Feature

Experiencing Sri Lanka’s Providence- Part 4: Colombo's Eccentric Gangaramaya and Peaceful Seema Malaka Buddhist Temples

Called Serendib by Arab traders  (the origin of the word “serendipity”), Sri Lanka has an amazing diversity for a small island and offers the possibility of experiencing vastly different climates, history, and cultures during a short vacation. In this Four Part Series I will share a glimpse of four different areas of Sri Lanka that can, and should, be a part of any itinerary to the island of providence. Part 1 explores the East Coast city of Trincomalee and the Hindu  Koneswaram Temple and Part 2 brought us to the Ancient Buddha Rock Statues of Polonnaruwa. Part 3 visited the Hill Country and Hikes Through the Tea Trials. In this final article we stay closer to home, the city of Colombo. Sri Lanka’s largest city, and the starting point for travelers flying into this South Asian island nation, Colombo is often bypassed completely in favor of the southern beaches, majestic hill Read full article…

Wild Side of Travel: animal photo tribute

Interesting characters are usually the center piece of my travels. They help make a place memorable either by their actions, personalities and generosity.  However, there is another group of actors that deserves attention, our fury and feathered friends in the animal world. They participate in festivals, live monastic lives in temples, sneak into our rooms at night, and play hide and seek while we tramp through their neighborhoods in 4-wheel drive vehicles. They have made many of my trips extraordinary and unforgettable. Here are a few faces and characters that have stayed with me long after my flight home touched down. Peacocks can’t fly well but they can at least get to the top of houses. In southern Sri Lanka this is a common sight…everyone likes a view after all. It can get really hot in Sri Lanka and everyone likes to cool down. Notice the chains around the neck. Read full article…

3 Strategies to Help you Succeed and Travel the World

Recently I’ve seen a movement towards people trying to become travel writers so that they can travel. Sounds reasonable. They have a dreamy ideal of hitting the road on a company’s dime (or a hundred dollars, if you factor in compound inflation since the term was first coined), rafting down rivers, eating French cuisine in France,  bushwhacking through cultural backwaters, and writing about it all in just a few hours of work. When I left home eleven years ago I had my own dream. I wanted to be “That Guy.” You know, that guy who can land anywhere in the world and make a living. That guy who is creative, resourceful and good with his hands (yes, he’s shockingly handsome too). I’m talking about a mix of Macgyver, without the mullet, and Liam Neeson’s character in Taken (such and awesome movie). We’ve met this person so we know he exists. Read full article…

Visual Guide to Istanbul’s Must See Sites

  Ancient mosques, underground churches, bustling markets, crowded modern shopping streets, vibrant spices, KEBAB (yum!), and the boundary between Europe and Asia. Istanbul has it all and so much more. It is impossible to fully describe the vibe of this culturally wealthy city. As you wonder the streets centuries pass in a matter of steps, wheeling sea birds break up a skyline of minarets as the devout are called to prayer, a vast modern public transportation system shuttles shoppers, tourists and workers to the city’s amazingly distinct areas. Hawkers yell in the streets competing for attention and Turkish Lira. Rarely do I fall instantly in love with a place but Istanbul proved the exception. The sites, sounds, smells, people and culture touched something deep inside my chaotic nature. Rather than ruin the magic of the city with my words, I present a photo and video journey through the streets and Read full article…

Experiencing Sri Lanka’s Providence- Part 3: Hiking the Tea Trails

Called Serendib by Arab traders  (the origin of the word “serendipity”), Sri Lanka has an amazing diversity for a small island and offers the possibility of experiencing vastly different climates, history, and cultures during a short vacation. In this Four Part Series I will share a glimpse of four different areas of Sri Lanka that can, and should, be a part of any itinerary to the island of providence. Part 1 explores the East Coast city of Trincomalee and the Hindu  Koneswaram Temple and Part 2 brought us to the Ancient Buddha Rock Statues of Polonnaruwa. Sri Lanka’s hill country is a world unto itself. Dramatic mountains are smoothed out by waves of evenly spaced tea bushes that calm the senses and clear the mind. Amongst the tea plantations, like no where else in Sri Lanka, you can feel the blend of civilizations between England’s colonial past, the Tamil Hindu community Read full article…

Kotor, Montenegro: undiscovered natural beauty and history

The medieval town of Kotor, Montenegro sits at the end of a placid bay that cuts deep into the surrounding limestone mountains. Often called the southernmost fjord in Europe, it is actually a submerged river canyon. Once you arrive in Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll have to catch your breath before you can attempt to name the majestic scenery surrounding you. You’ll be surprised that more people haven’t discovered it. No matter where you look your senses are overwhelmed by either the natural beauty of the area and the depth of history from which the Venetian influenced town has emerged. While tourists flock to the nearby, cheesy and overdeveloped town of Budva to party throughout the summer, Kotor has managed to maintain a sense of history and tradition. There is still a nightlife to be found as delicious restaurants dot the bay’s shores and a few nightclubs rock the old town’s Read full article…

Hiking in Letnica, Kosovo: A Black Madonna, abandoned villages and the old Croat miller

The road ends at the small Kosovar village of Letnica on the border with Macedonia. The white church of the Black Madonna watches over the town from a small hill. The large church only magnifies the empty feeling of the town where only about 100 people are left. Dirt roads snake into the town in between dilapidated stone houses. Despite the abandoned air the town is surrounded by forested rolling hills, giving the area a peaceful feel. The twittering of songbirds floated through the air as we climbed the small hill to the church. If the town was ever to have a crowd we found it as four men sat outside the church socializing and taking in the surrounding views. A middle aged man reeking of raki (the Kosovar equivalent to Italian grappa) shadowed us the whole way, pleading for money and trying to be best friends the way only Read full article…

Experiencing Sri Lanka’s Providence- Part 2: The Ancient Buddha Rock Statues of Polonnaruwa

Called Serendib by Arab traders (the origin of the word “serendipity”), Sri Lanka has an amazing diversity for a small island and offers the possibility of experiencing vastly different climates, history, and cultures during a short vacation. In this Four Part Series I will share a glimpse of four vastly different areas of Sri Lanka that can, and should, be a part of any itinerary to the island of providence. The first part in this series explored the the East Coast city of Trincomalee and the Hindu  Koneswaram Temple. Nestled in the lush central jungles of Sri Lanka sits Polonnaruwa, the 10th century ancient capital on par with Cambodia’s Angkor Wat,  Myanmar’s Bagan, or Thailand’s Ayutthaya. The rectangular archeological site sits on the shores of the Topa Wewa Lake, slightly north of the modern day town of Polonnaruwa where you can buy your entry ticket. Crumbling palaces, dozens of dagobas Read full article…

Experiencing Sri Lanka’s Providence- Part I: Trincomalee’s Koneswaram Hindu Temple

Sri Lanka. For many people it conjures images of a strident Colombo with its pollution and bottleneck traffic, the relaxed idyllic beaches in the South and a suffocating civil war in the North and East. Quite a contrast and one that kept many people from visiting the country during the intense fighting that erupted from 2006-2009. Now that the war is over tourists are streaming into the country, filling up hotels and weighing down tour buses. Locals are also fanning out and visiting areas once considered too dangerous. Called Serendib by Arab traders (the origin of the word “serendipity”), Sri Lanka has an amazing diversity for a small island and offers the possibility of experiencing vastly different climates, history, and cultures during a short vacation. In this Four Part Series I will share a glimpse of four vastly different areas of Sri Lanka that can, and should, be a part Read full article…

Sexual Secrets of a Japanese Buddhist Temple

Japan is full of secrets hidden in plain view. To the casual observer Japan is a conservative and reserved society. Even those “breaking” with conformity tend to gather together and dress alike. But as most Japan insiders know, scratch the surface just a little and shocking secrets can come to light. I discovered one such secret while visiting a rural Japanese Buddhist temple on the island of Shikoku. While walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage, a 900 mile route which hits 88 Buddhist temples, I stopped for a rest at a simple mountain village temple in Ehime Prefecture. Sitting between Temples 65 and 66, Jofuku-ji Tsubaki-do, is an unassuming and polite temple. Precise cedar beams mirror the thoughtful manicured garden as every detail of the clean temple grounds  was carefully planned out.  Japanese temples are wonderful places that incorporate the the more mundane concerns of folk religion right alongside the loftier goals Read full article…

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