Hello

Sapa, Vietnam.

     This woman, well, she was quite the character to say the least. An elderly member of the Black Hmong, this smile has graced the pages of many guide books and periodicals on Vietnam, including the likes of Lonely Planet and National Geographic Traveler Magazine. I was glad to have met her and was surprised to turn the corner and see a recognizable face in Sapa.

     I wonder if she knows that she is one of those “world-renowned” faces associated with Sapa and Northern Vietnam. I bet even if she does, she really doesn’t care. Who knows, maybe her daily conversations include the finer points of modeling and advertising. Cindy Crawford’s got nothin’ over her.

     …and I could probably sharpen this one up a bit, adjust the color a little and maybe add some contrast, but hey, it’s all about the memory, and she is perfect just as is.

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Chasing the Sun

Earth.

It’s fun, chasing the sun. …a bit expensive, but oh so colorful.

Post #100. …figured I would go back to something I’m good at – photography.
…ok, not necessarily good, just more gooder than writing that is. It’s all relative.

A few from the past 100 and a few that will be in the next 100…

From top to bottom, left to right: Axum, Ethiopia // Yankari National Park, Nigeria // Lake Lagdo, Cameroon // Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal // Dahab, Egypt // Bagan, Myanmar // Mt. Nebo, Jordan // Kabul, Afghanistan // Dahab, Egypt // Halong Bay, Vietnam // Northern Sudan // Lake Tana, Ethiopia // Bagan, Myanmar // Simien Mountains, Ethiopia // Axum, Ethiopia // Bagan, Myanmar // Northern Sudan // Black Desert, Egypt // Black Desert, Egypt // Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal // Bagan, Myanmar.

I think it’s gonna be a lifetime pursuit…

Book Review: Tea Time with Terrorists

Tea Time with Terrorists: A Motorcycle Journey Into The Heart Of Sri Lanka’s Civil War
by: Mark Stephen Meadows

     Here is a subject and country you don’t often see written about or traveled around. Sri Lanka, formerly called Ceylon, definitely has a good reason for such a lack of written experience, having been in the midst of a decades long civil war and considered one of the poorest nations in the world, as well as being known as the home of modern terrorism. Mark takes full advantage of this “blank palette” of the world and creates an informative, insightful, sometimes surprising, often quite dangerous, fascinating and humorous look at this island nation that so many know so little about, let alone even knowing where it is located on the map.

     In Mark’s own words, he “sets out to find and report the most subjective and inaccurate news I can”, having the thought that stories we have to tell are more true, less accurate, as compared to stories you see on the news, which are more accurate, less true. 

     Mark starts his journey in the south and works his way north to Jaffna. Along the way he starts to understand this “Galapagos of Terrorism”. He puts a face to some of the most wanted terrorists in the world, literally also, with pictures throughout, and sets out to show what real terrorists are like. I gotta give him credit, he interviews some real heavy hitters here, and really gets into the political side and true nature and thinking of some of the oldest and most experienced terrorists in the world. These are the guys who invented the singular suicide bombing, The Tamil Tigers. Not just one organization is here though, you also have: EROS, ELO, ENDLP,ENLF, EPRLF, EPDP, LTTE, PLA, JVP, SLFP, TLO, TSL, TELF …to name just a few. Group upon group formed to exact revenge on the former only to lead to the formation of the next who wants revenge on the latter. Mark explains their weapons, their methodology and their thinking as he makes his way north. In-between he tells the tale of his journey, of elephants, of temples, of the people in the middle.

     The book starts out brilliantly, and then heads into the interviews, which admittedly almost loses me, especially after my last book (see review before this one), but Mark brings it back to memoir just in time and ends the book even more brilliantly than he started it. In between this brilliance he teaches the reader quite a bit about terrorists, and shows some of the softer sides of these people, as well some of the darker sides of such a long war. I think the thing that impressed me the most was how he brought everything together at the end. From the story of how to catch an elephant to the story of men training in Palestine, he brings everything together and provides reason for each and every little story he tells. At times, I think he loses his focus throughout, only to actually see that he brings whole picture together at the end. Very impressive. I really didn’t see it coming but give him all the more credit for it.

     The book turns into quite a good memoir and gives quite a lesson on the history of Sri Lanka, as well as an insight into why that history has been so unstable. Honestly, it’s the best piece of literature I have read on Sri Lanka, by far. The only caveat being that there really isn’t much out there, which almost lends more respect to Mark for traveling through such a country where very few outsiders dare to go, with good reason. Mark also has, and points out, some very insightful views of the world and its thinking on terrorism, and provides a very open minded perspective on the worlds dealing with these issues today, which at times are most often helping, not hurting these organizations.

Bottom Line:
…if you’re at all interested in Sri Lanka: Highly Recommended

…if you’re interested in, well, what the hell these terrorists are thinking, or terrorism in general: the Highest Recommendation I can possibly give
…if you’re looking for a good, original, travel memoir type read but not really particular to Sri Lanka: Recommended but with reservations – the interviews

     It’s a great book and very well written, no doubt. Tea Time with Terrorists is not a lovey dovey kind of read, as one would imagine. It is, for the most part, what the title says, with a look into the country, the countryside, the history, the customs and its people throughout. Although I mention politics and history throughout this review, it’s definitely not a political or historical type book, but more memoir and personal experience type read. Even if you’re not interested in what a terrorist thinks, as I’m certainly not, it still is very interesting. It’s a good, at many times great, book, and if nothing else, very original.

     Help me keep traveling, reviewing, and taking pictures. If you want to buy this book, or any other book through Amazon, than click and buy through the photo above. Thank you!!! John

Travels through Sudan VI – Dune

…continued from: Travels through Sudan V – Into the Desert

Northern Sudan.

     The sun is slowly sinking, the temperature getting almost bearable after a day of unrelenting heat. I can almost take a full breath again without having to worry about burning my tongue on the desert air. Every minute and every inch the sun sinks, the temperature goes down a degree to match. It was an exhilarating first day of driving down the Nile from Wadi Halfa and I think we’re already at day four without a shower. We start looking for a spot to camp, ha, “looking” really not being the right word, but more like choosing an area out of a million perfect campsite areas. We just head left for a few minutes, figuring the further we get from the Nile the better we’ll be. Around a mountain we run into a sand flat that must be five, maybe ten, miles across, head to the middle, and park on the flat. Surrounded by black mountains, tipped here and there with dunes carried by the winds like reversed waterfalls of caramel moving up the cracks of the black rock, this place is truly amazing. Continue reading

Travels through Sudan V – Into the Desert

…continued from: Travels through Sudan IV – To Wadi Halfa

Northern Sudan.

     …and so we went. Out of Wadi Halfa into the Sahara. Illegally actually, but not really, but kind of, seeing as we were given permission to enter the country by the customs officials, but with one stipulation – that we weren’t allowed to enter the country until we came back to Wadi Halfa the next morning to get “officially” processed, at which point it would be official, but no more real, but I guess less illegal, all the while knowing that these guys just wanted to finish their day, go home, and smoke a hookah. Understandable. That’s what I would do. Continue reading

Travels through Sudan IV – To Wadi Halfa

…continued from: Sudan III – African Time

     Still sitting in the Port of Aswan, Egypt …I know, part IV and not even out of Egypt yet, I’ll move this along. 5:00 PM now, we got here at 7:30 AM, scheduled to leave at 9:00 AM, just waiting on the Libyans now it seems. Looks like everything is wrapping up down below, the barges are just about full, the ferry is packed to the brim with people and supplies. Moving down the aisles of the lower decks means climbing over the rails, around the people and through all the boxes, cans, barrels and everything else needed to start the Wal-Mart, Wadi Halfa. Captain Ahab is growing restless. The Libyans bus pulls up …without the Libyans, it’s just a bus full of supplies. Another bus pulls up – this must be them – there’s no one in this one either, it’s full of boxes. The people must be just behind, or hiding amid the boxes, not really sure at this point. No wonder they’re eight hours late, they are carrying so much stuff that they can’t actually fit in their own bus… C’mon, you gotta be kidding me ↓ (x2 remember). Continue reading

Travels through Sudan III – African Time

…continued from: Sudan II – The Beginning

Lake Nasser, Africa.

     …we hit the port in Aswan at around 7:30 AM, after a short bus ride from our hotel. Oscar Del Toro, our six wheeled friend, mate and confidant, was loaded on the vehicle ferry yesterday. This is a milestone, so to speak, in our trip which started in Istanbul. The ferry from Aswan, Egypt to Wadi Halfa, Sudan. We’ve been told what to expect on the other side but everyone is still anxious. This trip is almost legendary, being one of the only, legal, ways into Sudan from Egypt. From the comfort, and annoyance, of tourist-trap like settings with air conditioning, plentiful food and all, or most, of the comforts of home to one of the harshest areas of the world where food is scarce, air conditioning doesn’t exist and tourists don’t often go. One short, 24 hour, ferry ride and everything changes, like night and day. Continue reading