Historic Hiking in Gibraltar: On the surface, Gibraltar appears to be little more than a boozy, sun kissed British overseas territory. Best known for its status as a tax haven, the tiny 2 square mile town consists of a myriad of crumbling housing estates and cobbled roads lined with shops hawking duty-free alcohol sprinkled in with a few British high street brands. However, few of us tourists make the trek down here for just the town. The towering Rock of Gibraltar is the territory’s main attraction and in addition to some of the best hiking I’ve ever experienced, it’s home to (in my opinion) a treasure trove of grossly underappreciated historic artifacts and features.
Singapore as a Budget-Friendly Luxury Destination: Luxury travel is not something the majority of us can indulge in too often, and when we do, it can deal a pretty big blow to our savings accounts. That being said, I’m always on the hunt for great travel destinations where you can get a lot of bang for your buck. Southeast Asia is a well-known destination for travelers hoping to stretch their budget, but Singapore never seems to make anyone’s travel list. Perhaps it’s its image as a stiff, strict society or the fact that it doesn’t advertise its tourism industry much abroad, but Singapore does not get its due as a holiday destination.
A Day on the Danube: In celebration of our last weekend in Vienna, we decided to hop on a riverboat cruise down the Danube, towards the famed Wachau Valley. Meandering down one of Europe’s mightiest and most storied rivers, we passed by small town vineyards, rooftop fortresses and the obligatory nuclear power plant or two before reaching the fairytale town of Dürnstein. After hiking up a mountain in flip flops and trying out the local apricot ice cream, we returned to Vienna on a beautiful Sunday night.
A Photo Tour of Lower Normandy: The moment I first arrived in Lower Normandy following a lengthy ferry ride across the English Channel, my first instinct was to exhale. After spending months cooped up in the choking density of central London I felt a sense of relief from being in the presence of open fields and grazing land.
Touted as one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, the Grote Markt (Grand Place) in Belgium’s capitol city of Brussels lived up to its expectations. Even on a cold, wintery and grey day, I was blown away at the beauty and detail of the architecture in this remarkable square.
Grote Markt at Dusk
For those visiting Brussels, I would suggest visiting the square both during the day and night. I happened to pass by during dusk and the lights pouring out from the restaurant windows illuminated the cobbled streets to create a beautiful setting.
The town hall (Stadhuis) is located on the righthand side of the above photograph and is undoubtedly the scene-stealer in the square. The origins of this gothic masterpiece date back to the 1400s and its 96-meter tower can be seen from various points throughout Brussels.
Grote Markt Guild Houses
Stately and ornate row homes are the hallmark of Dutch architecture, and the Grote Markt holds perhaps some of the finest examples of this unique and distinct style. Built to show off the wealth of this former mercantile powerhouse during the 1500s and 1600s, guild houses were constructed around the square to represents the different trades of Brussels. Though today they mainly house restaurants, their grandeur remains.
There are so many adjectives that could be used to describe this tiny little slice of Belgium. It’s a photographer’s wonderland, an architect lover’s fantasy and a history buff’s dream. Clouded now by its responsibilities as the new capital of a united, yet struggling European Union, it is amazing to step back in time with the Grote Markt and truly appreciate the remarkable history of this humble city squeezed between Germany and France.
To view more images, check out my flickr set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wanderbliss/sets/72157627838784131/
It just so happens that my 3-month trip to Thailand has overlapped with the worst floods in the country for 50 years. The northern provinces of Ayutthaya and Nakhon Sawan (the country’s rice-growing region) have already been devastated by water. Around October 20th, 2011, a swell of water began to knock on the door of Thailand’s capital Bangkok.
Nonthaburi is a city of several million that sits on the northern edge of Bangkok and was the first to receive the floodwaters. The neighborhoods of Bang Bua Thong and Bang Yai, located only kilometres from the Bangkok border were inundated with water.
I’m currently staying in Nonthaburi and commute 6 days a week into Bangkok. I stay mostly around the regions of Bang Sue and Chattuchak and have taken photos of flooding in these areas as well as Nonthaburi over the past few days. Currently, the flooding ebbs and flows with the tide which peaks at around 4:20pm each day. Local news reports indiciate that the flooding will continue until Oct. 30th and I will add pictures to this post until then.
31-OCT-2011: I spent the weekend travelling around Bangkok and I ran into flooding in Bang Po and around the Rama V Bridge. The bridge closed to normal traffic a few days ago and military trucks now take residents back and forth for free. I went under the bridge to investigate what was going on and I saw a steady stream of water, lumber, sandbags and provisions headed across the bridge to Bang Yai and Bang Bua Thong. It was an encouraging sign. Elsewhere, Don Muang, Rangsit and parts of Ramintra are underwater. It looks as though metropolitan Bangkok will be spared from flooding. 28-OCT-2011: Added images and a video from the commute home last night. The northern edge of Bangkok and Muang Nonthaburi were flooded and traffic, despite being much lighter than usual, was very slow. Motorcycles, which are probably the most common form of transportation in the city, are have a difficult time trudging through the water.
27-OCT-2011: Added images from my condo complex this morning as well as some pictures of flood preparation in Bang Sue (Northern district in Bangkok). The news reports about high tide peaking between 27-31 OCT must be true as I woke up to find no trace of dry gound below me. The entire complex has been flooded and is spilling out into the streets. I suspect if this keeps up for another 2-3 days Muang Nonthaburi (downtown/main Nonthaburi) will be underwater, which includes the areas around the Rama V bridge (the “Rama” bridges all cross the Chao Praya River). Don Muang Airport was closed yesterday because of flooding and the area of Rangsit in Bangkok remains underwater.
26-OCT-2011: Added images of Thai newspaper headlines. Many riverside businesses and restaurants have been forced to closed to due persistent (but not heavy) flooding. Water from the Chao Praya does not seem to ebb as much during low tide and is staying on roads longer. Greatly effected areas include Bang Bua Thong (in Nonthaburi – just north of Bangkok), Rangsit and Don Muang (where Don Muang Airport is located).
30-OCT-2011: A child plays in a flooded street.
30-OCT-2011: Residents finally reach dry land after a ride across flood waters.
30-OCT-2011: Stray dog looks back from flooding street.
30-OCT-2011: Motorcycle plows its way through water.
A sandbag wall nearly 2 meters hold water that is pumped from the adjacent street. The sound you hear is that of the water pump, which burned out later on in the night.
Driving through the streets of Northern Bangkok on the night of 27-OCT-2011. (Apologies for the appalling videography)
27-OCT-2011: Water fills the streets of Northern Bangkok.
27-OCT-2011: Volunteers in Northern Bangkok ride on a truck through some of the worst effected areas.
27-OCT-2011: Workers desperately try to move water towards a pump in order to divert it back into the Chao Praya River.
27-OCT-2011: Thailand’s iconic tuk tuks are used to deliver sandbags throughout local communities
27-OCT-2011: Many shopowners take no chances and build sealed concrete walls to protect themselves from the water
27-OCT-2011: Chao Praya river levels have clearly gone up overnight, indicating that the worst may be to come
Communities along the Chao Praya are struggling to keep the water at bay. Sandbags are becoming no match for the wall of water that is encroaching
Roads are becoming hard to spot under the water.
Thai newspaper from 25-OCT-11 states: “Disaster of this Scale Unexpected” (rough translation).
Thai newspaper from 25-OCT-11 states: “Frightened women and children rush to board a Thai Military Truck in the suburb of Bang Bua Thong” (rough translation).
Thai newspaper from 24-OCT-11 states: “Bangkok due to be Bombarded by Water” (rough translation).
25-10-11: A popular riverside restaurant is forced to close due to flooding.
25-10-11: With a pool 1.5 metres high, sandbag barriers begin to leak heavily.
Taken a few days before major flooding began: Water begins to creep into a riverside home.
First signs of flooding begin in Bangkok: Motorists navigate their way through wet streets.
The Chao Praya’s muddy water continues to converge on the streets.
Northern Bangkok: The streets of Northern Bangkok flood near a popular University area. The road ahead is closed and the government is providing sandbags to local residents.
Northern Bangkok: Two boys sit on rails to avoid getting wet on a popular shopping street in Bang Sue. This is the first time they have seen flooding here in their lives
Nonthaburi: This roadblock is a pre-emptive measure to keep streets in danger of flooding from getting too crowded. Only residents are allowed beyond this point.
Bangkok Mega Mart Big C is inundated with customers.
Store shelves empty quickly.
Nonthaburi: Rama V bridge is full of parked cars seeking refuge from flood waters.
Nonthaburi: Reinforced sandbag walls struggle to contain water from the neighboring Chao Praya River in a condo development.
High Tide: The Chao Praya River levels creep over the land.
Nonthaburi: A picnik table is nearly consumed by flood waters.
Located along the banks of the Chao Praya River, Bangkok’s Grand Palace is undoubtedly the city’s most famous attraction. Containing intricate and distinctive Thai architecture from the 1700s, the palace is a disorienting maze of lovingly restored murals and tile work. Visitors are able to sight see at their leisure for a modest entrance fee of 400 baht ($14USD) and the palace is easily accessible by water taxi, car or tuk tuk.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Grand Palace several times and have gathered a collection of my favorite pictures. Enjoy!