Jul 29, 2010

Herbal Remedies Tepoztlan Mexico

There is an abundance of herbal remedies in the market in Tepoztlan, Mexico, a popular place of respite on the weekends for many Mexico City residents. It is a mystical village which lies at the foot of mountains on top of which an ancient pyramid temple sits.
The village, where undocumented UFO sightings have occurred, draws a new age crowd. There is no cell phone reception. It is known for its healers, therapeutic treatments and remedies. The herbal potions in the photograph above are (from left to right) to cleanse and purify homes, prevent one's hair from falling out and a remedy for colds and chills. No prescription needed.

Tepoztlan is only 45 miles south of Mexico City, an easy bus ride. It features plenty of cafes, a weekend craft market and a 16th century church and convent.

Jul 27, 2010

Baalbek Temple Complex Lebanon

The Roman temples of Baalbek Lebanon are some of the grandest and best preserved in the world. Layers of civilization and pagan roots date back to the Phoenicians. Known in ancient times as City of the Sun, Baalbek's heyday came when the Romans colonized it and spent centuries building the Temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Bacchus.
Most tourists take a day trip to Baalbek, which is about a two-hour drive from Beirut. There are a few hotels in town, including the legendary Palmyra Hotel where I stayed. A relic from colonial days gone by this mansion has spectacular views of the temple complex from its roof and terraces. It also has a good selection of wine, due to its strategic location in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon’s wine country.

In recent years the spotlight on Baalbek as home to the temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been overshadowed by the ongoing political conflicts in Lebanon. Baalbek is a stronghold for Hezbollah, the Party of God. Indeed T-shirts emblazoned with the Hezbollah logo were being sold at souvenir stands outside the temple complex and were popular with tourists.

But Lebanon was undergoing a renaissance when I was there in May of 2006 about six weeks before the war with Israel broke out. It was re-emerging as a travel hot spot after 15 years of civil war and the subsequent years rebuilding. Even with the up tick in tourism I pretty much had the place to myself, particularly late in the day when the day trippers departed leaving me with free photographic reign during the golden hours of the late afternoon light.

Jul 17, 2010

Mexico City Metro-Best Ride In Town

Mexico City, or DF (Distrito Federal) as it known locally, is a car culture metropolis and has the traffic to prove it. But the best ride in town is the metro. It is one the cleanest and cheapest in the world. A single ride will set you back about 20 cents. It is also the easiest and quickest way to navigate this crowded spread out city.

Ride it long enough and you will see just about anything on sale from the practical to the obscure. It’s a subterranean market on wheels. One 20 minute ride produced men with small but effective speakers on their backs selling pirated music CDs and movie DVDs. Shoe shiners, people selling a variety of electronic kitsch, lighters, food and one man selling cookbooks for diabetics all paraded by. Somebody bought the latter.

What stood out is how people on the metro give up their seats for the elderly, disabled, pregnant and others who need a seat. This is not the norm on New York’s subway or London’s tube where passengers typically hide behind newspapers and remain conveniently engrossed in their ipods and other gadgets rather than give up a seat for someone who needs it more.

Also unlike the subway, Mexico City’s metro is not an equalizer of the people. In New York you’ll find bankers and beggars riding side by side. In DF mass transportation is populated by the working class. White color professionals and the elite typically do not ride it and warn against doing so. They, like many guidebooks, paint a picture of rampant pickpockets and other assorted crime and hassles. I didn’t witness this in the many miles covered during trips to the big DF and didn’t feel more vulnerable than riding the subway in New York. Like any mass transit in a big city, crime is a risk. The usual common sense, such as keeping an eye on your belongings and remaining reasonably alert, applies.

I’ll take the metro over getting waylaid by traffic snarls that turn a 15 minute journey into a two hour odyssey or being at the mercy of cab drivers who always have the upper hand over passengers in an unfamiliar city.

Jul 7, 2010

Interview on Traveler’s Notebook

Traveler’s Notebook, part of the Matador Network, recently started an interview series featuring travel photographers.
Thanks to editor Lola Akinmade for asking me to particpate. You can check out the interview here as well as other recent interviews with travel photographers.