The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #133


A reader writes:

Tropical setting, looks like either a church or temple spire in the background. Identical buildings with corrugated tin roofs suggest military or some other kind of organized housing for some kind privileged or protected class of worker. Moss on the roofs suggests year-round humid conditions. Large buildings distance are widely dispersed, so it's a large and/or sprawling city, but we're probably not seeing the main part of town. It's very green, which it makes me think of south India, so I'm going with Ernakulam, Kerala.


It killed me to read that last week's contest turned out to be Sierra Vista; I was on the right track (looking up general aviation airports in Arizona) but got distracted by my job and never followed through.  This week, the landscape, vegetation, and buildings in the foreground immediately reminded me of Hoi An, Vietnam, one of my favorite places in the world. However, there are no skyscrapers in Hoi An. Looking at skyline pictures of nearby Da Nang … well, I can't quite nail it for sure, but it seems plausible. So I will say Da Nang, knowing that someone will win with a hotel room number anyway.


Compared to last week, this one was super-easy.  This is obviously Hoboken, looking east from the Frank Sinatra Soccer Field in the direction of the Hudson, toward NYC. It appears that things have grown back quickly and lushly after the damage from Hurricane Sandy. Thanks as always for an interesting challenge!

And interesting entries. Another:

Last time I went with my gut instinct, I actually got the town right, so, to continue with my "wild guesses are okay, spending my Saturday on this is not" rule: Panama City.


What seems to be a golden Buddhist stupa/pagoda/wat (not too sure what the distinction is between them), along with the foliage, indicates south-east Asia. The skyscrapers make Bangkok or Yangon likely, although the houses in the foreground remind me of Phnom Penh. So without being too specific, I'll go with Phnom Penh, let's say 15km or so south-west of downtown.

Almost had it. Another pins down the right city:

This was a tough one. I initially narrowed it down to Thailand, Laos or Cambodia, thinking the gold statue was a Buddhist Wat or Stupa. But the more I looked at it, I realized it was a Buddhist gold pagoda. It didn't take long to determine that these types of pagodas are far more common throughout Myanmar (Burma).

Now after much study, I think I was able to identify the Yangon Traders Hotel and a couple of the other high to mid-rise buildings far away in the background. The orientation led me to the area to search in Google Earth. I was finally able to narrow down the location of the photographer to be either the Yangon International Hotel at No. 330 Ahlone Road or The Summit Parkview Hotel at 350 Ahlone Road, Dagon Township, Rangoon, Burma. For my final answer, I am going with the Summit Parkview Hotel, Room 342.

Correct hotel as well. Another sends an aerial diagram:

Yangon VFYW


I guess like a lot of your readers, it seems like every weekend, after the kid has gone to sleep and the wife's watching Downton Abbey, I settle down to try and guess the location of the VFYW contest. 90% of the time I spend a few hours frantically searching through Google for topography, flora, fauna and cloud formations that match up to those in the photo. In the end, I'll narrow it down, confident that I've got the right city but just can't find the right street, only to discover on Tuesday that the window in question is actually several continents away from my painstaking deduction.

But once a year on average, I think I do better. In January this year, I got the right street in Budapest and spent the rest of the day with such a grin on my face that my wife thought I might be having an affair. 

Anyway, my guess is that this week's view was from one of the windows at the Summit Parkview Hotel in Rangoon, Burma. (I prefer to call it Rangoon because I think I read somewhere that it was the military government that changed its name to Yangon for political reasons, and they're not very nice people.) My reasoning was as follows:

The landscape is flat as a pancake and obviously tropical (there's a palm tree in the foreground). That made me think it was somewhere in South Asia, probably the Ganges delta, so first I googled the Kolkata skyline, but there were too many tall buildings. Then I tried Dhaka, but again the same thing. Given the dilapidated nature of the buildings, it seemed less likely to be anywhere else in India, so I thought I'd check out Rangoon. One of the photos on Google had buildings that looked remarkably similar to the two high-rise buildings in the centre left of the photo. That made me think that the spire in the foreground was actually a pagoda and not a church as I had first assumed. I then found a map of Rangoon on Google, found the two tall buildings and the pagoda in the foreground and then triangulated the position of the window (actually I just looked for a hotel in the general vicinity, luckily found a swimming pool next to a big building and found it was called the Summit Parkview Hotel). Then I googled the hotel and found a picture that was taken from the hotel roof:


So there you go; it's the Summit Parkview Hotel, 350 Ahlone Road, Dagon Township I've no idea as to the actual window. I'm sure many of your more enterprising, energetic and intelligent readers will provide that answer, but those people are likely to get it right every second week. I would humbly suggest you award the prize to me as this would send a positive message to the millions of your readers, average Joes and Janes who, like me, will only get it right once in a blue moon, and who, in these tough economic times, need something to look forward to every weekend, while their partner is watching the TV and the kids and pets have gone to sleep.

Excellent pitch, but there several average Joes and Janes this week who submitted slightly more precise entries. Another reader sends a different angle from the Summit Parkview roof:

Yangon from Summit Park View hotel's roof

Another nails the right floor:

The palm trees suggested we were in the tropics (okay, they can indicate California, too, but that golden pagoda at center screen says not this time). So it's most likely Burma. I plugged away a bit in Google maps on Sunday, trying to check out the neighborhoods near every pagoda in Yangon, but the place is awash with them, and with no Streetview, little time and less faith in my guess, I gave it up pretty quickly.

But on Monday: a second wind, another try, and bingo! Just a bit north of the second pagoda, there were what had to be those yellow houses in the foreground and the narrow lane between them, leading up to what I was hoping to find: an international hotel. It's the Summit Parkview Hotel, apparently a serviceable if not overly charming business-oriented hotel, whose web site offers the address 350 Ahlone Road, Dagon Township, Rangoon, Burma:


If I had to guess, I'd say, fifth floor, fifth room from the end of the east wing. Either that or we're looking out of the north wing of the Louvre overlooking the Jardin des Tuileries catching a bit of La Defense but somehow missing the Eiffel Tower off-screen to the left. But I'm betting Burma.

According to photo's submitter, it was indeed taken from the 5th floor. Of the readers this week who guessed that floor and haven't already won a book, only one has correctly answered a difficult city in the past without breaking the tie ("difficult" is defined as cities that are only correctly guessed by 10 or fewer readers). So that reader wins with the following entry:

The photo screams Southeast Asia. Where was the tricky part. After some searching, I narrowed it down to Yangon, Myanmar, based on the blue glass building in the distance on the left. At first I thought the photo was taken at Yangon University where President Obama (perhaps submitted by the POTUS himself?!) visited last month based on the campus like setting. The buildings didn't match though. After more looking around, the photo was taken further south in town. The pagoda in the middle is the Eain Taw Yar Pagoda. The photo was taken at the Summit Parkview Hotel, 350 Ahlone Road, Dagon Township, Yangon, Myanmar, facing south. I'll guess 5th floor, room 512.

Congrats, we'll get a book prize out to you shortly. Another reader notices something:

Less than a year into America's new relationship with the country and I'm beginning to think that half the Dish's readership has already taken a trip to Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). I say so because this week's view was taken only one mile to the northwest of, and looks in the same direction as, the one featured in Contest #118 on September 1st:

Yangon VFYW 2 Overhead Comparison Marked 2 - Copy

That contest took me nearly the whole weekend to get; this one went a mite faster. The picture itself was taken from roughly the 5th floor of the Summit Parkview Hotel looking south, southeast towards the river.

One more reader:

In reference to Sunday's "Munich, Germany, 10.50 am" VFYW – wow, I have that one exactly.  (I realize that this is not a contest picture and this wins me absolutely no points.  Bear with me while I rant, please.)

That is taken from the GHotel in Baaderstrasse, and shows the lovely (but COLD – keep your overcoat on) Sankt Maximilian church. My wife and little 9-month-old and I were just a few weeks ago. It was our first visit to my parents, who retired overseas and are now too old to travel much. Lovely place.  

The church itself is noteworthy for its activist pastor. When first we walked by, they were rigging up a gigantic red ribbon on the main entrance for World AIDS Day. The Mass we attended also was the occasion for inaugurating a photo exhibit of a day in the life of three HIV+ men. The hotel and street and church are on the edge of the neighborhood called the Glockenbach, a longtime focal point of Munich's gay culture, now rapidly gentrifying.

That photo was like a jolt of electricity – I instantly recalled both the church experience and the visit, watching my parents hold their granddaughter for the first time.  Thank you so much for this quirky little feature.