H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 45: the monkey temple in India

Hello, yeah, it’s been a while! At the beginning of this week I got back from my epic trip to India and Sri Lanka. And this week’s featured image comes from that journey. Just outside the Indian city of Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan, there’s a temple complex known as Galtaji. Dramatically situated in a mountain pass, the site is commonly referred to as the “Monkey Temple” (Galwar Bagh in Hindi). The reason for that sobriquet has to do with the hundreds of rhesus macaques that run around on the temple grounds. A couple of those resident simians can be seen here:

monkey temple

This photo was taken in March 2014. Incidentally, monkeys are not the only form of wildlife that abounds at Galtaji. Plenty of cows, goats, pigs, and dogs also roam the sacred precincts. (I found monkeys, cows, and stray dogs to be pretty ubiquitous in the parts of India that I visited, even in urban downtowns.) But it’s the monkeys that were especially adorable.

Have you been to, or would you like to visit, India?

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 44: the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Hong Kong

Happy Friday, and happy Pi Day! I leave for India just one week from tonight! Anyhoo, our featured image this week comes from Hong Kong, and a Buddhist temple called the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (also known as Man Fat Tsz). Despite its name, the temple is not an actual monastery as no monks reside on the premises. On the grounds of the temple you can find a total of 12,800 statues of Buddha in various styles, sizes, colours, and poses. Some of the statues stand outdoors, while others are installed in various temples, halls, and pavilions. Here are just a few dozen of the statues that you can gaze upon at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery:

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One of the highlights of a visit to this place is the walk that you take to get from the entrance to the buildings of the monastery: an uphill stroll along a winding path lined with golden Buddhas. Continue reading

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Exploring the fascinating home of the Explorers Club

The urban jungle of New York City may be the last place that you’d associate with exploration and adventure. But on Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side, you’ll find the international headquarters of the Explorers Club. Since the club’s founding in 1904, its members have included some of the most distinguished voyagers and scientists on the planet; and the club’s townhouse is a celebration of their derring-do as well as their dedication to the advancement of human knowledge. In October 2013 I was privileged to attend an event at the historic townhouse.

What is the Explorers Club?

Members of the Explorers Club (EC) are at the cutting edge of making new discoveries about not only our world, but the universe. According to the club’s website, the EC boasts 30 chapters worldwide and draws members from a total of 60 countries. (It’s been reported that worldwide membership numbers approximately 3,000 hardy souls.) Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 43: magnificent columns in an Egyptian temple

I hope you’re all having a great Friday. Earlier this week I celebrated my birthday, and I’m looking forward to another year filled with adventure!

This week’s featured image comes from a country that’s synonymous with adventure: Egypt. Specifically, it’s a photograph taken at the Temple of Hathor — a Greco-Roman temple complex in Dendera. The portion of that temple known as the Large Hypostyle Hall contains columns that are approximately 50 feet high:

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Although parts of the temple date back to the third century B.C., the Large Hypostyle Hall was added during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who ruled from 14 A.D. to 37 A.D. (It’s believed that earlier temples also dedicated to Hathor were built on the same site as early as 4,000 years ago.) Hathor was a deity worshipped by the ancient Egyptians who was typically depicted with bovine features. She was the goddess of love, joy, and motherhood.

This photo was taken during my trip to Egypt in September 2012. Dendera, the location of the temple, is about 50 miles from Luxor.

Are you awed by grand structures like this that were built thousands of years ago?

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 42: a Russian palace to rival Versailles

Hello everyone, and another happy Friday to you! This weekend I’ll be attending the New York Times Travel Show right here in New York City. I’m excited to learn more about potential future destinations for my World Karaoke Tour, and to reconnect with some of my favourite people from the travel world!

While I look forward to the travel show and related festivities, it’s time for me to share with you a photograph from travels gone by. Today’s featured image comes from the Russian Federation. Peterhof Palace is a spectacular complex of palaces and gardens on the Gulf of Finland, 19 miles from St. Petersburg. This is what its main building looks like:

Peterhof Palace

Peterhof was laid out in the 18th century by Peter the Great, who used it as his summer home. In its opulence it’s been compared to the great French palace at Versailles. An easy day-trip from St. Petersburg, Peterhof can be reached from that city via a 40-minute hydrofoil ride down the Neva River. The reason everyone’s back is to the camera in this image is that the folks in attendance were all watching a show marking what the palace’s website described as the “celebration of opening fountains.” (In front of the main palace is a cascading series of fountains.) That celebration included fireworks and martial music. When I set out for Peterhof on the day of my visit, I had no idea that such an event would be taking place; it was really nice to stumble into it and experience such a festive atmosphere.

This photo was taken during my trip to Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova in May 2013.

Do you enjoy visiting grand palaces like this one?

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Touring the Panama Canal

This year marks the centennial of the Panama Canal. With its opening in 1914, seagoing transit between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was radically transformed. Before “the trench” was dug, ships seeking to cross the Americas needed to circumnavigate South America — a time-consuming journey of 8,000 or so miles that included the rounding of that continent at the treacherous Cape Horn. The canal, however, is just 48.2 miles long and can be traversed in complete safety in 10 hours or less. It was a stupendous achievement, and in 1994 the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized it as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. (The other works named to that list include the Channel Tunnel; the CN Tower; the Empire State Building; the Golden Gate Bridge; the Itaipu Dam; and the Netherlands North Sea Protection Work.) In November 2013, I experienced this modern wonder firsthand. Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, Week 41: a Mediterranean villa in Miami

Happy Friday! This week I obtained my Electronic Travel Authorization for Sri Lanka, which will officially permit me to enter that country during my planned visit to India and Sri Lanka this spring. I’m still working on obtaining my entry visa for India; the application process for that document is much more complicated.

Our featured image this week comes from a city much closer to home for me: Miami, Florida. In Miami you can find a remarkable Mediterranean Revival villa that was built in the early 20th century. It’s called Vizcaya Villa.

The villa at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

The house was built for James Deering, a wealthy industrialist. It was actually used as his winter residence; he already had homes in New York, Chicago, and Paris. Inside are numerous furnishings imported from Europe, some of which were centuries old when acquired. Today the villa is part of a complex called Vizcaya Museum & Gardens that offers public tours. In addition to the house itself, the estate includes some elaborate formal gardens that are also well worth checking out.

This photo was taken during my visit to Miami and Miami Beach last weekend.

Would you like to have a winter home like this?

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Country no. 32: a man, a plan, a karaoke bar in Panama

My singing appearance on a Friday night in Panama City was probably my most enjoyable evening in the history of my World Karaoke Tour. Yes, it may even have surpassed the amazing times I’ve had behind the microphone in such cities as Paris and Frankfurt. :) Here’s how it went down:

I’d flown from New York to Peru on Copa Airlines, the flag carrier of Panama, and in fact had a layover in Panama City’s airport when I initially flew to Lima. For the return leg of my trip, I’d decided that rather than just change planes in Panama again, I would take advantage of the opportunity to spend a weekend in Panama City. Among other things, I was eager to take a boat ride on the Panama Canal, one of the engineering marvels of modern times.

Another consideration, of course, was that a multi-day stay would make make it possible for me to do some singing while on Panamanian soil. :) Peru had just become the 31st country in which I’ve sung, and now it was time to increase the total to 32! I didn’t waste any time taking care of business; on my very first night in Panama, I went to a karaoke bar called The Green Room in Panama City. Continue reading

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Country no. 31 on my World Karaoke Tour: doing it my way in Peru

During some recent overseas appearances on my World Karaoke Tour, I’ve tried to perform songs that relate, in some way, to the country in which I find myself. For example, who can forget that time I sang “Walk Like an Egyptian” in Cairo? Or my decision to include “Back in the U.S.S.R.” on my setlist in Moscow? Conversely, although more than 20 years have passed since I sang in Vienna, I still regret passing up the chance to sing “Edelweiss” in that Austrian capital. Giving a shout-out to my host country is a unique opportunity that I like to take advantage of when I’m “on tour.”

When I visited Peru in November 2013, I took a slightly different approach. Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 40: a llama at Machu Picchu

Happy Black Friday! I just checked in to my hotel in Panama City. Tonight I aim to find a place to sing karaoke in this town, and tomorrow I will tour the Panama Canal. But before I get to those things, I would like to share with you an image from earlier in this trip, when I was in Peru. One of the highlights of my Peruvian journey was my visit to Machu Picchu, a 15th-century Incan city that was carved into hilly terrain in the jungle. After the Spaniards conquered the Incas, the city was abandoned, and became lost to the world until it was discovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911.

When you go to Machu Picchu, it’s common to see llamas; along with their close relative the alpaca, llamas are iconic animals in Peru. Here’s a llama that definitely wanted me to document her while I was photographing the ruins below her:

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This photo was taken just a few days ago. Have a great weekend everyone!

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 39: the view of the Pacific Ocean from Lima

Feliz Viernes! I’m now in Lima, Peru, having arrived here late last night. Things were a little cray cray the last few weeks before my trip; work was extremely busy. But now I’m traveling and having fun! This week’s featured image comes from right here in Lima. It’s a view of the Pacific Ocean, seen from Lima’s Miraflores district:

Pacific pride

Miraflores is a pleasant area filled with beaches and public parks; it’s a nice section to walk around in.

This photo was taken today! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get ready to make my Peruvian karaoke debut this evening! Peru is about to become the 31st country on my World Karaoke Tour!

Would you like to visit Peru?

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 38: the view from Table Mountain in Cape Town

Happy November! Today is just another Friday as I count down to my departure for Peru and Panama, now less than three weeks away. I’m getting pretty excited about those impending additions to my World Karaoke Tour! I still have no idea what songs I’m going to perform in those countries; but I’m confident that my journey will feature some unforgettable nights of singing. Seeing Machu Picchu and the Panama Canal, among other sights, will be pretty awesome too.

It’s time for another photograph of the week that memorializes one of my favourite destinations from the past! Today’s featured image comes from Cape Town, South Africa. That city’s signature landmark is not man-made; it’s the natural wonder of Table Mountain. A flat-topped promontory overlooking the city, Table Mountain boasts breathtaking views from its approximately 3,500-foot elevation. Here’s one of them:

Cape Town view

In this view, you can see the rotating cylindrical cable car that ferries visitors to the summit. (You can also choose to hike up the mountain.) Visible in the background are the smaller peak known as Lion’s Head; and, beyond it, the Atlantic Ocean. Cape Town’s city centre is just to the right of the frame.

This photo was taken during my visit to South Africa in September 2011. To see what Table Mountain looks like from ground level, go here.

Would you like to go to the top of Table Mountain?

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, Week 37: the Monument of the Discoveries in Lisbon

Happy happy Friday! Yesterday I visited my travel doctor and got a typhoid vaccine. I’m now fully immunized for my upcoming trip to Peru and Panama. That vacation is less than four weeks away!

It’s time for me to share with you my newest featured photograph. This week’s chosen image comes from the Portugese capital of Lisbon. The Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries) is a marble sculpture that commemorates the Age of Exploration in which Portugese mariners played such a huge role.

Monument of the Discoveries

Also known as the Age of Discovery, the Age of Exploration occurred during the 15th and 16th centuries. This monument includes statues of leading Portugese contributors to the achievements of that era: monarchs as well as explorers, cartographers, artists, scientists and missionaries. Among the 33 luminaries depicted are Ferdinand Magellan (the organiser of the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe); Vasco da Gama (the commander of the first expedition to sail directly from Europe to India); Bartolomeu Dias (the first person to round the Cape of Good Hope); Pedro Álvares Cabral (the discoverer of Brazil); and the great poet Luís de Camões

Standing 164 feet in height, the Monument of the Discoveries was completed in 1960 and stands on the north bank of the Tagus River. This photo of it was taken during my trip to Lisbon that took place from December 2011 to January 2012. During that visit, Portugal became the 24th country on my World Karaoke Tour.

Are you interested in the Age of Exploration?

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 36: an exquisite church in St. Petersburg

On Tuesday evening I dined on scorpion. Not just scorpion, in fact, but also grasshopper, ant, and mealworm. The place where I enjoyed these entomological hors d’oeuvres was the Explorers Club, right here in New York City — thus proving that you don’t have to travel far from home to do adventurous things!

Of course, I do also enjoy roaming far and wide in search of the best of what this planet has to offer. This being a Friday, I will now share with you a new featured photo from my worldwide adventures. Today’s image comes from St. Petersburg, Russian Federation. Gorgeous onion-domed churches abound in Russia; but of all the ones I saw, my clear favourite was the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood, also known as the Church on Spilled Blood and the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ.

St. Petersburg church

Completed in 1907, this church began construction under the direction of Tsar Alexander III, and it was erected on the spot where his father, Alexander II, was assassinated in 1881. I was blown away by the intricate detailing of the architecture, which melds elements of Baroque, neoclassical, and Russian medieval design. Further enhancing the building’s charm is its setting; as you can see, it’s is situated on one of the canals that give St. Petersburg its distinct character and beauty. Not pictured here is the church’s interior, which is as much of a masterpiece as the exterior and contains over 7,500 square metres of mosaics.

This photo was taken during my visit to the Russian Federation in May 2013, during which that nation became country no. 28 on my World Karaoke Tour.

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Singing in Seattle: the sounds of H-Bomb on the Puget Sound

H-Bomb at the Space NeedleI gallivant all over the world, but some of my favourite karaoke adventures have come in my home country, the United States.  For example, this past summer, I had an incredible time visiting, and singing in, Seattle.  Although I was in town for less than 24 hours, I made every second count.

It came about as follows: in July I spent several days in Alaska. My return itinerary from Anchorage to Newark included a connecting flight in Seattle; and never having been to that city, when I was booking the trip I’d made my layover there into an overnight stay. This would enable me to add a new city to my World Karaoke Tour. :) My arrival in Seattle was planned for a Saturday night, and I knew that would be a prime night for singing opportunities. Also on my agenda were seeing some of the distinctive architecture for which the Emerald City is famous; and feeling the vibe of a town that’s often regarded as one of the most livable cities in the world.

Seattle joins the World Karaoke Tour

Naturally, karaoke was my very first activity after I rolled into town on Saturday evening, July 6. After landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I rushed to my downtown hotel to check in and change into a fresh set of clothes for my karaoke appearance. Then I headed to the Hula Hula Lounge, a tiki-themed bar in Seattle’s Queene Anne neighbourhood that I’d pre-selected for the occasion based on its very promising Yelp reviews. Continue reading

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