• Mandalay, Myanmar

    P1080295Bicycling is a great way to get around Mandalay.  I rented this old Raleigh bike, which I suspect is over 50 years old.  Most rental bikes are a bit newer and rent for about $2.50 USD daily.



    Ayerywaddy river







    Workers on the Ayeyarwady River in Mandalay.











    The Ayeyarwady River is also home to some of the poorest neighborhoods I saw in the city.





    Ayeryawady 2






    Some local residents washing up in the river.





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    I thought this was an interesting picture of a woman delivering chickens in Mandalay.  Note the chickens resting on the tailpipe.











    Mandalay, Myanmar. Two Buddhist nuns.












    The Nay Cafe in Mandalay, a popular chapati restaurant recommended to me by several locals, with seating on the sidewalk (common in Asia).

  • Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar

    P1060851With a snack vender outside Nhee Phaya (Pagoda) near Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar. The snack on the left was pretty tasty. I’m not sure what it is called, but it was sweet and chewy and wrapped sugar cane leaf.



    train station in myanmar









    Near the train station outside Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar. I believe this was the station master’s home. He invited us in to look around since he saw we were curious.








    Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar. A woman carrying goods in the early morning.





    Myanmar train







    On the train going from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw, Myanmar.










    At a train station somewhere between Pyin Oo Lwin and Hsipaw, Myanmar.





    A train station in myanmar






    Just outside a train station somewhere between Pyin Oo Lwin and Hsipaw, Myanmar.












    The Gokteik Viaduct in Nawnghkio, Western Shan State, Myanmar, which was constructed in 1899.





    train tresle in myanmar






    The Gokteik Viaduct in Nawnghkio, Western Shan State, Myanmar (view for the other side of the train).

  • Hsipaw, Myanmar


    Hsipaw 1


    A woman husking corn in a Shan Village near Hsipaw, Myanmar.












    In Hsipaw, Myanmar.












    A Shan farmer near Hsipaw, Myanmar.











    On our hike up into the mountains, we came across these two small Shan children who were watching over their family’s cows on the trail, near a watering post.





    Shan village









    In a Shan couple’s home near Hsipaw, Myanmar.  The fireplace in the middle of the floor is used for drying tea leaves, as well as their general cooking.











    This Shan women cooked a very tasty meal for us which was vegetarian based.  It went down well, especially after a 5 hour hike to get to the village.  We also filled up on plenty of green tea which they grow and sell as a primary source of income.






    shan village3







    A farmhouse in one of the Shan villages we visited.












    A hillside view of one of the Shan villages we hiked through, near Hsipaw, Myanmar.




    shan village5







    We stopped by and paid a visit to this grade school in a Shan village.  Our hiking guide delivered some pencils which some tourists had donated.  The school had only one teacher and one room which seemed to be divided into two age groups.









    A Shan village family greeting us hello.











    Farmers harvesting sesame seeds near a Shan village.











    This kitchen is where a woman prepares food for many of the local Shan farmers.











    In the foothills near Hsipaw, Myanmar, sharing the road with a local farmer.












    An ox grazing in the field while a farmer works in the background.  Near Hsipaw, Myanmar.




    Hsipaw foothills








    This is one of the several Nat shrines we passed in the Shan countryside.  It’s a pre-Buddist religion which worships 37 spirits (most were individuals who had met violent deaths) and is still practiced by several ethnic minority groups in Myanmar.






    Monks lining up for an evening meal offering, in Hsipaw, Myanmar.


  • Buenos Aires, Argentina


    Porta Del Sol Hostel

    The rooftop view from the Porta del Sol hostel, Buenos Aires, Argentina.  This was a pretty nice hostel, with a rooftop bar that was usually pretty lively at night and a decent common area downstairs to hang out in and have meals









    Buenos Ares street view



    The street view from the Downtown neighborhood of Buenos Aires.





    Porta del Sol Buenos Aires







    With some fellow travelers at the Porta del Sol hostel in Buenos Aires.



    La Confeteria Ideal crooner







    In Buenos Airies at Le Confeteria Ideal, a cool singer.  This is a classic place to dance or watch some Tango.  ……











    …..and if you are not quite ready for the dance floor inside, you can always practice your moves on the street.



    9 de Julio Avenue







    9 de Julio Avenue in Buenos Aires, is said to be the widest street in the world, and I believe it.  I stayed a couple blocks from here and probably crossed it several times a day.  This view actually shows just one side. Also, note the white building in the back ground, it has a picture of Evita on each side.

    Madres de Plaza de Mayo







    Madres de Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.  The name comes from an association of mothers whose children disappeared (ie. abducted) during the Military Dictatorship’s Dirty War between 1976-1983. Many of the mothers continue to  gather at this plaza every Thursday afternoon.  The white paintings here represent the scarves of the mothers.








    Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.






    La Boca BA





    A colorful building in the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina.














    La Boca pic


    Another pic of La Boca’s colorful buildings.













    Boca Juniors stadium

    Though the La Boca neighborhood is a tourist attraction, it is recommended that you don’t wander off far from the tourist areas, or at night.  However, most other places in Buenos Aires and Argentina that you would probably visit are very safe to walk around, even during the night. Here is a picture of the Boca Juniors soccer stadium in La Boca.









    Soccer great Diego Maradona is huge in Argentina.  He is from the slums in the southern outskirts of Argentina and played for the popular Boca Juniors soccer team in La Boca.









    BA steak restaurant




    Wild Ranch steak cafe, Downtown, Buenos Aires.  While having a coffee in a nearby cafe, some local guy recommended this “barbeque” place that is popular with locals.  I checked it out the next day found it to be awesome and a great bargain, and yes, full of locals.






    Wild Ranch


    This steak and salad at the Wild Ranch cafe was the best I had in Argentina and cost me about $8 USD.










    Wild Ranch cafe




    Wild Ranch cafe, Downtown, Buenos Aires.  OK, since I liked this place so much, I thought I’d throw in another photo.








    BA bbq pit



    This is the front of some fancy steak restaurant in Buenos Aires.  I’m not sure what this is hanging in the BBQ pit display but I’m pretty sure it’s not beef.
















    Empanadas are a staple food in Argentina and can be found everywhere and usually for pretty cheap.  It is pastry, filled with meat and/or veggies  Each area in the country boasts its own kind of empanada.  They go great with wine too.  I became pretty addicted to them…..wine too.






    BA cafe scene


    Buenos Aires has many great cafes where you can grab a coffee, chill out and check out the scene.  The one thing I noticed most about the cafes and restaurants in Argentina is that the staff never seems to be in a hurry to get you to leave and you never feel rushed, even in busy restaurants.








    san telmo street market


    A relaxing Sunday at the San Telmo street market.  San Telmo , which is between Downtown and La Boca, is the oldest barrio in Buenos Aires. Each Sunday there is a street/antique market on one of its’ main cobble stoned streets, which seems to stretch for miles.







    BA street sign



    Buenos Aires.  Is this saying, be careful when lifting luggage?




  • Cordoba, Argentina

    Capilla del Monte


    Capilla del Monte, near Cordoba, Argentina.  The cafe life has a nice pace in Argentina.




    Capilla del Monte2








    Getting ready for a big hike up into the hills.  Capilla del Monte, Argentina.




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    Hiking in Argentina, I came across many dogs on the trail, all seeming pretty friendly.  This one actually continued to walk with us all the way to the top.











    hiking argentina2


    We also saw several hippie type communes, not unlike what you would find in some areas of the US.









    Dog argentina


    Our self-appointed guide dog cooling off in a creek just off the trail . Outside Capilla del Monte, Argentina











    Bridge argentina




    A suspension bridge in the hills outside Capilla del Monte, Argentina.  A hippie craft market is on the other side of the bridge, so we weren’t that far up in the hills yet.



    Capilla del Monte, Argentina1





    A cafe in Capilla del Monte, Argentina near Cordoba.  This town had a nice, relaxing atmosphere.  I also noticed that none of the bikes on the streets were even locked up.








    Capilla del Monte cafe



    Another cafe pic in Capilla del Monte, Argentina.








    Cordoba desserts


    Cordoba, Argentina.  The desserts in Argentina are some of the best I’ve had and seem to be very abundant.








    Palenque Hostel



    The Palenque Hostel, where I stayed, in Cordoba, Argentina.  The hostel was nice and clean and had a good vibe.  I was actually able to get my own room for a decent price.






    Cordoba empanadas




    You guessed it, more empanadas, Cordoba style this time.  I was becoming quite a connisseur by this point.






    Cordoba argentina




    A colorful shop in Cordoba, Argentina.  Cordoba is in the geographical center of Argentina and is the second largest city in the country.  It is also a big college town, so there is good nightlife, shopping and museums.  It is also the hometown of Che Guevara.





    del Monte





    With some friends in Capilla del Monte, Argentina, getting some cover from the rain.







  • Mendoza, Argentina

    Mendoza1Near Mendoza, Argentina.  A friend I met in Salta invited me to visit his family’s property (over a thousand acres) in the Andes foothills near Mendoza when I arrived, and I’m glad I took him up on it.  The country side was beautiful, and looked like a great place to film a western.










    We stopped in this little town in the mountains, along the main road and had a beer.  The beer was dark and tasted great.  I wish I could remember the name of the town because the patrons of the cafe were very friendly and made us feel right at home.










    A traffic jam outside Mendoza, Argentina.












    I stopped into this little place in downtown Mendoza to grab a quick bite and ordered the Homero off the menu.  I was a frankfurter with all kinds of good toppings.  I thought  the Homero might be a traditional Argentine snack and asked a couple local people about it later, but no one heard of it….










    …..so the next day I was in the neighborhood again and thought I’d get another one.  This time I noticed the name of the place.  So I guess it wasn’t so traditional.














    Mendoza finca


    Mendoza, Argentina.  Some historical wine making equipment at Bodego La Rural winery.








    Mendoza finca2



    A rawhide bag used to hold grapes in the past.  Bodego La Rural winery.














    Trapiche Winery, Mendoza


    Trapiche winery is among the many great wineries in the Mendoza wine region and is one of the larger ones.  Mendoza is known for it’s Malbec wine as well as it’s tempranillos.





    Beer garden





    While bicycling through the bogotas in the Mendoza wine region, I found this little beer garden that I heard about.  They had several beers on tap and all made right there.  The beer was some of the freshest I’ve ever had, as well as rich and smooth.







    Beer garden 2

    Outside of the beer garden.  It kind of looked like a small, makeshift place, which added to it’s charm.











    Beer garden3


    Beer and pork rinds.  A nice break from wine tasting.  Actually, I wasn’t able to do much wine tasting as riding around and checking out the grounds of the wineries themselves seemed to take up much of the time.




    Mendoza wine country






    A few cycling buddies I met along my ride from Maipu to wine country.









    Bicycling Mendoza wine country

    Taking a “short” cut.  I highly recommend touring the Mendoza wine country by bicycle.  The roads are not that crowded and most have good shoulders to ride on.  You can rent a bike from several places in the town of Maipu nearby, and ride about 1 or 2 kilometers to the beginning of the wineries.  There is also a bus that goes from Mendoza to Maipu pretty frequently.





    Mendoza cuyo



    In the Mendoza wine region.  A local giving us some directions.  Note the irrigation channel behind him, often referred to as a ‘cuyo’, from a system developed by the Incas.  The water flows down from the Andes mountains.  This provides for a unique wine producing opportunity in the Mendoza region.  This glacier water source combined with vineyards’ high desert, semi-arid location (the highest in the  world) make for some real special grapes. In addition, mold and frost are rarely a concern, as can be the case in most of the world’s other wine regions.



  • Salta, Argentina

    Salta rottiserie


    A rotisserie chicken shop in Salta, Argentina.










    Salta hills



    On top of San Bernardo Hill, overlooking Salta, Argentina.  Salta is located in the far northwest of Argentina, the high plains and not too far from Bolivia.  It’s colonial architecture is well preserved.
















    The Main Cathedral in the town center of Salta, Argentina, originally constructed in the 17th century.









    Inca child


    An Incan mummy girl in the Museum of High Mountain Archeology.  The Incas would sacrifice a child and bury them (alive but unconscious, ie. drunk) high in the mountains.  Permafrost kept many of them in preserved condition.  I believe this mummy had been struck by lightening.  Some in the museum were even better preserved and looked as if they were merely asleep.





    Salta Hostel



    The hostel I stayed in had a nice garden area and a big kitchen to prepare your own meals, and there were plenty of interesting people to socialize with which makes it nice for a solo traveler.

  • Istanbul, Turkey

    Grand Bazaar


    The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey.  This place is so big that I heard most visitors get lost in it.  On my first visit there, I kept this fact in mind and was able to retrace my steps on the way out.  I went again the next day and wasn’t so lucky, as I got completely lost and had to use another exit far away from where I started.












    Grand Bazaar sweets vendor



    A sweets vendor in the Grand Bazaar.  I think that might be a James Bond pose.





    Blue Mosque






    The Blue Mosque is one of the main attractions in Istanbul and is located in a pretty touristy, yet convenient area, and is pretty close to the Sophia church and several other sites.






    Turkish food



    Having some traditional Turkish food in the Sultanahmet neighborhood of Istanbul.













    Hagia Sophia church


    The Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul was originally dedicated in the year 360.  It was converted to a mosque from 1453 to 1931, but has been a museum since 1935.











    A backstreet in Istanbul.











    Roman ruins



    This pictures shows how Roman ruins seem to permeate though many sections of Istanbul.










    The Obelisk of Theodosius built in the 1400’s BC. and moved and re-erected in Constantinople in the 4th century A.D.











    The Milion, built in the 4th century A.D., was a mile marker monument and was the point from which all distances in the Byzantine empire were measured.












    Turkish tea


    The tea in Turkey is usually served in a glass like this one. Feeling the heat from the glass and being able to see the color and texture, after dropping in a sugar cube, seemed to make me slow down and enjoy the experience as well as the surroundings.










    I walked for hours around Istanbul one day and came upon this wholesale clothing district, which was far from any tourist area.  I realized these were all wholesale shops after trying to buy a shirt I liked that was displayed in a store window.  The store owner did sell me a shirt, however, he had to break open a large package to do so.

  • Sophia, Bulgaria




    Looking through the gate to the front yard of a a very old building in Sophia, Bulgaria, I took a snapshot of this artist drawing but appears to be someone posing in front of the building.
















    The Alexander Nevski Church in downtown Sophia, Bulgaria. with some ominous clouds in the background.






    The statue of Sophia.  Sophia, Bulgaria, before a downpour.













    The former Bulgarian Communist Party Building, in downtown Sophia.













    A side street in Sophia, Bulgaria.  Despite the graffiti, it seemed reasonably safe in most of the areas of the city.

















    An attention getting poster in Sophia.











    The view from the window of my hostel in Sophia.


















    The hostel was nice and clean in an old building, with an antique theme (notice the old radios in the background).











    This first night in town, I stayed at the Hotel Iskar, which was clean, had good food and a friendly proprietor.  It looks like car parked in the front has been there for some time though.













    The Hotel Iskar also had a nice, relaxing front courtyard and was conveniently located near the heart of the town.
















    This mineral springs, located in downtown Sophia, is the source for free bottled water for many local residents.












    Bulgaria has many little places to grab a coffee and snack, like this sweets shop.

















    In front of the Alexander Nevski Church in downtown Sophia, Bulgaria.


















    Sophia, Bulgaria.  A dog getting some rest next to a memorial.
















    A close up of the design on the Orthodox church.  Sophia, Bulgaria.
















    The view from a coffee shop in Sophia, Bulgaria.


















  • Belgrade, Serbia




    Belgrade, Serbia.  Statue of Prince Mihailo in Belgrade Square.

    I found Belgrade to be a pretty friendly place to visit with lots of culture, monuments and cafes, and pretty easy to get around foot.  It also, has a vibrant night life scene, with many of the clubs actually located on the river in floating barges (savs) as well as throughout the city.  Most clubs are open until dawn.
















    Bombed building-Serbia


    The damages from the April 1999 NATO bombings on Serbia are still present in downtown Belgrade.


























    Women in costumes march in a holiday parade in downtown Belgrade.











    Serbia parad



    Women in more traditional costumes marching in downtown Belgrade.











    Belgrade Serbia1





    An old street and church, Belgrade, Serbia.













    Belgrade Serbia2



    Belgrade, Serbia.  I thought this was a cool pic.  Notice the graffiti with Putin’s likeness.















    The Belgrade Fortress, with the Danube river in the background below.  The fortress originally dates as far back as the city itself, around the 3rd century B.C. , and was built by the Celts.  It was conquered by the Romans at one time and later the Turks, after which much of the current structure was built.










    Another view from inside the Belgrade Fortress.













    The street where my guest house/hostel was located in Belgrade.


















    You can’t see much in this picture, but it’s of a large outdoor concert I attended.  The concert had several Balkan pop artists who sounded pretty good, though most songs were not in English, of course.













    I was buying my lunch in cafes until I saw how good the food in the supermarkets looked.  I then started making some real tasty sandwiches back at the guest house, using all kinds of delicious sausages, cheese and bread.










    The overnight train ride from Sophia to Belgrade was very comfortable and affordable, and included a nice sleeper bunk.  I actually had the the whole cabin to myself since there weren’t very many people on the train that night.