Unusual Encounters

By Ilana Simhon

The most memorable part of a trip isn’t always the architectural monuments themselves, but sometimes the inconsequential moments while in transit, or the seemingly mundane details that a local might never rethink.

In Laos, it was the rest stop somewhere between Luang Brabang and Vang Vieng with toilets, but mostly squat boxes that provided a front row seat to the mountainous terrain beyond.


Laos - Toilet Stall View 

At the Great Wall of China, it was a persistent local saleswoman who followed me along the treacherous journey, fanning me, photographing me, and providing me with an extra boost along the slippery inclines despite my resistance. In the end, she got her t-shirt sale and went on to claim the next tourist.


Great Wall of China - Saleswoman with a backpack full of souvenirs waiting for me

In Beijing, it was the street barriers that prevented pedestrian traffic on the main roads, and redirected the flow of people above or below ground through pedestrian passageways. 


Beijing - Pedestrian Passageway

In Shanghai, it was the young children staffed by their parents outside the entertainment district selling flowers at 2 in the morning.

Shanghai - 2 AM

In Tokyo, it was a match at Ryōgoku Sumo Hall between two amateurs that left one wrestler loincloth-less in front of the entire arena.

Ryōgoku Sumo Hall - Amateur Wrestling Match

In the business district in Tokyo, it was a subway car lined with fabric cushions.

Tokyo - Subway Car

In Hanoi, it was the unofficial 9 pm curfew, replacing the daily chaos with garage doors and abandoned streets.

Hanoi - Daily Street Life

In Cambodia, it was the seemingly unstable scaffolding constructed out of bamboo. 

Cambodia - Construction Site

In Rome, it was an invisible datum established by the historic flood markers located on various building façades.

Rome - Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Church Façade

In Barcelona, it was the late night street vendors who used the space below the sewer grates as a refrigerator to store and sell beer. 

Barcelona - Plaza Reial

These quick and unusual encounters or observations have overpowered my memory of the iconic sights I set out to see.