Panmunjeom, UN Joint Security Area

South Korean soldiers (in the foreground) spend their day staring northwards at the somewhat more relaxed North Korean soldiers (there's one at the left of the three doors at the top of the stairs).

This is well inside the DMZ separating the two Koreas, and is the only place where the two sides meet face to face.  There have been numerous hostile incidents including defections and firefights at this very location.  The dotted line itself is at the midpoint of the blue conference rooms.  Amazingly, these hostile forces commingle inside the conference buildings, not observing the border.

Dorasan Station

For a year between 2007 and 2008, trains ran daily from this platform at Dorasan Station across the Korean DMZ to the Kaesong Industrial Region in North Korea.  These factories are a curious arrangement where South Korean companies can employ North Koreans at a fraction of even Chinese labor costs.

The train doesn't run these days, so raw goods in and finished products out are sent by road convoy, on an adjacent highway that's opened solely for these deliveries.

Offerings of the Devout

Nepali Hindus giving offerings at an urban shrine in Kathmandu.

The density of monuments, stupas, and statues in Nepal was quite amazing.  I lingered by a bronze Ganesha image in a undistinguished nook on that muddy road, and observed perhaps one in three pedestrians pausing to offer a quick thought to the Remover of Obstacles.

Kathmandu Infrastructure

Nepal was exhibiting its UN Least Developed Country credentials on my visit.  Here, a schoolboy cautiously navigates an unpaved street made muddy by heavy morning rain.  There were plenty of impoverished beggars.  And the electricity was so unreliable that in many neighborhoods, the candles of night vegetable vendors were the only light source other than vehicle headlights.

Marigold Garland Vendors, Kathmandu

Nepalese women sell marigold garlands in Durbar Square, in Kathmandu.  Business was brisk, and it took some time to find a view free of customers crowding the inventory.

Marigolds seemed to be everywhere during my visit, adorning even the most modest shops, shrines, and households.

Excesses of Dubai

Flying over Dubai, a few landmarks are notable.  The artificial islands comprise Palm Jumeirah, a residential development.  The distinctive building in the upper right resembling a sail is the Burj Al Arab, an outrageously expensive hotel -- on the dates a couple of weeks out that I checked, the cheapest nightly rates were around US$2000.

One can stay in a hotel in the Burj Khalifa for a third the price.  That's the tallest building in the world, and as it's 15km away from here, it wasn't visible at this scale.

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

This I M Pei guy is everywhere.

This time, it's the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, completed in 2008.  The museum is pictured at sunrise from the newly reconstructed Dhow Harbour, appropriately accompanied by Qatari dhows.

Souq Waqif, Doha

These dapper Qataris are shopping in a quiet corner of Souq Waqif, a historic market in Doha.  You can buy falcons, swords, fabric, and dinner here.  I chose to buy some jewelry.

Although the souq did have a pleasant and appropriate middle eastern ambiance, and dates from the time Doha was first settled, it was almost completely rebuilt in 2006.

Citadel of Arbil, Iraq

As sunset approaches, the Citadel of Arbil is visible at the center of a series of concentric ring roads in Erbil, Iraq.  It's been continuously inhabited for at least 7000 years and possibly quite a bit longer.

Erbil is the capitol of the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq.  It is relatively peaceful as compared to other parts of the country.  This has allowed for the development of a successful oil industry (that isn't sabotaged, as in other locales) and improving GDP figures.


I tasted 9 champagnes onboard last week, and checking back I see they retail from $30 to $90 per bottle.

This is the 1999 vintage of Lanson Brut.  Reviewing my tasting notes, it stood out over other offerings with its surprisingly lively, fruity, and appetizing flavor.  It set the tone for what was a massively enjoyable flight on Qatar Airways, which also featured a non-vintage Bollinger Rose.

Eero Saarinen's Washington Dulles

Eero Saarinen designed this beautiful public space, the original entrance, ticketing and checkin hall of Washington Dulles International Airport.  Gentle curves "suggestive of wings and flight" greet viewers from both inside and outside the building.

The original design relied on mobile lounges ("moonbuggies") to bring passengers to and from parked airplanes.  This concept didn't scale with the traffic growth seen by the airport, and conventional fixed terminals with jetways were built.  The moonbuggies still ferry passengers between concourses, at least until the train project is finished.

Harry Bertoia's sculpture

Sculpture Group Symbolizing World's Communication in the Atomic Age is Harry Bertoia's sculpture of 1959, created for Zenith's headquarters.  The company donated this to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1979.

Zenith was the last man standing among American TV and radio manufacturers, limping along until a Korean takeover in 1995.

Platypus, Smithsonian

There are only two types of Monotremes (egg-laying mammals): the platypus, and a few species of echidna.  I've seen both in the wild, in Tasmania and Victoria, though some echidnas range through Papua New Guinea.

This is a nicely displayed platypus skeleton at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.  I hadn't previously noticed that their rear feet have heel spurs, and just read that they can deliver a venemous strike with this feature!

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The western half of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is aligned with the Washington Monument, about a kilometer away.  I had modest expectations for my visit, but I found it to be quite striking and elegant, an appropriate memorial, and a fine addition to the Capitol Mall.