Seeing Tropical Flowers When Traveling

One of the things that we enjoy when traveling to destinations such as Central and South America are the beautiful flowers. We have gone to botanical gardens and seen some amazing flowers, but there is something special about seeing them in the wild. They have such vibrant colors, especially all of the red varieties. They are often very unique and different than what can be found throughout other regions of the world. We also find that photographing these flowers provide very striking pictures as they tend to almost have a 3-D quality to them at times. Here are a few of our favorite photographs of these tropical flowers.

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Flower in the Jungle of Panama

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Flowers in the Jungles of Ecuador

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Tropical Flower

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In the Denver Botanical Garden

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Jungle Leaves in Bolivia

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Another Tropical Flower in Panama

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Flowers in the Dark of the Jungle in Bolivia

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In the Embera Village

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Feathery Flowers

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More Flowers at the Botanical Gardens

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Unique Flower in Ecuador

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Flower in the Tropical Rain

 

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What is the Most “Touristy” Thing That You’ve Done?

When traveling, we always try to have the most authentic experiences as possible. There are times, however, when a tour that we take includes something that is there just for tourists. They are often a photo opportunities that locals believe that the people visiting want to take home with them, but often they aren’t realistic to the actual culture. More often than not, when we end up doing one of those types of things, we literally cringe when we see what we’re about to do. It doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy them, it is just that we realize that it is a staged activity done just for tourists.

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Led by a Rope in Egypt

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Pirate Ship Show

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Blurry Dungeon in Prague

We have actually ridden camels twice, once in Morocco and then again in Egypt. It wasn’t as if we were riding a camel to get from one place to another, it was just us on a camel while someone walked us around. It wasn’t as if we saw people riding camels, although we know that they do in the desert, so it is just something that people have come to expect to do when they visit those countries. Another thing that we did when in Morocco was to see a snake charmer. Interesting as it was, it was still just a planned stop along the tour for us to take photos and tip the snake charmer in order for him to make a living.

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Swimming with Dolphins

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Snake Charmer

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Torture Chamber

When we were in Prague, at the end of the tour, we went to what was supposed to be a medieval restaurant, complete with cobwebs on the ceiling and waiters dressed in garments from the period. Having a meal at a wooden table in a dungeon, while fun, is probably not the way it would have been hundreds of years ago. When we visited Warwick Castle in England, one of the towers was set up as a torture chamber. It was basically a haunted house experience with people jumping out at you. Again, fun, but not anything representative of turn of the century Europe.

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Riding Camels on the Beach in Morocco

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Tail Down the Back

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Guard at the Haunted Tower

When we were in Cabo, we swam with dolphins in a large aquarium. It would be quite fascinating to swim in the wild with dolphins, but that would be a completely different experience than swimming with a dolphin that has been trained to do tricks. We took a cruise on a pirate ship in Puerto Vallarta where they put on a show and entertained the guests throughout the tour. Clearly these activities are a little different, but still very touristy. Obviously it is hard to completely avoid all of these types of activities, so when they happen it is best to just role with it and have fun. The camel rides were probably the most touristy of all of the activities that we’ve done. What is the most touristy thing that you’ve done when traveling?

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Beer and Wine in the Dungeon

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Putting Hats on in Egypt During Lunch

 

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Travelon Anti-Theft Bags

This is a sponsored post on behalf of TRAVELON Bags. All opinions are our own.

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Plenty of Pockets for Organization

We are always looking for travel gear that makes our traveling more convenient and easier. We often take day trips away from our primary location and need to be able to take several items with us. TRAVELON bags has a variety of anti-theft products that include backpacks, purses, and laptop bags. With all of the interior pockets and zippered sections, they allow us to keep everything organized and easy to find during our trips.

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Stylish Laptop Bag

DSC_9545Keeping your personal items secure when traveling is always important as tourists are often the target of thieves. The TRAVELON bags that we have used have slash-resistent straps and locking features to keep pick-pockets from being able to do a “grab and go”. The purse and backpack that we used also have RFID protected internal sleeves to protect our credit cards. They also offer a wide variety of RFID protected wallets as well. The laptop back that we use has plenty of room for all of our electronics and even a place to hold a water bottle, which we have found extremely convenient.

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Matching Backpack and Purse

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Room for Everything

Whether the purse, backpack, or laptop bag, we have found the bags from TRAVELON to be stylish as well as functional. You can check out some of the other products that we enjoy by visiting our resource page.

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Making the Most of Chennai, India

Visiting the city of Chennai in India is a trip that we will always remember. We have mentioned previously that it was a trip that not only had a profound impact on us personally, but also changed the way that we have traveled since that visit. Although we only had a limited amount of time to spend in Chennai, we certainly made the most of the time that we had. We tried to see as much of the city as possible, but also made sure to take a couple of day trips to see the surrounding area. It can certainly be overwhelming to visit a city with as many people as live in Chennai and it takes a little getting used to as you visit the various sites.  If you get a chance to visit Chennai, here are some of the places that we would recommend that you take time to see.

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Kapaleeshwarar Temple entrance in Chennai, India

  1. Kapaleeshwarwar Temple – With all of the colorful details on the roofs, it is an amazing sight to see. Depending on the time that you go to the temple, you can certainly expect large crowds. The temple was one of the first places that we visited in Chennai and it only kept getting better.

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    Main Building with Beautiful Architecture

  2. The Government Museum – Featuring exhibits that range from zoological, archeological, cultural, and historical, there is a lot to see in the second oldest museum in India. From the statues to the architecture of the museum buildings themselves, it should certainly be on your itinerary for Chennai.

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    Standing Outside of the Cathedral

  3. Saint Thomas Cathedral – One of only three churches in the world to be built over the tomb of a disciple, it is also the location of the cave where St. Thomas hid before eventually being speared to death.

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    Learning About the Ancient Temples in Mahabalipuram

  4. Mahabalipuram – The first of our day trips outside of Chennai, seeing the ancient temples of Mahabalipuram was probably the highlight of our time in India. There is much to see as you walk around the various temples, so expect to spend several hours at Mahabalipuram.

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    House at DakshinaChitra

  5. DakshinaChitra – Meant to represent the culture and lifestyles of the entire Tamil Nadu region, where Chennai is located, this cultural center is certainly worth a visit. We stopped on our way down to Mahabalipuram and enjoyed walking throughout the different buildings within the complex.

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    Tiger Cave

  6. Tiger Cave – Also located near Mahabalipuram, visiting this temple cave with tigers carved at the entrance is certainly interesting, but it won’t take longer than about 30 minutes to take a guided tour around the area. Although probably not worth a trip on its own, it is certainly worth stopping to see while on your way to Mahabalipuram.

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    Buying Silk in Kanchipuram

  7. Kanchipuram – Known for its production of silk, it is certainly worth a visit to learn about the production of silk and to purchase silk items at prices that are better than in Chennai. We also visited the Ekambareswarar Temple while we were in Kanchipuram, which was another beautiful temple with many interesting features.

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    View of Chennai

Chennai is certainly a busy city with a lot of technology and manufacturing businesses with international ties located there. The people were very welcoming and we enjoyed seeing the sights within the city as well as the surrounding area. Another highlight to Chennai and the coastline are the beaches, although we didn’t spend time at the beach during our visit. We are hoping to make it back to India in the near future and are looking forward to seeing more of this truly interesting country.

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Waterfalls in the Jungle

Waterfalls are always beautiful no matter where you see them, but they can be even more dramatic in the jungle. There have been a couple of occasions where we have specifically gone on excursions just to see a waterfall and we weren’t disappointed when we did. The first and one of the most dramatic was in Coroico, Bolivia, which we visited after driving down Death Road. We hiked along a trail that was lined with cocoa trees to a clearing where a large waterfall cascaded down from the cliffs above. You almost always have the opportunity to swim beneath the waterfall if you so desire. Recently, while in Panama, we followed a small stream off of the main river to another interesting waterfall.  Although not quite as dramatic as the one in Bolivia, it was still a beautiful waterfall.

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Waterfall at Coroico, Bolivia

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Enjoying the View

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Powerful Waterfall in Panama

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Looking Up at the Water Flowing Down the Cliff

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Coroico Waterfall from the Distance

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Hiking to the Waterfall in Panama

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View from the Observation Deck

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Panama Waterfall from the Distance

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A Perspective of It’s Height

 

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The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy

Florence was the cradle of renaissance art for several centuries, so it is no surprise that it hosts one of the most famous museums in the world for renaissance art, the Uffizi Gallery. The Medici family was renowned for their patronage of the arts and commissioned many great works of art from artists such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Machiavelli. After the family died out, a deal was made to give all of their art to the city of Florence and the Uffizi Gallery is home to many of those works.

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Rich and Vibrant Colors

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Botticelli’s Birth of Venus

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Roman Bust

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Classic Renaissance Style

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Wonderful Details

One of the most famous paintings in the Uffizi Gallery is the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Painted sometime in the 1480’s, the painting of the goddess Venus coming to shore after her birth. Other important works in the museum include Michelangelo’s The Holy Family, Leonardo da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi, and Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait as a Young Man. With so many wonderful works of art, you should certainly plan on several hours when visiting the Uffizi Gallery. You should also expect plenty of crowds as it is one of the most visited museums in all of Italy.

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Religious Imagery

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An Interesting Style

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One of the Many Rooms with Famous Statues

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Commissioned Portrait

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Very Dramatic

Although the paintings are certainly the focal point of the Uffizi Gallery, there are plenty of historic sculptures as well. Seemingly every inch of the museum is covered with beautiful works of art and it can be quite overwhelming. As with many other famous museums with so many different works of art to see, a single visit will never truly do it justice, but since we were only in Florence for a week, it would have to do. In addition to the Uffizi Gallery, visiting the Accademia Gallery in Florence to see Michelangelo’s David as well as many other incredible pieces should also be on your agenda.

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Detailed Statue

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Portraits of a Couple

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Medusa

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You Could Spend Hours in the Museum

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Tuscan Perspective

 

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Do You Remember When Airports Were Just Airports?

It is hard to believe that there was once a time when an airport was just a place to wait for your plane. Nowadays airports are as much about the food and shopping as they try to attract customers to fly through their locations. Some airports are even trying to become destinations for people who aren’t even traveling. The Frankfurt airport, for example, has a full shopping mall inside where people from the surrounding area can come to find the latest in fashion, electronics, and other items, claiming to be at discounted prices.

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Need Jewelry, There is a Pandora Store

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Friendly Faces at Elway’s in Denver’s Airport

Not only do you have full service restaurants in airports these days, but you will have choices to choose from that include upscale to fast food. Don’t be surprised if you see a famous chef or celebrity’s name on the restaurant sign as they are cashing in on the captive audience and business travelers with corporate expense accounts. It seems as though almost every airport that we fly through these days is in the process of upgrading and adding even more shops and restaurants. Have an extra hour to kill, why not buy some couture clothing from a top designer?

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Perhaps a New Outfit for Your Trip

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Time to Relax

In fact, if an airport doesn’t have all of these amenities, it feels as though you’ve stepped back into the dark ages. It doesn’t happen too often, but when we get to an airport ahead of a flight and can’t find more than a single choice to get a bite to eat, we are immediately frustrated. Yes, we’ve become spoiled by convenience and options that most airports offer these days. Living in Colorado, we fly out of DIA (Denver International Airport) frequently and we look forward to going to one of our favorite restaurants prior to most of our trips. Yes, one of our favorite restaurants is actually in an airport. It will be interesting to see how far airports take this trend or if at some point they will reduce the amount of goods and services that are offered. Who knew that people would look forward to being at the airport as much as they look forward to their destination.

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Heading Towards the Shopping Area

 

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The Flowers of Egypt

Mention Egypt to someone and images of desert sand and pyramids immediately come to mind. However, one of the images that will remain with us as we think back about our trip to Egypt were the orange blooms of the Poinciana trees and other flowers that we saw during our visit. Perhaps because so much of the trip was spent surrounded by sand and stone temples that every flower that we did see stood out even more. The pop of color was definitely a contrast to the surroundings and we saw these vibrant trees all around Egypt, but especially in Cairo as well as the surrounding suburbs.

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Blooming Poinciana Trees with a Mosque in the Distance

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Tree in a Cairo Suburb

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Another Flowering Tree

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Poinciana Tree as We Looked Skyward

One of our favorite memories of the Poinciana trees was during our tour of Old Town Cairo where we saw them all around the ancient mosques. The colors were so bright and vibrant that it was hard not to focus on the trees as much as the historical buildings that we were there to see. It is amazing how sometimes something as simple as a flowering tree can bring back such vivid memories of a location that you’ve visited. The Poinciana trees will always remind us of our time in Egypt.

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Tree in Front of a Stone Wall

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Pretty Pink Flowers at a Temple Complex

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Another Perspective with a Mosque in the Background

 

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What Do You Hope to Get from Traveling

There is a saying that travel is it’s own reward, but there are obviously other reasons for making the decision to travel to different places. Whether for vacation, adventure, a change of scenery, or a trip of a lifetime, people travel to a variety of places every day. For the most part, people are hoping to gain something from their travels, after all it is often quite expensive. We aren’t any different, we also get something in return for traveling to all of the places that we visit. For us, it is learning about the culture, meeting the people, and experimenting with local flavors that are our rewards. We aren’t cultural anthropologists, but we do use many of those concepts when we are on a trip to a foreign country.

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When Our Raft Flipped on the River

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Dancing in an Embera Village in Panama

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Hiking in the Andes Mountains

We certainly understand the adventure travelers who travel the world looking for different thrills. Whether diving off a reef in the Caribbean, climbing to the top of some of the worlds largest mountains, or trekking through dense forests, there are many different pulse pounding ways to spend your time when traveling. We have definitely had our share of adventures from staying in the Amazon, going down Death Road in Bolivia, climbing to the top of Colorado mountains, white-water rafting, skiing, and ziplining in different jungles. However, for us, it was visiting the indigenous villages and meeting the people that call these places home that have made the most lasting memories.

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Learning About the Ancient Temples in Mahabalipuram

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Our First Ziplining Adventure

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Walking the Streets of Old Town Cairo

No one can blame people who choose to travel for relaxation. There is nothing like sitting on a beach or a mountain resort and not doing much of anything. We take several trips throughout the year and at least one of those is usually just to unwind and let the day-to-day stresses melt away. Just because we are relaxing, though, doesn’t mean that we don’t take time to meet the locals and taste the local foods. Whether in Mexico or on the Spanish Riviera, we like to learn about the people who live near the resorts and make their living by pampering all of the tourists who come to their locations. Often times, many of them have moved from their home towns to earn money and send it back to their families.

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Indigenous Tribe in Napo, Ecuador

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Climbing in Bolivia

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Death Road

Whether traveling to a country where the citizens look similar to yourself or traveling to a place where you stand out amongst the crowds, there is so much to learn from the places that you visit. As much as the world has become smaller with the internet, television, and social media, there is no substitute for spending time in a culture that is different than your own and taking time to understand the people that live there. One of the things that constantly amazes us is when we see tourists in a different country that don’t take time to actually talk to the people who live there, but just wander through taking pictures and acting like it is an exhibit for them to see. In our opinion, those people are missing out on the best part of traveling, absorbing as much about the culture as possible. What is it that drives you to take the time and spend the money to travel to places that are foreign to you?

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Aswan High Damn in Egypt

At the end our Nile River cruise from Luxor to Aswan, we visited the High Damn. Most of us have heard about the Aswan damn, but there are really two damns, an older damn and the newer one, which is referred to as the High Damn. It was built to end the flooding that used to occur on a regular basis along the Nile River and has truly helped the agriculture business in Egypt. In addition to controlling the water, it is also a source of a lot of the power needed in the regions, so power lines are abundant across the surrounding desert landscape. One interesting side effect of the damn was that it has trapped all of the crocodiles for which the Nile is famous south of the damn, so you won’t see any crocodiles between Luxor and Aswan.

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Nearing the Damn Viewing Area

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Damn Generating Power

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Looking Out From the Damn

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Sign Explaining the Damn Area

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Boat on the Lake

The Aswan High Damn is interesting from a historical perspective, but actually visiting the damn is, quite frankly, not particularly fascinating. There are tours that you can take south of the damn, but we didn’t do any during our visit to Egypt. We spent about 30 minutes walking around the damn in the simmering heat of Aswan, which was the hottest location that we experienced during our time in Egypt. If you go to Aswan, it is probably worthwhile to see the damn, but it certainly isn’t worth going out of your way to visit, at least in our opinion.

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Power Lines as Far as the Eyes Can See

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Damn Wall

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Surviving a Very Hot Day

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Flowers at the Tourist Stop

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Damn Shoreline

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Sign at the Entrance

 

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