History in the Streets of Berlin

This year, Berlin turns 775!!! To celebrate, Berlin is hosting a range of events including two open air projects City in the Middle Ages and City of Diversity, which culminate on October 28 with an official birthday celebration in the Nikolaiviertel. That means you still have one month to check out what’s going on as well as to enjoy Berlin while she’s still a youthful 774. (Don’t worry Berlin, you don’t look a day over 500.)

As a taste of what’s going on, we wandered through the Nikolaiviertel and photographed Berliners reenacting 700 years Continue…

Seaport Village Busker

While we were strolling along the bay at San Diego’s Seaport Village, this busker sporting white 18th-century garb caught our attention. You go girl, don’t let that economic crisis get you down. đŸ™‚

10 Hours in Seoul

Generally, I’m not one to rush my travel experiences. But on our flight from Bangkok to San Diego, we were left with a gaping 10-hour layover which made a quick trip into Seoul irresistible. So, with no guidebook and no real information in hand, we stumbled our way into the middle of the capital hoping to get a taste (both figurative and literal) of Korean culture.

Once you actually figure out how to buy a ticket, accessing Seoul is super-easy via the very convenient commuter trains which carry travelers directly to downtown Seoul. (Tip: if you have time, skip the expensive express trains and just take the normal commuter train. It only takes a few more minutes.) With limited time, our goals were to Continue…

Thailand’s Posing Tribal Children

While visiting Wat Phra Tat Doi Suthep north of Chiang Mai, we discovered a relatively large number of very young Akha and Miao children who had been dressed up and strategically positioned around the monument to make some not-so-quick cash off Thais and foreigners alike.

Well-intentioned tourists will often snap some cute pictures of the kids and hand them some Baht without really asking themselves some basic questions: How long has this tiny child been forced to sit here? Has this child been pulled out of school to beg for money because the parents value quick cash over education? Why is the parent not sitting here dressed up in “traditional clothing” rather than the child? Am I indirectly contributing to the cultural marginalization of minority children by teaching them that begging is a sustainable lifestyle?

Yes, many minority groups around the world lack education and real opportunities for work, and as we mentioned in our Paduang post in Myanmar, sometimes the commercialization of “traditional culture” may be the only real survival strategy. But it’s worth taking a second to reflect a little on how these kids are being treated before rushing to snap some cute pictures.

The shot above was taken from a distance while a young Akha girl was trying to convince a tourist to cash up. We chose not to participate in this particular cash-for-photo scheme.

Bali Pictorial

Those who know us well – especially fellow nomads – have expressed surprise that we spent so much time in Bali, a destination they associate with package tourism and sprawling resorts. In all honesty, I avoided Bali on my first trip to Indonesia ignorantly dismissing the island as little more than tourist central. But guess what, Bali is beautiful.

While it’s true that portions of Bali have embraced the dark side of tourism and a visit to Kuta can leave you cringing as hordes of drunk Australians stumble their way through the streets, the larger island provides plenty of room for off-the-beaten-track exploration. There is much to discover here: Bali’s unique Hindu culture and architecture is visually stunning; colorful festivals and parades occur throughout the year; the sand runs the spectrum from powder white to glistening gold to charcoal grey to jet black; and the lush tropical center of the island provides for great walks. Perhaps the greatest discovery for us was that the scuba diving is absolutely world-class (and I don’t say that lightly.)

We liked Bali so much that we decided to put together a pictorial to share some of the island’s unique beauty. (I’ll admit the pictorial is a bit culture heavy, but – hey – how many more pictures of rice terraces can we post?) đŸ™‚

Sumba Kids

Foreigners are a relative rarity in Sumba. While the adults tend to be rather aloof and suspicious, the kids are another story. đŸ™‚

Rendezvous in Sumba

Hooray, I’m back! After flying to Kuta for medical treatment, Tony and I are reunited once again on the mysterious island of Sumba halfway between Bali and Alor. Sumba, Indonesia’s “Wild West” with its wide stretches of grassland and deserted beaches, promises to be a very different destination. Few tourists make it here, but the ones who do love it.

While tribal culture was only one aspect of traveling in Flores and Alor, it seems to be the dominating force in Sumba. The island is dotted with small traditional villages centered around ancestral megalithic tombs and giant stone altars. Skull trees, where Sumba warriors once displayed their trophies of battle, are relics from not-so-bygone times when head hunting was still common practice.

Although head hunting is no more, other rituals and ceremonies still play a vital role. One fascinating ritual is the Pasola in which Continue…

The Abui Tribe in Takpala

Fine, I take back what I said about Philip Morris. Geez, smokers can get so edgy!

No seriously, Martinus and I were just joking around in this picture, please don’t think the Abui tribe greets visitors with arrows to their faces. Quite to the contrary, they are some of the friendliest people we’ve met in Indonesia.

As you might have gathered, Katrin and I decided to take in a little of Alor’s amazing tribal culture by visiting Takpala, a traditional village on the volcanic slopes of the island’s northern coast. As you can see by the picture, we had a blast.

Renting motorbikes for the day, we drove out along the island’s coastal road past a series of small villages and black stone beaches. As Google Maps hasn’t quite made it to this part of the world yet, it took us a while to locate the access road to the village, which might be more accurately described as a steep path cobbled with very loose, uncooperative volcanic rock. (Not an easy ride.)

Stunningly situated in the mountains high above the coast, Takpala is inhabited by the Abui people, the first Papuan ethnic group Continue…

The Lamalera Whale Hunters

Dolphin heads on the beach

When do indigenous hunting rights become a danger to the environment? Do we want whale hunting to become a tourist attraction? Should we eat in a restaurant that primarily serves dolphin meat? So many questions.

As we, along with our friends Elma and Marnix, approached the remote island of Lembata, Thomas and I were highly undecided about whether we wanted to visit Lamalera, the controversial whale hunting village on the south coast of the island.

Visitors to our site know we are very interested in the indigenous peoples of the world. But we are also dedicated wildlife lovers as well as avid divers. Lembata is really the first place where these interests have collided in such a dramatic way.

As we sat in Lembata’s tiny capital Lewoleba, I was still torn Continue…

The Lio Tribe

Our latest foray into the tribal cultural of Flores was a visit to Wologai, a traditional Lionese village situated on a beautifully forested volcanic ridge an hour past Ende. (The topography of Flores is phenomenal.)

Wologai is one of the few villages in the Ende district with well preserved Lionese art and architecture. Because of its adherence to traditional building practices, the village serves as the location for several of the Lio tribe’s celebrations.

The villagers were friendly yet shy, and quite adamant that we Continue…