May 30, 2008

Los Angeles Bound

I’m taking a flight to Los Angeles tonight to spend a long weekend with friends. It’s been two years since my last visit. LA used to be one of three cities I’d visit every year at least once a year-- London and Hong Kong the others. The latter two are among the best travel hubs in the world and it was easy to hop a flight to the continent and Asia.

While the main purpose of this visit is social, I’ll also wander with camera in hand and have tales to tell upon my return.

Have a great weekend.

May 27, 2008

Iglesia De Santo Tomas Chichicastenango Guatemala: The Steps

Sunday on the steep steps of Iglesia De Santo Tomas in Chichicastenango Guatemala is not a subdued experience. Sitting on them it was hard to figure out what to observe first— worshippers burning small fires and incense, Maya women selling bundles of flowers, their children playing nearby or the bustling market at its feet.

Elderly women huddle together draped in blankets to keep warm in the early morning hours. Below them traders carry large bundles of goods expertly wrapped in beautiful hand woven blankets.

Iglesia De Santo Tomas is a perfect example of religious fusion in Guatemala. Although the church is Catholic ancient Maya beliefs prevail. Its steps serve as an altar where devotees pray and chant while swinging containers full of smoking incense leaving a surreal haze. Some place small offerings of flowers and corn inside the large wooden doors of the church.

If you find yourself in Chi Chi to visit the market, try and go on a Sunday when the church steps are in full swing. You are likely to see colorful processions of prayers leaders parading through the market and up the steps.

Related Reading:
Chichicastenango Market Guatemala
Maximon, Santiago Atitlan Guatemala

May 23, 2008

Strange Souvenirs: Emirati Family Dubai

The mastermind of these borrowed the concept from painted wooden Russian nesting dolls.

This Emirati family includes a Dad, Mom, Son and Daughter in traditional dress. For a local touch the family circle is completed with a tiny baby camel in the center. Easy to transport this could be considered a classic nomadic keepsake.

Previous Posts In This Series:
Cultural Revolution Kitsch China
Hezbollah T-Shirts Lebanon


May 21, 2008

Meiji Shrine Tokyo

To the uninitiated Tokyo does not typically conjure up images of green spaces and tranquility. Surrounded by a park which used to be an imperial garden Meiji-Jingu is a Shinto shrine built to honor Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Immediately after walking through the main gate the urban frenzy of this sprawling city is left behind.

Even in a torrential downpour Meiji Shrine is a beautiful setting for a wedding. A procession stops all visitors in their tracks as bride, groom family and friends silently file into the main courtyard structure of the shrine for a low key matrimonial ceremony. The women are clad in pastel kimonos and the men in tails.

Hundreds if not thousands of prayer blocks hang with the wishes of people from around the world written on them. Some simply give thanks for good health or fortune.

The shrine is open sunrise to sunset year-round. There is no admission fee. To get there take the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station or the Chiyoda Subway Line to Meiji-jingu-mae Station.

May 19, 2008

Street Scenes: Shoe Shiner Mexico City

There is no shortage of shoe shiners in Mexico City like the one you see here. In fact you’ll find them all over Mexico, typically in a city or town’s zocalo (main square) and public parks.

I am always compelled to photograph shoe shiners when in Mexico. Perhaps it’s because this same photograph could have been taken 50 years ago with little difference other than the clothing worn. It’s a wholesome scene of a time gone by that still exists.

I like the way the mobile booths provide a comfortable place to sit and shelter from the elements. When is the last time you had a good old-fashioned shoeshine?

May 16, 2008

Offbeat Travel

Do you find offbeat travel attractions appealing? Kim Wildman professional travel writer and guidebook author recently put together a post on offbeat travel on her blog Wild About Travel. She asked some fellow bloggers from around the world to contribute. You’ll find a couple of activities I suggested for New York City.

Kim, who co-authored Offbeat South Africa, is currently circumventing the globe for the next 10 weeks. Take a look at her travel schedule for the year, which you’ll find on her blog’s home page.

Meanwhile, thanks to Travel Hacker for including Escape From New York on its list of 100 Best Travel Journal Blogs.

Photograph: Freak Show Coney Island

May 14, 2008

Prada And Window Shopping Tokyo

Prada not in your budget? Me neither.

The Prada showroom in Tokyo takes window shopping to a new level. The all glass building designed by Herzog & de Meuron opened in 2003. Its design is organic and modern, designer architecture at its best.

Located in Aoyoma, it shares the neighborhood with local legendary fashion designer Issey Miyake. Cartier is next door.

I’m sure the do lunch ladies who shop in Ginza make the trip to this part of town. For the price of a Prada frock just think how many plane tickets you could buy…

May 8, 2008

Tokyo Bound

In a few hours I’ll be on a flight to Tokyo. I booked the flight about two weeks ago on a bit of whim. Flights were cheap-ish and I had a window of opportunity to get away.

My introduction to Tokyo was just over four years ago—about the same time Lost in Translation came out (love that movie). The trip was for business and the time spent was less than 48 hours. It was love at first sight and I vowed to go back on my on dime and time and explore.

Haven’t had too much time to plan what I’d like to do while there, although good food and photography are always a priority. No worries, the 13-hour flight will offer ample opportunity to read up on this dynamic metropolis.

If there are any Tokyo fans out there reading this I’d love to hear about your favorite things to do there.

Photograph: View of Tokyo from the Metropolitan Government Offices

May 5, 2008

Longtang Neighborhoods Shanghai China

Shanghai’ s Lontangs (or Lilong) are examples of how urban living can be far from anonymous and isolated. They are to Shanghai what Hutongs are to Beijing-- village like communities made up of lanes in the middle of a sprawling metropolis.

Wandering around these back alleys is to step back in Shanghai’s history. Lontangs, or lane homes, were built in the 1920s by British and French colonialists and were originally single-family homes. When the Communists took over multiple families were moved into these residences. At one time they made up the majority of housing in Shanghai.

The pace moves slower in Longtangs than it does in the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city. Residents sit outside watching the world go by. Children play while elders gossip. Passersby greet one another. Street vendors tout their goods.

A few stories tall apartments are typically on the top and shops on the ground floor on the main streets of Longtang housing, which are essentially townhouses. Living space expands into the lanes. A lounge chair and cooking pots sit side by side. Alleys are punctuated with hanging laundry. All that anyone would need is sold within a few blocks ranging from a wide variety of food to bicycle repair shops.

Like the Hutongs of Beijing many are also being demolished and replaced with modern high rises. A Longtang community I like to wander through close to the hotel I call home when in Shanghai was half torn down when I was there last. What was left fell in the shadow of newly built towering apartment blocks. The remainder of the old neighborhood probably no longer exists.

May 2, 2008

Portraits: Maya Woman Lake Atitlan Guatemala

The portrait of this Maya woman was taken in Santa Catarina a small village on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

She was selling beautiful woven textiles, like the ones you see her wearing and was kind enough to pose for this photograph. Many Mayan women make a living selling hand woven textiles. Her clothing is specific to her village. In Santa Catarina the blue and geometric pattern was introduced in the 1980s, replacing a predominantly red design.

Related Reading:

Traditional Mayan Textiles