A reader writes:
The cars and the parking lot look European. The mountain and the foliage look tropical. I suppose SE Asia isn't out of the question. I'm thinking Oceania because the photo immediately reminded me of the two weeks I spent in Noumea, New Caledonia for work a few years ago. Not many tall buildings there, except for some hotels by the beach. If I'm right about Noumea, then the most likely building is the Gaston Bourret Hospital, 7 Avenue Paul Doumer. I don't have the skills of some of your contestants, but when I've had a good guess it's been based on a gut feeling.
It's likely not right, but that looks an awful lot like the former Amador Air Base in Panama. It's a military looking installation, and Central American as well. The large buildings on the left aren't at all familiar, and having left the place in '99, am hoping they've been built since the American military left. If it's not Panama City, could it be Soto Cano in Honduras? (I'll never understand how to find such places on Google without spending hours, but admire the tenacity of those who have the time and ability to do so.)
We have a tall, circa 1970’s precast concrete building with horizontal concrete louvers as the balcony railings. Also the palm trees and inconsistently trimmed topiary means we are somewhere warm. I’ve been to a few places in Central America and the Caribbean where the view from one side of the hotel faces a beautiful beach and the other side looks out on the local city where the hotel staff lives. I think that might be what we are looking at. Since the car is driving on the right side of the road that eliminates the British Virgin Islands and all the other warm-weather former colonies. We can also eliminate a small bucolic village or eco sensitive place since there is a big, old concrete building in the middle of it. My guess this week is Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, which seems to have similar terrain with views to mountains in the interior. But honestly, it wouldn’t shock me if it turns out we are in Pondicherry, India where they also paint their curbs black and white.
Based on the black and white curb stripes, it's typical British ex-colonial. Hills in the background. Vegetation. Islamabad, Pakistan?
Juarez, Mexico? Just taking a wild guess here. My mother grew up in El Paso, which is just across the border from Juarez. I remember visiting my grandparents growing up. Their house was walking distance from what is now UTEP. We would walk to the track to watch my grandfather run a mile every morning. I remember looking at the "mountains" and climbing very steep hills. From the porch of their house, we could see over the city of El Paso. At night, it was a beautiful scene with the city lights.
Grrrrr. I've spent *way* too long on this one (four hours).
The photo said "South Africa" to me … so there I went, searching every last image with plateaus, flat-top mountains, towers, white license plates, even striped barricades. Nada. I'm still trying to figure out what that is in the center: a game preserve? golf course? Who knows. The closest I came was Colesberg, South Africa, but that's not the Coleskop in the background. I'm probably in the wrong country, because it also looks a bit like Western Australia. So, I know I'm wrong but I'm throwing my hat in the ring – I will know the answer to the VFYW contest one day!!
It reminds me a lot of Guilin, China, especially the sugar loaf hills and the fog/smog.
As a longtime follower but first time submitter of the VFYW-contest, I was happy to recognize this morning this week's contest window, of which I am 90% sure is at the Hermes Palace Hotel (formerly known as the Swiss BelHotel) at Jalan Panglima Nyak Makam, in Banda Aceh, Aceh Province, on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. I am guessing 5th floor?
A couple years ago I was trying to do my part in the reconstruction efforts after the devastating tsunami that struck the province, and it was in this hotel that I had a rather frightening experience. Defying the just imposed sharia law in that province (not valid in the rest of Indonesia) I had just finished having a great time with a single lady (I was single as well) in one of the hotel rooms of this hotel, when someone knocked quite fiercely on the hotel door. Having been scared by stories in the newspapers here (I live in Jakarta) about unmarried couples being caned and punished in other medieval ways, it wouldn't be overstating to say we panicked. She fled in the bathroom while I hastily put on the first clothes that I could find.
If it had been the newly instated religious police, our efforts would have been useless, but luckily it was just the laundry service.
Another gets the right continent:
I showed this photo to my wife, who has never seen a VFYW contest, and she immediately said Gaborone, Botswana, so I'm going with it. Like reading a putt in golf, sometimes you gotta go with your first impression.
Another sends a photo:
I rarely submit to this contest, but I'm pretty sure I've seen that big rock in person. I went to Abuja, Nigeria, in 2005, and that rock looks suspiciously similar to its landmark rock, Aso Rock! I don't know how to do anything fancy like put arrows on maps, but I will submit a few links that show quite unscientifically why I think I'm correct (and they do nothing to pin point the actual place the photo was taken from). This link shows houses near the rock with a similar colored roof as one in the photo. This link shows a pole much like one shown in the pictures. My guess is that it was taken from the Nicon Hilton Hotel in Abuja, 14th floor. Failing that, probably from one of the upper floors of the Supreme Court building.
At the base of Aso Rock are various military barracks. Aso Rock is also a metonym for political power, in the same way that "Westminster" and "Washington" are in the UK and the US respectively.
Another who correctly answered Abuja:
I recognized it pretty quickly. Was travelling around Nigeria with some friends from Edinburgh University in 1989, had been in hospital in Kaduna (where by chance the doctor had graduated from Edinburgh also) so I hung out here for a day or so while we recuperated. Attached is a photo of the hotel with the rock behind, overlooking the car park. From here you can see the photo is taken from the southern most of the three arms of the hotel, just below the entrance canopy facing slightly north of east. Zoom out and you can see the rock approx 5km away. Looks to be six floors or so above the lobby.
First time entry. The picture taken was from the circled location in the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, Nigeria; I'm guessing from around the 5th floor, pointing toward Aso Rock. The outcrop in the backdrop was reminiscent of Table Mountain in Cape Town, though less sharp in its features. The flatness surrounding the outcrop also reminded me of Ayer's Rock in Australia. A quick search on Wikipedia informed me that Ayer's Rock is a geographic formation known as an inselberg. None of the inselbergs listed on Wikipedia looked like matches, so I moved on to monoliths, a less technical but more widely used term. As soon as I opened the page for Aso Rock in Nigeria, I knew I had hit paydirt as it was clearly the outcrop dominating the background.
Finding the exact location proved more difficult. I thought the four radio towers visible in the picture would be the biggest help in determining a location, but they proved little help. However, the building on the left edge of the image was over ten stories, so I started looking for skyscrapers in Abuja. I found a website with many beautiful images taken throughout Abuja but the image of a man in front of an ornate fountain caught my eye, the hotel in the background had the same distinct window design as that found on the edge of the photo. I searched the Google Maps overlay of Abuja for "Fountains," as soon as I zoomed in on a hit at the Hilton, I knew I had my spot.
Another sends the above photo and writes:
Unfortunately the VFYW is not facing the pool, which sneaking gin into, and not paying the outrageous entry fee for, is a key part of expat life in Abuja. It is also the only side there seems to be photos available of on Google, hence the inadequate photo attached.
This picture was taken from one of the West facing windows (2nd or 3rd floor just above the lobby) at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja Nigeria. The communication towers across the street and the red roofed building are in the diplomatic zone. In the distance you see Aso Rock at the foot of which is the presidential Villa, the houses of parliament and the supreme court. The picture below hopefully supports this:
I followed returns during last year's Nigerian presidential election lockdown there. Later I remember caller after caller on talkback thanking the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Commissioner, Professor Jega, for delivering democratic elections to Nigeria. There was a palpable sense of excitement and achievement, somewhat sullied by the violence of the next week, but still a great outcome for the democratic process in West Africa.
I just had the same experience I've read about so many times. I never have an idea where these places are, but I looked for a second at this picture and immediately knew that this was a picture of Aso Rock in Abuja from the view of the Transcorp Hilton. (By the way, the hotel makes some killer suya (spiced, pounded-thin chicken). I want to eat some right now.
This is a special picture for us. My wife's parents have lived in Nigeria for 29 years. Life was never easy, but it was manageable. Due to all the changes in government and the unstable environment, it's gotten even harder for them. We haven't seen them for two years. But my wife's mom was finally able to leave the country and visit us here in the US. She just got here two days ago, and we're enjoying our time together.
I don't have the patience to search for the exact room, but I'm sure someone actually will. I thought I'd at least share my excitement even if we don't win.
Of the dozen or so readers who responded with the Abuja Hilton, only one has correctly answered a difficult window in the past without winning:
Yes!!! I knew this one the moment I saw it. The hill in the background is Aso Rock and Abuja is surrounded by a number of such formations. I was there on business about a year ago and it's one of the first things that you notice on the drive in from the airport – these massive rocks just bursting from the ground. I would assume that whoever took the picture is also there on business (Nigeria doesn't exactly have a thriving tourism industry) and despite the fact that Abuja is the capital city of Nigeria, there are limited options for hotels that one would find acceptable. The Hilton is the first choice for many and is where I assumed the picture was taken. Google Earth bore that out easily:
I'm going to say that it's from the 5th floor.
Congrats, we'll get a free book out to you shortly. Details from the submitter:
The room (third floor) faces east, across Shehu Shagari Way at the National Arboretum and the mountains beyond. I work for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and attended the World Customs Organization's Policy Commission being hosted that by Nigeria Customs. The Policy Commission is an annual meeting of Customs administration leaders to decide program and budgetary matters for the WCO's coming year. Being my first time in Africa, I was disappointed by the security measures required (i.e. I saw a lot of the hotel's bar and restaurant, and nothing else – anything outside the hotel required security escorts and the hotel itself is a within a gated compound). This visit occurred before the recent fuel-subsidy cuts that have lead to the deadly protests/riots. However, there was even at that time the concern that our international conference would be targeted by Nigeria's factions.
The security situation aside, I cannot tell you how welcoming and gracious our conference hosts, Nigeria Customs, were. The local dancers, music, extremely welcoming local dignitaries, the ceremony of welcoming sashes and other small gestures, and other events they hosted put the conference schwag and cocktail mixers that are the norm at United States conferences to absolute shame. It was a great privilege to travel on behalf of my country, and I hope to return to Africa sometime in the future.