The town of Ubud, Bali. Away from its polished main streets you’ll find little alleyways like this, narrow walkways cast, ditches cut on each side. Because of the tropical climate, plants grows and weeds sprout in just about every corner, crack and crevice. Balinese traditional homes, sprawled in giant courtyards, line the sides.
Take a stroll, pay close attention, and you may even find an ornate Balinese gate like the one pictured here. Though it looks more like an entrance to a Balinese Hindu temple than a home, it’s “only” a local family courtyard just a few doors down from a home stay where we gathered some rest for two weeks.
Look closer still, and you’ll see Ganesh holding court from inside the gate.
Open up the panorama to full screen and enjoy! Continue Reading »
Whether you’ve been to Machu Picchu or not, chances are that the most common images you’ve seen of it carry a familiar quality about them. Sometimes it takes looking at something iconic from a different perspective, however, to broaden your understanding and appreciation of what it might have taken to create all that’s behind the icon. And so it is with Machu Picchu in Peru.
Machu Picchu is impressive from just about every view, but the perspective in the panorama below provides a visual on what “perched high on a mountain ridge” really means. Continue Reading »
It’s just past dawn and as the sun begins its arc, the Namib Desert sand dunes turn from tinted pink to deep orange. The contrast between the cloudless blue sky and the dune’s edge becomes a clear line in starkness. In this early morning, there’s a narrow window of time until the angle of the sun and the heat of the desert strip away the crispness and the vibrance in one of the world’s oldest deserts.
On the edge of that window, we arrive at Big Daddy Dune. Continue Reading »
Off the southwestern corner of Ireland, pitched west of the coast of County Kerry, sit two little islands, one of which has a 600-step stone staircase that appears to wind straight into the sky. Those stairs, it is told, were built by monks who long, long time ago cast themselves away from civilization in order to meditate, study and pray.
This is the island of Skellig Michael.
And we were fortunate enough to see it in a rather unusual state: one of pure, unadulterated sunshine on the most magnificent of Irish autumn days. Continue Reading »
Yazd, a historically Zoroastrian town and a sort of desert outpost that took in people fleeing persecution and wars in other parts of the country, is one of our favorite cities in Iran. Its old city is almost entirely built in brown-red adobe clay, helping to blend it into the surrounding desert landscape and to keep its building interiors cool.
Ones eyes adapt to this mono-color, after which the bright turquoise and intricate Persian Islamic design in the Jameh Mosque will make you feel like you’ve put on 3-D glasses. Gaze at the mosque’s designs long enough and they’ll dizzy you, pull you in and play tricks on your eyes as you try to discern the calligraphy, symmetry and symbolism buried within.
Open up the panorama below and take a spin around the almost 900-year old mosque, Continue Reading »
As we take off for Central America (this time to Costa Rica), we think back to our first visit to the region a couple of years ago: Antigua, Guatemala.
Although Antigua has a reputation for being touristy, we found that it wasn’t too difficult to get lost and find a slice of authentic Guatemalan life. One of our favorite places to do this: Antigua’s central market.
Walk past the front section of the market, past the souvenirs and freshly cut fruit intended for gringos, and just keep going back, back — deep into the market, maybe even into the adjacent back parking lot areas where on weekends vendors come from neighboring villages.
It’s beyond this first scratch where you’ll find it: real life. Open the panorama to full screen to see it. Continue Reading »
First day of our Markha Valley trek. We weren’t quite certain what to expect for the remaining six days of trekking through the Himalayas, but we were sure the following day would be steep and uphill, to 4,950 meters/16,200 feet. So on our first day on the trail we were relieved to find relative flatness, to lose ourselves in the red rocks of the canyon around us and to look off into the distance of the climb that awaited us.
Open the panorama to full screen to join us on that first day of our Markha Valley trek. Continue Reading »
While traveling, we often find ourselves focused on the present. This is a good thing. Then, something helps us appreciate the history, the roots of where we happen to be. This too, is useful because it provides perspective.
Likir Buddhist Monastery in Ladakh, at almost 1,000 years old, is one of those places.
For much of our visit to Likir Monastery we were alone, save a sole monk who tidied up and made sure visitors took their shoes off before entering the temples. We enjoyed it all in peace and found ourselves stepping back, literally and figuratively, just trying to imagine how monks had gathered in those spaces for centuries — chanting, meditating, praying.
Open the panorama to full screen to see if you can imagine it yourself. Continue Reading »
Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags greet us as we reach Ladakh’s Gongmaru La pass. All the residual fatigue from climbing up to 16,800 feet/5,130 meters seems to evaporate once we’ve reached this place, our goal. It’s been six days in the Markha Valley and we’ve been up and down — and up again.
We have to remind ourselves not to move around too quickly up here, not to exhaust ourselves from the altitude. But it’s difficult to contain the excitement of being on top of the world — and as photographers, to grab a piece of and bask in every little visual slice that we can capture. The scenery stuns with layers of mountains for as far as the eye can see, while a surprise snowfall earlier in the week means our view is blessed with dramatic snow caps. Continue Reading »
Five days into our Markha Valley Trek in Ladakh, India. We were on our way to Nimiling, a summer hangout for local shepherds (with their flocks of sheep, goats and cattle/yak hybrids called zos) and the overnight base camp for our final ascent to Gongmaru La Pass (5,130 meters/16,800 feet). That morning we endured and enjoyed our share of steep climbs, losing ourselves to the mountains and our slow, deliberate pace.
Then a break: a lunchtime spot at peaceful clear lake with views of Kang Yatze Peak (6,400 meters / 21,000 feet) and the Zanskar range. In so many ways, we felt very much like we were on top of the world. Continue Reading »