Temple of Tanah Lot, southeastern Bali
Reflect on Bali, and near-mystical images spin through one’s mind. The mist hanging on smoking volcanic cones, people laying offerings by roadside shrines, ancient temples, solemn cremation ceremonies, gracefully peaked, ornamented houses, terraced rice paddies: all these scenes are a part of Bali that is timeless and untouchable. Yet, even as all these ancient scenes and settings are still plentiful here, so are the tourist-clogged mega malls, the surf hangouts and the tawdry bars. By comparison, images of South Pacific seem nostalgic. Thankfully, the “new” Bali is still somewhat contained in the southeast quarter of the island while “old” Bali can still be found within an hour or two drive of the 21st
century hedonism that seems intent on drowning this ancient culture.
Bali, the first island east of Java in the Indonesian archipelago, is one of the most spiritual places on earth. And it is because of Bali’s spirituality that this island maintains its unique place in our modern world. By spirituality, I don’t mean strictly religious practice, although religion is not only present, but an ingrained part of Balinese life. “Religion” in Bali is…
I’M ON AN INDIAN TRAIN, tucked into a second-class berth, lower. Above me a man is snoring loudly, and across from me a handsome man with greying hair, in a crisp kurtah, is reading “The Secret,” in English, which seems like an incongruous book for an Indian man to read in India. It’s late, the train is dark but for running and reading lights, and I’m relaxing with an e-book. I can’t fall asleep because I have to get down at Ajmer in central Rajasthan in the middle of the night.
The train is late. Not much, but instead of arriving at 1:15 a.m. in Ajmer, I arrive at 2 a.m. Arriving so late at a train station is my biggest worry about this itinerary, but my travel agent arranged for one of their best drivers to meet me there. And sure enough, Avtaar is waiting when I step down. So relieved.
I’m not settled into my hotel in Pushkar — Inn Seventh Heaven — until 3 a.m. I chose to stay at Inn Seventh Heaven in Pushkar because I was there before. It’s a five-storey haveli, all in white, with a whimsical inner courtyard that features birds playing…
The Marche Républicaine at Place de la République.
Paris, to me, is a city that always feels like itself. Even as it changes, it always feels the same, au fond, deep down. But what do I know? I’ve only lived here eight years.
I’m not French, not Parisian, and likely never will be. France isn’t in my blood, but it’s in my spleen, my heart, my liver, and all those other organs the French like to attribute with properties they may or may not have.
En gros, I’m a fan. And this is my story, my history, of Paris.
The June Uprising: My First French Revolution
When I first arrived in France, I was disappointed.
There, I’ve said it. Even though today, I make fun of those who imagine Paris to be what it’s not — men in berets on bikes with baguettes, playing accordions and drinking wine morning, noon, and night — I’ll admit that I showed up with expectations, albeit different expectations, and they were dashed.
Most girls show up in Paris hoping to be seduced on the Pont des Arts, chauffeured around the quais de Seine on the back of a moto-scooter, kissed in…
I found myself alone in a strange landscape as the taxi drove off in the rain. I looked around at my foreign landscape and could see for miles – and for miles there was nothing or no one. Not even a tree. I felt like Katniss at the beginning of the Hunger Games – but instead of mutant dogs there were cows staring at me wondering, “who the hell is this invading our land.”
Moments before in the taxi, the driver – an old Irish guy who smelled like smoke and reminded me of my grandfather – asked me in a somewhat worrisome tone, “Do you know where you are going?”
“Not exactly,” I replied as I started to unfold my piece of paper, “I have some instructions that I’m going to follow.”
He continued driving up the hill, turned on the windshield wipers as it started to rain a bit and then asked, “You have a phone right?”
“Yes I do. However, I don’t know if I’ll have a connection up here,” I nervously laughed.
We arrived at the drop off point – an old, muddy farm…
Whenever I travel to a new city I always, always make sure to schedule a tour. Tours help you see the city through a local’s perspective, allow you to ask questions from a tried-and-true resident, take you to places you’d probably never venture yourself, and feed you with fun facts.
Here’s our roundup of tours that you can take in NYC, whether you’re a tourist or local:
1. Tours By Foot | “Offering pay-what-you-wish New York walking tours as well as food, bike and bus tours. We provide a platform for licensed, local, freelance tour guides to lead tours at no upfront costs, so that you may enjoy an interesting New York sightseeing tour for whatever price you like, even free. You get to determine what a tour was worth, if anything, after the tour, thus ensuring that your tour guide must strive to give his or her best on every tour.”
2. Free Historic Neighborhood Tour of the Lower East Side | “Every Sunday, April through December at 11 a.m., meet in front of Katz’s Delicatessen (corner of East Houston and Ludlow Street) for a comprehensive historic tour. Free and open to the public. Take a historical three-hour journey…
Eight months ago, my fiancée, Jacque, and I left home to tour the world, starting in Cambodia. We were over 30, unemployed, clueless and out of place. We knew only one thing for certain: staying in hostels and guesthouses was our cheapest bet for accommodation. Conventional wisdom said that hostel private rooms provided a little privacy without the cost of hotels. For nearly a month in Cambodia, we stuck with hostels that were questionably clean or in the middle of a swarm of vicious tourist touts. We assumed that we were doing the right thing.
As we prepared to board our bus for Saigon, Jacque suggested we try Airbnb. Before leaving home, we rented our place a couple times using the service, and our experience as hosts was positive. Jacque found a room in a big house in Saigon’s District 1. It was far from the tourist area of the city, but the host seemed friendly. We took a risk and booked it for a week.
And it changed everything.
Sunset over Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Magical Traveling Scarf.
Our week in Saigon was a travel revelation. The room was…
I love the dirty, broken down and forgotten. I’m not exactly sure why I adore finding beauty in things that are left behind, but I think it has something to do with the fact that it ignites my imagination. I start to daydream about why it was abandoned, what the circumstances were, and who was involved. I create stories in my mind about what was the fateful turning point for the property – a slow degradation process or a disaster that made someone leave the space behind quickly?
Abandoned sites are one of my favorite things to photograph. Below are a collection of some of the ugly, abandoned, destroyed, run-down, and forgotten elements around the world – each complete with a story of why it represents the element for me.
- Definition: Represents the hard, solid objects of the earth. Associated with stubbornness, collectiveness , physicality and gravity.
An abandoned whaling station on Deception Island Antarctica fills with snow over the decades. To me Antarctica represents the earth element because in order to survive there as a human or animal you had to have a hardness and stubbornness more so…
I discovered the Clarion Collection Hotel Christiania Teater
, just past the parliament in Oslo
and in front of a massive square and park. The hotel was a perfect way for me to celebrate Norway
, my 99th country — here are a few things to love about this hotel.
Spacious Rooms and Bathrooms
View Over the Park
- by night and day, relax and take in the view over the park. By day, ice skating and tourists, by night a few people out and about ready to hit the bars and pubs.
The park by night
Sunset from my room
Reliable WiFi and Computer Use
: I have stayed in some unusually themed places over the years, such as the Hemingway Inn in…
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