Continuing my favourite travel photos with my second favourite batch of five.
The Mekong River, Luang Prabang, Laos
In all my travels I have never seen a sunset as lovely as the one in Luang Prabang.
On both my 2010 & 2015 visits I lingered for over and hour at a time to capture the golds, oranges and reds as the sun sank slowly behind the horizon.
I could have posted a number of photos that I love, but this is my absolute favourite.
Notice the boy on top of the boat, wooden pole in hand, trotting along. It appears to me as if he is on the way to pole vaulting into the water!
Replica Tiger, Tirana, Albania
This is a photo that gets me and travel buddy Hamish laughing every time we see it. I will let this extract from my Balkans train travel book explain why.
“An old and battered silver estate car pulled up and parked right in front of us. A grey-haired man in a scruffy blue jacket got out and went to his boot from which he pulled a huge replica stuffed toy tiger, complete with fixed menacing growl.
Balancing the replica feline on his shoulders, he then took his Polaroid from the front seat and promptly marched to his position in the heart of the main square.
For a few beans you could have your photo taken with the big cat look alike. Amazingly many people did. We are still kicking ourselves that we did not.
We speculated that the guy had been left a few quid in his parent’s will and had pondered for days about how he could invest the money to secure his future.
Wisely he hadn’t gone for one of the doomed ponzi saving schemes and had instead ploughed his good fortune into an instant camera and a less than lifelike toy.
It seemed to be working for him, so you had to admire his acumen!”
Me And My Elephant, Laos
This is a picture that I seek out whenever I am stressed.
It transports me back to a Monday morning in 2010 when I rode on the neck of an Asian elephant right into the river.
I then spent twenty-minutes scrubbing the elephant’s back, shoulders, neck and ears as the beast blew water out of its trunk (often all over me) and lolled around happily.
A perfect memory and the fact that my elephant had been saved from the cruel logging industry to enjoy her latter years in the Laos jungle, made it that much better.
Sadly she had passed away by the time I went back in 2015, however I will never forget my elephant.
Seashell Sellers, Pangandaran, Indonesia
Another happy memory, this time from 1997. We visited the picturesque fishing town on the Indian Ocean as part of an independent tour of Java & Bali.
I love the smiley faces of these girls who were selling jewellery made from seashells.
Purchasing a rather nice necklace for very little earned me the right to take this picture.
The eldest spoke a few words of English and she confirmed that they all went to school in the mornings and sold shells in the afternoon.
Poor economically I have no doubt, but a very happy group of friends & siblings.
Footnote: Sadly the town was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in July 2006. This is how Relief Web reported it next day:
“At 1519 hours on 17 July 06 a 7.7 magnitude undersea earthquake spawned a tsunami which had its epicenter about 110 miles (180 km) off the coast of Pangandaran. The earthquake caused at least a 3, 3-meter (6.5 feet) high waves.
The tsunami traveled inland as far as 400 meters (1,312 feet), according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Estimates of the total number of dead are presently at approx 500 with 400 serious casualties having been reported. The number of missing stand at 300 many of which may be tourists who had been holidaying at the beachside resorts.
Presently there are many thousands of homes destroyed with 40,000-50,000 living in makeshift accommodation in the hills around the town.
These people either have no homes in which to return or are too scared to return with their homes especially in light of further tsunami warnings.“
I was unaware of this until just now and I admit it brought a tear to my eye wondering what may have become of those beautiful girls.
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
The main mosque in the Syrian capital has the honour of being the only building in the world to bring tears to my eyes.
It is simply majestic and for some reason it touched me more than the likes of the Taj, Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu.
Islamic architecture has a special place in my heart and when day turned into night, this place shone like a beacon of beauty, hope & peace.
Hamish and I were the only Westerners present and only allowed to stay due to the kindness of a guard, as this was a time for Muslims and not gate crashing visitors.
I was witness to not only the illuminated marvel but also Syrian families socialising, playing, preparing for prayer and generally having huge smiles on their faces.
I have to sneak another photo in!