• Korea – DMZ

    Korea is a country with rich history and one of my favorite countries in Asia to visit because of its unique culture and the warmth of its people. I have visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Joint Security Area (JSA) several times over the past 10 years. It’s a popular tourist destination and has an extreme waiver that participants must sign to visit the area. The waiver says that the government cannot guarantee the safety of visitors from hostile acts and not to make any gestures toward the North Korean soldiers at the border.

    One of the most interesting parts of the visit is entering the conference room in the blue building, where half of the room is in North Korea and half of the room is in South Korea. This is the room where the two countries have come together for meetings.

    For many in South Korea, President Trump’s recent historic meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore last week was seen as an opportunity instead of a failure. In a Gallup survey, more than 1,000 people two days after the summit, two-thirds of the population said they think the Kim/Trump meeting was a success. Only one in 10 thought it a failure.

    When we entered the building the back door of the building was closed and South Korean soldiers stood guard as we walked around the table to North Korea. The photo above shows the Republic of Korea (South Korea) soldiers standing guard at the JSA in between North Korea and South Korea in the village of Panmunjom.

    My hope is that these two countries can be united in the future with peace and families can be reunited through a peaceful negotiation process over time.

  • Top 10 airports in the world

    The Travel Addict rated the world’s airports based on shopping, food options and ease of transfer in the list is below. This is limited to airports I have actually visited all over the globe so some of my travel issues may have changed the rankings in a positive and negative way. I have flown over 2 million miles through countless airports. A lot of my experiences are based on how helpful the staff working is at each airport and how happy they are to help you out when you really need it.

    #1 Seoul Incheon International Airport, Korea (ICN)

    Everyone working there is gracious and super helpful. This airport is a joyous place, to say the least.

    This airport has some of the world’s best shopping with all of the popular and luxurious brands including Chanel, LV, Gucci, Hermes etc. You can also participate in the Korea Heritage Center arts and crafts where you can learn the art of origami or paint a traditional fan.

    There are also two of my favorite travel snacks, Mr. Donut for their specialty Pon De Ring and Smoothie King for a liquid pick me up between flights.

    #2 Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok Thailand (BKK)

    This airport is fairly new, it opened in 2006 and is the ninth busiest airport in Asia. For the adventurous foodie, there’s everything from Thai dishes and ramen to sushi, pizza, pub food and much more. It has amazing people and shops, even a Tiffany & Co., in the airport.

    Despite being built over an old graveyard, Suvarnabhumi is Sanskrit and means “Land of Gold.” The architecture of the building was designed by Helmut Jahn and is stunning. The airport is on what has been known as Nong Nguhao, also called Cobra Swamp.

    #3 Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates (DXB)

    Everything is modern and state of the art and probably the cleanest airport I have visited. In my opinion, Dubai has some of the best airline lounges in the world and that’s what sets it apart. You can literally have almost anything you desire in the Emirates Lounge.

    I was stranded in Dubai airport for 24 hours once and I was able to get a massage, fantastic meals and they somehow found a strawberry milkshake for me at 2 am once without me leaving the lounge. They also have a secret way to board your plane without entering general population from the lounge.

    They have dedicated people working there and an efficient a bus system that takes you to different terminals at a rapid pace. Not to mention it’s the world’s busiest airport for international travelers.

    #4 Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport, Georgia (ATL)

    My top pick in the US. I am a very dedicated Delta customer and ATL is the heart of the Delta team and they are always willing to help as needed. I find their train system extremely quick and easy to navigate

    ATL has Minute Suites near Gate B16. The company offers snug rooms available to rent by the hour for long layovers where you can take a nap on their daybeds, catch up on work in a quiet room with high-speed internet that actually works or watch TV on the giant flat screen in every room.

    Also, ATL often has live musicians playing in several terminals. It can be a live piano performance in the International terminal or smooth jazz saxophone on the domestic side of the airport.

    If I am going to be stranded in any airport in the states, this is the place I’d rather be stuck at.

    #5 Tokyo Narita Airport, Japan (NRT)

    It is quiet…maybe the quietest airport in the world. Japanese people and culture are known for their politeness and attention to detail. Everything is clearly marked, the staff is very helpful and did I mention it is so quiet? After you leave the pandemonium of Tokyo which is one of the most bustling more populated cities and it’s a nice change of pace to relax and wait for your flight.

    They also probably have the best restrooms in any airport. The cleanliness is impeccable. They think of everything in these bathrooms from the Toto toilets with the heated seats to places to rest your purse while you use the facilities inside the stalls.

    As a side note, I’m not a huge fan of Japanese food so this airport boasts the best tasting McDonalds in the world.

     #6 John F. Kennedy Airport, New York (JFK)

    Ease of connection and access to the world. JFK is located in one of my favorite cities to visit NYC and I connect through JFK a lot to get a direct flight to Europe, South America and Africa.

    It has a great selection of restaurants including mid-range price options like Marcus Samuelsson’s Uptown Brasserie and fast food spots like Shake Shack.

    The Delta Sky Club lounge is a flagship and one of the best Delta lounges in the world. In concourse B there’s an observation deck to watch planes take off and land. It provides a rare glimpse of the outside and fresh air in an airport setting.

    #7 Detroit Metro Airport, Michigan (DTW)

    When you think of Detroit you may not think of the best airport in the world but it is actually a beautiful bright space. With two main terminals and a sky train, it’s easy to navigate on flight connections. Since the merger with Northwest, DTW has many direct flights all over the US and Europe.

    You can get spa services at Be Relax or calm down from the rigors of a long travel day in the lounge area with Starbucks while watching the water feature simulating flight patterns around the world in concourse A.

    #8 Salt Lake International Airport, Utah (SLC)

    You can’t beat this beautiful view as you land at the airport.  I love an extra tourist option. The airport offers free shuttles and tours downtown of the church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints Mormon temple.

    If you decide to stay at the airport there are plenty of affordable fast food options to grab a quick bite or drink. Chef Cat Cora also has her restaurant which serves cocktails and tapas in Terminal One. While in Terminal Two Cora has her on-the-go gourmet market for more bustling travelers.

    Want to take the edge off of traveling? High West Distillery serves up Rocky Mountain Whiskey. It was Utah’s first distillery since the 1870’s, High West Distillery and Saloon offers a truly unique experience as the world’s only ski-in distillery and gastro-saloon in Park City and now explorers can experience a bit of it in the airport.

    For all of the chocoholics, you’re not forgotten. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory features locally made gourmet chocolates and candy.

    #9 Sydney Kingsford Smith International, Airport Australia (SYD)

    My experience in Sydney is somewhat crazy. I have traveled to Australia several times and sometime between my first and second trip, they changed the visa requirements to enter the country for Americans. I did not have the required visa and was somehow allowed to board the plane in Seattle to go to Sydney.

    Upon arrival, I was stuck in customs and I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal.” They would not let me enter the country even though I tried to convince them the US and Australia are friends. (I used those exact words!) Usually, you have an option to get a visa when you arrive but not in Australia, you have to buy it from outside the country.

    They did however eventually take pity on me and allow me to enter the Air New Zealand business class lounge and access the internet with a very helpful staff who allowed me to rebook and transfer to a flight to New Zealand to get a visa. It was a very expensive travel mistake. I am pretty sure my luggage didn’t travel with me but when I landed in New Zealand. I was able to purchase a visa to Australia for $15. It was the longest day (two days) of travel I have experienced.

    For their hospitality and being the gateway to an extraordinary country, this airport makes the list.

    #10 Charles De Gaulle Paris Airport, France (CDG)

    This airport makes the cut solely because they have Laduree Paris macarons, simply the best cookies on the planet Earth. Macarons come in flavors such as pistachio, black-currant-and-violet, and caramel. There are also gift collections of candles, totes, and almond-scented body creams. There is no seating, there is a collectible box featuring the portrait of a Parisian pooch named Mademoiselle Fifi.

    The airport is the largest international airport in France, the second largest in Europe and the seventh busiest airport in the world. CDG has over 120 shops from Cartier to Sephora. Whether it’s fashion, chocolate or spirits you can find everything your heart desires even Mademoiselle Fifi.

  • Kayan Tribe in Myanmar

    During our visit to Inle Lake we visited a shop where a few members of a long neck Padaung Family from a Ywama Village do weaving that they sell in the local area. The Padaung Kayan people are a subgroup of the Red Karen (Karenni) people. The tribe is known to inhabit this area of Myanmar as well as Northern Myanmar and Thailand. We were able to photograph one of the older ladies of the tribe in the small group to capture this image.

    Women of the Kayan tribe are well known for wearing neck rings and brass coils that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it. Girls first start to wear rings when they are around five years old. Over the years the coil is replaced by a longer one and more turns are added. The weight of the brass pushes the collarbone down and compresses the rib cage. The neck itself is not lengthened; the appearance of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle. Once the rings are put in place they are very rarely removed because muscles become weak and cannot provide head support after many years.

    This group in Myanmar wore one continuous ring while others in Thailand wear individual rings that are stacked together. There are many theories on why the rings are worn. Some theories state that they are worn to look more attractive with a longer thinner neck. Other theories say the rings are worn for protection and give the illusion of a dragon. Many women today say it is more about cultural identity than beauty.

    I have wanted to visit the tribes in Thailand near the Chang Mai region for some time and this made me want to take the trip even more in the next few years.

  • Myanmar Sunrise

    Our second stop on our Myanmar trip was to the ancient city of Bagan. Bagan is a city of temples that were built between the 9th to 13th centuries. Over 10,000 temples were built with over 2200 remaining today that can be seen in every direction that you look.

    Because of injuries, there are now only a few temples that you can climb to photograph sunrise and sunset. On our last morning in Bagan we chose to climb one of the temples and shoot the sunrise. Many people who know me well know that I am not a morning person and as a photographer I prefer to catch a good sunset over sunrise most days, but Bagan was different. After our first sunrise shoot I was hooked and was even willing to make a steep climb up tall temple steps with cameras and tripod strapped to my back to get the shot.

    Almost every morning at sunrise balloons take off and allow tourists to see and photograph the sunrise while flying high over the temples. Some of the most famous photos of Myanmar landscapes are of these balloons floating over Bagan temples in the morning light. We were very lucky on our trip to have beautiful sunsets every day in Bagan and I found these sunrises to be some of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. This is a case when the pictures simply don’t do it justice.

  • Myanmar

    This week I will focus the blog posts on my recent trip from the fall to Myanmar. Myanmar is a truly magical place for photography with beautiful, friendly people and ancient Buddhist temples around every corner. Since the country’s military dictatorship ended in 2011, tourism has greatly picked up. There are still areas of the country that are off limits to tourism but the central region is wide open and inviting for those who make the long journey.

    After cutting it too close with my visa approval, we traveled over 30 hours from Cincinnati to Yangon. My visa arrived the day before departure after paying a large expedite fee. Make sure to plan ahead and apply for your visa at least one month before departure.

    One of my favorite experiences was photographing the tiny monks. Boys can be monks for any amount of time from one day to their whole life. Many children join while they are on school vacation. We visited Gukyaung monastery in Bagan and were able to photograph monks attending classes taught by student teacher volunteers from Sweden.

  • Temples of Thailand

    Over the years that I have traveled and worked in Asia I have visited many Buddhist temples throughout many countries. The religion fascinates me and the beauty of the temples is breathtaking. Many of my favorite Buddhist temples are located in Thailand.  This photo was taken on a trip to Ayutthaya when we traveled along the river by boat for three days from Bangkok. The dark light and shadows bring a sense of mystery to these places while the smell of incense fills the air and creates sweeping calm that comes over you.

  • The Great Wall

    People always ask me – “What has been your favorite travel destination?” This is always a hard question and almost impossible to answer because you can usually find something unique in any location. After reflection I usually give the same answer. One of my favorite spots in the world is standing on the Great Wall of China. I don’t go back to places often when traveling because there are so many unique places to visit but I have visited the Great Wall almost a dozen times.

    Started around 200 B.C. during the Qin Dynasty and stretching over 5500 miles long; the Great Wall is truly an engineering marvel. During this time there were no modern tools available and construction cost hundreds of thousands of lives in the process of manual labor carrying heavy stones up cliffs that are hard to scale carrying only a camera. Millions of Chinese built the wall utilizing natural resources to create a defense barrier for China. Every time I stand on the wall I cannot imagine how it was constructed and think about the cost that so many paid.

    I have seen the wall in all four seasons but my first visit to the wall was always special to my favorite pass called Mutianyu in the middle of January. The Great Wall is about an hour drive outside of Beijing but because the elevation is higher, it is always much colder on the wall in winter than in the city. I remember the surreal feeling of being the only person standing on the wall and wondering in a country so populous how this is possible on any day of the year. The photo above captures that moment on the cold winter day when I was the only one standing on the Great Wall.

  • Geisha- The Japanese Rockstar

    The Geisha has always fascinated me. Maybe it is their extreme discipline to strive to be the perfect woman or their unwavering dedication to their chosen art form of dance or music.  It is truly amazing to see these women who dedicate their entire lives to this ideal image. There are great misconceptions that geishas are prostitutes but this is not the case. Geishas are some of the strongest and most financially successful women in Japan.

    After several years of traveling to Japan I was finally been able to make the short trip to Kyoto in 2009 to search for the elusive geisha.  Every night between 6-8 pm in the Gion district of Kyoto, Japan most of the last remaining authentic geishas leave their homes to go to work. I was able to witness this phenomenon first hand one evening as they raced from their apartments into cars and through the streets to the local teahouses and restaurant parties where they entertain Japan’s most elite clientele.

    It was crazy to see how people chase them down the street with cameras like paparazzi chasing celebrities in LA. I have to admit that I got caught up in the madness taking photos and met people from France, Brazil, UK, and many other parts of the world hoping for their own special geisha citing. As soon as you see one in person you need to find another one just to get a glimpse.

     

  • Sunshine in Shanghai

    Over the past decade, I have traveled to China close to forty times staying for weeks at a time. While in China, I have only seen sunshine and bright blue sky on five different days. Industry pollution has risen as the massive growth has taken place and between the preparation of the 2008 Olympic Games the 2010 Shanghai World Expo the country has seemed to be constantly “under construction.”

    I have also seen the Shanghai skyline completely change with the addition of hundreds of new buildings in just a few years. The Chinese engineers and architects beautifully execute building projects with lightning speed that dwarfs the pace of most parts of the world.

    This is one of my favorite photos of China taken from the Bund showcasing what I consider the most beautiful skyline in the world. The photo shows one of my rare blue sky days and showcases the Pearl Tower among the buildings in the constantly evolving skyline.

    As I sit in China this week now barely able to see through the winter’s coal burning pollution, it makes me thankful to live in a place where I can breathe clean air and see the blue sky on a regular basis. Shanghai still remains one of the most alive and vibrant cities in the world. It will also always be one of my favorite places to visit because of the pace of growth in the ever changing city and the friendships that I have made with some of the kindest people on earth.

  • The Huli Tribe of Papua New Guinea

    In October, I traveled to photograph the tribes of Papua New Guinea. Toward the end of our trip and we spent the day photographing the men of the Huli tribe in Tari. The Huli tribe is probably the most photographed of all the tribes in PNG and they were very happy to have their photo taken.

    The photo opportunities with the Huli were amazing but I couldn’t really get past some of the stories that the men proudly told us about how the women lived in the village. This is one of the tribes in PNG where men and women live separately. Polygamy is very prevalent and most men in the tribe have multiple wives. Women are bought for a “bride price” and live with the children in the same house as the pigs -the most valued village commodity. Women are also often punished for breaking rules of the village.

    I left Papua New Guinea with very mixed feelings about the importance of preserving the native tribes of the world and the need to eliminate these terrible human rights violations towards women who are sold into marriage as soon as they have their first period sometimes at the age of 12 or 13 years old. Obviously, these issues are complex and hard to understand during a short visit to a country but many of these stories will stay with me for years to come as I look at the faces of the Huli tribesmen.