Portrait Of A Novice Monk At Wat Chedi Luang In Chiang Mai, Thailand
Definitely one of my most favourite portraits ever taken. After agreeing to be photographed, this little novice monk instantly began putting on the most O.G. mean-muggin' face I had ever encountered while visiting Thailand.
**Backgrounder: Becoming a monk in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is an opportunity open to all individuals seeking 'the way' or 'a path out of suffering'. Often times, these individuals will turn to the monastic life because (1) they are poor and becoming a monk alleviates them from starvation, lack of shelter, and school debt, as each of these is covered via donation by the public, or (2) these individuals are looking to bring honour and good luck to their families, as becoming a monk is seen as a 'good offering' and is typically expectated of Thai peoples at some point in their lives. At the novice level, male novices are subject to 10 rules (8 for females). At the monastic level, male monks are subject to 227 rules (311 for females).**
The Mystical Mountain Ranges Of Meteora In Thessaly, Greece
Undoubtedly one of the greatest natural wonders one could ever bear witness to.
**Backgrounder: Built up of limestone sediments with a consistency similar to that of cement, the name Meteora literally translates to 'suspended in air'; an appropriate name for this mountainous region, which houses six Eastern Orthodox monasteries - each of which appear to be suspended in air as they situate themselves atop these limestone pillars. Geologically, it is difficult to determine how these pillars were formed, but it is assumed that their formation is likely due to millions of years of seabed rise within the surrounding area during some previous climate change event.**
The New-Atlantis Of Santorini, Greece
Enshrouded in both myth and mystery, Santorini is believed by many to be the location of the lost city of Atlantis. Initially made up of one giant landmass, later splitting into five separate islands due to a cataclysmic volcanic eruption, it is understood that the Minoan civilization used to live on these lands; a culture which most attribute to being the actual Atlantean race.
**Backgrounder: Santorini, formerly known as Thera, is regarded as being the ‘Pompeii of Ancient Greece’; a once-teeming civilization falling victim of the world’s largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. Taking place at the height of the Minoan civilization, some 3,600 years ago, this both violent and devastating catastrophe is what had led to the erradication of the Minoans, fuelling the mythical tale of Atlantis. It has been said that if you look down from the highest point on Santorini on a clear day, you can still see the remains of this lost city floating just beneath the surface.**
Bird's Eye In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
A country of unexpected surprises. Aerial shot taken from the rooftop infinity pool at our Air BnB.
**Backgrounder: Formerly known as 'Saigon', this previously held capitol city of Vietnam was later renamed 'Ho Chi Minh City' after the great military leader, Ho Chi Minh, who helped corral the Vietnamese people into standing up and fighting against Vietnamese oppression, during his attempts to reunify both the North and South of Vietnam. Though the city's name was later changed from 'Saigon' to 'Ho Chi Minh City', most Vietnamese locals still refer to the city as Saigon, refusing to give up its original title.
Back To Nature With The Islanders Of Aklan, Philippines
Arguably one of the most homey, easy going and presence-filled places one could choose to spend their time; what makes the island peoples of Aklan, Philippines, the most intriguing is not their structures, inventions, or mercantilism, but their character, beliefs and way of life.
**Backgrounder: Regarded as being one of the most hospitable cultures, dating back to their initial encounters with the Spanish in 1564, the Philippine peoples possess an indomitable, almost happy-go-lucky spirit with regards to the realities of life; to be present in whatever it is that you, while choosing to uphold your smile, despite any outcome. Living for today, because tomorrow is uncertain. Generally a proud, respectful and resilient nation, the Philippine peoples emanate a hard-working demeanour that places 'God' at the pinnacle of everything they do. Within the country of Palau, the Philippine peoples are also known as 'chad ra oles', which literally translates to 'people of the knife'. Rightfully so, as this term dates back to a time when - though even still - most Filipino people carried around with them a jungle bolo. Not just for work, but as a sign to others that they were employed; seeing the jungle bolo as a badge of honour. Hence, it will also come as no surprise that Filipino people have derived one of the most deadly martial arts systems (arnis); the art of knife fighting, now practiced with a stick.**
Exploring The Island Vibe Of Costa Rica's Puntarenas Province
One of the more low key places we've visited, this board-short wearing coastal province is 'Pura Vida'ing its spot at #1 on the Happy Planet Index for happiest places to live on earth.
**Backgrounder: The largest province in Costa Rica, this western most landmass encompasses the majority of the Pacific Ocean coastline. Posessing over 500,000 known species in the Costa Rican rainforest alone, Costa Rica is highly regarded as being one of the most favourable places to study medicine and biology. With no standing army, a national slogan of 'Pura Vida' (Pure Life), a life expectancy of over 80 and scoring the highest on the Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica is arguably one of the best known places to live on earth. Granted, you may still have to overlook the teeming wildlife that surrounds you, if you aren't too fond of spending your time with nature. Tourism being the leading earner for foreign exchange, there is a strong Ego-Tourism and Yoga community for interested explorers looking to take in a bit of sun and 'spirituality'.**
Examining The Rise Of 'Western Civilization' In Rome, Italy
The birthplace of modern democracy and governance, Rome was by-far the most spectacular empire during its time. Peppered with grand structures and astounding archeological remains, Rome is one of the few places on earth still heavily infusing both the old and the new; making you wonder whether you're actually in a city or some grand archeological dig-site. It may come as no surprise to some, but many of the aspects of what we consider 'Westernization' are mere reflections of the Roman period.
**Backgrounder: Founded by two brothers, Romulus and Remus, Rome was built on the sight of Palatine Hill; later expanding its dominion to reach as far as Arabia, the Atlantic and North Africa. Ruled over by various Kings and Cezars during its dynasty, Rome was once the world’s focal point for government, law, politics, engineering, art, literature, architecture, technology, warfare, religion, language and society. Because of this ingenuity, most historians consider Rome an advanced civilization for its time.**
Venturing Through The Ancient Ruins Of Preah Khan In Siem Reap, Cambodia
Sure, there's Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple and all of the other elaborate structures contained within the Siem Reap region of Cambodia, but nothing beats ancient knowledge; therefore, this magnificently built temple, which had once served as a school for the ancient Angkor elite, is definitely top-of-the-list on ancient temples you must-see in this world.
**Backgrounder: Commissioned in the late twelfth century by King Jayavarman VII in dedication to his father, Dharanindravarman II, Preah Khan was later repurposed to serve as a Buddhist University for the Angkor elite. Highly regarded as being 'Masters of Medicine' during the ancient times, one of the main subjects of learning at this university was medicine. At its peak, the school hosted over 1,000 teachers to oversee each of its programs. Interestingly enough, the school was built on the site of an ancient battle where the Angkor peoples attempted to reclaim their land from the invading Chams. Ultimately, during the battle, the mighty Cham King fell and the land was given back to the people of Angkor.**
Exploring 'Sno-mad' Culture At Lost Trail In Montana, United States
One of the more interesting free-spirited communities I have encountered; the 'sno-mad's of Lost Trail in Montana, United States, are a unique band of adventurers chasing inspired sources of both powder and stoke.
**Backgrounder: Open primarily during the winter season, Lost Trail Powder Mountain employs seasonal workers with lively personalities, a passion for powder and an adept ability to carve. Situated between Montana and Idaho within the Rocky Mountains, Lost Trail Powder Mountain boasts a summit of over 8,200 ft above sea level, 900 acres of skiable land, 45 runs and 8 ways to get to the top of each mountain. In short, there is no shortage of snow to be left un-carved. Often times, these seasonal 'sno-mad's will collectively rent out bungalows in neighbouring towns; sharing in all aspects of the comforts of home. From spare mattresses, to hot showers, to sandwich spread, this jovial band of snow-gypsies are always ready to give what little they have for a good time and good vibes.**
The Sovereign State Of Vatican City In The Heart Of Rome, Italy
Jumping around the world in rapid succession, going from one spiritual location to the next, it's interesting to see the undeniable parallels between ancient ruins and our modern day ones. A thousand years from now, should the Vatican see the way of other ruins found in Cambodia, Greece and Peru, curious minds will sit and wonder with awe at how people from the past could have possibly built such amazing structures with low-grade technology, complete with fanciful dogmas and doctrines that were expected to be followed with austerity.
**Backgrounder: Vatican City, the walled enclaved situated in the heart of Rome, is home to the Roman Catholic Church. Approximately 44 hectares in area with a population of about 842 citizens, Vatican City is the smallest state in the world by both population and size. Employing a relatively 'unique' economic structure, Vatican City is primarily supported by: the sale of postage stamps, tourist trinkets, admission prices and sold publications. Granted, this doesn't take into account the generous donations provided by pious devotees from around the world.**
Lessons On Limestone In Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Spent two days on a boat venturing around and learning about the astounding limestone formations surrounding Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.
**Backgrounder: Given the way that these structures had formed over the years, it can be concluded that this portion of Vietnam was submerged under water before climate change eventually caused the seabed to rise. Because of the difficult terrain present on these formations, only a unique species of flora is able to thrive; flora that does not require continual fresh water in order to stay nourished. Typically, the zoology on these landmasses is made up of animals that have been daring enough to swim from one structure to the other in search of both shelter and food. These daring species of wildlife include, but are not limited to: snakes, monkeys, and large cats. The hollower formations of Ha Long Bay traditionally served as housing for fishermen and their families, resulting in a sort of 'cave community'. That is, until these fishermen began developing their own floating cities; which later got decommissioned by the government due to their high levels of pollution.**
Big Buddha Located In Ngong Ping On Lan Tau Island In Hong Kong
Spreading serenity with a single wave.
**Backgrounder: Erected in 1993, the Tian Tan Buddha (nicknamed Big Buddha) resides within the mountainous landscape of Lan Tau island in the region of Ngong Ping in Hong Kong. Set in place as a symbol of both purity and achieved enlightenment, it is named 'Tian Tan' because its base is modelled after the Altar Of Heaven in Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven, in Beijing, China. A true engineering marvel, the statue weighs in at over 250 metric tons and stands 34 meters tall.**
The 'Great University' Of Machu Picchu Located Atop The Mountainous Region Of Cusco, Peru
Arguably one of the most well-maintained ancient wonders positioned high atop the mountainous region of Cusco, Peru; Machu Picchu sits at an astounding 2,430 meters above sea level.
**Backgrounder: Discovered by German businessman, Agusto Berns, in 1867, Machu Picchu was once a prestegious university situated atop the mountain ranges of Cusco, Peru. It is said that all future-leaders and spiritual teachers from around region would come to live at the university in order to learn about various subjects ranging from: proper leadership skills, science, medicine, botany, astrology and philosophy. Upon completing their studies, these adepts would then return to their respective villages in order to become important leaders and influencers. Interestingly enough, due to the site's positioning, it took the modern world a considerable number of years to finally discover this ancient wonder; attesting to the tremendous ingenuity and architectural design of Machu's original creators. During the Spanish conquest of Peru, however, the Inca peoples in charge of this site wound up fleeing the university in order to take refuge in the amazon jungles bordering Peru and Brazil.**