A Travellerspoint blog

T.I.A.

This Is Africa, things don't come easy here but this continent offers some amazing sights. We spent two weeks here and can't wait to plan our trip back.

semi-overcast 28 °C
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T.I.A. stands for ‘This Is Africa’ and it's a phrase that is applicable in all situations while traveling through this incredible content. It can describe the inflated prices for foreigners, the obvious avoidance of confrontation, and the excitement of watching a lion chase its prey. Africa is an experience that leaves you romanticizing about safaris and beaches and forgetting the difficulty that comes with the territory. The laid back African culture, the immense wild life, and the obvious struggle people face here are all part of the experience. Travel in this part of the world can be long and bumpy and it can also be expensive to get accommodation along the way, but when you see the Great Pyramids of Giza, watch sunsets on the beaches of Northern Zanzibar, or photograph lions in the Serengeti the struggles are all forgotten, T.I.A., get used to it.

A long travel day took us from Tel-Aviv to Amman, and eventually to Cairo early in the afternoon. We arrived in Cairo with close to 8 hours before our flight to Dar Es Salaam. Just enough time to catch a taxi to the Pyramids of Giza and snap some photographs. Getting there was no easy task. Traffic in Egypt is like nothing we have ever seen before. The highway has no lane markers and what should be a four lane highway quickly becomes 7 to 8 lanes of snarled cars and trucks. Vendors walk up and down hawking bread and news papers while cars weave in and out of “lanes.” What should be a 30 min drive from the airport, slowly becomes 2 hours during the afternoon rush.

We finally made it to the gates of the Pyramids with only a half hour to explore some of the most notable ruins in the world. Before we could get to the entrance gate we were corralled into a small room where another salesman begins his pitch for camel rides. After a five minute sales pitch and a “good price” offer, we kindly declined, opting to walk to the Sphinx and the first two big pyramids ourselves. He continued to follow us making a better offer with each step we took towards the gate. The final offer he knocked almost 70% off his first offer. Which just reenforces what we already knew, walk away from the sale and the seller will finally start to make good on his promise of a “good price.” Camel jockey thwarted we headed off to the Pyramids with precious minutes left to see them.

The pyramid in the Giza Necropolis were constructed around 2500 BC and contain three large pyramids, three small pyramids, and the Great Sphinx. The process of construction and the accuracy attained by these ancient architects is amazing and a popular topic of conversation for historians. The largest of the three pyramids in known as the Great Pyramid of Giza and was built for the pharaoh Khufu and remained the tallest man made structure for almost 3,800 years. They were every bit as impressive as we had heard and read about. We had fun taking pictures and using the power of optical illusion to our advantage for some great memories.
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We braved the traffic back to the airport, getting there with plenty of time to have dinner and check email before boarding our next flight. Only having a few hours to do this and as painful as the traffic and hagglers were, it was well worth the trip and better than sitting in the airport. Next stop, Tanzania for 10 days!

We arrived in Dar Es Salaam early in the morning. The sounds of vuvuzelas were buzzing loudly outside the airport, and at 6am we had no idea why so many people were out and about. Turns out the Simba Soccer Club, which was on our flight, was returning home after a being victorious in a tournament. The red clad fans were greeting them with feverish joy. They ran along the street chasing their team as they paraded through town. It was quite the introduction to Tanzania.

Exhausted from the 25 straight hours of travel we checked into our chalet at Kipepo Beach and immediately went to bed. The rest was made us both feel brand new and we headed down to the beach restaurant for dinner and drinks. It was Easter Monday and all of Dar Es Salaam was at the beach celebrating the day off. They sang, danced down the beach, and played in the ocean. The party raged on until the wee hours of the next day, making us wonder how work would be for all the party goers the next day?

We checked out of room and checked in with our tour guide, Moses, with Geckos Grassroots Adventures. We would be camping next to the beach that night so we set up the heavy duty safari tents and spent the rest of the day relaxing on the beach. The ocean is a gorgeous bluish green color and clear as glass. We took turns jumping in the water to cool off and lounging in the shade. That night we meet the rest of our tour guides, our cook Pete and the truck driver Alfred. Pete cooked a great dinner and we sat around talking with the other two people in our group. We started this tour with only 4 people and would only meet up with another two people in a few days. Six total for a tour that normally averages 20.
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The morning came quickly, and while neither of us slept because the tent was more sauna than breezy, we were ready for the trip to Zanzibar. As we walked to the first of two ferry rides, the skies began to cloud and the rain came pouring down. This rain would only intensify as we coasted along the ocean headed for Stone Town. We arrived to chaos in Stone Town, the rain was pouring and the streets were flooded causing havoc for taxis. As we made our way to the hostel we were sometimes knee deep in puddles of rain. The alley way leading up to our hostel was literally a cascade of water rushing down. Everything we had brought with us was soaked. We all took a moment to hang our clothing up in the room and rest awhile before heading out to tour one of Zanzibar’s best known attractions, the spice farm.

A mini bus carried us a few kilometers out of town to small spice farm specifically set up to show tourist what they grow on Zanzibar. Our local farm guide was enthusiastic about showing vanilla vines, cinnamon trees, lemon grass, pepper trees, and about 10 more spices. By the end we had a small collection of naturally grown spices and the smells were wonderful. Along the tour we had two younger boys from the farm who were gathering samples of spices for us to smell and weaving crowns and necklaces for the girls and crowns and ties for the guys out of the palm leafs. The rains came back and we hid under a canopy while tasting some amazing fruit from the farm, we had green oranges, watermelon, bananas, and grapefruit. We bid farewell to the spice farm and headed back to town for some swahili prawns with pilau rice and drinks at a rooftop bar.
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The next day the sun came back with vengeance and soon the buckets of water that fell yesterday were all dried up. We started our morning with a tour of Stone Town that included the slave market museum, which was the last market of this kind to be shut down. We strolled the alleys of Stone Town looking at the shops, checking out the famous doors of Zanzibar, and the fish market. Our last stop was the history museum. The museum had a great balcony overlooking the coast and all of Stone Town. It was a great place to view what the rain clouds had blocked the day before.
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That afternoon we headed up north to Kendwa Beach to settle in for two nights on the amazing Zanzibar beaches. By far the best beach we have been to on this trip is Kendwa, absolute paradise. We had just enough time to drop our bags and grab a Zanzibar Pizza on the beach before our next activity, swimming with sea turtles. None of us on the tour knew whether we were going to another beach, on a boat, or to another island. We all just grabbed our snorkel gear and loaded up in the van and away we went. We drove down the road eventually turning into a neighborhood headed away from the beach, we were all confused. We turned down a drive way with a sign that said Natural Aquarium and we all exited the bus. We were still unsure about what we were doing. A man greeted us and led us down a stone path to what appears to be a naturally occurring lagoon fed by the ocean. He casually plopped some seaweed at the edge of the steps and a few minutes later there were four sea turtles gleefully chomping away. We spent the next hour swimming with the sea turtles in this little lagoon, feeding them sea weed, and snapping photos of each other holding these adorable sea creatures. It was such an amazing experience out of know where, TIA.
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The next day we were up early to try and get on board a scuba trip. We lucked out and there was some room left on the boat and just like that we were off on the Indian Ocean to rack up two more dives. We dove at two coral formations just off the northern tip of the island. We had a great time, we saw some beautiful coral, sea turtles, scorpion fish, and colorful nudibranchs. The scuba trip was great, but we had a few issues with the laid back effort of the locals workers. There were a few panicky moments floating at sea waiting for them to notice us and bring the boat around. Chalk it up to TIA.
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The next morning we boarded the ferry back to Dar Es Salaam meeting up with our truck to spend one more night at Kipepo Beach. We opted to upgrade to a chalet instead of camping. It would be our last night in hotel until Niarobi, as we would be camping the next five nights. The next day we drove for over 14 hours covering 800 km reaching Arusha and our camp site around 7 pm. It was a long ride along the highways of Tanzania that are covered with speed bumps, pot holes, and a few off road jaunts around construction. The drive was a chance to see the change in landscape from the beach to mountains.

The next morning we rolled out of camp and straight back to school, the School of St Jude. This non-profit organization was started by an Australian woman ten years ago and is an absolute dream come true for Tanzania. It began with three children and one classroom and has blossomed to over 1500 students and consists of two campuses. The school was set up to provide education to the country’s poorest children and strict guidelines are followed when selecting a child for attendance. The school provides breakfast and lunch for all the students and for some it provides housing and dinner as well. It was an incredible facility and such an amazing place. Kids who attend this school are extremely lucky and have a chance to greatly improve their lives and the lives of their family and community.
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After the tour we headed about 80 Km to the town of Mto wa Mbu, which means mosquito river. We set up camp and grabbed some bikes to go on a mini safari tour of the Lake Maynara. We cruised through town and out the village banana farm road to this large alkaline lake. Along the way we saw some Zebra and numerous birds, but before we reached the lake we had to stop and reverse course. A lone water buffalo had taken up ground near the trail and if a water buffalo is alone, it means that he has been kicked out the herd and is angry enough to charge at humans. We redirected our course and headed a small pool where one of McKenna’s favorite animal was resting, the hippo. About ten hippos were lounging in the water and we took some time to view them from a distance.

The bike ride continued back through a colony of screaming baboons and an eventual stop at one of the banana fields. We learned about the village’s main cash crop and all the uses of the banana and the leaves, including the village favorite banana beer. After hearing about the banana beer we were all curious to try it. Our local guides took us back to the main town and down one of the alleys to a small hut to taste this local concoctions. The local guides proceeded to explain the process of making this banana beer, all we can tell you is that it is long, complicated and the beer cannot be bottled because is continues to ferment in the bottle. After the long explanation they brought out a communal cup for all of to sip from. On top of the beer the grainy remnants from the process remained and as we sipped the beer we couldn’t avoid swallowing a few floaties. It tasted nothing of banana but more like sausage on a bbq. It wasn’t the best beer we have ever had, but it was a good experience. After the beer had been passed around and finished of by the guides, who love the stuff, we moved on to tour some of the arts and crafts sights of the village. We started at the painting studio first where we learned about the brush and knife painting techniques of the local tribe. After that we moved on to the wood carvers who were happy to show us around their shop and studio. We headed back to camp for dinner and then early to bed, tomorrow our safari would begin early in the morning.
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The next morning we were greeted with a new safari vehicle and guide named Simba. He looked a lot like Samuel L. Jackson and he was just as cool. We struck out before sun rise headed for the Ngorongoro Crater and National Conservation Area. The Ngorongoro crater is large volcanic caldera and has millions of history including the foot prints of some of the first hominid species from 3 million years ago. The name Ngorongoro comes from the sound of the Masai cow bells attached to their cattle. The ringing of the bell can be heard all around the craters edge where their villages still exist today. The people of Masai are still allowed to herd cattle through this conservation area but not in any of the national parks surrounding it.
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We ventured down into the crater, unsure of the wildlife we would actually see. With the roof of our safari vehicle off, we had a 360 degree view of the green grass landscape covering the floor. Our first sighting was a herd of Wildebeest, a funny looking creature with horns like a water buffalo, a white neck beard, and a black and grey stripped main. They would be a common sighting for the next several hours. They are everywhere in the area right now gathering for the biggest and oldest migration in the world, that starts in July. Inter mixed with the Wildebeest were their partners for the migration, the Zebra. The Zebra were grazing all around us, strategically standing together to brush flies off each other with their tails. Soon we came upon a group of spotted hyenas bathing in a mud pit to cool off in the hot sun. They are another interesting looking creature, their back legs are shorter than thier front making them look awkward when they run our walk.
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Suddenly we were on the move, Simba had gotten a call that a lion had been spotted. We got our first glimpse at a lion, a young male with a short main and several scars that were evidence of a struggle with other older male lions. He seemed to like the attention, and the shade that the vehicles provided. Soon Simba was off again, and the next sighting was incredible. Two fully grown male lions sauntering around the grass looking for shade and shaking their gorgeous manes. They were unbelievable. We stayed for a while snapping photos and watching the two lions hang out together. We eventually moved along to a nice spot for lunch and then making the drive up to the top of the crater.
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We were headed towards the Serengeti National Park, but Before we reached the park entrance we stopped at a small Masai village to take a tour. They greeted us with a song and dance and even included us in the dance. We toured the village and did some shopping in the circular market they constructed in the middle of the village. The Masai people have lived on the plains of Africa for thousands of years and rely entirely on cattle and goats for nutrition. The village lacked medical care and proper schooling. It is a little heart breaking to see these people struggling to get by, but they were extremely welcoming to us and we appreciated the cultural experience. After the stop we were on our way to our camp ground in the Serengeti. We arrived at our camp site just in time to set up our tent and crawl in before the rain started.
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The next two days we spent riding along in the Safari truck with Simba leading the way. The Serengeti is a phenomenal place, animals every where. During our three game drives we saw hippos, giraffes, lions, hyenas, leopards, crocodiles, elephants, impalas, gazelles, and warthogs. We took over 600 hundred pictures and two hours of video. We had incredible luck spotting multiple lions, close encounters with elephants, hippos all over the place, and leopards everywhere. The entire trip was amazing and there are so many things we want to write about but will stick to three major highlights during our two days that made the trip absolutely incredible.
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During our first game drive we spotted three lionesses lounging in a tree. One of them slowly crawled out of the tree and quickly moved through the tall grass until she was crouched in front of an unsuspecting warthog. We waited in anticipation of seeing some live lion hunting. The lion was crouched, stalking her prey, and ready to pounce. In a split second she was off chasing the hog, who let out a loud squeal. Luck was with the hog that day as he narrowly escaped the claws of the Serengeti’s most notorious hunter. Unsuccessful in her hunt, the lion slowly returned to her branch in the tree to rest up for another hunt. It was thrilling to watch!
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The second came on our lunch break the first day, when we arrived back at a camp there was bull elephant munching the trees and shrubs right next to our lunch shelter. We all collected in the protected lunch shelter while he trumpeted at some of the cooks for crossing his path to get water. He made his way across our camp and blocked us off from our bathroom for the afternoon and even refused to leave when a herd of female elephants stomped through. As we gathered to leave for the afternoon the bull elephant started making a play for the shrubs behind our tents, even pushing a tree over to get to them. We left that afternoon wondering if our tents would even be there when we got back.
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On our last day we struck out of camp earlier than usual and Simba had a plan. We rolled past the usual hippo hangout pool, only to find them missing. We drove down the muddy road along the river until the graceful hippo poked her head out of the shrubs. Our first out of water hippo sighting of the trip. Every night the hippos walk around 30 km to graze on grass and shrubs. If you get up early you can spot these oversized creatures tramping back to the pond to meet up with their herd. We watched her let out a big yawn and crash in to the cool water. She submerged herself in the water and made her way over to her fellow hippos. it was a rare sighting and a great way to end our safari.
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Over the next two days we made are way back to Arusha and across the Kenyan border to Nairobi. We spent one last night with the group and bid farewell to our new friends. We are off to Rome and back to the modern world.

Africa is an amazing place. We have seen and done things here that are phenomenal and the best of our trip. At times the difficulty of traveling, the laid back way of life, and witnessing the hardship in this area of the world got to us. But the experiences made it all worth it, after all ‘This Is Africa’! TIA, Hoo-Ray!!!

Check out the pictures from Africa: Egypt, Zanzibar, Arusha, Mto wa Mbu, Ngorongoro, & The Serengeti

Cheers!

McKenna & Scott

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Posted by mands186 10:46 Archived in Tanzania Tagged beaches animals elephants sunsets africa safari zanzibar scuba lions serengeti ngorongoro stone_town dar_es_salaam Comments (5)

The Med, The Dead, & The Red

From coast to coast to coast in Israel, we finish up our time in Israel in the fastest two weeks of this trip yet!

sunny 27 °C
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Everywhere you go in Israel there are chances to learn new stories of past civilizations and opportunities to create your own memories. For two weeks we have covered a lot of ground and seen some amazing and impressive sights. We have seen ruins and beautiful gardens along the Mediterranean, had a Kibbutz experience on the Sea of Galilee, floated on and above the Dead Sea, and took our first trip into a Muslim country to experience one of the greatest ancient cities ever carved into a mountain. This trip has taken us from north to south and tested our ability to travel at a faster pace without sacrificing too many experiences along the way.

We began our tour at Adi’s parents, Rhisa and Nissan, condo in a small community near the ancient city of Caesarea. After enjoying our first dinner on the Sabbath with our new friends we settled in for the night. On our first day, Rhisa and Nissan took us on a trip around Nazareth. Nazareth is best know as the place Jesus called home during his childhood and his home to several sights holy to many Christians. The city has struggled for centuries but is developing a delicious culinary reputation to complement the history of this town. Our first stop in Nazareth was the Basilica of the Annunciation. The largest Christian Church in the Middle East is said to stand on the home of Mary and the place where the angle Gabriel appeared and told her that she was pregnant with the Son of God. The church is surrounded with mosaics from several countries around the world depicting scenes from Christianity. One thing that stood out at this church were the doors to the church. They had some amazing relief sculptures depicting the life of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. After touring the church we wandered the alleys of the arab market looking for the synagog said to be the place where Jesus preached. This small synagog is tucked away in the maze of markets and has a certain aura about it. We snapped a photo and were on away back to the car. We bid farewell to Nazareth and toured the country side on our way to dinner and eventually made it back home to rest up for the next day.
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The next day set out to see some of the many ruins near by. We began by checking out an ancient abode where the tiled floors have survived and still hold their form and color. The floors of this dwelling were amazing and the fact that they have lasted for so long is even more impressive. We made our way to ancient aqueduct that use to provide water to greek cities that once flourished here. The aqueduct stretches along the beach and is one of many reminders that the Greeks were once here. We took some time exploring the aqueduct on the beach and taking in some views of the Mediterranean Sea. We then headed off to a falafel sandwich lunch before seeing Nissan’s great parrot collection. Nissan is quite the parrot lover and has over 100 parrots living in his back yard. We spent about an hour feeding and learning about his parrots. He has been successful at breeding them and maintaining a great facility to care for the many parrots that depend on him. After the parrot encounters we finally got to see the much talked about Caesarea. This city of antiquity was once a booming port town like Alexandria, changed guards several times, eventually buried by sand, and lost in the 14th century. After numerous archeological digs the outline of the city has been excavated and the ruins have become an interesting tourist site. Combining some impressive ancient architecture and a modern dinning scene that attracts locals just as much as it does tourist.
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In the morning we bid farewell to Nissan and Rhisa and headed off to Haifa. Haifa sits on a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and is home to one of the holiest sights of the Baha’i religion. We settled into the city on the first day getting familiar with our surroundings and running a few errands. The next day we started out on foot in search of the Baha’i gardens. These gardens dominate the hillside with their symmetry and lush green tones. The gardens are beautiful and manicured to perfection. The center of this magnificent garden is the golden domed temple of the Baha’i, know as the Shrine of The Bab. The Baha’i Religion is one of the youngest in the world. It originated out of Persia and it’s central belief is one of equality and unity. We spent several hours walking the hill checking out Haifa from above before catching the angled subway line down the hill. We have been on a ton of public transportation on this trip, none more strange than the Haifa angled subway line.
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Our next morning we headed out early and caught the train north to Akko. Akko has been around for centuries, first mentioned in texts by the Egyptians in the 19 century BC. While in Akko we visited the Crusader City, a series of Knights’ Halls that lie 8 m beneath the surface. We wandered the halls that once was a headquarters for the Knight Hospitallers and ventured through some erie underground tunnels. After a touring through the ancient arch ways underground we strolled along the walled coast line. We headed back to the train and back to Haifa for dinner. We decided to stop in the popular German Colony of Haifa, a recently renovated section of town and home to numerous nice restaurants and art galleries. We dined on some delicious lamb kebabs and Scott tried to fit in with the locals by smoking a nargileh (hookah). He looked the part well enough and it is something that you have to try if you are ever in the Middle East.
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The next morning we left Haifa and headed to the Sea Of Galilee. When we arrived to a familiar face, McKenna’s good friend Josh. He picked us up and away we went to the Kibbutz Ein Gev. Josh has been living here for 5 years and is recently married to a girl from the Kibbutz, Oshrit. We felt right at home with Josh and Osh. The Sea of Galilee is famous for some of the miracles performed by Jesus in the area. It is said that this is where he walked on water and where he performed the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. The Sea of Galilee is beautiful and serene. This time of year it is incredibly green in the area and it adds to the beauty of this place. It is easy to see why Josh likes it so much.
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Once we arrived on the Kibbutz we immediately put our bags down and headed out on a hike. We headed up a nearby mountain to enjoy stunning views of the sea and take a peek at a working dig site. McKenna and I were in need of some outdoor activity, we had grown tired of the cities and relished being out in the open. We headed down and out for dinner with Josh before heading to the local pub for drinks with one of McKenna’s other highschool friends, Chris. We enjoyed some local brews while listening to the DJ’s stellar music selection.

We spent the weekend at Ein Gev hanging out with Josh and Osh just relaxing and learning a little bit about life on the Kibbutz. We walked around checking out the buildings and the various services provided in this community style living. A Kibbutz is a communal settlement that is run cooperatively by its members. Kibbutz traditionally run farms but are now branching out into many businesses and are evolving in to more privatized establishments to keep its members and attract new comers.
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Our first full day on the Kibbutz we relaxed and hung out with Josh catching up. That night was again the Sabbath and we were fortunate again to spend it with another family, Oshrit’s family. We enjoyed a tasty meal and some good wine and whiskey. The next day we got the chance to hang out with Josh at his office, the Sea of Galilee. He works as a wakeboard instructor and spends most of his days on the water or in the cool bus converted to small retail store. We toured around the sea with a few of his friends and got to see where the Jordan River feeds into the sea. We took a tour around the sea and saw the mouth of the Jordan River. After our trip around the sea we hoped in the car saw some more sights around the sea. We drove up the hill looking for a place to let Decca, Josh and Osh’s dog, out to run around. Unfortunately most places were closed or charging money to get into the parks. So, we ended up walking the Kibbutz one last time and throwing the stick for her. That night Josh treated us to a delicious home cooked meal. Our time at the Kibbutz had come to an end and we were so thankful to have such great hosts. In the morning Josh took us back to the bus stop and we began or journey south.
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After just three hours on the bus, we had arrived at the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea rests at the worlds lowest point and has been a sight for religious refugees in the past. The Dead Sea had remained relatively untouched for a long time until the British began to tap its mineral wealth in the 1920’s. Now it is the ultimate cliché Israel trip, floating in the Dead Sea. It may be a cliché but it is one that cannot be duplicated anywhere in the world.

We were staying in Ein Bokek, which is essentially just a string of hotels that cater to the Dead Sea going crowd. We dropped our bags off and headed down to experience the phenomenon of floating in the Dead Sea. It also comes with a few warnings, such as don’t dunk your face, don’t swallow any of the water, and don’t pee in the sea (it will hurt you). We had received all the warnings ahead of time so we were well prepared. We slowly walked into the sea, looking at the glacier like salt formations. Once we were about waist deep we turned around and leaned backwards, like sitting down in a recliner chair. Next thing we know we are floating, almost as if we are actually on a pool float. You have such crazy buoyancy you couldn’t submerged yourself even if you tried your hardest. We spent about an hour floating in the sea and trying out different ways of floating. Scott’s favorite was the “Idiot Brother Float,” in reference to the Paul Rudd movie from last year. The unnatural feeling of floating without effort was amazing!
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In the morning we checked out, stored our bags, and heeded out to see Masada. Masada was fortress constructed for King Herod and its location makes it an ideal place to hide out form enemies. Situated a top of a mountain overlooking the Dead Sea on one side and jagged cliff sides on the other, it has one of the best 360 degree views. Visiting Masada is a right of passage for Israeli school children and is also a sight of many Israeli Defense Force swearing-in ceremonies. We spent about a few hours touring this site and learning about the life of those that called this desert mesa home. King Herod had an amazing palace here and an opulent Turkish Bath House. We also explored an interesting underground cavern with a somewhat erie light pouring in a small window.
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Once the heat set in we headed back down the cable car and hopped the bus back to Ein Bokek. We waited at the bus stop for awhile and took the three hour ride down to Eilat and the Red Sea. We arrived in Eilat in the evening and crashed early after a long day. The next day we set out to accomplish several errands we needed to accomplish for our next destination. Like any time we set out to accomplish errands we spend all day running around and only getting about half of it done. Needless to say it was a rather frustrating day. The sight of the Red Sea and a walk along the board walk for some comfort food saved the day.

The main reason we came this far south was because it is the easiest place to cross the border into Jordan and catch a taxi to the ruins of Petra. The next morning we reached the Israel-Jordan border and crossed into our first Muslim country. Once we crossed the border we were immediately surrounded by taxi drivers trying to quote us price on a round trip to Petra. This is no easy drive, from the border it is about a two hour cab ride to the ruins. We were lucky and landed a nice english speaking driver named Ahmed. He was very polite and helpful as he told us about Jordan. He very concerned about us feeling safe. Tourism has dropped significantly because of the unrest in the Middle East and it has affected his lively hood. He was very positive about americans and made us feel comfortable to talk about anything we had questions about. He explained that the Jordanian people were friendly muslims and enjoyed visitors from all over. It took about two hours and a stop at ATM to reach Petra. Jordan is expensive and the dinar is stronger than the US dollar now. This day was way more expensive than we had planned for.
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Once we arrived at Petra and paid the inflated entrance price we were off to explore these ruins we had heard so much about. Petra is known as the Rose-Red City and was the affluent capitol of the Nabataean people. Petra was essential to the spice and silk trade routes and allowed the people attain great wealth. The world of Petra has been hidden for centuries and is now calling people from all over the world with towering facades, impressive buildings, and swirling colors in the rocks. Voted as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, it is Jordans most important tourist sight.
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Entering Petra we walked along a path where ruins started to appear, carved in the soft rock of the mountains on both sides of us. We walked through a gorge known as The Siq, where red rock walls toward on either side of us. IT was a beautiful entrance to this amazing city. We walked through the gorge until a towering building sculpted into the mountains began to appear at the end of The Siq. The Treasury of Petra is one of the iconic buildings that towers over people in this sight. This incredible ruin is enormous and it makes you wonder how the people of Petra managed to carve this so long ago. We moved along to the numerous royal tombs carved along the cliffs and reached the overlook of the Amphitheater that once entertained people long ago. We wandered through the ruins checking out the mixture of Greek, Roman, and Nabataean architecture. We weren’t able to see everything that we wanted to because we had to make it back to the cab in time to get back to the border crossing. We had made it far enough back in the ruins that it took us almost an hour to get back to the front. We were melting in the afternoon heat and finally made it back to the cab just in time.
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Once we made it to the border we thought we were just a few minutes away from being back in Israel. Little did we know that the Israeli security would have a few questions for Scott. It seems that his beard had gotten a little long for their liking. After waiting for a while, they sequestered Scott and began asking him questions about his decision to grow a beard. Naturally he replied “Because my girlfriend likes beards.” They didn’t find it as amusing as we did but eventually they let us through and we headed back to the hotel. Jordan and Petra was an amazing adventure but it had been more expensive than we thought and as such we would not be able to scuba dive the Red Sea. Instead we spent our last day in Eilat sunning on the beach and taking a swim in the sea. A relaxing end to this world wind tour of Israel.
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We are now in Tel Aviv waiting to leave for Africa. This adventure keeps getting better and we can’t believe how fast time is flying by.

Check out the photos from all these amazing places! Nazareth, Caesarea, Haifa, & Akko, Ein Gev, Dead Sea, & Masada, Petra & Eilat

McKenna & Scott

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Posted by mands186 13:39 Archived in Israel Tagged ruins israel jordan petra haifa eilat masada sea_of_galilee akko caesarea the_dead_sea Comments (3)

The Holy Land

Our first week in Israel was full of good food, rich history, and meeting new friends.

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Walking the cobbled alley ways of the Old CIty takes us through a storied past of religious sights and history. Almost every major empire in the last four thousand years has conquered, occupied, and fallen here. It is the birth place of monotheistic religion and a hot bed for international news. With the city of Jerusalem at its center, the country of Israel is overflowing with history, and at times it can be overwhelming. We will spend three weeks in the Holy Land and our first week seemed like a master’s course in religion and history.

Our path to Israel was not as easy as we hoped. It began with an early morning flight out of Bangkok, one which we almost missed. The airline refused us at first because we didn’t have a plane ticket out of Israel. So at 3:30am at the BKK airport we purchased tickets from Israel to Cairo before we could board the plane. After an initial scare, we were off. Fifteen hours later we touched down in Tel Aviv. When we exited the plane we were immediately confronted by Israeli security and questioned about our intentions in the country. Luckily we had some names and phone numbers of locals to put the guard’s mind at ease. After that we sailed through customs and to our hotel in downtown Tel Aviv. Our first and only order of business the first night was a falafel sandwich. After a scrumptious sandwich we crashed and rested up for our first full day in Israel.

Our first day in Israel started off with coffee and dealing with our over flowing bag of laundry. After taking care of some domestic needs we headed off on foot to explore the city. We covered a lot of ground on our first day. We started off with a stroll down Dizengoff Street, a winding street full of cafés and posh clothing boutiques. We eventually made it to the promenade, a long boardwalk down the beach. We took our first look at the Mediterranean Sea and the beach that entertains tourist from all over the world. After a stroll on the beach we headed back to the hotel to move our bags into storage and enjoy more falafel. After lunch we headed back out on the street, heading up King George Street to the Ha Carmel Street market. The market was full of fruits, vegetables, candy, and loads of cheap t-shirts. We headed back to the beach and out on the jetty to watch the wind surfers and the sun start to settle in the sky. We ended the day with a stroll down Rothschild Street to the Ha’Bima Theater and Kika Ha’bima. We sat in the community square for bit watching the families walk through after work and then headed back to our hotel.
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That night we met up with some friends we had been emailing with for several months along the road, Hadas and Adi. They were extremely welcoming and let us stay at their apartment for the next two nights. We spent the evening chatting over dinner, getting to know each other, and planning our trip through Israel.

The next day, after some busy work in the morning, Adi took us on a tour of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. We started out with a great lunch at a small Yemenite restaurant near Ha Carmel. We enjoyed some bread similar to roti with a crushed tomato spread. It was a delicious lunch at an unknown place, the best kind of experience in a new city! After lunch we walked through a wonderful art market off of King George Street and then took a ride over to Jaffa.
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Jaffa, once a major port city, is a tourist destination for its old city charm, art galleries, and famous bakery items. The port doesn’t see much shipping business but the board walk is full of fish restaurants and surrounded by a maze of alleys. We wandered the alleys checking out the art galleries that were scattered throughout. It was our first view of the old cities of Israel and the ancient alley ways that appear in so many pictures. As we strolled through the street Adi gave us some history of Tel Aviv. We had a great time checking out Jaffa and some great views of Tel Aviv from a near by look out. We headed back to Adi’s apartment and began preparations for our next destination, Jerusalem.
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Jerusalem would be our class room for the next three days and we would receive a crash course in ancient and religious history. We caught the bus form Tel Aviv over to Jerusalem and began our trek through one of the holiest places on earth. The history of Jerusalem is heavily documented, but what you believe happened hear and what archeology can support are two very different things. There can be a lot of opinion involved in deciphering the “truth” and it has divided this city for centuries.

Jerusalem was first mentioned in Egyptian text in the 20th Century BC and has been a constant in biblical and historical text ever since. In 997 BC King David conquered Jerusalem, brought the Ark of the Covenant to the city, and made it his capitol. Since David first laid claim to the land the Romans, the Persians, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Mamluks, the Ottomans, the British, and the Jewish Zionist have also claimed this city. There are so many historical points of interest. The Stone of Foundation is said to be the place where Adam was born of dust. The Way of the Sorrows is the path Jesus walked with the cross. And the Temple Mount where Mohammed ascended into heaven, just to name a few. All of these sights relate to one great idea, monotheism, the doctrine or belief that there is only one God. One thing is clear, this city plays an integral part in history. Neither of us are the most knowledgable about the history here, but we were ready to learn.

We were staying just outside the Old City near the new light rail that travels down Jaffa Street. We started our afternoon walking through the well known street of Ben Yehuda. There are several falafel and shwarma stalls along with numerous Judica and T-shirt shops. After another falafel pita lunch we headed to the Jaffa Gate to meet up with a free Sandemans tour. The Sandemans Tours are great way to learn about the cities you travel through and the guides work for tips only. Our tour guide was Oren and he spent three hours showing us around the Old City. We started out walking through the Christian Quarter and to the holiest place in the Christian Faith, the Church Of The Holy Sepulchre. It is in this church that people believe Jesus was nailed to the cross, died and subsequently buried, and eventually rose from the dead. The site of this church was chosen by Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, and completed in AD 326. From the outside the church is modest looking, but there is a powerful draw from the incense and mystery that awaits in the dark interior. We learned that six sects of the christian faith reside in the church. They are constantly at odds over who lays claim to the church and fight over the smallest things like sweeping one step. You can see evidence of this divide when visiting the Ethiopian chapel within the church. The Ethiopian sect has been pushed to the roof, and one member is always present in their chapel for fear it will be overtaken by the neighboring Greek Orthodox sect. As a consequence of the disagreements between the sects over who has rightful ownership of the church, a muslim family has control of the keys and opens and closes the church daily.
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This tour was fast moving so we did not enter the church at this time. We moved quickly through the next Quarter, the Muslim Quarter. It can be identified by the signs on the wall as well as the overly aggressive shop owners pestering Oren to take us into their shops. We breezed through the small market until we reached the edge of the Jewish Quarter to enter the Western Wall. Once there we passed through a security gate complete with metal detector and an X-ray bag scanner. Through the gate we came face to face with the Western Wall, better known as the Wailing Wall. This is the most holy sight of the Jewish faith, as it’s said to be the only remaining retaining wall from the Temple Mount. The 2nd Temple was constructed during the rule of King Herod in the first century BC and expanded the first Temple, thus requiring the need for a larger retaining wall. The 2nd temple was subsequently destroyed by the army's under Titus in AD 70 in response to a Jewish rebellion against their Roman rulers. Here we took some time to view the wall up close and place a blessing within the cracks of the wall. It is considered an open air Synagog, and as such is divided into two sections, one for men and one for women. For men approaching the wall they must wear a kippa, which is provided for you if you don’t have one. When at the wall it is customary to write a note, a blessing for your family for example, and place it in the crevasses of the wall. There are thousands of notes placed in the wall, and it said that Obama and McCain both visited the wall before the 2008 elections and only one left a note. Obamas note was removed and put online. I haven’t looked it up yet but I am sure it would be an interesting read.
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After viewing the wall for a while we headed up the stairs to a look out to see the Dome of the Rock. The golden dome glistens and dominates the Old City skyline. Floating just above the Western Wall the large golden dome is one of the most photographed buildings in the World. The dome covers a slab of rock that is extremely important to both in the Jewish and Islamic faiths. The slab is said to be the place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son and also the place where the Prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended into to Heaven. Next to The Dome of the Rock is the Al-Aqsa Mosque a place of worship for the muslims in the area. The Dome is only open at certain times and only Muslims are allowed inside. McKenna and I didn’t venture up there at this time because of the tour and it was not open upon our return to the Old CIty the next day. As we made our way through the Jewish Quarter we couldn’t help but notice that the buildings were all new. The Jewish quarter has been destroyed time and time again, for that matter this area of the Old City is more modern. The buildings are built with the same beige stone as the rest of the Old City and they have kept similar architectural style as the other quarters. We eventually made our way to the Armenian Quarter. Now you may wonder, like we did, why the Armenians have their own quarter of the Old CIty? It is because they were the first country to fully embrace Christianity, in AD 303. As such they have adopted Jerusalem as their spiritual capitol and have had a presence here since the fourth century. The Quarter here is surrounded by high walls and large wooden doors. It also has a protected city center that the community can retreat to when war breaks out in Jerusalem.
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After exploring the fourth and last Quarter, we ascended up an iron staircase to the roof tops of the Old City. From here we got a view of all four Quarters from above and the famed Mount of Olives.
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A famous Israeli poet and Nobel Prize winner, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, once wrote about the Old CIty, “Jerusalem is connected by its houses, but divided by its inhabitants.” After hearing the history of this city and now standing on the interconnected rooftops you begin to understand the complex issues that exist here. It is not as simple as asking why we can’t just all get along. This place is holy to so many people from every corner of the world. The answers to the issues in this region are far more difficult and elusive than people realize.

After the Old City tour we headed back to the hostel for rest and some water. We can finally drink the tap water again, and while it has a funny taste, because it’s desalinized water, it’s nice not to buy bottled water. After a brief rest we headed out to the Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem’s largest fresh market. They say it is an authentic Jerusalem experience. The walk through was interesting and we checked out all of the fresh bread, fruits, vegetables, and kosher meats. After the market we dined on more shwarma wrapped in lafa, a larger pita bread.

The next morning we had a light breakfast and some coffee before catching the bus to the outskirts of town to the Israel Museum. The Museum had recently been renovated and houses some the best archeology exhibits in the world. We entered the museum with only a brief knowledge of “The Land,” as it is called, and left with a more complete history of this area of the world. The museum houses artifacts from the dawn of man to the great pillars of Roman society. The exhibit walks you through 7 chapters of the archeological history of this land, mixing historical and biblical narratives. After the archeological tour through time we worked our way through the rest of the art exhibits. The other main attraction at this museum is the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls reside. These scrolls were discovered in 1947 near the Dead Sea and date back to AD 137. Over 800 scrolls were discovered and collected. The history behind these scrolls is intriguing and well captured in the museum shaped liked the clay pots they were discovered in.
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After the museum we headed back to the Old City to rediscover some of the sights we didn’t have time for on the tour. We started back at the Church Of The Holy Sepulchre, where we entered and took in this holy sight. Inside were parades of people making their pilgrimage to the site where Jesus was nailed to the cross, to the stone that Jesus was cleaned with oil, and to the place of his burial. The church has an overwhelming presence inside that doesn’t come through from its humble facade. After exploring the inner beauty of this church we walk around the corner to the Church of the Redeemer. We ascended up the spiral staircase tower to the highest point within the Old City walls. From here looked out over the four Quarters snapping photos and again seeing the connected roofs of the homes and sanctuaries. We wondered through the busy alleys of the Jewish Quarter one last time and headed out the Zion Gate to Mount Zion. We ventured into the room of the Last Supper and then on to the tomb of King David. That night we had dinner on Ben Yehuda street before heading off to bed early.
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We got up early the next morning and hoofed it to the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives has great views of Jerusalem and several places of biblical importance. First we took in a spectacular view of the old city from the top. After taking a few pictures we walked down to the Church of Dominus Flevit, a sight where Jesus wept on the rock. From there we saw the magnificent Church of Mary Magdalen. We then moved down to the bottom of the hill to the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane. This is the sight of Jesus’s arrest. Inside, the Church decorated with beautiful mosaics that depict Jesus taking on the suffering of the world. After an early morning of trekking the Mount of Olives we headed back to the hostel, packed up, and headed back to Tel Aviv before sun down and the beginning of the Sabbath.
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We arrived into Tel Aviv and headed back to Hadas and Adi’s apartment. We relaxed for a while before we headed up the coast to Adi’s parents house. We spent the night chatting with new friends and enjoying our first home cooked meal since Australia. We were exhausted from the last few days of touring the Old City and headed to bed early. We will spend the next week exploring Northern Israel.

Check out more photos from our first week here: Tel Aviv & Jaffa and Jerusalem

Cheers!

McKenna & Scott

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Posted by mands186 14:01 Archived in Israel Tagged markets religion history church sunsets old_city israel tel_aviv jesus jerusalem dome_of_the_rock jaffa western_wall holy_sepulcher Comments (3)

One More Go Around In Thailand

We bid farewell to South East Asia in a short blog entry highlighting our final days spent in the islands and Bangkok.

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Our final week in Asia has arrived. The 40 days we have spent in this region so far has gone by quickly at times and also slowly at times. Our time in Chiang Mai was to short and the boat down the Mekong River was painfully slow. We have many great memories throughout the area and we only have a week left to create a few more. We have been craving a return to the islands and we thought we would give Bangkok one more shot.

We left Laos and headed to the island of Koh Chang. We arrived a day early and didn’t have accommodations for the night. We quickly found a guest house, maybe a little too quickly. Our room for the first night was nothing more than a mattress on the floor of a tiny room. We were not thrilled, but it would have to do. The next day we would be living it up at the resort so one night of roughing wasn’t so bad.

We dropped our bags and headed out to grab dinner and cocktail with some island flavor. After dinner we walked the street checking out the various market stalls and night clubs until we spotted a fish spa. A fish spa is simple, a large aquarium that you dip your feet into for schools of cleaner fish to clean. SOrt of lively pedicure. We had seen these all over and had yet to try one. Being the last week here we thought we would give it a go. They washed our feet first and then we submerged our legs into the aquarium. Slowly the cleaner fish found there way to our feet and began feeding. At first it tickled and felt strange to have these creatures munching away at the dead skin. I know, gross! The tickling goes away after about a minute as you get used to it and the fish did do some great work. We were pleasantly surprised.
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The next day we headed off to the resort we would be staying at for a few nights. The wait was worth it, our room was amazing and our location was secluded from the town and crowds. We had planned to do some scuba diving and hiking during our stay but our dreams of adventure hit a wall. McKenna crashed with a bad cold and the exhaustion had caught up with both of us. We spent the next several days lounging at the resort in our amazing pool villa. We were bummed that we didn’t get to experience Koh Chang the way we had hoped but such is life and we just rolled with it.
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After the island we headed back to Bangkok for one more go around. This time we stayed in the Sukhumvit Road area at the Dream Hotel. It was a great place to see a different side of Bangkok. This area is much more modern and sleek looking with towering skyscrapers and the sky train right down the middle. Yet the charm of Bangkok still lurks in the alley ways, so don't worry. It was also nice to see some parks in the area and see people out enjoying them. We walked around checking out the pubs the cater to futbol fans, a mixture of market stalls, and the greenery in the parks. We had drinks by the pool on the rooftop of our hotel and had one last massage before the long travel day.
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A short and sweet trip to Bangkok left a much improved second impression. We are glad we got to see this side of the massive Thai city.

If we have learned anything from this area of the world, it is to smile and share a laugh with the people. A sense of humor in this region of the world will take you far. There were many situations where we delightfully exchanged broken english and a smile to make a new acquaintance. The friendly back and forth banter led to memorable nicknames and great stories. If you can take a joke and joke back with the people of South East Asia then you will make many friends on your travels here.

We have reached the half way point of this trip and we are very thankful for the great ride so far. Thank you to everyone for following along and we love all of your comments. Plenty more adventure to come, so stay tuned! Our next destination is the Middle East, Israel.

Cheers!

McKenna and Scott

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Posted by mands186 09:41 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Laid Back in Luang Prabang

Two days in Luang Prabang isn't enough, so we extended it to a week!

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There we were, sitting on a bus destined for Vientiane, debating our choice. It was just 10 hours over a partially paved highway and no guarantees that the bus wouldn’t break down. The bus was nice, a little cramped, but nothing out of the ordinary. Travel in Laos is slow, there are no short cuts, and we knew this when we bought the ticket. The bigger question was why did we want to take this bus in the first place? We were not ready to leave Luang Prabang, yet here we were. As the moment of departure became imminent, we panicked.

Is this really how we want to spend the day? Are we ready to leave Luang Prabang? Was one day in Vientiane worth 10 hours by bus? The ticket checker was closing in, a decision had to be made. We looked at each other, both thinking the same thing, we didn’t want to leave. As the ticket checker reached our seats we made our decision, we jumped ship. Collecting our bags from underneath we could tell other passengers were confused and the bus driver was probably a little offended by our sudden departure. Oh well, this was our choice and we were certain that it was the right one. That’s how two days in Luang Prabang suddenly became a week long stay, one of our better decisions in the region.

Luang Prabang, the former Royal Capitol of Laos, is a slow paced city with a lot to offer. This city has a clever way of working its way into your heart. The mixture of french colonial and asian architecture captures your inner shutter bug while the numerous cafes go to work on your taste buds with delicious coffee drinks and a variety of cuisines. The final draw in this city lights up at night with the amazing handicraft night market. This market sets up along the central strip of Luang Prabang at sunset every day. People come from all over to sell t-shirts, scarves, jewelry, and wood carvings of Buddhas. Beyond the city limits there are treks to the local villages, elephant mahout camps, and waterfall parks that entertain travelers in unique ways. All of this balanced with the seemingly magical pull this city has keeps people coming back and staying longer than they plan to.
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Before we arrived in this laid back city we had to take every travelers right of passage down the Mekong River, the slow boat. There is no easy route from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. We had two choices, take the crammed back packer boat or the slightly nicer cruise boat. We decided on the nicer cruise boat and it proved to be good choice. We spent a little bit more but it included a room in Pak Beng and two catered lunches, both were a major plus.

We boarded the boat early in the morning and off we floated, down the mighty Mekong. Our first day was slow and steady with only one stop in a small Laos village. McKenna and I felt a little strange parading through this village. It felt like we were intruding in these peoples lives. We didn’t want to seem rude to our tour guide so we followed along. We toured the school and saw how the Laos government is trying to bring its population together by teaching the Laos language to all kids in the country. There is a big effort to get the villages to move down from the mountains to the river bank. The Government is offering school, healthcare, and commercial trade on the Mekong to entice the villagers down. All of these opportunities for the villagers allows the government to bring them a better quality of life.
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After the tour we headed back on the boat where we finished the last half of the journey. The scenery along the river is interesting. Water buffalos wander the beach, villagers are panning for gold, and fisherman are moving along the river in long canoes. As we passed by the villages and the mountains began to surround us we started to really notice the haze. We were traveling during the slash-and-burn season and smoke filled the air. The mountains were all around us but only an outline was faintly visible.
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We arrived in Pak Beng and settled into the hotel. We walked the one street in town searching for a restaurant to eat at. We decided on Indian restaurant owned by a nice couple. We dined on nan bread and chicken shawarma then headed to off to bed.

The next day was more of the same, smokey mountain views and villagers working hard fishing or panning for gold. Again we visited a village, but this village was different. It was more developed than the first. The village had a road connecting it to Luang Prabang and the result was an increase in goods available in the village and along with it, trash. The other village was virtually cut off from any major cities and had very little waste. This village was seeing the advantages and disadvantages of being closer to a city.

Before we reached the end of our journey we had one last stop, Pak Ou Caves. The Nam Ou River joins the Mekong just before reaching Luang Prabang. At this juncture there are two caves carved into the limestone cliffs. Each cave is filled with hundreds of Buddha images. The cave is a popular place for Buddhist to pray. We toured both caves and then headed back to the boat to make our way to our final destination.
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We finally arrived in Luang Prabang, thankful to be off the boat and in a hotel room with an actual bathtub and shower. We cleaned up and relaxed in the air conditioning for a brief moment. That night we ventured out, getting an idea of what this town had to offer. We had dinner at french restaurant Pizza Sasa and walked along the river.

The next day we struck out to see the city in the light. Luang Prabang is known for its many temples and monks floating through the city. First we stopped in at the National Museum and the Royal Palace. Afterwards we walked along the main road checking out many of the temples, shops, and cafes. We stumbled upon a boutique store called OckPokTok. This store was known for beautifully woven goods with naturally dyed cottons and silks. They had some amazing scarves, blankets, pillow cases, and tapestries, all hand woven. We were so impressed with the work that we ventured out to the weaving center for lunch. We had pesto pasta with a Laos flavor twist over looking the Mekong at the OckPockTok Cafe. After lunch we toured the site where some of the goods were being woven on large looms and fabrics were hanging to dry after being dyed various colors.
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After a long day of walking around we met up with our good friends from The Gibbon Experience, Michelle and Jason. We enjoyed a tasty dinner at the night food stalls. At dusk food stalls spring up in a narrow alley, serving a variety of asian cuisine buffet style. For about $1 you can fill a plate with as much food as you can pile on it. We enjoyed a variety of noodles, salads, and fried spring rolls. After dinner we headed across the bamboo bridge to indulge in some drinks at Dyen Sabai. The bamboo bridge is reconstructed every year after the river washes it away and crossing it is an interesting experience. We were assured by Jason that it was sturdy, but there were times when it felt a little shifty beneath our feet. We survived and had wonderful night chatting and laughing with Michelle and Jason.
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The next day we again walked around the city, this time starting our day out at JoMa Bakery Cafe. They have the best coffee in Luang Prabang. They also have an amazing breakfast burrito and free WiFi. After breakfast we ventured down the road to Phu Si, a 100 meter hill that dominates the city skyline. We climbed the steps to That Chomsi, a gilded stupa that sits atop the hill. We took in the views of the city and the hazy horizon with faint mountain outlines. Our next stop was Wat Xieng Thong, the best known monastery in town. There are several chapels dotted through out the walled in area. The Red Chaple is of particular interest because of the reclining buddha it houses and the wonderful mosaic of Laosian life on the sides of the building. The monastery was quite and peaceful, it was a great sight to see some original Laos architecture.
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This was supposed to be our last day in town but we decided to push our stay in Luang Prabang an extra day. We booked our bus ticket for the later date and extended our stay at the hotel. That night we walked the highly popular handicraft night market. McKenna scoured the stalls for scarves and I searched for some cheap t-shirts to add to my ever growing collection. This market had a lot of flavor and the people selling goods were far less pushy than any market we had been to. Luang Prabang’s market was true to the nature of this laid back city.
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Believing the next day to be our last we set out with grand plans. Unfortunately we became a little lazy and decided to take it easy and rest. We ended up meeting Michelle and Jason for another dinner at the night food stalls. After a short stroll through the market we headed to bed. The bus left early in the morning and we still had to pack.

We are now back to the beginning, our choice to exit the bus and spend the remainder of our allotted time in Laos in Luang Prabang. We received a few looks as we exited but we were certain that it was the right thing to do. We admit we had planned our time in Laos poorly, two weeks was not nearly enough time to see this wonderful country. We wanted to at least make the most of our time and really get to know the area we were in. The rest of the day we spent finding a place to stay the next two nights, booking an airline ticket to Koh Chang, and playing with the puppy at our new guest house. The puppy was by far the most adorable pup we have seen yet, and we have seen many! Soon it was time for dinner and we headed to Pizza Sasa, and ordered McKenna’s favorite desert on this trip, an apple tart with vanilla ice cream.
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The next day we started with breakfast at JoMa Bakery and we Skyped with our families. After breakfast we ventured off to find a tuk-tuk to the popular waterfall park, Tat Kuang Si. This popular travelers destination is about an hour outside of Luang Prabang and boasts multi-tiered waterfalls and a bear reserve dedicated to rescuing domesticated bears. We hiked for about five minutes reaching the first of several falls that crash into opal-blue pools perfect for a refreshing swim. Further up the trail we came to the largest waterfall and most impressive dry season waterfall in Laos. We admired the falls for a while then headed back down to the swimming pools. McKenna and I took turns diving off cliffs and swinging on the rope into the deep pools. It was a great afternoon retreat!
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After the falls we headed back to our guesthouse to see the puppy on least time before he went home with his owner. Our decision to stay an extra few days in Luang Prabang was wise. We were able to get to know this cry better and we didn’t have to feel rushed to get to know a new city. We admit we would have liked to travel longer in Laos to see the southern part of the country, but time is running out. We have had an amazing journey through Laos and we will definitely be returning one day to do this all over again.

The next morning we headed out of Laos by plane. We were moving on to the islands for one last week of paradise before this trip moves on to the Middle East.

Check out more photos here: Mekong & Luang Prabang

Cheers!

McKenna and Scott

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Posted by mands186 05:10 Archived in Laos Tagged waterfalls villages food architecture laos sunsets luang_prabang mekong coffee wats Comments (5)

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