The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #47


A reader writes:

The area suggests tropical or semi-tropical. The tall hills are also interesting, and the one in the center is very tall (mountain perhaps?). Strange though – no people, no cars, what gives? The housing suggests European influences and the verandas on the roof tops indicate areas people go for entertainment. The spiral staircases are metal. I’ve never been to Australia, but I have found a great deal of photos of red tiled homes there, so that’s my guess. Queensland is as close as I can come.

I gotta get out more in the world.


Construction and lush greenery is definitely of the Balkans. Brightly colored houses suggest an Albanian population. The mountains don’t suggest the Mediterranean climate of coastal Albania, and the interior of the country is far too poor for that much new construction. So I’ll go with an Albanian town in Macedonia, where the Albanian population is wealthy, and likes to show it off. I could pick Gostivar or Kicevo, but I’ll go with Tetovo.


The building on the right is clearly a Pizza Hut. So I googled for a picture of Pizza Hut and the first one that came up is in Frostburg, MD, which I took to be a sign. However, when I kept googling, I found out that they have Pizza Huts in Costa Rica. And that background looks Costa Rica-ish. So it might be in Costa Rica. But I notice that there are a lot of buildings that have the red roof thing going on, so it occurred to me that this might be the corporate headquarters for Pizza Hut, which is in Dallas, TX.

I didn’t win, did I?


Probably not even close, but it feels like Da Lat, Viet Nam.  The mountains, the mist, the terraced farms.  Throw in what looks like old restored French villas, and that is my final guess.

Almost married a beautiful girl from there when I was a young idealistic fool.  I would pick her up from school and we’d go for strolls along those very same fields when she got out of class.  Could not have been a more romantic city.  It’s currently a hot spot for Vietnamese honeymooners, though it was “discovered” by Alexander Yersin, the French/Swiss immunologist who also discovered the bubonic plague, yersinia pestis.  Yersin popularized Da Lat as a retreat destination, and in its heyday was quite chic with French vacationers.


Is this Dalat, the Swiss Alps of Southeast Asia? Everything about the scene screams Vietnam to me. The brick wall is very typical, as is everything about the buildings, from the bamboo supporting the drying concrete to the water tanks on the roofs. The white buildings with red roofs is particularly popular in Dalat:



The solar hot water heaters on the roofs of the buildings are popular in both China and Taiwan.  The fog and mountains appear more Taiwan than China.  Also, all flat land is used in Taiwan.  The country is 80% mountains so the country’s 22 million people and their agriculture must squeeze into an area much smaller than Los Angeles. As for the city, Taipei is too dense for such an area, so I’ll guess Jhongli City.


This one was one of the most puzzling, ever!

I’ve always, at least, gotten the right continent, but this time I’m not even sure of that. Very fertile, lush, new expensive construction with strange water handlers atop the buildings. Looks like new money coming into a place with not a lot of infrastructure. So with that, I’m going with China. Maybe around HK or Schenzen. But it’s a big country and I’m outta time.


I’m sure there will be plenty of guesses in China for this week’s contest, with the distinctive looking buildings. I’m guessing Kunming, Yunnan, because the larger buildings suggest a wealthy suburb, and Kunming is the only city in Yunnan that generates that kind of wealth, and the geography looks sub-tropical, like that of Yunnan province. But I’m also guessing Kunming because it’s centrally located in the province and has a good chance of being close if I’m wrong.


This just screams China. The solar panels are a dead giveaway, and the worn-down buildings alongside pristine megamansions probably means this view is from one of the hundreds of developments shooting up in the exurbs of major cities. Here’s an excellent Aussie news segment on the China housing bubble that likely resulted in this neighborhood:

But like I said, this kind of neighborhood can be found all around China. All I could figure was that the lush vegetation pointed to somewhere southern. Fortunately I have a bit of an advantage, as I’m currently living in China. I just moved into an apartment a couple days ago, so I called over my still-somewhat-reserved roommates and asked if they had any ideas. We’ve spent the last hour using our collective Google/Baidu skills trying to locate somewhere environmentally similar to this locale. We settled on Longyan City in Fujian province, China. Specifically, we’re going with Huodekeng village in Yanshan county, though that part’s a complete shot in the dark.

Though we’re probably way off, thanks for a great roomie bonding session! Our apartment was just furnished yesterday, so if we win we’ll have our very first coffee table book.


This one reminds me of a story I heard about overseas Chinese sending money back to their home villages that is used to build elaborate houses in the Fujian area opposite Taiwan. These houses end up sitting mostly empty as those who found success to pay for them stay overseas and there is little extended family left back home. I pick Huatingzhen because it looks like a valley with plenty of red tiled roofs with lots new development just southest of Xiamen. (I’m a previous winner, so it was just fun to post a guess based on a hunch.)


There’s tons of places in the Himalayas, and tons of places that aren’t in the Himalayas, that look like this, so this is basically a wild guess. I think those buildings in the foreground are a brewery/distillery. That would explain the big black tank atop one of them, and the other vaguely industrial stuff atop the other. That might make this nearer Kasauli, India, but I like Gangtok better.

Other countries that this could be: China, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Bangladesh, maybe even Nepal (although Nepal seems mostly drier and colder than this).


This is a view of Kathmandu, Nepal. The geography is exactly like Kathmandu Valley. The houses are very colorful, which is a cultural theme of Nepal. There is no urban planning in Nepal, and this picture shows houses constructed in haphazard way. This is definitely Kathmandu.


Kathmandu with 98% certainty. I would know this view – odd narrow houses with multiple levels, separated by diverse small crop plots, surrounded by misty mountains – anywhere. But where in the outskirts of Kathmandu? I’d guess the western Chhauni neighborhood. I wish I could vigorously search out the exact window, but it’s Easter and I have already been gone from my girlfriend’s family for too long.


I know someone else is going to give you the exact ward and chowk (probably not the street address, since those are seldom in Nepal), but if I had to guess it looks like the slightly posher western edge of the city. Maybe I’ll get extra credit as my fiancee and I are headed there for our wedding next week! Thanks for the reminder to pack a raincoat.


While perusing Google Earth to look at the suburban/rural area north of the city of Kathmandu, I stumbled across a Panoramio photo that looks like it captures some of the same ridge during the dry season.  It calls the village Bhudanilkhanta. Since your other readers are unbelievably precise with locations, I’m going to gamble on trying to get close and guess it’s near the center of the attached Google Earth screen grab, at the coordinates 27?-46’-04.72”N,  85?-21’-26.89”W:


A down-to-the-wire entry:

Finally, the picture I have been waiting for. I have followed the contest since its very inception but haven’t sent in a single entry because I usually haven’t the slightest clue where the pictures are from. I am not very well traveled, so I don’t usually have the “this reminds me of the time I went to ____” reactions and I haven’t really had the time to put my internet sleuthing skills to test. But this one – I would be shocked if I weren’t right about this.

This is Kathmandu, Nepal. The Kathmandu nouveau riche architecture, black water tanks on top of the houses, the terraced rice fields, the chalky hills – all point to the fact that this was photograph was taken on the outer edge of Kathmandu. More specifically it is the northern part of the valley, outside the Ring Roads (a set of concentric road ways that circumscribe the denser center of the valley. The neighborhood is either Budhanilkantha or Narayanthan but is definitely north of Bansbari. The hill in the background is part of the Shivapuri hills and the white scar on the hill in the background is most likely a road that links Narayanthan to a town neigborhood/town named Tokha.

Now I am sure that many of your readers will send in correct entries with maps and even a picture of the window it was taken from. But know this – I went to boarding school not 500 metres from here from ages 10-18. It has been eight years since I have been to Kathmandu and the place didn’t look like this when I was there. It was all rice fields. I might have even planted the trees in the background for one of our schools reforestation outings.

Okay, that was it. It is Tuesday 8:57 out here in California. I hope I made it by your deadline of noon your time.

Such a wonderful and precise guess, and so close to winning, but we have to award the prize this week to the only Kathmandu guesser who just barely lost in the past:

I came so close last week I couldn’t resist trying again. Solar hot water on the roof, but no satellite dishes.  High altitute hill fog.  Hot money inflows going to big houses.  Chalk scar on the hillside.  Poor urban planning and control.  British style windows.  Rice paddies …

I struggled.  Then my son glanced at it and said “Nepal”.  He’s never been there; he just said it.

I went rooting around images of Nepal, finding similar British windows, and recent housing developments in deep valleys floored with fertile rice paddies.  At first I thought it would be Sundarijal, but I couldn’t get the hills to match.  Finally I came across Budhanilkantha.

I found the hill with the two different tree heights on the slope, and then the yellow building with the red rectangle between the two white buildings.  I won’t be able to find the window that took the photo this week.  I suspect that where the window is now was rice paddy a year back.  Attached is a picture of the same scene with some of the details, before development of the VFYW foreground buildings.  I’ve put an arrow in the rice paddy where the window should be:

Screen shot 2011-04-26 at 12.15.52 PM

Someone on the ground can do better, but this is as good as it gets from my laptop. Thanks for the great contest.  Better than an Easter egg hunt.