Tag Archives: city

Yangon: Through the lens

There is undoubtedly an air of electricity in Yangon. Myanmar’s largest city is in the midst of an incredible growth spurt, brought about by foreign investment from countries like China, Japan and Korea. Ever since Myanmar opened its doors to tourism in 2011 the country has experienced a huge upsurge in the number of people visiting, giving the former capital of Myanmar, a breath of new life.
I ventured to Yangon in January of 2016 to see for myself what the city looked like beneath the surface of so much change. What I found were good people, great food and a city that was ready to embrace its bright new future.

Buenos Aires: City of Faded Elegance (Pictures)

Everyone will tell you how European Buenos Aires feels, they even go as far as to call it the Paris of South America. This is true to a certain extent, but that’s not telling the full story. Buenos Aires effortlessly blends European sophistication with Latino edginess. The city is both romantic and gritty, chaotic and cosmopolitan all at the same time. There is an energy here on the streets that Europe could only dream of. Fresh immigrants from Nigeria, Paraguay and Korea are adding new faces to the once traditional Italian and Spanish neighborhoods. Restaurants and nightclubs are popping up in neighborhoods that were once considered too dangerous, and while the peso remains low to the dollar, there isn’t a better time to go. Come for the incredible steaks, the wine, and energetic nightlife, but stay for the diverse neighborhoods, the crumbling architecture, and most of all, the people. Beautiful, confident and creative, the Argentines will be the highlight of your trip to this world class city.

10582904_10152710407396469_4292822206649074376_oBorn and raised in San Francisco, Walker then majored in International Relations and Chinese at the New School University in NYC. He began traveling during a high school exchange to Argentina, and hasn’t stopped since. Walker has always sought out the more unusual and off the beaten path locations and is combining his love for photography and travel to kickstart a career as a journalist, striving to redefine the profession in rapidly changing world.

Finding Familiarity in the Land of Anarchy

A Guide to the Capital of Somaliland

By Karsten Potts


Hargeisa, Somalia

Tucked away in northern Somalia, Hargeisa is truly a hidden treasure. Whether your want to explore the vast, vibrant markets, or chill at a coffee shop this city has something for you.

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Hargeisa is the capital of a breakaway region called Somaliland, which is located in Northern Somalia.  When Somalia collapsed in 1990, Somaliland declared independence from the rest of the country and formed its own government.  Although Southern Somalia is still ravaged by war, here in the north, the war ended 20 years ago.  Although the government of Somaliland is not internationally recognized, it has managed to keep the peace, provide public services and hold elections which were widely considered free and fair.

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The city of Hargeisa offers much of what one would expect when traveling in the Horn of Africa. If you feel like exploring the classic aspects of Hargeisa, there are markets, local restaurants and a livestock bazaar. In the central market travelers can find anything from exotic desert goods such as frankincense, myrrh and handcrafted items to everyday clothing, furniture and modern products like cell phones and TVs. It’s a good place to practice your bartering skills.

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If you are feeling more adventurous, you can venture out to Saylada where livestock is traded. There are hundreds of animals, mostly camels and goats, and dozens of traders bartering as the animals mill about. Closer to the city there are many small restaurants and tea stands, where you can sit for hours talking to locals and relaxing in the warm desert air. The tea they serve here tastes like the chai lattes sold at Starbucks, but one cup costs only $0.25. Some of the more familiar dishes are chicken or goat served with rice or pasta, and some of the bolder options include camel liver, and cow stomach. Keep in mind, while some venues do have silverware, it is much more common to eat with your hand–so why not give it a try!

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The Unexpected

The most shocking thing about Hargeisa, however, is not the exotic allure of the unknown, but the surprising familiarity of some of the features of the city. The first and most important is the peace. Technically, Hargeisa is located in Northern Somalia, which has been a name synonymous with war and anarchy. You will find neither in Hargeisa. The war here ended 20 years ago. I felt safe walking around the city until around at least 11:00 pm in downtown,  It is so safe that money changers leave piles of cash at their stands when they go to pray at the Mosque. As long as you practice basic common sense, you will be safe. One time, when I was walking down the street a man asking for money became very persistent and grabbed my arm. Immediately, five other people around me started shouting at him and came over, not leaving my side until he left and they were sure I would be safe.

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This leads to the next treasure of the city, the people living there. The people in Hargeisa are incredibly friendly. Don’t be surprised if people call out to you while you are walking down the street. Ninety nine percent of the time, they just want to talk, practice their English, and want to know what you think about the city. If you need directions, people are more than willing to give them. If they do not speak enough English to help you out, they will find somebody who does. The next surprise is the relative prosperity and obvious economic potential. The growth here is staggering. You will see modern office buildings and hotels under construction, the first shopping malls are beginning to open in the city (not anywhere near the scale of the Mall of America, but shopping malls nonetheless). They even sell frappachinos and paninis at some of the new coffee shops.

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This growth is all the more impressive considering it all happened mostly the last decade. Toward the beginning of the war Siad Barre flattened the city in a series of bombing raids. Instead of sinking into despair, the people of Somaliland built a new city from the ruins and Hargeisa is now one of the safest places in East Africa. Beyond the physical signs of prosperity, the telecommunications infrastructure is on par with the United States.

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There is amazing cell phone coverage that is affordable. You can buy a SIM card as soon as you get off the plane, and as a result of the competition between coverage providers in the country, minutes are very cheap. I spent around $5 the entire trip for local and international calling and texting. You can buy a phone or bring your own unlocked one, insert your SIM card and be on your way.  As far as internet, you can choose from 3G or internet cafes, and almost every hotel has free wifi. If you are wondering what currency to use, don’t worry, almost everyone accepts dollars. Even if they don’t, there are dozens of money exchange booths in the city center.  There is even an electronic payment system that you can access through the cell network. Shoppers can buy things at most stores without even using cash.  If you prefer to use Somaliland Shillings, however, just keep in mind that you might need to bring a backpack, a day at the market may require a few bricks of currency.

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 Notes:

• It is nearly impossible to transfer money directly from the United States to Somaliland. You must bring all the cash you need (bring small, new bills)

• Dress modestly. This means no tank tops for guys (even if you see locals doing it) and longer garments for women.

• Sometimes it is necessary to barter at smaller vendors

 

Lima: South America’s Culinary Capital (Pictures)

South America’s Culinary Gem

by Walker Dawson


In the eyes of foreigners, Lima often plays second fiddle to Cusco. Sure it has horrendous traffic, and it’s unsafe in parts, but most Limeños (people from Lima) love their city. And what’s not to like? Bohemian neighborhoods that once housed Peruvian writers such as Mario Vargas Llosa are perched on rocky cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, spring like weather occurs all year around, and welcoming locals will quickly become your best friend. Ultimately, when it comes to singing Lima’s praises, it’s all about the food. Spicy, fresh, organic and raw, Lima’s cuisine is one of the best in the world. It’s gastronomy is a synthesis of everything that is Peru; it takes its ingredients from the Amazon jungle, the high Andes and the Pacific, blending it together with Peru’s multi ethnic make up. The largest number of Asians in Latin America reside in Peru, adding to the flavor of many dishes; Afro-Peruvians, Quechua and Aymara natives, Spanish, Italian and Germans have contributed as well. If you come for one thing, come for the food. 

Most tourists give Lima a day, maybe two. They see the somewhat uninspiring streets of Miraflores and then they leave, claiming that Lima ‘isn’t that interesting’ or ‘it’s just a big city’. But that’s their loss. Lima is hot, chaotic and in your face, but it’s also beautiful, cosmopolitan and incredibly diverse. Skipping Lima for the tourist shops of Cusco or the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu would be to miss arguably the most important part of the country; it would be missing Peru at its most sophisticated, contemporary and progressive. While Cusco and Machu Picchu look towards Peru’s past, Lima looks towards its future.

10582904_10152710407396469_4292822206649074376_oBorn and raised in San Francisco, Walker then majored in International Relations and Chinese at the New School University in NYC. He began traveling during a high school exchange to Argentina, and hasn’t stopped since. Walker has always sought out the more unusual and off the beaten path locations and is combining his love for photography and travel to kickstart a career as a journalist, striving to redefine the profession in rapidly changing world.

São Paulo, Brazil (Pictures)

São Paulo was incredible city to photograph.  For six weeks straight I found myself waking up, grabbing my camera, and hitting the streets of this fascinating, monster of a city.  In this series of photographs I attempt to capture the beautiful, grittiness of São Paulo.