Minsk, Explained

At the time of the fall of the Soviet Union I travelled across Belarus by train, but we didn’t stop, didn’t get out. On my only other trip, to Minsk in 2010, I found a typically grandiose Soviet-style capital that felt deserted.

Finally, I’ve gotten a little insight into why.

Ho Chi Minh City Builds Straight Up

The most notable part of the HCMC waterfront the first time we visited was the Saigon Floating Hotel, towed up from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to accommodate an influx of foreign investors. In the first part of the 1990s, after a really tough economic period in the 80s, it was time for Vietnam to attract some foreign money, and investors needed a place to stay.

Interesting in retrospect, at the same time, investment firms were hanging their shingles on the doors of venerable old former Communist hotel rooms in the bigger eastern European cities, there being a dearth of international-standard places to stay in both regions.

The floating hotel was built in Singapore, lived in Queensland before HCMC, and was billed as the world’s first floating hotel in this feature from Australian TV:

Regulatory issues” closed down the floating hotel’s stay in HCMC and it moved on to North Korea. Time moved on, too, and by 2010 the Bitexco Tower opened a few blocks off the river, with 68 floors and just what any up and coming city needed, a helipad, shown here, center (the one with the helipad).

Now comes the Landmark 81 Tower, a brand new mixed use tower with associated high rises, comprising offices, a hotel, condos, a shopping mall, as of yesterday an empty ice-skating rink:

Week before last, on 28 April, they grand opened the 79th-81st floor observation deck. We went up for a look yesterday. Here is the view from the top:

At 461.15 meters tall and 81 stories tall, it’s currently the tallest completed building in Southeast Asia and 14th tallest in the world. Here is a pretty fawning history.

These (mostly) daily photos from a slow trip around the world are collecting on Earthphotos.com. See the archive page Around the World, Slowly.

Tough Day in Estonia. And Another Thing:


Think having the FSB kidnap an Estonian in Estonia and haul him off to Russia is bad? How about having to live with architectural gems like this, left over from the Soviet era?

Wednesday HDRs – Churches

Click to enlarge. More in the Worship Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.

churches1St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland.


churches2Notre Dame Cathedral, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


churches3Rigas Doms, the Riga Cathedral, Riga, Latvia.


churches4La Iglesia de la Merced, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama.


churches6Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana, Havana, Cuba.


churches7Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon, Vietnam.


churches8Rigas Doms, Riga Cathedral HDR, Riga, Latvia.


churches9The Duomo, Milan, Italy.


churches10St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland.


churches11,jpgSt. James Church, the oldest Anglican church in the southern hemisphere, St. Helena Island, South Atlantic Ocean.