by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
Now you guys are getting your act together. This view will get guesses on all continents I imagine. I'll have to go with Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Reason is, I have friends from India and China. They have spoken to me about how they have personal drivers for their cars, as many people do there. The little booth in the picture in front of the house would seem to serve this purpose. But, I'm caught at a crossroads ... China or India? I"ll split the difference and say Indonesia. Looking forward to the guesses. They will be varied in global scope.
Quite prescient. Another writes:
This is San Francisco's Seacliff neighborhood, on El Camino del Mar. That's the Marin Headlands in the background. San Francisco Bay is hidden behind the houses.
At first glance, the picture looks so much like Southern California that it seems too obvious. It must be one of the Inland Empire suburban developments that helped fuel the housing boom and bust. But wait a minute - are those bars on the windows? A guard shack? That car isn't American. So I don't think this is So Cal. But the mountains and perhaps Norfolk pines make me think the climate and typography are similar. Cape Town, South Africa would fit the mountains, climate, and car. That's my guess.
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess the Observation Neighborhood in Cape Town. After my heartbreak last week at finally being successful at identifying the exact location of the towers in the picture, only to find out it was the easiest contest yet, I don't have the heart to scour the globe finding the exact locale. I'm going only with my gut. Hats off to those who discern the exact locale. I will console myself with the knowledge that I am continually outdone by some of the most well-read and well-traveled blog readers on the internet.
I'm so intimidated by this contest. I wouldn't know the first things about how to research this picture, but it reminds of of the summer I lived in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. I lived in a nice neighborhood, Colonia Providencia, and all the houses had gates like the ones seen in the picture. (With my luck, it's probably from New Zealand.)
None from New Zealand this week. Another:
The houses and the pine trees in which they are nestled all remind me of a high-class neighborhood in Tunis, Tunisia. If this guess is correct, the mountain in the background is Mount Ressas. The only detail that throws me off is the little guard tower in front of the house; I don't remember seeing those on my visit, so I am probably totally wrong.
Could I have the book anyway, please!? Two contests ago I mentally guessed the one from Sardinia, without writing an email. Does that count?
Nope, sorry (though the reader's address is from Sardinia). Another:
This picture reminds me of diplomats row in Shihlin, Taiwan, north of Taipei. I remember walking along several similar streets going door-to-door as a missionary back in 1999. The National Palace Museum is nearby and there was a great noodle place along the way.
I have seen neighborhoods like this one in Lagos, Nigeria and Kigali, Rwanda -- places where privileged classes are building (but not always completing) gaudy villas, while at the same time becoming more fearful of where they came from (as evidenced by the guard post). But the residents of this street do not perceive themselves as in quite so much physical danger as in Kingston, Jamaica, or Johannesburg, South Africa, where the fences would be higher or sharper and the gates closed shut. Also, the absence of palm trees suggests a more northern climate. Almaty, Kazakhstan?
This is Arab - by the architecture, and the guard boxes in front. Based on the mountains and the Mediterranean pines, I would say Lebanon. The guard boxes would say the diplomatic quarter of Beirut. However, the wealthy in Lebanon also have guard boxes, equally empty, so it could also be Jbeil. I'll stick with Beirut.
It looks like Ankara, Turkey. I stayed in the Cankaya District for two weeks and saw a few of those guard shacks while walking some very steep roads in that area.
First, thanks for doing these. Like a good crossword, they're hard. But if you stare at it long enough the clues start to show themselves. That's the best kind of puzzle. Anyway, my guess: I've narrowed it down to the Malaysian suburbs somewhere in the mountains. Beyond that it's a proverbial dart at the Google map, which landed here: 2-42 Jalan Selasih Taman Cheras, 56100 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I assume your knowledge of Malaysian geography is as bad as mine, so here's a link.
My guess is an eastern "suburb" of Mandalay, Myanmar. The hills in the background would be the Shan Hills; both vehicles are white, a common colour choice for cars there, and the license plate is black. The guard houses and walled compounds are also familiar. The person in the driveway also appears to be wearing a longyi, normal dress for Burmese males. That said, the longyi is white, not a common colour, so perhaps this is from Pakistan or somewhere in Northern India.
On the right track. Another:
Tropical flora, but also pine trees; flat landscape with steep mountains in the background. Person appears to be wearing all white (cotton?). My guess -- northern India; specifically, Chandigarh (since a le corbusier designed city seems like something the Dish would lean towards), looking north east towards the Himalayan foothills.
Getting really warm. Another:
Normally I zero in on details in the photos, like everyone else, and scrutinize the tiny hints to narrow down a guess. For this scene, it popped up and I instantly thought, "Kabul, Afghanistan - probably the neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan." The guard posts outside the houses were a give away, plus the familiar rugged mountains in the background, which section up the city. Also the seemingly new construction (the house in the middle with unpainted masonry). Perhaps the small figure in white is wearing a salwar kameez. I spent time a few years ago working at Kabul University, which is pretty far from "Wazir" where I spent limited time, but enough to feel pretty confident about this one. Until recently Wazir was one of the safest parts of town, where a lot of internationals live.
Closer still. Another:
The homes look made for security and privacy, which suggests to me a predominantly Muslim country with perpetual security angst, plus green luscious mountains. Pakistan was my first thought. There's also the guy wearing the white kurti. Probably a city, because it looks pretty affluent, and Karachi doesn't have the mountains, so: Islamabad, Pakistan. I'm guessing somewhere on the northern part of the city looking north at Margalla Hills National Park.
Correct! But which sector of the city? Another:
This week I'm convinced the VFYW is of Islamabad. The houses at first appeared very South Asian to me, and the glimpse of the cars and the man appearing to wear a kurta made me sure of it. Islamabad is among the few well-developed South Asian cities nestled among the mountains, and the pine tree gives away the alpine location of the city. I imagine the hills in this picture are the Margalla Hills. Finally, to narrow down on the neighborhoods in which this photo could be taken, I think the photo is either from the posh sectors E or F, especially evidenced by the little security guard kiosks located just outside each gate.
But is it E or F? Another:
This is my first submission, but I think I have a shot. Initial key things I noticed were the license plate (there are black ones in Pakistan), and what appears to be a fellow in a shalwar khamis. The topography and foliage remind me of Islamabad, along with the architecture and the little guard houses. The view is looking toward Margalla Hills and the Faisal Mosque, possibly from the E-7 section of town - but I cannot find the houses or view on Google Earth (I am sure someone will, but I have to go walk the dog).
You can blame this loss on the dog then. The winner:
Here goes my shtick for why I think the pic is possibly a rich suburb or neighborhood in Islamabad. (By the way, such a nice view compared to the horrors of the flooding happening elsewhere in the country.)
The style of construction seems like what I’ve seen in the area, as well as the security huts and gates. Checking the Google terrain and some pics in the area, I would say it's near the area called Christian colony, possibly near the Danish embassy. The hills appear to be the Margalla hills seen from F-6 area of Islamabad. Ok, that’s my guess.
The house in the photo is specifically located on Street 40 in Sector F-7/1 - which is just a hair closer to F-6 than E-7:
Congrats to the winner, who gets a free VFYW book. Below are a few more of my favorite Islamabad guessers (who numbered 12 out of about 150 overall guessers). One writes:
So far as I know, those stupid little security booths are not found anywhere else and the mountains in the background look just like the Margallas. Also, the guy in the picture looks like he is wearing a shalwar kameez. And finally, the completely eclectic/random mix of architecture is oh so Islamabad.
My name is Mark and I'm a VFYW addict (when will we get a midweek fix?). This is definitely ... possibly ... probably not ... Islamabad. The small guard houses, the chap standing in the driveway wearing a shalwar kameez, the hilly topography, the Chir pine tree, the black number plate on the left-hand drive vehicle and what appears to be minarets in the background (though I might be seeing things - it's part of my addiction). Today I've spared myself the "joys" of Google Earth. Nothing like scouring a city for an hour only to discover that you were a continent away.
If it's any consolation to the near-winners, we keep track of people who have guessed correctly. In a close tie, victory goes to a correct guesser in the past.
By the way, I just spent more than a half-hour plugging all 150-odd locations into Google Maps, only to have Safari refuse to accept my screenshot software (Safari sucks in general; use Firefox) and then delete all the locations when I tried to log in through Firefox. I may get a burst of energy to do it all over again and post the map, but here is a rough rundown: the most common locations were Cape Town and Beirut; a notable number from Kuala Lumpur and Bogota; an inordinate amount from southern California; a good number from Mexico; a smattering from South America; a handful from Europe ... you get the idea - scattered all over the world. My favorite was Schenectady, New York.