Dec 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

With just a few hours left in this part of the world before 2009 rolls in I’d like to wish you all a very happy New Year. Thank you for reading Escape from New York and for your comments as well.

2008 was a good year for travel. I made it to new places-Dubai in the spring and Panama just a few weeks back.

There are also places that I returned to and hope to again and again. A last minute trip to Tokyo fell into place quite nicely. I once again traveled to Mexico for the Day of the Dead this time to Patzcuaro. I returned to London for the first time in a few years and spent some time in Los Angeles as well. These two cities always feel like a home away from home.

I never plan travels months in advance but I hope in 2009 to make it back to India, my other home away from home. Southeast Asia is calling as well, although not sure where yet. Nicaragua is also on the radar. Right now the possibilities are endless and the door wide open.

Where would you like to go in 2009?

Photographs: Burj Dubai Tower under construction. Saki Bottles Tokyo. Cheers!

Dec 27, 2008

Passports With Purpose And Heifer International

There is still time to take part in the Passports With Purpose fundraiser for Heifer International. Not only is this a great way to give back to the world but there are some excellent prizes to win. To participate select a prize and go to First Giving to make a raffle donation. For each $10 donation you make, you'll be entered into a raffle for the prize you've selected.

Here are highlights of some of the loot:
-Culinary Tour of Greenwich Village led by Addie Tomei
-Flip Video Camera
-Tour Pack from Mountainsmith
-5 books from Lonely Planet

I’m offering up a $150 gift certificate to B&H Photo in New York to be sent anywhere in the U.S. You’ll have to hurry. The deadline to take part is December 29th.

One of the best parts of Travel Blogging is the community. Kudos to the four Seattle-based Travel Bloggers (Delicious Baby, Nerd’s Eye View, WanderMom and Wanderlust and Lipstick) who came up with the idea and put this together.

Photograph: Women’s Cooperative in Morocco for almond products.

Dec 22, 2008

The Original Panama City

You are looking at what remains of the original Panama City. One of the cons of being a geographically desirable isthmus with the Atlantic on one side and the Caribbean on the other is the threat of plundering pirates.

Founded in the 1500s by the conquistador Pedro Arias de Avila the city was sacked in the 1670s by Welsh pirate Henry Morgan. The city consisted mainly of wood structures and was burned to the ground. The tower you see pictured is the remains of a cathedral. After the destruction the city was moved a few miles away to what is now Casco Viejo, which I will post on in the coming weeks.

Panama La Vieja, also known as Panama Viejo, is open every day except Monday from 8:30-6:30 p.m. Admission to the site is $4 and $2 more to enter the museum.

Dec 18, 2008

Street Scenes: Nathan Road Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Nathan Road is a neon and concrete canyon. Located in Kowloon, a peninsula at the tip of mainland China which points to the South China Sea, it includes one of the world’s most densely populated neighborhoods.

I spent at least an hour in one place waiting for the lights to change to capture the endless traffic whizzing by. I often return to this spot to photograph Nathan Road. My cue that traffic was about to halt was the ticking sound for the visually impaired coming from pedestrian crosswalk lights signaling that it was safe to cross. This sound always reminds me of Hong Kong.

Dec 15, 2008

Dubai’s Spice Souk

The fragrances and spices at the Spice Souk in Dubai include the biblical variety. Crystal-like chunks of frankincense and myrrh fill large overflowing stacks, which compete for room in a long narrow covered alley.

One of the star attractions is saffron. Expensive and coveted around the world it’s priced well here. If you manage to bring it home and through customs without incident it makes a nice gift for the chef in the family.

Shopkeepers are happy to chat and explain what’s on display. You’ll see plenty of turmeric, cinnamon bark, cardamom, pepper, chillies, cloves and nuts in addition to dried rosebuds and fruit.

The Spice Souk is strategically located along Dubai Creek in Deira next to the Old Souk Abra Station. It’s a small non-touristy market, which remains true to its Arabian heritage.

Related Posts:
Bling Bling Dubai Style
The Souks Of Dubai

Dec 11, 2008

The Most Sacred Catholic Shrine In The Americas

It is the most visited and sacred Catholic shrine in the Americas. Worshippers believe the Virgin Mary appeared here. Each December 12th hundreds of thousands make the pilgrimage to celebrate the anniversary of her appearance.

Located in Mexico City the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a hub of activity every day. An enormous square houses the Old Basilica built in the 1500s, which is slowly sinking into the ground. A new Basilica was built in the 1970s on the same square and the architecture, true to that decade, is in major contrast to the first. Both are used to accommodate a huge congregation. Can you imagine how many marriages, baptisms, first communions and confirmations (not to mention confessions) have taken place here?

The devoted believe that the Virgin Mary appeared before Juan Diego an Aztec who converted to Catholicism in the 1500s. She told him to build a church on the site. Naturally Diego had trouble at first convincing the Spanish bishop to carry out the wishes. The bishop wanted proof and the Virgin told Diego to gather flowers which despite that it was winter bloomed at his feet. When he presented the flowers to the bishop they fell from the tunic he wore where an icon of the Virgin was revealed imprinted on the fabric. Shortly after construction began.

The cloth on which the image is believed to be imprinted can be seen in the New Basilica protected behind bulletproof glass. The Basilica complex is located at the foot of Tepeyac Hill which has beautifully landscaped gardens and at the top nice views on a clear day.

Related Posts:
Day of the Dead Altar Mexico City

Dec 10, 2008

Street Scenes: Sweet Sellers In Marrakesh’s Souk

The confectionery sellers were perfectly framed in their stalls in Marrakesh’s souk.

If you look closely at the vendor on the left you can see the only way to enter is through a small door in the front at the bottom. I wonder if the woman making a purchase was carefully choosing treats to bring home for a meal prepared for family and friends. Or perhaps she just had a sweet tooth after a long day of shopping.

Dec 8, 2008

The Truth About Panama Hats

They have staked their claim as iconic. Film stars of Humphrey Bogart’s generation wore them on the big screen. Light on the pate and good cover under the blazing tropical sun Panama Hats have never fallen out of fashion. You’ll see them for sale throughout Panama and worn all over the world in obliging climates. But here’s the truth: Panama Hats are not made in Panama.

The indigenous people of Ecuador weave them from the leaves of a palm plant, the Toquilla. An isthmus between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean the Republic of Panama has seen a lot of traffic from explorers, traders and plunderers throughout the ages. And savvy Ecuadorian traders have been exporting their goods to Panama for centuries. Business boomed during the gold rush of the 1800s as many passed through Panama to seek their fortunes in the heat of the Californian sun. The U.S. government bought tens of thousands of Panama Hats from dealers in Panama City for the troops during the Spanish American War.

But it is most likely the construction of the Panama Canal that is most responsible for the misnomer. The hats were popular among canal workers. A visit to the canal by president Theodore Roosevelt donning the black brimmed hat was widely published around the world with a caption coining the phrase “Panama Hat.”

Dec 3, 2008

Panama City’s Red Devils

They should have retired decades ago but work harder than ever though well past their prime. The locals call them Diablos Rojos (Red Devils) and for good reason. They roar through the streets of Panama City with no mercy for pedestrians or the standing room only passengers who rely on them.

This is where school buses are sent from the U.S.A. after they are given a pink slip. Like the Chicken Buses of Guatemala, which are also converted big yellows, they are decorated in elaborately painted murals. Diablos Rojos are street art on wheels.

Each is staffed by an assistant to the bus driver like the one you see grinning in the photo above. His job is to shout out directions. Passengers are told to hurry up and jump in or off as the bus slows to a crawl but does not necessarily come to a full stop. Buses rule the road recklessly and are the main mode of public transportation for most people in Panama City despite its roads being choked with cars during rush hour.

Dec 1, 2008

Passports With Purpose

An international effort has been launched today across the blogosphere to raise funds for Heifer International, a non-profit organization that aims end hunger and poverty around the globe. Passports With Purpose is the brainchild of four Seattle travel bloggers and writers: Debbie Dubrow of Delicious Baby, Pam Mandel of Nerd’s Eye View. Michelle Duffy, Wanderlust and Lipstick’s WanderMom and Beth Whitman, editor of Wanderlust and Lipstick. They have rounded up travel bloggers around the globe to participate. Each has secured a prize to be won in a raffle. I’m offering up a $150 gift certificate to B&H Photo in New York to be sent anywhere in the U.S. The winner can use the gift certificate to purchase merchandise online, over the phone and in the store. Check out the full list of very cool prizes here.

Here is how it works: Once you’ve chosen a prize(s) go to First Giving to make a raffle donation. For each $10 donation you make, you'll be entered into the raffle for the prize you've selected. Don’t forget to enter your e-mail address and the prize you would like to win in the comments field so that you can be notified if you win. The organizers will pull winners and notify them via e-mail December 30th. For more info please visit Passports With Purpose. Please spread the word.