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Kendal, United Kingdom

I've been thinking a lot about photos recently because, frankly, it's not that easy to upload and manipulate photos on Blogabond right now. It's certainly doable, and not much of a chore if you just want to upload and tag a half dozen shots for a Blog entry. But, as users have been mentioning with increasing frequency lately, it's really time consuming to dump all 500 shots from your memory card onto the site.

That, in my mind, is a good thing.

While it's true that we offer unlimited photo storage for free, we do so with the Hope that our users will limit themselves to only posting the best photos that they have, and the ones that best compliment the journal entries that they write. The theory is that since it takes a bit of time to get a photo up and viewable, our users will be a bit more selective with the pictures they choose to share. At least, more so than they might be if we made it easy to dump the 4GB memory card from a digital camera straight onto the site.

At the end of the day, there are plenty of good sites on the web that offer free photo storage. And realistically, anybody using Blogabond.com simply as a place to store and view their photos would probably better served moving over to Flickr. I think of Blogabond as something like a cocktail party. Just a bunch of friends sitting around, telling their travel stories and showing off some cool photos. The last thing you really want at a party like that is somebody setting up the slide projector and running through all 4000 photos of his trip to Peru. It's all about selectivity, and I think that making it just a little bit difficult to set up that projector might turn out to be a good thing.

permalink written by  Jason Kester on May 16, 2006 from Kendal, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Building Blogabond
tagged Blogabond and Photos

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Votes, Photos, and Discussion

Portland, United States

This weekend, I've been blowing off a bunch of paying work so that I can put some new features into Blogabond. This is stuff that's been bugging me for a while and I think it will make the site just that little bit more usable.

First, it always bugged me that when you clicked on "Photos", you didn't get to see any Photos. Just a bunch of links. That was lame. So yeah, we need to put some pictures up there, but which ones? I dunno. Guess we can't do that until we do...

Voting. Yeah, check out the bottom of this post. See the little "This Rocks!" link? Click on that, and you'll give this post a little karma bonus. If enough people click it, maybe it will boost my profile up onto the homepage. Democracy in action!

So yeah, every post and every photo on the site now has one of those little vote buttons. You can vote photos onto the "Cool Photos" list, and vote people onto the "Featured Traveler" list.

And finally, I've messed with the discussion forums a bit so that people can actually figure out what they do. Try it out. Click the "Talk" link up top and ask your fellow Blogabonders a question. I bet you'll get a few replies.

Anyway, let me know if you like any of this new stuff. And hey, I'm off to Europe in a few days. If you're touring around France, Switzerland or Italy, let me know!

permalink written by  Jason Kester on April 22, 2007 from Portland, United States
from the travel blog: Building Blogabond
tagged Blogabond, Photos and Community

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Argenton-Chateau, France

HI EVERYONE! Just a little reminder...if you go to photos, it will take you to a page that shows the pics as small squares. If you click on those little squares...they pop up as much larger photos, easier to see...with captions!

Love from France!

permalink written by  Lifeisjuicy on July 21, 2007 from Argenton-Chateau, France
from the travel blog: My Excellent French Adventure!
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First couple of days

Beijing, China

I arrived in Beijing around 5 am yesterday. The first thing I learned was that the people here are early risers; there were masses of people walking to work at 5:30 am.

I felt a bit of culture shock and was pretty miserable until I went out of my bubble/dorm room and went on an adventure exploring some of the nicer parts of Beijing today. Instead of blabbing on, I'm just going to compile a list of what I did...

-Figured out how to use the subway system
-Ate McDonald's
-Walked A LOT
-Having fun talking to locals in broken Mandarin and using the excuse that I'm a GuangDong ren (Cantonese)

The people here are really nice if they know you're a foreigner (but it can be bad if you're haggling). It's kind of frustrating sometimes. I look Chinese so the people here expect fluent Mandarin out of me. When I look at them with my blank "huh?" face because wo bu dong (I don't understand), they get impatient. Most of the people in the area around Beijing Normal University (Bei shi da, short for Bei jing shi fan da xue) or maybe just Beijing in general talk really fast and have a really strong accent--they add "ar" to everything. But I did get one compliment from a local, she said my Chinese was pretty good for a foreigner. Yay! I'm not that much of a noob after all.

I miss you people (sometimes) :D, so please comment and let me know how you're doing and/or ask questions about my experiences/the weather in Beijing/if I'm getting traveller's diarrhea/etc.

permalink written by  jlu on June 28, 2008 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Study Abroad in China
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Niamey, Niger

The CFCA, our home for the next four months:

My itsy-bitsy bedroom (mosquito nets included):

Is there anyplace on Earth that doesn't sell Coca Cola?

I think the yogurt speaks for itself:

There are goats everywhere; they're probably the best-fed animals in the whole country because they eat anything and everything:

We were eating lunch near at the Rec Center when this tortoise walked over. He probably just wanted our leftovers, but I convinced him to pose for a photo:


The rooftop bar where we danced our troubles away:

Well, some people had drumming-related troubles:

This guy really wants you to use protection:

permalink written by  The Boston Wanderer on September 13, 2008 from Niamey, Niger
from the travel blog: Sandstorms
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Bonne Fete!

Niamey, Niger

October has arrived, and with it the mini hot season that threatens to drain the very soul from my body. Unfortunately, we've already planned a trip to Ayrou for this weekend, so I won't be able to spend it in my dark room with the fan on, surrounded by ice packs. I am super-excited about going, though. We're going to camp out in a Fulani village, canoe to an island or two, and check out the Sunday market.

This past weekend was crazy, due in part to the ending of Ramadan. Went out Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday nights. Classes were canceled on Tuesday for Eid ul-Fitr (or La Fete, as everyone calls it here), but we left the CFCA at 8 AM to visit the mosque. Don't we look fetching in our headscarves?

permalink written by  The Boston Wanderer on October 2, 2008 from Niamey, Niger
from the travel blog: Sandstorms
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A most eventful weekend

Ayorou, Niger

I spent the weekend in Ayorou, an amazing market town that is pretty much out in the bush. I went with two other students and Barke, a former BU-Niger student (three semesters!) who teaches at the American school in Niamey. We spent Friday night camped out on mattresses outside the hotel in Ayorou.

The hotel was right by the river, and at night we could hear the hippos roaring.

The next morning, we rented a canoe and rode up beside the mighty beasts.

Then we were steered towards a nearby island village. The people there were Songhay, so I got to practice my terrible Zarma skills.

The children were absolutely adorable.

We talked to the people there for a little while, and Barke bought some millet husks for his animals. Once the word got out that he was buying, everyone in the village came running with their husks.

They pound the millet grains with a mortar and pestle to remove the husks.

After our island excursion, we visited a Fulani family who live just outside of town. The Fulani are nomadic herders, so it took us a few minutes of searching to find their camp.

The family was really nice and didn't seem to mind that we fell asleep in the sand underneath their tree. We came bearing pineapples and bananas, two fruits which they had never seen before. (Imported produce like that doesn't often make it outside of Niamey.) Then we dropped by a Bella camp before dinner for a few hours. The Bella are also nomadic herders, but they speak Tamasheq. Their culture is very reserved, so I didn't get a lot of photos.

After our visit with the Bellas, we returned to the Fulani camp for dinner and sleep. They rolled out mats for us, and we fell asleep looking at the Milky Way over our heads.

On Sunday, we were awoken by the sounds of roosters, cows, and donkeys. We ate a breakfast of fresh milk and reheated rice from the night before, and then we returned to Ayorou for the market. There was a group of adorable boys who followed us around all day. They loved posing for pictures because it meant they got to see themselves afterwards.

We drove home Sunday afternoon, tired but happy. My roommate Bukaram was so dirty that we decided to take a picture to memorialize it.

  • **

  • I'd love to end the entry here, but the weekend didn't stop there. Harira, Bukaram, and I came back to the CFCA and then went to a nearby cafe for dinner. Afterwards, while hailing a taxi, a man ran up behind us and stole my roommate's wallet and my purse. Other people on the street came to our aid, and one man even beat the thief with a baguette, but the voleur got away. We filed a police report, but the reality is that those things are long gone.

    The good news is that no one was hurt, and everything that was lost is replaceable. Last night I was just angry, but I'm starting to realize that it could have been much worse. The perils of city-living, I guess.

    permalink written by  The Boston Wanderer on October 6, 2008 from Ayorou, Niger
    from the travel blog: Sandstorms
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    Have you been in Benin? (I have just been.)

    Cotonou, Benin

    We spent the last week-and-a-half in Benin, which is absolutely beautiful, by the way. The bus ride was not as wonderful, lasting fifteen hours on the first day and ten on the second. We tried to keep ourselves busy, though, as evidenced by Rumanatu and her birthday champagne:

    When we finally did get to Benin, it was an eye-opening experience, and I couldn't help thinking how much easier it is to live in a place like that (as compared to Niger). First of all, things actually grow there. Imagine palm trees and broad, leafy plants. Even more exciting: fruits. A whole world of vitamins awaits the visitor to Benin who feasts upon its pineapples, papayas, and avocados. Also, the country is on the coast, which means not only fish to eat but also tourism and trade to enhance its economic prospects. Thoguh it is not a wealthy nation, Benin's standard of living was notably high to my eyes, accustomed as they are to the Sahel. The people are bigger, the children have more energy, and the livestock isn't so boney.

    I'd thought that living in Niamey had acclimated me to West African cities, but Cotonou was bigger and busier that I could have imagined. It took us a full hour to drive our bus from one end of the city to the other. In fact, the only way to really travel efficiently is by motorcycle (your own or a moto-taxi), but we poor students are forbidden by International Programs from riding such things. The market too was enormous and chaotic; you could wander around for hours without seeing everything. I would definitely like to spend more time in Cotonou. It has a certain beachy charm, and four days was not enough to see everything the city has to offer.

    We did get to see some pretty great signs while we were there:

    We also took a day trip to Ganvier, the so-called Venice of Africa. It's really not like Venice at all except that both cities have a lot of water and a lot of gift shops. Otherwise, Ganvier is just a town on stilts.

    After Cotonou, we spent two-and-a-half glorious days on the beach in Grand Popo. We slept in bungalows, ate coconuts, and frolicked in the waves.

    A bunch of people lived on the beach near our hotel, and we watched them bring in their boats and fishing nets each day. And it just wouldn't be Africa without a gaggle of adorable children:

    All good things must come to an end, and we got back to Niamey last night after a long busride punctuated by an infuriating number of stops. As much as I liked traveling, it's good to be back "home" again.

    permalink written by  The Boston Wanderer on November 9, 2008 from Cotonou, Benin
    from the travel blog: Sandstorms
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    Bangkok, Thailand

    I've uploaded some photos from the trip thus far and will stick them in the appropriate blog entries. For now, you can just click on "photos".

    permalink written by  bhkann on June 21, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand
    from the travel blog: Ben's SE Asia Voyage
    tagged Photos, Temples, Bangkok and Ayutthaya

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    Cold in the Desert

    Uyuni, Bolivia

    Uyuni is surrounded by some of the most spectacular and surreal scenery in Bolivia so, like every other gringo who visits the tumbleweed town, we hopped in a jeep for a tour of the nearby salt flats and National Park. We set off on a cloudy Sunday, our first stop was to pay our respects at the train “cemetery” which lies on the outskirts of town. Rows of rusty old trains create an amazing spectacle – abandoned in the baron wasteland, the tired brown relics lean passively, resigned to the slow erosion of the desert. We took photos and climbed all over them before being ferried off to the salt flats.

    Both salty and flat, the salt flats were everything I was expecting. The endless white desert was fascinating and, above all, provided the opportunity to take vaguely amusing photos of us treading on each other and swinging on Josh’s beard. Josh’s beard really does deserve a mention. Cultivated since our departure and affectionately known as “The Wedge”, it has received praise and extended stares the world over. It has become a tourist attraction in itself. Now, after almost four months, Josh’s meticulous beauty regime has been extended to include a daily combing of The Wedge, which is habitually twisted and tangled in times of reflection.

    Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, in the middle of a salty nowhere getting back into our jeep. The roads were thin smudges across the landscape and we gazed out of the windows at the blankness until we reached our lunch stop, the Isla Inchahuasi. An island upon the salt covered in cacti, Inchahuasis claim to fame seemed to be the fact that it is so spectacularly out of place. Nevertheless, it is a good place to climb up for a view of the flats and the distant mountains. After lunch and some more time dedicated to the perfect photographic illusion (it’s actually really hard to do if your camera is clever enough to have auto focus) we headed towards these mountains.

    Our hotel was located on the edge of the salt flat where the terrain suddenly turned brown and rough. It was fairly comfortable, with hot water and a dining area from which we could see the colourful beams of the sun setting behind the mountains. Its most notable feature however was that it was constructed almost entirely out of salt! The walls, the tables, the chairs, even the beds were carved out of the stuff! If your chips were a bit bland you could simply scratch a bit of table onto them! It was a beautiful looking building, with salt crystal chandeliers illuminating the white uniformity of the rooms. In one corner they had a huge pile of salt and a stack of salt blocks – I like to think they just make anything they find lacking: “No, sorry we don´t have a bar but if you just give me a few minutes…” etc.

    That night we got to know the other half of our group, a trio of flatulent Frenchmen who had a mysterious collection of cuts and bruises. They told us that they had just come from La Paz they had been robbed on two separate occasions, once by a fake taxi driver and then again at the hands of some Bolivians they had befriended who had drugged their drinks and beaten them before taking (what was left of) their valuables. To add injury to insult, one of them had also fallen off his bike on the Death Road. It was fair to say that these were an unlucky bunch but it did make me realise how fortunate we were to get out of that place unscathed – particularly considering the risky nature of our adventures. Anyway, we played some poker, drank some palpably cheap wine and retired to our salty beds for a good nights sleep. The pillows, mattresses and sheets were made of more familiar materials.

    We set off as the sun came up the next morning. Our first stop, after an hour or so, was unplanned. Our jeep suddenly went quiet and we found ourselves watching hopefully as our driver tinkered with the engine. His toolkit consisted of a screwdriver and a knife, it wasn´t very convincing, but after a helping hand from the driver of another jeep (there were loads, breaking down in this desert was not as dramatic as you may imagine) we continued on our way to see Volcano Ollague, an active volcano which I had heard smokes like a Feltham housewife.

    Due to the somewhat dangerous nature of active volcanoes we viewed this one from a distance – the “mirador” an interesting set of rock formations which I found almost as impressive as the distant smoke-tipped spectacle. The rest of the day was spent driving between picturesque lakes where the high mineral content means not only a welcome collection of flamingos but also spectacular variations in colour from deep reds to rich greens and streaks of yellow. Around the edges the lakes were framed with thick ice, this and the icy wind gave us a taste of the freezing night which we had been frequently warned to prepare for. We also visited the surreal and other-worldly landscape known as Salvador Dali Desert because the strange rocks are set to have inspired Dali when he visited the region.

    It was an indescribable day of sights and I am well aware that my descriptive language fails to deliver the necessary images – even my photos don’t do the places justice – but to attempt to describe the constant, often baffling, changes in landscape would probably mean me dedicating the remainder of the trip to sitting hunched in various internet cafés across Argentina and Brazil. Thankfully, the hotel we were staying in requires very little description. It was basic and cold. We huddled around a small iron oven for warmth, played cards and the Frenchmen attempted to play the Beverly Hills Cop theme tune on panpipes (their Ipods had, after all, been robbed) – eventually the bitter cold of the night began to set in and we retreated to the warmth of our beds wearing as much as possible. It was the kind of night where you wake up to find an arm has fallen out of your sleeping bag and started collecting icicles but I slept well and, at 5am when we had to get up, was even fairly chirpy.

    We set off in darkness, with stars scattered generously across the sky and our bodies still clinging to the warmth of our beds. I joked that breaking down now would be the worst thing ever. Then we did. Our driver tried to restart it but the engine gave nothing but a pained groan and a clangy rattle. We shivered patiently in the back. He tried the screwdriver, then the knife but nothing seemed to work! We tried to roll back to the hotel but we had driven too far and down too many hills – eventually the driver told us to wait while he walked back and got another jeep. By the time we watched the sun rise from the icy windows of our jeep, my chirpy mood had frozen over. We had been sitting in the cold for an hour and my feet were so cold they hurt. Our driver returned in a new and improved jeep and, happily abandoning the frozen corpse of that which had taken us so far, we continued on to the steaming land of the geysers.

    Pools of thick, muddy water bubbled furiously and everywhere cracks in the ground shot streams of warm mist which drifted over us and filled our nostrils with its horrifically pungent sulphuric odour. I was amazed at how active the geysers were – there was a constant hissing and bubbling – and we were told that this was the case 24 hours a day. In an attempt to thaw my frozen feet, I stood nonchalantly on one of the smaller holes and immediately hopped off as the scolding steam burnt through my thin shoe! My feet half numb and half burnt, I got back into the jeep. I wasn´t particularly enjoying our last day.

    We had breakfast at the nearby hot springs where we were also able to revive our feet. While Josh and I sat on the edge watching our toes come back to life, Niall and the Frenchmen braved partial nudity and went in fully. I was tempted, the water was nice and hot, until I considered that one has also to get out of the springs at some point. I decided to devote all my energy to eating as much breakfast as possible.

    Fully defrosted and revitalized, the mornings mishaps were actively repressed and we proceeded to our final stop, Laguna Verde. This was a huge, deserted lake surrounded by red rocky mountains where the sulphur content repels flamingos but demands photography with its brilliant green water. Our driver said something in Spanish about the landscape being similar to Mars and that it is used by NASA for training purposes. That is at least what I decided he was saying – it could have been anything really. I have to confess that despite a tenfold increase in my vocabulary I probably only know about ten words of Spanish and most of them are only of any use when bargaining for alpaca jumpers or looking for a train station which is on the right hand side (I don’t know the word for left).

    Anyway, so began our epic drive back to civilisation. It really was epic too; once we had bounced over the surface of Mars we crossed vast stretches of sand, slate, rubble and rock, splashed our way through icy frozen streams which trickled down through the valley from frosted mountaintops and eventually watched the sky changing colour as we roared across the flat, limitless landscapes before Uyuni.

    permalink written by  steve_stamp on July 31, 2009 from Uyuni, Bolivia
    from the travel blog: The art of being lost
    tagged Desert, Photos, Lakes, Ice, Salt, Flamingos, Cold, Springs, Jeep, Breakdowns, Geyzers and Epic

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