A Travellerspoint blog

Um pouquinho mais de Israel

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Israel não é um país muito grande, mas são muitas as diferenças entre cada cidade, do sul para o norte, Eilat é a típica atração turística no verão, é onde os Israelitas relaxam e se hospedam em um dos resorts espalhados pelo mar vermelho, também onde a moda parou no tempo e o brega esta com tudo! No centro do país, Jerusalém é totalmente o oposto, religião é o centro de tudo e relaxar não é uma palavra muito usada no vocabulário diário de seus habitantes, já que a cidade sempre viveu em conflito e as diferentes religiões ditam as normas de convivência. Em direção ao norte, Tel Aviv possui a maioria da população jovem de Israel, bares espalhados por toda a cidade e o mar mediterrâneo de ponta a ponta, o problema é que a cidade em si parou no tempo, quase todos os prédios são construções que datam dos anos 40, sem muito cuidado e nenhuma restauração. É difícil acreditar que a cidade atrai tantos jovens, religião não é tema de discussão, o que eles querem mesmo é se divertir. Já no norte, a cidade de Haifa é considerada o centro industrial do país, um lugar seguro para se viver com a família, sendo um centro tecnológico e com nível alto de educação. Como diz o pai de uma amiga minha, em Jerusalém se reza, em Tel Aviv se bebe e em Haifa se trabalha.

Nossa parada em Tel Aviv foi de 3 dias, depois de muito procurar pelos tantos hostels horríveis da cidade, encontramos uma pousada escondida no meio de um bairro residencial, onde um casal Russo, Serge e Michael residem e alugam quartos para turistas. Esse lugar caiu do céu, tudo era impecável, nos tínhamos uma cozinha privada e um jardim do lado de fora, pela primeira vez desde a Austrália, nos iríamos cozinhar a nossa própria comida. A parada em Tel Aviv também teve um outro propósito, assistir o primeiro jogo da seleção, sentada em um dos bares da cidade, com a camisa amarela e a bandeira do Brasil, xingando os fãs da Coréia do Norte, quem imaginaria que dois velhos Israelitas fossem admiradores do futebol Coreano, tem gosto pra tudo nesse mundo. De Tel Aviv tomamos um trem com destino a Haifa,onde mora a minha amiga Daphna.

Eu conheci a Daphna em 2006, trabalhando no meu primeiro emprego em São Francisco, no Green Tortoise Hostel, a Daphna havia se mudado para os Estados Unidos temporariamente e estava se hospedando no hostel ate encontrar um apartamento, ela acabou ficando la por uns meses e a nossa amizade aumentou, ela foi a minha primeira amiga de verdade nos Estados Unidos e nós sempre saiamos juntas, ate que um dia ela teve que voltar para Israel e em 2008 ela se mudou, para a minha tristeza. Mas nos continuamos nos comunicando sempre que possível, então a nossa parada em Israel foi obrigatória. Hospedamos-nos na casa dos pais da Daphna, e enquanto a Daphna estudava, eles nos levavam conhecer a cidade e as vilas ao redor de Haifa. Passamos 4 dias descansando, o Jonathan não poderia estar mais feliz, afinal agora ele tinha uma televisão e um sofá para assistir todos os jogos da copa do mundo, sem mentira, ele assistia 3 jogos por dia, coitados dos pais da Daphna, para quem nem sabia direito o que era futebol , eles aprenderam na marra. Adorei rever a Daphna, nos sentimos em casa o tempo todo, os pais da dela foram muito atenciosos, sempre tendo certeza de que nos estávamos bem alimentados.

Tivemos que dar adeus a todos e seguir em frente, dessa vez para a nossa primeira parada na Europa, Atenas, capital da Grécia. Teremos 5 meses para aproveitar a Europa e eu não vejo a hora de ver com os meus próprios olhos todos os lugares que eu ouvi falar nos livros e nas aulas de historia, de finalmente conhecer as raízes da minha família e de poder saborear a maravilhosa culinária desse continente.

Posted by flaviaU 13:13 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

And onto Europe

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The last few days have been very relaxing for Flavia and me. It’s interesting when things get turned upside down when travelling. In this case, staying in one of Flavia’s friend’s houses in Haifa, sitting around with family and just relaxing was perfect after the craziness of a 2-week rush tour of Jordan and Israel, more on that later though. From Jerusalem, I drove to Tel Aviv, where we had our first shock of prices that we were going to encounter in Europe. The days of “Oh man, $25 for a room in Bangkok, wayyyy too much” are long gone, and now we will have to fork up some dough if we want to sleep in the same room and not share it with other people or lots of flying cockroaches. After searching all over Tel Aviv and finding everything way overpriced we somehow located a small guesthouse down a maze of narrow alleyways in the old Yemenite Quarter. The young gay Russian couple who ran the place were quite a trip, and the room was great. The highlight for me was the Carmel Market located two little blocks away, which is a narrow street packed with beautiful stalls of all the nicest fruit, veggies, and wonderful breads and pastries. I haven’t had a chance to cook since Australia and I missed the kitchen, a glass of nice wine, and eating a nice meal by ourselves on the quiet little patio, all for very cheap. We also missed a simple breakfast of a bowl of cereal with strawberries. It’s so interesting the little things that make you happy when you have been on the road for a while.

Once we were settled in Tel Aviv, we decided to head to the beach, which was just a five minute walk from the guesthouse. The beach was nice, and the Israelis seem like masters of the “try to look cool by not trying to look cool” look. Basically it means being as relaxed as possible while at the same time being aware of who is around and then trying to do things as cool as possible. That means when someone throws the Frisbee at you, you don’t just catch is, you spin it and flip it around, kick it with your feet, roll it over your shoulders before finally catching it and throwing a quick smirk at the girl who is watching you from nearby. Another thing about Israelis at the beach, which I noticed while travelling South America, is they travel in big groups and there is no concept of volume control or personal space. That means the great spot on the beach where you sit reading will suddenly be overrun without any notice. We did enjoy the beach though, it was a complete 180 from the strict religious feel of Jerusalem, and the fact that we saw almost no Orthodox Jews here or men or women with machine guns meant that things in Tel Aviv were way more relaxed.

On our last night in Tel Aviv we headed to a nearby bar to watch Brazil play North Korea and to meet up with a local friend who I met a few times throughout my trip in South America. It was nice to catch up with him and watch the game on the big screen, and I was reminded of Flavia’s intensity when “A Seleção” are playing, especially when she waved her flag a cursed at the old men at the next table who, for some reason, seemed to be the biggest North Korea fans in Israel. Brazil of course won and we were happy for the night, and headed home to pack and prepare for the quick trip to Haifa, to stay at Daphna’s house. We spent the last morning sightseeing and eating a quick lunch at the market. The Old Jaffa quarter was a nice hillside along the sea with the usual construction on all the touristy sites, but the nice sea breeze made sightseeing much more enjoyable. It was an easy train ride to Haifa, where Daphna picked us up and we walked a bit along the boardwalk before a quick tour by her car of the hilly and spread out city. We settled into their beautiful house up in the hills, where we had a nice bedroom and a lot of relaxing time.

During our time in Haifa, we went to Akko, a small seaside village rumored to have the best Hummus in Israel, which is a big claim. I had a big Mashawshawa, and it was damn good! As we’ve seen in all of the Arab villages, every house and apartment has the flags of the teams they support in the World Cup hanging or flying from their window. It’s normal to see one or two different flags, but it’s a bit odd to see that a house owns five or six Brazil flags that they use once every four years and are not even 1% Brazilian! We also toured a bit of Haifa’s other surrounding towns, which included a wonderful day of wine tasting in Zichron Ya’akov for some surprisingly good wine. It seems like most people in Israel are still pretty new to the wine tasting thing, but I was surprised at the pride that was taken in the final product. The wineries we went to were nicely developed small family run productions that had been there for generations. The days of Merlot and Cab are changing into new plantings of less well known grapes that are more apt to the local conditions, such as Rhone style grapes, although they are harder to sell and I think that the future will produce better wine, and when the locals learn a bit more about wine the quality will rise as well. Flavia’s friend was deep into her last week of school, so we felt bad dragging her parents out with us, but they seemed to enjoy it, and it was nice to confirm my suspicion that Jewish mother’s are the same everywhere in the world! They also took us the the Baha’i gardens, an amazing hillside set of masterfully manicured gardens and pathways, set in the heart of Haifa. We did get to hang out with Daphna and her boyfriend a bit, but I was most happy to send Flavia out with her old friend so they could catch up. It was very important for Flavia to get to catch up with this friend whom she missed so much.

Finally, we said goodbye to the family while we all watched Brazil play the Ivory Coast. I don’t think that before our arrival the family had ever watched a sporting event at their house, and I think I made up for lost time watching all of the matches parked on their living room couch! The family was so sweet, the father a quiet genius, the mother a caring soul who loved making me eat all of her food, and Daphna, a bit of an over-thinker, always loving, and perhaps a bit slow at getting my jokes. We enjoyed Haifa, this city often overlooked by the average visitor, a place more apt to raise a family that to hang out in for a few days. After saying goodbye we slept a few hours before waking just before 3 am to take the train to the airport and then deal with all of the security that goes along with travelling in Israel. It was easier than we thought, and we took a quick flight to Athens where one of my old fraternity brothers Stratos (full and very Greek name being Efstratios Apostolis Gonithellis) was waiting for us at arrivals in shiny grey slacks, leather silver boots, and a gold Renault, and I knew we were very much in Europe. After a few hours of rest and a trip to the bookstore to buy a copy of Lonely Planet’s “Europe on a Shoestring” we are ready to take Europe head on! We are very excited…

Posted by JonathanU 18:29 Archived in Israel Comments (1)

Jerusalém: a cidade de várias faces

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View RTW - 2010 on flaviaU's travel map.

A chegada a Jerusalém já mostrou sinais de tensão, logo que desembarcamos do ônibus na estação central nos deparamos com um detector de metais e tivemos as nossas mochilas revistadas por meninos de 18 anos armados, talvez um choque para os turistas, mas para os moradores não, faz parte da rotina da cidade. Em Israel o serviço militar é obrigatório, completando 18 anos, tanto do sexo masculino como do feminino, homens devem servir por 3 anos e mulheres por 21 meses, com algumas exceções. Existem diferentes divisões no exercito ou “IDF”, serviço de inteligência, policia Israelita, guardas de fronteiras, serviço de defesa nacional, entre outros, cada um com uma cor de uniforme diferente e distribuídos entre os vários portões de entrada da cidade antiga, com o propósito de manter a cidade segura.

Jerusalém é uma das cidades mais antigas do mundo, a cidade antiga esta localizada dentro de Jerusalém e cercada por muros e portões, uma cidade santa para varias religiões, Judeus, Muçulmanos e Cristãos . A cidade antiga possui apenas 0.9 quilômetros de extensão e hospeda os principais pontos religiosos, entre eles a Esplanada das Mesquitas, o Muro das lamentações, o Santo Sepulcro, a Cúpula da Rocha e a Mesquita de Al-Aqsa, a cidade é dividida em quatro quarteirões, ainda que os nomes usados hoje (os bairros armênio, cristão, judeu e o muçulmano) foram introduzidos por volta do século XIX. No curso da história, Jerusalém foi destruída duas vezes, sitiada 23 vezes, atacada 52 vezes, e capturada e recapturada 44 vezes. E mesmo com todas essas mudanças a cidade ainda está construindo a sua historia, cada rosto retrata as estórias e as tragédias de varias gerações, em busca de paz. Eu nunca imaginei que a cidade antiga de Israel fosse tão cheia de vida, andando pelas ladeiras e ruas sem saída, sentindo o cheiro dos temperos e dos doces recém saídos do forno, vendo varias gerações de diferentes religiões e nacionalidades convivendo juntas, sinagogas, mesquitas e Igrejas. Entre as ruas estreitas, meninos jogando futebol, a maioria fãs do futebol brasileiro, meninos que nasceram dentro na cidade antiga, inocentes, mas já condenados pela historia.

Jerusalém possui varias faces, o sorriso do vendedor Árabe na esquina do hotel tentando nos vender o espetinho de carne inúmeras vezes ao dia, os rostos dos Judeus Ortodoxos virados para o lado oposto de qualquer mulher que passe ao seu lado, os olhares curiosos debaixo dos véus das mulheres muçulmanas, os grupos de cristãos rezando e andando de mãos dadas pelas calçadas em volta da cidade antiga e os pensamentos duvidosos dos que não possuem nenhuma religião. Mesmo não sendo uma pessoa praticante de nenhuma religião, estar em Jerusalém me fez sentir viva, é um lugar emocionante, ate as paredes do lugar parecem ter vida, nada como um pouquinho de espiritualidade para renovar as energias e seguir em frente.

Continuamos a nossa aventura pela “terra sagrada” percorrendo as ruínas Romanas de Massada, boiando nas águas salgadas do mar morto e seguindo em direção ao norte, para a cidade liberal de Tel Aviv, nadar nas praias do mediterrâneo e para uma visita em Haifa, onde vamos rever uma amiga querida.

Posted by flaviaU 09:43 Archived in Israel Comments (1)

History Alive in Jerusalem

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We arrived in Jerusalem exhausted by the surprisingly long journey from Petra. We were a bit shocked when we pulled our taxi driver slammed on the brakes and pointed at a sign directly above a fruit stand that ran down an alleyway, apparently the entrance to our hostel. We were staying just outside the old city, in the Muslim part of town, and even though it was night, the area was crazy with butchers, fruit and vegetable stands, small restaurants, and shops selling all sorts of odds and ends. We wandered past the red peppers, apples, and everything else and up the stairs where we were surprisingly pleased by the clean and quiet hotel, seemingly miles away from the bottom of the staircase. I was a bit overwhelmed by arriving in a city with so much history, so much tourism, and so much to do without a guidebook, and at first had cursed Lonely Planet for some mistakes but now was really wishing we had one with us.

Refreshed from a night of good sleep, we woke up and joined a free tour of the old city, with an overenthusiastic but extremely knowledgeable guide named Phil. Walking through the old city with him was amazing, and with a small tour, I really felt the history and the vibrating pulse of the Old City of Jerusalem. I was astonished as we walked through the narrow streets of the Christian Quarter, into the Muslim Quarter, through metal detectors and soldiers armed with machine guns, AK 47s, and grenades and into the Jewish Quarter. Here, we wandered past Orthodox Jews, who seemed preoccupied with their faith a bit too much to pay us any mind. We stopped at the Western, or Wailing Wall, where tears streamed down the eyes of the men who stood on my segregated side, praying, pleading, and bobbing their heads. We then walked up through the Armenian Quarter and onto the rooftops, where the chaos and noise faded and I had a chance to reflect on what we had just seen. Immediately I was struck at how the different religions do live together, in close quarters, Jews living near Muslims, somehow seeming to coexist, even if an armed barrier is necessary. The Muslims were very engaging, always welcoming us and saying hello, many of them with Brazil flags flying outside of their homes or shops to show support for their favorite team in the World Cup. It was enlightening to see how the different generations have left their marks on the area, the buildings built on top of one another, the stories and the untold secrets that must hide behind the closed doors. I wanted so badly to go into some of the homes, and peering down the corridors behind the opened wooden doors, I wanted to see how life goes on in a place so renowned and infamous.

Back in the modern day, I was excited to finish the tour in the early afternoon and head to one of the few open bars to watch the start of the World Cup, as in Jerusalem everything Jewish shuts down on Friday evening through Saturday. I have been anxiously awaiting the start of the tournament, and am ecstatic to be able to not only watch all of the games, but to also not have to wake up in the middle of the night to see any of it. Israel, like all countries outside of the US, is crazy about futbol, and I know that over the next three weeks or so, we will watch so much great competition that it will be hard to find things to do at night once it’s over.

The following morning we set out again to the Mount of Olives, through the bustling Muslim quarter, full of life and Orthodox Jews walking quickly in their layers and huge hats through the dry heat to temple. We headed up to the top of the hill where we had some pristine views of the city and we walked back down through the heat, past the cemetery, the Russian Orthodox Church, The Virgin Mary’s Tomb and into the part of the Old City where life was running at its normal pace. We passed by touristy restaurants where the price was all wrong and settled on a falafel restaurant that was packed with groups of Muslim women and men enjoying freshly fried falafel, hummus with olive oil and veggies. We split an enormous plate and stuffed ourselves for about ¼ the price that was being paid up the street. Full and content, we walked around the Old City again, getting lost in the narrow streets and stumbling upon a wonderful bakery, and an old photograph shop where the Armenian owner told us the story of his orphan father who was brought to the old city after the genocide in Turkey and took amazing pictures throughout his life. We then popped into random bars, shops and restaurants, to check the score of the current World Cup games then retreated to our room for a bit of a cool down before the US versus England game later that night. When we headed out the streets were packed with fans, most with England jerseys, flags, and singing the monotonous songs they are famous for. We gathered in a plaza, where the game wore on and too much beer was consumed by the crowd, and the half English, half American crowd, grew extremely tense as the game went on, and in the end a fortunate tie probably avoided a full on riot from the crowd.

We decided that night that we should explore the surrounding area bit more the next day, so we rented a car for the next morning and sped out of the city bright and early to go to the Dead Sea and Masada. Stuffed on the same breakfast we’d had since we arrived in Jordan, a hardboiled egg, some pita, a few cucumbers and tomatoes, a spoonful of hummus and a cup or two of instant coffee, we easily navigated the surrounding highway and arrived at Masada with the scorching sun baking overhead. Masada is an ancient city perched on a tabletop mountain, a fortress so well placed that it seemed impossible for anyone to dare stage an attack. We walked among the dusty ruins, trying to find shade, a bit overheated under the midday sun, and perhaps unable to truly enjoy it after seeing Petra and Angkor Wat. Back in the car we ate a quick lunch then floated for a bit in the Dead Sea. It was unbelievable to see how truly buoyant you become, and even as I held a large rock over my head, I still floated peacefully on the surface, even though the stinging sensation was a bit uncomfortable (if you’ve been there you know what I’m talking about). We sped home exhausted, and after a quick nap, we set out for one last walk through the Old City at night. This time of year they have a beautiful light show, and some of the ancient walls are lit up by beautifully animated shows, making the spectacular even better. I felt like we’d seen as much as we possibly could in the few days we were in Jerusalem, and I think that overall this was one of the most fascinating cities that I have ever been to.

Posted by JonathanU 18:47 Archived in Israel Comments (1)

No Oriente Médio

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Começamos nosso dia às 4 horas da manha no aeroporto de Bangkok, nosso vôo partiu as 6 horas da manhã em direção a Jordânia, com duas paradas no caminho, a primeira no Oman e depois no Líbano. O vôo de Bangkok para o Omã foi muito bom, avião novo e vários turistas no vôo, descemos no aeroporto de Muscat (Mascate), a capital do Omã, esperamos 3 horas ate o próximo vôo em direção ao Líbano, foi então que percebemos que haviam somente muçulmanos no nosso vôo, e a única outra mulher no vôo, estava completamente coberta, o que me fez sentir um pouco inconfortável, todos os olhares se direcionavam para nós dois. O terceiro vôo foi rápido, em 40 minutos chegamos em Amã, capital da Jordânia, o nosso motorista nos esperava para nos levar a cidade de Madaba, onde passamos a noite e partimos para Petra no dia seguinte.

Dividimos o custo de uma van entre 6 pessoas e fizemos um tour pela King’s Highway (Rodovia do Rei), onde passamos por canyons e ruínas de castelos, um lugar mais impressionante que o outro. Chegamos em Petra no final do dia. Acordamos bem cedo e caminhamos ate os portões de entrada, nos primeiros 5 minutos já nos deparamos com formações rochosas gigantescas, com um caminho cortado no meio, impressionante! Ao final do caminho, chegamos a famosa escultura da Câmara do Tesouro, uma das esculturas que estão em quase todos os cartões postais de Petra, Petra surgiu das mãos de um povo nômade, uma cidade esculpida em arenito que resistiu à ação do tempo. Por 600 anos, uma cidade encravada no deserto da Jordânia foi considerada lenda, como Atlântida ou Tróia. Apesar de dezenas relatos ancestrais, que descreviam com precisão os monumentos grandiosos esculpidos em rocha, ninguém foi capaz de localizá-la até o início do século XIX. Segundo essas mesmas narrações, Petra surgiu pelas mãos dos nabateus, que apareceram no Oriente Próximo por volta do século VI a.C., durante o Império Persa. Segundo os historiadores Estrabão e Diodoro da Sicília, os nabateus eram cerca de 10 mil beduínos que viviam do transporte de especiarias, incenso, mirra e plantas aromáticas. Eles levavam a carga da Arábia Feliz, atuais Iêmen e Omã, até o Mediterrâneo. Esses nômades, “desejosos de preservar sua liberdade chamando de ‘sua pátria’ ao deserto, não plantavam trigo e não construíam casas”, como conta-nos Jeremias, no Velho Testamento, iriam surpreender a todos criando um império e esculpindo sua capital – Petra. Posso dizer que foi um dos lugares mais impressionantes que eu já vi.

Fomos muito bem recebidos na Jordânia, os nativos são muito amáveis, sempre tentando conversar e saber a nossa nacionalidade, mostrando um imenso entusiasmo ao saber que eu era brasileira, ainda mais agora em época de copa do mundo, o futebol brasileiro é extremamente adorado no Oriente Médio, tanto que quase todos os bares possuíam bandeiras do Brasil estampadas nas janelas, o que me fez sentir muito bem recebida. Acredito que Petra se tornou muito popular no Brasil, deve ser por causa da novela das 8, passamos por vários grupos de brasileiros, o Jonathan reconheceu o grupo quando viu uma pessoa com a camisa do Atlético (vimos mais uns 3 vestindo a camisa do furacão, pra alegria do tio Osni). Vale à pena mencionar que a mulherada brasileira nesse grupo, não tinha noção do que vestir, vestido e salto alto??? Por favor!

No dia seguinte partimos para o sul da Jordânia, em direção a fronteira com Israel, depois de algumas barreiras policiais e de ter nossa bagagem checada nos dois lados da fronteira, sem muita interrogação chegamos no lado Israelita. De la embarcamos em um ônibus em direção a Jerusalém, uma cidade cercada por muita historia e conflitos entre islâmicos e judeus, um lugar que esta constantemente construindo sua historia.

Posted by flaviaU 05:16 Archived in Jordan Comments (1)

Quick time in Jordan

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It was tough to leave SE Asia, we’d had such an amazing time, and were so accustomed to cheap prices, an easy going lifestyle, and the relaxed attitude that brings so many visitors here. We woke up well before sunrise and sped across the city to the brand new, sparkling, international airport, a shimmering glass building that looks so out of place in a country with so many crumbling brick buildings. After a long wait we boarded our Oman Air flight for Muscat, a six hour journey that would take us to a completely different world. The flight was on a brand new plane, and after a few naps we were in Muscat. I’ve never been to the Middle East before, and it was quite a jolt to go from the beaches to the desert, from humidity to bone dry, from board shorts and flip flops, to wrinkled pants that had been stuffed in the bottom of my pack for the past few months. After a long layover we boarded a plane to Beirut, then Amman, and looking around we’d seen the immediate change in culture that we had arrived in. Flavia was the only person on the plane who didn’t have her head covered, and most of the men we dressed in traditional Islamic outfits. I was the only American, and probably the only Jew as well.

Once in Amman, we were exhausted and a bit shocked at the new surroundings. We arrived, at sunset, to Madaba for the night. I couldn’t get over the extreme conditions, the dryness, the rocky desert landscape, the constant pictures of the King, and in all honesty, I felt a bit uncomfortable. After a great Kebab dinner, which I had been craving, we settled in for the night. People around town were very friendly, saying hello, welcoming us to Jordan, although it seemed that only men were in the streets. The following morning we jumped in a minivan for the trip to Petra, where we would spend two nights. Along the way we stopped at the “Grand Canyon of Jordan”, which was a deep canyon, with 1000 shades of yellow and brown, cutting its way through the parched desert. Jordan is surprisingly mountainous, with a few spots of green jumping from the dry riverbeds, their roots somehow finding water deep below the surface. Once in Petra I made the mistake of ordering the local Bedouin specialty, which turned out to be lamb stewed in sheep milk, served with rice and sheep milk soup, which I greedily poured over the rice. It was about 30 seconds later I learned that sheep milk has one of the foulest, strongest, and overpowering tastes that I have ever tried. I somehow managed to stomach the lamb, while picking at Flavia’s chicken until I’d eaten enough so I could run to the nearest minimart and get some chocolate to cleanse my pallet.

The next morning we were both up early, partially because of the time change from Thailand, and also because of our excitement about the day’s adventure in Petra. Although we were worried about the heat in Jordan, we were amazed at how cool the conditions felt after those few months in the wet heat of SE Asia. It was extremely refreshing to feel the cool desert breeze that blew throughout the day, and as nice to feel the cold night air after sweating over so many bowls of curry. We arrived at the gates of Petra at opening time and wandered in awe through the canyon toward the treasury building, the famous postcard shot of the columned building carved into the side of the rock. We snapped up pictures, happy to have arrived before the big groups would overwhelm the area, and continued to wander, straying off the path to climb the steps carved into the mountain to get the overhead view of Petra. There were so many buildings and caves carved into the rock, and the multitude of colors, the reds, yellows, and oranges, made them look as if a paint shop had exploded nearby. As the sun lifted to directly overhead we began our hike up the 800 steps to the monastery. We walked slowly, savoring the shade, picking our way up the canyon, past the 100 or so “Real silver, happy hour, deal for you” stands, before finally arriving at the top of the trail.

The Monastery was amazing, seemingly carved deeper and smoother into the limestone than the other buildings, and out of reach of most of the visitors, due to the difficult climb. We savored the peace and tranquility, then walked down, ready for the onslaught of the afternoon tour groups. We saw the usual suspects, Americans, Russians, and Japanese, but it was the large group of Brazilians, from Curitiba, all dressed in designer outfits, that made us laugh. We also were amazed at the women who didn’t seem to think that high heels wouldn’t be a good choice for the day, I couldn’t think of anything more uncomfortable than walking through sand and cobblestone in heels. We began to get tired and when we’d seen enough we walked the long walk back to the entrance, grabbed a bite to eat, then washed the dust off our bodies and napped for the afternoon.

Walking around Petra (the city), later that afternoon was quite a new experience. The streets were packed, and as we found in all of the restaurants, gift shops, and hotels, there are only men. I had absolutely no idea where any of the women stay all day. Literally, we maybe say one or two on the streets, but everywhere else, it truly seemed like a man’s world. We stopped for a cup of tea and a bit of narghile, then headed back to the hotel to try to plan how we would get to Jerusalem the next day. We settled on the morning bus to Aqaba, and the journey was quite easy, just two hours south, then a quick cab ride to the border, where things went a lot smoother than we thought they would. There was no trouble crossing into Israel. The next thing we knew we were sitting in the bus station in Eilat, hurrying all morning just so that we could wait three hours for the next bus. It was such a quick trip through Jordan but it was good to shock the mind a bit after SE Asia. We now have only 10 days of so to enjoy Israel before starting our European adventure. Now the only priority is finding a good bar nearby to watch the World Cup.

Posted by JonathanU 07:55 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

Updated Map

Posted by flaviaU 17:43 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

Chega de preguiça

semi-overcast
View RTW - 2010 on flaviaU's travel map.

Depois de duas semanas de sol e praia na ilha de Koh Phanang, infelizmente já estava na hora de voltar à civilização. Passamos 8 dias na praia de Haad Yao e logo depois da festa da lua cheia resolvemos passar o restante do tempo em outra praia no norte da ilha, chamada Bottle Beach (Praia da garrafa), ainda mais retirada da civilização. Nossos dias consistiam em acordar, tomar café, tomar um banho de mar, deitar na rede da varanda e ler o restante do dia até que desse fome, depois de jantar nós deitávamos na areia ao lado da fogueira e assistíamos os distantes relâmpagos das tempestades que passavam pelo mar. São dias assim que te salvam da loucura das grandes cidades, principalmente aqui na Asia, onde cada cidade tem seus obstáculos e o calor é sempre insuportável nessa época do ano.

A nossa jornada a Bangkok (capital da Tailândia) foi longa, depois de 22 horas de viagem, que foi de taxi para barco, de barco para taxi, de taxi para ônibus, nos finalmente chegamos à selva de pedra às 5 horas da manhã, sem nem ter acordado direito, descemos do ônibus, colocamos as mochilas nas costas e caminhamos em direção ao hotel. Desde abril a cidade sofria com protestos do partido de esquerda que acabaram de uma maneira muito violenta, o exército resolveu tomar medidas extremas para acabar com as manifestações, pois as negociações não estavam resolvendo a situação. Usando armas e granadas, eles atingiram muitos protestantes, muitas pessoas morreram, incluindo o líder do protesto. Mas depois de tudo, a cidade voltou ao normal, como se nada tivesse acontecido, os turistas voltaram e a ordem foi retomada. Bangkok é uma cidade enorme, com uma bizarra admiração pelo seu rei, a cidade esta coberta por outdoors com fotos do rei e da família real Tailandesa, cada foto retrata o rei jovem em suas viagens pelo mundo, com uma câmera fotográfica envolta do pescoço e fotos de seus filhos quando eram bebês. O tão adorado rei já esta com 89 anos e muito doente, seu sucessor e filho mais velho não parece estar muito apto a governar o país, o que esta causando muita euforia na população.

Quase 3 meses se passaram desde que chegamos na Ásia, e está na hora de partir para o próximo continente, dar adeus a Ásia e seguir ao Oriente Médio, onde vamos visitar a Jordânia e Israel. Vai ser um choque cultural muito grande, mas com certeza vai nos oferecer um grande enriquecimento cultural, visitando lugares como Petra e Jerusalém. Amanhã partimos, serão 3 vôos, da Tailândia ao Oman, de Oman ao Líbano e do Líbano a Jordânia, mais uma longa jornada na viagem pelo mundo.

Posted by flaviaU 17:37 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Bottle Beach to Bangkok

overcast 97 °F

After the ride up to Bottle Beach on the northern tip of Koh Phangan we basically just relaxed for four days. We had a very basic beachside bungalow, so we made the most of it, bought a hammock and strung it up, and read and hung out on the veranda for a few days, heading to one of the three restaurants on the beach to eat more and more curry, seemingly never growing tired of it, and taking a quick swim every once in a while! I was surprised at the number of families with small children that made the long trip from Europe to be there, although on this beach with everything that a kid would want and no preoccupations for parents, this beach would be well worth the trip, and watching little French, Russian, Irish, and German kids running around on the beach, unable to communicate, but still able to play all day cracked me up. After finally finishing my sophomore year summer reading, “The Odyssey”, we packed up and took the long, long trip to Bangkok. So we jumped in a 4x4 and rushed to the port, then took the boat back to the mainland, then spent four hours being shuttled from waiting area to restaurant to waiting area, then finally jumped on a bus for the overnight trip where we watched Avatar for the first time before drifting off and waking up right as the bus pulled into dormant Bangkok at 5am.

Flavia and I, annoyed at the barrage of taxi drivers, walked drearily through town trying to navigate the empty streets to find the hotel we were looking for. We decided that we would splurge a bit to end our time in SE Asia, so we spent a bit more than we were used to for a very nice room, and the price was discounted greatly due to the recovering situation in Bangkok. After a few hours sleep we wandered around the touristy portion of Bangkok, Khao San Road, it would be impossible to notice that anything had happened around here, although we haven’t seen the area where the Red Shirts camped out, maybe we’ll head there tomorrow now that the protesters have gone home. We then spent the afternoon by the pool, updating our photo section of the blog, which I’m sure everyone noticed, then took a cab for some sidewalk gourmet food in Chinatown. We sat down and ordered curry crab and steamed calamari and as the food was set down at our table the sky opened up and a powerful thunderstorm flooded the streets. The staff worked extremely hard, unwrapping a huge tarp, moving other diners and tables out of the rain and the flood and still serving food and beer, finding taxis, and making sure everyone was happy even though they were absolutely soaked. The food was great, and as we waited out the end of the storm, then jumped in a tuk tuk and raced back to the hotel before the sky opened up again.

Today we went back out to do some shopping and stock up on the final trinkets and things for back home, which we will ship back to the US tomorrow. We were fortunate to be here for the weekend so we could check out the Chatuchak Weekend Market, an enormous, surprisingly organized, and well ventilated sprawl of thousands of little shops each selling handmade… well… everything. We only made it through the clothes and handcrafts area, which took four hours or so, and although most things were too small for me and too big for Flavia, we still found a few articles of clothing for each of us, ate a great meal, and bought some beautiful handcrafts for the house that we don’t have! Back at the hotel it was great to get out of the heat and relax by the pool before heading out for the night. I hope we will see a bit more of Bangkok tomorrow on our last day when we do a bit of sightseeing. So far, we have been amazed at the size of this city, the traffic, as well as the love for the king that the locals have. Everyone has a picture of the king in their house of business, and there are huge photographs and painting on every street and on many buildings.

On Monday, we leave SE Asia for a quick stint in Jordan and Israel. We both have had such an amazing time travelling here, with days that were either horrible or incredible, and sites both shocking and remarkable. Seeing Angkor Wat, Saigon, Can Tho, Luang Prabang, and the south islands of Thailand made this portion of our journey unforgettable. The inability to easily communicate made things tough, but the ending destinations always seemed rewarding. We are already planning a trip back to Koh Phangang in 2013, so mark it on your calendars! Although SE Asia is a European and Australian tourism hotspot, we still managed to meet locals, find great deals, and eat and drink at places where we were the only foreigners. So now we have to remember how to put on pants and shoes in preparation for the Middle East, and we know that we can’t land in Jordan comparing everything to the way it was here, because life will be different there. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Posted by JonathanU 16:09 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Koh Phangan

sunny 90 °F

Today is a bit quieter than all the other days here on Ko Phangan. The beach is quiet and the sound systems at the beachside bars are turned off. There are fewer people on the hot sand even though the sky is clear and the day is beautiful. Everyone is still asleep, and if they aren’t asleep they are hungover. Little spots of body paint remain on the sun baked bodies and life is noticeably slower today. That’s because last night was the world famous Full Moon Party at Haad Rin beach, known as the best party on the planet. After last night, I agree, it was the most fun and best party I have ever been to. On the special night each month, when the moon sits overhead shining through the clouds, 10000 or so visitors gather here and walk along the packed beach, drinking buckets (small pails with Red Bull, Coke, and vodka), and wandering from outdoor club to club, each with enormous sound systems that vibrate the body and each packed with sweaty revelers dancing on makeshift stages, sliding through rings of fire, and sitting on the sand watching the peaceful sea. As you wander stepping over the lifeless bodies of those who’ve already enjoyed themselves too much and are now happily sleeping, listening to hip hop, trance, drum and bass, reggae and more, the night just keeps going, an unrelenting vacuum of happiness, peace, and body paint. The surrounding streets are closed to traffic and makeshift drinkstalls and packed clinics are around every turn. At some point in the early morning, the Red Bulls began to wear off and we hopped into the back of a pickup and sped back over the steep hills and curvy bays until finally sleeping well into the morning.

There are times when travelling when life sucks, the bus rides, horrible meals, no way to escape the unrelenting heat, and the inevitable cases of “Oh I knew I shouldn’t have eaten that”. This is not one of those times. This island represents all the positive when travelling. As we sit in silence here at our mini resort, the only ones occupying a wonderful bungalow, enjoying the sparkling clean pool, drinking an ice cold coconut, we are reminded of the things that make us happy. This island is paradise. I can never have enough spicy bowls of yellow, green, red, Massaman, and Jungle Curry, enough plates of Pad Thai, the wonderful texture of slippery noodles, crunchy peanuts, and soft homemade pickles with tamarind paste. Every day is a treat here, and everyday is, as they say, “same-same but different”, the same restaurant, the same routine, but it hasn’t started to get old, and it won’t. Every night at Apache is a treat, when Mina, the co owner and chef, recommends a family dish that no one else on the island prepares, and the Chang Beer tastes cold and clean. The other night we were lead to another bar, tucked away in the jungle, where Thai Rastafarians live and built a small series of rooms with locally found wood and driftwood. There thick dread locks and missing-tooth smiles made the Bob Marley and the evening breeze even more enjoyable.

We have explored as well, renting a motorbike and cruising the bumpy and sandy roads, driving cautiously to avoid the “Ko Panghang tattoo” that so many travelers around SE Asia show off when they tell the story of taking a turn here a bit too fast. The beaches are beautiful, except the water is shallow and too hot to refresh. We went to the small village and to a beach that some friends back home raved about and enjoyed a bowl of curry looking over the beach. There is a lot here to keep us occupied but we still have been admittedly lazy. I went on two dives at Sail Rock, and although the visibility was bad, it was still nice to get in the water. We are going to move to another beach tomorrow, the nicest one on the island, that is only accessible by boat, but still has beautiful bungalows, a swimming pool, and wifi. We will spend our last few nights in SE Asia there relaxing before preparing for our flight to Jordan.

I’m sorry to those who have to read this at work, all those back home who live vicariously through us. This life is pretty good right now, but I say start saving your money. You have to come to Thailand, ignore the travel warnings and the overly dramatic press coverage, this island and country deserve a visit.

Posted by JonathanU 15:18 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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