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Café in Antigua

Antigua is the great colonial city of Guatemala.

I left the beautiful and steamy hot Flores in El Petén for a night Journey to Guatemala City. It was a package with luxury bus to Guatemala City and Shuttle bus to Antigua next morning. After a day in above thirty degree Celsius and about eighty percent humidity it´s nice to enter a cool air-conditioned luxury bus. The journey started at 21:20 in the evening expected arrival time in Guatemala City about 06:30 in the morning. After a couple of hour the 17°C to 18° temperature is not so nice any more. It´s becoming very cool even for a Swedish man. The Guatemalan people were well prepared for a cold journey with sweaters and blankets. My sweater was in my backpack in the luggage compartment. If going by long distance buses in Mexico or central America I recommend having a sweater handy and not in the backpack. 

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The Cross at the chathedral

Granada is mainland America’s oldest city.

Granada is the right wing city of Nicaragua and Leon is the left wing city of Nicaragua. The political power moved between these two cities. When side got into power it sacked the other city and moved the power to their city. In the end Nicaraguans had had enough of this power struggles and created Managua between those two cities. There is still a lot to see in old colonial Granada funded 1524 although William Walker did his very best to sack the city 1856. Granada is located along the coast of Lake Cocibolca (known internationally as Lake Nicaragua) the world twentieth largest lake. From Managua it is a 47 km journey south to Granada. If you go by chicken bus it will cost one US Dollar for about one hour travel time. Expect to pay 40 US dollar for a hotel room with A/C, TV and hot and cold shower.

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Coco Loco Caye Caulker

Is Tulum to Caye Caulker in one day possible?

It´s early morning in the end of June, I am in Mexico on the Yucatán peninsula, planning my travelling through Central America. Can I go from Tulum in Mexico to Caye Caulker in Belize in one day? There are two routes the first one is bus from Tulum to Belize City and water taxi to Caye Caulker. The second one is bus from Tulum to the city of Chetumal in Mexico and water taxi for one and a half hour to Caye Caulker. The only direct bus to Belize City left during the middle of night so the first route was not an option.

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Salamina

Salamina the unknown jewel of the coffee triangle!

If Salento was unknown for backpackers Salamina is completely unknown. I have not even heard or read anything at all about Salamina before going to Colombia. I stayed in a hostal in Zona Rosa in Manizales and was planning what to do next. The hostal had a leaflet over interesting places in Manizales and around Manizales. Most places were known to me such as Los Nevados, Hacienda Venecia (Coffee tour) but one place was unknown. I asked the manager is Salamina an interesting place? This is one of our most beautiful villages we have in Colombia! A lot of artists, writers and poets have made Salamina a famous village in Colombia. However very few people visits Salamina but I recommend going the village is incredibly beautiful! The carpenters work around the village is astonishing.

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Darkness of Camagüey 4

Camagüey the great unknown jewel of darkness

Most tourists go to Havana, Trinidad or maybe Santiago de Cuba. Hidden in the middle of these three cities are Camagüey. This is Cuba’s third largest city on dusty plains in the middle of nowhere. Camagüey is a   long way from Trinidad but even longer from Havana or Santiago de Cuba. For me it was an eight hour long bus ride from Santiago de Cuba arriving at the hotel in the middle of the night.  Most people go to bed at that time but Camagüey fantastic photographic opportunities surprised me. It was darkness like a Charles Dickens city with colors, shades and reflections from the colonial buildings. I grab my camera and tripod for a several hour long stroll through the darky Camagüey.

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Musician from Patio de Artex

Cuban music seen from above.

If interested in Cuban music one should go to Santiago de Cuba. This is the swinging city of Caribbean music particularly just before and during the carnival. Santiago de Cuba is a hotter more vibrant city than the more cool and relaxed Havana. Havana has the amazing old architecture while Santiago de Cuba has the fabulous music. The Patio de Artex is one of the wonderful music clubs along Calle Heredia on the way down to Parque Céspedes. On the square old men playing different instruments are trying to fork out some CUC: s from visiting tourists. A cross Parque Céspedes one can find Casa de Don Diego Velázquez museum. Even the museum has their performing musicians a couple of times a week.

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Sule pagoda in Yangon

Yangon the green crumbling city

Visiting Yangon in the middle of the monsoon is seeing green crumbling city. The heavy rain makes everything soaked in water. The concrete give way to green plants of different kinds all the buildings are dressed in green. This can´t last forever in the end the concrete walls will dissolve and fall apart. I arrives this green steaming hot city by taxi in the late evening. I asked the driver is this city safe? The driver laughed and said. Indeed, very safe you can walk in the middle of the night in Yangon, no one will ever touch you but you won´t meet anyone either, we have all gone to sleep.

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Monk in the walkway to Shwezigon Padoga

Bagan

Bagan is South East Asia most important tourist site in the same league as Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Bagan is divided between New Bagan called Nyaungu and Old Bagan. In Nyangungu one can find all the services of a town, police station, hospital, market, restaurants and the cheaper accommodations. This is the arriving point for the buses from other cities. Old Bagan is in a bend of Ayeyarwaddy River several kilometers southeast of Nyaungu. In this part of Bagan are all the better hotels with higher standards since it is closer to all the old famous Padogas and temples of Bagan. I arrived in the middle of the night in NyaungU so I stayed overnight at In Wa Guest house. They offered a nice room with air-condition, toilet, shower and beddings for 5 US$ (2007). This was dirt cheap compared to our guest houses charging 20US$ for the same standard.

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Boat on Kanadan River

The Kanadan river journey

The mighty Kanadan River flows through the Rakhine state of Myanmar into the Bay of Bengal.  The area around Kanadan River was once the most important farming area of the whole mainland South East Asia feeding millions of people with rice. After the British walk out of Burma leaving Myanmar to be ruled by despots of different kinds this farming area has dwindled from its glory days. Nowadays it can´t even support its own inhabitants with rice for the day, maybe not even bring rice to the people of Rakhine state. For the brave few backpackers who dares to go to the remotest corner of the world it has been a wet dream to do the Kanadan river journey. I turned this wet dream into an unusually wet river journey in the rainy season of 2007. Are you thinking about going? Please dream on Rakhine state are now closed and the Kanadan River Journey impossible. I will keep feeding your dreams with pictures and ideas from my river journey on Kanadan River.

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View of Dead Sea near Máin

Hidden gem of Dead Sea

If you are staying in Madaba it´s possible to make a very nice round tour to different sites of Dead Sea area. This can be done by taxi or rental car. Drive south out of Madaba following the ancient King Highway to Libb.

http://www.atlastours.net/jordan/kings_highway.html

In Libb turn right to Mukhawir and continue for about 15 km until you come up on a high ridge with a splendid view over the Dead Sea and Herod’s the Great Palace of Machaerus ruin. This is the place there Salome danced her famous seductive dance for King Herod.

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At rest at the Treasury

Petra, Dana and Feynan

I used Madaba and Mariam hotel as a base for my travelling in Jordan. The best strategy for travelling long distances in Jordan is renting a car. A rental car work out far cheaper than Mariam hotels very cheap taxi deals on long distance travelling. You might think it´s difficult to drive in Jordan? I can say it´s surprisingly easy! It´s also very safe, Jordan has few accidents and many speed bumps. This brings the speed down in road crossings. As a matter of fact there are two speed bumps in every road crossing on the main roads. Jordan has millions of speed bumps.

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Jerusalem by night

Jerusalem

I was thinking about visiting Jerusalem but Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak talked about invading Syria. Was it a good idea to visit Jerusalem? I asked people at Madaba hotel. They said, do go! You should know, Israeli Politian’s talk with a big mouth and do little. The Israeli people must be kept insecure, our wise their system won´t work!

If traveling around Jordan using Madaba as a base, Jerusalem is only 70 km away. It took me 2 hour 30 minutes to complete the journey from a hotel in Madaba to a hotel in Jerusalem. I needed the exact same time on the returning tour from Jerusalem back to Madaba again. I left both hotels at 9:15 in the morning and arrived at 11:45 at my destination.

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Small waterfall in Wadi Ibn Hammad

Wadi Ibn Hammad

Wadi Ibn Hammad is one of Jordan’s most beautiful canyons. This canyon has everything steep canyon walls, colors, frogs, plants, waterfalls. Best of all, you can have it all for yourself; this canyon is almost completely unknown in the tourist industry.

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Sunset at Dead Sea

Dead Sea and Wadi Mujib

Most people visiting the Dead Sea stay at expensive hotel resorts at the northern shore. In fact, there is an interesting budget alternative 30 km south in Wadi Mujib national park. Wadi Mujib is the Grand Canyon of Jordan, a fantastic area for walking, canyoning.

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Parque Cespèdes Santiago de Cuba

Santiago De Cuba the swinging city

Santiago de Cuba

I arrived in Santiago de Cuba five days before the Carnival in Santiago De Cuba.  My Casa particular (Cuban bed and breakfast) was on Calle Heredia about five minutes walking down to Parque Céspedes. Santiago de Cuba was dressing up for the carnival. Hugo Chavez was coming to visit Raul Castro so it was necessary to paint the front side on all houses  along the way  the carnival cortège would follow from the start to the finish at Parque Céspedes. All over the city people were training dance steps, preparing dresses for the carnival. One could hear music in each street corner, actually the same music everywhere, Santiago de Cuba was like a gigantic orchestra playing these rhythms. I was a vibration as special feeling one ca only feel in eastern Cuba on the Caribbean side.

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Landmannalaugar_Y1O1639

Landmannalaugar and Vik

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar about 30 km east of Hekla in the inner of Iceland is probably one Europe’s most extraordinary places.  One can reach this wilderness area with a bus from Reykjavík.  The journey takes five and a half hour and the bus ride starts at 8:30 in the morning. Buy the South Circle pass at Trex in the bus station in Reykjavík and include Vik in your schedule. There is a possibility to extend the journey to Skaftafjell as well. If you go see to what you have best possible tent, sleeping bag, backpack and walking boots. You will need a tent that can withstand a storm in the open landscape without any wind protections. One can expect surprisingly cold weather even in the middle of summer with snow and temperatures below zero degrees celsius. Bring a warm sleeping bag with you! Stock up on food in Reykjavík harbor area, if you decide to break the journey into Landmannalaugar, Sellfors is another good are to stock up on food. If you are unsure about the standard of your equipment rent a hut but book as far in advance as possible. Landmannalaugar is a fantastic walking country with several possibilities for a day walk. If you are self-sufficient and can carry all your gears, there is the extraordinary  fifty-five kilometer walk down to Pórsmörk.

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Inle lake

The robes of the buddhist monks

A monk who had studied Buddhism for at least thirty years receives a robe as a gift from the local spinning-mill at Inle lake. Normally, the monk begins his studies at age of twenty, but he must start before he is twenty-seven years old. The process of manufacturing the robe follows the cycle of the moon. One cut the Lotus lowers stems at the full moon. Each process in the spinning-mill is according to the phases of the moon so the monks’ robes are ready for the next full moon. The owner said in the end of July, I will give six monks their robes during their initiating process, since they have completed their thirty year studies. According to the owner Burma had two monks on the highest level belonging to two different paths. The government pays all their expenditures.

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The young guides

Addis Ababa

I stayed at hotel Wutma in the Piazza area in Addis Ababa for 60 Birr / night about 8 US dollars. This is a small nice budget hotel with a clean room and hot shower. It was in the end of my traveling around Ethiopia and had five more days before flying home. I was at the Piazza then a young man said, do you know me? My answer was  no! He said, I am working at hotel Wutma there you are staying. I had not seen the man before. He said, what are you going to do in Addis Ababa? Well, I don´t know? He said, why not rent a car and drive down to the Rift crater lakes?

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One of the main buildings Fidel Castro Casa

Fidel Castro Casa

I had left Holguin and travelled to Gibara on the north coast of Cuba. This is a tranquil sleepy small fishing village which spreads from a calm sparkling bay into the rugged surrounding hills.  A nice area to calm down for a few days. The spot there Christopher Columbus first disembark in Cuba on October 28, 1492 is twenty km to the east of Gibara in Play Don Lino. I strolled around in Gibara then I come across a car rental company Cuba-Car. It was next to impossible to rent a car in Holguin so I didn´t have much hope in renting a car in Gibara. The man responsable for the office Raymond said, this office is for Cubans living abroad coming back home on vacation. If they need a car they can rent one. I said what about tourists can they rent a car?

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Railway_station_CA10260_Pyin_Oo_Lwin05

Pyin U-Lwin to Hsipaw

After a twelve-hour rough bus ride during the night from Inle lake I arrived at six a´clock in the morning in Mandalay. I booked a seat in a shared taxi to Pyin U-Lwin for 6500 Kyats (about 5 US$). At nine o´clock the car filled up .with passengers. We left Mandalay in a white Toyota from the good old 1970s. The driver was a hotheaded man without any patience. He drove in a furious speed on the serpentine roads up into the mountains trying to overtake trucks in sharp bends but he usually failed and had to stop quickly.  After a couple of hours driving the engine was exhausted and one could smell smoke in the car.

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Trishaw_Man_Y1O4511_BHD

American car photography

In the late afternoon I arrive in Holguin Cuba’s fourth largest city (195 000) after a long bus ride from Trinidad. There is actually no good reason for a tourist to stay in Holguin this is an industrial city. The old colonial city of Camagüey Cuba’s third largest city (270 0000) west of Holguin is far more interesting and rewarding for tourists.  A taxi drove to Casa Particulares Casa de Rosa near the central areas of the town. This casa was spotlessly clean and had hot-water bathroom. In the evening I went out to see what Holguin could offer for entertainment in the middle of the week. I met Ramon Quintana on Plaza Calista Garcia.

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Harar women Ehiopia

They are called plonkers

I arrived in the afternoon after an early morning flight to Dire Dawa (Ethiopia’s second city) from Addis Ababa. Tewodoros Hotel was my choice of budget accommodation in Harar I asked for room 117 or 118  for a view  of the hyenas crossing the football pitch at night. The room was clean and tidy with en-suite hot showers for 70 Birr (about 10 US $).  There was a water shortage and an enormous smell from the common toilet for the ground floor rooms. The manager said, no problem the water shortage is fixed before the evening! I walked out of the hotel to Harar gate then I was about to go through the gate a lad turned up! I want to be your guide what do say? This was one of the so-called plonkers!

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Trishaw Man in Burma

The bicycle Trishaw man

I stayed at the chinese owned hotel Great Wall in Mandalay. I walked towards the city centre it was 20th of July then I first met him the bicycle Trishshaw driver Myint Thein or the Trishaw man as he called himself. He had black hair was surprisingly tall to be a Burmese man in his middle age. Myint asked, do you need my service today, I go anywhere?

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Monk in the walkway to Shwezigon Padoga

© SWEBackpacker, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material including pictures without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SWEBackpacker with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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