Something of a taste from my childhood, Nasi Goreng is a staple of Indonesian (and Malaysian and Singaporean) cuisine, spicy fried rice with omelette pieces its a filling dish.
The city was first mentioned in 1350 BCE and has been, in one state or another in constant use since. and Palestine, with Bethlehem in particular has a wide range of tourists and is highly dependant on the income. Most tourists come for a few hours for for a day trip, a much smaller number stay in one of the thirty hotels.
When people talk about Jerusalem they are really talking about the old city, the town first settled in the 4th century BCE, which has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, and attacked 52 times. Jerusalem itself has grown well past that point, but the old city is still a major part of the town and is not just a site of ancient wonders, but of shops, homes and restaurants.
On both banks of the river Jordan stand locations claiming to be the site of Jesus Christ's baptism by John. Separated by a dozen feet of water, the faithful, the interested and the border police stand on either side.
The Dead Sea is slowly dying. Climate change is having a dramatic effect on the region and the water from the River Jordan, which previously kept the sea level is drying up.
People often compare Wadi Rum desert to Arizona. Whilst both are desolate landscapes dominated by rocky outcroppings, the similarity really stops there. Wadi Rum does not have the dramatic striation that defines Arizona, but instead has an almost melted look on its rock outcroppings due to the soft sandstone and limestone of the region.
Petra is an ancient Nabatean city and has some of the most incredible, memorable and breathtaking architecture you will see in you life. In the middle of the desert, the sun bakes down, but over the centuries the rare rain has slowly been eroding the carvings, despite the overhangs and rain gutters the Nabatean's caved and the local archeological teams keep in working order.
The town of Madaba is small, but busy, with vendors selling on the streets and a number of high end local shops selling locally made designer clothes. The town dates from the middle bronze age and is referenced in the Bible.
Mt Nebo is reputed to be where Moses stood when he saw the holy land after leaving Egypt. Hardly a mountain by most standards, it is still much taller then the flat planes all around it.
Little Petra is also known as Siq al-Barid and is a few miles north of the more famous Petra. It is free entrance, unlike Petra and is usually much less crowded, though it still has a number of Bedouins selling souvenirs and local children following you around looking for money.
Much like Rome herself, Philadelphia was built on seven hills. The Citadel ruins are on one of them looking over the Roman Theatre and Hashemite plaza in the basin.
About an hour outside of Amman is the ancient city of Gerasa (now called Jerash), the largest Roman city remaining outside of Italy. Much of it is still undiscovered, and the modern city spills over a large piece of the underground ruins preventing their excavation.
Downtown Amman is hectic, shops spill out into the streets and street vendors setup tables anywhere there is space.
Amman is a large city, with a bustling center, heavily gridlocked at many hours of the day. Owing to this, more and more commerce and leisure options are appearing in the suburbs.
We decided, as part of our trip to visit Rabat, the capital city of Morocco and see somewhere off the main trail of tourist spots.
On Wednesday when we got to the hotel, it was fairly late, but we'd not eaten so we went up to the hotel restaurant for dinner and we got a bit of a show from a belly dancer who was working that evening.
At 5am again, we crawled out of the hotel, all bags in hand and paid over the odds for a taxi to the Hotel Tradition where we would be staying after the rafting to leave our unneeded bags behind.
We had booked the Mountain View flight the previous evening, and were looking forward to our one chance to see Everest. This day started at 5am with a mini coach ride to the very basic Domestic Terminal of the airport with my associate and the American lady and gentleman.
As we reached Chitwan, we pulled in to a lovely complex of old wood and faux wattled walls, with wide basket light fixtures. It was quite beautiful.
We got up early and took the purple bus to Pokhara. The non-day bags were loaded onto the roof, and I can only hope nothing breakable was in there because they were hurled up with some force!
At 06:30am, I was started into wakefulness from a pleasant dream about paying for some parking at a multi-story by a bleating alarm clock.
Nepal though, is a vibrant, chaotic, beautify place. The clothes, the buildings, the sun over the mountains are all a riot of colours that can be a challenge to do justice, and that shooting Black and White would impede.
We took a Tuk Tuk in, and had a wander round, ended up eating lunch (not me) in a Russian place which was terrible and then stopped for ice cream to eat as we walked. Patong is ok, its busy, touristy and cheapish. Good for a night out. Wandered on to the beach for a bit and eventually found, on the main walkway, a bar serving cocktails at 50% off for the next two hours. We had lots. I jumped up from time to time to run across the road to get photos of paragliding and sunsets.
We were taken to the tour location; it was basically a single large 'theme park' which offered pretty much everything on the tour in one place. It’s a great idea, but needs some work, everything felt a little rushed.
We then went to the Muslim Village, the standard 'we want you to buy stuff' stop on any tour. The village is built on slits in the middle of the water with only a tenuous connection to the land, it’s a hodgepodge of wood, concrete and steel holding it all together. Plenty of gibbons here, 'pets'. The mosque is being rebuilt, probably still repairing damage from the Tsunami.
We were then taken to a 'standing' boat where we were put into sea canoes and taken through the sea caves of the area. The guide on the back did the paddling and was a little ambitious at one point with what we could get under, but still, the have a huge and impressive system of caves. Some lagoons are only assessable at low tide.
From the cave, we got taken to the longboat and travelled out towards James Bond Island or Khao Phing Kan. We jumped off the boat and got a bit of time to explore and take photos of the island. It's impressive, almost like a bowling pin, but upside down in a cove.
Part of the monkey cave is the Cave of the Reclining Buddha, or Wat Suwan Khuha, which also had a light cave and dark cave behind it. It was pretty impressive, though the strip lights were a little aggravating to my photography!
It was a long drive, up to the top of Phuket, over the bridge to the mainland and then to the Monkey Cave. The monkeys were really used to people and I think I have managed to get some excellent shots of them. The light was a little awkward, as it was very bright sun with thick shadows from the trees. Several of the monkeys climbed all over the people with food!
Tuesday was the day of Motorbike Madness! We met at the rental place and picked up two scooters, I was an all black model. We had agreed that our motorbike gang name was the “Wolverines”, complete with the hand gesture.
The boat was very full, and we spent about 40 minutes heading to our first destination, Phi Phi Maya Island, where the beach was filmed, it was stunning, beautiful colours.
We took the boat to the island and, as I was still feeling my shoulders I didn’t take out a boat or kayak. I took some decent photos, finished my book, and did a little snorkeling. We headed back at 12ish, called into the infinity pool to check up on the guys, and decided on lunch at 1ish.
We walked into Rawai Beach, it was pretty quiet really, which is a shame, found a great little place on the beach called Nikita's and ordered a big starter to share and then main courses.
Then headed over to the Moon Bar at Vertigo, it’s on the 61st floor and stunning views. We were there from before sunset to darkness, incredible place, worth a trip, but bring a healthy bank balance, and if you wanted to impress someone at a date, who wasn’t afraid of heights, and you were in Thailand, definitely a good idea!!
It was an hours transport from the hotel, the scenery is very reminiscent of Indonesia. We pulled down the drive, and after a long, green tree lined boulevard we pulled up at the entrance. It is amazing. Very open plan, spacious, peaceful. The reception is outside built over a reflecting pool. I've been upgraded to deluxe again, and the room is incredible.
From there, general consensus was to head to Patong Market to watch a ping pong show. This isn’t really my thing, and had said so previously, but as everyone else was saying it’s a good plan, I went along....
The tour operator gave me a lift up to the Grand Palace. Had a wander round there for a while, which was pretty awesome, it’s a combined palace and temple where the Emerald Buddha is found Its impressive and amazing.
Finally, we saw the marble temple, Wat Benchamabophit, which had been inspired by western churches.
Also know as Wat Pho, we visited the Temple of Buddha Reclining after the Temple of the Golden Buddha. It is located very close to the Grand Palace and shares a certain style of architecture.
My first stop on the tour I arranged was the Temple of the Golden Buddha. It is a remarkable building, the spire soaring alone into the sky.
Bangkok is busy, historic and modern at the same time. The seedy side coexists with a deeply spiritual environment.
Afterwards, I went to the Çemberlitaş hamam, the oldest Turkish bath in Istanbul, it's been in use for about 500 years. I did the whole treatment.
After that, having discovered the bus was leaking, we went to the palace. Very impressive, reminiscent of the Russian palaces i have been to. You can only go in groups and our guide had written a book on it was was pretty knowledgeable. Some impressive rooms.
Finally, we crossed over to the Asian side, so i have now been to all three areas and went to the Panoramia Cafe. Got some OK shots of Istanbul, but it is still cloudy and misty so they are not as good as they could have been. Had a coffee at the café and we will be heading back to the main square and back to the hotel, via Starbucks.
The boat trip is good, but the weather is a problem. Rain forced me downstairs into the bar area rather than the top, and the photos won’t be as good as the light is poor. Amazing mix, and I'd be tempted to stay high up on the northern side in the fashionable areas with more nightlife and travel down in the morning by tram.
First stop on the Bosporus tour was been the spice bazaar. An interesting place, I picked up a few bits and pieces for people and spent quite a bit quite quickly. Despite the name, the Bazaar sells quite a lot more than just spices.
I stopped on route to the Archeology Museum for fries, a beef sandwich and a coke at an outdoors café in the shadow of the Hagia Sophia. Very nice sandwich with a remarkable view.
The modern art gallery is housed in an old shipping warehouse. No photos are allowed, so i have had to check the camera in to a locker. But i did get a student ticket and an audio guide for 6lira, about £2.50.
I couldn’t find the Jewish art gallery, which is supposed to be on the corner of the Kimono stairs. I found the stairs easily enough but not the gallery. The stairs are a nice diversion and quite different from everything around them.
As I had a free afternoon, I headed to New Town to the cinema. It is seriously subterranean! The entrance is on street level, but then you go down about five flights of stairs to get to the screens. It’s a seven screen cinema and screens one and two are at the very bottom, and the top is street level. Would be a scary place to see a horror film!
I sat at the top of it with a Turkish tea, having wandered round the outside and got some fantastic photos. It was at this point I decided I needed to buy myself an dSLR of my own, having borrowed the one I was using for this trip from a friend. Galata tower is also a nightclub after 8pm.
From there I wandered around the hippodrome, there are a series of columns and obelisks stood there now, but it used to be for chariot races. One of them is an Egyptian pillar which looks somewhat out of place.
A lot of venues were closed on Mondays, which was a shame. After a coffee I wandered in the direction of the Grand Bazaar. I found it, had a quick wander through and will go back without the obvious camera and bag and do some shopping.
I found the tomb of one of the Sultans, which as impressive and right on the main road. Which was a little strange. I wandered through some of the more Turkish less touristy areas and stopped for an Ayran, a yogurt drink.
After that, i decided to try the museum I saw the other day, the brand new Istanbul museum of the history of science is amazing. It is a beautiful opulent modern setting in a shaded park. The displays are lit elegantly and the items are remarkable.
The Hagia Sophia is closed on a Monday. Instead i went to the Basilica Cistern, a huge underground cistern supported by 12 rows of 18 columns with two mysterious Medusa heads, one on its side, one upside-down.
Headed straight to the Blue Mosque, its really impressive, and I think if I knew more about architecture it would be more so, for example the courtyard is exactly the same size as the internal space. The domes are massive and the gold calligraphy is impressive! There are be some photos, but they don't do it justice.
After the Archeology museum I headed off to the Bridge to the North Side. The bridge is very cool, all I did was walk across(under) one side have a look at the fish market and come back, as it was relatively late by that point and stuff was closing.
I had a really good afternoon. Went to the Archeology museum, stopping on route for fries, a beef sandwich and a coke at an outdoors café in the shadow of the Hagia Sophia.
I wandered through the grounds of the Topkapi Palace and a Turkish gent started chatting to me; giving me advice on what to do. He said the Bosporus cruise was a must and made no effort to sell me one or recommend a place to go, so I believe him that it is a good idea.He also told me I looked like a Turk. I think there may be some truth to that, even if it’s just I don’t move like a tourist, never have, because I have been hassled very little by shop people and guides and guards have been telling me things in Turkish. Which really doesn’t help me at all, but is flattering.
The weather has been amazing, about 30 degrees, mostly cloudless blue sky, little bit of wind to keep you cool. All in all a very good temp. a little warmer would be nice but still a fair chance I will be decently tanned by the end of the week.