Friday, March 27, 2009


I've been in Petra (Wadi Mousa in Jordan) for that past few days. An amazing place. I haven't had much time to sit at the computer so now I am VERY behind in my posts. I'll try to get it updated soon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Did you know...
Henna is a natural sunblock, even after it has pretty much all faded.
I burnt my hand (as well as my face) yesterday. The henna tattoo that I got in Dubai is completely faded on the back of my hand, but now I can see where it was, as it is white (with a nice red background).

Monday, March 09, 2009


I forgot to mention this interesting little tidbit.
My first visual after getting off the plane was an airport security guy watching everyone go past, picking his nose. Not just picking, but digging. Yuck!!!!
I guess I should be used to seeing things like that. I've seen it so many times in Korea (though usually they are driving, stopped at lights or such).

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hello Syria!

So, I am now in Damascus. Getting here was a tad stressful.
I was out almost all night and so only had a couple of hours of sleep. I had breakfast and then had the counter call a taxi to take me to the airport. About 15 minutes into the ride, I realized I had forgotten a very important thing - my money belt in the lock box at the reception counter. Ack!!! So I had to go back to pick that up. After that getting to the airport was fine. I had no problems at the airport, except for some reason my flight was delayed. When I did get on the plane, it was delayed some more. Luckily I didn't really notice that as I fell asleep fairly quickly. I woke up on take-off and definitely didn't sleep after that. The first 20 minutes of flight were HORRIBLE!!!!! So much turbulence it felt like the plane was bouncing around. I kept wishing I had a handle to hold on to. I am scared of flying to begin with. That didn't help much.
After landing everything was fairly easy and trouble free. Got through the airport without any problems, except one clasp on my backpack is broken. :(
I took the bus to the city center. It cost 75 Syrian Pounds (ticket plus bag), which works out to about $2US. The bus drop is not in the place listed in the Lonely Planet guide book. I asked 3 foreigners that were on the bus (Italian and French), as one seemed to know what he was doing. He has been living in Syria for the past 6 months studying Arabic. The other two are here visiting him (they had lived together in Paris at some point?). They shared their cab with me and dropped me off near the hotel area I wanted to be in. I didn't even catch their names.
The hotel/hostel I wanted to stay in was fully booked. I am in a dorm in a hotel/hostel next door, the Al-Haramain Hotel. I have one bed in a 4 bed dorm, with 3 guys taking the other beds. I think it is not common to find co-ed dorms, so that sort of surprised me, especially in a country like Syria where men and women don't even sit next to each other on public transport. The guys weren't there when I checked in, so I have yet to meet my room mates.
My plan is to stay in Damascus for 2 nights and then catch a bus to Palmyra.
I can luckily access (my blog dashboard) to post things, but can't access my blog. sites are blocked. Strange that I can access one and not the other.
Facebook is blocked here!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaah!!! What am I going to do?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Woo hoo!!!!!!

I´m goıng to Syrıa! I´m goıng to Syrıa! I´m goıng to Syrıa! I´m goıng to Syrıa!
Fınally got my VISA today and I fly tomorrow.

Dubai... wandering about.

After checking my email in the morning, I wandered around. I took one of the boats across the Dubai Creek from the Sabkha Abra Station.On the other side, my first stop was the Dubai museum.The building used to be the Al-Fahidi Fort, built in 1787. A beautiful old building.Most of the museum is actually underground. The museum was great.After the museum, I wandered over to the Basta Art Cafe for lunch.The atmosphere ıs fantastıc. Fresh and relaxıng. So nice. It is in the old Bastakia Quarter, in the courtyard of an old house. It's got a great menu, though a tad expensive. I had a Strawberry Blend (strawberries, banana, yogurt, honey) and a roasted vegetable sandwich (mushrooms, aubergines/eggplants, tomato, lettuce, etc.).Yum Yum!!!
After a great lunch, I spent some tıme wanderıng around the Bastakia Quarter.Very hıgh walls, few doors or wındows.You can see one of the many wınd towers (sort of natural aır condıtıonıng). There were NO people!!! Maybe because ıt was lunch tıme? The only thıngs open were a couple of restaurants, a lıttle gallery and a lıttle spıce shop.After spendıng some tıme ın the quarter, I went back to the museum to see part of the outsıde part that I had mıssed (I had gone down ınto the maın part too soon). Whıle there I got some henna done on my hand. I love henna!!!From there, I wandered back along the creeksıde, through the Dubaı Souq (Textıle Souq). It was very dead. Everythıng was closed and no one was around.I walked all the way to the Sheıkh Saeed al-Maktoum House, where I ended up wıth a bıt of a tagalong (he followed me the rest of the afternoon, tryıng to get closer to me, whıch I would have none of).After that, there was another house turned museum and then the Herıtage Vıllage and Dıvıng Vıllage. The old buıldıngs are all so beautıful. They were all rebuılt from a crumblıng mess. Outsıde the Dıvıng Vıllage, there was a man wıth 2 camels and a donkey for rıdıng. I got a pıcture on one of the camels.When I fınally decıded to take a break and have some tea, I let the tagalong suggest a lıttle cafeterıa ın one of the back streets off of the Dubaı Souq, whıch was quıte busy.Wıth tea, we had these sweets that were pretty much straıght honey.So delıcıous, but so unhealthy!!! After fınıshıng my tea, I headed back across the creek vıa the boats agaın.I went straıght to the Internet (where I was unable to fınısh postıng thıs). Then I went back to my hotel, leavıng my tagalong behınd. I hadn`t even unlocked my door when my phone began to rıng. I managed to get ıt ın tıme. It was Yvonne and Terry from Edmonton, whom I had met at breakfast. They were on theır way out to go to the spıce market, and would be back after an hour or so to fınd some dınner. They asked ıf I wanted to meet up later, or ıf I wanted to joın them ın theır search for spıces. Of course I was up for that. Any explorıng ıs fıne by me. :)
We found the spıce markets faırly easıly. We had expected more spıce shops. We only went ınto one shop, where we were shown every spıce they had. The teas were very strong smellıng. I now know what frankınsence looks and smells. Not exactly my type of scent.4 kınds of pepper:For dınner, I suggested the Sarovar Restaurant, a lıttle Indıan restaurant that I found ın my guıde book. It ıs just off the maın stretch of the gold souq. It was hard to order, as we had no ıdea what the menu ıtems were, but we were all quıte satısfıed wıth our food.
Masala Dosa:I forget what ıt`s called but ıt`s pretty much a pancake wıth tomatoes on top:Paneer Tıkka Masala:After a great meal, we went back to the hotel for a beer ın theır room - they had bought a case at the aırport after hearıng that ıt was hard to fınd ıt anywhere. We had a nıce chat and then ıt was tıme for me to hıt the sack. I had a 4:30AM flıght to catch.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Safari etc.

Before my safari trip, I had time to wander around the area a bit. I found the gold souq.Interesting.I had lunch (fattoush and fresh mango juice) at my hotel restaurant and then wandered a bit more.The safari trip was great fun. I was picked up at my hotel at around 3:30. There were 6 other people plus the driver. Since I was traveling alone, the driver, Ahmed, had me sit in the front seat. I'm glad for that, knowing now how the day went.Basically all the safari is is going through the desert 'dune bashing'. Going up and down the dunes feels pretty much like a roller coaster (though, thankfully without the loops). We went along the tops, down the sides (sideways!), up and down and around and over. One guy in the very back seat got sick. Because of the shocks, the back bounces a bit more than the front. I am pretty sure if I had been sitting in the back I would have been sick as well. :SI was a bit disappointed, though, as we didn't get a chance to do the sandboarding. Maybe because of the sand storm? It was very windy and blowing the whole day. When we did get out to take pics or take a break, it was hard not to get sand in the eyes. I will have to wait until I return the end of April to go sandboarding, I suppose. The camel riding isn't really camel riding. More like just getting on the camels for a 2 minute walk, only long enough to take pictures. I didn't do that.
Ahmed, my driver, seemed to feel the need to protect me as when we stopped, he stuck near me when ever we stopped. At the first stop before dune bashing, he shared his snack with me and gave me a drink (vitamin C drink). While on the dunes, I had his phone in my bag under my knees (incase things in the truck started flying?). He has been doing the safaris for 6 years so knows what he's doing. He said he's never rolled but most of the other drivers have at least once. Apparently the day I chose to go was very dangerous because of the sand storm. The dunes were changing, and the tops were softer, plus the tracks they normally follow had disappeared. Luckily, since he's been doing it for so long, he knows very well the ways to go. Ahmed said it's most dangerous when it rains (which is very rare). Sometimes up to 80% of the trucks roll then because they slide. I took a couple of videos of the dune bashing, which I will upload as soon as I get a chance.
After going around the dunes for a while, we went to the safari camp. It is enclosed by walls and around the inside, there are several tents. I sat with Ahmed and some of his Egyptian friends for a while and had a sheesha and tea/coffee mix - coffee mix, sugar, condensed milk and tea all together. Actually not a bad combination! :) The others went to get pics with the camels or disappeared elsewhere. I didn't get pics with the camels, but did get one with the falcon.Then we went to the tent with all the tables (which was closed to keep the wind out). It was getting quite cool by that point. The rest of the group then showed up. We sat for a while and then our buffet/bbq dinner was ready so we all went out to line up. There was one table/line for the women, and one for the men. So much food. Yum! Tahini, babaghanoush, flat bread, vegetables, rice, pasta, and then from the bbq lamb kebabs, chicken kebabs, beef kebabs, and ribs. When dinner was finished, the show started on the large stage outside. A belly dancer was up for a long time. Then a whirling dervish.
I got back to the hotel at almost 10PM. An hour later than expected, and very tired.
Argh. Uploading pictures on here is taking SO LONG!!
Oh. Just an added note. While I sit here at the computer in a little Internet cafe, there are cockroaches running up and down the walls behind the computer, and on the desk as well. YUCK!

Monday, March 02, 2009


I'm now in Dubai. :)
Getting here was a tad stressful. I ended up being a little late getting to the airport and pretty much had to run to get on the plane, but made it.
I was flying on Aeroflot Russian. I was not impressed. No TVs, no music. Just a basic plane. And my MP3 battery was dead!! :O The only good thing was that the plane was pretty empty so I had 3 seats to myself. I slept on and off, read a book and did some Sudoku.
The meals were a bit of an issue as I was near the back of the plane. By the time they got to me, all that was left was fish. In case you don't know me well, I don't eat fish or seafood of any kind. The 2 flight attendants that were always on my side of the plane were quite good about it, though, and found other alternatives. For the first meal, they gave me a pasta meant for the 2nd meal. Then when the second meal came along, they realized there was only fish left again, so they brought me some sort of little quiche. Not sure where they managed to dig that up, but it was delicious! When he gave it to me, he said "Special just for you."
I transfered in Moscow and the plane there was delayed an hour, so I sat and had a fairly expensive mocha: $8. Tasted great, though.
Arriving in another country at 2:30 AM isn't the best idea, but I had no problems. Everything was still open at the airport, unlike some other airports I've been to that shut down everything fairly early. I changed the rest of my Korean money and caught a taxi to the hotel I had attempted (but failed - I didn't get a response to any of my requests) to book ahead. The taxi was 41 DHS. The Hotel Florida had rooms available, though at twice the rate listed in the Lonely Planet guide that I have (hasn't been updated?). They said that was the old price from a few years ago. The hotel is nice, though. Clean with an in room safe. A decent buffet breakfast is included.
So far today all I've done is found a travel agent. I booked my flight to Istanbul (4:25AM March 4th) as well as a half day desert safari for this afternoon/evening.
The 6 hour desert safari includes a camel ride, sand boarding, a sheesha, bbq dinner, belly dancing show, henna tattoos and an optional (for a little extra) dune buggy ride. Sounds good to me!! It cost me 180 DHS. They will pick me up at my hotel at 3 so I won't be able to do a lot today. I'll just wander around the area for a while. I'll have all day tomorrow to visit the museum and other places I want to see.
I'll try and post a couple of pictures tomorrow.