I’ll take care to not post anyone’s names here but want to share some photos I took of the ASU talent show that happened last Friday. It also happened to be a spirit day that included crazy hair, crazy ties and for lower grades, Superheroes! i did a lot of playing with settings – whitebalance, exposure, etc but these are some of my favorites…
I don’t write about it much but I still love bacon. We have it as part of our unhealthy weekend breakfast most weeks. The problem is, we have not found bacon we liked until our most recent purchase.
We tried all sorts of packaged and imported bacon. Most of the time it was too salty or went straight from raw bacon to petrified bacon. (How does that happen?) It was never right. We bought cuts of what looked like bacon from the wet market butchers. We even tried the local butcher who uses locally raised animals and does all the cutting and packaging himself. While it was nice to buy local the bacon tasted like pan-fried ham. So a few weeks ago we saw a new bacon way in the back of the meat section of Merkury Market in one of the small freezers.
The catch is that is is 1.8 KG (4 pounds)! So we needed quite a few bags to break it up and keep frozen.
The consensus in the household is that we finally found good bacon in Mongolia!
Today was vehicle-free day in areas of downtown Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Every year some of the city streets are off-limits to vehicles for one day. It is to promote healthy living, bring attention to pollution, and expose the traffic hassles UB has. We were excited to get out and walk down the middle of streets you can barely cross. When we woke this morning there was heavy snow coming down and a few inches of accumulation though! By the time we were out walking around the snow had slowed and in many places it had started to melt.
For lunch we went to hot pot. One of their employees must have gone out on a roof and made this little snowman that is wearing a pot for a hat.
We went into the State Department Store and took some photos of the streets from the top floor. Then we went down to Sukhbaatar Square and went into the Parliament building which has only been open to the public for a few months.
I miss the old Coke ad that was on the building above. Now just a dingy silhouette of the bottle-shaped ad is left.
We even saw a reindeer!
It was a good day.
I compiled a list of UNESCO sites I had been to in 2009 when I had visited 16 of the over 900 sites. Then last year I updated my list, having added 9. Here is the list now with links to any blog posts on my site about these places.
- Mesa Verde
- Grand Canyon
- Pueblo de Taos
- City of Cuzco, Peru
- Machu Picchu, Peru
- Lima, Peru city center
- City of Quito, Ecuador
- Chichen-Itza, Mexico
- Banff & Jasper in Canada
- Great Wall, China
- Imperial Palace, China
- Temple of Heaven, China
- Longmen Grottoes, China
- Angkor, Cambodia
- Historic Center of Prague, Czech Republic
- Antigua, Guatemala
- Tikal, Guatemala
- Historic Center of Rome
- Holy See, Vatican City
- Copan Ruins, Honduras
- Þingvellir National Park, Iceland
- Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape, Mongolia
- Victoria Falls, Zambia
New in the last year:
- Lake Baikal, Russia
- White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal, Russia
- Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow, Russia
- Saint Petersburg historic sites, Russia
- Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
- Dambulla, Sri Lanka
- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
- Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
- Kandy, Sri Lanka
- Central Highlands of Sri Lanka
- Galle, Sri Lanka
One I need to add that I went to in 1991…
- Changdeokgung Palace Complex, South Korea
That puts me up to 37! There are quite a few places that are on the UNESCO tentative list – Bagan and Inle Lake of Myanmar, Petrified Forest in USA, Amarsbayasgalant Monastery, Bogd Khan mountain and Gobi desert in Mongolia… and quite a few more I am sure!
One consistency on our few week trip in Sri Lanka was that nearly every stop ended up being better than we expected. That’s certainly a nice aspect of taking a trip that you let someone else put together for you. Menaka Arangala arranged our trip although we never met him. Our driver, Ashoka did a great job of keeping us safe on the road, advising us of scams, and even keeping us moving at a good pace. There were times when we felt like we were being rushed and then an hour later would arrive at a better destination and we were thankful for being ushered around.
When we pulled over at Dambulla we were all thinking the same thing. Why are we at this amusement-park style temple?
Then we walked up a path off to the left of this building after our guide purchased tickets. It was a fairly long series of steps and steep walkway with some people selling flowers, fruits and just hanging out and offering a hand to those climbing up the stairs. (They wanted a tip for their help of course.)
Then we arrived at the top of the path, left our sandals by the entrance and went into the site actually worth seeing…
This cave temple complex has five separate caves featuring over 150 sculptures, vast murals, stupas, and offering-thieving monkeys. It is a Unesco World Heritage site. The lighting wasn’t good in the caves and I didn’t have my flash so the color is off on these and some are quite blurry but you get a good idea of how neat the place is.
It was about 10 years ago that I started blogging. I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I was posting short stories on my website at first and then soon moved to Blogger to publish my content. Soon after, commenting was added using Haloscan. (Yes, ten years ago including comments in blogs was difficult!) A few years later I migrated the blog to a self-hosted WordPress blog.
So here’s a look at the last 10 years…
As of today I have exactly 3,000 blog posts. That’s a little shy of one per day (actually it would be more but I occasionally delete old posts with bad links, that were sponsored for one year or about things I wish I never wrote or did).
You, the readers have left 3,972 comments. Since 2007, over a half million (544,428) spam comments have been caught by the filters.
I have had seemingly countless template design changes and even the things I write about have evolved significantly. I used to write a lot about programs available for Palm. I provided links to funny content. In the latter half of the decade of blogging, most of my friends have united on social media sites (Ok, pretty much just Facebook now, but there was Myspace and Friendster before that) so many things I would have posted here have gone there instead. Projects I used to post here usually are documented on Instructables and just linked to on here.
This site averages 10,000 visits a month. The best day for visits was August 29, 2008 - 10,904 visits because nobody outside of Alaska knew the republican vice-presidential nominee until then.
Every month there are some new interesting sites that link to this site or use my photos. Here are some recent ones.
- Earth911.com - Hacks and Mods to Repurpose Your Own E-Waste - Some cool projects here, perhaps least interesting is my Nintendo mouse.
- MacGyverisms - 5 Cool DIY Projects for Reusing Your Old Computer Keyboards – Shows my use of the keyboard circuit sheets and other ideas.
- Surfingnewsdaily.com – Ecuador’s Amazing Surf Spots Make For Exciting Surf Camps – Used a few of my photos from Montanita.
- Cheapflights.co.uk – 80 great ways to get around the world – Used my photo of the maglev train in Shanghai
Tonight was the premier of an international circus performance in Ulaanbaatar. Pepper and I saw flags up a few weeks ago and have seen advertisements around town over the past few weeks as well. The ads look just like the ticket…
We were seated the second row back. There were incredible acts of contortion, acrobatics, shows with juggling, dogs, cats, jump rope, and many other performances.
Performers were from all over the world. Unfortunately, on our way in I was told no photography. I just nabbed a few shots.
…until toward the end, when I was pulled to the stage by the clown. Then it seemed like lots of pictures were ok to be taken!
That word alone carries weight – Gobi. It was the topic of high school classes about deserts. There have been BBC Planet Earth segments about the place. And I live just north of it. Getting to experience it was a priority and we finally took advantage of the chance last fall. The Gobi saddles Mongolia and northern China and we spent a week driving from Ulaanbaatar south through regions of the Gobi and then returning to UB.
The first day we got moving a little late because the timing belt on the Russian van we were going in broke before we even left the city. We stopped and grabbed a new on on our way out of the city. The first day was a lot of driving but before we left UB we found a store selling an assortment of beer we had not yet seen in the city so we stocked up. We also gathered our Pringles supplies and other snacks to ready for long days of driving.
Our first night we were housed in a hotel (of sorts) but we had one big communal room for all of us to stay in that featured a portrait with a topless woman we had to cover in order for Jordan to consider staying in the room. The next morning I took some photos of the monastery that was just outside of our hotel.
The monastery in the town had survived the communist purges of Stalin. Unfortunately it was closed when we were there. We drove again for many hours and it started to snow. At one point our van nearly lost control (Ganbat, our driver was quite skilled but we’re all pretty sure we were on only two wheels for a few moments).
The first time we saw a hers of Bactrian camels we asked to stop. Most of the camels are domesticated but they generally are not fenced-in. Pepper showed off her comfort around animals (she grew up on a ranch).
We had a short breakdown in this area. There was nothing but the pebbles, sparse grass, and very distant hills in any direction. The perspective was incredible – it lent to being very introspective. Sometimes we stopped at gers and asked for directions. There are no directional or road signs. No road markers. One main dirt road might disintegrate into numerous insignificant dirt trails.
At one of our stops there was a pair of kids that came out. It isn’t hard to imagine that a van full of foreigners might be the highlight of a day when you live in such a landscape. The cute kids below must have lived a few hours from the nearest school.
We made it down to the Flaming Cliffs area which is famous for the first dinosaur bone discoveries in the area. It was cold and this puppy followed our group around as we wandered the cliff area.
When we got back to our ger and had it sufficiently warmed up we decided to do a beer tasting in the Gobi. We got out the beer we had stashed in Ulaanbaatar and tried all of them…
…unfortunately none of them were actually good! But they did make cool shadows on the ger wall.
The next morning we rode camels. It was bitter cold and the wind was piercing. I’m not very happy with any of my pictures from that ride so I won’t post them here. We then drove for quite a few hours to get to Khongoryn Els sand dunes. At first we took care to take pictures of the dunes and the new snow but it didn’t take long before jumping off the dunes became more interesting. It had warmed up considerably and the wind had died down so we had a great time wandering the dunes.
We set off but ended up breaking down so badly that both of the front seats and the van grille were removed. Although I helped hod a light over Ganbat while he worked to make the repairs, I’m not entirely sure what was broken. I think it was some break in the connection to the throttle cable. It took almost two hours to fix. Fortunately, Russian UAZ vans are legendary for the ability to repair in the field. The one other vehicle that went by while we were doing repairs took a quick look at the work and seemed to think Ganbat would have no problem in his repair job so they left us after 10 minutes.
As a result, we didn’t make it as far as our guide had hoped. We ended up staying with a family. Staying in someone’s ger is pretty amazing and yet also somewhat disturbing. If you can imagine just allowing anyone to stay with you whenever they want to – even a group of six foreigners and two Mongolians that are just passing through… but it is the nomadic way. They expect to be able to stay with anyone so extend the courtesy even to our group. The family we stayed with had a few gers and a large herd of goat.
Yes, that bin next to the stove is full of dung to burn.
The next morning we drove through an incredible slot canyon (Dugany Am) on our way to Yolin Am which has ice in it nearly year-round.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see any wild sheep or ibex but we found signs of them. There were lots of pike barking at us on our hike into the canyon too. By now it was time for us to start driving back north toward Ulaanbaatar. We did plenty of asking herders for directions… our driver, Ganbat, is on the right in the below photo, wearing the brimmed hat.
We also stopped and bought fermented camel milk to try. This guy was just stopped along the road with his motorbike and a few plastic bottles of airag.
We stopped by a few monastery ruins and took in the vastness, silence and openness of Mongolia’s Gobi region.
Our last night before returning to the city we spent in the ger of a herder who gladly showed off his handiwork like the ger top he had decorated years earlier. He gave us a few beautiful carved fish that he had made. Sadly, all I had to leave him was a couple bottles of beer that none of us liked!
Despite frustrations with our guide/cook and essentially six days in a row of at least six hours of driving, we had a great trip.