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 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.**
The Kayan People of Chiang Rai Mai, Thailand
Sharing space with the icon longneck peoples of Chiang Rai Mai.
**Backgrounder: Immigrating from Myanmar and seeking refuge in the hillside region of Chiang Rai Mai, Thailand, the female members of the Kayan (or long-neck) tribe are renowned for wearing brass rings around their necks, starting at the age of four and consecutively adding more and more rings as they grow older.
Exploring local legend, it has been said that a great tiger once invaded their village and killed the majority of the women from their tribe while the men were away by biting them on the neck. In an effort to defend against potentially fatal future attacks, the women began wrapping brass rings around their necks, should the tiger ever return. Slowly, however, the rings transitioned away from being a thing of utility and into a mark of beauty.
Interestingly enough, the rings do not actually aid in the extension of the neck; rather, depress the shoulders to give the illusion of a longer neck.**
Chasing Dragons In Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Nothing makes you feel more like a pirate than spending the night amidst giant limestone formations where 'Caribbean Pirates' used to pervade.
**Backgrounder: A UNESCO World Heritage site, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam (literally translating to "Descending Dragon Bay") was the setting for many naval battles over the years.
Beginning in the feudal period, the Vietnamese would continually defend themselves against foreign invaders, including both the Chinese and the Mongolians, on these waters. At the height of the Vietnam War, many of these channels were filled with mines from the United States Navy. Sadly, the scattering of these mines still poses a constant problem for present day shipping companies.
Ha Long Bay spans an area over 1,500 square kilometres, is located in the Golf of Tonkin, and is home to approximately 2,000 islands — mostly consisting of limestone.**
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 '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.**
Up Above In Toronto, Canada.
Canada's mosaic and home to various creeds, colours, ethnicities and ways of life.
**Backgrounder: Considered Canada's prominent centre for music and the arts, there's no shortage of diversity to be had in this true mosaic of a city. With different regions dedicated to different cultures, one can easily experience the world within this single city. From Greek, to Chinese, to Caribbean, one can always find the creature comforts of abroad — if only they choose to look hard enough.**
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.**
The Sovereign State Of Vatican City In The Heart Of Rome
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.**
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.**
Amalgamating Tradition And Technology In Tokyo, Japan
The presumed technological-capital of the world, Tokyo presents with it an exceptionally interesting appeal; merging both innovation and tradition. Amidst the clean streets and circuit-part vendors, one will undoubtedly be taken aback by the overwhelming number of cosplayers and Japanime caricatures strewn about the city. The only troubling part, however, being a predominantly English speaker, is found in trying to navigate through transit; as one can quickly become set-off-course by the indistinguishable kanji and lack of Western alphabet anywhere to be found in Tokyo's convoluted transit way.
**Backgrounder: Ranking first in the Global Economic Power Index, the Greater Tokyo Area is unquestionably one of the world's largest metropolitan areas. Though often referred to as a city, Tokyo is officially regarded as a "metropolitan prefecture" and is home to some of the world's leading fashion designers, alongside being one of the world's foremost banking and trading arenas.**
Goðafoss Waterfall Located In Bárðardalur, Iceland
Relinquishing divinity at Goðafoss.
**Backgrounder: One of the more spectacular waterfalls located in Iceland, Goðafoss waterfall or "The Waterfall Of The Gods" gets its name from the numerous Norse god statues thrown into it by Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði; the lawspeaker of the time who decidedly made Christianity the new national religion of Iceland in 999..**
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.**