Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A hidden gem - Smith's Beach in Turks and Caicos



We have snorkeled in most Caribbean and Atlantic nations, and I have to say my favorite spot in the Caribbean is Smith's Beach on Providenciales in Turks and Caicos. We stopped here on our way to the airport on our last day in Provo, and I still regret leaving that great aquatic morning experience. It really has three great things going for it:   
  1. It is hard to get to and thus abnormally empty relative to the quality of the reef/beach. This also makes it an intrinsically rewarding place to stumble upon.
  2. It is a very healthy reef with a ton of aquatic critters.
  3. It is located close to world class Grace Bay
Show up with a mask and some fins and have at it. We saw a few turtles and a ton of interesting fish and reef formations. This would be a perfect place to do a mid day picnic with some treats from  Graceway Gourmet. I will give detailed directions at the end of this post.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos


First cold day of Fall fell upon Atlanta today, and I could not help but wish I was in Turks and Caicos.  Good lord that place is awesome. Here are some of my shots of Grace Bay by Provo in Turks and Caicos.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dancing with ghosts at Tikal in Guatemala


In the 19th century, a gum sapper by the name of Ambrosio Tut stumbled upon an ancient city deep in the jungles of Guatemala. The Mayan are on full display here and the ethereal quality of their forgotten and refound ancient glory runs deep. There are temples to explore and the jungle still holds more secrets - there is no doubt. Hidden beneath roots and under soft Guatemalan soil is a forgotten world that has slowly emerged. We can let go of the past, but sometimes the past does not want to let go of us. A gripping place.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

Antigua, Guatemala - the best place in Guatemala


Guatemala is an incredibly underrated country, often passed over for Belize, Costa Rica, and Mexico. But. There is an immense amount of culture and beauty within Guatemala. Nowhere is this more evident than in Antigua.

Like a town lost in time on a cloud, Antigua feels aloof to the modern age. Impeccably charming, safe, and enticing, every corner brings an excitement with it. Curious buildings and hallowed out ruins and preserved artifacts of colonial brilliance conspire to create an unreal collection of a place in time. It feels like the past effortlessly disregarding the present. It looks like something out of a remembered dream, just passing by as you pass through.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Before the rain


About 3 or 4 years ago, I was reading a book on photography, and this one part in the preface has stuck with me ever since. The author told this story about how he was taking pictures in NYC early in his career and at one point during the day, he suddenly realized he was a photographer. 

Now I like this on a few levels. First, I like the idea of someone having a cathartic realization that they finally "are" something. Like this guy took a ton of pictures for years and years, and finally after taking just one of thousands and thousands of shots, something changed within him. He went from taking pictures to being a photographer. I also like the idea that if you work hard enough, and keep at it, you can eventually become what you want to become. 

It is why we do the things we do, but this realization is rarely so before and after or binary. The realist in me believes it grows slowly like a tree. The romantic in me wants to believe something can just change. That one day, you go one step further and are never the same.

I waited for this moment to happen to me. I wanted to be a photographer, but that shot never came. I wanted to be a writer, but no word pushed me suddenly to realization. But today, while balancing a thousand things, and trying to do a thousand more, it hit me. I am an entrepreneur. It happened on a Friday night, while people were going out and there was a certain excitement in the air on Ponce in Atlanta. I was in the FedEx parking lot wrapping a box in shrink wrap, writing an exec summary in my mind, hoping I would remember to capture the moment somehow. Suddenly things felt different, I was busier, but calmer, and everything slowed down. 

When did Noah build the ark?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Eating at At.mosphere in Dubai - the world's tallest restaurant

at.mosphere dubai 

Dubai is a city of realized hyperbole. It has the tallest building in the world, man-made islands shaped like the world’s continents, and a restaurant high high above the towering skyscrapers below. At.mosphere, a restaurant in Dubai’s towering Burj Khalifa, provides a dining experience with a view reminiscent of glancing out the window of a plane. It is preposterously thrilling to savor a plate of foie gras 122 floors above what appears to be the world’s largest game of Sim City developing below, spreading out into open desert.

Reaching At.mosphere involves a few steps absent from most dining arrangements. First, one must enter the tallest building in the world, approach a sleek metal elevator, and make a very important choice that is really no choice at all. Only one option exists in the elevator – floor 123. With no stops to make on the way up, the elevator travels with a speedy transcendence that feels just a few technological steps removed from teleportation – 33 feet per second. In the time it takes a middle school graduate to read this paragraph, the doors swing open to reveal a spiral staircase leading to the restaurant one floor below.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Burj AL Arab is okay by me


Long before Dubai began showing up at the bottom of fashion advertisements along with Paris, New York, and Tokyo, it was all sand and ambition. It was once simply desert and an idea. An “if you build it, they will come” on the most massive scale. Build it, they did.

As the years piled on, Dubai transformed. The skyscrapers grew like weeds in an untended lawn. Any doubt that the city was primed to be a world class destination was responded to with the sonic roar of hundreds of buildings rising from the ground almost overnight. Ready or not, here it comes.

Today, the hotels in Dubai have more stars than the milky way. The roads run smooth and are stocked with fluorescent hypercars and murdered out Mercedes Gelandewagens. Construction cranes sway in the gentle Arabian breeze next to impossibly tall buildings. The malls have ski slopes and aquariums with neat little Guinness World Record plaques. Man-made islands shaped like palm trees maximize beach front real estate just offshore. It is a place where the compendium of engineering knowledge has been plundered, nudging the limits of man-made extravagance into open space. Engineers come to Dubai to test the pliability of steel, the outrageous whims of architectural imagination, and the possibility of solving impossible problems.

And it all began with one building – the Burj Al Arab.

Three magical days in Bagan, Myanmar



Bagan is an ancient city. Thousands of temples, pagodas, and stupas unfold across the dusty plains as if they have grown here organically from the ground for millenia. It is a place that feels older than time. The ambitions of this primeval capital are evident in every direction. The sheer number of ancient structures is at once baffling and awe-inspiring. No place on earth reflects this grandiose quality of scale as much as Bagan.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Top 10 types of travel theft (and how to be safe)

travel theft

In many large cities of the world, thieves hunt travelers from the shadows. They watch you take pictures at monuments, eat tapas at an outdoor cafe, and if you are unlucky, they will follow your steps with excited eyes as you fall into one of their traps. A few years ago while visiting Quito, thieves dumped a bucket of crap on me from a rooftop and then jumped me for my camera. It was
horrible.

Fear-mongering aside, travelers are chosen as targets because they are not completely in tune to their surroundings. Maybe you are jet lagged, or you just ate a dangerous meal that has left you weak with intestinal anxiety, or you are lost in an uncomfortable part of Paris – these are all circumstances where you are in a vulnerable state and therefore a target of thieves. Like hyenas hunting for weakened game, thieves seek out confused tourists and map clenchers with wayward eyes.
These crooked opportunists have many breeds: child gangs in Italy looking for sincere mid-westerners, Vietnamese on scooters scoping for a wallet in an extended hand, and fake European police officers searching for rubes to shake down. While your trip will likely pass without incident, it is ideal to be prepared. If you know what to look for, then you can watch for danger signs and situations to avoid. Being a safe traveler is being a smart traveler. Here are ten common hustles to watch out for.

Chichicastenango, Guatemala - markets, mayhem, graveyeards, and charm


Guatemala is one of the most underrated destinations on earth. With volcanoes, great colonial cities Mayan ruins, rainforests, and just shitloads of natural beauty, it is a spellbinding place to find yourself for a few weeks. About 6500 feet up into the Guatemalan highlands, Chici seems perched at the top of Guatemala, an uphill gathering place for the denizens  of this collectivist nation. From the cities and villages, old Mayans and city folk alike find their way to Chichicastenango to trade goods and come together.

The church of St Tomas (above) is a 400 year old church with a rich history. Originally a Mayan temple, the church serves several purposes to the community. K'iche' Mayan priests still use the church for their rituals, burning incense, candles, and chickens for the old gods. It is the kind of place where the past still burns bright.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The best ginger beer/ale in Tokyo

 A few months ago in Tokyo, we found a really cool outdoor food area in  Omotesando, close to the subway stop. While unusual eateries were everywhere, we stopped to grab a ginger beer and sample some fries at Brooklyn Ribbon Fries. In the picture above you can see it as the tin shack with BRE on the side. This whole area had a ton of cool shops and mini-restaurants amid the bustle of Omotesando.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pictures from Guatemala Globase - Lake Atitlan



A couple years ago I did a brief consulting assignment through Indiana University, and I just found a ton of photos from that trip that I never shared on Goboogo. I am going to cycle through them over the next few weeks.  Guatemala is an incredible country, extremely worthy of a visit and a couple week stay.

One of the coolest parts of my trip to Guate was visiting Lake Atitlan. The lake is located in the Guatemalan highlands and is over a thousand feet deep. It is flanked by 3 volcanos and several Mayan villages.

The lake was once thought to be showcased an angling Guatemalan show piece, so they stocked it with all kinds of non endemic fish, like the Black Bass. Of course, terrible things happened. This little bird went extinct (Atitlan Grebe), and 2/3rds of the lakes endemic fish disappeard. Bummer.

Panajachel is a bigger village on the lake and has decent tourist infrastructure. It was also a popular hippie hangout in the 60's.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

10 greatest sports venues

greatest sports

Fenway Park (above)
The oldest major league stadium has more character than most. It opened in 1912, and has been packing in fans ever since. The Red Sox have sold out every home game for over 600 games and counting - a major league record. Fenway is a legendary place that every sports fan needs to visit at least once. And since they have won two World Series in the last decade, I do not even need to mention the pesky curse.

Getting there and tickets: Located in Boston, Fenway Park is right off the Mass Turnpike in the heart of the city. Take the green line on the T to Kenmore station to reach the ballpark. Tickets can be purchased here. Since games are always sold out, it is easy to just pick scalp your tickets or grab a pair off of craigslist, ebay, or stubhub.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Coolest gambling destinations


As a connoisseur of risk, I have seen my fair share of glory and agony within the walls of lady luck. In Latin America, the casinos feel seedy and desperate, and a shower always seems to be good idea after leaving these smoky dens. Singapore casinos feel simple and clean, as though an army of robots lurks just beyond the curtain, meticulously tending to the unseen cogs that keep the experience running. Macau on an off day feels like the world just ended. Gigantic empty rooms full of smiling Macanese croupiers all enthusiastically welcome you to tables with delicate waves of upturned hands. It is like a creepy dream.

Vegas reminds me of the imitation crab in a California roll. You may know its fake, but you don't care because it is delicious. Likewise, the Vegas pyramid, faux Eiffel Tower, and mini New York skyline are obviously not real, but the kitschy feel speaks to the synthetic appeal of the modern American dream. In Europe, the casinos are ornate old world establishments where you will feel like you forgot your velvet smoking jacket, even if you don't own one.

So where are some of the coolest international places to thrown down on black and let it ride?

Friday, June 20, 2014

The texture of Portugal

Tiles, tiles everywhere. Portugal has incredible tiled buildings with beautiful hand painted tiles.

3 days in Luang Prabang, Laos - elephants, bears, waterfalls, and the Mekong

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is lush, quaint, and improbable. This magical town of butterflies and baguettes seems to exist on dreamlike terms - an island of civility in the savage jungle of Laos. Sometimes a pinch is justifiable to confirm the reality of it all. The green hills, gorgeous colonial buildings, and kind villagers all combine to form a thriving UNESCO heritage city that is Southeast Asia with the charming vestiges of a distant French occupation.

High in the clouds, Luang Prabang holds many treasures for the travelers willing to make the trip. Aromas from fresh bakeries mingle with the crisp mountain air along quiet streets lined with quaint guesthouses and colorful noodle stands. The easiest route to Luang Prabang is on a flight from Bangkok on Bangkok Airways, though domestic flights from Vientiane near the Thai border are also possible on Lao Airlines. Another popular route is by bus from Vientiane. A Laos visa can be obtained upon arrival and costs $35 for U.S. citizens.

Three days is barely enough time to take in the full experience of Luang Prabang, but if planned correctly, you will have time to ride elephants, swim in waterfalls, and take a lazy trip down the Mekong river.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Caldea Spa Andorra - biggest spa in Europe


While hanging out in Andorra, we paid a visit to the "biggest spa in Europe." It rises out of the Andorran valley like a futuristic robo karst surrounded by quaint chalets and snow flecked mountains. It is the perfect place to escape the cold with mineral rich waters and hot baths. Lots of naked dudes though...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Furmonster of the day - Peruvian Pup


Kristin and I went to an incredible wedding this weekend in Lima. Check out this little pupster!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

3 days in Rome

rome

With the bustle of a large European metropolis and the detritus of a monumental past, Rome delights with a frenetic pace and antiquities lurking innocuously around each bend in the road. Here, history has been built on top of history for thousands of years. Seeing bankers in candy red Alfa Romeos zipping by millenia old ruins frames the endurance of this old city. Each sediment in time is visible and speaks to the ancient tale of decaying empire and modern function. The past is everywhere. You may be taking a stroll to sample some Trippafor a late lunch and accidentally stumble upon the Pantheon. There is a certain beauty to this unplanned chaos, and the overlapping of ages is historical mayhem at its most charming.

Rome is estimated to have been settled over ten thousand years ago. It has been a destination for a very long time. It is said that all roads once lead to this settlement on theTiber. Thankfully, getting to Rome is inexpensive care of European budget air lines. Easyjetflies to Rome from several European cities such as ParisLondon, Berlin, and Amsterdam for under $200 round-trip. Three days is plenty of time to see the highlights of Rome, but budget more time to truly understand this storied destination.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Top 10 castles in Europe

best castles in europe

Castles originated in Europe over a thousand years ago. These fortresses were one of the original defense systems, and erecting the structures on hills or just beyond moats was a functional choice. Castles were built to house rulers, impose power, and above all, spurn would be attackers. Conforming to these basic principles of utilitarian design, the strongholds now appear solitary, majestic, and frozen in time. The attackers are long gone, and now a steady stream of camera clutching invaders breach the castles daily, ready to inspect the epic grandeur of the past.

While Europe has hundreds of excellent castles, these ten all have design, character, and history that sets them apart. Some occupy the center of bustling cities, while others lurk in forgotten countrysides. Spanning eight countries across Europe, each of these castles has a story to tell.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dining at Rao's in New York

When we walked into Rao's New York, the record did not scratch to a stop as it does in popular metaphor. We would have welcomed such subtly. It was more akin to the entire record player crashing onto the floor in slow motion. We were out of place, and it was blatantly obvious. Here we were, dressed as though we had a small town prom to get to later in the evening. The rest of the room? Bombastic Italians, casually dressed. I saw a tracksuit or two, t-shirts everywhere, and nary a tie in sight.

"The web," I nodded discouragingly to myself, "what a freaking liar."

Monday, May 26, 2014

3 days in Cambodia - Angkor Wat


Siem Reap is an ancient place. It is well-worn with character written like wise creases on an old face. At its apogee, the Khmer empire built some of the most extraordinary temples in the world, ruling a kingdom covering parts of current day Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Myanmar. This was the Rome of Southeast Asia. Angkor Wat, the crown jewel in the Cambodian crown, is laid out to mirror the universe - this ambition rivaled only by its beauty. When I stood before the pyramids of Giza, I was impressed. When I came upon Angkor Wat, I was in love.

Flying to Cambodia is easy, as routes fly nonstop from many Southeast Asian hubs. The cheapest flight into Siem Reap is on Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur for roughly $120 round-trip. Flights from Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh are closer to $300 round-trip. If you are just aching to part with your dough, Silk Air offers a flight from Singapore that hovers around a grand. You can also take a bus into Siem Reap from Bangkok or Phnom Penh. Cambodia issues a visa on arrival so there is no need to obtain one beforehand. The process is quick and easy.

10 types of pirates - from antiquity to modern day

pirate

The Somali pirates are the modern day face of an enterprise that has existed for centuries. Piracy has been part of seafaring culture since man first took to the open water. As early as 1400 BC, Lukka sea raiders from Asia Minor began committing acts of piracy throughout the Mediterranean. These early pirates were known simply as the "Sea Peoples." Aside from these early innovators of seaward sabotage, many groups and clans have sailed under the banner of terror on the high seas. The Vikings innovated the craft, the Barbary corsairs elevated it to an art, and the pirates of the Caribbean made it famous. Many other groups, operating in the shadows of history, took to piracy on the high seas. From dark age plundering to modern day terrorism --

3 days on the Costa del Sol

Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol lazily stretches out along the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain. Not really committing to the industrious ambitions of Barcelona or Madrid, the coast is a land of perpetual siesta, where work orders are responded to with a simple "manana," and beaches gradually disappear into salty azure waters. It is the kind of place that convertibles were invented for.

To tackle it in 3 days would be a shame, but better than having not visited at all. To really cover the ground necessary along the Costa del Sol, an automobile is necessary. Luckily, car rentals in Spain are very affordable, as cheap as 15 Euros per day. Inexpensive flights also abound from all over Europe on Easyjet and Ryanair. It is possible to fly to Malaga for under 20 U.S. dollars from Barcelona round-trip. Once you have arrived along this golden coast of white villages and luxurious beaches, there is much to do and see. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Top 10 Bali experiences



Located just south of the equator, Bali bombards you with beauty, beaches, and culture. The entire experience feels at once effortless and nonpareil – the apex of tropical living. Sure, the beaches provide a gravity that draws travelers from all over the globe to this tiny Indonesian Island, but the culture brings them back. The lure is as persistent and persuasive as a boiler room hustler. There's a saying that God lives in the Himalayas. I have a feeling he vacations in Bali.








There are no direct flights from the United States to Bali. The easiest way to get to Bali is through Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, or Jakarta. From any of these locations, it's simple to hop on a direct flight to Bali's airport in Denpasar. The cheapest international flights to Bali are from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur on Airasia or Jetstar. It's possible to fly from the United States to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur for under $1000 round trip, and onward to Bali for around $100 round trip. This is the cheapest way to get to Bali.

The rich cultures of Indonesia


Indonesia is a sprawling island nation with a rich cultural heritage. From the temples in Bali to the unique street food, it's easy to immerse yourself in all the aspects of Indonesia. If you've ever wanted to know about the culture, scene and surroundings of one of the world's most intriguing destinations, read on...

The top of Mt. Sinai


It seems like another lifetime. The sun disappearing across the mountains of unforgiving rock.  From high on this holy mountain, we looked out across the world and none of it seemed to matter - nothing as far as we could see.  The sun went down and billions of stars followed us on our stumble away from the summit.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Getting to Andorra, Nightfall


We arrived in Andorra at nightfall where the streets reflected the night off of yesterday's melted snow. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cool Country house in between Luxembourg and Brussels

What a cool looking house, country homes in Europe just get it right in a way we totally miss in the states. We spotted this house and totally creeped around out front like creepy creepsters.

A model donkey

Tearing down a country road in Luxembourg, we spotted this character just lounging  about - looking INCREDIBLE



The Road to Andorra

 We landed in Toulouse and hit the road, curving through Tour de France battlegrounds, heading south, heading to the mountains - heading to Andorra.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sintra Castle - bright, bold, and high


The path to the top is rarely straight. Creating something special, putting it on a hill all bright and bold and ridiculous, and then climbing, really climbing, to find it...well for that - the journey is the reward. The beauty is in the struggle.  The way up, the long breaths, having imagination guide expectation towards the truth, calibrating, re-calibrating, earning it.

Here at the top, just outside of Lisbon is Sintra Castle, we climbed to get there. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Top ten most crowded islands in the world

most crowded islands

From an island microslum in Colombia to a haute enclave in central Paris, the ten most crowded islands in the world bear scant similarities in class or culture. In fact, every entry in the top ten comes from a different country. But being islands, each shares the common thread of scarcity - whether it be land, resources, or housing. In general, these islands are prophetical microcosms for an overcrowded earth - finite spaces where self sufficiency governs and demand pierces supply.

With the world's population racing higher and higher, and the "megacities club" accepting new members yearly, some day the earth could bear the traits of one of these densely packed islands.

Haunted! - Scariest Castles in the World

haunted castles

From a Czech forest castle reported to house the gates of hell to a gargantuan castle right here in the United States, the world's most haunted castles boast histories rich with frightening details. Specters haunt the halls of these old castles and travelers visit to experience brushes with the paranormal. Some of these castles possess secrets darker than a moonless night, and when darkness comes, the spirits stir.

These are the ten places to go and meet ghosts. Covering nine countries, each of these castles has a past that may just try and make a ghostly impression on your present.

Friday, May 2, 2014

But the day has just begun


Well, well, well. It has been months.  Eons in the online world.  Since my last post, lots of strange lands have been visited.  Many companies have been launched.  Work has been done.  Time has flown.  But now I am back.  Double spacing after each sentence.

And.

I need an outlet.  Too much is going on right now, and I need a place to go to talk about past trips, current trips, business, etc.  So, I will give it a try.  A post a week? Maybe?  Maybe not.  Welcome back to my world.