The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #71

Screen shot 2011-10-06 at 5.06.48 PM

A reader writes:

I'm useless at this sort of thing, so I usually just sit it out and wonder how other folks can be so smart. This one is almost impossible – no cars, no landmarks to speak of and no background mountains. So, for the sake of tropicality and as a tribute to the washing on the lines, let's say Libya.  Tripoli?

Another writes:

This screams urban Africa to me. The palm trees suggest tropical and likely near a coastline. Would say Eastern coast, as there are more big/crowded cities there. Maputo or Dar maybe, but my first glance said Maputo.


I love the hut, the clothes on the line, and landscaping on the roof of the building in the foreground that was obviously intended to be at least one story higher than it now is.  The rooftop cisterns are primitive, but effective. It could be Central or South America but more likely Africa. The first thing that came into my head after a 30-second look, for no discernible reason, was Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.  I have been in the construction business for more than 30 years but am still amazed at what can be accomplished with limited means as long as will, ingenuity, and manpower are available.  The ingenious method of pouring concrete in a multi-story building shown in the following video reminded me of the buildings in the contest photo:

One more thing.  I realize this hasn't exactly been a slow news week, but I'm surprised there hasn't been more of a resolution of the controversy over the result of last week's contest, #70.  I know it was addressed, but it was not resolved, nor was their an indication that it would be.  Has the submitter of the photo been contacted for verification?  This part of their note caught my eye: "A friend used to live in this apartment, … so when visiting home (I'm an expat Scot living in Belgium) we used to abuse his hospitality quite a bit. He's since moved out and is on a 7-month meander through Latin America…"  The submitter refers to #11 as an apartment, but it has been a bed and breakfast since at least 2005.

The submitter of last week's photo responds to the row:

I think your protesting correspondents may well be right. They seem to have paid more attention than I did when physically there! I have no immediate way to confirm with my friend, who has probably reached Guatemala by now, but the reader you quoted seems very persuasive. Deep apologies for the confusion!

An honest mistake. Back to this contest:

Well, not quite so easy this week as the past weeks.  The palms and general decaying post-colonial  appearance puts us somewhere in the tropics. The size of the buildings 7357992indicate it's a city of some size, too. I considered South America for a bit, but it somehow had an African vibe, and the "scaffolding" on the right nicely matches some Google Image hits I came across labelled "Tanzanian scaffolding" (see here).  We've recently had contests for Mozambique, Angola and South Africa, so I ruled those out.  I couldn't find any cities in West Africa that had the requisite size or vague general appearance, so those got ruled out too.  Go north from Tanzania and it starts getting "redder" and dustier too.  And, to top it off, the buildings in the photo bear the most resemblance out of anything I've seen to one shot I found on Google Images of buildings under construction in the Kariakou neighborhood of Dar es Salaam, which of course I can't find again but was something like this.  

So, much more of a guess than the last two weeks, and the lack of Street View has really hindered my progress. But, not a bad stab I think! Fingers crossed.


I suck at Google Maps, but the building on the right without the walls looks hauntingly familiar to the view from my room in the Hotel Victoria Regia on Ricardo Palma in Iquitos, Peru last summer. (I was there for an ayahuasca retreat, but that's another story).  The angle seems off from my memory, and since there aren't that many hotels in the Amazon I will guess the 5th floor of the Hotel Sandalo, 616 Prospero, Iquitos, Peru.

Another reader shared his ayahuasca story here. Another writes:

It reminds me of Nicaragua's capital, Managua. While walking its streets on a backpacking trip through Central America in the early '90s, I was amazed that people inhabited multi-story unfinished buildings that developers abandoned following the 1972 earthquake. I wouldn't be surprised if those very buildings are being used the same way two decades later.


This is a view of Cairo, Egypt. Homeowners there often don't complete the construction of upper floors of buildings, as doing so prevents the reclassification of the project from "work in process" to "completed project."  Since the building is not yet completed, it is not reassessed at the new higher value for property tax purposes.  The city is full of otherwise completed and occupied buildings – except for the upper floors.  You can see that the building in the foreground is occupied but still has concrete rebar extending up from the roof of the building. In fact, it appears that some of the support columns are being used as planters!


I'm crap at this game; the only one I ever guessed correctly was the Boston green line, which about 500 others got right as well.  Sometimes I just get a gut feeling, though, and those guesses are sometimes in the correct hemisphere. This photo reminds me of the year I spent in Beirut ten years ago. The frenetic, ramshackle building, the ubiquitous rooftop gardens (especially the plants growing out of giant olive oil tins) and the palm trees.  I'm hoping I don't get so far off that you show this as the first, booby guess, but hey, sometimes you just go with your gut.


I'm guessing it's from The Future.


Famgusta, Cyprus? It's a seafront city that was abandoned in a matter of hours during the 1974 war, and since then an uninhabited space within the UN buffer zone of Cyprus has gone to ruins. The distant flag appears to be of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. A confounding element is apparently fresh laundry on the roof top. Squatters? If I'm right, this scene is the site of heart-breaking stories. Hopefully Famgusta will be rebuilt as part of an bizonal, bicommunal federation reuniting Cyprus.


Some poor outlying district in Bangkok, Thailand.  The clues are the building style and condition, vegetation, the weather-beaten red/white/blue (Thai national colors) building decorations on the left, and especially the derelict "ghost building" on the right.  These are all over the place, a result of being abandoned by the developers following the Asian financial crises in the late '90s.  The low-rise, gray-sided, pink-roofed building on the right horizon is a very common style of new construction.  I have no idea where specifically this is, but I can easily picture the motorway between the airport and downtown being off in the distance.


I just want to clear up any misconceptions; this is not Detroit, Michigan.  (We do not have palm trees.)


This looks soooo much like home (well what home used to be; I am one of those many aliens in US). My guess is Mumbai, India. There are too many little roads (galis) and buildings crammed into small spaces to make an exact guess.


With only the light, which reminds me of Florida, and the vegetation to go on, my first thought was Mumbai, but the city in the background seemed too small be in India. I briefly considered Sao Paulo, Brazil, but images of that city did not match at all. I finally looked up "slums" and "south east asia" and found the vegetation and buildings looked very similiar in the photos of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Still a neophyte with Google Earth, I think the photo is taken from the east part of the city/suburbs. Perhaps the Rajarbagh area.

Dhaka it is. A panorama from a reader (click to enlarge):


From someone who lived there:

I've never entered the contest and I can't give any coordinates, but this took my breath away. Two years ago, my then 15-year-old son and I lived in a 5th floor walk-up for 10 months when I had a Fulbright to teach at BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He went by rickshaw and bicycle to an international school and grew up so much more than the 6 inches he added in height. Not having regular electricity, water or gas is a shock to people coming from the U.S. We watched as the building across the street rose, floor by floor with the bamboo poles that you can see criscrossing in the building in the upper-right hand corner. The plants in the buckets are probably small mango trees. I hung a lot of wash on those lines on the roof.


Easy! I knew Dhaka as quickly as I would recognize a picture of my wife (who grew up there). I suppose it *may* be another city in the same part of the world (Calcutta?) but every building there looks straight out of Dhaka. I grew up in the US, but I've had the good fortune to travel to Rangpur many times (the VFYW book contains a picture of mine from there). Whenever we go to Rangpur, we always fly in and out of Dhaka and spend a few days with my wife's family. My first thought was to say Mirpur, but my wife's gut instinct was Mogh Bazar. So let's say: Mogh Bazar Rd, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Of course I hope I win, but just seeing the picture made my day. It's been too long since I've been back to Bangladesh.


Looks like Dhaka to me, it's also the only picture I've ever seen of Dhaka that isn't teeming with people! I'd say somewhere in the Dhamondhi or Baridara areas. The address? That's going to be very hard, since the numbers are usually stuff like "Road 7, House 24".

The winner this week not only sent the most specific entry, but he is the only Dhaka respondent to have gotten a difficult window in the past, and in fact had a couple very close defeats within the past month. So the victory is especially well-deserved. He writes:

I had not realized how unique slum architecture is. After looking at slums in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Hanoi, Saigon, Brazil, Jordan, and probably some others, I quickly settled on VFYW 10-8-2011 Larry Louie Dhaka, Bangladesh as the location. The terrain, the colors, the method of building construction, the general feeling, all matched Dhaka. Within half an hour, I had concentrated my search there.

But the way I knew for certain that it's Dhaka is because I found two more photos taken from the same building. The first one, by Larry Louie, was taken from either the same window or right below. (It was VFYW 10-8-2011 Nikki Linsell. The second one, by Nikki Linsell on Flickr, is from the same building, but higher up. 

So, two photos from the same building means it's a pretty popular building, and since we're up a few floors, it's probably a hotel. Since Westerners are staying there, it's probably part of a Western hotel chain. Slogging through the hotels in Google Earth, I missed the right one a few times before finally matching up the photo with the Best Western La Vinci. Trip Advisor has a photo taken from a floor or two below, and a few rooms to the right taken from Best Western La Vincim. 

So, the photo was taken from the Best VFYW 10-8-2011 Dhaka Best Western La Vinci TripAdvisorWestern La Vinci Hotel, 54 Kawran Bazar, Dhaka City 1215, Bangladesh. It's really hard to guess which floor, since the base of the nearby buildings isn't clearly visible in the photos. From Nikki Linsell's Flickr photo, I think the first row of solid windows in the building next door is on the seventh floor. Assuming rough parity, the photo was taken one floor above that – on the eighth floor.

This was by far the hardest one yet!

Specifics from the guy who took the photo:

View from La Vinci Hotel, 12th floor, facing east. Next to the Kawran Bazar (one of the commercial districts and the largest wholesale open market in Dhaka – produce arrives by midnight for the next day via truck stacked 10 feet high with little children on top hanging on for the ride, and likely a day's work). The incomplete construction is optically what divides Dhaka from just slightly more developed Indian cities and certainly the major cities to the east and south in to SE Asia.