Alaska: Port of Call Skagway

Skagway The  tiny town of Skagway is a very popular port of call for cruise ships. Its main draw is its historical district of about 100 buildings from the gold rush era and the White Pass and Yukon Route that runs its narrow-gauge train during the summer months, mainly for tourists.

Instead of taking the most popular White Pass Train Ride, we opted for the bus tour to the White Pass and Yukon territory because I thought it would provide lots of opportunities for pictures. We drove through the Klondike Highway, which paralleled much of the Gold Rush Trail of 1898. We saw an amazing panorama of mountains, glaciers, gorges, famous waterfalls like the Pitchfork Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and many other smaller waterfalls, historical places like the Moore Creek Bridge, and views of the White Pass & Yukon Railroad along the route.

Our driver/guide did a great job of retelling the history of the Gold Rush, how stampeders or prospectors struggled to climb the trail carrying tons of goods …

Alaska: Port of Call Juneau

Juneau It was raining when we arrived in Juneau. After breakfast, the fog began to rise revealing the mountains. I could see a red cable car ascending toward the mountain towering above from the ship's panoramic window. As soon as we got off the ship, I realized that the cable car station called Mount Roberts Tramway was just a few steps from the pier. It was considered one of steepest (the most vertical) tramways in the world.

Juneau is a popular tourist destination. I found so many stalls at the pier offering different types of tours including the most popular tour to the Mendenhall Glacier. Of course, we pre-booked this tour from the cruise ship.

We hopped onto the bus to travel twelve miles north along one of Juneau’s two major roads with the bay side on one side of the road and the fog-covered mountains on the other side. Our destination was the base of the Mendenhall Glacier. Our driver would point to an eagle on top of the streetlight, and a few more in the open fields alon…

Alaska: Port of Call Ketchikan

Ketchikan I just had time to muse about my wonderful experience exploring the Inside Passage and some parts of the Tongass National Park while on a cruise to Alaska with my sisters. Our first port of call was Ketchikan, a very small town famous for three things: rain, salmon, and totem poles. So, most of the shore excursions involve rainforest, fish and totem poles. The weather forecast on our arrival was rain, but for a city dubbed as the “rain capital of Alaska”, it was beautiful and sunny when we arrived. The arch sign “the Salmon Capital of the World” greeted us as soon as we got off the ship. I gathered from the sign that Ketchikan was a small enough to explore on our own because only small towns would build or put out signs as tourist attractions to draw crowds. We could have explored the whole town on our own in no time, but we already pre-booked a walking tour. We arrived a couple of hours before the scheduled tour, so we walked around to check the shops out (mostly souvenir …

Myanmar, Burma

Myanmar, Burma

When entering a place
that has two names one must watch the streets where we place our feet as both traveler and citizen of the globe
a world of extremes gilt domes of temple worship bordering the tents of cities meant to be impermanent but never seem to disappear
how the hills are in our hands how the displaced are gems among the treasures
and that everything is precious


1. Photos by the author
2. I decided to publish this poem after watching the "Families Belong Together" rallies across the country.

Bangkok, Thailand

I spent my fair share of time in the northern part of Thailand, volunteering at the elephant farm five years ago. I really enjoyed my stay with a local family and learned about their culture and where I began to understand why Thailand is called 'The Land of Smiles'.  For some reason, I never had a strong desire to visit Bangkok, probably because big cities are off-putting to me. It’s only now that I realized how much of a missed opportunity this had been and glad to include it in my epic Southeast Asia travel this year. I began my trip to Bangkok with the knowledge I learned from volunteering in the northern part of Thailand where I felt safe.

Right after landing at Suvanabhumi airport and going through customs, I went straight to a transportation booth to ask where I could find a cab to my hotel. Instead of pointing me to the cab waiting area, I was led to believe that I was in the right place. A man pointed me to the clerk at the counter who started preparing a receipt for…

Myanmar: Photo Essay Part 3

The Road to Mandalay
We arrived in Mandalay by plane, but it was a long highway from the airport before seeing the “Welcome to Mandalay” sign. The drive to our hotel at the foot of the Mandalay Hill continued for at least an hour due to traffic. It seemed like a boring town at first, bustling with commerce. It was not until approaching Mandalay Hill where the images of a romantic, bygone era came into view with the Royal Palace and impressive moat.

The road to Mandalay leads to popular tourist destinations: Mingun to the west, Amarapura to the south and Pyin Oo Lwin to the east.  Our next day was dedicated to seeing the famous temples and pagodas in Mingun.
Mingun Mingun has two main attractions: the Pahtodawgyi Temple and Hsinphyumae Pagoda.
The Pahtodawgyi is a humungous stupa that should have become the largest stupa in the world with the height of 150 meters. Constructions of the stupa were started in 1790 by King Bodawpaya and was stopped due to the astrologer’s prediction that …