the second oldest church in Buenos Aires and looking none the worse for wear. The initiative for building the church came from two local entrepreneurs. The first, Pedro de Bustinza, from Sante Fe, Argentina, secured authorization from the…

Our Lady of Pilar Basilica in Buenos Aires Agentina

La Recoleta Cemetery

In terms of luxury accommodations for the dearly departed, Recoleta’s cemetery ranks pretty highly. You would never call it plain. It’s not a field with rows of rectangular marble headstones. Instead, it has hundreds of ornate crypts crowding over each other for attention. It’s not every cemetery that has streets…

Historic Prison at the Maritime Museum of Ushuaia Argentina

Ushuaia’s Maritime Museum

It would have been very cold, very draughty, and, even compared to the low bar set by late-19th-century prisons, altogether rather unpleasant. But if you could sneak to a window, what a view! This was where they sent the prisoners they didn’t want to deal with in Buenos Aires so…

Panorama of the Battle of Waterloo

Waterloo Panorama Virtual Tour

The Panorama of the Battle of Waterloo is housed in its own purpose-built building next to the Lion’s Mound (Butte du Lion) at the battlefield. On the inside walls of the cylindrical building is a massive 360-degree canvas painted by Louis Dumoulin in 1912. It was commissioned for the 100th…

Belfry of Bruges, Belgium

The Belfry of Bruges

From the top, you can see most of Bruges. And from most of Bruges, you can see the Belfry. It has stood there, towering over the city, while the economy of Bruges boomed on Flemish textiles and trading, while the economy went bust when ships could no longer reach the…

Bruges Canals at Dusk

Bruges by Night

To be subjected to the full fascination of Bruges, one should see it on a fair, still night, without a moon. In every direction gables mysteriously cut the sky. All is vast and dim around the funereal canals, out of which, one knows not how, gray towers, like the architecture…

The Emporer's Room at Ferme du Caillou Waterloo

Napoleon’s Last Headquarters

It was here that Napoleon spent his last night before his empire crumbled for a second time. About two miles up the road to the north, the Duke of Wellington‘s multinational army bivouacked for the night. Not quite three miles behind them, in the village of Waterloo, Wellington himself fretfully…

Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago Statue

Santiago’s Metropolitan Cathedral

In most cathedrals, you want to look up. They were designed that way so that you’d look to the heavens. And in Santiago’s Metropolitan Cathedral there’s plenty to see looking up. Its Baroque decoration rivals anything in Europe. There are ornate frescos on the ceiling, chandeliers, and gilded columns. But…

Statue in Mercado Central de Santiago

Santiago’s Mercado Central

Chile has an extraordinarily long coastline. The country is very long and very narrow, and runs along over half of the eastern coastline of South America. All that coastline, from the tropics to its wintry southern tip, means a staggering variety of seafood is part of Chile’s cuisine. And not…

Waterloo Battlefield

The Battlefield of Waterloo

Victor Hugo described it as the morne plaine (bleak wilderness). Nearly 33,000 men died on these fields. And it was here, on 18 June 1815, that Napoleon’s march toward nearby Brussels was halted and he lost his empire for a second time. Had he decided to launch his first attack…

Maritime Monument in Punta Arenas Chile

The Waterfront of Punta Arenas

From the frigid fifties of south latitude, through the strait that was to honor his name, and across the Pacific, Magellan drove his little fleet through waters no European had sailed before. His route proved impracticable for the spice trade. The captain himself never reached home, and his heirs got…

Monte Olivia Ushuaia with Clouds

Ushuaia, The World’s Most Southern City

This little town is surrounded on three sides from the snow-covered peaks of the Punta Arenas). Before those were explored and charted, the only other way around was to go below Cape Horn and brave the notoriously wild conditions of the Drake Passage and the Great Southern Ocean. Ushuaia is…

Panorama of the Battle of Waterloo

Panorama of the Battle of Waterloo

Standing at the base of the Lion’s Mound (Butte du Lion) at the battlefield at Waterloo, the Panorama is one of the world’s few remaining panoramas, a type of tourist attraction that was once very popular. Few of them survive today–they can’t compete with moving pictures for visualizing what happened,…

Caernarfon Castle Cannons

Caernarfon Castle

For a 13th century fortress, Caernarfon Castle has a surprising attention to style. It’s one of a string of castles that King Edward I of England built or upgraded in northwest Wales in the late 13th century as part of a concerted program to exert English rule over the Welsh….

Great Court of the British Museum in London

The British Museum

The British Museum is one of the world’s great museums. With over 8 million pieces in its permanent collection, it features a remarkable representation from around the world. The ways in which some of the artifacts were acquired–some say pilfered, some say protected–is rightly controversial. A sizable portion of the…

Istanbul Naval Museum

Istanbul Naval Museum

If I was picking a name for this museum, I wouldn’t use the word “naval.” Istanbul Maritime History Museum would be a better fit. Or better yet: Royal Water Taxi Museum. But what impressive water taxis they are! While there are exhibits and artifacts related to the history of the…

Tourists at the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul’s Ancient Basilica Cistern

This isn’t just any old water tank. Buried under the streets next to Hagia Sophia might well be the most impressive water tank you’ll ever see. Its purpose was entirely functional. Built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian (527-565), it provided water to the imperial palace and local residents…

Tomb of Sultan Selim II at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

The Tombs of the Sultans at Hagia Sophia

The Ottomans were as serious about their art and decoration in death as they were in life. Tucked around the back of Hagia Sophia, accessible through a separate side entrance, is a small courtyard ringed by several small buildings that look like mini mosques. From the outside, they don’t look…

Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall

The Imperial Council Hall at Topkapi Palace

The Ottoman Empire was run from here. These three chambers, between the Harem and the rest of Topkapi Palace, are where Ottoman sultans met with their imperial councils to conduct affairs of state. It is also called Kubbealti (Kubbealtı), which means “under the dome”, and is located in the northwestern…

National Palaces Painting Museum at Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul

National Palaces Painting Museum

Reopened in a newly renovated space in the Crown Prince’s apartments of Dolmabahçe Palace, the National Palaces Painting Museum showcases the collection of paintings of the national palaces. The building itself is impressive. On the waterfront of the Bosphorus, at the northeast end of the Dolmabahçe Palace complex, it was…

Rustem Pasha Mosque in Istanbul with tourists

Rustem Pasha Mosque

The Rustem Pasha Mosque (in Turkish: Rüstem Paşa Camii) dates to 1560. It was designed by Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan and was the first time he employed an octagonal layout. It’s not the grandest mosque and deliberately makes no attempt to try to upstage the much larger Süleymaniye Mosque that…

Prayer Hall of the New Mosque (Yeni Cami) Istanbul

Istanbul’s Grand “New” Mosque

In Istanbul, “new” is relative. The New Mosque, or Yeni Cami, is new in the sense that it’s newer than Hagia Sophia (built in 537), the Blue Mosque (1616), and Suleymaniye Mosque (1558). But it’s also not so new in the sense it was completed in 1665. By then the…

Blue Mosque Prayer Hall in Istanbul

The Blue Mosque

Yes, there’s definitely blue, but the Blue Mosque isn’t as blue as you might expect. It is, however, every bit as beautiful. Impossibly ornate tiles and decorative paintings wrap around almost every surface, especially on the dome ceilings towering high above. And with its six minarets, floodlit at night, it…

Karakoy Restaurant on the Banks of the Golden Horn

The Karakoy Waterfront

It’s one of Istanbul’s real treats to sit on the waterfront of Karakoy sipping Turkish tea, Rika, or a cold beer and watching the sun setting over the striking silhouettes of the mosques across the other side of the Golden Horn. Ferries dance around on the water, while the hundreds…

Fishermen on Galata Bridge Istanbul

Galata Bridge

The Galata Bridge has multiple personalities. It spans the Golden Horn from Eminonu to Karakoy and provides both a real and symbolic link between two key parts of the city. On the top level, a constant stream of road and tram traffic makes the bridge bounce as the cars, buses,…

Granada Municipal Cemetery

Granada Cemetery

Granada’s city cemetery is Nicaragua’s oldest. And because of Granada’s historical significance, the cemetery is unusually beautiful and ornate and is considered a national treasure. The most opulent tombs and mausoleums belong, naturally, to the wealthy. They’re clustered around the chapel near the entrance. As you move further away from…

Facade of Centro Cultural Convento San Francisco, Granada, Nicaragua

Granada’s San Francisco Convent & Museum

Behind that impressive facade that was once a convent and church, standing above most of the city of Granada, is the city’s main museum. Its exhibits are rather eclectic, but many of them relate in some way to the history of Granada and the nearby region. The building facade used…

Yuca Root at Granada's Market (Mercado Municipal)

Granada’s Market

I love morning markets, and I always make a special point to go to them if a town has one. They’re often one of the best ways to get a good dose of local flavor. They’re an essential part of the life-blood of the local community, and the locals depend…

Altar Piece in Cathedral of Granada, Nicaragua

Catedral de Granada

You can’t miss it in Granada. Most of the city is pretty flat, with the vast majority of the buildings standing, at most, two stories above the street. Towering far above all of it, visible from miles around, are the distinctive yellow and white bell towers and dome of the…

Lake Nicaragua Cows Grazing on Granada Beach on Lake Nicaragua

Granada’s Waterfront by Lago Nicaragua

It no doubt seemed like a good idea at the time. Take about 2KM of parkland along the lakefront and turn it into a public park, with a long beach, playgrounds and park benches galore, and numerous bars and restaurants. It’s close enough to be an easy walk from Parque…

Nave of La Capilla Maria Auxiliadora, Granada, Nicaragua

La Capilla Maria Auxiliadora

La Capilla Maria Auxiliadora isn’t the grandest or most famous of Granada’s churches. It doesn’t dominate the city’s skyline like the Cathedral of Granada. Nor does it wear its weathered history like Iglesia de la Merced. But La Capilla Maria Auxiliadora makes a credible claim as the most beautiful. The…

Iglesia de la Merced, Granada, Nicaragua

Iglesia de la Merced | Granada

When I first saw the crumbling facade, it reminded me of some of the earthquake ruins in Antigua, Guatemala. But behind the facade is a living, breathing church, and one of the most important in Granada. It’s located about three blocks west of Parque Central and dates to 1539. But,…

Streets of Granada, Nicaragua

Granada, Nicaragua

With its colorfully painted buildings, cobblestone streets, and Spanish colonial architecture, Granada is a picturesque town that wears its history on its streets. The colorful architecture is carefully preserved. It’s reputed to be the oldest city in the Americas. It’s a charming place to decompress and take it easy for…

Parque Central at Dusk, Granada, Nicaragua

Granada’s Parque Central

It’s a hustling, bustling center of town. As in so many Spanish colonial towns, Parque Central (or Central Park, if you prefer) forms the heart of a grid that radiates out through the streets. With the distinctive three peaks of Catedral de Granada towering above, the park itself is both…

Biomuseo Theater

Panama City’s Biomuseo

The first thing you notice about Panama City’s Biomuseo is the building. There’s nothing subtle about it–it’s an explosion of color. It was designed by famous architect Frank Gehry and is the first of his buildings in Latin America. It stands by itself on the Amador Causeway, a sliver of…

Plaza de la Catedral Casco Viejo Panama City

Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

Standing on the western side of Plaza de la Independencia (or Plaza de la Catedral), the Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (or Metropolitan Cathedral), is one of the largest churches in Central America. It dates to 1688 to 1796, but went through a long period of neglect….

Arco Chato at Iglesia Santo Domingo in Casco Viejo

Iglesia Santo Domingo and the Arco Chato

The Iglesia Santo Domingo (or Church and Convent of Santo Domingo) isn’t much to look at anymore. It has long been a shell of brick ruins. There’s no roof, and while there are still walls, they’re mostly crumbling. It was built in 1678 but destroyed by fire in 1756. It…

La Iglesia de la Merced Casco Viejo Panama City Statue of María de Cervello

La Iglesia de la Merced

Dating back to 1680, La Iglesia de la Merced sits in the heart of Casco Viejo, just a couple of blocks from Independence Square. Its weathered stone facade is made of stones recovered from the abandoned original old city of Panama, Panama Viejo, and is flanked by two gleaming white…

Ancon Hill Panama City Tourists with Skyline

The View from Ancon Hill

It’s not especially large, really, at only 654 feet, but you can spot Ancon Hill from all over Panama City. It’s about the only large hill in town. As well as radio towers, it’s the one with the massive Panamanian flag. But Ancon Hill is most important not because you…

Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama

Iglesia San Jose

The massive Golden Altar (or Altar de Oro) of Iglesia San Jose is remarkable in its own right. The towering structure isn’t actually solid gold–it’s carved mahogany that has been covered in gold leaf (and paint). But it looks every bit as opulent as you’d think. But perhaps the most…

Iglesia San Francisco de Asis Casco Viejo Panama

Iglesia San Francisco de Asis

There are larger and more ornate churches in Casco Viejo, but none can beat Iglesia San Francisco de Asis on location. Standing on the waterfront, next to the Panamanian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and across the street from the National Theater, its exterior has been carefully restored. And…

Torre Latinoamericana View North over Mexico City

The View from Mexico City’s 44th Floor

For a city with such a huge population, Mexico City has surprisingly few skyscrapers. The geology of the old lakebed upon which much of the downtown area is built doesn’t help. Nor does being near an active earthquake zone. The most prominent skyscraper anywhere near the downtown area is the…

Statue Preservation at Iglesia de la Santisima Trinidad in Mexico City, Mexico

Iglesia de la Santisima Trinidad

The Iglesia de la Santisima Trinidad (Church of the Holy Trinity) isn’t the most opulent church you’ll come across in Mexico City, a city full of opulent churches. But it has a charm of its own. It sits on a busy pedestrian shopping intersection a few blocks from the Zocalo….

Iglesia de San Bernardo, Mexico City, Mexico

Templo de San Bernardo

It was originally part of a Cistercian order convent dating back to 1636. The church is a little newer, but only by half a century, dating to 1680. On the church now remains, with the rest having been closed and demolished in the late-19th century, making way for the busy…

Mary and Child Statue at Iglesia de Santa Ines, Mexico City, Mexico

Iglesia de Santa Ines

It’s not the most lavish of the many churches in Mexico City’s Centro Historico district, but it is one of the more tastefully decorated. That’s not to say it’s plain–it isn’t. But its color scheme of gold and tan is tastefully restrained and, compared to many other Central American churches,…

Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama

Panama City’s Seafood Market (Mercado de Mariscos)

Panama isn’t an island, but with such a high proportion of coastline to land, it might as well be. So it’s only natural that seafood figures prominently in Panamanian cuisine. Panama City’s seafood market, the Mercado de Mariscos, lies at the foot of the historic Casco Viejo district and is,…

Carving Marble Statues of the Buddha in Mandalay, Myanmar

The Buddha Statue Workshops of Mandalay

It’s dusty and backbreaking work. Covered from head to toe with thick white dust, crouching low on their haunches, the young men and boys use simple angle grinders to carve the shape out of solid blocks of white marble. Some of the statues will be only a couple of feet…

OoHminThoneSel Pagoda in Sagaing, Myanmar (Burma)

Oo Hmin Thone Sel Pagoda

Many of Myanmar’s pagodas are very, very old. But they’re also living monuments. Many of the ones in the Bagan Archaeological Zone are protected and are now frozen in time, but others elsewhere undergo constant regeneration and change. That’s thanks to the strong tradition of donors. Give enough money and…

Myinkaba Village Market near Bagan

Myinkaba Village’s Morning Market

Tucked away in a little dirt side street of Myinkaba Village, just south of Old Bagan, is the morning market. While the tourists and visitors flood to the Manuha Temple across the street, local women mind their makeshift stalls and shop for the day’s supplies. It’s very much for the…

Sunset at U Bein Bridge, Myanmar

Myanmar’s Scenic U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge isn’t the sturdiest engineering structure you’ve ever seen, but that it exists—and has existed so long—is quite the marvel itself. It’s three-quarters of a mile long and is reputed to be the longest teak bridge in the world. It’s a foot bridge, so there aren’t any cars…

Buddhist Novice Monks at Sutaungpyei Pagoda, Mandalay Hill, Myanmar (Burma)

On Top of Mandalay Hill, Myanmar

It’s a long way up. It’s humid. For much of it, there’s no sidewalk, so you’ll be sharing the narrow road with cars and buses. And you’ll have to do a good part of it barefoot. But it’s worth it, especially for the sunset. Like Sagaing not far away, Mandalay…