Posts tagged ‘Travel’
Blonde and Brunette were in Thailand recently and cashed in our last stash of beloved SPG points to stay at Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort. In a rare case of us being sensible we had chosen not to rent a car for our time in Thailand. We had chosen our resort in part because it was an out of town, quiet destination. We didn’t want to stay in the crazy cacophony that is Phuket.
That meant that when we wanted to go anywhere we had to hire a driver. Easy enough – the resort had a small fleet of cars and drivers. And they, unlike other men in our lives, would take us where we asked and not complain about how long we spent there (or how much money). What was not to like?
Truthfully we don’t remember the driver’s name but we think it was Steve and that’s good enough for accuracy by our lax standards. We told him we wanted to see some pretty natural areas along the water. He mentioned an idyllic nearby town where we could stroll, take in some sights, see a few shops and have dinner along the water. Sounded lovely!
Then he went out the property gates, turned in the opposite direction to what he had described and took off. We assumed that the direction issue was language confusion until he pointed out a giant Buddha on a hill above us and asked if we wanted to go see it. We wanted to go see the idyllic town on the sea but stupidly mumbled polite “Oh, OK if it’s really nearby and will only take a minute” unenthusiastic comments.
In seconds we were roaring up the Nakkerd (no, not Naked, although that would have been a lot funnier) Hills between Chalong and Kata. The Big Buddha (BB for our purposes) sits at the top of one of the hills. There is a nice 360 degree view of the surrounding areas. It wasn’t the path to enlightenment, more like a rather awkward walk through a construction site as the Buddha is still being completed.
The BB is being built entirely by donations. The project has been underway for more than ten years due to bureaucratic red tape, raising the needed funds and getting the materials to the top of a hill in a virgin (self-described) forest. No effort is made to shame you into contributing – you have to look around to find somewhere to even leave a donation.
Although you probably assume we are very knowledgeable about the myriad belief systems and religions in the world, we aren’t. Not at all. Don’t really care. Blonde is faintly pro-Buddhism because Buddha didn’t think he was a god or that there necessarily ever was or is a god. He basically thought people should be decent and remember that their behavior has consequences. He didn’t get his knickers in a knot over details and wasn’t a vengeful chap. Seems reasonable.
However, he (or someone who spoke on his behalf) proclaimed the five commandments on the sign below to be important. OK, don’t kill people, don’t steal, don’t be “unchaste” (um, how are we supposed to get more Buddhists?), don’t lie and don’t use “intoxicants that cause heedlessness” (see prior comment as to how are we supposed to get more Buddhists?) At least he got the commandment count down to 5 from the 10 of Christianity so he deserves some credit for brevity.
There are officially two Buddhas at this site. The big dude and the mini-me version shown below. The “small” one is made of 22 tons of brass and cost 8 million Baht or 2.7M USD.
There are many other lesser Buddha statues on the premises including this one that we deduced to have been either Cleopatra during her Buddhist phase or Blonde waiting for a massage.
As by now it was nearly sunset we decided to wait another 15 minutes to get some awe-inspiring photos for you. However, those require an awe-inspiring sunset and we had a nice one but not one that is likely to haunt you for the rest of your life.
As soon as we’d snapped a couple sunset shots we scurried back down the path, through the little building that’s a sort of casually assembled museum and back to our car and driver. The driver then informed us that if we went where we planned to go in the beginning it would be in heavy traffic and we would have to pay for several more hours of his service.
We had him take us back to Le Meridien and had dinner there (again). We also put him on our Drivers To Not Use Again list.
Perhaps we would have had more enthusiasm for the BB if we’d gone there intentionally. After all, one of Buddhism’s major tenets is that a purpose of life is to end suffering – our own and others. And we “suffered” from being sidetracked by a driver who clearly wasn’t worried about karma.
In summary, if you have some free time around sunset, an interest in Buddha and aren’t hiring a private driver at a high hourly rate you may want to check this sucker out. Otherwise, maybe go to that mythical small town by the sea. Don’t hire “Steve” to take you there.
Blonde had actual work that she would be well paid to do sitting on her desk at home, a Spanish class to study for and a house to get ready to put on the real estate market. She considered those options then went out for a walk and ended up spontaneously interviewing a very patient, charming young woman with hair better than a best-in-show Irish Setter’s and a mini-nose ring.
How did this mysterious chain of events occur? Blonde had walked past a hostel last week returning home from lunch with a friend and thought the place looked interesting. Today’s walk route was going within a block of the hostel so Blonde made a sudden decision to do an ambush interview. She had to borrow paper to use for notes and only had her iPhone for pictures but hey, bloggers of this caliber rarely even take notes and usually steal their photos (please see Irish Setter above).
We normally only cover places we’ve gone to and this was mostly a curiosity stop for Twitter material (BlBrTravel) but it seemed interesting enough to merit a brief post. Occasionally we try to provide actual useful information and this falls into that category so now we’re done with that for 2013 .
The hostel opened in June of 2012. It’s on the edge of Boston’s Theater District and about two blocks from a T stop and the Boston Common. It’s a really convenient location, was very clean, neat and well organized. Blonde and Brunette have never stayed in hostels so this was one of the few firsts still available to semi-experience.
The Boston Hostel is part of Hostelling International USA (If it’s “USA” how is it international? Will ask Molly on next visit.) It has a very industrial feel to the design that keeps it feeling uncluttered, clean and groovy (because it’s LEED certified). The room options range from private ($90 to $200 a night) to coed with 4, 6 or 8 people ($40-$65). (Note: Probably should have asked Molly if a room for 4 with George Clooney, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig and Blonde could be arranged.)
The coed rooms are either gender segregated or possibly couples. In other words don’t head there hoping to get thrown in a room with a bunch of hotties of the opposite sex just dying to have mind blowing sex with you and then write about it in their travel blogs. Come over to Blonde’s house for that.
The place even has someone on staff who is attending culinary school and makes dinner one night a week (mostly) for whoever is staying there. Aside from that, there is a nice big kitchen where you can store your food, cook it and eat it.
There’s free wi-fi, breakfast is included, they have a pool table and library on one floor and computers you can use for $2.00 for twenty minutes. Warming the cockles of Blonde’s heart there is also a laundry room with an iron and ironing board. (Blonde can out-iron anyone. Anyone.)
On Twitter some people like to complain that hostels don’t allow you to stay in them if you’re over 40 but at this one the only age requirement is that you be at least 18 or with a guardian. Because they limit you to a maximum of 14 nights per calendar year this apparently won’t be Blonde’s assisted living destination after all.
They seem to have good security with room cards required to enter the lodging area and some system of getting receipts for everyone every night so they know the people are occupying their rooms (although Blonde didn’t understand that at all). Oh, and breakfast is included and there’s a little cafe for emergency caffeine and pastries during the day.
Blonde basically expected stoners to be hanging around in dirty clothes but it was a very clean, non-munchy obsessed sort of crowd that appeared to range from their early 20s to at least mid-60s.
If you know someone heading to Boston and looking for inexpensive digs send them here – you really can’t do better.
This post was going to be about Hermanus, South Africa. But Hermanus is just one of several spots along The Garden Route with eyegasm-inducing scenery, charming cafes and and enough whales and dolphins for an entire season of Mammal Planet.
Prior to leaving on our trip to South Africa we announced that we were going to rent a car and drive from Cape Town along The Garden Route, ending in Knysna. Our friends and relatives set their DVRs to cover the nightly news so they wouldn’t miss the reporting of our grisly murders (best case). As much as we hated to disappoint everyone (again) it was an easy, safe and wonderful experience.
One of the first places we stopped was Betty’s Bay, a desolate, gorgeous area of rocks, crashing waves and Jackass Penguins. (The correct name is African Penguins. They’re also called Jackass Penguins because they make a braying noise like a donkey, aka jackass, and because it’s a funnier name.) We were there in May and it was chilly but the chill seemed to deter more sensible types so we had a long strip of beach to ourselves.
There’s a boardwalk that essentially goes nowhere so we bumbled on past the end of it and came to a charming place called The Southern Cross Cafe. The woman who owned it was so Zen it was almost unnerving but she made good tea and was an artist. We were all BFFs by the end of our visit. Sadly, it appears from a web search that the cafe is now out of business.
We finally reached our destination, The Arabella Hotel and Spa in time for dinner. When we stayed there it was still a Westin property so we stayed for free on our Starwood Amex points which we so dearly love. This is the property where, upon meeting a charming couple from Ireland, Brunette famously told them that her favorite place in Ireland is “Dingleberry”. They avoided us after that.
The hotel website pompously claims they “deliver grandeur in design”. It would be fun to go back and call room service and ask them to “please deliver some grandeur design, hold the mayo” but that probably won’t happen.
If you’re one of those people who inexplicably travels the world to hit little balls with a stick there are several golf courses in the Hermanus area, one of which is this hotel’s 18 hole, 72 par Championship course.
One of our day excursions from our fancy pants hotel was to Plettenberg Bay. We took a boat trip that produced the highest critter-per-dollar ratio of anything you could ever do in nature! The boat was launched in an alarming fashion which the company, Ocean Adventures, referred to as “the dolly trailer system”. The passengers get into the boat and then it’s basically launched into the sea (they say “pushed” but we know the difference between a push and a launch. Maybe.) In any event they were a very good tour company that we recommend.
In the beginning of the trip Blonde was highly distracted by an enormous, dorky, excess saliva producing German man who proudly announced that he travels on a U.S. passport (forget why). He was such a rude man lurching about in a manner that put him in front of everyone’s pictures that Blonde wanted to contact the U.S. embassy to see if his U.S. passport could be revoked. However, a pod of enthusiastically mating Southern Right Whales managed to get Blonde’s attention off the passport abuser.
We weren’t in a small boat but we weren’t in a big boat either and when you have whales that can weigh up to 60 tons apiece and they’re gettin’ it on to the whale version of Barry White, vigilance is a good idea.
Plettenberg Bay has so many mammals that if you had a huge net and a great deal of strength you could scoop up a lifetime supply. Besides the whales there were Bottlenose Dolphins cavorting all around. How they didn’t bang into the mating whales was a mystery to us.
A word of caution: Your camera may get wet on this boat trip. Blonde took her brand new most expensive camera ever along with its expensive lens and it survived. However, she is not someone to model yourself after when it comes to treating electronics sensibly. On the other hand, if you don’t have a zoom lens you’re going to have a lot of pictures of dots.
And just because the aforementioned camera was taken on this trip you are going to be subjected to two more photos from Plettenberg Bay.
Our trip to Plettenberg Bay, German/American dork notwithstanding, was an incredible amount of fun and left us famished. The tour company showed us the way to a little fish restaurant along the beach where either the food was amazing or we were just so hungry we thought it was amazing. Didn’t matter to us!
We did another day trip from the Arabella Hotel and that was into the town of Hermanus. Hermanus claims to be the home of the largest Southern Right Whale Festival in the world and we see no reason to question that claim. Even when there isn’t a festival they have the world’s only Whale Crier who blows a kelp horn when whales are spotted in Walker Bay.
We enjoyed the scenery in Hermanus and had a very civilized lunch at the The Marine Hermanus Hotel, a Relais & Chateaux property right on the coast. We didn’t stay there but it would be lovely to do so. A quick rate check shows the cheapest room, including breakfast, for two people to be about $320 USD a night in July.
Hermanus is touristy but it wasn’t overly so in May and it has managed to retain its charm even with its popularity and how many people can you say that of? We found a gelato shop which is enough to get us to rate anywhere favorably. There are also some very nice little shops, a craft market on the pier and rocks where kayakers can smash themselves and then entertain tourists as the kayakers struggle to get out of the water.
Lengthy as it is, this post barely touches on the fun and beauty of The Garden Route. To summarize: You should go.
On a recent trip to Dubai Blonde and Brunette’s itinerary included a day trip to Abu Dhabi. This was a guided tour which is generally something we avoid the same way we do Donald Trump and poisonous spiders.But the price was right and Dubai didn’t sound like a good place to “wing it” for two very Western sisters, one with a decided tendency to not behave demurely.
For several days the tour guide had been explaining to the group what could and could not be worn to the mosque. The tour company even gave everyone a printout titled “Mosque Manners” which illustrated the do’s and don’ts. (In the States there is a national obsession in March with college basketball championships. It is referred to as “March Madness” and Blonde thought the handout was titled “Mosque Madness” as a pun. It wasn’t.)
Basically women had to cover everything but their faces and hands wearing clothing that was loose and did not “reveal the female form”. Men had to wear pants and at least short sleeves. Easy enough for the men but for women in a 90+ (F) degree location, the clothing requirements took some preplanning.
Blonde’s luggage had been left at JFK by the lackadaisical employees of Jet Blue so she purchased a special long-sleeved top to wear to the mosque and then vastly over-corrected for headgear by buying a thing that was basically a head-burqa.
As soon as our bus entered the parking lot a very official violation-seeking man came on to the bus and initially was going to turn us away as our guide had less than 80% of her hair covered – and she was Muslim. Then he spotted something much worse – Russian ankles. Truth be told we could see his point as they were not nice ankles. However, the issue wasn’t the aesthetic quality of the ankles but merely their visibility. Panic ensued as everyone on the bus tried to come up with garments or solutions for the ankles. In the end the ankles and the woman attached to them had to stay on the bus.
Brunette’s scrawny little wrists were peeking out of her top so she got the added pleasure of having to wear someone’s long sleeved black t-shirt over the clothing she already had on, plus a wool headscarf.
A long bus ride, an angry dress code enforcer and being clothed in triple what we would have chosen to wear in the temperatures could have made the visit to the mosque dreadful. But the building, the grounds and the interior are probably the most magnificent we’ve seen anywhere in the world and, just like in real life, being good looking gets a lot forgiven.
The mosque was the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan and opened in 2007 after having been started in the late 1990s. (Note to self: Hire this team of workers not the ones from La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona which was started in 1882 and still isn’t finished. The Abu Dhabi team must have been paid by the job and the Spanish one by the hour.)
The Grand Mosque is made with white marble – lots of it and it’s really white.
The green carpet inside the main prayer hall is the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet which took about 2 years to design and knot with over 1,200 artisans working on it.
The massive chandeliers contain thousands of Swarovski crystals and the main chandelier literally weighs almost 12 tons.
The Sheikh was obviously not on a tight budget.
The mosque is free to enter and last year more than 3 million people toured it.
At the conclusion of our time at the mosque the women were very happy to be able to take off several layers of clothing after getting into the secular safety zone of the bus.
Hats off (but headscarves on) to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan for creating such an indeed grand mosque!
First things first; Barry Mann and Gerry Goffin put the bomp in the bomp shoo bop and Mann recorded it as his sole vocal hit. He also put the ‘ram’ in the ramalama ding-dong. According to our usual exhaustive fact checking of one Google search the “two men wrote the song during a playful experiment where they were seeing how many songs they could write in half an hour. “Who Put the Bomp” took all of five minutes”.
And who put the miracle in the Dubai Miracle Garden? Actually that’s a bit harder to discern, it took 3 clicks to find out! AKAR Landscaping Services and Agriculture designed and built the gardens which opened mid-February 2013. AKAR was probably chosen because in superlative-laden Dubai they had one of their own to contribute: “AKAR is the only landscaping company in the world who achieved Guinness Records in landscaping.” Seriously? There is such a thing?
Dubai Miracle Garden bills itself as “the world’s largest natural flower garden” (of course) and the 72,000-square-meter attraction has more than 45 million flowers. By our personal observations 44,999,999 of those flowers are petunias. There may have been a marigold in there somewhere too.
Brunette found out about the Miracle Garden before we left and the pictures on the website were quite compelling. We thought it seemed like a better use of time than going to a shopping center to see a ski slope (a major tourism ‘must do’ in Dubai). Given that we never went to see the ski slope we don’t know if we were right about our choice.
Miracle #1 : This many petunias can be kept alive anywhere, much less the desert.
Miracle #2: Visitors to the garden in the daytime can survive at all. The day we visited the gardens in March the temp was well into the 90s Fahrenheit and there isn’t any shade anywhere.
Dubai likes to have things be neat and orderly which is generally a very positive characteristic for a city. However, the guards in the Miracle Garden are numerous, menacing men with whistles and the corrupting taste of petty power in their mouths. (We’re not talking the “flower power” of the 60s here – this is active resistance – to visitors.)
We observed several people sitting in front of some of the flowers and having their pictures taken. Deciding to do the same before we melted into completely unrecognizable blobs, Brunette sat demurely in the same photo-opp spot others had been using. No problem. Blonde took Brunette’s picture then switched places.
Major whistle blowing ensued. An angry guard shouted to Blonde that she could not pick the flowers – something she definitely wasn’t doing. Seriously, who wants a wilted petunia? You be the judge if one sister is being good and one being bad.
We began to see that Blonde and Brunette were viewed very differently by the guards. Blonde was glared at by an unending supply of guards who saw her every move as evidence of probable criminal behavior. Brunette picked flowers, mugged a few old ladies and ran nude throughout the gardens without any interference from the guards.
Finally, wilted and exhausted we made our way back to the entrance gate. We’d had a taxi driver take us to the gardens as they are nowhere near public transportation. We asked if one of the young men at the ticket gate would call our taxi driver for us as we didn’t have international service on our phones. He very nicely did so and informed us that it would be about a 20 minute wait.
Although there shouldn’t have been anything surprising about this we were so hot we despaired as if we had a real problem. One of the men brought a chair for Blonde to sit on and he thoughtfully placed it in the shade. No chair for Brunette until her kindly sister indicated that one would be welcome and then one was produced.
Blonde commented that she was thirsty as the refreshment tents on the edge of the property had sold out of water. The same helpful man scurried off and brought Blonde a cup of water. No water for Brunette who was in a coma by this time so it might have been a waste anyway. After all, it’s one thing to irrigate 45 million petunias but why waste 3 ounces of water on a Brunette?
Moments before the taxi’s arrival Blonde’s new BFF asked if he could have his picture taken with Blonde. Sure, why not? It’s probably on whatever Dubai’s version of an AARP porn site is right now.
Miracle #3: Brunette found all of this to be amusing and not offensive. She realized that it somewhat balanced the scales after Blonde being treated as Public Enemy #1 while in the actual flower garden.
After our semi-miraculous survival we went to a lovely small shopping center, Medina Jumeirah Mall, that has a lake and Moorish architecture, for some much-needed sustenance.
Afterwards we couldn’t face the prospect of public transportation (even though it’s excellent) so we had another taxi take us back to our hotel. Over the course of the ride our driver told us he was from Pakistan but that he’d had to leave it “after the Taliban fucked it up”. He has a wife and two young children who live there.
He then asked Blonde her age, she actually told the truth, and he announced that he’d thought she was roughly half that old and asked if she would marry him. She (regrettably) declined.
And you wonder why we call this “Blonde Brunette Travel”?
Back when Roger Moore was James Bond and making the 10th Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun”, it was filmed, in part, on an island near Phuket, Thailand.
Even though the film was shot close to 40 years ago, was a critical dud and one of the lowest ranked films of the Bond franchise, the rock is somehow still a major tourism draw. The gun may not have been golden but the rock’s fame has been golden for Phuket.
Before leaving home we booked a (complimentary, thank you very much Viator) speed boat day trip to James Bond Island. We knew the land to island journey was about an hour and a half but didn’t realize that it would take 45 minutes to get to the departure pier. It was a long day – 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. – but it was also a lot of fun.
The boat left from Chandara Resort and Spa Phuket. We only saw it from the outside but it looked lovely, peaceful and was away from the craziness of town. If you’re considering going to Phuket you may want to see what traveler reviewers have said about that property.
The boat was very nice, in excellent condition and the staff, captain and guide all did their jobs very professionally. We marvel at how tour guides can keep track of everyone, deal with some difficult personalities (yet another sly bigoted comment about Russian tourists) and at least appear to be cheerful while imparting a lot of information that most of the people (especially us) will immediately forget. We had a total of 18 people on our trip.
James Bond Island is only one of the many fascinating formations you see on the journey (massive hairy bellies are also amazing formations you may see but they provoke a different kind of fascination).
There are caverns and other geologically interesting stuff dating back to the Pleistocene era when Brunette was in college. (Or was it high school?)
The area where all of this is concentrated is Phangna Bay which is referred to as a drowned kartsiand (don’t get your hopes up – we didn’t say a drowned Kardashian – they have a lot of built-in flotation devices).
According to an educational sign we took a picture of “a kartsiand is an irregular region with sinks, underground streams and caverns”. If you’d like to know more about kartsiands please use your own time to learn about them – we’re all maxed out on geology at this point.
After viewing a couple additional islands and having a swim we were taken to a floating village for lunch. Our guide said the village consists of 1,656 residents 99% of whom are Muslim which is unusual for Thailand.
Lunch was the standard buffet fare for tourists with the exception that the meat was all halal because of the religion of the island inhabitants. As we have had our share of food poisoning incidents we are wary eaters in many locations. Although the floating village was extremely basic it seemed to be quite clean. Even so we only ate food that had been boiled – rice and veggies – and bought a bag of potato chips. Weird maybe but safe.
The village was also home to a small but odd collection of birds and other animals.
After another stop for a swim and (disappointing due to reef damage) snorkeling we went to a last small island for some fruit, water and soft drinks before returning home. The tour companies are smart about having your last stop be very close to the pier where you departed from earlier so it’s a thrill that you don’t still have hours of bouncing over the waves when you’re a bit maxed out on aquatic activities.
If you do one of these tours be sure to pay attention on the drive to the pier (we failed to do that) so you can tell if you’re being taken back by the same or a reasonable route. We wondered how we had been the last to be picked up in the morning and the last to be dropped off in the evening. The answer was that the driver asked us where we were staying on the way back then apparently forgot completely, dropped everyone else off all over the place then asked us again. We had driven by our place at least once if not twice but hadn’t been smart enough to tell him to stop. It isn’t hard to be smarter than we are so be vigilant unless you like to end your day with a long drive in intense traffic in a somewhat stuffy van.
Despite the bummer of a return trip we really enjoyed the day and seeing the whole area, especially James Bond Rock, because we’d heard about it a lot over the years and needed to satisfy our curiosity.
It’s unlikely that Roger Moore is out in a boat trying to find a location where we appeared in a home movie from 40 years ago but that’s his loss, not ours.
Dubai has a serious Napoleon complex and appears to exist in part to achieve, document and proclaim superlatives. The world’s tallest building, the world’s tallest 7 star hotel, the word’s most twisty building (seriously), the largest shopping mall in the world and the world’s longest automated, driverless metro system.
Brunette gets plenty of Napoleon complex at home from her tiny, grumpy husband. Blonde has had more than her share from various bosses and coworkers. Not surprisingly we do not ever choose to add an extra helping of the diminutive emperor’s ‘tude to our lives.
Before we left home we considered activities we could do that sounded like more fun than merely bragging that mine is bigger than yours. The main activity that seemed to meet our criteria was a desert safari. Yes, it’s a decidedly touristy thing to do but after all, we’re tourists.
For probably 10 years we have booked various day trips at our destinations through Viator. We can truthfully say that we have never had a bad experience on one of their tours and we have had many that were the highlights of our visit to some city or country or another. So we approached Viator to see if they would comp us to a desert safari and they agreed to do so.
In theory this could be seen as tainting our review but if you’ve ever so much as looked at this blog before you realize that we are willing to bite the hand that feeds us when it deserves a bite. And we are not likely to shower superlatives on activities we do not enjoy.
Dubai is interesting, architecturally orgasmic and well behaved but the first word that comes to mind in describing it is not “fun” and the desert safari was fun, a lot of fun.
The driver picked us up at our hotel around 2:00 p.m. The others in our group were three very nice men from Japan who were filming a segment for a television show about cruises. The driver was even nice enough to turn around and go back to our hotel when Blonde realized she’d left her iPhone charging in the hotel room and acted as if she’d left her kidneys on a dialysis machine and forgotten them. After that incident/favor Blonde decided to make a mental note to (try) not to be a pain in the ass on anything else while on the outing.
The ”Empty Quarter” desert is quite a ways out of the city – at least an hour. When you reach the desert you have somehow joined up with many other Toyota 4×4 Land Cruisers from the same company. All of the cars converge in a lot which is presented as a photo opp to the trip participants. Really it is just a place for the drivers to let about 60% of the air out of their tires as doing so is apparently a critical factor in driving insanely, yet successfully, over sand dunes.
From there a 45 minute thrill ride ensues. You fly up, over, down, zigzag and sideways in an alarming fashion through the desert. Sand flies up and over the windows and you’re sure the vehicle will tip over or pitch headfirst down a dune. It’s fabulous!
If you have a tendency for motion sickness be prepared. Brunette wears wrist bands that save her queasy stomach from many a potentially vomitorific experience and they didn’t fail her (or those of us in her proximity) this time.
Next stop was a camel farm. Probably the most interesting thing we observed there was that camels apparently choose their lovers by sticking their noses in their bums. It probably works at least as well as reading profiles on Match.com so who are we to criticize?
We also learned that camels are used for three things in Dubai; racing, meat and milk. The milk is used to make excellent chocolates. Who knew? (That was rhetorical, no need to answer.)
At the camel farm there was a man in traditional dress on an ATV/ quad/ whatever it’s called accompanied by his falcon. Falcons are the Dubai equivalent of trophy wives and he wanted people to pay to have their pictures taken with his bird – by which we mean the falcon. No one was interested as we had free falcon photography opportunities ahead of us so he roared off in a snit on his motorcycle with the rejected, peevish falcon perched on one of the running boards.
Time flies when you’re crashing over sand dunes and observing camel courting rituals so we were quickly ushered off to the final stop; a “camp” in the desert. Along the way we saw quite a few camels that Brunette assumed would be sold as “free range camel” meat. (Are you listening Whole Foods? You heard it here first.)
Once at the camp we were presented with many opportunities to make fools of ourselves and predictably took every opportunity. These included the obligatory camel ride which gave Blonde a bruise on the inside of her fleshy, white thigh that she’s hoping people will think was acquired riding a different sort of hump – so to speak.
After that was ‘surfing” down sand dunes which Brunette did sitting down and Blonde executed with Olympic level skill meaning she didn’t fall down until after the picture was taken.
Blonde decided to do everything that was included while Brunette chose her activities in a sensible Brunette fashion. This meant Blonde headed over to the hookah tent to partake of whatever it is you do (in public) with a hookah. The advice was to inhale or to not inhale so she did a bit of both. However, decidedly negative vibes were coming her way which was perplexing. Only after finishing did we realize that women were apparently not welcome with the hookah chaps. That made Blonde all the happier that she’d done it.
Next stop was a chance to have a hooded falcon perch on our arms. On the ride out to the desert the car driver told us that falcons are so important to Arabic men that when they fly with their falcons the bird is always seated in either business or first class. Falcons already wear hoods most of the time so do they refuse the complimentary eye masks? Can they have wine? If not is it because they’re birds or because they’re Muslim? Do they use the plane’s toilets, wear falcon diapers or worse? The falcon fellow didn’t seem as if he would be interested in having this conversation so we had our photos taken and were on to the next thing.
It had become clear that something was going to happen in a ring/ stage sort of area on the ground in the center of the camp so we situated ourselves advantageously and Blonde dashed off to buy two glasses of wine.
A man in a teal jumpsuit with a giant skirt and a less than effervescent personality appeared in the center of the ring. He then twirled for a considerable period of time as the skirt lit up, swished wildly about and created a visual orgy of delight. We were thrilled with the performance and very impressed that he could still stand up at the end.
Then a wholly adequate, if unremarkable, dinner was served buffet style. There were chicken, lamb, vegetarian and fish options as well as many salads and desserts. Camel meat was not one of the featured entrees or, if it was, no one told us.
The evening’s final entertainment was a belly dancer. Brunette went over to claim ringside seats with the zeal of a mutant combo Russian-German tourist and Blonde went for more wine.
On the way to the wine tent Blonde saw that another included option was to get henna painted on her hands and arm. The henna painters were packing up but obliging, although quite possibly vengeful, as they did the job in under a minute with a very thick application of henna. After it was on Blonde asked how long it would last and was told that it would be there for about a week. If it hadn’t been for that second glass of wine panic would have ensued. As it was the panic ensued after getting back to the hotel and seeing that old veiny hands do not look beautiful in thick orange henna. Oh well, as we always say, live and don’t learn.
The belly dancer had all of the twitchy shake your booty skills called for in her job description and delivered a crowd pleasing performance. Brunette thought back to the days when she had taken a belly dancing class at a YMCA in western Pennsylvania. She realized that, among a number of other things, the fact that she doesn’t have any hips may have been part of her lack of success with belly dancing.
At the conclusion of the entertainment, with our bellies and tires inflated we got back into our vehicle. Brunette claims to have been the only person (other than the driver) who stayed awake on the return trip to the hotel. Apparently staying awake is interesting as there were many local people out along the edge of the desert with cars arranged like stagecoaches and a fire in the middle. This is a popular local picnic option for families and one of the very few things that can be done for free in Dubai.
Although we had sand in our teeth and shoes and Blonde had a globby, smeared orange arm we thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. We can’t speak for the camels but we assume it was just another day at the office for them.
Sorry we have temporarily vanished while we’re out exploring and collecting new material for you! Right now we are in Dubai gawking at people who are gawking at us. Here are a few photos from today so you can tell we’re really here and to get you to wait anxiously for our next real post!
When Blonde and Brunette were wee lasses our packing was all done by our mother. Our part of pre-trip planning was getting over-excited and giggly and hoping our grandparents would give us spending money.
When they did give us money Brunette would add it to what she had already saved. Blonde hadn’t saved a penny and would spend all of her money at the first Howard Johnson’s rest stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Even when our family was literally driving to California and back Blonde could never manage to make it out of Pennsylvania with her money. But that didn’t mean she didn’t have money for the rest of the trip. It just meant she would have to earn her additional cash.
How does a child in a car (legally) earn extra cash? That was actually easy; by singing. Even as a mere slip of a thing Blonde had one of the worst singing voices imaginable. Combine that with determination and energy and it’s a powerful weapon. The most effective fund-raising technique was to sing, on an endless repetition loop, the old song “Ive been workin’ on the railroad”. The real moneymaker lyrics were:
- Can’t you hear the whistle blowing,
- Rise up so early in the morn;
- Can’t you hear the captain shouting,
- “Dinah, blow your horn!”
- Dinah, won’t you blow,
- Dinah, won’t you blow,
- Dinah, won’t you blow your horn?
- Dinah, won’t you blow,
- Dinah, won’t you blow,
- Dinah, won’t you blow your horn?
- Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah
- Someone’s in the kitchen I know
- Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah
- Strummin’ on the old banjo!
- On a good day by the third round of this verse Brunette would be willing to pay Blonde to stop singing. It cost a quarter to shut Blonde up. (It’s much more expensive now). But Blonde didn’t say she’d shut up forever and Brunette wasn’t a very effective negotiator. She would pay the quarter, Blonde would shut up briefly and then resume. From Pennsylvania to California, even 25¢ at a time, you can generate a significant transfer of wealth.
- But, alas, we grew up and had to take on our own travel planning and preparation. We still sat and smiled for pictures but we were now in Turkey, not Pennsylvania. Our travel planning had changed. Instead of taking clothes we already owned we bought new outfits for every trip. We packed and checked gigantic suitcases, got pre-trip bikini waxes and Blonde still spent all of her money in the beginning of the trip.
Now we are planning a trip to Dubai and Thailand. We still buy new clothes and this blog has become a reason. We don’t want to bore you with seeing us in the same outfits you saw us wearing on the last trip.
We still get bikini waxes but now we need to get our moustaches waxed too. Instead of worrying about having our periods when we are on vacation we buy travel insurance and sign up for MedJet (motto: Take trips. Not chances.) so we can be evacuated in a medical emergency or have our remains “repatriated” if one of us croaks.
Cute shoes have been replaced by sensible walking shoes (complete with custom made orthotics). Clothing is chosen for what it effectively conceals, not what it alluringly reveals. And Blonde still spends all of her money immediately but now it’s in airport terminals on layovers, not Howard Johnson’s. But she has lost the knack of replenishing her funds from the National Bank of Brunette.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that we still get over-excited and giggly.
Now where did I put my travel-size denture adhesive?
These weekly photo “challenges” are generally a fairly easy way to generate a post. But this week the theme generated ideas for selecting pictures but not much for generating prose.
Mulling this existential conundrum (not that it’s really either) on a flight from Pittsburgh to Boston this afternoon helped Blonde gain some insight into the difficulty of the assignment. Neither Blonde nor Brunette is ever “lost” in the details but instead we are often lost because of a failure to attend to details.
Example: Next week we’re setting off on a trip to Dubai and then Thailand. Somehow when we booked this back in August we planned our trip like we wanted to plan meals when we were kids. “Let’s have pizza, brownies, chocolate milk and fudge for dinner because we like all of them”. Do they make sense together? No, they’re disgusting together. Is Thailand next door to Dubai? No, but they both sound like fun.
It was only this weekend that we literally looked at a map in Brunette’s home and went “Wow, look, Dubai and Thailand are nowhere near each other! No wonder that’s a 9 hour flight to Thailand”! We pondered our cluelessness then Brunette said “Oh well, at least we’re doing it the right way. We’re going to Thailand first which is the farthest and making our way back through Dubai”.
Blonde said “No we aren’t. We’re starting in Dubai then going to Thailand”.
A moment’s thought then Brunette’s concluding remark on the matter; “Well that ‘s the best way to do it to adjust to the time differences”.
Then we laughed at our stupidity and went online booked another trip for this coming summer. We did not look at a map (it’s all in Spain so how far off can we be?), barely looked at a calendar and can’t wait to go wherever it is.
Now, does this sound like a pair of sisters who get lost in details or lost because they neglect details? So we ask for your understanding in combining text and pictures that really don’t belong together.
It’s the best we can do.
At least it’s the best we’re going to do.
BTW: If you double click on the first photo then you can see them larger, in all of their glory!