METEORA, GREECE: CLIFFTOP SANCTUARIES IN THE CLOUDS - Continuing our journey northward, we reached the Plain of Thessaly and encountered massive granite pinnacles. At the top were monasteries, the earliest built in the 14th century by monks seeking refuge from Turkish pirates. This is the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.
....others were more playful....
OLLANTAYTAMBO, PERU - As in many rural villages, chickens roam freely. In Peru, however, some of the strange breeds appear to have come straight from a visit to the hairdresser.
MACHU PICCHU, PERU - One last look at one of the great archaeological wonders of the world.
MACHU PICCHU, PERU - Descending some of the pathways at Machu Picchu gave us the feeling we were stepping off into the abyss.
SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR - One of the magnificant stained glass windows at the Metropolitan Cathedral.
SAN ANTONIO PALOPO, GUATEMALA - Ever curious of passing tourists, a young child looks out from her house as we pass by. Notice that underneath her sweatshirt she wears the traditional weave of her village.
ATHENS, GREECE - Some say the Parthenon is more striking from a distance...less obvious construction cranes, a more dramatic setting. But we found the "up-close" view to be just as spectacular.
We would spend the afternoon, night, and next morning on one of the teak Vietnamese junks cruising among the nearly 3,000 mountain-islands that make up this amazing seascape.
CORINTH, GREECE - The Temple of Apollo is Corinth's dominant feature. Built in 550 B.C., it was one of the buildings preserved by the Romans when they rebuilt the site in 46 B.C. (after having razed it a century before).
...and narrow "tubehouses" that may be the width of a single room but rise three and four stories high. One reason: Property taxes are assessed based on the width of the building.
SAN ANTONIO PALOPO, GUATEMALA - Along the banks of Lake Atitlan, these young girls watched as we departed the village of San Antonio Palopo.
CORINTH: ELEGANT RUINS IN GREECE'S FIRST "SIN CITY" - Our first stop was Corinth. In ancient times it was a rollicking town - one of Greece's richest trading centers and the site of a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, where Greeks went to frolic with "sacred" courtesans.
LUXOR - The day after visiting Karnak we explored one of the true splendors of ancient Thebes, the magnificent Luxor Temple. Less overwhelming than its massive neighbor Karnak, it seems to exude a more artful appearance. To approach the First Pylon, a visitor walks down the "Avenue of the Sphinxes."
The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is truly one of the world's great spectacles, the largest ballooning event on earth and the most photographed event of any type, surpassing even the Rose Parade.
ATHENS, GREECE - To reach the top of the Acropolis, visitors climb the steps to the Propylea, the entryway to perhaps the greatest architectural masterpiece on the planet.
CORINTH, GREECE - Like many ancient Greek ruins, what remains of temple columns rise above vast amounts of fallen stonework.
Scarcely an inch of Banteay Srei is left unadorned.
BANGKOK - A colorful Khon figure guards a stupa at the Grand Palace.
BANGKOK - Once built to cover and commemorate the remains of royalty, chedis today may hold the remains of anyone wealthy enough to afford the construction.
WEST BANK - Across the river from Luxor is the famous Valley of the Kings (and Queens), the great hidden necropolis chosen by the New Kingdom pharaohs to be their burial place. Our first view of the west bank came from the air, as several of us opted for a dawn balloon flight.
....as balloons of all colors took to the air, some with a patriotic theme....
METEORA, GREECE - The "icon factory" outside of Kalambaka is the place where Greek Orthodox priests from throughout the region come to shop.
METEORA, GREECE - The Monastery of Saint Nicholas Anapapsas was built in the latter part of the 15th century.
DELPHI, GREECE - Central among the Delphi ruins is the Temple of Apollo, first built around the 7th century B.C., rebuilt after a fire in the 6th century B.C., destroyed in 373 B.C. by an earthquake, and rebuilt for a third time in 330 B.C. Today only the foundation and six doric columns remain.
During the past 28 centuries, the Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Ottomans and French have all come to Tunisia to trade, conquer, or explore. Now it was our turn.
Looking at the remnants of this once great power center, we shared the sentiments of the 19th century traveler Edward Blaquière who wrote "Any man who could survey the ruins of Carthage with indifference or not call to mind the scenes of its past glories and misfortunes must, indeed, by devoid of sensibility."
...and all of Hanoi seemed in a mighty rush to turn the country's tumultuous 20th century into a prosperous 21st. Nothing and no one seemed idle.