H-Bomb’s Sunday photo

H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 62: an art museum in Mexico City

Happy Sunday, people. On this day in history in 1867, the British Parliament passed the British North America Act, which created the Dominion of Canada as part of the British Commonwealth. Pursuant to that act, Canada became a country effective July 1, 1867 (although it didn’t become fully independent of the British Parliament until 1982).

This week’s featured image comes to you from a different part of North America: Mexico City, where a new art museum opened in 2011. Called El Museo Soumaya, it was built to house the collection of Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim Helรบ, who according to Forbes is the second wealthiest man in the world with an estimated net worth of $77.1 billion. (Bill Gates, of course, ranks no. 1 on the Forbes list.) Designed by Fernando Romero with assistance from the firm of the legendary Frank Gehry, the aluminum-clad exterior certainly has a distinctive appearance:

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The interior is kind of a knock-off of New York City’s Guggenheim Museum, with ascension between levels accomplished via a gently sloping ramp that curves around the outermost portion of the floor plan. (There’s also an elevator.) Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 61: a leopard in a tree in South Africa

St. Patrick’s Day may be almost upon us, but my thoughts today are of a place that’s vastly different from Ireland. This week’s featured image comes from the safari that I took in South Africa. One of the highlights of my safari was seeing members of each of the traditional “Big Five” species: elephant; lion; Cape buffalo; rhinoceros; and leopard. Leopards are agile creatures and they like to hang out on tree branches, high above the ground:

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This guy was sleeping up there for a while. I couldn’t imagine catching my zzz’s in such a precarious perch; I would be afraid of falling off. ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, this photo was taken during my visit to South Africa in September 2011.

Would you like to go on safari?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 60: Agatha Christie slept in this Egyptian hotel

Less than two weeks from today, I’ll be auditioning for the quiz show “Jeopardy!” That audition will take place in Washington, D.C. Of course, Washington is just a hop, a skip, and a jump from my home base of New York City, compared to some of the destinations to which my adventures have taken me.

For example, today’s featured image comes from Aswan, Egypt, about 433 miles south of Cairo but nearly 6,000 miles from Manhattan. Standing on the east bank of the Nile in Aswan is the The Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan hotel. Before it was a Sofitel property, when it was simply the Old Cataract, this was the hostelry in which Agatha Christie, sitting on the terrace of her guestroom, penned her novel Death on the Nile. The hotel’s ballroom also appeared in the 1978 film based on that novel.

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The Old Cataract was built in 1889, and in addition to Ms. Christie, its roster of distinguished guests through the years has included the likes of Tsar Nicholas II; Winston Churchill; Howard Carter (the guy who discovered King Tut’s tomb); Margaret Thatcher; Princess Diana; and Jimmy Carter. The hotel was expanded over the years, and was extensively renovated and restored from 2008 through 2011. This photo of it was taken during my visit to Egypt in September 2012. I did not, myself, lodge in this 5-star property; I was on a cruise down the Nile, during which I slept aboard the boat.

Do you like staying in historic hotels?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 59: people taking selfies at Angkor Wat

During the past week, I participated in a personality interview via Skype which served as the third round of the audition process for a nationally televised quiz show. I’ll let you know if things go any further with that. (And yes, during that interview, I name-checked this blog, as well as mentioning my World Karaoke Tour.) ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, this week’s featured image comes from my recent visit to the Angkor archaeological site near Siem Reap, Cambodia — and, specifically, from the Angkor Wat temple that is so identified with Cambodia that it appears on the national flag. The temple’s towers — one central tower, rising to a height of 213 feet, surrounded by four shorter towers — form a distinctive and recognizable profile. Visitors enjoy documenting their pilgrimages to the site:

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(And yes, I realize that the photos being taken as depicted above aren’t true “selfies,” as they’re being taken by persons other than the subjects. But I did see plenty of people using the now-ubiquitous selfie sticks in front of the temple.)

The temple was built in the 12th century. The city of Angkor of which it was a part was the capital of the Khmer empire and at its peak may have boasted more than a million inhabitants; indeed, it is claimed that Angkor was the largest city in the world prior to the Industrial Revolution. Today, that former megalopolis, and the copious ruins that it contains, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Is Angkor Wat on your bucket list?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 58: the White Temple in Thailand

I just enjoyed a satisfying couple of days attending the New York Times Travel Show. But it’s that time of week where I share an image from one of my voyages outside of New York City.

This week’s featured photo comes from Chiang Rai, Thailand. The Wat Rong Khun (known informally as the White Temple), was built in the style of a Buddhist temple, by an eccentric Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, in 1997. Actually I shouldn’t say “built” in the past tense; new buildings and bizarre artworks continue to sprout on the site. The focal point of the property is the temple (also known as the ubosot) that’s painted in white and covered with fragments of glass.

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This photo was taken during my visit to Thailand in December 2014.

Would you like to visit the White Temple?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 57: trees bursting through temples in Cambodia

My rib injury continues to heal, leaving in doubt whether I’ll be in condition to embark on my already-delayed trip to Rome in mid-February. In the meantime, I’d like to reminisce about my recently-concluded jaunt to southeast Asia. One place I got to in that region was Ta Prohm, a temple complex in Angkor, Cambodia. Celebrated for having trees bursting through the temple buildings, Ta Prohm is a case study in what happens when you abandon a site of human settlement for 400 or so years. (The complex was abandoned in the 17th century.)

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Ta Prohm is a poster child for the “life after people” effect: nature gradually takes over and reasserts her primacy over the works of us puny humans.

And here’s a bonus image showing another of my favourite scenes from Ta Prohm. In the foreground, you can see the destruction wrought by the tree as its roots worked their way through the structure.

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All of the Angkor archaeological region, which is best-known for the Angkor Wat Temple, is collectively a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Do you like visiting the ruins of once-great structures?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 56: a capsule hotel in Tokyo

After illness forced the postponement of my trip to Rome (previously scheduled for late November 2014, and now planned for mid-February 2015), I’m still not sure whether I’m sufficiently recovered for my East Asia trip for which I’m supposed to leave on December 24. I’ll be seeing more doctors between now and then, and will also continue to monitor how I feel physically. I really really really want to go ahead with my trip to Bangkok, Singapore, Siem Reap, and Seoul, and I don’t bail on travel plans lightly; after all, you’re talking to the person who flew to India two days after having a wisdom tooth removed. ๐Ÿ™‚ But of course my health comes first, and we’ll see how things develop in the next week and a half.

In the meantime, this week’s featured image comes from my very first visit to Asia: my trip to Japan in April 2008. Certain Japanese cities such as Tokyo are known for having “capsule hotels” — incredibly space-efficient places of accommodation, in which your room is a minuscule pod. (Apparently the concept originated in the 1970s as a type of place for famously workaholic Japanese men to catch emergency accommodations when they missed the last train home. Even today, capsule hotels tend to be restricted largely to a male clientele.) Here’s one such capsule hotel that I visited in Tokyo in ’08; at the time, it was known was the Big Lemon. It was situated in the Kabuchiko section of the Shinjuku neighbourhood.

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And here’s a bonus photo from inside the Big Lemon, so you can see just how tiny the “rooms” were:

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I didn’t actually lodge in the Big Lemon; I paid one night’s rental charge (which my records indicate ran just over US $40 in 2008) just so I could gain access and take photos. I did also climb inside and lay down for a while, but was unable to nap because a dude who was legitimately lodging there, in a pod across the aisle from me, was coughing. I only lingered for about an hour before I returned to my actual hotel. The woman at the front desk of the Big Lemon was confused about my leaving so soon. She gave me a receipt and instructed me to show it to her upon my return. I tried to explain to her that I wasn’t coming back.

You won’t find a minibar in your room in one of these understated places of lodging. But there are surprising luxury features such as a color TV and a clock/radio (and I understand that in the present day, high-speed internet is common in capsule hotels). All guests of the facility also enjoy complimentary access to a sauna. And while closet space in each berth is limited, lockers are available on-site in the building to store your valuables.

Would you stay in a capsule hotel?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 55: the house that Thomas Jefferson built

Cheers on a Sunday afternoon. Just 3 days now until I leave for Rome, the latest stop on my World Karaoke Tour! But first things first; I have this week’s featured photo to share with you.

Today’s image comes from Charlottesville, Virginia, a town about 116 miles southwest of Washington, DC. Charlottesville is best known for being the home of the University of Virginia (UVA), which was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson — the third President of the United States, and a great polymath. Also in Charlottesville, Jefferson built a remarkable house, which he called Monticello. (Technically, the Monticello name, which means “little hill” in Italian,” refers to the entire 5,000 acre plantation on which the house originally stood. Today, the property includes 2,500 or so of the original acres)

Typical of Jefferson’s genius, he was self-taught in architecture, and he modeled the design of his home after drawings by the great Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio. (In turn, Palladio had been heavily influenced by the architecture of ancient Rome, and the design of Monticello is considered a superb example of the Classical Revival style.) Monticello was completed in 1809, after 40 years of planning and construction. Here’s what the end result looks like:

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This photo was taken during my visit to Charlottesville in June 2008. As you can see, the property has been exceptionally well maintained and preserved by the private foundation that runs it. Monticello, together with the nearby UVA campus, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. By the way, you can also take a tour of the house’s interior.

Do you like visiting historic homes?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 54: a Dutch windmill

Greetings on this Sunday afternoon. This evening I’ll be attending a meetup here in New York City in which attendees will tell stories about their travel adventures. But I also like reliving my travels here at H-Bomb’s World Wide Karaoke! With that in mind, it’s time for another picture drawn from one of my previous trips.

This week’s featured image comes from the Netherlands. Before I visited Amsterdam, one of my top goals was to see a traditional Dutch windmill. I accomplished that during a day trip that took me to Zaanse Schans, a village in North Holland that abounds with windmills and traditional workshops. While my tour group was being subjected to a boring demonstration at a wooden shoe factory, I slipped away to get more photos of windmills, including the one that you can see here:

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This photo was taken during my visit to the Netherlands that took place from August to September, 2004. To get this shot, I had to overcome my fear of heights and climb a nearly vertical ladder to the loft in an adjacent windmill.

Has a photo opportunity ever motivated you to overcome your fears?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 53: the colourful skyline of Hong Kong

Namaste! Are you following this blog’s Facebook’s page yet? If not, you can just go here and click on the “like” button! That way, in addition to being apprised of new posts and other developments here at H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke, you’ll see unique content such as photos from my travels that only appear on that Facebook page! Right now, the page has slightly more than 1,600 likes. Can you help me get to 2000?

Okay, with that out of the way, it’s time for a new featured image! Our photograph of the week comes from Hong Kong, which I named to the “Honourable Mention” list in my recent article about the cities I would most like to return to. Every night, the skyscrapers of Hong Kong’s business district present a sound and light show called “A Symphony of Lights” in which they’re illuminated in ever-changing colours, while searchlights and laser beams dance in the sky — with the whole thing synchronised to music. Here’s a snapshot in time from that sound and light show, looking across Victoria Harbour from the waterfront promenade on the Kowloon Peninsula — and as you can see, the buildings were looking particularly festive for the holidays when I went because I was there immediately after Christmas.

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And as a bonus, here’s a video that I took of the Symphony of Lights show, so that you can see and hear what I experienced!


The photo and video footage aboe were taken during my trip to Hong Kong that took place from December 2009 to January 2010. During that trip, China (of which Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region) became the 15th country on my World Karaoke Tour.

Do you like watching sound and light shows when you travel?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 52: a mural of Mandela in Belfast

Hello on a cold Sunday in New York. Today was this city’s annual marathon. I don’t participate in those races myself; running 26.2 miles is far beyond my capabilities. But as I traditionally do, I cheered on some of the runners from the sidelines. (The marathon’s course runs along First Avenue in the Upper East Side, the neighbourhood where I live.)

Now that I’m safely inside my warm apartment, it’s time for a new photo of the week! This week’s featured image comes from Belfast, Northern Ireland. In Belfast, which until recently was riven by strife, a “Wall of Injustice” contains murals depicting various perceived injustices around the world. One section of that wall includes a mural showing the great Nelson Mandela, the first South African President after the crumbling of that country’s apartheid regime.

Mandela mural

The text on the mural quotes Mandela as saying, “In my country we go to prison first and then become President.” (Of course Mandela was imprisoned for over 27 years, including nearly 18 years served on his country’s notorious Robben Island, prior to being elected President in 1994.)

This photo was taken during my visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland that took place from December 2013 to January 2014. Now that peace has finally come to Northern Ireland, Belfast is newly ascendant as a tourist destination.

Would you be interested to visit Belfast?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 51: a river view in Prague

Greetings on another fine Sunday. So, last weekend I was supposed to be auditioning for the American quiz show “Jeopardy!”; but on the night before the tryout, after having already arrived at the hotel in Pennsylvania where it was to take place, I came down with a stomach flu (medically described as a norovirus). That type of ailment is never a pleasant thing to experience, but in this case the timing was particularly subpar. ๐Ÿ™‚ Given how I was feeling as well as my desire not to expose others, I had no choice but to postpone my audition. The staff of the show was understanding; a producer told me that I’ll be rescheduled for another audition slot as soon as possible, probably within the next few months. So I’ll still get my shot soon enough!

In the meantime, there’s lots to do. For example, it’s now time for another photo of the week! This week’s featured image comes from Prague, Czech Republic. It’s a view across the Vltava River that bisects the city, looking towards Prague Castle and St. Vitus’s Cathedral. The view is from the city’s Old Town district, just north of the famous Charles Bridge.

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This picture was taken during my visit to the Czech Republic in June 2006. Sadly, the Czech Republic is one of only four countries that I’ve been to without singing karaoke (as opposed to being one of the 35 countries in which I have managed to sing). So I’m just going to have to make it back there sometime!

Would you like to be riding one of the pedal boats in this picture?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 50: a waterfront plaza in Venice

I hope you are having a fine weekend, wherever you’re reading this from. My latest news: I’m just a few days away from putting a deposit down for a trip to North Korea! I know it’s a controversial destination, but it promises to be a very interesting tour. In the meantime, I have a new picture of the week to share with you. This week’s featured image comes from the incomparable Italian city of Venice. It shows a plaza called the Piazzetta San Marco.

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On the left side of the frame is the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace); on the right is the Libreria Sansonvino (a building erected in the 16th century as the state library, which the great Renaissance architect Palladio once described as the richest and most ornate building ever constructed). Dead ahead are the famed columns of San Marco and San Teodoro; and in the background is the Lagoon, with the island of San Giorgio Maggiore partially visible across the water on the left.

This photo was taken from the balcony atop Basilica San Marco. It was taken during my visit to Italy in August 2004. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 10 years now. I really need to get back!

Have you been to Venice? If you’ve been there, do you miss it?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 49: an elegant arch on the Mississippi

Happy Sunday! Last night I applied online for a Cambodian entry visa. I’m now just three months away from visiting Angkor Wat!

Today’s featured image, which comes from St. Louis, Missouri, is of a landmark that’s much more modern than a 12th-century temple complex. St. Louis’s iconic structure is the Gateway Arch, the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Completed in 1965 and rising from the west bank of the Mississippi River, this stainless steel-clad arch was conceived by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. Although it was controversial when chosen as the winning entry in a design competition, in my opinion the shape of this monument (mathematically described as a catenary curve) has proven to be graceful and timeless. Here’s a view of the Gateway Arch, together with the downtown St. Louis skyline, as seen from across the mighty Mississippi.

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This photo was taken during my visit to St. Louis in July 2014. By the way, you can go to an observation desk at the top of the 630-foot-high arch. That’s an experience in itself, as it involves riding a special elevator system that was ingeniously engineered to ascend in a curve.

Do you like the appearance of the Gateway Arch?

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