Skin

Marrakech, Morocco.

     Zebra, anaconda, tiger, leopard, cheetah, snow leopard. All these and many more can be had and haggled down to a few dollars. Damn shame if you ask me. Items like these, as well as much worse, can be seen in the Apothecary Souk deep in the Medina of Marrakech. If you wander around, explore and talk to the merchants, you can see some really cool, frightening, bad, illegal, and sad stuff in there. Dead and/or alive, legal or illegal. 

April 20, 2005

Gang Planks 2

Travels through Myanmar X – Ferry Ride Photos

…continued from: Travels through Myanmar IX – The Almost Perfect Storm 

      A few extra shots from the ferry ride from Mandalay to Bagan. Admittedly, not the greatest photos technically, and the white balance was off for most of them, but some of the best memories I have of Myanmar nonetheless. These first few from the Village Of Watermelons, where I really started just having fun. All taken with a simple 50mm lens, no cropping, it is as it is. As you look through the shots, realize you’re looking at some of the most oppressed people in the world, living under one of the last military regimes in power in the world today. Notice the smiles on many of the faces, and imagine the laughter in the air at each and every stop. Continue reading

Home Sweet Home

Damascus, Syria.

     Have you ever pulled up to a hotel, or any other type of place that you booked or were staying at, and thought that maybe you made a big mistake. Maybe you shouldn’t have listened to that review, maybe you should have spent the extra ten dollars. “I knew those pictures looked to good to be true”. …this shot was taken, well, about 50m down the road from our accommodation in Damascus.

     In all honesty, it was a really good campsite. “New Kaboun Camping” is the name. Hot showers, refrigerator to keep the beer cold, a nice big barbecue to cook dinner, a big patch of grass in a secure compound …and surrounded by five mosques which provide a really loud alarm/wake-up call/good laugh when they start to go off at full volume at around 5:00 AM with the call to prayer.

     The joys of travel, gotta love it…

November 12, 2007

Sahara Sunset

The Black Desert, Egypt.

The Sahara.
Bigger than the United States. More color than a box of Crayola’s.
A nighttime sky like you’ve never seen. Daytime heat like you’ve never felt.
The sun is not called the sun here. I call it the blazing ball of fiery hell.
…spend a few months under it, you probably will too.
It rises, and you feel it …and I mean feel it. It’s so hot that you can almost hear it.
It falls, and so does the temperature. 

The desert, it’s almost alive. It moves. It changes. It slides, it slithers.
What was there one day is gone the next.
What wasn’t there last night is here now.
You camp in a flat plain one night and wake up in the morning between dunes of sand.
You wake up to multiple sets of animal tracks around your door.
You hear sounds you’ve never heard. See the sky like you’ve never seen.
People, cultures and tribes you never knew existed.
In the sky at night, nebulas and stars that you didn’t know one could see.

There are a countless number of other things also. The small things that combine to make it what it is.
The scorpions, the fenec foxes scampering around camp at night.
Turning the corner, only to run smack into the side of an ancient pyramid, a palm fringed oasis, a group of AK wielding rebels, a family of nomads. The Tuareg …ahhh, the Tuareg.
Maybe the toughest bunch of people I’ve ever seen. A very appropriate people for the place.

 It may not be the sandiest, the hottest, the lowest or the …whatever.
But it definitely is “The” Desert of Deserts.
Below is a second in the life of it…

 November 28, 2007

Mandalay Palace Palms

Travels through Myanmar VII – Mandalay

…continued from: Travels through Myanmar VI – The Seamstress

Mandalay, Hmmm, what to say about Mandalay…

     A city that many travellers dream of visiting. A name that brings up thoughts of the exotic. Palm trees swaying in the breeze, bamboo stands lining the roads, Kipling, Buddhism. Sitting on the veranda, a slight breeze whispering through the air, sipping …some kind of exotic juice or drink (my preference would be Mandalay Beer)… George Orwell, elephants wandering around the streets, red robed monks wandering through the golden spired stupas throughout the city.

     My first impression to those thoughts would be Whhhhaaatttt? Reality: Hotter than …well, it’s hot, and humid. Dust everywhere, thrown up by the chaotic traffic of old trucks, motorbikes, tuk-tuks and any other type of vehicle made before 1980. The sidewalks choked with those vehicles, used as parking. The air thick with smog and pollution. Horns blaring. Exhaust fumes being inhaled at every twist and turn. Central Mandalay …not a tree in sight. It’s all concrete and pavement. Not a very impressive first impression to say the least. The Mandalay in Vegas – don’t know where they got that idea from, but it certainly wasn’t from the real Mandalay, that’s for sure …thank god.

     From there, yes, it did get better, at least a bit. Mandalay is more of a city that needs to be delved into, absorbed and explored to really appreciate. A small corner restaurant that doesn’t look too promising turns out to be one of the best, as well as cheapest meals of the trip. The morning markets, lively and fun, with tanaka covered faces smiling at you from every angle. A pagoda here, a pagoda there. As you wander the city, you start to notice the smaller things, the underlying thought that this is the “most exotic” city in the world. It’s not the city itself, it’s the people, the location, the mentality and history. Sitting on the Irrawaddy River, overlooked by stupa covered hills, parts of the city seemingly overrun by red robed monks, ancient teak monasteries filled with even older relics and furniture. A smile here, a smile there. An ice-cold soda, or beer, served by a ten-year old smiling waiter. A dinner prepared, cooked and served by a ninety year old woman, always smiling.

     Yes, it did get better. Maybe not the exotic city of legends, but an exotic and interesting city none the less. Get out of the “city center”, and the roads turn to dirt, the kitchens are all relocated outside, the rush hour traffic turns from diesel fumes and noise to bicycles and sandals, and things only get better.

     As for sights to see, Mandalay has way too many to list here. Head up to Mandalay Hill. Take a winding stroll up the stupa and pagoda studded hill to take in the views over the city. Stroll around Mandalay Palace in the morning …six miles around (gulp) … the “tourist” entrance is the eastern entrance, trying to get into any other will only get you an appointment and conversation with one or more AK wielding guards. I actually recommend this by the way. I had some great conversations playing stupid. Nothing to stupid, but just a walk up to the group of military, asking the ubiquitous question “Go In Here?’. It always started with a grinning military man in full uniform politely saying no as he waved his AK around. A question here, a question there, and more times than not I would end up talking about where I was from, what I thought about Myanmar, drinking tea, exchanging laughs. Gotta go …another mile and a half to the next entrance.

     Break…the REAL crab cake up above there. Head to Amarapura and U Bein Bridge for those…Back to Mandalay Palace…If you do go into Mandalay Palace, realize a few things. The palace grounds encompass a huge area but your only allowed on the road into the very center where the actual palace is located. Guards line the road from the entrance to the palace. You would think they are testing nuclear weapons in there. The palace itself, it’s a rebuilt shell of its original self. A shame really. It gets worst. The palace was rebuilt by forced labor in the late nineties… I know, you’re in Mandalay. A once in a lifetime opportunity here. That is one reason I don’t say “don’t do it”. If you go in, just be aware, and don’t have too high expectations. It’s rebuilt, yes, it may not be right, I know, but hey, the original palace ruled this area of the world for hundreds of years and was the center of Indochina for a period, so your walking through history and the center of an empire, no matter what the present government has mutated it into. If you do go in, don’t miss climbing the “Tower” at the southern end of the compound, where you can look over Mandalay to the mountains beyond and enjoy the cool breeze up above it all.

     Done with the Palace and hills. Looking for a little comedy – The Moustache Brothers are world-renowned. Dinner on the sidewalk for people watching – the Chapati Stand on 82nd and 27th street …maybe people watching at its finest, and cheap too! A large and clean pool in a quiet lush garden setting in the city centre, the Mandalay City Hotel. Don’t miss the Jade Market. I am serious about this one. Situated in the south-western section of the city, right next to the Monk District, this market is crazy. Every and any form of jade can be seen or bought here. From raw rock jade to intricately carved masterpieces, I have never, ever seen anything like this market. This is almost its own city inside the city. Not because of its size, but just how it is. Intertwined with pool “halls”, bars, restaurants and everything else, jade dealers can actually spend a lifetime here living, trading and hawking. Some shady characters here. It can be intimidating. Child labor running rampant. You wanna check your ego and attitude at the “door” (chain link fence is more like it). This place is serious, with serious dealers dealing with serious money sporting serious protection and serious firepower. Some shady, heck, all out rough-looking characters can be found in the middle of the market here. Again though, hey, everyone is nice enough. Smiling and accommodating. The outskirts of the market mainly family type businesses, with children running around and a great market atmosphere. Just like any other travel destination, know where you are. No BS here. Right around the corner …streets full of monks. Thousands. Red robes everywhere. Monasteries. Ancient teak buildings. Houses of wicker. Teak bridges crossing meandering streams. An all around great and interesting part of Mandalay. This is where things can get “caught in time”. Walk into an 800 year old monastery and right into an open air type room filled with 1000 year old relics. Nothing behind glass or anything like that. Open to the elements. Still in use …built to last. Gotta love it.

     Tired of Mandalay. Head out. Inwa, Sagaing, Amarapura, Mingun. All capitals of centuries past within a few kilometers of Mandalay. The longest Teak bridge in the world, U-Bein Bridge, Amapurma. 500 temples overlooking the Irrawaddy, Sagaing. An earthquake cracked, photogenically endowed, Paya, Mingon. An ancient city that ruled the Burmese Kingdom for four hundred years, accessible by horse cart …Inwa. It seems there is no end to the history, as well as fascinating sites around Mandalay. It’s an area that needs to be explored, still. Thats it. At first sight, a dust bowl of crap. Delve a bit deeper, and it’s a city of legends, imagination and fascination. But you have to leave sometime, and all too often, as was my case, too soon…

…to be continued.
Next Edition: Travels through Myanmar VIII – Munchkin Banana Pirates

Halong Bay

Halong Bay, Vietnam.

     Think …old Chinese junks, floating through a maze of over 3000 limestone islets set in turquoise blue waters, tropical birds flying all around, villages floating on the waters here and there. Cave systems to spark the interest of the land lubbers. Tales of dragons spitting jade and jewels, protectors against the northern invaders, to spark the imagination. Halong Bay, I never knew it even existed until I actually saw it. Impressive. If you’re in Vietnam, don’t miss the chance to see it. Even bad pictures bring back good memories from here.

September 18, 2010

Shy

Shy

Mut, Dakhla Oasis, Egypt.

Once I received a comment on this photo that said:

I hope everyone can see every child in the world in this photo, just beautiful.
A lovely fleeting moment.”

…maybe the best comment that I could possibly hear. My intention for almost any portrait type photo I take is the “instant” connection between the subject and viewer of that photo. …to have the viewer feel some kind of emotional contact with the picture, without me having to say anything. It usually, well almost never, doesn’t happen, but I keep trying. I keep trying because I believe that every child is worth it. If I can turn one person’s opinion around through my photos, than its worth it. People are people. Children are children. No matter what the country, the religion, the monetary situation, the political situation. Fundamentally, inside, everyone is the same. I could definitely do better with the post processing on this photo. I have learned quite a bit since this was taken. Technically, photographically speaking, the photo blows. The color is off. Could probably sharpen it a bit more. Maybe a bit of contrast, better color, etc, etc.

     …but why? It’s the moment that counts, and I love this moment. It reminds me instantly of the children of Mut. This girl. This day. She was so shy. I showed her a photo of herself on my LCD. She looked away, she looked back, she closed her eyes, she laughed. I raised my camera for another shot. She knew what was coming, she didn’t know what to do, she wanted to hide, but she wanted to see her picture again. Click. She ran to me to see her face. She laughed again. This is the memory and I’m glad to have it and show it. A fleeting moment where I can see every child in the world in her face. I don’t want to change a thing about it. Isn’t that what photography is all about?

                           December 2, 2007