Thailand, 2008

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Thailand: More Sinister Than I Had Imagined


Thailand is well known as a top global tourist destination. With fabulous beaches. plenty of sunshine, friendly people, wonderful food, and low prices how could it not be?

I had put off going to Thailand because of its popularity. I had become a travel snob, thinking it best to seek out only less traveled countries with more appeal to adventurous travelers. I like to imagine myself as someone willing to trade convenience for something more spirited.

Before flying into Bangkok I had believed that I would spend the lion’s share of my 10 week South East Asia vacation in neighbouring countries. Surely Thailand would be too commercial and tame to make me want to stay long. My preconceptions turned out to be only partially correct.

While Thailand is famous as a “Fun in the Sun” beach and sex-tourist honey pot, it offers more than hedonistic pleasures. There’s some first-rate historic sites to reward the sightseer as well.

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Ethiopia, 2006

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Ethiopia: Africa’s Overlooked Gem


Ethiopia is rich with historic and cultural treasures and deserves to be more recognized as a travel mecca. Ethiopian people are friendly and, due to the scarcity of tourists, often eager to converse with foreigners. They tend to like to be photographed as well. While there I was sometimes approached by people who asked me to take their photo. Of course I was happy to do so.

If you fly into Ethiopia you’ll invariably arrive in Addis Ababa, the capitol. ‘Addis’ as Ethiopians refer to it, is by far the largest city in the country. It’s centrally located and acts as the hub of travel throughout the country. I returned to it a few times in the 5 weeks I was in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is no tourist hot spot but of those that do venture here, most head north from Addis. It’s there that the most of the notable historic sites are located. These include the rock hewn churches of Lalibela, the monasteries of Lake Tana, the castles of Gonder, and the gigantic stone stelae of the ancient kingdom of Axum. I was fortunate to have enough time to be able to travel in all 4 cardinal directions from Addis.

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Rome, 2006

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I stopped in Rome on the way, and coming back from, a trip to Ethiopia in January and February of 2006.

Rome is a city that is jam-packed with so many sights for the traveler that it can be overwhelming to contemplate. After all it holds well over two thousand years of history, art, and culture. It’s necessary to make up a list of what you most want to take in while in Rome because you won’t be able to see everything that’s worth seeing. Actually, just walking around some areas of the city can be very pleasurable because Italy is a country where art is appreciated to the point where it is on display everywhere not just in museums and galleries. Your camera will definitely get a work out in Rome.

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Cuba, 2003

Cuba stands apart from the rest of the world because of the American trade embargo. On America’s doorstep but shut off from formal contact with it, Cuba has been sheltered from the juggernaut of American corporatism. Of course that means that the country has also been spared from the jobs and investment money that goes along with that.

Given Cuba’s existence as one of the last Marxist states it’s easy to think of it in political terms before you visit. Once you get there however you forget all that and just enjoy yourself. I found the Cuban people to be very friendly and easy to like. All my interactions with them were pleasant and cordial.

It’s common in many poor countries for a certain subset of the populace to look upon tourists as easy marks to be conned or cajoled out of money. Cuba is almost entirely free of that. In my experience there no one expected to get hand outs from foreign visitors.

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Mexico City, 2003

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I spent several days in Mexico City In January of 2003 in order to break up a return flight from Cuba. I had been there for a few days in the summer of 1985 and was intrigued with it enough to want to return.

On my first trip I had stayed in an area known as the Zona Rosa. This time I found a good cheap hotel near the Zocalo, the main square of the city.

Mexico City is of course an enormous town but it has a very good subway system so getting from place to place is easy not to mention cheap. Actually Mexico City is inexpensive overall and offers great value to the traveler.

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