This weekend my wife and I rented a car and decided to go to Gatineau Park for a hike and a picnic, before the winter chill came (I’m a little bit of a baby when it comes to cold weather!). Of course I decided that being in the forest would be the perfect opportunity to take a few pictures, and it wasn’t long before I found a nice little creek!
When you come back from a vacation, or traveling, the most popular question people inevitably ask is always “What was your favorite place?” It’s a very hard question to answer, because there are so many places I traveled to, and each one brought something different to the table. However, in the spirit of trying, I have made up a list of 7 places that truly captivated me! This list is in no particular order, since anyone who has traveled extensively knows that it’s impossible to do.
I’d wanted to visit Paris since as long as I can remember. I had built it so much in my head that I arrived expecting to be a bit disappointed. I was very wrong, and it was fantastic! Everything they say about Paris is true. The lights, the buildings, the wine, the romance, the charm and the snobs! The Eiffel tower is a wonderful sight to admire, especially at night when it does it’s light show! My wife did not enjoy the catacombs, but I was amazed that underneath the city streets there are kms of trails full of skeletons and bones, neatly stacked up into shapes and walls! It rained on us a couple of times, but that just made for some great photography. After all, clouds in the sky add something to a picture! The food is delicious, the people were very friendly, and the city breaths life at all hours.
2 KO PHI PHI
Welcome to Ko Phi Phi, one of Thailand’s best islands! The water is crystal blue when looked at from a distance and clear as glass when you want to go snorkeling, or scuba diving, or swimming or cliff diving, or turtle watching. I guess my point is that there is ALOT to do in Ko Phi Phi. Some days we would just sit on the beach and watch the monkeys play fight and attack tourists (myself included lol) when they got too close to them. Other days we would go for a walk in the jungle, and sometimes we enjoyed the nightlife of the island, complete with buckets full of vodka and Redbull. There’s always a restaurant open so you will never go hungry (which is good because the food is amazing!) and everyone is there to have a good time! Maya Bay is especially impressive, although I recommend going very early as it gets packed by noon! We planned on staying a couple of days and ended up staying a week and a half. It’s hard to leave when your hotel is a bamboo hut overlooking the town and the ocean!
3 CAMERON HIGHLANDS
Cameron Highlands was a very different treat for me. We had been going from one island to another all over Thailand and through part of Malaysia, soaking up the sun on all the different beaches. So when we decided to take a bus, through a very windy road, up a mountain, to a small town, that was at least 10 degrees colder than what we were used to, I was not impressed with the idea lol But this place is beautiful. The scenery is spectacular, from the waterfalls, to the 3 hour trek through the jungle, to the vast fields of tea plantations. It was a surprisingly welcome break to the beach life that we had begun to get used to. For anyone who actually has read some of my other posts, this is the place where my camera broke for the first time! If you have the time, go to the cloud forest! It is an entire forest covered in moss. The trees, the bark, the floor. Everything is covered in it! A really unique experience!
4 CHIANG MAI
Chiang Mai is a city that feels like a town. A very intimate town. With 1000 temples to visit. The city was very welcoming and friendly! I visited many temples, spoke to a monk, saw traditional dances, had fun with my camera and ate like a king. It is one of the most culturally important places in Thailand, and you would be a fool not to go if you got the chance. Go out for a walk and get lost. It’s amazing what you can find when you don’t have a destination! We also rented some scooters to go to a temple up the mountain, but if you keep going, get ready for some amazing panoramas of the city!
Rome is in ruins. As in, every 2 blocks there is another piece of architecture, or statue or fountain that is 2000 years old. You can’t walk for more than 3 minutes without stumbling into something ancient and amazing! There is so much to see in Rome that anything less than a week won’t cut it! Surprisingly, I felt that the Colosseum was in pretty bad shape considering that it’s one of the main attractions. But it was still fantastic to be in a place with so much history. I could almost hear the crowds shouting from the stands, until I realized it was a group of children lol The Trevi fountain is beautiful, and I would highly recommend you go early in the morning (7ish) to avoid the enormous crowds that gather during the day. I’ve counted the Vatican as part of stuff to do in Rome, because seriously, who goes to the Vatican without visiting Rome? No one, that’s who.
It’s like I stepped into a Harry Potter movie. And I loved it! The city is rich in history, and apparently wealth, because all the museums are free! Big Ben, of course, is a wonderful sight, as is the London eye, especially at night! We even tried to locate some of Banksy’s graffiti art! Sadly, we only found 3. London is amazing, with lots of culture and fun people! The mall before reaching Buckingham Palace is fantastic, as is Buckingham Palace of course. Funny story, this is the place where I lost my wife for over an hour. She went chasing a horse (taking pictures of it) and disappeared! I was starting to actually worry after a while, but we found each other at the mall!
7 SIEM REAP
Enjoy getting lost in temples? This is the place for you! Siem Reap is the entrance city to all the Angkor temples, and trust me, you want to visit them. After travelling through many cities in south east Asia, you can get a little templed out, and when we came to Siem Reap, we kind of thought that it was going to be more of the same stuff. But these temples have so much character, so much history and so much beauty, that when someone asks me about the temples on my travels, the first ones that come to mind are these ones. The city itself is also fun, with lots of bars and restaurants, and a bit on the outskirts there are lotus flower plantations, which are amazing to see during a sunset. You may be told about going to Angkor Wat early in the morning to see the sunrise and wonder if it is worth it, and the answer is yes for 2 reasons. One- Seriously? How many people get to see the sun rise at a 900 year old temple? And two- once the sunrise is over, the temples are almost empty, so you can take your time and really soak up the importance of these places. Get a book explaining the carvings and structures, they sell them outside, and if you know how to haggle, you can get it for as low as 5 dollars ( I paid 10 and my tuk tuk driver told me I got ripped off! The same book is worth 20 Dollars at a book store)
So there you have it. 7 different places I loved. I could have done an article about 20 of them, but I don’t have that much time on my hands! If I could give you one piece of advice from all of this, it would be to stop making excuses and just go out and travel! It brings adventure to your life, knowledge to your mind, happiness to your stomach and excitement to your body. Trust me, I’m a doctor (got my diploma from a guy who printed it out right in front of me in Thailand for 20 bucks lol)
I’m home. After 7 months, 15 countries, 49,000 pictures and countless adventures, I’m finally home. It took almost 2 full days to travel from Tokyo to Ottawa (when you buy really cheap plane tickets, the price is time!), and I’m writing this post at 3am because I probably have some jet lag, but I’m finally home.
I haven’t had too much time to reflect on everything I have experienced through my travels this year, but whenever I try, my thoughts inevitably end up in the same sentence. We live in a beautiful world.
It’s everywhere you look, from the crystal clear oceans in Thailand, to the 10,000 tons of metal that makes the Eiffel tower in Paris. I saw breath taking landscapes in Ireland, played with wonderfully kind elephants in Laos, explored magnificent ruins in Cambodia, ate the best pizza of my life in Italy (surprise surprise!) and got caught up in the excitement of sumo wrestling in Japan.
I met some fantastic people along the way. Some opened up their homes to us, others opened a beer bottle. Some climbed mount Vesuvius with us, while others partied in Xochimilco with us. We bathed in jaw dropping waterfalls with some, and learned how to cook with others.
It helps when you travel with your best friend, who also happens to be my wife. Somehow, these experiences seemed more meaningful with her by my side, and I feel blessed to have been able to share these experiences together. In 7 months, the most time we spent apart was when we lost each other an hour in London. Some people wonder how you can spend so much time with someone and not go crazy, but she always helped me see the world in the best light there could be, and I love her to death for it.
This world is beautiful. Whether you are watching the sky burn as the sun disappears into the horizon at a beach in Malaysia, or are watching the Parisian streets turn to life early in the morning, it’s beautiful. I am lucky to have been able to see first hand how beautiful this world truly is. It’s very easy to forget when you read or watch the news, or are stuck in a rut at work, or having problems with life in general, and sometimes it feels like we don’t have the time to appreciate just how lucky we are to live here, but hopefully this post will remind you, if only for a couple of minutes, that we live in a beautiful world.
Tokyo is awesome. I mean really awesome! It’s been a dream of mine for years to come and see what the place that fed me half of my childhood looks like. Godzilla, Dragonball, Astro Boy, Speed Racer, Mario, Ryu, Chun Li, and so much more!
This is Olvier Atom, from Captain Tsubasa, aka Flash Kicker in the USA and Supercampeones in Mexico! The show is 29 years old and this is the first thing I saw when I got on the subway!
But for all these crazy cartoons and videogames, I don’t really know too much about Japan, it’s culture, and the mecca city they call Tokyo. So here are 5 things I’ve learned on my first day out and about on the streets of this great place!
1.- Tokyo is huge. Most people already know it’s a big city. We constantly hear that it has the largest amount of people in the world, and we see pictures of the famous cross walk all the time. But after a 3 hour ride on a subway from the airport to ALMOST downtown, I finally understood how big this city really is. Hint: BIG
2.- Tokyo is CLEAN. You will not see a piece of garbage on the street anywhere. No gum on the ground, no cigarette butts, not even a candy wrapper. The weird thing is that there aren’t many garbage bins around! It took us half an hour to find one! But it’s definitely a cultural effort to keep it clean. Everyone contributes, and it’s amazing!
3.- Japanese people are fantastic! We had people coming over to see if we needed help whenever we looked lost. We had people walk us to where we needed to go because they said they had the time. People struck up conversations with us at restaurants and were always excited when we told them we were Canadian lol. People from Japan are very polite, very respectful, and most of all, very friendly ^_^
4.- Japanese Subways are PUNCTUAL. I mean to the minute punctual. As in the lady at the booth told us the subway would arrive at 6:43 and would take exactly an hour to get to our next destination, and that’s exactly what happened. For a mecca city like Tokyo, and with the craziest subway maps we’ve ever seen, it’s completely amazing how they manage to run things like clockwork. I live in Ottawa, and we EXPECT the buses to be at least 5 minutes late or early. After seeing this, I fear I’ll be even angrier when I’m waiting in the rain for a 12 minute late bus lol
5.- Nothing can prepare you for the lights. Walking at night in Tokyo is everything I thought it would be and sooo much more! The smells, the lights, the amount of people all looking to have a good time. The endless casinos, the Arcades, the movie theaters, and of course the karaoke bars. They’re all there, they’re all shiny and I can’t get enough of it!
I have 11 days in Tokyo to take it all in. Day 1 was a blast. But I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be even better. It’s starting at the Ghibli Museum, so it’s already beginning with a big loud bang! If anyone has ideas or tips on where to go and what to see, let me know!
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One of my favorite things to photograph are abandoned things. Buildings, houses, roads, hospitals, towns, you name it! There is something hauntingly beautiful about a place that was once used on a daily basis, then left from one day to the next. It’s like a time capsule, slowly rotting away, taking the memories of the place with it. Fantastic.
While photographing buildings and houses from the outside is quite easy, the best pictures usually come once you venture into the complex. This always has its risks, which can be as obvious as a security guard still keeping watch over the place, or as illusive as some wooden floor that has rot to the point that it could give way if you stand on it.
The first rule is to always be aware of your surroundings.
Rule number 2? Don’t take your wife to abandoned hospitals in Mexico. She won’t be happy…trust me.
I had always admired the abandoned hospital in Manzanillo, Mexico. It had been deemed unstable after an earthquake in 1995 cracked many of its walls. For years there was a guard at the front, and I was too young to brave it out and try and sneak past him. Last year though, I got my chance when I was visiting Manzanillo for 3 weeks. No one was guarding it and it seemed like I’d have the place all to myself!
Of course, I had never really thought that besides serving as a subject to photograph, it might serve other purposes for other people; like the skater kids we found hanging outside, or the homeless man we did not see, but could definitely smell in one of the rooms. The air was thick as well, with the scent of decaying wood and garbage. Still, the inside was as amazing as I had imagined when I was a kid. Old surgery rooms still held signs of where instruments where to be kept, the skeleton of the elevator shafts impressed on each of the floors we visited.
All in all, we stayed there for around 2 or 3 hours. I’d have stayed longer if I could have, to take advantage of the sun going down and use the light to my advantage, but I broke rule number 2, and was forced to leave lol
One day, I hope to photograph Chernobyl. It’s probably been done a thousand times over by now, but the idea of an entire population vanishing from a city in one day, leaving everything behind, is enough for me to want to go. I enjoy abandoned places. They’re very peaceful, but somehow you are always on edge. It’s a weird feeling I suppose. When I arrive in Ottawa, I’d like to look for a couple of places to practice this fun style of photography. Anyone interested is welcome to tag along! I hear there is strength in numbers when it comes to ghosts that haunt places like this…