Strolling Brazil’s City of Tiles: São Luís

In the doorway stands an elderly man. Our eyes meet and I shake his hand.

“You are lucky to live in such a beautiful building. What an incredibly tiled façade your home has,” I comment.

For the past couple of hours I have been strolling through the center of São Luis and I still don’t believe what I am seeing: this is by far the best-preserved center of any of Brazil’s major cities. Continue reading

A Boat Trip through the Flooded Forest of Anavilhanas (Brazil)

I feel as if I am looking at a scene in the cartoon of Jack and the Beanstalk. Amidst the flooded forest of Anavilhanas, I am looking up at a meters wide trunk of a tree that divides into three immensely thick branches that reach high into the sky, as if they are on their way to heaven.

We can’t climb to heaven, but we can go around the trunk scrambling over the buttresses protruding from the water. It is a balancing act, and a combination of stretching my legs as far as I can to reach the next buttress and squatting to carefully descend to a lower part; I feel like a child again, playing in the woods. Continue reading

Enjoy Tom Otterness’ Sculptures in Scheveningen (Netherlands)

I remember Scheveningen’s coastline as a stark and uninviting, right-angled boulevard with a busy road running alongside. No longer so. A three-year comprehensive renovation project in this seaside resort has resulted in an elegant, curved boulevard with separate lanes on different levels for walking, cycling and motorized vehicles (one-way). Some 195 stylish streetlights running on LEDs contribute to safety at night. The architect of this major project is the Spaniard Manuel de Solà-Morales. Continue reading

Visiting the Ghost Towns of Humberstone and Santa Laura (Chile)

A breeze carried the sound of squeaking hinges and creaking wooden panels. In the overwhelming silence of the desert the slamming of a metal roof plate echoed as if a gun had been fired. When listening carefully I heard voices from the past. Voices that told stories about promised fortunes and working yourself to death under the scorching sun of the Atacama Desert – one of the driest deserts on earth and, around 1900, home to Chile’s nitrate boom. Continue reading

Enjoying Uruguay’s Most Scenic Village: Colonia del Sacramento

I picked up the thermos and filled up the gourd with mate, a popular herbal tea in Uruguay. It’s a drink you share with others, so I handed the gourd to Coen, who took one last photograph before he sat down next to me. We were sitting on a low wall along the Río de la Plata, the river that divides Uruguay and Argentina. The sun slowly sank into the river and sets the sky aflame. Everything was perfect: my company, my drink, the sunset and Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay’s most scenic village. Continue reading

In Search of Franciscan Churches in Paraguay

It all started with a photo: a beautiful photograph of an old wooden altar featuring an angel killing a devil, painted in blue tinges. Some of the paint had chipped off and the wood was damaged, and it was clearly a piece from colonial times. The accompanying text told me the photo was taken in the Church of San José in Valenzuela. I asked the caretaker of the museum for directions and my partner Coen and I were on our way. Continue reading

Hiking Mount Jizu in Yunnan, China

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. ~Jawaharial Nehru

It’s 2am and we’re up and about to climb a 3248-meter-high mountain: the Chicken Foot Mountain, as is the translation of Jizu Shan. By leaving at this time we will be ahead of the crowd of visitors that will start climbing in an hour or so, and we’ll have the peace and quiet of a silent night. Continue reading

The Charm of Usuki (Japan)

The reason to drive to Usuki was to see its famous stone Buddha statues. But on our arrival we first got a lesson in history: it was here where the first Dutch ship reached Japan, in 1600. A map at the tourist information promised more good things, and so we found a place to camp – in the parking lot of the tourist information – and explored town. Continue reading

Going Underground in South Korea – Visiting the 4th Tunnel at the DMZ

Entrance of the 4th tunnel.

Entrance of the 4th tunnel.

In the 1960s-1980s, North Korea dug tunnels under the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into South Korea in an attempt to surprise attack their neighbors from underground, Depending on the size of the tunnel it can funnel 10,000-30,000 soldiers an hour and some are big enough for vehicles as well. Unfortunately for North Korea, the tunnels were discovered. Continue reading

A World Peace Bell Made of Cartridges (South Korea)

World Bell of Peace.

World Bell of Peace.

In the north of South Korea stands a Peace Dam. It was South Korea’s response to the Imnam Dam in North Korea built in the 1980s. South Korea’s military dictator at the time, Chun Doo-hwan, predicted that North Korea would use it to create a killer flood, wiping out most of Seoul. This was two years before the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, so no time was lost or money wasted to counteract this by building a dam on the south side. Continue reading

Dutch Heritage in Guyana

Fort Zeelandia, Guyana (©photocoen)History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. ~ Maya Angelou

One of our surprises in Guyana has been its earliest colonial history, which happens to be Dutch. Why did we never learn anything about Guyana in school? The Dutch were the first Europeans to establish settlements, forts and plantations in this region and stayed for two centuries before the colonies became British. You’d gather that does deserve some attention, wouldn’t you? Continue reading