The Empire State Building, May 2007. I felt like such a kid on my first trip to New York! Never before had one location boasted so much bucket-list stuff! I had over a dozen movie sites to check out, along with a pilgrimage to The Dakota Building to pay my respects to John Lennon, right on the spot he was so cruelly robbed of his life on December the 8th, 1980. Add to that the wonder of Central Park, the Bob Dylan inspired cafes and bars of Greenwich Village and a live gospel performance in a Harlem church. The Empire State Building meanwhile was so fantastic we scaled it twice, once for daytime views and then again in night mode. The journey up to the 86TH and 102nd floor decks begin in the lobby, a historic landmark in its own right after a staggering eighteen-month restoration project. Don’t miss the 24-karat gold aluminum wall-leaf and a striking depiction of the building itself behind the front desk, complete with beams of light radiating from the mast. Because they could.
Hassan Mosque, October 2008. “There’s nothing to see in Casablanca”, a misinformed Australian once told me. Ok… the city may not be packed with an abundance of sights, but this jaw-dropping mosque is pretty much reason alone to make the journey. As the largest mosque in Morocco (third largest in the world!), Hassan is an architectural delight stunningly perched on a promontory overlooking The Atlantic Ocean. It also boasts the world’s tallest minaret, at a neck-craning six hundred and eighty nine feet.
Jinshanling Section, May 2010. I’ll never forget my first ever Great Wall experience, back during my maiden year in China. I was living in Beijing at the time, which meant there were a bunch of routes to choose from. While I had no desire whatsoever to subject myself to the overcrowded Disney circus act of Badaling, I also figured It might be wise to leave some of the more wild stretches for later on. In the end the Jinshanling section fit the bill perfectly, a ten-kilometer trek that took in some of the country’s most stunning Great Wall scenery.
798 Art District, March 2010. Only in a city as wondrously contradictory and confusing as Beijing could a place like 798 Art District exist! Formerly a huge network of factories built by the East Germans in the 1950s, by the mid 1990s the entire area had fallen into a state of abandoned disrepair. It was around this time that The Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts setup shop here to take advantage of the cheap rent and vast working space. Soon after independent artists began trickling in and the community grew and grew…
The Summer Palace, January 2010. I’ve always considered The Summer Palace to be Beijing’s crowning achievement! For me you can keep the organised chaos of The Forbidden City and the anticlimactic expanse of Tiananmen Square. While these places are definitely worth seeing, China’s largest royal park has way more charm, with breathtaking temples, gardens, pavilions, bridges, a huge lake and dazzling hilltop views. This shot was taken as I closed in on the top of Longevity Hill for a look in The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity. Guarded by a selection of fearsome bronze animals, its focal point is a giant hardwood throne.
The Forbidden City, April 2010. Home to a succession of Chinese emperors; Beijing’s incredible Forbidden City served as the very heart of China for over five hundred years and is said to be Planet Earth’s largest palace complex! And right enough you’d be hard pushed to doubt this claim as you walk under The Gate of Heavenly Peace, the disapproving stare of Chairman Mao tracking your every step.
Choeung Ek Killing Fields, December 2015. After a couple of hours wandering around the unwaveringly grim Tuol Sleng Genocide Centre, the last thing I felt like doing was going out to The Killing Fields, the place where so many Cambodian prisoners were finally put out of their misery in the mid 1970s. But in many ways seeing Choeung Ek felt like a rite of passage, as if my travel mate and I had no right heading off for the beach oases of Sihanoukville and Ko Rong until we’d finished the historical journey we’d started.