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Snippets of Hong Kong

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2019 and 2020 have been challenging years for Hong Kong. Protests against the local government, general population unrest, and as of this writing, the threat of a deadly coronavirus have rendered unto this megacity several blows that might take a few years to recover from.
However, make no mistake about it, Hong Kong is still very much one of the world's great cities. Located at the crossroads of the West and China, this former British crown colony is one of the world's most significant financial centers, busiest commercial ports, and home to the highest number of skyscrapers of any city in the world.
All photos were taken on a trip with friends, years ago.

* To get an idea of how skyscraper-dense the HK skyline is, one must head to Victoria Peak, the highest point in the city!

Sights and Sounds of New York City - Part 1

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There is undoubtedly no other city as iconic as New York City, whose five boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island are rich in history, character, and culture; forever immortalized in numerous movies, TV shows, stories, and songs.
Originally a Dutch colony settled in 1624 named New Amsterdam, New York City has grown to become what is is now: the most populous and visited city in the US, home to the United Nations and the Statue of Liberty, the fashion, media, and financial capital of the world, the very symbol itself of the great United States of America.
And it is said that in New York City, even buildings, squares, and streets are world famous. Here are some of NYC's most famous tourist locations: Part One Times Square
* At the center of New York is the pedestrianized intersection of lights, sound, and spectacle known as Times Square.

Viking Route on the Baltic Sea: Sailing From Sweden to Finland

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While sailing across the Baltic Sea has historically been of the raiding type (i.e. Vikings sailing along the coasts of Scandinavia, Northern Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland), there is a much more extravagant, comfortable, and blood-less way to get around, and that is via an overnight cruise.
Here are some memories from our voyage from Stockholm, Sweden to Helsinki, Finland.

* Our home for tonight, the dazzling Silja Serenade: full of restaurants, indoor pools, duty free shops, a night club, casino, and several drinking spots (hurrah!).

The Charmed Life: Osaka Castle and Kuromon Market

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It is a fact of life: people LOVE amusement parks! And while most visitors to Osaka may come for Universal Studios, some of us get our culture fix by exploring castles, temples, markets, and souvenir shopping areas.

* Osaka Castle is one of Japan's most famous landmarks and is a must-see stop when visiting the city.

Gamla Stan: Stockholm's Medieval Quarter

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The Gamla Stan is Stockholm's old town, located on the island of Stadsholmen, full of medieval buildings, cobblestone streets, and picturesque alleyways. If you have but a few hours to spare in this majestic city, every minute of it spent here is a minute worth spent.

* When in Stockholm, to find one's bearings, one must look to the sky.

Moscow At Night - The Sleeping Beast

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Evenings in Moscow are breathtaking. While generally not as safe to walk around in as compared to other great European cities, there is still much to be explored, gawked at, and admired. 
Here are several shots of this glistening, sleeping beast.

* The Radisson Royal Hotel, once the Hotel Ukraina and tallest hotel in the world, was personally commissioned by Joseph Stalin to look this incredible.

Eccentric Tokyo: Harajuku and Other Peculiarities

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Japan is a country of extreme contrasts! A country where futuristic skyscrapers coexist with ancient feudal parks and temples, where a culture of honor and respect coexists with the craziest TV shows known to man, and where a polite and friendly people can also be eccentric and quirky!
Here are some of my favorite shots of these peculiarities.

* Animals playing musical instruments with no tone, rhythm and tune.. perfectly normal here in Harajuku!

Moscow: Heart of the Soviet Union

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Every hero has its main rival; and for the better part of the 20th Century the two great rival powers were the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It is a story of dualism: West vs. East, NATO vs. the Warsaw Pact, Democracy vs. Communism; and at the heart of the two beasts, Washington DC and Moscow. I was privileged to have had the opportunity to visit Moscow, and these were some of the amazing photos from that journey.

* Nothing symbolizes Russia quite like the iconic Saint Basil's Cathedral.

Tokyo: What Happens When Sci-Fi Becomes Reality

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Home to a mind-boggling 13 million people, the metropolitan area of Tokyo is a sensory overload every step of the way. Everything in this mega-city looks, smells, sounds, and feels extraordinary.. like one is in a blockbuster movie, or 15 years in the future.
And my first piece of advice for any first-time traveler to Tokyo, is to just let the city swallow you! Don't even try to make sense of anything, open yourself up to everything.. and don't forget to look up!

* Shibuya is known as Japan's fashion center and is where all the cool kids go to drink and party.

The Awesomely Insane Hotels of Macau

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Completely exploring all of Macau's 5-star hotel casinos is an almost herculean (borderline insane) task. I consider myself lucky to have been able to appreciate two of them: City of Dreams and The Venetian.

* Developers in Macau weren't kidding when they said they would outdo Las Vegas in terms of extravagance and craziness! This futuristic looking walkway is JUST the entrance of City of Dreams!

Macau, One Night in HK, and Back Again

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64km away from the gambling paradise that is Macau, lies its equally world-famous cousin, Hong Kong. Apart from being shining beacons of Eastern-Western coexistence, both cities share a special bond being the final two European colonies (British Hong Kong and Portuguese Macau) in Asia.

* Our adventure begins at the Macau Maritime Ferry Terminal; with this lemon yellow ship and steampunk looking spheres.

When All The Tourists Have Gone Away

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...Venice becomes eerily beautiful!

* People like to joke that Venice is one giant tourist trap!

Rothenburg - A Town Straight Out of a Fairytale

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Looking like every Disney fairy tale village that ever existed, Rothenburg is one of the highlights of Germany's Romantic Road, and is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations.

* I mean just look at that! I was half-expecting Pinocchio to walk-by. This is the Plonlein, the town's most iconic (and photographed) view; shockingly and, luckily for us, empty this day.

Vienna Coffee Culture and Night Walks

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Because of the sheer efficiency of the Viennese Subway, the U-Bahn, getting around and exploring Vienna was a very pleasurable experience. And while we may have only spent 3 days in the former imperial capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I felt that we really got to cover a whole lot of ground!

* St. Stephen's Cathedral, known in Austria as the Stephansdom, is Vienna's most important religious building and seat of the Roman Catholic Archiocese.

Exploring-ski Warsaw-ski

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* After checking-in our room and freshening up for a bit, we excitedly agreed to right away explore our first stop in the Honeymoon tour.
For history buffs, like yours truly, Warsaw is significant in that it was a major World War II site (setting of many a movie involving Nazi atrocities and the Warsaw Ghetto) and later a major Cold War site (where the USSR's Warsaw Pact was founded). However, what I found was a city rapidly commercializing and growing thanks to its embrace of capitalism and a people sincerely enjoying their relatively newly-found freedom; very much polite, helpful and much friendlier than all other European countries that I had previously been in.

* Stepping outside our hotel we immediately see Poland's tallest building, the imposing Palace of Culture and Science. A gift from the USSR to the people of Poland, the building is in the traditional "Stalinist" communist-style architecture, which means it is HUGE and completely dominates the entire city …

Exploring the Bishopric of Elgin, Scotland

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In between the company scheduled tours, dinners and activities, I found some time to walk around and explore the area our hotel was located in.

To my surprise, I found out that Elgin was a former cathedral city(town built around a medieval cathedral) created as a Royal Burgh(official royal town) in the 12th centuryby King David I of Scotland. So historically, there are a lot of places here to whet one's appetite.

On a pop culture note, the Beatles, The Who, Pink Floyd and The Kinks all performed in a dance hall here back in the 60's; so, add extra points for coolness!!



* The view of the town from my attic-style hotel room's window!

Mythology (Delos) and Partying (Mykonos Beaches) in a Day!

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Much more than just a shopping town, Mykonos also offers something for history junkies, such as myself. A short boat ride away lies the island of Delos; famous for being the birthplace of the twin gods, Apollo and Artemis, and for being one of the most important archaeological sites in all of Greece.

Of course, no trip to Mykonos would be complete without seeing some of its world-famous party beaches, revered the world over by clubholics.



* The fiancee and I posing by Mykonos Port before boarding our ferry to Delos. We were extremely fortunate to have seen the official island mascot, Petros the Pelican, the night before. (See previous entry)

Being Welcomed by Petros the Pelican at Mykonos Town

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After our stop in fantastic Santorini, we made our way to the equally awesome island of Mykonos for the wedding of Monicca’s childhood friend. Legend has it that this island is the site of Zeus’ battle against his father, Cronus, and the Titans.

Today, Mykonos is known as one of Europe’s clubbing and nightlife capitals(along with Ibiza), and also has the distinction of being THE ultimate gay destination in Europe.



* Taking the Catamaran (a really fast sea vessel) to Mykonos from the port of Santorini took around 3 hours, which I happily took to do some leisure reading.

Crazy Souvenir Shopping in Athens

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While a big chunk of any itinerary in Athens involves sight-seeing, one must alsomake sure to leave enough time (a day at least!) for souvenir shopping! Seriously, of all the countries I’ve been in, this is where I had the most fun at not only buying souvenirs but also window-shopping the huge variety of items for sale.

So whether you’re a fan of fashion (branded and local), typical tourist souvenirs(tshirts, hoodies, magnets, spoons etc)AWESOME tourist souvenirs(orthodox icons, statues, swords and armor!!) or just plain weird stuff(antiques, old pictures of random families, taxidermied animals), Athens has something for you.



* Such a nice day for a stroll along Plaka’s streets. Armed with time for leisure-strolling, the art of exploring, getting lost, and finding one’s way again equates to a very pleasurable experience indeed.


The Artistic Quarter of Montmartre with the Fantastic View from Sacre Coeur

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Frequented by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Salvador Dali, Amedeo Modigliani and Piet Mondrian, Montmartre is Paris’ artistic quarter.

An area bustling with poets, street performers, musicians, young lovers, philosophers and gypsies; it seems that one could come out of this place a little bit more creative and reflective just by breathing the air.

Definitely a MUST for every traveller in Paris, Montmartre is where one would go not to admire buildings, works of art or masterpieces; but people and the creative spirit.



* Coming out of the Abbesses Metro, one can’t help but feel cozy walking along the streets of Montmartre. So this is the real charming part of town.. no grand museums or monuments to kings, no outward displays of religious art; the most interesting part of this area is the people itself. Just charm, pure charm.