Monday, January 30, 2012

Little Petra

A few kilometres away is Little Petra, dubbed Little Petra because it is a smaller version of Petra. The main Petra is a huge area but Little Petra is a much smaller area and takes just one hour to view everything. There's no entrance fee except one does need to hire a taxi to take you there and wait for you and then take you back. We left Amman very early on our first day. While there are mini buses that can take you to Petra, we opted for the JETT bus that leaves its Amman depot at 6.30 am every morning and returns to Amman everyday at 4pm. So it is possible to visit Petra as a daytrip, we stayed 3 days. We arrived at 9.30 am and decided to go to Little Petra. When we finished we realised we still have time for Petra. So we hurried back to the village, had lunch, bought a three day pass for Petra and started our afternoon in Petra. The cost of a one day pass is 50JD, 55JD for a 2 days and 60JD for a three day pass. JD is for Jordanian Dinar as opposed to the Saudi Dinar. The JD is stronger than our US dollar. It's 1JD to US$1.45. While it takes more US$, the costs of living in Jordan is much lower and your JD's do go further. We met another traveling duo, a father and daughter and we sort of traveled with them the whole 3 days.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Ever since the discovery of Petra, visitors have traveled to the area with Bible in hand. So much in Genesis happened in and around that area. Jordan is also called 'the other Holy land', mostly because a lot of the events mentioned in the Bible happened on this side of the river Jordan and the Dead sea. Aaron, Moses' brother is supposed to be buried here. Moses was supposed to have struck the rock for water on this side. The Edomites who lived here were later replaced by the Nabataeans and it was the Nabataeans who built most if not all the beautiful monuments that we see today. The Bedouins of Arabia began migrating into this area and today they are found all over Petra. Also known as 'Bedu' or nomads, today, most of them have more or less settled. Their 'goat hair' woven tents are mostly for display. They live in ramshackle huts all over the rocky area, they ply their goods and services to the tourists. Some still tend to their animals, the rest just sell kitsch, hire themselves out as guides, offer donkey, horse or camel rides. They can be aggressive in plying their wares and services but mostly they are friendly and hospitable. The invitation to have tea is always there. One cannot walk or hike or climb anywhere in Petra without bumping into a Bedouin family. I'm almost glad because some parts are so deserted that it feels good to know that someone is always close by, whether it be women and their children or this lone old lady.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Petra, Jordan

A land, harsh and inhospitable but was settled from very early times. The land of 'Seir' as indentified in the Bible. Deuteronomy Chapter 2 : 4 ' You (the Israelites) are about to pass through the territory of your brothers, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir.' The descendants of Esau were also identified as the Edomites. The Horites lived here first but were replaced by the Edomites. Deuteronomy Chapter 2 : 12 'Horites used to live in Seir but the descendants of Esau drove them out.' Esau was the older brother of Jacob. The biblical name is Seir but its Greek name is 'Petra'.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I'm back

This was a nice little hotel, close to the entrance to Petra. One needs to stay near the entrance. It's a long walk from the entrance to the 'siq' and the 'siq' is another long walk into the whole area. At the end of the days, the track back to the hotel is long and arduous. I've just arrived back from the airport after having travelled a whole 24 hours. We spent 5 days in Jordan. Our Cairo trip a few years ago was 5 days also. That's all the time I have and we managed to squeeze a lot in. It was cold and wet, raining almost every days. I wasn't dressed quite warm enough but I didn't care. The first hotel in Amman had no heat and no hot water. That was tough. The next hotel in Amman had both heat and reliable hot water and a lot more services and cheap too. Jordanians are a very warm and friendly people. We met a lot of tourists while there, even in this kind of weather. That was quite heartening to know.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I shall be away in Petra, Jordan for a very short visit.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lots of eggs

Lots of local farm eggs and a ton of butter from Brittany or Normandy goes into the making of the very delicious omelettes at the restaurant La Mere Poulard.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lunch @ La Mere Poulard

The restaurant, La Mere Poulard in Mont St Michel, their famous omelette with lobster and potatoes with truffles. Mmmmmm it was so good but Sophie had intestinal problems after eating lunch here for days. It wasn't a good memory for her. The lobster wasn't fresh and wasn't reheated through. The picture is pretty though.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

French pastry

We arrived on a rainey morning at Mont St Michel. After looking at pictures of the fabled church for so many years, we were finally at its foot. The bottom of the place was a shopping mecca with most visitors staying here longer than at the top where the church and abbey is. It's no wonder because of the tantalising display of foods and kitsch they have for sale. Here is a peek into a pastry shop window. I think I see some of the famous French pastry called 'kouign-amann'.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Orange blossoms

Orange juice, orange blossoms...... memories of both keep flooding back. In winter, there is nothing interesting in the market. Soon the Orange blossoms will come back and we will enjoy fresh oranges again. The grapefruit tree in Sophie's backyard is clean of fruit. Over the holidays we raided the tree and turned all the fruit into juice. It tasted so good. I am reminded of the incredibly sweet orange juice so readily available all over Morocco. It's worth it just to be in Morocco to drink its orange juice. These orange blossoms were at a stand in Fes. We bought some just to smell it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Breakfast on the rooftop

This wasn't some 4 star hotel or the Hilton. It was a local family run place, they were new and eager to please. I promised I'd write a good review on them in Tripadviser which I did. I forgot the name of this place. Breakfast consisted of freshly squeezed orange juice, the OJ in Morocco is legendary, it is so sweet and cheap and available at every corner in the country. There's the hard boiled egg, local bread, local jam and honey. I think we got coffee as well.

Fish and chips? Not!

One of the greatest thing about traveling is the food, not the Michelin starred restaurants but the local cafes. The places where the locals eat offer the best food in town and at prices not seen in this country. I remember the hole-in-wall restaurants near the train station in Naples, the grilled seafood was the best I've ever eaten. I remember the local restaurants in Catania, that's another dream, the food was so incredible. No famous food critic ever darken their doors and that's a shame. In the Far East, in Singapore and Malaysia, one eat out at the night markets where the food is unsurpassed by any famous restaurant. We had fish fry in Essaouira, Morocco, here in the picture. The local fishermen brings in their catch throughout the day, the cook dredged the catch in a little flour and fries it up and here we were picking the meat off the little fish with our fingers. The bones were just dropped on the floor where a bunch of local cats have been waiting throughout the meal. Talk about fat cats, these were some fat ones! We don't drink soda at home but do indulge in the occasional Coca Cola while abroad.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guy and motorcycle

We live or I live in a civilised world where we don't have animals on our freeways. Our motorcycles carry only people and not goods. In so many of the places we've been to, there are still horse and cart or donkey and cart on their paved roads and in the city. We see motorcycles laden with stuff. It is an education to see the contrast. I appreciate both worlds.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Empty streets

The old city of Marrakech is an enclosed city with high city walls. Inside is the medina, a maze of narrow alleys. In the daytime it teems with people, locals and visitors, mingle. In the early hours of the morning, the alleys are empty. This was the view from the rooftop of our hotel where we were having breakfast. This was a trip taken 2 years ago. I just saw Rick Steves' old TV program when he went to Tangiers. I want to revisit Morocco again, this time going to the North.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Front row seat

From this vantage point of the tea shop, we had a front row seat to watch the action in Jema Efna in Marrakech. As the sun goes down, and as the light begin to fade, the pace picks up, more and more people begin to fill the square. The vendors start to set up business and by the time the sun sets completely, the action is full swing. The food people are rustling up people to sit and to partake of their fare, the dancers dance to the rhythm of drums, people come out in droves and mingle. It's an incredible festive atmosphere and it goes on every night.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

New car

I took delivery of my new car yesterday. It's a Subaru Outback. I am so happy.

Too many pictures of flowers

My nephew said that I took too many pictures of flowers during our trip to Eastern Turkey. I do agree that I took many pictures and a lot are of the incredible display of wild flowers. I always take a lot of pictures of everything. What am I going to do if there are wild flowers everywhere? Some people travel for the xplicit reason of seeing wild flowers and taking pictures of them. No, Ari, one never have enough pictures of flowers, nor one take too many pictures of them.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

the joy of ruins

Today's traveler walk through physical ruins of past civilizations, of past empires, whether it be the Byzantine or the Ottoman empires and others. These empires left their 'carcasses' strewn all over the world. And I have a great time visiting and learning about them. It's an incredible pastime.Sometimes they leave writing which illuminates their states of mind and that can be enlightening. Where no written record is left, the modern traveler is left to conjecturing what was.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Moroccan fisherman

He wanted us to have this shrimp. That was so sweet of him but what were we going to do with it. It'll spoil and stink. It was the thought that counted.


We had octopus salad this Christmas. It was pretty good. Octopus is not a popular dish in the USA. I remember eating it in Northern Spain, in Santiago de Compostela to be exact. It was quite good. But most if not all Mediterranean countries have an Octopus dish or two. We met this Moroccan fisherman on the plage de Rabat in Rabat and he showed us his catch that day.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Mt Etna

Years ago, we took the little train, the Circumetnea, around the foot of Mt Etna. In March it is still covered in snow. It was so beautiful. Mt Etna was quiet then. I just saw images of Mt Etna spewing lava. I've always wanted to be there when this happens. Looks like I'm going to miss another chance.

Snails, anyone?

There were things we ate when we were young that can't be mentioned in polite company. We were so poor. But today we are still eating weird things like snails. We never ate snails when we were growing up, the snails in Borneo are huge, slimy and nasty. We just smash and kill them because they will get into the vegetable garden and devour everything. In Morocco, we ate a lot of snails. We were walking around the cemetery in Rabat and came upon this colony of snails and I thought to myself, 'this is one of the many places where the vendors get their snails for their soup pot on the streets in Morocco.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

What's behind that door?

Why is that door locked shut? Do you have any locked areas in your life? Throw open those locked doors, those taboos and live life to the fullest. The time is quite late, for me, anyway. There are no locked doors, no taboos. I want to make 2012 an incredible year. Many have asked, 'where did the year go? I don't know about them, I lived every day of it. I will live every day of 2012 and not ask, 'where did the year go?'

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Memories of the road less travelled

I guess the beginning of a new year is one when we reflect on where we've been and where we are going. Not just for places but also for experiences. What are we going to do in the new year that is different, that is far reaching than the year before. Or is it going to the same?

Monday, January 02, 2012

We thought we were alone

Here we were in Cappadocia, looking for the hidden churches. From a distance we saw a huge group. All of us ended up meeting in this cave church and this group were some French people. It's wonderful to know that there are like minded people in the world. People from all over the world are descending on Cappadocia to see its wonder and marvels. It was a life changing trip.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Jesus Christ, Pantocrator

It's barely visible, Jesus, holding a Bible in one arm and the other hand is raised to bless. This is a fresco from one of the cave churches in Cappadocia. I pray this year is one full of the Lord's blessings.