Sunday, March 07, 2010

Back to Ireland

It had been a couple of years since I had last been back to Ireland. It felt like I was coming home the moment I stepped out of the airport to grab a cab down to the River Liffey.

First order of business was to get over to Grafton Street and just soak in the scene there.

Felt so great to see the double-decker yellow buses zooming past the old Dublin pubs.

It was getting close to Christmas (yes I'm way behind) and Gaelic signs were sprinkled throughout the city.

Had to make it over to Costa Coffee - a mandatory stop in Europe for me.

And of course, Temple Bar. As I walked in, there was a local acoustic trio banging out "Whiskey in the Jar" from the stage. Goodness.

They do love their spirits.

Also made it out to Howthe, which is about an hour north of Dublin. It's a beautiful little fishing town.

The scenes that play out here are spectacular. The poet W.B. Yeats lived up on this hill for a few years in the late 1800s.

Malahide Castle is a tucked away gem. Parts of this castle date back to the 12th century.

The hikes around Howthe lead to some majestic sites: like this one.

And of course - the Guinness. This stuff will touch your soul fresh off the tap. Really.

The west coast of Ireland is a must see. I stayed in County Mayo, which is an incredible and breathtaking place.

Here's a typical cottage in County Mayo. Wonderful place to go for some peace of mind.

Lots of livestock freely roaming the land. Herder is on the far right.

And tons of sheep. Rumor has it that for every 1 person in Ireland, there are 3 sheep.

Went to visit this abandoned village at Achill Island, where people had settled somewhere between 500 - 1200 AD.

Only a small percentage of the stone houses still remain, and it's estimated that settlers finally left the land between 1850 - 1890 during the great famine.

Despite the only inhabitants being sheep at this point, it was amazing to get an up close look at the village and see where these people used to live for centuries.

It's a pretty wild feeling to stand inside of one of these things and think that people used to live their lives out here. Hundreds of years ago.

Snuck into a pub on the way out of Achill Island (Guinness anyone?), and caught a snapshot of the old Irish currency, pre-Euro.

Could really picture myself retiring out at a spot like this. Then again, that's a ways out. Just speaks to how amazing this place is though.

Despite the fact that it was freezing (even colder than Boston), the cliffs of County Mayo are a sight to behold.

All in all, another incredible trip. Until next time Ireland.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yunnan & Guangxi Provinces, China

After landing in Yunnan, I had to take a bus into Lijiang, and was able to see several villages along the way

There was a welcomed sense of serenity here after having been in the city for months; note the religious monument just above the tree line

As soon as I arrived in Lijiang, I saw what an enchanting little city it is, with rivers flowing throughout

Another shot of the interior of the city just before dusk

At night, with red lanterns lit everywhere, the look was spectactular

Just outside of the city was the beautiful Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (behind this lake), which I later hiked (part way)

There was also a Tibetan temple that I was able to make it out to, which required leaving the city again, only to pass through beautiful fields

Some of the local people out farming mid-day

While going through some of the villages on the way out to the temple, one really gets to see just how drastically the income gap is growing between inner-rural China and the east coast port cities

There was quite a hike to get up top of this mountain where the temple sits; here I am taking a breather beneath Tibetan prayer flags

Finally made it up to the temple

Chillin' with a young monk

Here are some of the local women, from the Naxi tribe, wearing spectacular traditional clothing

Later on, went hiking up the Jade Dragon Snow mountain

Heading further up snow mountain with my oxygen tank; approximately 4506 meters above sea level here

Then headed out to Lugu Lake, a peaceful place that's about a six hour bus ride outside of Lijiang

Was able to get more shots of the local Naxi people, which is a matriarchal society, along the long bus ride

As you can probably tell, I was fascinated with the differences in cultural clothing

Also had the chance to see more rural villages along the way

Literally had a place to stay at the shore of the lake - here it is at dusk

After leaving Lijiang, I made my way out to Yangshuo in the Guangxi province

Yangshou is a very friendly little backpacker city - really enjoyed being here

At night, these tiny streets lit up with restaurants and quaint little merchant shops

Managed to jump on a boat sailing down the Li River, passing gorgeous lime stone hills, which reminded me a great deal of being in Halong Bay

I rented a bike and rode through muddy roads stacked with pot holes in the rain; the surrounding visuals were striking

The farming system here is based largely on rice paddies, which one could see as far as the eye could reach

Bikes lined up at one of the local villages I visited along the Li River

Spotted this cool mural while passing along some of the local street shops

Grabbed a glass of coffee in this rainy little town at the shore of the river

Yangshuo is really a stunning place to see