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This section was last reviewed on April 21st, 2024.

Meeting people around the world can be a good way to mirror ourselves. The more cultures we’re exposed to and the more contrast we may find between our way of life and that of the others, the clearer we may get to see ourselves. And the clearer we get to see ourselves, the more common ground we may find between ourselves and the others. Some societies may accentuate certain sets of human traits, while some other societies may accentuate some other sets of traits. In the long run, however, all human conduct is drawn from one single common pool of human characteristics and there’s no possible human behavior embraced by any individual, tribe or society that may not exist at least in a potential manner in each and everyone of us. In other words, learning about the “others” can be a good way to learn about ourselves.

To view any of the photo albums please click on the colored title.

2024

Da Nang Through the Lens of my Phone. Da Nang, Vietnam, April 10th, 2024. The photos you usually see in most of my albums I have taken with my 11-year-old Nikon camera which, to be frank, it’s beginning to make me consider replacing it for a newer model. But sometimes, when I’m just walking around, I just snap some shots with my phone. I hardly ever make an album with those phone photos, but this time I thought it was worth it. So here they are. To see the photo album, please click here.

Ba Na Hills. Da Nang, Vietnam, April 7th, 2024. The Truong Son mountains are located just west of the city of Da Nang and the best-known tourist attraction in that area are the Ba Na Hills. I’m not usually given to visiting tourist attractions, but this past April 5th there was a programmed 8-hour power blackout in my neighborhood, so my best option was to get out of town for that day. The taxi driver who brought me from the airport about a week ago had mentioned Ba Na Hills to me, so I decided to go spend the day there. I first got on a taxi around 7:20 AM for the 10-minute ride from my AirBnB to a café where the shuttle bus picks up the passengers going to Ba Na Hills. At around 7:45 the bus arrived and at around 8:00 we were on our way to Ba Na Hills, were we arrived around 9:10. The photos you are about to see are shown in the order in which I took them. To view the photo album, please click here. Welcome to Ba Na Hills.

Lê Lợi & Nguyễn Huệ Boulevards. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, March 30th, 2024. This is sort of a “goodbye HCMC” photo album that shows two of the main Boulevards in this city. One of them is attractive for the lights that adorn it and the other for its lively nightly ambience and its traditional Vietnamese decorations. Ho Chi Minh City brims with restaurants of all sizes, styles, and kinds of food and it has a convenient number of bars too. This is a lively city and the number of foreign visitors you see on the streets keeps growing as Spring matures and Summer approaches. Thus far I have had a pleasant stay here and I have also set in motion the process for renewing my French passport, which is one of the reasons I came to HCMC (I have dual American-French citizenship). My next destination is Da Nang, a Vietnamese coastal city that I visited around 10 years ago that I’m expecting has developed considerably since then. I’m planning to stay there for the month of April, but I will have to come back to HCMC by the end of the month to pick up my passport, but only for one day. Fortunately, Bamboo Airways’ flight schedules from Da Nang allow me to fly-in in the morning and fly-out the same day in the evening. Nice. By the way, if you ever think of visiting Ho Chi Minh City, please don’t hesitate to do it. Local people here are friendly and attentive to foreigners, the food is good and tasty, and the cost of living is not high at all compared to European or American standards. To view the photo album, please click here. Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City.

Bach Dang Wharf. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, March 17th, 2024. The location of the AirBnB apartment I’m renting here in Ho Chi Minh City has turned out to be just right. Although it is only some 30 meters away from the lively Lý Tự Trọng street, in the Phường Bến Thành Ward, District 1, it is on a cul de sac shielded by some buildings from any street noise, so I get to be in a central area of the city while enjoying the quiet surroundings of an exclusive neighborhood. And the price is quite affordable too. All the points of interest in the city are just a 15 to 20-minute walk from my place, including Bach Dang Wharf, so by mid-afternoon yesterday I just took an easy walk there and took the pictures you are about to see. Welcome to Bach Dang Wharf. To see the photo album, please click here.

The War Remnants Museum. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, March 10th, 2024. I have been to a good number of countries, but I have never been keen on visiting museums. This time, however, it would have been a major error not to visit The War Remnants Museum here in Ho Cho Minh City and see for myself the way the Vietnamese present their wartime experience to the visitors. In their eyes, there are no two sides to this issue. The Vietnamese see themselves as the clear victims of an uncalled-for, murderous, unjustifiable, armed invasion from the part of the United States and they are right, as the naked truth is that they never did any wrong to us. American participation in the Vietnam war was all just part of the same paranoid, worldwide program to deter by all means and at all cost the expansion of communism from the Soviet Union and China to the rest of the world. And the masses of people caught in the middle of any armed conflict be damned. In total, the Vietnamese government has estimated there were 2 million Vietnamese casualties during the war, including both north and south Vietnam. That sum also includes between 200,000 and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers. On the American side, there were approximately 60,000 war casualties, all of it basically in vain. But the Vietnamese warring troubles did not start when the first American Marines landed on the beaches of the seaside city of Da Nang in 1965. The embattled history of Vietnam dates from the beginning of the 1st century. To read about it and to see the photo album, please click here.

Bùi Viện Street. Ho Chi Minh City, March 7th, 2024. The famous Bùi Viện Street, also known as “Walking Street” in Ho Chi Minh City, is not really a walking street. There are plenty of scooters moving around all over the place. But at least there aren’t any cars or trucks circulating. Bùi Viện Street reminds me of Bangla Road in Phuket, Thailand, except that Bùi Viện Street is much longer and the entertainment area that surrounds it is much larger. There is also much less prostitution in Bùi Viện than in Bangla. But the one good thing that Bangla has that Bùi Viện doesn’t is organization. In Bangla they close the road to all motor vehicles in the early evening, while in Bùi Viện motorcycles are free to move around among the pedestrian crowds all night long. As expected, music is very loud on Bùi Viện and the songs you hear range from Kool & The Gang, to Barry White, the Bee Gees and other usual similar artists. Ho Chi Minh City presents quite a contrast to me after living for three months in some quiet, residential areas of Johannesburg, South Africa, but I have already lived in a few noisy cities in the past so, no problem there. In addition, my AirBnB is conveniently located in a quiet back alley just one block away from a central, busy, main road just minutes away on foot from all main attractions in the city, so everything is just fine. To view the photo album, please click here.

A Flash Visit to Singapore. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, March 6th, 2024. After a 10-hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Singapore, I had a layover in that city-state long enough to visit a portion of downtown and the new Gardens by the Bay. I also had a chance to walk around “Changi”, the wide, modern, and pleasant Airport. This was my 3rd time in Singapore, so my interest in getting out of the airport was mainly in taking a stroll around the now-famous gardens. They have a light show there every early evening and there always seem to be hundreds of people watching it. The show has a background of classical music that includes well-known pieces like Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma”. I sat among the crowd at one of the garden’s restaurants and had “Laksa” for dinner, a typical Singaporean dish. Laksa has all the ingredients found in many Southeast Asian dishes, plus a certain singular taste in the soup. To view the photo album, please click here. Welcome to Singapore.

SoWeTo. Johannesburg, South Africa, February 18th, 2024. Coming to Johannesburg and not visiting SoWeTo would have been a mortal sin that in no way could I afford to commit. So, I added an extra month to my stay so that I could find the right time to visit the grounds where perhaps the most essential chapter in modern South African history was written: The Township of SoWeTo. You may have noticed I write “SoWeTo” with three interspersed capital letters. This is to highlight the fact that the name is actually an acronym for South Western Townships. The community of Soweto was first founded in the 1930s when Black South Africans were forcefully expelled from the city of Johannesburg. The name Soweto was chosen among a few options presented to a council that had the final say. Today, Soweto has a population of approximately 2 million people, of which 98.5% are Black Africans. 37.1% of Sowetans speak Zulu as their first language, but there are more than 3 other native languages spoken there too. Nationwide, Zulu is the No.1 first language (23%), with No.2 being Xhosa (16%) and No. 3 being Afrikaans (14%). English is widely spoken as a first language in Johannesburg, but at the national level it is the No.4 first language (9.6%). In general, I have found that Black South Africans don’t have an evident chip on their shoulders. Their race doesn’t seem to bother them at all, at least not as evidently as it seems to bother some African-Americans. There are times when the only non-African guy in the crowd is me, but I have never felt the least uncomfortable about it. Black South Africans are indeed very approachable and friendly and so are most of the white ones too. My visit to Soweto was an indispensable experience, mainly because of the historic student uprising that took place in that township on June 16, 1976, which marked the beginning of the end of the shameful ultra-racist Apartheid regime. While standing at the place where students were slaughtered by the regime’s police on that day and later, I couldn’t help but reflect on the sharp contrast between those events and the quiet, acquiescent, and submissive way the students and their parents in Florida, USA, have reacted to the censoring, detrimental educational reforms presently unfolding over there. I guess it is high time for us Americans to begin getting rid of our general complacency and start seriously looking for some inspiration and even for some moral guidance in the rest of the world. To view the Soweto photo album, please click here.

Nelson Mandela Square and Sandton District. Johannesburg, South Africa, December 17th, 2023. Having a late lunch at one of the many restaurants in Nelson Mandela Square was a pleasant experience. I just got me a table at “La Parada”, one of those nice places, and had some Salmon Sashimi with a Heineken on draught. Nice. There is also a large shopping center at the square that has many ritzy shops. Strolling around Sandston, the Financial district, was equally agreeable too. It was all in clear contrast with the views I gathered around Gandhi Square a few days ago, particularly regarding cleanliness. To view the photo album, please click here.

Streets of Johannesburg, South Africa. Johannesburg, South Africa, December 9th, 2023. This is my first visit to South Africa. Back in June of this year I was twice at the airport while on my way to and from Namibia, but I’ve never counted airport layovers as visits. I’m staying at a comfy cottage in the Westdene suburbs, in the outskirts of the city. It’s a very quiet area of Johannesburg, exactly what I was looking for. The photos you’re about to see I took during a recent visit I made to the city’s downtown. In looking at the pictures, I suggest you imagine you’re just strolling down the streets with no particular place to go, which is exactly what I did for a couple of hours. The photos are shown in the order they were taken. To see the album, please click here.

Sidi Kaouki. Essaouira, Morocco, November 9th, 2023. Sidi Kaouki is a small seaside town just about 30 minutes by car from Essaouira. The roads in this area of Morocco are well-maintained, so the ride is rather pleasant as you go down the Atlantic coast. I just went there to take some pictures and have some Tagine for lunch. While contemplating the beach from a certain distance, I couldn’t help but imagining how crowded it would be if it were an Italian, French, or American beach as, even during Fall, the temperature here is still warm enough for some people to swim. To view the photo album, please click here. Welcome to Sidi Kaouki.

Horse-Drawn Carriages of Essaouira. Essaouira, Morocco, November 4th, 2023. Horse-drawn carriages are not unusual here in southern Morocco. I didn’t see any of them in the capital city of Rabat and I must have seen a couple of them in Casablanca, but I saw many of them in Marrakech. The main purpose of the carriages in Marrakech is to give tourist rides to the many foreigners who visit the Medina in that city. In Essaouira, however, horse-drawn carriages are actually used as means of daily transportation for the local people. Here, they have buses and taxis too, but a good number of locals prefer riding on those carriages. By the way, taxis here in Morocco are not used individually, they are used collectively, meaning that you often share the ride with other people who are more or less going in the same direction as you, but to different destinations. Essaouira is not a big city, so even if the taxi has to first go drop a couple of other passengers before dropping you off, the detour won’t add more than a few minutes to your trip and you get a short free ride around town. Taxi rides within the perimeters of the city usually cost 8 dirhams, or US$0.80. To view the photo album, please click here. Welcome to Essaouira.

A Moroccan Bus Ride, the Jimi Hendrix Café and Other Views. Essaouira, Morocco, October 29th, 2023. This album contains some photos I took while on the bus from Marrakech to Essaouira, which is a smooth 3-hour ride approximately. The highlight of the album are the photos showing the Jimi Hendrix Restaurant. The restaurant is a bit unkept, but I guess that fact only adds to the folkish aspect of the place. According to local lore, Jimi was here sometime in September of 1969. Rumor has it Cat Stevens has been here too, as well as Frank Zappa and they also say Bob Marley walked these grounds as well, but I haven’t been able to confirm any of that. Whatever the case, Essaouira is a nice place to visit. To see the photo album, please click here.

The City-Port of Essaouira. Essaouira, Morocco, October 11th, 2023. I read about Essaouira about 10 years ago and since then I had unsuccessfully tried to come here a few times. In fact, sometime around the spring of 2020, while living on the island of Paros, Greece, I almost booked an AirBnB from a Canadian lady who was telling me there were no Covid-19 problems here. I, of course, double checked that on the Internet and found out Essaouira had just turned code red in terms of contamination, so I didn’t come. One of the curiosities that kept alive my interest in coming here was the fact that Jimmi Hendrix was here and Cat Stevens too. Actually, the first place I visited when I just got out of the bus that brought me down from Marrakech, was the Jimmi Hendrix Bar & Café. I have some photos of that place, but I will share those with you in the next album. Essaouira is not a big city and it is not noisy either. Prices in general are lower than in the other Moroccan cities where I’ve been, but not by much. There is tourism here, but not in excessive numbers. Most local people speak French and some of them speak English too, particularly in Hotels, Restaurants and Bars. And Wine, Beer and Cocktails are much more available here than in other Moroccan cities. Also, in Essaouira you can sit outside and have lunch or dinner with a beer or a glass of wine, while in Rabat, Casablanca, or Marrakech, you are forced to stay inside, basically hidden from the people outside. But no problem. In a few words, thus far I can encapsulate my stay in Essaouira as “so far so good”. To view the Essaouira photo album, please click here.

I Sang “As Time Goes By” at Rick’s Café in Casablanca. Essaouira, Morocco, October 9th, 2023. It felt good to sing “As Time Goes By” at Rick’s Café in Casablanca. As I’m sure many of you know, “As Time Goes By” is the theme song for the classic 1942 film “Casablanca” with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains. It is also the love theme for the onscreen romance between Bogart (Rick) and Bergman (Ilsa). When I first arrived in Rabat a few weeks ago, I promised myself I would someday soon go down to Rick’s Café in Casablanca and sing that song for everyone to hear, and I did it. I first enjoyed the surprised gladness expressed in the faces of the piano player, the bass player, and the drummer, when they realized I could actually sing that song. Then I fully enjoyed the rest of the performance. During the first verse it was only the piano player and me, but then the other two musicians eagerly joined us, and we played the rest of the song together. Some people in the audience took pictures of the four of us, but the applause at the end of the song seemed to be directed at me. It was one of those small, but rewarding and fulfilling experiences that no longer happen to me often. When I finally leave Morocco a few weeks from now, I will have to go back to Casablanca to catch a plane, so I intend to go have dinner again at Rick’s Café. Once there, I will again ask the piano player whether it’s OK for me to sing “As Time Goes By” with them. If he agrees, I will hand my phone to someone in the audience and kindly ask them to tape the performance. The photos you’re about to see I took mostly while having lunch at noon the same day I sang the song, except for the one where I’m in the company of Kasia, a charming lady from Australia with whom I had dinner that evening. The bottom line is this: I sang the song “As Time Goes By” at Rick’s Café in the city of Casablanca, in the country of Morocco, and it feels really good to have done it. To view the photo album, please click here.

Riding on the Marrakech Express. Essaouira, Morocco, October 7th, 2023. “Took the train from Casablanca, going south…” so (more or less) say the lyrics to the song “Marrakesh Express”, released by the group Crosby, Stills, and Nash in 1969. And that is exactly what I did this past October 4th, I took the train from Casablanca to Marrakesh, thereby accomplishing a small bucket-list whim of mine. But the train ride was only a part of my whim. To complete my wish, I had to sing the song while riding on the train, and I did it. It all happened like this: 1st class seats on some trains are like cabins that can accommodate up to 6 people inside and I was travelling in one of those. Once the train had been on its way like for 10 to 15 minutes, I took my phone out, and searched for the song “Marrakesh Express” on YouTube. Then, I asked the other passengers whether it would be OK for them if I played the song and sang along with it, explaining to them that the song was exactly about travelling on the train we were all riding on, and they all agreed. So, I played the song and sang along with it. After I’d finished singing, I felt a small sense of accomplishment that was very pleasant and satisfying. In the end, my fellow passengers were all smiling, taking pictures of the YouTube link so that they could later play the song to their families and friends. The trip from Casablanca to Marrakech takes about three hours and the ride is rather smooth. To see a few photos of my train ride, please click here. To listen to the song “Marrakesh Express” by CS&N, please click here.

Rabat-First Impressions. Rabat, Morocco, September 19th, 2023. I have been in Rabat for the past two weeks and I have already walked around some districts of the city long enough to know for sure that I like what I see. I’m also glad to say that I don’t feel much like an alien around here, as French is one of the spoken local languages and it is also one of the languages I speak fluently. Erbati people (Erbati is masculine, Erbatiya is feminine) are generally talkative and friendly, so it isn’t difficult at all for me to navigate the local social environment. The photos you are about to see do not reflect the whole variety of impressions I have collected over the two weeks that I’ve been here, but they do show a few of the historical characteristics of the city of Rabat in particular and of the country of Morocco in general. Photos No. 02 to 38 show the Kasbah of the Oudaias, which is a walled citadel dating from the XII century. All other photos show different views of the Old Medina district, which is part of the city of Rabat. To see the album showing some of my first impressions of Rabat, please click here.

Souvenirs of My Short Stay in McLeod Ganj, India. Rabat, Morocco, September 18th, 2023. I recently spent about a week in the town of McLeod Ganj, which is like a district of the larger city of Dharamshala, in the State of Himachal Pradesh, Northern India. McLeod is also known as Little Lhasa because of the large number of Buddhist monks and nuns who live there, many of them refugees from Tibet who fled their home-country in 1959 after the Chinese government forcefully annexed their country in 1951. This album contains some photos I took while strolling around town and while walking down one of the trails in the vicinity. To view the McLeod Ganj photo album, please click here. NOTE: Now there is the option to view the photos in full screen mode.

Back in Tiru. Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India, July 18th, 2023. Why have I come back to Tiruvannamalai? You may ask, and my answer would be, because I didn’t have a better choice, which in other words would mean because I was meant to come back. My AirBnB in Kochi, Kerala, was comfortable, well located and well equipped, but it was too close to a Mosque where they pray 5 times a day, all of them over very loud speakers. But that is nothing new to me. I have lived in Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey and I have been for a few days or a few weeks in Dubai and Bahrain, all of them Muslim countries where they pray 5 times a day (in Qatar I was only for one day). But in none of those countries did they leave the microphone open so that the whole 30 minutes of prayer are blasted over the loudspeakers at 5:00 am in the morning and 08:00 pm at night (the other 3 daily prayers were not fully amplified). After some 10 days of that, I decided I’d had enough and it was time for me to leave so, I just looked for the nearest place I could go to that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg and it turned out to be Tiru. Am I glad I’m back here? You bet I am. The photos you're about to see I took not farther than a 10-minute walk from my Small Abode. Welcome back to Tiruvannamalai. To view the photo album, please click here.

Fort Kochi. Kochi, Kerala State, India, July 11th, 2023. Fort Kochi is a district located right at the tip of the Cochin peninsula and is part of the larger city of Kochi, which is also known as Cochin. The Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama seems to have been the first westerner to set foot on these lands circa 1498. The name Cochin refers to the first creole language resulting from the mixture of Indian and Portuguese languages. Besides the English and the Portuguese, the Dutch were also in Kochi during the same period and the Germans also occupied the area during the 17th century. The western interest in Kochi was usually the spice trade. The population of Fort Kochi is approximately 235,000 (Please keep in mind that India just surpassed China as the most populous country in the world). I landed here on July 3rd and don’t know for how long I will stay. Welcome to Fort Kochi. To see the photo album, please click here.

Out of Africa and Back to India. Kochi, Kerala State, India, July 5th, 2023. This is just a short preliminary photo album consisting of three parts. First you will see some pictures I took from the taxi as I was going along the Namibian coast from the town of Swakopmund to the area of Walvis Bay, where the airport is located. Those were my last views of Namibia. Next you will see a few pictures I took while sitting waiting for my grilled Tiger Prawns at the Seagull Hotel, right at the tip of the Kochi peninsula. Finally, you will see some photos I took at the Craft Palace Art Gallery showing some local and India-wide art. There are a few other places and details here in Kochi worthy of making a photo album with them, so please stay tuned. Welcome to Kochi. To view the Kochi photo album, please click here.

The Waterfront & the Jetty. Swakopmund, Eragon Region, Namibia, Southwest Africa, June 19th, 2023. I bike around town almost daily and on certain occasions I stop to take photos. Sometimes I bring my camera with me and sometimes I just use my phone. The photos you are about to see I took with my phone. Swakopmund is a small town, so most of the nice places and attractions are just a short bike-ride away from me. That is why doing my shopping and going for lunch at a seaside restaurant is an easy thing to do. Welcome again to Swakopmund. To see the photo album, please click here.

Swakopmund, Namibia – Country No. 51. Swakopmund, Erongo Region, Namibia, Southwest Africa, June 7th, 2023. It took me a little over a year to break over the 50-country landmark I reached when I went to England in late 2021. Since then, I have been to Italy, Spain, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia, but I had already been to those countries before, so none of them could take the 51st position on my list. But things are meant to happen the way they are meant to happen, and here I am now in the coastal town of Swakopmund, in the country of Namibia. Thus far things have been going as planned, except that my suitcase got stranded in Johannesburg, South Africa, and I could not get it until a couple of days later. But my suitcase was not the only one that failed to catch my flight, that of half a dozen other passengers did not make the transfer either. I arrived In Namibia last Saturday, June 3rd, around noon, but around that same time on Monday the 6th they had already sent my suitcase to Walvis Bay airport, which is just a half-hour drive from Swakopmund. I flew Swissair all the way from Barletta, Italy, to Zurich, Switzerland and from there to Johannesburg, where I had to transfer to Namibia flying on Airlink, a South African airline. I am very glad to say that now that I have all my belongings with me, everything is fine. As good ol’ Bill Shakespeare would say, “All is well that ends well”. Welcome to Swakopmund, Namibia. To view the Swakopmund photo album, please click here.

Back in the Region of Puglia. Barletta, Puglia, Italy, March 11th, 2023. Call it destiny, call it chance, or whatever else you wish, but here I am again in beautiful Italy. Been here barely about two weeks, but it already feels like I have been here much longer than that, not for any feeling of tiredness or anything of that sort, but for the familiarity of my surroundings. Fortunately, my Italian is good enough to engage in conversation with most of the friendly locals I meet and those conversations only help me to keep improving it. Don’t know for how long I will stay here but, for the moment, everything feels acceptably OK. Welcome to Barletta. To view the Barletta photo album, please click here.

A Dalmatian Mardi Grass in Makarska. Promajna, Croatia, February 20th, 2023. Emila, a Russian neighbor of mine, said she was going to a rock concert in the nearby town of Makarska and suggested I come with her, so I did. The performances were scheduled to start at 18:00 and we were some 10+ minutes late, so the show had already started when we arrived. A few musicians were listed in the program, but the main attraction, a Croatian singer named Giuliano and his band named Diktatori, started performing at around 18:45 or something, so we didn’t miss much. The public gathered around the stage all seemed to know Giuliano’s songs and many of them kept singing along with him. Everybody seemed to be in a good mood, dancing and singing, so the three hours we spent there actually flew-by nicely. I recorded on my phone a couple of minutes of Giuliano’s performance and both the visuals and the sound came out acceptably well, so I’ve made that video available to you. To see the photo album, please click here. To watch the video, please click here.

I’ve Got the World on a String (Collage). Promajna, Croatia, February 12th, 2023. This collage I designed about 10 years ago. I got the idea for it from a song Bing Crosby used to sing more than 70 years ago and then singers of the quality of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Johny Mathis, Peggy Lee, Lena Horne and, most recently, Michael Bublé, along with many others, have also sung it. The song was written by Harold Arden and Ted Koehler and has been recorded a few dozen times by an equal number of singers and orchestras. I used to sing it too, but to the beat of my own tropical rhythms. The boy in the collage is me, at the age of 1.5 or 2 years of age, sitting on a rainbow, holding the world on a string tied to my finger. There’s also a red rose in my hands. To view the collage, please click here. To listen to a good number of different recordings of the song, please click here.

A Walk in the Woods. Promajna, Croatia, January 13th, 2023. One small but pleasant advantage of not living in big cities is often the vicinity that some small towns have to natural places like forests, lakes, rivers and beaches. In the case of Promajna, there are no lakes or rivers nearby, but the woods and the beaches are omnipresent. A couple of days ago, I took a walk along some dirt roads and pathways that gave me a small taste of the Croatian countryside. But it was the constant presence of the Biokovo mountains what gave my promenade a unique Croatian flavor. It was a nice walk in the woods. On a related note, there is a particular Croatian cultural trait I would like to share with you. As of today, I have been in this country for barely a couple of weeks but, thus far, I have to say that almost 100% of my encounters with the local people have produced some rather easy and even pleasant interactions. Be it at restaurants, shops, bars, or even when asking for directions in the street, Croatians seem content with themselves and quite willing to communicate with others. For one, most of them speak fairly good English and those who can’t, are not bothered when they kindly tell you so. Actually, as I was sitting at a terrace of a sidewalk bar-restaurant in the nearby town of Makarska, I was thinking that the Croatians’ general attitude somehow reminded me of the social environment in San Francisco around the late 60’s and early 70’s, that is, minus the “Peace and Love” hype. To give you an idea: Promajna is about 15 minutes away by car from the larger town of Makarska. In my town of Promajna they don’t have French wine at the supermarket, but they have some very good Bordeaux at the supermarkets in Makarska. So, I decided to hitchhike to Makarska. With that idea in mind, I went up to the main road and stood there with my thumb in the typical “can you give me a ride” position and, lo and behold, less than five minutes later, a guy in a late-model Jeep stopped, asked me where I was going and then asked me to get in after saying he was going to Makarska too. And, guess what, he actually took me to the shopping center where I wanted to go. Marjan (pronounced Mar-yan), the guy who gave me the ride, is a marketing director for a local company and his English is actually very good. In a nutshell, if the idea of coming to Croatia ever crosses your mind, don’t hesitate for a minute. Get here. In case you didn't know, Croatia has been a member of the European Union since 2013 and the euro became its national currency on January 1st of this year. Above all, Croatians are very friendly people and they’re quite happy to speak to you in English, particularly if you’re a friendly American. To view the photo album "A Walk in the Woods", please click here.

Sundown in Promajna. Promajna, Croatia, January 6th, 2023. Promajna is part of the Dalmatian Coast, which stretches from the island of Rab, located not too far from the border with Slovenia, all the way down to the Bay of Kotor, which is already part of the country of Montenegro (to view my 2 photo albums of Kotor, please click here and here) Dalmatia is one of the four main regions of Croatia, the other three being Croatia Proper, Slavonia and Istria. There is an archipelago of 79 islands and 500 islets running parallel to the Dalmatian coast and, in case you’re wondering, this is indeed the area of the world that Dalmatian dogs originally come from. This is indeed a beautiful area of the world and the local people are quite easy and pleasant to interact with. To view the photo album, please click here.

January in Promajna. Promajna, Croatia, January 3rd, 2023. At this point in time, I can safely claim that I’m no stranger to the Balkans. There is still no exact shared understanding as to which countries can be considered part of the Balkans, but perhaps the most accepted version of that understanding comprises the following 10 countries: 1. Albania, 2. Bosnia and Herzegovina, 3. Bulgaria, 4. Croatia, 5. Kosovo, 6. Montenegro, 7. North Macedonia, 8. Romania, 9. Serbia, and 10. Slovenia. Among the ten, the ones I haven’t yet been to are only 3: Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Slovenia. But who knows… I might still have time to visit or live in a couple more of those. I could also claim to have a similar familiarity with the Adriatic Sea, as I have lived in two different coastal towns in eastern Italy, and have been to some coastal towns in Croatia, Montenegro and Albania. Meanwhile, this is my second time here in Croatia and I have to say thus far I’ve been gladly impressed by the Croatian people’s friendliness and willingness to speak English. I speak 4 languages, so I’m not a chauvinist in this respect (or any other, I hope), but I always appreciate any sign of hospitality such as the local people understanding that their language is not an international one. The set of photos you’re about to see shows mainly the beach which, in my view, is the main attraction here in Promajna (pronounced Promayna). The AirBnB where I’m staying is small, but it’s new and comfortable and has all the necessary elements of a self-contained apartment. My plan is to stay here till the end of January. After that, my next destination is up in the air. To view the photo album, please click here. Welcome to Promajna.

Istanbul International Airport. Split, Croatia, December 31st, 2022. Spending some layover time at some airports can be a cultural experience in itself. This is particularly so when you have been at the same airport a few times, as you are able to see the progress that country may have experienced since the last time you were there. Istanbul Airport is a case in point, as I was able to detect some cultural traits that seem representative of the moment Turkey is presently going through. This is mostly so in reference to the fact that Turkey isn’t yet a member of the European Union, even as the country has been negotiating its accession since 2005. Whatever the Turkish case may be, that country’s International Airport does indeed present a mini version of the country's culture itself. To view the album, please click here. Welcome to Istanbul International Airport.

My Neighborhood. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, December 26th, 2022. One month in Kula Lumpur seems just about the right amount of time to have spent here. This is my third stay in Malaysia, but this is the time I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur the longest. My first visit was to the island of Penang, back in 2013, when I spent a few weeks in the coastal town of Batu Ferringhi. My second time was to the island of Langkawi, back in 2016, but that time I only spent a few days there. The photo album you’re about to see won’t show you any touristic marvels or any monuments of the national or historical kind. It will only show you the scenery that filtered through my eyes as I walked around my neighborhood, which included the famous Petronas Towers. To view my neighborhood’s photo album, please click here.

Duong Dong Harbor. Cua Duong Commune, Kien Giang Province, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam, October 12th, 2022. As mentioned in the commentary below, the island of Phu Quoc has experienced plenty of progress in the recent past and now it looks like there are some serious projects for a continuing development in the years ahead. As part of that progress, Duong Dong Harbor is poised to become an International Passenger Port designed to welcome large cruise ships (5,000 to 6,000 passengers each) from all over the world. The importance of the Harbor you will see in these photos, therefore, will only continue to grow as the demand for seafood will very likely increase to satisfy the needs of the incoming visitors. It is not difficult to envision here in Phu Quoc, sometime in the near future, a level of development similar to the one they have in Phuket, Thailand, perhaps even on a larger scale. As it is today, however, the island and its islanders still offer enough local charm to foreigners, so as to make it worthwhile spending a few days or weeks in these warm, tropical whereabouts. Welcome to Duong Dong Harbor. To see the photo album, please click here.

Back on the Island of Phu Quoc, Vietnam. Cua Duong Commune, Kien Giang Province, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam, October 7th, 2022. As I was looking around from the copilot seat of the taxi taking me from the airport to my AirBnB Bungalow, I couldn’t help but being impressed by the level of development this island has experienced over the past six years. The last time I was here was in April of 2016 and I don’t remember seeing even half the number of small shops and restaurants lined up rather tightly along the streets and roads. “Progress”, I thought. Fairly good amounts of capital have obviously fueled the island’s economy and it seems safe to assume that a good portion of that money was brought in by foreign visitors. Whatever the case, the results thus far look like a considerable improvement on the island in almost every sense. Some roads have been widened and the rest of them are in very good shape, small local businesses are flourishing and middle to high-end Resorts keep multiplying too. The small series of photos you’re about to see I took mostly at the Cocopalm Beach Resort, which is located right by the seaside and only a five-minute walk away from my bungalow. The first 10 photos or so, can give you an idea of what my immediate neighborhood looks like. Welcome to the island of Phu Quoc. To view the photo album, please click here.

Greetings From Chau Doc, My Temporary Hometown in Vietnam (Photo Album). Chau Doc, An Giang Province, Vietnam, September 11th, 2022. Yehp, I’m back in good ol’ Vietnam once again. This will make it the 4th time I’m stepping on these tropical lands. I arrived in Chau Doc last Friday the 9th, but I have already strolled along some streets a couple of times, long enough to put together the small photo album you’re about to see. These views I took in the area nearest to my neighborhood, so, I wouldn’t be able to claim these are the best views there are to see in this town. My stay here is supposed to last some four to five months, so I assume there’s a good chance I will discover some other parts of Chau Doc worth taking pictures of. As soon as that happens, I will try to put together another photo album and upload it here. Until then, to view a photo album of Chau Doc, please click here.

Stepping In and Out of Different Realities – A Small Collection of Collages. Patong, Phuket, Thailand, August 26th, 2022. Usually, after finishing a recording project, I find myself empty-handed with no self-imposed task to work on. This time I just opened the Photoshop application and started toying with a photo of mine and some other photos I downloaded from the internet. The result of that activity is the small collection of collages you’re about to see. You could view those collages from two basic points of view: 1) As samples of some basic but pleasant graphic art or, 2) As some sort of graphic representation of something more meaningful. I designed the collages with the second point of view in mind. The idea behind those collages has somethng to do with a basic premise found in many mystical, philosophical and religious theories and practices, namely, that the reality that we live in is not the only one and that there is a reality that transcends all other possible ones and is accessible to everyone. According to some eastern philosophical-mystical beliefs and disciplines, including Transcendental Yoga, the gate to such overarching, all-encompassing reality is none other than ourselves, hence the central presence of an individual, i.e., myself, standing at the threshold of an interdimensional or “inter-reality” door. The original photo of myself standing by an open door was taken here in Patong Beach, Phuket, just a few weeks ago. All the other photos I got them from a few different websites. To view the collage collection, please click here.

A Walk Around my Whereabouts. Patong, Phuket, Thailand, June 13th, 2022. This is the fourth time I come to the island of Phuket and about the ninth time I come to the country of Thailand. The last time I was here was in July of 2016. Things have changed noticeably in the town of Patong over the past six years, particularly prices, which have generally gone up. Back in 2016 a local Chang beer would cost something like US$0.50 at any bar, now it can usually cost about US$2.50 and it can go up to US$6.00, depending on the time of day/night and the bar/restaurant you go to. Food has gone up as well. Hotel prices aren’t as convenient as they used to be, but you can still find some decent, air-conditioned, 3-Star accommodations with free WiFi for very affordable prices. Apartments with kitchen are very hard to find and the very few they have are very expensive. The thing is, not even the locals have kitchens in their places. ATMs, on the other hand, are found everywhere while the largest number of them is in the Bangla Road area. The same goes for sidewalk currency exchange booths. They’re always accessible within walking distance in and around the town center. In other words, there’s not much to complain about around here. The living is still easy in Phuket and, compared to Italy, where I recently spent three months, it’s not very expensive either. Immigration-wise, I recently extended my visa for an additional month and it seems I’m entitled to an extra two months if I so wished. Welcome to Phuket. To see the photo album, please click here.

Some Fruit of the Andaman Sea. Phuket, Thailand, May 9th, 2022. This is the first of a few photo albums I intend to upload in the next few weeks. This one is rather short, but it shows some of the local characteristics that lure thousands of people to these shores every year. I just spent three months on the Adriatic coast of Italy and, in all frankness, I can again say that Italy is indeed a beautiful country, with its historical countryside splashed with post-card-like colorful landscapes everywhere you go. And, once again, I can sincerely say that the great majority of Italians I had anything to do with were very kind and attentive. On those two counts, therefore, hats-off to Italy. But the charm of the tropics is always hard for me to resist and of the only two choices open to me at this point in time, Vietnam and Thailand, I opted for Thailand for a few reasons, not least of all, prices. The photos you’re about to see I took last night at the local seafood market, which opens daily at 3:00 pm and stays open till sometime in the night. The market is not big, but it has everything true seafood lovers need. Welcome to Phuket. To view the photo album, please click here.

Arco dei Angeli, Passo Varano, Marche Region, Italy. Passo Varano, Italy. February 25th, 2022. Passo Varano is a district of Ancona, the capital city of the Marche region in Italy. The district is named after one of the fortifications built to protect the once-independent Republic of Ancona. I haven’t yet taken pictures of any of the castles in the area, but I intend to do so in the near future, provided I stay around here long enough. Arco dei Angeli is the name of the place where I’m temporarily staying in Passo Varano. Curiously enough, Lorenzo, the owner of the place, categorizes his Bed & Breakfast as a “Bed & Wine” place, and the reason for it is understandable: Lorenzo produces his own wine, Red, White and Rosé. The photos you’re about to see I took during a short walk around Lorenzo’s property, but the scenery is quite typical of the views you find almost everywhere in the Marche region. Welcome to Passo Varano. To see the photo album, please click here.

Back On the Adriatic Coast of Italy. Ancona, Italy, February 18th, 2022. Melilla is a nice, quiet, small, Spanish town tucked in the coast of Morocco, but I wasn’t meant to stay there long. Just about a month of living there was enough. Once more, the call Italy exerted on me was like some sort of command to come here, so here I am again. After this trip, I’m glad to report something many of you are probably already aware of, that Ryanair is indeed a convenient way to travel when all you basically need is to get from point A to point B with no luxury involved. For example, to get from London Stansted to Malaga, Spain, I had to buy two one-way tickets, one for myself and one for my guitar, but even so I came out on top in terms of the money I saved. Great. Flying from Malaga to Bologna, Italy, was again a very inexpensive trip, which tells me I’m now a good friend of Ryanair. Ancona, the city where I’m writing from, is not a big city, which is OK by me, and I haven’t yet had the time to walk around to have a good look at it, but I intend to do so gradually as the next few weeks unfold. As I go discovering the different aspects of Ancona, I will go uploading photo albums and commentaries about it. In the meantime, here are some views of the city that I took three or four days ago. Welcome to Ancona. To view the photo album, please click here.

The Port of Málaga and the Autonomous City of Melilla. Melilla, Spain, January 24th, 2022. Starting around the year 711 AD, and for well over 700 years, the city of Málaga, along with a good portion of the rest of the region of Andalucía, was under Moorish domination. Before the Moors, Málaga had been colonized by the Phoenicians (± 1,000 BC), by the Greeks (6th century BC) and later by the Carthaginians. Then the Romans settled there around 218 BC. By the end of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, the Visigoths took control of the city, but didn’t stay there for long. At that point the Moors stepped in and reigned over the city until the year 1487, when Christian forces reclaimed the whole region. The Autonomous City of Melilla, for its part, has had a slightly different story, but has been under direct Spanish rule since 1496. Later, in a treaty signed around 1860, Morocco gave fishing rights to Spain along the Moroccan coast, which resulted in Spain setting trading stations in other parts along the Moroccan littoral. To this day, Morocco still stakes territorial claims over Melilla and still has fisheries just a few hundred meters off the coast of the Chafarinas islets, which some people say are under Melilla’s jurisdiction. There’s some friction between Morocco and Spain because of these Spanish enclaves and because of the question of Western Sahara’s autonomy, but it’s all of the slow-burning kind and it doesn’t seem to be in the interest of anyone to make a big deal about it, at least not for the moment. I only spent one night in Málaga, so there’s not much I can show in this album about it, but I’ve already been in Melilla for a few days, so you will see a few more photos of that enclave here. Welcome to the south of Spain. To see the Málaga-Melilla photo album, please click here.

London, England. Melilla, Spain, January 16th, 2022. I don’t think I would have visited England last year had it not been for my friend Toni's (Cynthia) kind invitation to go see her in her hometown of Birmingham. And I don’t think I would have been able to see as many of London’s landmarks as I did, had it not been for my friend Graham Bancroft’s kind offer to guide me around. So, I’m hereby extending my most sincere thanks to both of them. I guess I could say I got the full London treatment when I went there, as the sky was mostly cloudy and the weather was mostly cold and rainy during my visit. But that didn’t bother me much. I just kept on taking pictures of whatever nice views I would come across, which are definitely many. I did think it would be nice if someone would invent a camera with windshield wipers on the lens, so that we wouldn’t have to keep wiping raindrops off of it with a piece of cloth. But no problem. Most of the photos I took came out OK and here they are for you to check them out. Welcome to London. To view the photo album, please click here.

The Cradle of the Industrial Revolution. Birmingham, England, December 31st, 2021. What do you say when you’re basically on a first-time, rather impromptu visit to England and an English friend you met in Baku, Azerbaijan, around May 2017, invites you to go with him to a nearby landmark of historical importance? Well, you just say, “many thanks, friend” a few times. The landmark in question is the iron bridge of Telford, a town located in the county of Shropshire, right by the banks of the Severn River. The bridge itself is rather short (30 m., 100 foot long), but its symbolism is of monumental worldwide importance, as it is the first iron bridge ever built in the world. But that’s not all. The area surrounding the bridge is considered by many to be the cradle of the English industrial revolution, which actually marked the world’s entry into the realm of heavy, cast-iron structures and machinery and industrial chemicals and textiles production too. My friend Graham was exceedingly attentive in taking me on this short trip and I thank him for it, but the local people I spoke to in the streets and in the different pubs and restaurants we sat at were very friendly too. A particularly pleasant experience I had was meeting Cathy, a waitress at a place where I had a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. A sweet, svelte, middle-aged woman with a charming smile and an unforgettable face. One of those lovely female faces that only acquire beauty and charisma as they go reaching their middle years. Love you Cathy. To view the Ironbridge photo album, please click here.

Stratford-Upon-Avon. Birmingham, England, December 28th, 2021. As it is widely known, England has much more than its share of history under its belt. From Monarchical tales, to literature and theater, to imperialism, to modern music, to not-so-smart moves like Brexit and a few others. Among all of those pre-Beatles’ English cultural traits, the one that across the decades has stuck the fastest to my mind is the one about literature, particularly the writings of our dear ol’ friend William Shakespeare. It was here in this town where that highly-imaginative and talented Englishman was born, and it is here where Ann Hathaway’s, Shakespeare’s mother’s house, is still standing. The album you’re about to see is indeed short by my own standards, but it does show some nice views of W. Shakespeare’s place of birth and of the town of Stratford-Upon-Avon which, in my perception, is a rather charming one. To view the photo album, please click here.

England Five-O. Birmingham, England, December 23rd, 2021. The big five-O is here. I’ve finally made it to England, thus making this country the fiftieth (50th) country that I’ve been to. Why Birmingham? Because a friend invited me to come and here I am. One of the first things I asked her when I arrived is whether there were fresh oysters in this city and the answer was yes. So yesterday she drove me to one of the local fish markets where I found two varieties of oysters, Rock Oysters and Jersey Oysters. So, I had a few Rock ones and they were good. I’ll try the Jersey ones some other time. Jersey oysters, by the way, look exactly like the French “Fine de Claire”, which makes sense, as the island of Jersey is right off the coast of France. But the most impressive aspect of that fish market is the good variety of seafood they have, plenty of Salmon and Seabass included. Who knows… I might end up making myself some delicious Seabass Ceviche sometime soon. The thing is in none of the countries where I’ve been over these past five or six years did I see an abundance of fishes such as this, so I thought I should share this small experience with you. The photo album shows some of the fish stands they have at the Birmingham fish market. To view the photos, please click here.

Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa (Country No. 49). Uroa, Unguja (Zanzibar) Island, Tanzania, September 16th, 2021. For unexplainable reasons, I have always had an impulse to visit Tanzania in general and Zanzibar in particular. And here I am. First of all, the real name of this island is “Unguja”. Zanzibar is probably the name some westerners ascribed to the whole place based on the name of the largest city on the island. Second, Zanzibar is not a single island, it’s an archipelago formed by approximately 46 islands of different sizes, of which the major ones are Unguja (pop. ± 900k), Pemba (pop. ± 410k) and Mafia (pop. ± 47k). Unguja is ± 77 kms (± 48 m.) from Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam and it takes approx. 2 hours to a “Kilimanjaro” ferryboat to cover the distance. My first stop in Tanzania was at Dar Es Salaam, but I only spent there one night, so there are no pictures of that city in this photo album. The views you’re about to see I took in Stone Town, the oldest section of the capital city of the island. To see the photo album, please click here.

One Last Kenyan Photo Album. Diani Beach, Kwale County, Kenya, September 9th, 2021. With my days (actually my hours) already numbered here in Kenya, I decided to upload one last album of photos I’ve taken in this country. This one contains three sets of pictures, 1) the ones I took from the train as I went from Mombasa to the town of Kimana, 2) the ones I took in the streets of the Kimana market and, 3) the ones I took at Amboseli Eco Camp, the place where I spent a couple of nights during my visit to Amboseli Park (see album below). The photos speak for themselves. To see my last Kenyan photo album, please click here.

A Surprise Visit to Robinson Island. Diani Beach, Kwale County, Kenya, September 7th, 2021. Yesterday afternoon, as I was walking out of my resort, I saw Alex, a guy from Poland, also heading toward the exit gate. So, I said Hi and we walked together down to the Soul Breeze, the bar-restaurant where we had seen each other before. As we were reaching the bar, he told me about his plans for that night, which consisted in a group of people he knew going together with him to the nearby Robinson Island. When he finished telling me about it, he asked me whether I would like to join them, to which I replied affirmatively. This album contains some of the photos I took during our visit to Robinson Island. To see the album, please click here.

Amboseli Park. Kajiado County, Rift Valley Province, Kenya, August 31st, 2021. Kenya is the second country I visit in the African Continent. The first one was Djibouti, a small country located by the mouth of the Red Sea, where I lived for six months back in 2011-2012. And even though my experience living there was certainly unique, I didn’t quite get the feeling that I was in Africa. For example, Djibouti’s landscapes are rather barren and I don’t recall seeing many locals dressed in African-style garments. The Africa I wanted to see was more along the kind of sceneries I’d seen as a child in Hollywood movies like Tarzan, or later in life in documentaries like those by David Attenborough, showing the thick forests and jungles where monkeys and lions live or the flatlands where the Zebras and the Wildebeest roam free. As I write, my unfulfilled wish to set foot on the Africa of my imagination is no longer so. I can frankly say that now I feel like I’m really in the African Continent. This is it. Meeting people from the different tribes and doing fist-bumps with real-life Maasai people who always wear their traditional attires gives me the unequivocal feeling that this is the real thing. This is Africa. But my visit to Amboseli Park has thus far been my crown experience in this continent. Was I in total awe at some of the live scenes I saw there? You bet I was. Do I now have some extraordinary memories of my experience seared forever deep within my mind? Not a single doubt about it. They say a picture tells a thousand words, but I don’t think any picture can actually reproduce the beauty that filters through your senses when you’re in the living presence of all those wild, beautiful animals as they carry on with their lives in their own natural habitat. Welcome to Amboseli Park. To see a set of pictures taken at Amboseli Park, please click here.

Fort Jesus, etc. Diani Beach, Kwale County, Kenya, August 9th, 2021. Viewed from the perspective of Diani Beach, the city of Mombasa has two main sections, the island, or Mombasa proper, and Likoni, the mainland portion of it. There’s a Ferryboat service taking vehicles and foot traffic from one side of the Likoni channel to the other a few times a day on a daily basis. The ferry ride takes about 5 minutes to complete and it’s free of charge for pedestrians. Vehicles pay a fee according to size. The first 13 photos in this album show some views taken from and on the ferryboat and the remaining majority of them show the grounds around and inside Fort Jesus. The fort is obviously not one of the seven marvels of the world, but it’s a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site and for very legitimate reasons: It dates from the late 16th century and it’s soaked in Kenyan history. It was the Portuguese who built it during their heyday as a colonial power, but the fort changed hands across time depending on what occupying forces were in charge of the Mombasa area. More about the history of the fort in the introduction to the album. To see some views of Mombasa’s Fort Jesus and others, please click here.

A Walk on the Grounds of Diani Star Resort (Photo Album) Diani Beach, Kwale County, Kenya, July 29th, 2021. I found the Diani Star Resort on AirBnB, but I managed to sidestep that company’s reservation process and dealt directly with the resort’s management, which saved me a few bucks because of my intention to stay here for up to three months, maybe longer. There’s a good number of resorts in this area, some of them right on the beach and some others, like mine, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the ocean. The first 11 photos in this album show the local beach just as I see it almost on a daily basis as I go to the Soul Breeze bar-restaurant for a beer, a glass of wine or even for some breakfast or lunch. A couple of times I’ve tried Chef Salim’s pizza, which is baked in a clay oven just as it should be. I have to admit his pizzas are almost as good as those I used to relish on a few decades ago at “Frankie & Luigi’s” in the Mountain View/Palo Alto area, in the San Francisco Peninsula, back in California. The dough Salim makes the thin crust with is definitely a good foundation for the good taste and the good texture of it all. The remaining photos show the Diani Star Resort just as it presently is, meaning that some of the garden sections are clearly unkept. And the reason for that partial neglect is the general lack of visitors plaguing the whole area because of Covid-induced travel restrictions. Covid has indeed affected the Tourism industry seriously on a global scale. But, for guys like me, moving around Kenya’s tropical landscapes is a reward in itself, regardless of whether everything I see is properly taken care of or not. To see some photos of the Diani Star Resort, please click here.

Another Short Peek at Diani Beach (Photo Album) Diani Beach, Kwale County, Kenya, July 16th, 2021. In Kenya there are usually two rainy seasons, one from March to May and another from October to December, which means that at the moment we’re somewhere in between. These days, sunlight comes and goes intermittently around here and the rain falls in random patterns. Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of rain falling copiously on the rooftops and treetops which, to me, is a very pleasant experience, particularly because the temperature remains the same in spite of the rain. Down here, even the rain water is rather warm. Diani beach looks like a very nice place for Kitesurfing. There is a Kitesurfing school beside the Soul Breeze restaurant where I often go have a beer and/or lunch, just like I did today. Sometimes it’s a real pleasure to watch some of those guys and girls who teach that sport go surfing around, back and forth between the reef in the distance and the beach close to me. Those guys really know what they’re doing and they seem to enjoy doing it very much too. The cuisine at the Soul Breeze restaurant is not very sophisticated, but you can be sure that whatever Salim, the Chef, cooks for you is going to taste good. As you will see in the last two pictures of this album, this time I had for lunch some beans in coconut sauce, sprinkled with chopped green hot chili peppers. The peppers I requested myself, as Salim doesn’t usually add them to that dish. On the side, Salim serves some plain rice and a small salad. It was all tasty and abundant. To take another short peek at Diani Beach, please click here.

Diani Beach Album II (Photo Album) Diani Beach, Kwale County, Kenya, July 9th, 2021. Today I discovered two good things here in Diani Beach, a) an outstanding beach resort and b) an exotic local African dish. I also noticed a very unique feature of the resort in question. As you will see, the resort’s settings are very well designed, so there’s not much to add to that. The exotic dish I tried for the first time ever is called “Samaki Nguru”. It’s made with Tilapia fish cooked in coconut curry and served with white rice, boiled spinach and sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. The flavor of that dish reminded me a bit of the “Tika” dishes they cook in India. It’s delicious. The unique feature I noticed in the resort was the marked presence of a Black African majority among the guests. Usually, in most similar resorts in other tropical countries where I’ve been, the majority of the guests are white and the people catering to them are the locals. Not in this resort. I had already noticed the same particular characteristic in the place pictured in the previous photo album, but not as marked as in this one. On that count, hooray for the Kenyans. To see a series of views of the Lantana Galu Resort in Diani Beach, please click here.

A Short Peek at My New Whereabouts (Photo Album). Diani Beach, Kwale County, Kenya, July 8th, 2021. And the ship sails on as the river continues to flow. Covid stranded millions of people in different countries, but a few windows of opportunity to travel have been opening for some of us. In my case, the moment came for me to come down to Africa again, this time to Kenya’s southern coast in the Indian Ocean. As it happened, I’ve ended up in Diani Beach, a community located along a 17-kms stretch of coast near Kenya’s border with Tanzania. I’ve always been interested in things related to the Bantu family of tribes and here in Kenya in general and in Diani Beach in particular, there are plenty of Bantu people. Unfortunately, thus far I haven’t encountered anyone well versed in the history of Bantu tribes, but I arrived just a couple of days ago and I still have time to meet many more locals, so I’ll just keep my ears open. Another African curiosity I’ve been able to satisfy is to stand in front of a Baobab tree. There are a few of those giants in my neighborhood and there’s even one of them right beside my balcony, which I can look at any time I step out into it. The visa I obtained is also of a particular kind I’d never gotten before. It’s called an “East Africa Tourist Visa” and it’s a multiple-entry visa to Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, which means I can travel in and out of those three countries as many times as I wish within a period of three months. The visa is also renewable, but I would need to go Nairobi, the Capital of Kenya, to do it. No problem. For the moment everything is fine and my immediate plans are to just hang out around Diani Beach for a while and then we’ll see what happens. To take a short peek at my new whereabouts, please click here.

A Few Views of a Small Historical Harbor (Photo Album) Kalives, Crete Island, Greece, June 1st, 2021. Counting my present stay, I’ve been to Greece four times. This time around, I’ve been here for 16 months, of which the last seven I have stayed put here on the Northwestern tip of the island of Crete. I spent the first two of those seven in the small seaside town of Almyrida and I’ve been here in Kalives for the past five. What I mean is I haven’t moved around much. In one of my previous visits, I stayed for a few days in the Northeastern tip of the island, but thus far I haven’t visited the rest of it. And the main culprit for that is Covid. What fun would it have been to go around the island when all or most bars, restaurants, and places of interest would have been closed because of pandemic lockdowns or other restrictive government measures? But now things are beginning to change for the better. For starters, after a two-month waiting period, this past Wednesday, May 26th, I finally got my first AstraZeneca vaccine shot, which makes me feel like I’m now a bit closer to the Greek borders. Meaning I hope there will soon be enough vaccinated people in the world, so that most Southeast Asian and other tropical countries may start thinking it’s safe to allow foreign visitors in. Meanwhile, by way of celebration, right after getting my vaccine, I went for lunch to Chania, the city-port that is the capital of this region of Crete. Turns out the Chania harbor dates from the times the Venetians were a dominant force in the Adriatic and in the Mediterranean Seas. While living for a few months in the city-port of Bar, in Montenegro (see here), and visiting the ports of Dubrovnik in Croatia (see here) and Durres in Albania (see here), I became somewhat familiar with the Venetians’ exploits in the Adriatic. Those guys commanded full respect along these Aegean shores too, until the Ottomans came around in 1669. The venetians were here in Crete for a few centuries and many more traces of their architecture would probably be still standing today had the Ottomans not demolished some of them for their own military purposes. I don’t think the series of photos you’re about to see does justice to the beauty of the Chania harbor, so I would suggest you take this album as an introductory set of pictures, as now that things may really be going back to normal, I intend to go take a second set of views sometime soon. Meanwhile, to see a few views of a small historical harbor, please click here.

Coming Back to Life. Kalives, Crete Island, Greece, May 25th, 2021. It seems like long overdue, but it’s finally happening. Life is coming back to Crete. The Greek government has recently announced the end of most Covid restrictions nationwide, thereby launching an open, but still cautious, tourist season. People from 53 countries are now approved to come to Greece, provided the day before travelling they fill up a “Passenger Locator Form” (PLF) specifying where they will be staying once they get here. Life is a bit easier for us foreign and local residents too, as we no longer need to send an SMS whenever we leave our homes to go shopping or whatever. Brits still seem to have some difficulty coming, but that may partially be a question of reciprocity, as there’s been some reported hostility toward EU people entering the UK. For the moment, it’s good to have an occasional chat with other foreigners. Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to a few German holiday makers and to some Belgians too. In case you didn’t know, Germany has now closed its borders to UK visitors for Covid reasons. Most of the photos you’re about to see I took this past Monday the 24th during a visit to Elafonisi beach, which is located in the Southwestern tip of Crete. Life is certainly acquiring some hues of normality around here. Let’s just hope it all keeps moving in the right direction. To see the “Coming Back to Life” photo album, please click here.

Lena & The Beach Girls. Kalives, Crete Island, Greece, March 9th, 2021. Malaysia is one of the 16 countries I have lived in and one of the 47 I have been to. I spent a few months there in the Spring of 2013 and I still have very good memories of those days. I don’t play Ukulele, but I sort of wrote a song playing one, with the help of Lena, a Malaysian girl who was living in a tent on the beach with some other girls of different nationalities. I spent a few happy days in Batu Ferringhi, the small town where Lena was camping out, but none of it would have been possible without the smart intervention of Eslan, a Malaysian guy who co-owned with his brother the small hotel where I was staying, “Lazy Boys”. By the way, the song "Lena & The Beach Girls" came out with some sort of "Ragtime" rhythmn along with some influences from Bluegrass music. To see a photo album showing the beaches of Batu Ferringhi and to meet Lena and the Beach Girls, please click here. To hear the song I wrote there, please click here.

Fixing Public Wooden Benches in Kalives, Crete Island, Greece. Kalives, Crete Island, Greece, March 4th, 2021. I’ve been in Kalives only for two months, but I can already say I like this seaside town very much. Usually, when I’m staying for some time in any town in any country, I rent a car and go visit the nearby towns and places of interest. Not this time. This time I’ve been staying put in Kalives for the obvious reason: The Pandemic has severely limited or outright forbidden most touring around. Fortunately, just like many other small towns in Greece, Kalives is an attractive one and, also as usual, most of the people here are friendly, talkative and accommodating to foreigners. I live in a studio facing the Aegean Sea, so it’s rather easy for me to walk along the shore a couple of times a day on a daily basis. Some sunny days I also like to go sit on a bench in one of the tips of the port and have lunch there right by the sea, usually enjoying one of those delicious hamburgers they make at Gyrothalassia, a seaside restaurant owned by Yorgos, a friendly Greek guy. But one day the bench had been vandalized, either by the strong winds of the previous night, or by some of those young human beings who sometimes do foolish things, to the point of making it unpleasant to sit on it. So, I decided to fix the bench and yesterday I went to a local Lumber yard, bought some pine wood, screws, washers and drill bits and fixed the bench using a battery-powered drill Yorgos lent me. As I was starting to work on it, a couple of guys came around to look and, when I encountered some difficulties drilling the wood, as Yorgos’ drill was not powerful enough, they offered to go fetch theirs and they ended up helping me in the whole process. Good guys. Miles, a Greek guy, went to his nearby home and brought his professional drill and Edie, an Albanian guy, got a meter and a hammer from the trunk of his car. It must have taken us some 45 minutes to do the whole thing and when the job was done, I thanked them a few times, shook hands with them and we parted ways. Good job. As a result, I now have again a bench where to go sit and have lunch right by the Aegean Sea and so does anybody else in town who wishes to do so. To see some pictures of the bench in question, please click here.

Kalives, a Seaside Town on the Island of Crete. Kalives, Crete Island, Greece, January 8th, 2021. I moved to this town on January 4th, but I already feel like I have been here much longer than just a few days. This is a fishermen’s town, which adds plenty of reasons for me to come live here. I am a Seabass lover and an oyster fan too, which is seafood they have available at the local fish store almost on a daily basis, so, I may end up staying here for more than a few weeks. But the real reason that I am living here in Crete is that entry to some Southeast Asian countries is not allowed these days, so, better to stay here than go to countries like France, Spain, or any of the other 26 EU countries I could go to, where the weather can be much colder than here. For the moment, therefore, Greece is more than OK for me. Welcome to Kalives.

Almyrida in the Times of Covid. Almyrida, Crete Island, Greece, November 15th, 2020. I tell people I meet that the reason I have been in Greece for nine months is that I’m a Covid hostage, which is not too far from the truth. If I had my way, I would be in Vietnam, Thailand, or Hainan Island in Southern China. But, because of Covid, those countries are not allowing any common foreign visitors like me across their borders, so I cannot go there. I have dual French-American citizenship, so I could freely go north up the European continent to any country that would welcome me, which at this point would probably be only a couple, if any. But, even if I could go north, I wouldn’t. I want to go south, as close to the tropics as possible, hence the three countries I mentioned. The people I tell about my Covid-hostage situation usually reply that “there are worst places in the world to get stranded in”, which is a statement I couldn’t agree more with. Greece is indeed a beautiful country and most Greek people I have met thus far couldn't have been any kinder. The photo album you are about to see shows the village of Almyrida just as I saw it yesterday, looking like a ghost town. Such is life in the times of Covid. But as you will also see, looking beyond the empty streets there is enough beauty to lighten up the spirit. Welcome to Almyrida.

The Acropolis Revisited. Athens, Greece, July 28th, 2020. I have always been fascinated by all things Greek. In fact, delving a bit into Greek philosophy was one of the main reasons I went back to college some decades ago. This is the longest time I have been in this country, as I have been here for six months now. My longest previous stay had been 3 months. But Covid-19 has shaken the whole world in more than one way and my travelling itineraries were in no way an exception. So, here I am, about to begin my seventh month living in these ancient lands. Fortunately, around here the food is usually delicious, the local people are usually kind and attentive and my surroundings almost always have a historical angle to them. So, what is there for me to worry about? For the moment, nothing. So, I just hope things will remain the same for some time until Mr. Covid-19 allows the Southeast Asian countries of my choice to open their doors to foreign visitors. In the meantime, until that day arrives, welcome to the Acropolis.

My Neighborhood in Athens. Athens, Greece, July 7th, 2020. One thing is to look at those famous Greek ancient temples in pictures or movies and another is to see them regularly while you’re having breakfast at an open-air café or as you’re walking towards the supermarket to do your shopping. Then there are those sidewalk or plaza restaurants that offer a few kinds of Kebabs that once you try them you definitely have to come back for more a few times. An afternoon mojito is always available right around the corner and live Greek music is always filling the air here and there. That, in a nutshell, is what has been filtering through my senses over the past few days and will continue to do so over the next couple of weeks. Welcome to Athens.

Paros Island – Album IV. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, June 17th, 2020. The summer solstice is now at our doors and the local weather is in perfect agreement with its coming. In a way, the Covid-19 pandemic came to make our visit to Paros a bit more convenient and pleasant, as the streets, roads, restaurants and bars are not as crowded as they would have been in normal times. Still, for the benefit of the local businesses, I would be glad to see more tourists walking around, shopping, having a drink or dining out here in Parikia. Meanwhile, as temperatures keep getting warmer, these coming days I intend to enjoy the waters of the Aegean Sea as often as possible. Welcome to Paros Island.

Paros Island – Album III. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, June 17th, 2020. The highlight of this album is my visit to the Church of Ayios Antonios, name that stands for “Saint Anthony” in English, which is located on top of a tall hill overlooking towns, ports and beaches. The views of the church’s surroundings are really something to see, particularly under some sunny June blue skies. Driving up and downhill, however, has to be done with some care, not only because the narrow road is rather steep, but also because of the sharp turns the road takes along the way. Once you get to the top, however, the views before you make it all worthwhile. The rest of the photos are further evidence of the customary beauty found in almost every corner of my whereabouts. Welcome to Paros Island.

Paros Island – Album II. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, June 16th, 2020. There are a couple of highlights in this second album, but besides showing a few churches, its main purpose is to show a different side of the island. Please keep in mind that Paros has an area of ± 76 sq. miles, or ± 122 sq. kilometers, so that the topography cannot vary much from one point to the next. In my view, all of it is mostly beautiful. Welcome to Paros island

Paros Island – Album I. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, June 16th, 2020. Universal beauty is timeless, which is the reason that beauty of the natural kind never ceases to impress us. That in itself is reason enough to do whatever we can to make sure the natural world is preserved in all its magnificence for countless generations to come. Driving around the island of Paros can sometimes feel like experiencing a fantasy that makes one wonder how is it possible for anyone to live anywhere else after living on this island for some time. But the island's attractions are not limited to the outstanding landscapes and seascapes. There is also the charm exuding from the small towns scattered here and there. And then there are those blue domes peering at you from the hills and valleys, long-lasting testaments of the local people’s deep-seated religious credence. Welcome to Paros Island.

Bougainvilleas. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, May 21st, 2020. Bougainvilleas grow in different parts of the world. In California you can find them up and down the state. I once stayed at a small countryside hotel in the outskirts of San José, the capital of the country of Costa Rica, in Central America, whose name was “The Bougainvillea” because the whole place was surrounded by Bougainvilleas. Here in the small town of Parikia, Greece, where I’ve been living for the past 3.5 months, Bougainvilleas are already in full bloom, which makes it even more pleasant to walk upon the already charming streets of the old town. This album shows some of the Bougainvillea trees scattered around Parikia.

I’m Not King Odysseus from Greek Mythology, but I’m Having an Odyssey in Greece. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, April 28th, 2020. (Photos) Having heard and read about Homer’s “Odyssey” since my High School years and having even watched a couple of movies that brought that epic story to the large screen, I never imagined I could one day actually get to experience with my own senses anything related to King Odysseus adventures. But I was wrong. As it turns out, here on the island of Paros I can have an Odyssey anytime I want. Just check out these photos and you’ll see.

Just Follow the Yellow Brick Road.... (Collage) Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, April 23rd, 2020. If a picture says a thousand words, a collage can say even more.

Some Collages. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, March 30th, 2020. Sometimes pictures can indeed tell a thousand words, some other times they serve only to clarify any possible confusion words may produce and some other times they are just fun to generate. This set of collages probably has examples of those three varieties. Whatever they may be, however, these collages are definitely NOT pro-Trump.

Paros Revisited. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, February 14th, 2020. If anyone had told me a few decades ago that by 2020 Greece would be one of my most visited countries I wouldn’t have believed it. Yet, here I am again. And quite glad to be back too. I guess the magnet that keeps pulling some of us back here isn't difficult to figure out. Beauty, after all, of the natural and other sorts, is a time-tested universal lure for a large number of us.

Groucho the Cat. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, February 10th, 2020. According to some definitions, a habit is a regular behavior we may acquire after engaging in it on a daily basis for about two months, or approximately 66 days. I recently spent some two out of three moths in Varna, Bulgaria, feeding street cats almost on a daily basis, so, that definition would explain my present tendency to look for street cats everywhere I go here in Parikia, Paros Island. And not only to look for them, but to feel like I should feed them too. I guess I’m now in the habit of feeding street cats.

Mehana Hashove, a Typical Bulgarian Tavern. Varna, Bulgaria, January 8th, 2020. Sometimes we fail to notice some places of interest located basically around the corner in our own neighborhood. Such was the case of Mehana Hashove, a typical Bulgarian tavern. A couple of nights ago, facing the fact that my favorite local restaurant was still closed for the new-year holidays, I walked around my neighborhood and discovered a nice restaurant whose interiors turned out to be decorated in the typical Bulgarian manner. The place doesn’t look particularly interesting from the outside, but its interiors are a much different story.

Stones, Caves & Swans. Varna, Bulgaria, December 15th, 2019. The city of Varna has a few salient characteristics, particularly the friendliness of its people and its tasty food, but it also has a few other aspects worth mentioning in these webpages. The photo album you’re about to see shows three of those additional traits.

The Port of Varna. Varna, Bulgaria, December 1st, 2019. Varna is turning out to be a pleasant surprise regarding communication with the locals. Most people working in the shopping centers, convenience stores, restaurants and bars that I visit speak English. Many of them actually speak it very well. In addition, all taxi drivers understand well my directions and some of them can actually engage in small-talk conversation with me. This makes thus far my stay in Varna a pleasant experience.

A Few Views of Varna. Varna, Bulgaria, November 20th, 2019. As has been mentioned in this Website before, I have a tendency to go live in places facing large bodies of water. Istanbul (Turkey), Baku (Azerbaijan), Paros (Greece), Djibouti (East Africa), Malta (Mediterranean Sea), Shikoku (Japan), Kangwando (South Korea), Hainan (China) and now Varna (Bulgaria) are a few examples that attest to that tendency. I have only been in Varna for a few days, but I intend to discover this city a bit more and then visit other parts of the country sometime soon.

Brindisi, Italy and Varna, Bulgaria. Varna, Bulgaria, November 18th, 2019. These days it seems easier to move from one country to another than it ever seemed before. An American Passport still opens more international doors than most other passports in the world can. On top of that, having a perfectly valid EU (French) passport in your left pocket opens wide the possibility of staying in any of the 27 countries of that union for periods of time as long as you want. One day I’m by the Adriatic Sea in Southern Italy, the next I’m by the Black Sea in Bulgaria. So, let’s see how everything unfolds in the near future. In the meantime, I’m stepping around on the grounds of the 47th country I have lived in or visited. Welcome to Bulgaria.

Trani and Castro, Puglia Region, Italy, 31 October, 2019. Can one ever get tired of visiting these historic jewels strewn along the Italian Adriatic Coast? Maybe some people can, but some of us refuse to. The two port-towns shown in this photo album show why it’s always exciting to visit the next one down the shoreline.

Bari, Puglia Region, Southern Italy. October 27th, 2019. The seaside city-port of Bari is standing on the grounds where I set foot for the first time ever in Italy. This is the first set of photos I took, from the evening that my ferry left the city-port of Bar in Montenegro, to the morning after I arrived in Bari on Friday, August 30th. I spent some 8 days in Bari, but that was enough to fully enjoy my first days in this beautiful area of Southern Italy.

Ostuni, “The White City”, Puglia Region, Italy. October 13th, 2019. Puglia, the italian region where I presently live, is famous for its historic towns, outstanding landscapes and charming ports with beautiful sea views. The town of Ostuni is certainly among those with clearly particular features. Welcome to Ostuni.

Alberobello, Puglia Region, Italy. October 12th, 2019. The Puglia region in Southern Italy has thus far failed to disappoint me. Every town I have up to now visited has been entirely to my liking. Alberobello, however, has some additional unique architectural features to offer the visitor. Just check out this album and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Otranto, Puglia, Italy. September 29th, 2019. Southern Italy is turning out to be as pleasant as I had expected. In the 29 days that I have been here, I haven't yet met anyone who didn't have an amiable predisposition towards others. They say poeple in the northern regions of the country aren't as friendly as they're here in the south, but that is a perception whose accuracy I may never get to corroborate, as, for the moment, I'm quite OK here in the south. The photo album you're about to see is not the first set of pictures I have taken in Italy; it is just the first set I'm uploading to this site. I'll probably upload some other photo albums in the coming days. Welcome to friendly Italy.

Albania. Bar, Montenegro, July 23rd, 2019. Albania is the country number 45 that I have visited or lived in. Basically, I drove down to Albania for two reasons, first, because its capital Tirana is only a three-hour drive from Bar, Montenegro, where I presently reside and, second, because in so doing I was able to renew my visa to stay in Montenegro. Overall, visiting Albania was a pleasant experience.

Nadya in Montenegro. Bar, Montenegro, June 11th, 2019. You may say I’ve travelled a little bit around the world. Thus far I’ve been to 44 countries in 4 different continents and it looks like the end of the road is nowhere in sight for me yet. I have also been to a few of those countries more than once and in nine (9) of them in the company of my dear friend Nadya. The countries in which she and I have been together are Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Montenegro, Myanmar, Russia, Thailand and the USA. Which country will be the next for us? Only the shadow knows…(ha)

Belgrade, Serbia. Bar, Montenegro, May 3rd, 2019. Serbia is the fourth Balkan country I have been to. Kosovo was the first, back in 2011, Montenegro is No.2, Croatia No.3, and now Serbia is on the list as well. Albania is potentially the next, although Macedonia is not that far from my “hometown” of Bar either, thus making it a good contender for position No.5. In the distance I can hear a call from Slovenia, which looks incredibly beautiful in some photos I’ve seen on the Internet, but its call is not as loud as that of Budapest. In any case, my choices are out there and they’re not going anywhere (ha), so, for the moment I’ll just stay here biding my time. By the way, in total, Serbia is the 44th country I have visited or lived in, so, the beat goes on.

The Bar-Belgrade Express. Bar, Montenegro, April 26th, 2019. A roundtrip plane ticket from Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, costs only about US$138, which is definitely not expensive. So, I didn’t take the train to go between those two points to save a lot of money. It’s true that a one-way train ticket between those two cities costs about US$28, but the reason I took the train was none other than to enjoy the scenery along the way. And so I did.

Dubrovnik, Croatia. Bar, Montenegro, April 9th, 2019. Admiring the beauty of the seaside cities of Kotor, Budva and Bar, in Montenegro, clearly introduced me to the marvels of the Adriatic coast in general, but it didn’t diminish in the least the intensity of my experience living for a few days in and around the walled coastal city of Dubrovnik, in Croatia. This photo album may provide you with a good look into that small Adriatic jewel.

Beautiful Old Town Kotor – Album No. 2. Bar, Montenegro, March 28th, 2019. Would you ever get tired of taking daily walks along seaside promenades that border crystalline clean waters? Would you ever get bored of thinking about the prospect of swimming in such waters during summer? My answer to both questions is: No way. To have an idea of what I mean, just take a look at this second album of photos I recently took around the coastal town of Kotor, in Montenegro.

Beautiful Old Town Kotor - Album No. 1. Bar, Montenegro, March 26th, 2019. It would be almost an understatement to say the Adriatic Waters along the Montenegrin coast are clean. In most parts they are basically crystalline. Boats actually seem to be floating on air when tied to the wharfs. But in the Bay of Kotor the waters are particularly transparent. And if to that we add the ancient beauty of the Old Town and the breathtaking views of the Bay, well, you have something truly worth remembering. This is the first of two albums. The second one will show the Bay of Kotor as seen from the heights of St. John Fortress.

The Seaside City of Budva, Montenegro. Bar, Montenegro, March 25th, 2019. Driving up the Adriatic coast from Bar to Budva can be a distracting but entertaining trip. Distracting because of the outstanding sea views that appear before you at almost every turn and entertaining for the same reason. The drive should normally take about 45 minutes, but it ends up taking longer because of the stops one makes to take a look at the views, for example those of Sveti Stefan Island (photos Nos. 01 to 04). This photo album also includes a couple of views of my first impressions of Kotor, another coastal city.

The Church of Saint Jovan Vladimir. Bar, Montenegro, March 18th, 2019. I had already uploaded a few views of this church as part of a previous photo album but, after taking a short stroll inside the church’s walls, I decided the murals in its interior deserved an album of their own; so here it is.

Stari (Old) Bar, Montenegro. Bar, Montenegro, March 14th, 2019. Some of us world trekkers are inclined to catch glimpses of the history of the places we visit and, just like the rest of eastern Europe, Montenegro has its fair share of opportunities to do so. Stari Bar promises to be the first of the many such history-laden sites I intend to take a look at in the coming weeks.

The Town of Bar, Montenegro, Album I. Bar, Montenegro, March 11th, 2019. My coming to Bar did not happen in a vacuum. Before I opted to come to Montenegro, I had already contemplated the possibility of going to the island of Sicily, in Italy, or to any of the famed, nice cities in Morocco or Algeria. In the end, however, Montenegro in general and Bar in particular, gained the upper hand over my other options mainly because of very personal reasons.

Train Ride from Podgorica to Bar, Montenegro. Bar, Montenegro, March 10th, 2019. Having lived, among other countries, in South Korea, France, Japan, Vietnam, Spain, Turkey and, above all, in China, I am no stranger to traveling by train. Doing so can often be a pleasure, and traveling from Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, down to the town of Bar, right on the Adriatic coast, was definitely no exception.

Podgorica, The Capital of Montenegro. Podgorica, Montenegro, March 8th, 2019. The Balkans have somehow been pulling me towards them in recent times. A few years ago, in 2011, I spent a few days in Pristina, the Capital of Kosovo. On March 3rd of this year I was in Podgorica for a couple of days with the intention of catching a train down to the coastal city of Bar, which I did on March 4th. The album you will see shows a few views of the day-to-day life in Podgorica.

From My Hotel Rooftop. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 26th, 2019. Saudi Arabia is changing for the better, at least it is so for women and at least so it is in Riyadh. I’ve been very glad to finally see a few ladies happily driving their cars down the city streets. I was actually impressed the other day watching a couple of them going by, one of them driving a Bentley Coupé and another one driving a brand-new Volvo SUV. You go girls!

My Neighborhood in Larnaca, Cyprus. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 18th, 2019. The Mediterranean Sea has always exerted a tremendous attraction on me. Before coming to Cyprus, I had already been many times to the French Riviera and three times to Greece. I had also lived for two years in Barcelona, Spain, and for six months in Malta. I love being close to large bodies of salt water and the Mediterranean Sea is my favorite. This short photo album shows some evidence of why spending a few days living by its very pleasant Cyprus shores was once again a memorable experience. By the way, Cyprus is the 41st country that I've been to or lived in.

The Larnaca Marina, Cyprus. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 18th, 2019. I can easily picture how crowded the Larnaca Marina must get during summer, but around Christmas time last year there weren’t many people around. I’m not much for crowded places, so the situation was ideal for me as it was. I even had time to walk around the Castle grounds without bumping into any lines of people blocking the different gates and doors. What’s more, lunch or dinner anywhere weren’t a hassle at all, like pleasantly having the New York Steak I had at TGIF. Bon appetit!

The Ancient City of Khorio, Cyprus. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 18th, 2019. For whatever reason, whenever I visit any of the countries and cities where I have been, I usually look for sites, buildings and things that may show me some of their historical and cultural roots. Strolling on the grounds of the ancient city of Khorio was very rewarding in that sense.

The Ancient City of Salamis, Cyprus. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 19th, 2019. I found the cities of Larnaca, Limassol and Nicosia somewhat similar to some Greek cities that I’ve lived in, but that’s probably for the obvious reason that most people who live in the southern side of the island where the mentioned 3 cities are located, are of Greek descendance. Visiting the ancient city of Salamis, however, gave me a slightly different impression of Cyprus, as Salamis is located on the northern side, which is under Turkish administration. It felt good to walk around those ancient grounds.

The Colorful Sanlitun Area of Beijing. Beijing, China, February 13th, 2018. City Districts in Beijing can encompass very large areas. Chaoyang, the District where I presently live, has an area of ± 183 mi2 (± 475 km2) and a Population of ± 4 million. It is only normal that such a considerable zone of Beijing should have some variety in terms of character. Sanlitun is one such zone.

Lama (Yonghe) Temple. Beijing, China, February 6th, 2018. In spite of the Chinese “Communist” Party’s claim that it is the Party’s dictates that have to guide the Tibetan way of life, Tibetans always hold the Dalai Lama’s wisdom as the guidance they should follow. In this sense, there is not much difference between the Chinese way of thinking and that of the Tibetans. This photo album shows a few views of one of the salient Buddhist centers in Beijing.

On the Train from Hong Kong to Beijing. Beijing, China, January 29th, 2018. Along with people from a few differen nationalities, Americans can now get a 10-year visa into China. We still have to leave the country every 60 days, but we no longer have to suffer the inconvenience of having to go to any Chinese Consulate or any visa-authorized Travel Agency to get back into the country. For that purpose, I took a train ride to and from Hong Kong this past weekend. All in all, things went smoothly and as this photo album shows I even had some fun coming and going.

Tiāntán, or Temple of Heaven. Beijing, China, December 27th, 2017. Tiāntán is by some counts the most famous temple in Beijing. It is a ± 600 year-old compound of structures and parks that was for centuries the locus of prayer for many Chinese emperors who came to petition their gods for abundant harvests. This photo album contains some views of Tiāntán and the grounds it stands upon.

Transylvania/Wallachia Trilogy, Album III, the Town of Sibiu, etc., Romania. Bucharest, Romania, August 30th, 2017. The third main place I visited during my trip around central Romania was the Medieval Town of Sibiu, which was sort of founded by the end of the 12th century and now has a population of approximately 150,000 souls. The town presented me with two nice surprises, one linguistic and another one folkloric-artistic. Overall, however, I would say it is the general German cultural heritage of the town that impresses visitors the most. Actually, most of the Transylvanian places I visited seemed immersed in Germanic influence of the olden kind. According to what I’ve heard, this trip may have been just an inspiring sample of what lies to be discovered in the rest of Romania, so I would say that a second coming to this country is very likely in my future. This is album No. 3 of the Trilogy.

Transylvania/Wallachia Trilogy, Album II, Bran (Dracula’s) Castle, etc., Romania. Bucharest, Romania, August 28th, 2017. My second stop during my recent trip around the Transylvanian Alps was the city of Braşov. From there I went to check out the famous Bran Castle, which is better known as “Dracula’s Castle”. But between my arrival at the local train station and my finally going to bed for a good night sleep in the countryside, there were a couple of very pleasant changes to my plans. To find out about it please check the introductory slides of this photo collection. This is album No. 2 of the Trilogy.

Transylvania/Wallachia Trilogy, Album I, Peles Castle, etc., Romania. Bucharest, Romania, August 28th, 2017. Trains in Romania don’t usually run very fast, but they can often take you where you want to go, such as in my case. I recently took a short trip around the Transylvanian Alps in Central Romania. The train first took me from Bucharest to the town of Sinaia, from where I was able to visit Peles Castle. Then it took me to the town of Brasov, located just a few kilometers away from Bran Castle, which is better known as Dracula’s Castle. Finally it took me to the town of Sibiu, where I was able to enjoy the last evening of the local Medieval Festival. Each of those three sites has its own photo album, hence the name Transylvania/Wallachia Trilogy. This is album No. 1 of the Trilogy.

Old Town, Bucharest, Romania. Bucharest, Romania, August 11th, 2017. Surprise, surprise. If anyone had asked me just a dozen days ago where did I think I would be by the end of the second week of August I would have never been able to say I would be in the city of Bucharest, the capital of Romania. Yet here I am. This is just the first of a few photo albums I intend to upload to Salaroche.com in the coming days. Enjoy.

The Country of Georgia, Album II. Baku, Azerbaijan, June 26th, 2017. No doubt about it. Georgia is a country beautiful enough to make some of us think of it as a place to possibly go live there for a few years. After all, US Citizens are entitled to reside in Georgia for 365 days without even requiring an entry visa. Looking for a nice, picturesque, friendly place to live in? Try the country of Georgia.

The Country of Georgia, Album I. Baku, Azerbaijan, June 25th, 2017. The South Caucasus region, also known as Southwest Asia, comprises a few interesting countries. First, there is the country of Azerbaijan, which is where I presently live; then there is the country of Georgia, which I recently visited, and last but not least there is the country of Armenia, whose capital, Yerevan, I would like to visit next. Because of their political past, a great majority of the people in this area is at least bilingual in their local language and Russian and a few others add Turkish or Persian to their language repertoire. In general, however, English is at least understood by a good number of them, which adds some comfort to most of us Western travelers. I recently spent a few pleasant days in the country of Georgia.

The Town of Sheki, Azerbaijan. Baku, Azerbaijan, May 28th, 2017. I am someone who thinks that when the roads are in good condition, the car is in good shape and traffic is also relatively safe, driving at a relatively high speed is a pleasure. Thus I felt quite gratified a few days ago driving from the city of Baku to the small town of Sheki, located in the northeastern part of the country of Azerbaijan. To make things more pleasant still, the scenery along the road was really something to see, thereby making the trip something one would like to do again.

Baku Beaches, Baku, Azerbaijan, May 9th, 2017. When thinking about Azerbaijan I never pictured what the shores of the Caspian Sea would look like. As it turns out, they don’t look like seashores at all; they look just like those of a few lakes I have seen in the past. Actually, the shores of Lake Nicaragua, in the country of the same name, look more like seashores than those of the Caspian Sea do. That is because Lake Nicaragua has small to medium-size waves rushing to shore, while the Caspian Sea hardly has any. Regardless of the size of the waves or the shape of the shores, Baku beaches present a very nice sight to see and a very pleasant place to spend a few hours in.

An Architectural Jewel. Baku, Azerbaijan, Apil 21st, 2017. Architectural designs usually reflect the history of the cities where they’re found. But that’s not all. The architecture of some cities also often mirrors the cultural ambitions of the people that inhabit them. The latter could easily be said to apply to the city of Baku, where one of the most iconic landmarks is a work of architectural art sprung from the imaginative genius of none other than Zaha Hadid: The Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center. This photo album contains some views on that architectural jewel plus some other angles of the city of Baku.

Baku, Azerbaijan. April 11th, 2017. Azerbaijan is a country I’ve tried to come to over the past 3 or 4 years, but one circumstance or another always kept me from coming. Now it seems that I have found the right combination of factors and I’m gearing up to a stay that may even last two or three years. I suppose lady luck eventually smiles to those who know how to wait.

The Island of Santorini. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, March 26th, 2017. The island of Santorini is part of the Cyclades, a cluster of islands located southeast of Athens, on the Aegean Sea. A few days ago I hailed on a ferryboat from my provisional hometown of Parikia, in the island of Paros, towards one of the most famous spots in the world: Santorini. The trip took about 3 hours sitting on a comfortable sofa in one of the ship’s lobbies, while reading the news on the Internet and enjoying some tasty snacks. Have a couple of free weeks this coming summer? Come do some island-hopping around the Cyclades and make sure you make a two or three-day stop in Santorini.

Independence Day. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, March 25th, 2017. The beauty of the day was in itself reason enough to celebrate, but it was doubly so because of the date, which was the anniversary of the Greek people’s general uprising against the Ottoman Empire. Long live Democratic Greece, the beautiful cradle of Western Civilization.

Flash Visit to Paris. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, March 12th, 2017. I have already lost count of the times I have been to this beautiful city, but I know the previous one was in 2008. This time around I only had a few hours to spare, so I hung out around the Place de la Contrescarpe, in the Latin Quarters, in the 5th Arrondissement.  The reason I chose to visit this particular area of Paris was very simple: This is where I used to spend plenty of time while I was living here during the early 80s.

Christos’ Abode. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, February 25th, 2017. Local traditions are as patently present in the Cyclades Islands as in the rest of Aegean-sea Greece. They are palpable in the way people relate to each other, in the way they conduct business, in their daily food, in their streets and, of course, in their architecture. The look they give to the interior of their houses can also give us a hint of their age-old customs. This album shows a few views of my Greek Friend Christos’ house in the hills of Parikia, Paros Island.

My Neighborhood. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, February 24th, 2017. I have been to a few different beaches in France, China, Spain, Malta, Turkey, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Mexico, California and a few other countries, but being constantly exposed to the beauty of the Aegean Sea in Parikia has been very endearing to me. This sojourn is on its way to becoming a particularly pleasant unforgettable experience.

Parikia Bay & the Hillside Town of Lefkes. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, February 18th, 2017. Can anyone ever get tired of living in any of the inhabited Greek islands on the Aegean Sea? I suppose some people can, but not yours truly. I know someday in the near future I’m bound to leave here, but for the time being I will stay in the Island of Paros.

The Island of Antiparos. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, February 10th, 2017. The island of Antiparos is located less than 2 kms (±1.24 miles) away from the island of Paros, where I presently live. With an area of ±36 km2 (±22.4 miles2), Antiparos is about 1/5 the size of Paros. As you may see, however, island size is by no means a measure of beauty.

The Town of Naoussa & A Bit More. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, February 7th, 2017. How much personal satisfaction can anyone draw from the simple fact of contemplating some of those natural sceneries that abound in and around the Greek islands? Enough to make your day, but that’s to say the least. Can anyone blame the Greek islanders for being happy just for living here? Not this traveler, particularly since that happiness is somewhat contagious. For that and other reasons, life in the island of Paros is a sheer delight.

A Small Earthly Paradise. Parikia, Paros Island, Greece, February 5th, 2017. I asked a Greek lady-friend whether there were any seafood restaurants in the town of Parikia, where I presently live. “No”, she said, “but there is a very good one in the town of Aliki, just around 10 kms (6 miles) south of Parikia”, so I went there for lunch this past Saturday. The seafood was indeed very fresh and good, but it was my eyes that ended up feasting on the paradisiacal scenery.

Parikia, Paros Island, Greece. January 29th, 2017. There are ±6,000 islands in the Greek archipelago, but just a few of them are inhabited. Among those few I have visited two: Crete and Paros, both of them on the Aegean Sea. The views contained in this album are only the first impressions I have gathered over the three days I have been in Paros. Maybe later I will upload a few more views of this island and perhaps another few from one or two of the neighboring ones.

Full Moon Celebration. Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India, January 15th, 2017. There are a few living religions in India: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Sikh and Jain. This makes it that in this country there are many religious festivals and celebrations every year. In addition, these guys also celebrate the full moon every month with different rituals. Thus, India can be said to be the land of popular festivities. This short photo album shows some aspects of this month’s full moon celebration at the Ramana Ashram in Tiruvannamalai.

Swayanbhunath (Monkey Temple) Kathmandu, Nepal. Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India, January 14th, 2017. The main religion in Nepal is Hinduism, which is practiced by close to 82% of the population. The distant second religion is Buddhism, with around 9% of adepts. There are smaller numbers of Muslims, Kirant, and Christians too, with even smaller minorities of other denominations. This album contains some views of one of the few Buddhist structures in Kathmandu.

Patan & Pashupatinath Temple, Nepal. Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India, January 9th, 2017. A quite noticeable aspect of the cultural sites I visited in Nepal this past December was the amount of local people walking around those grounds. There is no dearth of Western or other kinds of tourists almost anywhere you go in this country, but the locals seem to draw plenty of joy hanging around their town squares and temples. Good for them.

Thamel & Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal. Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India, January 7th, 2017. Bob Segers’ “Katmandu” had been bouncing around my mind since the end of November 2016 when around mid-December fate decided I should go there. And there I went. This is the second of a small series of photo albums I will upload to Salaroche.com as means to illustrating my recent visit to the country of Nepal.

A Window to Bhaktapur, Nepal. Kathmandu, Nepal, January 1st, 2017. Nepal is a country I’ve had on my radar screen for the past 5 years or so, particularly recently as I was living in Yangon, Myanmar.  The main religion here is Hinduism, but the main reason that brought me here is neither religious nor philosophical. I flew up to Kathmandu from Tiruvannamalai because Nepal is very close to India and airfare is quite affordable. Once I got here, though, I realized visiting this country was very well worth the trip.

A River of Humanity. Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India, December 12th, 2016. There are many religious festivals across India every year and the town of Tiruvannamalai is no exception. Today was the culmination of Karthigai Deepam, a festival that runs for 10 days. There are hundreds of thousands of people who regularly come to celebrate the occasion and this time I was one of them.

Pondicherry (Puducherry), Tamil Nadu, India, October 28th, 2016. The French took possession of a few different territories in the Indian subcontinent starting in the early 17th century. One of those appropriations included the city that was later known as Pondicherry, which the locals now call “Puducherry”. Very recently I spent a few days there and the photos included in this album present a sketchy but genuine view of those whereabouts.

See You Next Time. Negombo, Sri Lanka, October 17th, 2016. My one-week stay in Negombo, Sri Lanka, brings the number of countries I have thus far visited or lived in to 36. Whenever I mention that number to people I meet they usually ask me which is my favorite one and I sincerely respond that it is difficult to say, as each country may have its own charms and each of them may offer its own unique set of experiences. Along those lines, Sri Lanka was yet another pleasant and unique addition to my list.

Negombo, Sri Lanka, October 12th, 2016. After the Island of Java in Indonesia, Sri Lanka is the second-largest island I have ever been to. I’m here on a short visit only but I intend to visit a couple of other places before I leave next week. Thus far everything has been peaceful and pleasant around here, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Gingee Fort. Tamil Nadu, India, October 9th, 2016. Tiruvannamalai has a good number of temples and Ashrams and a few other places of interest to the visitor. But outside the town’s perimeters there are also a few sites worth checking out. Gingee Fort is one of them.

Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India, October 7th, 2016. The country of India was never at the top of my priority list of places I would like to visit, yet by now it’s already been a few days since I’ve been here. The one decisive reason that drove me to make this trip is my knowing that the town of Tiruvannamalai exists in Southern India. This town, however, wouldn’t have been any of my interest if Sri Ramana Maharshi had never lived here. From the perspective of today, it seems that sooner or later, one way or another, fate would have brought me here anyway.

48 Hours in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Yangon, Myanmar, September 30th, 2016. After living in Myanmar for some time all foreigners get accustomed to leaving the country every two months or so to renew their visas, and the fact that the company pays for airfare and hotels can make those mandatory trips even more enjoyable. Last week it was that time for me again and on this occasion I opted to visit the city of Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand. Even though I was there for barely 48 hours, the trip was still very well worth it.

Inle Lake. Yangon, Myanmar, August 20th, 2016. Myanmar is a country with a good variety of sights to see and places to enjoy, from pristine beaches to mountain forests to extensive archaeological fields to sweet water lakes, the beauty of Myanmar is evident everywhere you look. Thus far I have been to a few of those places worth visiting and Inle Lake is definitely one of them.

Phuket, Thailand, July 2016. Yangon, Myanmar, July 23rd, 2016. After visiting a few Southeast and Northeast Asian islands in the span of a couple of years you sort of get the impression that they are all basically the same. And that perception would be mostly right. Most of those islands are equally warm and beautiful. This was my third time in Phuket and, in spite of the fact that the month of July falls right within the local rainy season, I found it just as attractive and entertaining as always. I hardly got any rain during my stay, but I certainly got plenty of fresh seafood and the occasional tasty Australian tenderloin beefsteak. Want to have your eyes, your palate, and the rest of your senses feast on some delightful things? Go spend a few days in Phuket.

Yosemite Park, Las Vegas & the Grand Canyon. Yangon, Myanmar, May 14th, 2016. Some friends residing in Europe have recently told me that the west of the US has a particular natural charm not found anywhere on the eastern side of the country and they may well be right. This photo album may serve as evidence to corroborate those friends’ perception.

San Francisco, Sausalito, Inverness, Point Reyes and the Vedanta Center in Olema. Yangon, Myanmar, May 12th, 2016. I cannot conceive of landing at LAX and not plan on driving north to Inverness. That trip, of course, entails at least two obligatory stops: One in the San Francisco Bay Area and another in Olema. This time around was no exception.

Santa Barbara & Solvang, Plus a Few Other Views. Yangon, Myanmar, May 10th, 2016. It seems like I just can’t stay away too long from California. This time around, however, I took my dear friend Nadya with me just to have her see in person some of the places that have left a special mark in my existence.

The Island of Phu Quoc. Phu Quoc, Vietnam, April 8th, 2016. The Country of Vietnam has a good number of places to visit. In the past I have been to Hanoi, Danang, Hoi Ann, Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) and Bac Liu. Now I’m spending a few days on the Island of Phu Quoc, where the variety of seafood is perhaps larger than that of any other nice place in the Gulf of Thailand. The weather is hot in Phu Quoc, but the living is certainly easy.  

The Island of Penang. Yangon, Myanmar, January 10th, 2016. This was my third time on the Island of Penang and, once again, the difference permeating this experience was my being in the company of my dear Russian mate Nadya. No doubt that travelling as a couple, as opposed to travelling on our own, often changes even the color of the landscapes you are exposed to.

The Island of Langkawi. Yangon, Myanmar, January 9th, 2016. This past 2015 Xmas season was a mixture of discovery and pleasure. I first went to Jakarta, Indonesia, for a rendezvous with Nadya and then we went together to the islands of Penang and Langkawi, in Malaysia. This album shows some views of the Langkawi part of our trip.

2015

Sunda Kelapa Harbor. Jakarta, Indonesia, December 20th, 2015. Indonesia is perhaps better known in the West for its famous island of Bali, which is today still visited by many travelers looking for sunny beaches and clear ocean waters. Some of us, however, come to these lands for different reasons. I, for one, came to Jakarta only because Nadya asked me to meet her here. While I wait for her, today I took a stroll down the harbor near Old Town Jakarta, or Kota Tua, where I took the photos included in this album. This winter-break trip is just beginning, so I suppose I will take a few more views of my surroundings before I head on back “home” on January 4th. In the meantime, Merry Christmas everyone.

Phi Phi Island. Yangon, Myanmar, November 11th, 2015. The Western coast of Thailand has plenty of turquoise waters and some emerald waters too. In the restaurants populating the shores you can find fresh lobster, prawns, mussels and oysters, among other seafood. The island of Phuket is some sort of gate to the rest of the smaller islands strewn deeper across the Andaman Sea. Phi Phi Island is one of them. A little over a week ago I spent a few days shuttling between Phuket and Phi Phi in the company of my dear Nadya.

The Seaside Town of Ngwe Saung. Yangon, Myanmar, August 27th, 2015. The country of Myanmar is not a featured tourist destination in any major travel agency that I know of and the main reason for it is the fact that this nation is barely crawling out of a few decades under dictatorial rule. As we all well know, such kind of regimes usually entail a dearth of progress in every sense. Myanmar people, on the other hand, couldn’t be nicer to each other and towards foreigners too, the countryside couldn’t be any greener, and the beauty of its natural sceneries wouldn’t have anything to covet from any of its otherwise more developed Southeast Asian neighbors either. This is my second stay in Myanmar this year and the way things are going I might well hang out around here longer than I had originally planned. Minga la bá!

A Flash Visit to Bangkok. August 8th, 2015. Buddhist art and traditions permeate the Southeast Asian landscape wherever we may look. But even as the inspirational fountain whence spring their ancient cultures is one and the same, there are tangible variations corresponding to the idiosyncrasies of each nation. Traditional architecture, for one, can be quite distinctive in Thailand as opposed to that of Cambodia, Myanmar or Vietnam. The Temple Complex of Wat Pho, for example, offers some intricate yet sober shapes and lines to the visitors’ eyes to the point of making you wonder whether you are not contemplating such kind of structures for the first time ever.
And if to that you add the charm of navigating the waters of the Chao Phraya River and later having lunch in a local seafood restaurant that stands on stilts over the river waters, well, that can make your day complete.

A Short Message from Salaroche (Video) Bac Lieu, Vietnam, May 4th, 2015. This video shows a short impromptu presentation by Salaroche on the subjects of traveling and gaining further capabilities for self-analysis. The video was taped on May 4th, 2015, at Hung Vuong Square, in the city of Bac Lieu, Vietnam, just a few hundred miles southwest of the city of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. (Apologies for the noise caused by the wind blowing on the camera microphone. Unfortunately, there was no way to avoid it) To read a transcript for this presentation please click here: Transcript

Some Sino-Vietnamese Folk Music (Video) Bac Lieu, Vietnam, April 30th, 2015. Ceremonial rituals may vary according to culture, thus, weddings, funerals, and graduations may seem too short for people from some foreign countries and quite long for people from some others. I have witnessed wedding parties that lasted for 3 days in Mandalay, Myanmar, and funeral gatherings that lasted for 5 days in Bac Lieu, Vietnam. Interestingly, both the Burmese and the Vietnamese people involved in those rituals were of Chinese ancestry. This you can corroborate in this video by looking at the Chinese writings hanging from the ceiling. Curiously enough, though, while living on-and-off in China for 4 years I was never exposed to any rituals lasting that long. This video I taped on the last evening of a Buddhist funeral ritual that recently took place in my neighborhood. In contrast to the previous one, this video contains close to 4 minutes of Sino-Vietnamese folk music.

It Was 40 Years Ago Today: The Fall of Saigon. Bac Lieu, Vietnam, April 30th, 2015. The iconic photo of The Fall of Saigon included in this album was taken on April 29th, 1975, the day before the North Vietnamese Army entered the city. The guy who took the photo was a photographer for UPI named Hubert Van Es. He was Dutch. Contrary to the prevailing myth, the helicopter in the photo was not sitting on the roof of the American Embassy, but on the roof of the Pittman Apartment Complex, which used to house some top CIA officials. The helicopter was operated by Air America, a CIA covert operation in Vietnam and the people trying to get on it were South Vietnamese people who had been previously employed by Americans in Saigon. The poster is a photo I took of one of many posters displayed around the city of Bac Lieu and, I assume, across the country as well.

A Buddhist Ritual II (Video) Bac Lieu, Vietnam, April 28th, 2015. A Buddhist Funeral Ritual had already been going on for a couple of days in my neighborhood when family members of the deceased invited me once again to have some drinks and snacks with them. People in this city of Bac Lieu, which has a population of ± 900k, are resolutely friendly and it's often impossible to turn them down whenever they invite you to join them. So I went home to get my Nikon D3100, which is not a video camera, and shot the scenes you can see in this movie with it.

A Buddhist Ritual. Bac Lieu, Vietnam, April 26th, 2015.  Before taking any pictures I always ask for permission from the people involved, as I’m aware that there are individuals, myself sometimes included, who do not like being photographed. In this case, as in most other cases in Vietnam, people mostly volunteered to be photographed, meaning that around here there is not much problem in that regard.

Bac Lieu Cafés, etc. Bac Lieu, Vietnam, April 17th, 2015. Bac Lieu is a city located a few hours by bus southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam by population (7+ million) Bac Lieu has approximately 900 thousand inhabitants, but it has a very high ratio of cafés and eateries per head. At least that’s the impression you get when you walk down the city streets. This photo album shows a small sample of those places plus a few other views that present a rough sketch of this peaceful yet quite active Vietnamese city.

Mount Popa. Ho Phong, Vietnam, March 25th, 2015. Can you picture yourself walking 777 steps up to a Monastery located atop a steep rock formation only to spend some 90 minutes over there and then head on down that very same amount of steps to catch your ride back home? Well that’s exactly what I did a few days ago in central Myanmar and it was worth it. But there’s actually more to it than that. Want to see what I’m talking about? Just check out this photo album.

A Few Bagan Stupas & Buddhist Temples. Ho Phong, Vietnam, March 23rd, 2015. Buddhism has left an indelible mark on Myanmar soil. Everywhere you look you can find traces of its influence on the architecture, culture, and traditions of this country, but nowhere as much as in Bagan. I recently had the chance to walk for a few hours on Bagan grounds, the land that perhaps contains the largest number of Buddhist structures per square mile in the world. It was a unique experience, and you’re welcome to take a peak.

Irrawaddy River. Ho Phong, Vietnam, March 22nd, 2015. I had been trying to go to Myanmar for a few years and I was finally able to realize my wish this past January 5th. I had seen pictures of Myanmar’s countryside and I was eager to stroll around those grounds where Buddhist temples and Stupas swarm the landscape. I held my horses and didn’t venture anywhere outside Mandalay till my dear friend Nadya came to Myanmar so that we could discover the unique wonders of this land together. This photo album is the first of a series of three photo collections I gathered while travelling with her over the past few days.

A Few Selfies. Mandalay, Myanmar, January 29th, 2015. In this day and age, when even already-famous people get in trouble for posting intimate photos of themselves on the Internet, ordinary guys like yours truly sometimes also feel compelled to display images of ourselves showing some of those personal characteristics that are reminiscent of activities we used to engage in during younger days. These half-a-dozen pictures taken very recently fall into that category.

The Royal Palace. Mandalay, Myanmar, January 12th, 2015. Southeast and Northeast Asia have large Buddhist populations along with well ingrained Buddhist traditions and architecture. In the middle of it all, the province of Mandalay, in the country of Myanmar, is perhaps the land that counts with the largest number of Buddhist Temples, Monuments and Stupas per square mile. I have only been in this beautiful tropical country for a few days, but I already captured a few views I considered worth uploading to salaroche.com. Please feel free to check them out.

Good Bye 2014. Sihanoukville, Cambodia, January 2nd, 2015. The more you travel the more you witness how the world is becoming increasingly homogeneous, at least on the surface: Dress trends, shoewear, communication technologies, fast food, music, the English language, are all part of the familiar things any traveler can nowadays find in the great majority of countries. Some traditional Western celebrations like the New Year can also fall into the same classification.

2014

Visiting Friends. Sihanoukville, Cambodia, December 22nd, 2014. Expats in Sihanoukville often live in communities up in the hills. My friend Manfred and his wife Marina are no exception. A few days ago they invited me for a drink at their place and the photos you’re about to see show some of the views I took during that visit.

Remembrance of the Renaissance (Collage) Sihanoukville, Cambodia, December 19th, 2014. Once upon a time there was this historical epoch where the classic arts flourished as they had never done before and have never done ever since. Half jokingly half seriously I ask you, do you remember?

A Very Pleasant Twist of Fate. Sihanoukville, Cambodia, December 1st, 2014. Twists of fate can basically go three ways: 1) for better, 2) for worse or, 3) for something of comparable quality. I’ve gone through some of those twists across the years and I’m glad to say that only a few of them have been of the second kind. Those of the third have usually slid by rather uneventfully and those of the first are usually the ones worth talking about. This photo album illustrates one of the latter kind.

Koh Ta Kiev Island. Sihanoukville, Cambodia, November 27th, 2014. The gulf of Thailand is quite expansive, brushing the shores of countries from Vietnam to Malaysia, passing through Cambodia and Thailand. Tucked in its waters are plenty of islands, some of which are part of the Khmer Maritime territories. Nadya and I recently had the chance to visit one of those Cambodian islands and we encountered at least a couple of pleasant surprises there.

Independence Beach. Sihanoukville, Cambodia, November 26th, 2014. I was some sort of a tour guide during most of this month of November. My dear Nadya came down all the way from St. Petersburg, Russia, to spend some three weeks with me here in Sihanoukville and we enjoyed more than a few moments together visiting the different nearby beaches. We particularly liked Independence Beach because of its relative quietness.

Beaches of Sihanoukville. Sihanoukville, Cambodia, August 24th, 2014. All things being of equal quality, if given the choice of spending a month in the countryside, in the city, or at the beach, I would with no hesitation opt for the latter. As it turns, I didn’t even have any alternative to coming back to Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Lady Destiny basically chose my next destination for me while I was in the island of Hainan, China. Do I feel uncomfortable following such decrees of fate? Not in the least. Want to know why? Just check out this photo album.

Hainan Island, China, Vol. II. Sihanoukville, Cambodia, August 2nd, 2014. Finally getting out of China after living there in and out for a few years can be a little bit of a problem. Exchanging Yuan for dollars, for example, can often be a tricky task. Buying a plane ticket can also prove to be a hassle if you don’t have a Visa or MasterCard, as you would have to get it from local Travel Agents, which are still using business practices a couple of decades old. In the meantime, you’re in the Island of Hainan, in good company and in good spirits, so you take it all in stride and do your best to enjoy the blessings that nature has endowed that land with.

A Day by the Colorful Hills of Linze. Jiayuguan, Gansu Province, China, July 7th, 2014. My days in northwest China are already numbered. My plane ticket shows that in the afternoon of this coming Saturday, July 12th, I will already have the option to go for a stroll down the beach in the seaside city of Sanya, in the tropical island of Hainan, the southernmost province of China. In the meantime, this past Sunday the 6th I was lucky enough to have a Chinese colleague propose to drive me down to the city of Linze, where there are some geological formations I had previously expressed interest in visiting; so there we went.

Gōnshí. Jiayuguan, Gansu Province, China, May 14th, 2014. Coming back home the other day, I noticed a curious group of blue tents recently setup over a parking lot near my apartment, so a couple of days ago I grabbed my camera and went to see what those tents were all about. The camp turned out to be a temporary market setup by a group of nomad stone merchants who go around China selling Gōnshí stones to the general public along their way. Gōnshí stones are widely used as ornaments in China, South Korea, and Japan, but their use originated in China some 1400 years ago. The stones may vary considerably in size, weight, shape, and color, and the mystic symbolism ascribed to them only comes to enhance their singular beauty.

Vanishing Into the Timeless Reality. Jiayuguan, Gansu Province, China, March 11th, 2014. By definition, Eternal Consciousness transcends all possible manifestations in all possible realms of existence. The more we're near our final destination the more that Light can be clear and present in our minds.

Moscow, Russia. Jiayuguan, Gansu Province, China, February 23rd, 2014. Up to April of 2013 the thought of going to Moscow had never crossed my mind. On that single occasion I had come across a job offer in that city and for a moment I contemplated the idea of going there, but when that opportunity fell through I completely forgot about going to Russia. That was until this month of February, when I spontaneously thought I should go see my friend Nadya in St. Petersburg. Once I was there Nadya proposed we should go to Moscow, so we bought a couple of roundtrip plane tickets and there we went. Our Moscow Hotel was well within walking distance from the Kremlin, so that was the first city landmark I visited. As we started walking across the Moskva River and I caught my first glimpse of the Kremlin, there was only one thought ringing in my mind: “I’m back in the USSR, you don’t know how lucky you are boy”. I, of course, had never been to Russia or the late USSR before, so the first part of that verse couldn’t apply to me, but the part about being lucky rang absolutely true.

St. Petersburg, Russia. Jiayuguan, Gansu Province, China, February 21st, 2014. My visiting St. Petersburg was perhaps the most unexpected trip I’ve ever embarked upon. Walking by the banks of the Neva River, for example, was no doubt one of the most unimaginable promenades I could have ever taken. But there I was, stepping on the streets of Russia’s Cultural Capital, a city first founded by Peter the Great back in 1703, later to become the cradle of Russia’s three major revolutions. These cobblestones traced Vladimir Lenin’s steps in October of 1917 as the Bolsheviks marched towards the Winter Palace, thereby putting an end to Kerensky’s provisional government. This is Leningrad, the city that withstood nearly 900 days under Nazi siege but never surrendered. Call it Petrograd, Leningrad, St. Petersburg, or simply Petersburg as many locals do, but once you’ve walked upon its streets you aren’t very likely to forget it.

Streets of Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara, California, USA, February 2nd, 2014. I left the Santa Barbara area in early 2004 and I’ve never been back with the idea of living here again. But this doesn’t mean I have lost my appreciation for Santa Barbara things. It still feels as good as ever to take a stroll on a sunny day down the waterfront on Cabrillo Blvd., or to take a walk up State Street from Stearns Wharf after sundown and stop at one or two cafés or bars for a snack and something to drink before making up your mind as to where to have dinner later on. Want to enjoy a variety of places, people, and circumstances? Come to Santa Barbara; but bring a fat wallet too.

A Short Visit to the Small Town of Carpinteria, California. Santa Barbara, California, USA, February 1st, 2014. I lived in Carpinteria for a few years back in the early 2000’s. Then I went to Europe for a couple of years and I’ve never settled down again in the US ever since. This short visit was one of a few I’ve made to this charming seaside town in the past decade or so.

Flash Visit to Seoul, South Korea. Santa Barbara, California, USA, January 25th, 2014. Starting in early 2006, I lived in South Korea for two and a half years. I hadn’t set foot on Korean soil since then, but on January 17th, as I was on my way from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to Los Angeles, California, I had an eight-hour layover in Seoul, so I took a couple of Airport Tours, took my camera with me, and shot a few views of a couple of palaces and Buddhist temples. It all just brought some pleasant memories to mind.        

Sihanoukville, Ochheuteal and Otres Beach, Cambodia. Carpinteria, California, USA, January 21st, 2014. The winds of fate often blow in unexpected directions, which sometimes makes us tackle the resulting circumstances in unforseen ways as well. But when things go well they often go very well too. My stay in Sihanoukville was of the latter kind. Ever felt like doing nothing was the perfect thing to do? Well, it seems that such is the general feeling animating all foreigners visiting Sihanoukville.

Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, and Angkor Thom, Cambodia. Sihanoukville, Cambodia, January 11th, 2014. Taking a peek at the past often makes some of us wonder about the future. Walking around the Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom remnants of the Khmer civilization produced one such wondering in my imagination. “The Khmer stepped upon these very same stone walkways over 800 years ago”, I thought, “what will the people walking upon the streets of New York, Paris or London see 800 years from now?” The Khmer probably thought they had reached the pinnacle of human civilization at the time, just as many of us think of our civilization today. So, what went wrong? What happened to them? Is a similar fate awaiting our present civilizations?  I guess the answer to the last question will be up to future generations to figure out.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Sihanoukville, Cambodia, January 9th, 2014. Sometimes, when we're somehow compelled by circumstances to opt for a second choice, we may find that such choice should have actually been our first one in the first place. This is exactly my perception of my coming to Cambodia on January 1st.

2013

Yellow River, Sun Yat-sen Bridge & The Mother. Jiayuguan, Gansu Province, China, October 31st, 2013. When traveling long distances within China, the custom is to catch a night train, get a sleeper if available, spend the night on the train, and get to your destination the next day (or two). That’s exactly what I did this past Tuesday, October 29. I had to go to Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province (a 10-hour train ride) to get the medical checkup required by law to get a work visa renewal here in China. After the checkup I roamed around town taking some pictures and meeting some Chinese friends.

New Apartment & Jiayu Evening. Jiayuguan, Gansu Province, China, October 27th, 2013. I have lived in a considerable number of apartments in a few different countries over the past ten years or so. A few of those apartments I've shared with people from England, Spain, the US, Argentina, Denmark, Peru, Djibouti, India and others, but most of them I've had all to myself. But even when living on my own I've usually had to establish some sort of rapport with my neighgbors. People are the same all over the world. Their human qualities may range from those of complete imbeciles to those of super nice, attentive, and smart individuals. China is no exception. Looking for live music is also a sure way to meet people of all kinds. Last night I had a pleasant experience at a couple of local bars listening to some local musicians playing ballads and country-punk rock.

GOP Politics. Jiayuguan, Gansu Province, China, October 24th, 2013. "Gangsterism is politics by other means".

Hot Pot. Jiayuguan, Gansu Province, China, Oct 20th, 2013. Kind and attentive people can be found in many countries of the world. China is no exception. A couple of nights ago I shared dinner with some Chinese University students who are spending part of their vacation here in Jiayuguan. Next week they're going back to their campus in Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu Province, so I decided to treat them to some local Hot Pot before they left. The place I took them to is known as "Food Street". There are perhaps 100 small restaurants there, some of them of the good quality sort.

Mogao Grottoes. Jiayuguan, Gansu Province, China, October 5th, 2013. It is not known with certainty whether Buddhism came from India to China via the Silk Road or via the South China Sea. Whatever the case, by the year 366 AD Buddhist monks were already in the vicinity of Dunhuang City digging caves in which to dwell and meditate. Those caves are now known as the Mogao Grottoes. This photo album shows some of the views I took there this week.

Dunhuang City, Mingsha Mountain & Crescent Spring. Jiayuguan, Gansu Province, China, October 4th, 2013. The Hexi corridor, also know as Gansu corridor, is basically the northern section of the Silk Road. The city of Dunhuang is located on the western end of that corridor. Nearby Mingsha Mountain is a long and tall sandy section of the Gobi desert and adjacent Crescent Spring is an oasis with a large pond shaped in the form of a crescent moon. I recently spent a couple of days in that area.

Jiayu Pass, Silk Road, and Gobi Desert. Jiayuguan, Gansu Province, China, September 12th, 2013. Walking a bit along roads first traveled by humans well over 2000 years ago can be a stimulating experience. Stepping on walls similarly ancient can only add excitement to it all. But walking down the Gobi desert and finding a recently built terracotta structure apparently modeled after some Hopi Indian houses of the Arizona desert (photos 112-124) can only cause a rather surreal perception dissonance.

Back in China Again. Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, China, June 14, 2013. This is the fourth time I've come to this country and, besides Beijing, the fifth province that I've been to. There's not much to write home about in Yiwu, unless you go check out Futian Market. With its 43 million sq. feet (4 million m²) 62,000 shops, 100,000 providers and 400,000 products, it is the largest wholesale market in the world. Still, as is the case in most of China, there's always a few nice extra sights to see. The Yiwu river is one of those places.

A Flash View of Singapore. Singapore, May 17, 2013. I first came to Singapore about four years ago, but I didn’t take any pictures. This time I had my camera with me and I took a few shots. Singapore is one of the four leading financial centers in the world and one of the top five busiest ports as well, but my pictures don’t show much of that, just some plain views of this fun, modern, tropical, multiethnic, multilingual, prosperous, orderly city-state.

Batu Ferringhi & Petronas Towers. Malaysia, May 14, 2013. Walking around small seaside towns is a rather common thing for me to do. That’s how I’ve come to know some very interesting people in the world. Meeting Natsuko, a sweet and beautiful Japanese woman, or Joanna, a spunky NGO volunteer from Lisbon, or Ahboi and Lena, Malaysian beach-dwellers, or Islan, the Malay cook and owner of the motel where I stayed for a few days in Batu Ferringhi, or Nicole from Switzerland and Marika from Germany, or any of the other people I encountered in that small seaside town, was an experience all of its own. Unique and pleasant. Checking out the Petronas Towers was nearly equally so.

Batu Ferringhi, Penang Island, Malaysia, May 8, 2013. The island of Penang seems to have been the place where the Brits first started anexing the country of Malaysia to their empire. Captain Francis Light probably thought Penang was the right place to rest for a while, so he took it in the name of King George III. That was back in 1786. In our day and age, the Island's (and the Province's) capital city of George Town is still a nice place to visit. Even more so is the coastal community of Batu Ferringhi, located just a few miles Northwest of George Town. I've been spending some time in the former over the past few days. This is indeed a hot place, but it's very cool just as well.

Fast Trains, Yalong Bay and Sanya Bay, Hainan Island, February 22, 2013. Will I ever get tired of strolling by the sea? No way. Seafood is way too luring for me to stay away from seashores. Then there's that constant enigmatic magnetism of the ocean. My encounters with fast trains, on the other hand, aren't anything I've ever looked for. Yet, thus far I've been on board the KTX (South Korea) a few times, the TGV (France) more than a few times, a few fast trains in Japan, and now some fast trains in China. Of the lot, the fastest to date has been the Chinese one, with a top speed of 198 Kilometers an hour (123 miles/hr.), although it usually cruises at around 195 Km/hr. (121 m/hr.) I'm yet to ride on the Chinese Bullet Train, which has a top speed of over 300 Km/hr. (187 m/hr.) Let's just wait and see when that small thrill comes my way.

Apartment Shuttles, Old Boats, etc., Hainan Island, China, February 21, 2013. The Chinese countyside can offer plenty of quiet spaces, particularly around small towns and during off-season days, but good restaurants and bars are often found only in larger communities, so one heads on back to the city noise for the sake of enjoying a fresh seafood lunch once again. Most of these views were taken during an after-lunch walk in Boao.

Boao Beach & Apartment Complex, Boao, Hainan Island, China, February 16, 2013. The way this part of the island keeps developing, some ten years from now this could well be a major western-like leisure metropolis. Seaside apartments and villas are sprouting all around, but traditional Chinese architecture is hardly visible anywhere. Clearly Spanish traces decorate some of the Apartment Complexes' facades and interiors and the streets and gardens that surround them have more than a whiff of Santa Barbara and Montecito (California) to them. Looking for investment? Real Estate prices are still very low down here, but I don’t think such situation will last too long.

Shanqin Bay, Hainan Island, China, February 13, 2013. Rice paddies, Papaya trees, Pineapple fields, Coconut trees, they all look almost the same anywhere in the tropics. Chinese Goyave trees, however, are much shorter than those I've seen in Central America. Areca, on the other hand, is one kind of Palm tree I had never come across before. In Hainan they eat its leaves and its bitter fruit and it gets them high. I have tried it twice and the effect is like having a double shot of Tequila on an empty stomac. Wanna try it? Careful. It's addictive.

Boao, Hainan Island, China, February 12, 2013. Even though air and ocean currents can affect the overall temperature of any environment, hanging out at 19 degrees latitud north feels tropical regardless of the continent we may be in. Boao is no exception: Coconut trees, Pineapple fields, Goyave plantations, and Banana trees abound everywhere in the island's countryside. Many friendly people too.

2012

Tajikistan, Central Asia, July 31, 2012. Dushanbe is a city with lots of trees and parks and more than a few monuments. The local people are relaxed and friendly and many of them don't hesitate to practice their English whenever they have a chance. For that reason, going shopping or out to dinner is not much of a problem for guys like me who don't speak Tajik or Russian. Dancing at a Tajik wedding party can be fun too.

Lac Assal, Djibouti, East Africa, May 2012. I'm presently living in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, but I still have some good memories of my six-month stint in the small Republic of Djibouti, right at the foot of the Horn of Africa. Some of the very distinctive impressions I got in that country I gathered during my short trip to Lac Assal.

Les Sables Blancs, Djibouti, East Africa, January 19, 2012. I love living by large bodies of water, even if it's only for short periods of time. Santa Barbara, Barcelona, Malta, Shikoku Island, Gangsung, Istanbul, they're just some of the places where I've lived that are located by Oceans or Seas. Djibouti is also a city located by large bodies of water, three of them, and near Djibouti City there are some very nice beaches too. Want to see a sample of them? Check out this photo album.

2011

Djibouti City, Djibouti, East Africa, December 24, 2011. Ever found yourself in a country that you never imagined you could ever live in? I had always though one day I would set foot on African soil, but I had always aimed at the West Coast. As it turns out, I have now been living in Djibouti, East Africa, for two weeks. No doubt about it, the winds of fate are often totally unpredictable.

Ghost Street & Lama Temple, Beijing, China, November 7, 2011. Walking around the streets of big cities like Beijing one's always bound to find districts with quite different personalities. And some streets might even give us some pleasant suprises. Buddhist Temples, on the other hand, hardly ever fail to be impressive.

Dafen Art Village, Shenzhen, China, October 19, 2011. I had never seen as many good paintings lined up one after another as I saw today in the Art Village of Dafen. The great majority of them were hand-painted replicas and some of them were even excellent at that. There were some sculptures too, and a nice architectural surprise.

Hong Kong II, August 27-September 1st, 2011. It never crossed my mind that I would be back in Hong Kong for a third time in less than a year, but there I was just a couple of weeks ago. This time, however, I didn't get there by train; this time it was a Turkish Airlines flying machine that took me there. And, by the way, that pilot did the smoother landing I have ever experienced.

Pristina, Kosovo, August 21-27, 2011.
Eastern Europe has been on my radar screen for the previous few months. I even set foot in Bulgaria for a few minutes a few months ago while extending my visa to stay in Turkey. Still, Kosovo never seemed like a very likely country for me to go. Nevertheless, on Sunday, August 21st, there I went.

Zurich, Switzerland. August 20, 2011. The largest city in Switzerland still has a small-town flavor, at least on Saturday afternoons. Strolling down by the side of the river Limmat for a few hours was a rather pleasant thing to do.

Gossau, etc., Switzerland. August 15-20, 2011. I had been to Geneva a couple of times in the past, but had never gone north-east deeper into the country. This time I went all the way up to Gossau, a city located by the angle between Germany and Austria, not too far from Lichtenstein. To see the town of Gossau, however, was not the reason that I went there. The magnet that pulled me to Gossau was friendship of the unalloyed kind.

St. Etienne, France, August 10, 2011. I have been to France many times over the last three decades and I lived here for some time during the early 80s, but I had never visited the town of St. Etienne. Chance dictated that I land here at the beginning of June and I've been here since then. This is a quiet small town with some interesting characteristics.

Grand Bazaar, Topkapi. Istanbul, Turkey. Photos uploaded from St. Etienne, France, July 7, 2011. Sitting here in front of my Laptop in the city of St. Etienne, France, looking at the photos I took in Istanbul just a couple of days before I left that city by the end of May, I can easily recall the good moments I had over there. You haven't been to Istanbul yet? Give it a shot. I could bet you'd like it there.

Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey, March 18, 2011. Istanbul, the capital of the ancient Roman, Latin and Byzantine Empires, is a city that exudes history. On Sunday the 13th, I was lucky enough to be guided through some of the city's historical sites by a kind istanbulian friend.

Istanbul, Turkey, January 22, 2011. As "The Highwaymen" more or less used to sing, "the road goes on forever and the findings never end". And such is the state of affairs in this distinct city of istanbul. I haven't even began to discover the historic gems that can be found here, but I already tasted the charm that some aspects of the Turkish way of life have to offer to the foreign eye.

2010

Chinese Folkloric Instruments, Beijing, China, November 19, 2010. String musical instruments have characteristics that may vary from culture to culture. Some Chinese vilolins, for one, have only one string. Then there are the guitar-like instruments which have different sets of strings, or some plucked instruments that often sound like pianos. There are some beautiful musical insruments in China.

Olympic Stadium, Beijing, China, November 4, 2010. Beijing's Olympic Stadium is indeed an original architectural design. On November 4th, 2010, I took the Beijing subway and went to the Olympic grounds to take a few shots of it. Once I was there, I sat down at an outdoor café and enjoyed a good sip of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Pays D'Oc, along with some Danish Blue Cheese and some Italian-style bread.

Summer Palace, Beijing, China, October 30, 2010. Beijing's Summer Palace was built mostly during the Qin Dynasty (1644-1911) The enceinte is basically a compound of several palaces and house clusters scattered around Kunming Lake and its vicinities. On Friday, October 29, I was lucky to visit those grounds in the company of my Chinese friend Zhong, Gang Hua.

Shichahai, Beijing, China, October 29, 2010. Shichahai is a district of Beijing with some sort of western flavor to it, not because of the food, even though they cook some very good oven-roasted pizza there, but because of the style of the restaurants and bars, which have tables on the sidewalks by the lake. Some of those bars have live music too.

TiananmenSquare, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, Beijing, China, October 27, 2010. When visiting Beijing, a stroll through Tiananmen Square is a must. So it is to walk through the gates of the Forbidden City, past Mao's famous portrait, and into the inner grounds of the city. But walking up and down the steps and walkways of the Great Wall is perhaps the most exciting of the three. I visited those three places during the last week of October, 2010.

Guangdong Folk Arts Museum, Guangzhou, China, September 8, 2010. Over one hundred years of existence haven’t robbed the Chen Clan's Academy premises of the folklore engraved on them and the impressive objects displayed there only ad to the beauty of it all.

Hong Kong, August 22, 2010. Because of factors like the size of its capital market, the number of embassies and fortune 500 companies found on its soil, the volume of goods flowing through its ports and airports, and others, the city of Hong Kong is ranked #5 in the world. That makes a truly global city out of Hong Kong. But, is it fun to go there? Well, that may depend on how thick your wallet is.

Guangzhou, China, August 19, 2010. Guangzhou is a fun place. My inability to express myself in Chinese often makes communication between me and the locals a very amusing thing. Given that the locals have an amiable predisposition and that I’m not too often short of smiles, everything usually works out well and in the end everyone involved gets a certain sense of accomplishment.

Nanning, China, March 30, 2010. There are idiosyncratic differences between the peoples of some of the Asian countries where I've recently lived, but those differences are increasingly looking as mild as the ones existing between Texans and Californians or between New Yorkers and Oregonians. Some well-known anthropological evidence corroborates that inter-Asian commonality too.

Da-Nang & Marble Temple, Vietnam, February 16, 2010. The beaches in the seaside city of Da-Nang are wide and nice. Having lunch and dinner sitting at a table placed right on the sand reminded me of Central America. But the Vietnamese fishing boats are quite different from anything I'd seen before. The Marble Temple is a Buddhist sanctuary worth taking a look at.

Hoi Anh, Vietnam, February 14, 2010. Spring comes down early here in Vietnam. It's barely the middle of February and many of us already go around wearing shorts, T-shirts and sandals. The Lunar New Year is here with us too, so I took a little trip southeast of Hanoi to welcome the new year by the sea.


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