Tag Archives: Travel
August 22, 2011

POTD: Playa Avellana, Costa Rica

The above photo was taken at Playa Avellana, during our last full day of our Costa Rica trip in February 2010. Amazingly, however, I almost did not make this trip to Costa Rica due to an airline mishap. Thankfully, however, I had purchased a travel insurance policy when I booked my trip, so that salvaged a bit of the trip.

Basically, the night before I was scheduled to fly to Costa Rica, American Airlines canceled my February 13th flight and notified me that they could not get me to Costa Rica until February 15th. They had also scheduled me for a 13 hour overnight layover at the Miami airport. As you could imagine, I was rather pissed off, but a quick call to my insurance company Cover-More confirmed that my $70 policy covered trip delays and interruptions, so I could expect to get some of my hotel and food expenses covered. When I arrived back in the U.S., I filed my claim and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the company was reimbursing me for my hotel and food expenses in DC and Miami as well as the two days of pre-paid lodging and surf lessons that I missed due to American Airlines’ inability to get me to Costa Rica on time. So, lesson learned, if you are traveling abroad, make sure you have travel insurance!

May 19, 2011

The Marin Headlands

After driving through Big Sur, we stopped for some delicious clam chowder in Monterey and continued north to San Francisco. The following morning, at my friend Adam’s suggestion, we drove to Battery Spencer, in the Marin Headlands, for some amazing views of Golden Gate Bridge and the city.

Other than seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, we didn’t have any particular plans for that day, so continued driving along Conzelman Road, further into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. And I’m glad we did, because the views were incredible.

We decided to park the car and hike down to the beach

We drove out to the Point Bonita lighthouse, but it was closed.

We came across SF-88, a former Nike Missile Site. I was surprised to see this well-preserved piece of Cold War history in the midst of such beauty. SF-88 is the only restored Nike missile site in the United States. Opened in 1954, this site was part of the last line of defense against Soviet bombers. With the advent of ICBMs, these missile batteries became obsolete, and this site was decommissioned in 1974.

The ranger on-site gives a very thorough tour, and even allows you to ride the missile elevator down into the storage area.

Heading back into the city

The rest of the Bay Area photos are here.

May 18, 2011

Hiking Joshua Tree National Park

When I was back in California during the Christmas holidays, we went hiking at Joshua Tree National Park. Much like the Salton Sea, Joshua Tree is another desert wasteland favorite that I try to return to every few years.

During our recent visit to Joshua Tree we hiked the Lost Horse Mine Trail, a 4.5 mile roundtrip hike that takes you to a well-preserved former gold mine site.

The tree from which the park takes its name.

Mine cart remains

The Lost Horse Mine. This mine produced 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver between 1894 and 1931.

The mine’s stamp mill

After our hike, we drove through the rest of Joshua Tree National Park.

Skull rock

Cholla Cactus garden. Stay away from the cacti. Trust me on this one.

More photos here.

May 17, 2011

The Salton Sea

I have been fascinated by the Salton Sea since I was a kid. I grew up 30 miles north of the Sea, and can still remember the pungent odor that wafted northward from the Sea on a hot summer’s day. Every few years, when I am visiting my parents in the Coachella Valley, I make the drive south to visit this aquatic wasteland.

The Salton Sea isn’t actually a sea, but rather a lake that is saltier than the Pacific Ocean. At 376 square miles, it is the largest lake in California. It averages 15 miles wide, 35 miles in length, and is 52 feet at it deepest point.

Although salt lakes have existed, and then evaporated, in this desert region for many years, the present Salton Sea was the result of an engineering project gone wrong in 1905, when workers attempted to divert water from the Colorado River to irrigate land in the Imperial Valley. The Colorado overflowed, breached the structures, changed course, and began to fill the empty salt basin, creating the Salton Sea. Although the Salton Sea would have eventually evaporated on its own, it soon became a depository for agricultural runoff, which replenished the Sea with wastewater.

In the 1950s, tourism and development promoters billed the Salton Sea as a “miracle in the desert”, where one could relax by the water, water-ski, and fish to your heart’s content. Yacht clubs, hotels, and restaurants were built, turning the area into a “Palm Springs with water.”

This desert riviera, however, was short-lived. As salinity and pollution levels began to rise, the tourism industry collapsed. Today, with the exception of a few hardy residents, most of the developments surrounding the Salton Sea have been abandoned. If one visits Salton City, you can drive through entire subdivisions, all perfectly gridded and marked with street signs, that are devoid of any structures. Walking along the sea, you notice that the beaches are not composed of sand, but rather barnacle shells and the skeletal remains of fish, with more decomposing fish deposited on the shore by gentle waves.

May 14, 2011

Video: North Korean military officer gives a lecture at the DMZ

Gather ’round, comrades, and watch this excerpt from a lecture on the DMZ’s Joint Security Area, courtesy of an officer from the Korean People’s Army.

May 10, 2011

POTD: A boy and his camel

camel in egypt

camel in egypt

Depending on your destination, you may be forced to join a police escorted convoy when traveling around Egypt. We were required to join one when we drove from Luxor to Safaga, a port on the Red Sea. Every few hours, the convoys stop at restaurants and gift shops that were specifically built to sell extremely high priced food, drinks, and knick-knacks to tourists (the average Egyptian is not allowed to stop here, but then again, why would they want to pay $3 for a Snickers bar?). This is one of the kids who worked at the rest stop, charging tourists a few bucks to pose with the camel he was leading around the parking lot. In Egypt, if there is an area where large groups of tourists congregate, there is bound to be a boy and his camel also there.

I would like to return to the Middle East someday, perhaps to Jordan (Petra looks amazing), Lebanon (I hear Beirut is a fun city), or the United Arab Emirates (Dubai holidays are quite inexpensive, especially if you live in Europe).

April 28, 2011

POTD: Inside the Kremlin

Taken with a film camera (remember film?) back in July 2003, when I was studying in Moscow. In the Russian language, “Kreml” (Kremlin) means “fortress”. All ancient Russian cities had a kremlin at their center. The Moscow Kremlin served as the seat of government for the Tsars of Russia until Peter the Great transferred the capital to St. Petersburg. In March 1918, the Bolsheviks moved the capital back to Moscow, and since then the Kremlin has remained the center of power.

April 24, 2011

POTD: The Tate Modern

The above photos shows the Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge in London, UK. I lived in London from 2004-05 when I was a student at the London School of Economics. My dorm was located in the Bankside neighborhood, right behind the Tate Modern. At the time, Bankside was undergoing a transition, and many restaurants and businesses were moving into the neighborhood.

The Tate Modern building was probably one of my favorite buildings in London, as I’m just a fan of gritty industrial architecture. The building was originally an oil-fired power station that generated electricity from 1952 to 1981. (Interestingly enough, the building’s architect, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, was also responsible for designing the iconic red telephone boxes that used to be found throughout the UK). In 2000, the Bankside Power Station became home to the Tate Modern, which is now the world’s most-visited modern art gallery. The station’s mammoth turbine hall is the site of large art installations that change every 6-12 months.

In addition to the Tate Modern, there are many other sights to visit in the Bankside neighborhood, including the Globe Theatre and Borough Market. A short stroll across the Millennium Bridge will take you to St. Paul’s Cathedral and then further into the city center.

April 22, 2011

POTD: Rainy day in Tiananmen Square

Another photo of Tiananmen Square, located in Beijing, China. The structure adorned with a portrait of Mao Zedong is the Tiananmen gate. Located north of Tiananmen Square, this gate served as the entrance to the Imperial City, within which the Forbidden City was located. The portrait of Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, was placed on the gate in 1949. The soldier in the photo was part of the ceremonial guard located near the square’s flagpole. Apparently, the Chinese military puts on very impressive flag raising and lowering ceremonies during the morning and evening, but I missed them. This was unfortunate, as I am a sucker for anything military-related.

In addition to the military guards, there is a heavy police presence in Tiananmen Square for crowd control and monitoring. Since Tiananmen Square has been the site of important political demonstrations, the authorities continue to keep a watchful eye (via officers and a multitude of security cameras) on any activities taking place there. In fact, in order to gain entrance to Tiananmen Square, you are required to pass through a security checkpoint. You must walk through a metal detector and have your belongings scanned via an x-ray machine. It’s a bit like going to the airport, only the Chinese guards are much more pleasant than TSA agents.

April 19, 2011

The Beauty of Big Sur, Part I

“Big Sur is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.” – Henry Miller

On our way from Southern California to Seattle, we drove Highway 1 for the majority of our journey. Our first stop was Los Osos (near San Luis Obispo) where my friend Katerina lives in a cute little house near the bay. Katerina, a friend of mine since the first grade, has been bugging me to visit her ever since she moved up there, and I finally did. And to be honest, I kinda fell in love with the place. We spent the evening at the Firestone Grill in downtown San Luis Obispo watching college football, drinking multiple pints of Firestone ale, and eating BBQ that rivals anything you can find in Texas.

The next morning, our bellies full of blueberry pancakes (seriously, Katerina is an amazing cook), we set off for our next destination, San Francisco. We would be taking Highway 1 all the way there, through Big Sur, Monterey, and Santa Cruz. While this route is much longer than the more direct US-101, the extra hours spent driving along the unspoiled coast are well worth it. Big Sur, a 90-mile stretch of highway in Central California, remains one of my favorite places in California, its beauty unmatched by any other.

Below are some photos I took from that drive.

Elephant seals relaxing on the beach