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Stories by James Michael Dorsey

Siem Reap, Cambodia: my gift in the jungle

An unforgettable experience off the tourist track.

I've always found travel to be its own reward, but on rare occasions it also gifts some of us with a life-altering experience. While visiting friends in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I hired a tuk-tuk driver ...

Faith at Lima's witches market

Sometimes the power of belief is the most important part of a medical treatment. At the witches' market in Lima, Peru, the curanderos gather in early morning, setting up their stalls and hanging their banners. ...

Flying like a bird in the Mojave

Glider flight at Southern California Flying Academy.

The Air Force prayer has a line that goes, "I slipped the surly bonds of earth and touched the face of God." That’s pretty heady stuff – but the next time you're feeling trapped by ...

Randsburg, CA: a living ghost town

Gold Rush–era relic just three hours north of San Diego.

If you're a fan of Westerns, at one time or another you've seen one filmed in Randsburg, where the spirit of the old West is alive and thriving just three hours' drive from San Diego. ...

California's castle in the sand

The historic Scotty's Castle in Death Valley National Park.

When castles and California are mentioned in conversation, Hearst Castle, which dominates a stretch of Central Coast skyline, usually comes to mind. You might be surprised to learn that a less opulent but even more ...

Cambodia: one mine at a time

A day in the life of CNN Hero Akira and his de-mining team.

Stepping into a mine field gives one a whole new appreciation for the word "concentration." Akira tells me to follow him closely, and I am practically in his back pocket. The sun is a swirling ...

Meteora, Greece: The Old Master

A meeting with Father Pefkis.

In the mountainous interior of Greece near Meteora, gigantic granite outcroppings, most of them topped with Christian monasteries, point skyward like fingers tipped in prayer. They are a stone’s throw from the pass of Thermopylae, ...

Perception vs. reality: Peru's Amazon

Discovering the rainforest's magic.

My wife and I were deep in the Amazonian rainforest of northern Peru, traveling on a small river boat. Our local guide, Uciel, was born and raised in this tropical jungle, and his passion for ...

Burkina Faso: remote logic and the almighty dollar

The author meets a West African witch doctor.

In my long-range travels I have learned two great lessons: 1) the people most removed from the modern world not only think differently than I do but are far more logical, and 2) Western-style capitalism ...

A night at the (Chinese) opera

This Beijing performance art may be an acquired taste...

“Tonight we will see living national treasures!” our guide, Bao Chui, announced dramatically while poking his chopsticks around our noodle lunch in Beijing. To the uninitiated, the Beijing Opera can be either a dazzling visual ...

Real Russian shots: Moscow

Spirited storytelling and vodka lessons from a master bartender.

The bar at Moscow’s Marriott Grand Hotel on Tverskaya Street – a hop, goose step and jump up the road from the Kremlin – is the place to learn the fine art of drinking vodka, ...

Mali: my almost nomad wife

A modest proposal in West Africa's Sahara.

In my capacity as a travel writer, I journeyed through much of Mali's Sahara Desert with the fabled Blue Men in the years before it was desecrated by Al-Qaida. For two thousand years, Tuareg nomads ...

Magic lives in Kanas

It doesn't get much more foreign than here.

Magic lives in a remote corner of China. In the northwestern corner of the country, where a bony finger of land divides the land from Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia, the traveler will find myth, legend ...

Leopard Lessons from the Maasai

A tribal education in the Kenyan bush.

Spending time in Kenya with my Maasai friend Moses was an education in animal behavior. Wandering through the bush around his village together, he would point out tracks and scat, patiently explaining to this greenhorn ...

The Fetish Market in Lomé, Togo

One-stop voodoo shopping.

The fetish market in Togo, Africa, is a one-stop shopping paradise for witch doctors and medicine men – as well as a must-see for tourists. This dusty lot in the center of town covers an ...

Caution: Whales at Work

Up close and personal with gray whales in San Ignacio.

Our whale-watching excursion in San Ignacio, Mexico, turned into a close whale encounter in the literal blink of an eye. On the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula, there is a large lagoon where gray ...

Riding with the King in Burkina Faso

I had been photographing for about two weeks in Africa when I heard about a king. Africa has many kings, and I've met more than a few, but had never before sought one out. Africa's ...

Cambodia's Khmer Legacy

Beyond the tourist sites are Buddhist shrines hidden in the jungle.

The temples of Cambodia arguably stand alone as the finest blending of art and architecture in the world. Most people are aware of the monumental achievements in building championed by the Greeks, Egyptians and Mayans. ...

A Priceless Photo in Timbuktu

Posing as a Tuareg nomad.

When you travel far enough for long enough, sometimes very cool things happen that sound like a far-fetched story to many. I have traveled both long and far enough. Photographing in Mali, West Africa, I ...

Cambodia's Creepy Crawly Market

A "Bizzare Foods"–like quest in Siem Reap.

While on a recent visit to Siem Reap, Cambodia, to see friends, I got to know my tuk-tuk (taxi) driver rather well and relied on him to take me places most tourists don’t get to ...

Tanzania: Meeting the King

On safari in Tanzania, a close encounter with the king of beasts moved from a wonderful experience, to an ordeal, then finally a funny story. Spotting a pride of lions, our guide parked us within ...

Kanas, China: Following Genghis Khan

See ancient monoliths erected by Khan's Mongol army.

In the northwestern corner of China, where a pointed finger of land pokes into Russia and separates Kazakhstan from Mongolia, the last physical remains of the army of Genghis Khan stand watch. The area is ...

Groovin' with Bob in Ethiopia's Danakil Desert

After a week of photographing remote volcanic lakes in the desert of Ethiopia, Irene was tired and elected to stay with the vehicle while I went to shoot one last thermal pool. Assured of her ...

Xi'ian's Silent Army

Once in a great while, the simplest of acts, even performed inadvertently, can have far-reaching effects. In Xi'an, China, there is a massive army that has stood in silent formation for more than two-and-a-half thousand ...

How to Hunt a Lion

(As told by Moses, a Maasai tribesman.)

After two years of invitations, I finally made it to Africa to visit my friend Moses, a Maasai elder, at his village in Kenya. That first night, while sitting around a fire, he offered to ...

Moscow's Love Lockdown

There is an old Russian folktale that says that in days gone by, young married couples were locked inside a granary shed for privacy during their wedding night. True or not, it’s a story that ...

Giving Face in Kashgar

It was my final day in Kashgar, China. I had all the photos I needed and was ready for a good meal before catching my flight out, when I noticed a tiny man sitting outside, ...

Benin, West Africa: Begging for an Education

In the first century A.D. a Christian mystic named Augustine said, "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read but the first page." Those words have guided a great deal of ...

Tonlé Sap, Cambodia: What's in a Word?

Winston Churchill once said the Americans and British are two peoples separated by a common language. The more countries I visit, the more this seems to be true around the globe. For better or worse, ...