A Travellerspoint blog

Bali

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

-Mark Twain

I arrived in Bali at noon after a really early morning flight, so spent my first day napping and hanging by my beautiful pool. The next day, I set out to explore the beach and Sanur town. Sounds like an excellent plan, yes? Only two problems, the hotel people can’t tell their right from left and I had no map. Consequently, I ended up on the worst raggedy stretch of beach on the whole island ( well there really was no beach, just rocks) and garbagey streets. Then, thinking I was headed toward the part of town with shops and restaurants, ended up on the street of mechanics and broken/missing/gaping holes sidewalks. And for me to even remark on the state of the sidewalks after spending a month in Thailand really says something. Plus of course, it was brutally hot, so I stopped in the only air conditioned place there was, a place I would never in a million years patronize in the US….KFC. Oh, I have sunk so low :(. But the 7up I got was excellently refreshing, I must say.

I eventually found a map and realized I had turned right every place I should have turned left, headed home and took a nice cool shower and went out to get some dinner at a local warang ( local outdoor, casual, sometimes very rustic café). I had been warned by my Australian friends about the notoriously bad behavior of their countrymen vacationing in Bali, but I didn’t think I’d be exposed to it so soon. This Aussie guy was a complete and total moron (the kind that thinks if you talk loud enough and toss enough money around, you can get anything you want, in this case the after-hours company of one of the waitresses). Such an ass.

Anyway, the next day I took a cooking class (no bugs on the menu this time!) in a beautiful outdoor kitchen and learned the secret of Indonesian cooking is making a paste of chile, kafir lime leaf, cilantro, garlic, ginger, turmeric, hazelnuts and that indispensable ingredient in all Asian cooking-fish sauce. It’s good food, but Thai is still my hands down favorite.

I did some really nice ocean kayaking in Sanur, as well as some snorkeling on nearby Lembogan island. The boat ride there terrified me. The current and waves halfway across get very swirly and one side of the ocean is higher than the other if you can even imagine such a thing. In Bali you just get on boat (or car/motorcycle) with no idea of the experience of the captain/driver, whether or not they’re licensed/insured… it’s all on faith. Anyway, I tried to relax on the speedboat and ignore the fact that we smacking down hard on the waves and the boat was tipping when I saw all the Balinese women with their babies as calm as cucumbers, so I figured I was probably being a big fat scaredy cat, but I was happy when we landed. I met up with local guy who took me out snorkeling and it was great. After snorkeling in the Keys and comparing that with Mexico, I had fairly low expectations, but the water was crystal clear, the coral was beautiful and there were tons of colorful fish. I had forgotten how much I love that salty/sunny/lazy feeling after a great day in the water.

The beach in Sanur has a nice stretch of walkway and along the path are nice hotels and tons of local shops selling cheap souvenirs. The shopkeepers are relentless-if you accidentally make eye contact (or really, even if you don’t) they are on you. I have never been so interrogated in all my life –where you from, where you going, just look (in my shop), how long you stay in Bali…..They were very nice, so I felt rude ignoring them, but it got to be very annoying. This happened all over the island with taxi/motorcycle drivers, masseuses, tour operators….

It’s hard to find small group day tours here. Most people just hire a guide and car to drive them around and show them the sites. Even though it was weird to have my own private driver/guide, that’s what I did and it was great. He took me to 2 Hindu temples on the coast. The first one, Taneh Lot, is built on a big rock about 50 meters out to sea during high tide, it was just beautiful, and of course I had to see the holy snake that lives in the sacred cave (and give the appropriate donation to the guys in the cave). Then we went to the other temple, Uluwatu, perched high on a cliff, again, really beautiful. There is a walkway along the cliff and I was warned to take off jewelry and put my sunglasses away because of the monkeys. Halfway down the path, one of them jumps this guy and steals his bottle of water and tears off into the jungle. I imagine future archeologists are going to have a field day when they excavate that place 1000 years from now. As I continued down the path, I noticed that all the guides had big sticks to fend off the monkeys (my guide was waiting for me at the entrance) and I was like, "hey, um, where’s my stick?" and there were tons of the creatures at the end of the path. So picture this. A dirt peninsula on the edge of a sheer cliff, with a 100 foot drop to the ocean, no guard rail. Tourists standing on the edge for a photo op with monkeys jumping on them. Tourists panicking and <u>stepping backward</u> closer to the edge as their friends and family laugh hysterically and snap pics. OMG!

Anyway, didn’t hear any screams on my way down so I assume everyone survived. When I got back to the entrance I saw the same monkey from earlier trying to open his purloined bottle of water. He finally got the top off then turned the bottle upside-down, spilled all the water out and proceeded to eat the paper label. I don’t think we’ll have to worry about the Planet of the Apes anytime soon.

Had a great dinner on the beach that day as well. All these restaurants in Jimbaran set up tables on the beach-toes in the sand or in the waves if you catch the incoming tide. They have aquariums of live fish, you pick the one you want and they grill it up for you. Even though I felt bad about sentencing a fish to death, I was really hungry and he was incredibly delicious, one of the best pieces of fish I’ve ever had, as a matter of fact.

The next town I stayed in was Ubud, an inland artsy city. It would have been a great town, but I hated my hotel (fleas, ants, smelly pillows). Every time I tried to check out the staff was incredibly apologetic. They were beyond devastated I wasn’t happy, so I just changed rooms and stayed. I didn’t have the heart to leave. Also, I love to explore a town by walking, but that is almost impossible in Ubud, the sidewalks walks are uneven and are really just broken cement slabs over drainage ditches. Some slabs are completely missing, so you have to pay attention or you’ll fall in the ditch. Tourists have actually died by falling in, getting swept up in the current and drowning, or surviving the fall but dying from an infection they picked up in the water. One day the rain was really coming down and the sidewalks and streets were under a good 6&#8221; of water. I almost got knocked down by the current while crossing the street. Crazy!

There’s a big lake by the Mt. Batur volcano where I went to canoeing there. We had to put the canoes on our heads and walk down slippery steps along a mucky drainage ditch to put them in the water (why is this part never in the brochure?). The lake was supposedly formed when a Balinese god realized the people of Bali needed fresh water, so he dug out the lake and the resulting pile of dirt became the volcano. The Balinese are Hindu, but with different customs than Indian Hindus. They do not hold cows sacred (well only white ones) and, in fact, sacrifice them during important ceremonies. During the canoe trip we passed a beautiful temple hanging over the lake and could see the openings where the cows loaded with rocks were dumped into the water to drown them for the sacrifice. After the cow dies they haul it up and have a BBQ. In towns that don’t have a lake, they stake a cow or buffalo on a sandbar on the beach and wait for high tide to drown it.

The amount of time, effort and money that goes in to their religious practice is incredible. Every house and store has handmade bamboo trays filled with flowers, leaves and incense on the sidewalk in front of the door. This feeds the evil spirits so they don’t go inside and cause problems. Every house and hotel has at least one small temple or shrine that is filled with offerings every day (flowers, fruit, rice, incense&#8230;). Then there is the village temple and the various ceremonies that happen there. It was fairly common to see huge processions of people on the way to temple all dressed up, the women carrying fruit bowls piled high on their heads. I went to a ceremony at an Ubud temple one night-it was quite beautiful.

Most Balinese don’t seem to have a high opinion of their neighbors in Java. For example, the people who own the canoe company came home one day and couldn’t find their two puppies. Turns out the Javanese construction workers next door had made sat&eacute; out of them. When confronted, they said they were sorry. Sorry they hadn’t shared the puppy sat&eacute; that is, not sorry about eating them. Horrifying! Some Balinese in the northern part of the island do eat dog, but it’s not really that common because in their religion, dogs are reincarnated thieves and they don’t want to make a mistake of eating one of their former relatives.

I did a great bike ride one day, mostly downhill from the top of the volcano, but some off roading through the rice fields as well. There are few things in the world that are more beautiful than Asian rice fields- makes me want to rip out the grass on my front lawn and replace it with rice when I get home. Along the way we came across three naked brown 5 year olds playing, laughing and splashing in the irrigation ditches. Cutest thing ever. We also stopped at a coffee plantation and I had some Lewak coffee. The lewaks (ferrety opossum-like nocturnal creatures) eat the coffee beans, then poop them out. They are then washed, dried and roasted. It’s quite the delicacy and a pound of beans goes for $300. I also ate durian, a horribly smelly (rancid socks) fruit with a sweet taste but a nasty texture (wallpaper paste). I will not be eating it ever again.

I also did a white water rafting trip down the Ayong river -it was really pretty, with some good rapids, lush jungleand waterfalls along the way. Tons of fun even though the raft capsized. We all fell in and I had to save this one woman who couldn’t swim. We had life jackets on so she wasn’t in any real danger, but she was terrified. Now she is indebted to me and I have free place to stay whenever I go to Mumbai!

After Ubud I headed to the northern coast of the island, the Lovina district. The bus ride was mountainous and full of hairpin turns, probably my least favorite thing in the entire world to do, especially in a torrential tropical downpour and made worse by the road signs which were either big exclamation marks or pictures of skulls and cross bones. By the time we reached level ground, the front of my skirt was soaked where I had been wiping my sweating terrified palms.

I was so happy with my little Lovina hotel after the dump I had in Ubud-clean, shiny, modern, sparkling pool, comfy bed, nice pillows. Yay!!! However... New rule for Bali-always shake your towel out before using&#8230; because centipedes. Big ones. I felt something fall on my foot and tickle me and for the first time in my life I actually screamed the word &#8220;eeek&#8221;! I should have taken a photo but I was too busy smashing it into mush with a flip flop - one hundred creepy little legs flew everywhere.

I got up at 6am to catch a local boat to go out and see the dolphins. What a beautiful morning out on the Bali Sea. We only saw a few dolphins, but just to be out on the water at dawn was incredible. Seeing northern Bali from the boat, I could imagine it as it was in the late 1500’s when the Portuguese and Dutch explorers arrived-magically beautiful mountains, palm trees, and black sand beaches. Now, along with the hotels, there are still families that live just off the beach in wood and thatch shacks, and it’s common to see dogs, roosters and the occasional pig roaming the shore, and sadly, the ever present litter.

The next town I went to was Candidasa, which is known for its dive centers. It’s a small place and very quiet. I had some really great snorkel trips there -sometimes the fish surrounding me were so thick I could barely see. Stunning coral as well, so colorful and so many varieties. The tropical fish were amazing- I saw one that looked like he had just swum out of a Mondrian painting. I was hoping to see some turtles as well, but no luck.

Spent my last couple of days at the beach on the west side of the island and took a surfing lesson. Way big fun! Also very tiring what with all the falling off, jumping the waves and paddling back out to sea. No wonder surfers are in such good shape. I got up a quite a few times and had a couple nice long rides to shore. I’ll definitely be doing that again sometime, although I just read that the best surfing place in Florida is also the shark bite capital of the world-yikes!

On that note, next stop &#8211;Cambodia, where I’ll be volunteering at Spitler School in Ang Chagn Village near Siem Reap. I’m actually looking forward to unpacking, settling in for a bit and doing something productive. The party’s over&#8230;for now. Bye Bali, you crazy island! <hr width="33%" size="1" align="left" class="msocomoff">

Boat on Sanur Beach

Boat on Sanur Beach


Taneh Lot

Taneh Lot


Thirsty monkey

Thirsty monkey


Bringing home the seaweed from seaweed farm

Bringing home the seaweed from seaweed farm


Family going to a temple ceremony

Family going to a temple ceremony


Dragon offering

Dragon offering


Kecak dancers

Kecak dancers


Legong dancer

Legong dancer


Ubud temple

Ubud temple


Lake Batur &#38;amp; Mt. Batur

Lake Batur &#38;amp; Mt. Batur


Canoeing

Canoeing


Geese in a fallow rice field

Geese in a fallow rice field


Terraced rice field

Terraced rice field


Fisherman &#38;amp; helper on Lake Batur

Fisherman &#38;amp; helper on Lake Batur


Resident at Monkey Forest

Resident at Monkey Forest


Lewak eating a mango

Lewak eating a mango


Rice field

Rice field


Early morning dolphins

Early morning dolphins


Lovina sweeties

Lovina sweeties


Git git waterfall

Git git waterfall


Ulun Danu

Ulun Danu


Buddhist temple

Buddhist temple


House on Lovina Beach

House on Lovina Beach


Wedding photos at temple near Sengigi

Wedding photos at temple near Sengigi


North Bali rice fields

North Bali rice fields


Water Temple

Water Temple


Statue at the Water Temple

Statue at the Water Temple


Lotus pond

Lotus pond


Temple gate

Temple gate


Candidada dusk

Candidada dusk


Mt Agung

Mt Agung


Sailboat

Sailboat


Water at the Blue Lagoon

Water at the Blue Lagoon


Bat Cave temple

Bat Cave temple


Rafting trip

Rafting trip


Waterfall along Ayong river

Waterfall along Ayong river


School girls in Ubud

School girls in Ubud


Seminyak sunset

Seminyak sunset


Seminyak sunset

Seminyak sunset


Seminyak sunset

Seminyak sunset


My surfing beach

My surfing beach


Typical Balinese gas station

Typical Balinese gas station

Posted by travelinglisa 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Northern Thailand

I was supposed to take a nice sleeper train to Chiang Mai, but they are fixing the tracks along the way so I'd have to transfer to a bus halfway there at 4am. The train station people were not helpful about the transfer part, so I decided to take a bus the whole way (9 hours). I’m sure I got ripped off on the $38 fare, but I didn’t feel like dealing with 2 hours of research on line to save $15. I was more than making up for it on free drinks at the Hilton anyway, so no biggie. Along the way, the bus stopped at 2 mechanics to change a tire and again several other times for reasons that will forever remain a mystery, so the 9 hours stretched to 11. Eleven long bumpy hours smashed next to one of the smelliest human beings I have ever come across- a member of the great unwashed backpacker tribe. I will never forget that smell. One of the things I struggle with on these bus trips in lands where I don’t speak the language, is knowing when I’ve arrived at my destination as there are hardly ever any signs. So this time when the bus stopped, the driver made an announcement in what I’m sure he thought was English, saying what could have been anything from pork chop to jump shot. I interpreted it as rest stop, so I got off the bus and found all the luggage from the hold sitting on the sidewalk. I asked, is this Chiang Mai?, only to be met with the blank blurry stares of my equally sleepy and confused bus mates. That’s when the barrage of songtheaws, taxi and tuk tuk drivers attacked. I figured (hoped) I must be in Chiang Mai so I jumped in songthaew (red trucks with bench seats along the back and a cover over the top) with some girls from Indonesia I met earlier and tried to tell the driver the name of my hotel, mangling the pronunciation so badly even I didn’t understand what I was saying. He kept saying, yes, yes and we drove off. We were going somewhere in some city, but where? After a few minutes we miraculously arrived at the right guest house, so that was nice. That is until the front desk lady told me they had no rooms. Hotel all full, she says. Me: "So you took the reservation, but couldn’t keep the reservation?,"etc . I totally cracked myself up, but apparently she wasn’t much of a Seinfeld fan. Anyway, she ended up driving me to another hotel which was nice despite the shocking pink and neon green d&eacute;cor complemented by electric blue lighting, but a little further out of town. I took a shower, then a nap and set out to explore.

Chiang Mai was so chill after Bangkok. The main part of town is within an ancient walled square surrounded by a moat- about 2 kms across, so nice and walkable (if you disregard the condition of the &#8220;sidewalks&#8221; of course). I can hear the neighbor’s roosters crowing pretty much all day, it seems the poor thing cannot tell time correctly. I passed a vacant lot where I saw a guy walking with his dogs and a couple of them were pretty big. I was wondering what kind of dogs they were, and I as I got closer I realized they were actually goats. Sooo cute. The outskirts of town have another 2kms of markets, restaurants etc, but still very manageable. There is way less commerce here than in Bangkok and the food carts are more clustered in specific areas than along each street. I still cannot get over how cheap the food is. I eat so great for less than $10 day and that includes beer. Since I was here for 2 weeks, I finally got to take some yoga and pilates classes, so that was really nice.

It rained pretty much the whole time I was there, which wasn’t so great. It’s so funny though, in my previous life if it rained I’d mostly stay inside or run from the car to my destination to avoid getting wet. Here, I just get my raincoat (thanks Deb!) and umbrella, try to avoid the deepest puddles and go exploring regardless. My biggest worry is getting electrocuted. There are wires in huge tangled masses on every electric pole and quite frequently you find pieces just dangling and laying on the ground.

I went to a performance of a local theater group one night. They were doing &#8220;The Laramie Project&#8221;, a play based on interviews of townspeople after the Matthew Sheppard murder (the gay kid who was tied to a fence and beaten to death in the 90’s). The audience was quite international so I had to explain where Wyoming was to some people. Some of the actors weren’t the best, but the play itself was great. If it ever comes around, go see it.

Some things are very scary to do in foreign country but sometimes you have to gather your courage and do what has to be done. So while in Chiang Mai I got &#8230;.a haircut. Long curly hair, 90&deg; weather with 95% humidity don’t mix well. So, on the one hand, I only spent $12 (and I went to a really nice spa salon). On the other hand, well let’s just say it’s a good thing I have a hat.

One my favorite things here is Sunday Walking Street. Around 5 pm every Sunday, two main streets are closed to traffic and hundreds of vendors set up stalls there and on the square outside one of the town gates. Even though I had no room in my suitcase for souvenirs, I ended up buying a cute t shirt and a really cool watch. But the best part of the street market was, you guessed it- the food! Many of the food vendors are set up on the grounds of temples. One night I gave myself a budget of 100 baht ($3.29) and ate a veggie samosa, a huge spring roll, spicy noodle salad, a mango smoothie and fish nuggets and still had 10 baht left over.

Chiang Mai is known for its temples and there are tons of them, all really pretty. There are lots of massage places as well so I treated myself to a Thai massage for $7. It's a whole body experience- for me and for the masseuse as well. She used her hands, feet, elbows, knees, forearms, sat on me, maybe even stood on me, I wasn’t quite sure. Plus she kept giving me instructions in Thai which I didn’t understand, so I just guessed at what she wanted me to do, we were both cracking up. I’m sure it was very therapeutic, but it wasn’t very relaxing.

I took a day trip to the countryside to see some of the scenery, check out a cave and visit some hill tribes. The village was more touristy than I would have liked, but interesting to see the traditional costumes, especially those of the Karen Long Neck tribe. The band around their neck is made one long tube of brass- they have 2 in their life, one when they are girls and one when they are grown. Their necks aren’t really longer than other people, but the rings push their shoulders down, so it just makes the neck look longer.

Supposedly, the current king’s mother instituted a program many years ago to get the hill tribes to stop growing opium and switch to other crops (coffee, veg&#8230;) subsidized by the government. Now it seems the majority of Asian opium comes from Myanmar, very little any more from Thailand. As part of the same initiative she promoted the replanting of the mountains that had been left bare due to over foresting of teak trees. This seems to have worked really well as the forests are dense with teak, bamboo, etc. again.

My Thai adventure ended with a few days in the very northern part of the country- Chiang Rai. I stayed at a beautiful guest house outside of town. It was across the street from some rice fields, and across the rice field was a huge monastery. I could hear the monks chanting for an hour in the evening - that was pretty cool. I met up with a nice German couple there and we hired a driver to take us to the Golden Triangle, where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet at the Mekong. We stopped at several places (the fascinating opium museum, the Queen Mother’s house and gardens, temples, etc.), but my favorite was Mai Sai, on the river across from Laos. There was a Chinese barge loading up on late model SUVs to import to China from Thailand. Watching these guys get the cars down a steep bank and onto the boat was just fascinating. OSHA would not have approved.

Another day we hired a boat to take us down the Mae Kok, which was just beautiful. We stopped and rode some elephants, did some hiking to visit a Lahu tribe village, disrupting the kindergarten class in the process, and checked out the hot springs. I could have floated down that river for days, it was that pretty. I'll probably take a multiday slow boat trip at some point, maybe in Laos.

The main reason I went up to Chiang Rai was to see the White Temple, and was it ever gorgeous. The outside really sparkles and the murals inside are totally surreal- featuring Buddha along with Michael Jackson, Elvis and Bin Laden and more. The artist who created it is still building, so the complex will be huge when it’s done. I also visited the Black House, created by a student of the White Temple artist, and it was amazing as well. There were several buildings furnished with huge chairs made of cow/goat skulls and tables with femur legs. There were also some horses grazing on the property and I think I have a pretty good idea of what will eventually become of them.

At Chiang Rai’s Saturday walking market, this woman was making these beautiful bite sized origami like packets out of, I think, pepper leaves. They were filled with coconut, peanuts, chile sauce and I don’t know what else, but they were delish! I also had a green bean cake, which was sweet and tasty. So many beautiful things to buy (handicrafts, art, clothes, jewelry, $20 iPhone 5’s&#8230;) I restrained myself but I may go back to Thailand, pick up an extra suitcase and fill it up with goodies. Plus I never got to see the southern part of the country&#8230;. but for now I’m off to Bali.

One of the many beautiful CM temples

One of the many beautiful CM temples


CM moat and city wall

CM moat and city wall


Another temple

Another temple


Monks on their tablet

Monks on their tablet


Sign at temple

Sign at temple


Long neck Karen lady

Long neck Karen lady


Selling bracelets on a village lane

Selling bracelets on a village lane


Cutie at a local market

Cutie at a local market


Local wildlife

Local wildlife


At Doi Suthep temple CM

At Doi Suthep temple CM


Dragons at Doi Suthep

Dragons at Doi Suthep


Me at the White Temple

Me at the White Temple


White temple guard

White temple guard


Mae Kok Chiang Rai

Mae Kok Chiang Rai


Fisherfolk

Fisherfolk


Along the river

Along the river


Elephant ride

Elephant ride


Lahu Village

Lahu Village


Lahu village kindergarten

Lahu village kindergarten


At wooden bridge. Beware!

At wooden bridge. Beware!


Danger, schmanger!

Danger, schmanger!


Bye boat, thanks for a great day on the river

Bye boat, thanks for a great day on the river


Buddha

Buddha


The Black House

The Black House


Black House furnishings

Black House furnishings


Myanmar behind the scary fence

Myanmar behind the scary fence


The Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle


Twilight over Laos

Twilight over Laos


Loading the cars

Loading the cars


Thought I was just buying spicy chips

Thought I was just buying spicy chips


Pretty packets of pure yum!

Pretty packets of pure yum!

Posted by travelinglisa 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Bangkok!

Bangkok! If I could use just one word to describe this town, it would be VIBRANT, but each letter would be in huge gold dirtyshiny letters. I just loved it. Spent my first jet lagged day exploring the neighborhood around my hotel. It's impossible to explain the amount of commerce in this city. Every street is lined with tons of stores/tailors/restaurants/massage places, etc., in front of all of those are stalls selling everything: t shirts, Viagra, art, sox&#8230; and in front of those are food carts peddling a million varieties of Thai delicacies. Not to mention the guys walking around selling armloads full of Rolexes. Then as the final layer of the commerce cake, never more than a mile away are HUGE indoor shopping malls (sometime 3 or 4 malls linked together). There is enough merchandise in that city that if everyone in the world spent $100 in one day, there would hardly be a dent in the inventory.

Everything is so cheap. I bought $30 worth of stuff at the drugstore for less than $10. A large bottle of Singha in a restaurant is less than $2 and a long cab ride is $6 including tip (which I’m not sure is customary, but really, how can I not?), a 2 stop metro ride is 20 cents. And yes, I have already ridden the metro all by myself, to the IT mall no less. I had been having problems with my total piece of crap Acer Microsoft tablet for the last 2 months and I finally reached my limit with it's nonsense. When I Skyped customer service, they told me to mail it back to them and they’d see what they could do (my Indian tech and I were not friends after that call). Since sending it back is not really an option, I tracked down an Acer service center in Bangkok to see if they could fix it while I waited. That mall was <u>huge,</u> it took me an hour to find the service shop and they told me they’d have to replace the battery and the motherboard and all my data and my windows program would be lost and it would take a week. Problem is my recovery disc is in FL and even if I had it, I have no laptop to put the disc in and even if I did the chances of me knowing how to do it are like negative eight thousand. I left there almost in tears, still having no idea what I was going to do. Soldiering on, my next stop in this mall was to fix my piece of crap blackberry and get a thai sim card. I was cracking myself up as I stopped at one phone store after another trying to explain my problem (phone shuts down even when fully charged and I need a sim that gets email) to non english speaking Thais (listen, I can’t explain tech stuff to English speaking people in the US so I don’t know what I was thinking). Finally I just chilled out with a caramel frappucino, then sufficiently jacked up on sugar and caffeine, braved the 3<sup>rd</sup> floor of the mall again, bought a new battery, found a lovely young lady who, 3 sim cards later, was able to get my phone, internet and one of my email accounts working on my bberry. How much do I miss my iphone? Let me count the ways&#8230;&#8230;

My friend Cindy put me in touch with a friend of hers from Key West that had been living here for a couple of years, so we hung out quite a bit. He was an awesome tour guide and also gave me the lowdown on the seamier side of the city. Extremely interesting, but if you want to know more, you’ll have to email me since I don’t want to offend anyone reading this.

I took a cooking class run by a non profit organization that works with families in a poor Bangkok neighborhood. We started with a trip to the local wet market-so interesting. Luckily I didn't witness any animals being slaughtered, but we saw tubs of live eels, insects, frogs, fish, vegetables, herbs and fruit galore. The first course of the class was worms and crickets. The instructor, Poo, said "don't think, just eat!". Well, I must have overthought because I could barely wait to wash the worm bits out of my teeth with a huge gulp of water. Everyone in the class said, "oh, the cricket is much better! You must try it". They lied. Oh yes they did. The food got much better from there- we learned to make one of my favorites- stir fried morning glory- spicy shrimp salad and veg curry.

I had one of the best meals of my life in a sidewalk caf&eacute; called T&K Seafood in Chinatown. My new favorite food is officially tom yum khoon-spicy seafood soup-just phenomenal. The stuffed crabs, oyster omlette, cucumber salad and shrimp fried rice were also delish, all washed down with a nice cold Chang beer. The one thing I had a hard time with in Chinatown were all the restaurants that specialized in shark fin soup. They catch the shark, cut off its fin and throw the poor thing back in the water. It can’t swim without its dorsal fin, so it can’t breathe- it just thrashes around for a while until it sinks to the bottom and suffocates. What I don’t get is why they don’t use the whole fish-shark meat is quite tasty.

Food here is served with a fork and spoon, no knife. You use the fork to push the food on the spoon and eat it from there. And talk about spicy! I love spicy food, but there’s no way I can eat it as hot as the Thais. What would be 5* in the US is 1* here. The unfortunate thing is that the napkins (and you usually get just one) are as small and thin as 2 squares of 1 ply toilet tissue, so between using it for my mouth and my runny nose due to spice and wiping the sweat of my face due to the heat, one piece lasts about 30 seconds. I always have to ask for more; they must think I’m an extremely sloppy eater.<u></u>

I wasn’t sure how long my computer would take to fix, so I decided to stay in Bangkok 4 extra days. I hadn’t really seen any of the tourist sights so it all worked out, especially since I cashed in Hilton and hotel.com rewards for a practically free stay in a different part of town overlooking the river. That was cool, because I just took a boat almost everywhere. Plus I got upgraded to the swanky Executive level which meant free breakfast and free drinks and hors d’oeuvres at happy hour (for me, that really boils down to a free dinner). They do have a dress code at night which tripped me up a bit. Flip flops are not allowed and since that is essentially the only kind of footwear I brought, I had to do a bit of finagling to convince them that they were actually flat sandals, not flip flops. Even so, I had to pass inspection by the shoe police every time I went in there, but it was so worth it.

The main tourist attraction in Bangkok is the Royal Palace and the Emerald Buddha. The whole compound was beautiful, sparkly and exotic, but it was hot as hell. This is definitely a 2 shower a day country. Anyway, the Emerald Buddha wears clothes made of gold. He has 3 outfits changed seasonally (hot, rainy, cool) by the King himself.

One of the temples I went to (Wat Yannawa) is shaped like a Chinese junk in honor of many of the Chinese immigrants here. They were getting ready for a celebration (I think as part of the vegetarian week festival) and there were some drummers and people inside a lion costume dancing up to the different parts of the temple-very cool.

I also went to the Jim Thompson house, a beautiful compound of traditional Thai teakwood homes housing an art collection. Thompson was an American who lived in Bangkok in the 50s and 60s and was known for reviving and growing the traditional Thai silk industry. He disappeared under mysterious circumstances in Malaysia and the case has never been solved. There were some really beautiful things in the gift shop, but since I have no room for souvenirs, I had to pass them up.

I stopped on the street for lunch on the way back- vegetables and delicious wide noodles cooked right in front of me. I am in serious danger of gaining major weight here. You can’t go 5 steps without running into a food cart. Luckily half of them are meat related so I can skip those, but the noodles, deserts, fruit, stir fries, curries, seafood, veggies &#8230; are hard to resist. Not only because they’re so good, but also because they are so cheap! My lovely noodly lunch set me back a mere 40 baht (about buck fitty in the US). If that isn’t a license to eat 2 lunches, I don’t know what is! One thing that’s in my favor is that the mass transit system is really good, so I use it a lot. The stations are massive (literally blocks long) so I burn lots of calories just getting in and out of there.

One night I went to see the infamous backpacker district of Khao San road. I had expected the place to be full of drunk young tourists, but it was actually kind of calm. There was a street stall selling very realistic looking college diplomas, TEFL certificates, etc., so I reached into my purse to take a photo and&#8230;no camera. Drat, @#$$#! I had just bought the thing in Morocco after dropping and breaking my old one. Earlier that day I had been in a Starbucks at Siam Center (one of the mega mall complexes) and I thought I may have left it there. So the next morning I got on the skytrain to go back there on the slim to nothing chance that someone found and turned it in. I went up to the counter and told them I had lost my camera and they asked me what color it was. Pink, I say and handed them the note that I had the hotel concierge write in Thai asking if anyone had found a pink camera. They reached down behind the counter and handed me my camera!! I was sooooooo happy!!! I was jumping up and down and saying thank you in my terrible Thai and smiling the biggest smile. The whole store started laughing and clapping and we all wai’d each other (bowed heads with hands in prayer position) for like 5 minutes. It was so awesome!! I immediately wrote a letter to the Thai Starbucks headquarters letting them know what a wonderful and honest staff they had. What a great morning!!!! I have never considered myself a very lucky person. In fact, just the opposite-if there are two paths in the road I often seem to choose the rockiest. I’m almost afraid to put this in writing, but I have really had good fortune l this trip. Everything has been working out so beautifully I can’t quite believe it. So lucky.

My first Street food vendor

My first Street food vendor


Bird&#38;#39;s nest soup stand

Bird&#38;#39;s nest soup stand


Frogs 4 ways at the wet market

Frogs 4 ways at the wet market


Morning glories with egg...

Morning glories with egg...


At the infamous Soi Cowboy

At the infamous Soi Cowboy


At the cookng class

At the cookng class


First course-insects

First course-insects


Chinatown

Chinatown


Poor sharks <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_sad.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':(' title='' />

Poor sharks :(


On the River

On the River


The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace


Temple at Royal Palace

Temple at Royal Palace


Guard at Royal Palace

Guard at Royal Palace


Another guard at the palace

Another guard at the palace


Sesame donuts

Sesame donuts


Fruit is art

Fruit is art


Restroom signs at Siam Mall

Restroom signs at Siam Mall


A break by the pool at my fancy digs

A break by the pool at my fancy digs


Wat Arun

Wat Arun


Longtailed boats at the dock

Longtailed boats at the dock

Posted by travelinglisa 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Croatia

You know you've become a seasoned traveler when, after an 18 hour travel day you arrive near midnight in a strange new country, find the ride you arranged didn’t show and your heartbeat doesn’t rise even one beat. In the beginning of this trip that would have put me into a mild panic, but no more. I just calmly borrowed someone’s cell, called my host and reminded them I was waiting at the airport. 15 minutes later, a tall gorgeous guy is there to pick me up and take me to my apartment. All good! Since I felt like I had been traveling at a breakneck speed for the past few months, I planned to take it easy in Zadar, which is in the northern part Croatia. I only came to this town because I got a cheap flight from Marrakech, it’s not really a major city and doesn’t get a lot of play in the tour books, but I ended up just loving it. First, my apartment was immaculate and a half block from the Adriatic Sea -I saw gorgeous sunsets from my patio. Alfred Hitchcock stayed in Zadar and said they were the most beautiful sunsets in the world-even better than Key West. Second, it was a lovely 20 minute coastal walk to town, 2 minutes from a small grocery store and 10 minutes to the bus station. Third, the city is clean and has real infrastructure, such a welcome change from Morocco. Fourth, lots of people speak English here, way more than France or Spain. I found out that it’s because Croatian TV subtitles American shows rather than dubbing them as they do in other countries. So that meant for the first time in 3 months I watched TV- granted it was only the Dr Oz show, but it was in English! Hmm, I may be getting a bit homesick if I was happy to watch that lame show for a half hour!

One of the highlights of this adventure was a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park- I had seen pictures of it years ago, and I knew, as Liz Lemon would say, "I want to go to there!" And it was phenomenal-terraced lakes and waterfalls, deep forest with leaves just starting to turn color, a sunny 73 degree day. Perfect. The only down side were the wooden walkways between the lakes. They were very useful, but the steps were completely camouflaged by the wood slats so I tripped and fell almost fell off a couple of times- luckily I was saved by my swift cat like reflexes! The waterfalls are called &#8220;slaps&#8221;, so of course I had to take an extra side trail to &#8220;big slap&#8221; and then I just had to climb the 301 stone stairs (see previous blog on my obsessive compulsion to climb to the top of everything in my path) to see the scenic overlook. It was well worth the hike as I could get a better perspective on the terraces from up there. The most beautiful waterfall in the park was Mali Prstavac. In fact it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen in my life. I stayed there so long I thought might miss the bus back. Add this place to your bucket list at once, it’s really amazing

The next day I took a boat to the semi deserted Kornati Islands. The 3 hour boat ride was nice, and the scenery reminded me a bit of Greece- blue skies, blue sea dotted with islands. The trip included lunch, which they told me was meat or fish, but when they put a whole fish AND a giant slab of meat in front of me, I was a bit taken aback. I wish I could have shipped the meat over to some of the starving kittens I met in Marrakech instead of letting it go to waste. The main attraction on the island was a salt lake in the middle, which was &#8220;so warm to swim in&#8221;. When am I going to stop falling for that line? The water was freezing!! So I spent the day lying on in the sun on a nice flat rock, reading, napping and watching the fish swim by - no loss there. We had to be back at the boat at 3:50 for a prompt 4 pm departure. I checked my blackberry when I saw some of my fellow passengers walk by, but it was only 3:20, so I went back to my book. The next time I looked, it was 3:41 and I knew it was about a 10 minute walk back to the boat, so I got my stuff together and stated heading back. That’s when I noticed I was now the only person at the lake, so I started walking a bit faster hoping the time on the blackberry was correct and I still had a few minutes. When I got to top of the hill overlooking the harbor, there was not a boat in sight. Remember what I said earlier about being a seasoned traveler and not panicking? I lied. My heart was racing and I was saying lots of very bad words. That was the only boat to the mainland until the next afternoon and I didn’t even know if there was a hotel on this tiny island. Then I ran across some other people and they told me my boat had moved to the other end of the harbor. I looked again and could see it about a half mile away. Now, in all fairness, the crew may have made an announcement about the different departure dock before we disembarked, but I was in the back of the boat and couldn’t really hear over the engine noise. So now I’m hauling ass along the harbor, hoping against hope the thing doesn’t leave without me. I felt like I was back in the train station in Spain, lungs bursting, adrenaline pumping, sweating, running&#8230;.then finally falling into the boat gasping like a dying fish with 30 whole seconds to spare before we took off. Whoo hooo! Disaster averted yet again!

The next day, I had to take say goodbye to Zadar and took a beautiful 3 hour bus ride along the coast to Split, sparking blue coves with white houses, beaches and boats- just lovely. I was less than impressed by Split at first, the harbor where the bus station was busy and very commercial. I had directions to walk to my apartment, but couldn’t get a straight answer when I asked people for help to orient myself and there were no street signs, so I just took a cab. I stayed a basement apartment 10 minutes from the old town, it was small but nice, but of course the advertised Wi-Fi didn’t exist as usual. But when I mentioned it to the owner and he installed a new router, so for the first time in almost 4 months, I actually had a strong connection-hallelujah!

The first morning, while waiting in line to see about tickets to a performance at the Croatian National Theatre (unfortunately the season doesn’t start for 2 more weeks), I got adopted by an elderly gentleman who has 2 sons living in the US. My new friend took me to see the fish market and also to the start of my walking tour of Diocletian’s Palace. Built in 305 AD, it’s incredibly well preserved as it is has been in constant use since then -there are shops and restaurants there now. There are even apartments, some passed down from generation to generation since ancient times. Ironically, this isn’t even considered prime real estate but as undesirable old affordable housing. Bizarre! There are some parts of the palace (the king’s private chambers and the vomitorium, for example) that are in ruins and some additions that were made in the 1600’s when Split was ruled by the Venetians, but the whole complex is amazing. There’s an Egyptian Sphinx outside the mausoleum that is over 3000 years old-it sits right out in the rain and sun and you can touch it (yes I did), which seemed so weird - in the US it would be in a museum. Apparently there were a few more Sphinx lining the pathway to Diocletian’s mausoleum, but they were destroyed when the Christians came out of revenge. It seems that old Diocletian was one of the main leaders in persecuting and killing Christians.

I met up with a nice Canadian couple and we took another tour of the palace substructures, they were really big, eerie, ancient and imposing. My first thought was that they should film Game of Thrones here and sure enough, there was a GOT film crew blocking the Riva (waterfront promenade) two days later. Later that same day, I was walking down a side street and it was blocked off for filming. When they let me through I was right there with a bunch of guys dressed as slaves. So cool! I miss that show! Anyway, our substructure guide took us to see some other streets in the town and pointed out a 4000 year old Egyptian granite head mounted in an exterior wall of an old building. Just sitting there waiting there for anyone with a chisel to take for their very own. We also passed some private residences with actual Roman ruins scattered in the back garden or propped out front and used as a planter. What!? A person shouldn’t own that stuff! I guess there’s history here to spare. My first impression of Split was not that great, but I ended up liking it.

I found most of the Croatian people very nice. Anyone under 40 speaks English quite well, though they have a habit of saying &#8220;of course&#8221; when they mean &#8220;yes&#8221;, so in the beginning that seems a little abrupt, but now I’m used to it.

I also took some day trips to a couple of nearby islands, Hvar and Brac. I totally mismanaged my time in Hvar, the ferry landed near Stari Grad and I had to catch the bus to Hvar but I underestimated how often the buses ran, so didn’t have as much time in Hvar Town as I would have liked. This is place where all the rich and famous go and they had all of these lovely loungy beach bars and chairs situated on the rocks over the water that were calling my name, but since I had to catch the bus to get on the last ferry so had to pass. I made up for it the next day by ferrying to Brac and spending most of the day at the beach, something I had not done nearly enough of on this trip. The Adriatic is beautiful and is a close second to the Aegean in terms of clarity and bluity (if that’s not a word, it should be).

I could have spent a couple more days in Split, but I was off to Dubrovnik, which, as advertised was just gorgeous. The whole town is like one big historic monument, no cars, just churches, museums, restaurants, residences and shops, surrounded by awesome city walls and coastline. Even though it is truly a beautiful town, it is mostly a tourist attraction and, I thought, lacked real heart (as opposed to Split and Zadar which were real working cities where tourists just happened to come). The room I stayed in was perfectly located, just 10 steps from the main street in old town.

I happened to be in Dubrovnik during UNESCO Cultural Heritage week, so every night there was a performance in the main square. It was mostly Croatian music and dancing, but one night there was a Korean folk group as well. They were really sweet and I’m sure very talented, but to be honest, the music almost made my ears bleed. I won’t be buying their CD that’s for sure. On the other hand, Dalmatian Klapa music is wonderful- beautifully harmonized a cappella. I also went to see a classical guitar and piano concert by candlelight in a 16<sup>th</sup> century church- just lovely.

I took a day trip to Mostar in Bosnia which was well worth it. The famous bridge that the Croatians destroyed had been rebuilt and is really beautiful. I stumbled upon a cemetery where the date of death on all the gravestones was 1993-all due to the war. So sad. Most of the buildings in the town have been restored, but there were still several that are just bombed out shells. On the way back we stopped for a short time at Medjugorge. In the 1980’s six children claim they saw the Virgin Mary on a nearby hill. Because of that, this little town has become a major sight on the religious tourism circuit. (Did you even know there was such a thing as a religious tourism circuit, because I did not). Anyway, each day tons of tour buses (mostly Italian) bring people here to climb the hill (some on their knees on a pathway of sharp rocks), visit the church, touch the statue of Jesus that supposedly leaks water from his knees and buy souvenirs from the shops. I had never seen anything like it. It was like a holy Disney World.

I really loved Croatia and was sorry to leave (although my wallet was not-Dubrovnik was expensive!)

Next on the agenda-Bangkok!

Zadar Harbor

Zadar Harbor


Mali Prstavac at Plitvice

Mali Prstavac at Plitvice


Plitvice viewpoint

Plitvice viewpoint


More Plitvice

More Plitvice


Kornati islanbds

Kornati islanbds


Zadar view from the sea

Zadar view from the sea


Zadar sunset

Zadar sunset


Town gate, Split

Town gate, Split


The sphinx outside Diocletian&#38;#39;s mausoleum

The sphinx outside Diocletian&#38;#39;s mausoleum


Ancient Egyptian head

Ancient Egyptian head


Stari Grad, Hvar Island

Stari Grad, Hvar Island


Hvar Town harbor

Hvar Town harbor


At Kamerlengo fortress in Trogir, built 1400

At Kamerlengo fortress in Trogir, built 1400


Soccer practice Trogir

Soccer practice Trogir


Church of St. Martin, Split

Church of St. Martin, Split


Look for these guys on Game of Thrones!

Look for these guys on Game of Thrones!


Chillin&#38;#39; at Brac beach

Chillin&#38;#39; at Brac beach


Bridge at Mostar, Bosnia

Bridge at Mostar, Bosnia


From War Photography Museum

From War Photography Museum


Mostar cemetery

Mostar cemetery


Bosnia, semi abandoned Turkish style city

Bosnia, semi abandoned Turkish style city


On the Dubrovnik wall

On the Dubrovnik wall


Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik


Klapa singers outside St. Blaise church

Klapa singers outside St. Blaise church


Adriatic

Adriatic

Posted by travelinglisa 17:00 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Morocco

Got on a bus at 3:30 am to the Barcelona airport to catch my flight to Casablanca. No matter how many times I double check everything, in the back of my mind I'm always thinking-is this the right bus, right terminal, right ticket for the right day, where’s my passport?&#8230; but so far, so good. There’s a lot of planning involved and sometimes it’s bit of a pain, especially with such limited internet and no phone. The Morocco leg was a small group tour, so a lot of the logistics were taken care of by someone else, which was a nice break for me.

Flying into the country was really beautiful, green rectangular farm plots with red brick walled farmhouses- surrounded by barren ochre land, all covered by a thin layer of milky morning fog. On the ground though, Casablanca is not particularly pretty. Walking around the streets alone was a bit unnerving, there were hardly any women, and none with uncovered heads. I was going to stop for a coffee at a sidewalk caf&eacute;, then noticed that all the tables were occupied by men, so decided to pass. I later asked my guide about it and he said in some caf&eacute;s there is a separate area inside for women, but that if I had sat down with the men it wouldn’t have been a huge deal, just a bit culturally inappropriate. Morocco is a tolerant country and practices Muslim traditions, but is accepting of other religions and western customs. A big date night out here is to go to MacDonald’s. There are liquor stores, but they wrap the purchases up in newspaper to disguise the contents. While the hotels have bars for the tourists, most local restaurants don’t serve liquor, beer or wine. We did pass a couple of bars for locals- men only of course. They are private clubs with bars in the blacked out, barred windows, the doors are always locked and the bartenders are women, which is, I guess, a bit scandalous.

Less than a quarter of the men dress in the djellaba, (a loose long garment)) but about three quarters of the women covered their heads and/or wear the djellaba gown. Only saw a very few in the full veiled burqua though. While Morocco passed a law a few years ago granting a lot of rights to women, men are still allowed extra wives, but the first wife has to approve, then the husband has to document that he can afford it. The same law gave women the right to divorce her husband and protections against physical abuse.

I traveled with 11 Australians and 2 Americans, all very nice and friendly, though the American lady was a bit brash (why is it always the American!?) In Casablanca, we visited one of the largest mosques in the world, then headed to Rabat where I dropped my camera and broke it. So while the rest of the group was visiting one of the King’s 47 palaces, I went to the local marketplace with our guide to buy a new camera. Walking around there was amazing, loud, vibrant, messy, and completely fascinating. We’d been told that eating the street food is pretty dangerous so we stuck to places recommended by the guide and for the most part were not disappointed-veggie tagines, couscous, different salads and amazing fresh fruit including figs we picked right off the trees.

The medina in Fez was the most incredible place, really narrow streets, quite claustrophobic, no cars, only donkeys packed with goods- the donkey’s man would shout "balak, balak!"or &#8220;attencione!&#8221; and you had to jump out of the way to avoid getting trampled. The food sections were the best -spices, hanging meat, live chickens, cookies with bees all over them, herbs, fruit and veggies galore. Tons of hungry cats and tiny little kittens running all around, I wanted to take them all home with me. The residential dwellings are mixed in with everything else, and people who lived there bring their raw dough to the communal bakers scattered around the area, cave- like giant pizza ovens. There are over 9000 streets in about a one square mile area and it would have taken me half a lifetime to find my way out again if I hadn’t had a guide. This was easily one of the most exotic places I’ve ever been, I loved every crazy second.

Of course we visited the obligatory carpet market where the guy pulled down almost every carpet in the shop to show us- a riot of color and pattern. I was happy that one of our group bought a carpet, I would have hated for them to go through all that for nothing. We also went to the famous tanneries, luckily later in the day, so it wasn’t quite so smelly (pigeon poop is used in one of the early stages of the process). The goods made out of camel hide were incredibly light and flexible and were I in the habit of using dead animals to carry my stuff, I would have totally bought a camel bag.

We traveled to several small towns on our way to the desert, stopping at fascinating local markets along the way. I got a nice offer from a farmer near Midelt to go back home with him, but I declined. When we were near the Algerian border we got saddled up our camels and headed out into the Sahara. It was every bit as beautiful as I had imagined, red sand dunes, a few scattered palm trees and a whole lot of empty space. The camel ride through a small sandstorm was not the most comfortable, so I was happy to arrive the camp, which was really nice, big nomad style tents in a circle with carpets in the center covering the sand. We ate tagine, drank some wine, listened to live music and slept outside under the stars. Awesome!! Plus one of the nomad cooks was devastatingly handsome, except for his teeth. In fact there were some good looking guys in Morocco, but since everyone constantly drinks mint tea with 6 teaspoons of sugar, they all have really bad teeth. Really makes you appreciate good dental hygiene!

Leaving the Sahara we passed so much gorgeous landscape, especially the date palms oases and mud brick houses set against the red mountains. Did some great hikes &#8211; through the Todra Gorge, amid farms, along rivers and stopping to drink sweet mint tea with some Berber families. Unfortunately people do not want to have their picture taken, which was a shame because there were some great photo ops everywhere.

Marrakech was pretty crazy as well. In the daytime the main square is pretty empty, just a few snake charmers (pretty cool!) and guys with monkeys and some ladies doing henna tattoos. But at night the place is packed full of musicians, belly dancers, acrobats, food carts, fortune tellers and people galore. Quite the spectacle. We spent a lot of time poking around the souks (shops) in the medina. I had heard the vendors were really aggressive, to the point of being kind of scary, but I didn’t think they were bad at all. Of course you have to bargain for everything, which I don’t really care for. In fact prices in Morocco for everything seemed to be flexible, they just charge whatever they think they can get away with. A taxi to the hotel in Marrakech from the medina started at 100 dirhams, but you could actually get one for 20 if you were persistent. I bought a beer at my hotel in Fez one night for 25 dirham, the next night they wanted to charge me 30. It’s not a lot of money, but it makes any purchase a bit of a hassle in my opinion.

I had to experience a traditional hammam while I was there- the required weekly bathing for Muslims. I was ready for a good bath as the showers we had been encountering along our way were sadly lacking in hot water and sometimes the water itself was just a trickle. The lady who did my hammam spoke no English and my French vocabulary was too limited to be useful, so there was a lot of sign language going on, but it all worked out. First I stripped to my underwear and laid on a table where I got hosed down. Next she lathered me up with black argan soap and left me there to soak it up for about 5 minutes. Then she came back with an abrasive scrubbing mitt and exfoliated me almost to the point of drawing blood. Ouch! Then she washed and conditioned my hair, hosed me down again and sent me to a shower. After that, she wrapped me in a fluffy bathrobe, arranged pillows on a couch where I relaxed (and checked myself for abrasions) for 20 minutes. It was an interesting experience- I felt super clean and soft afterwards, but it’s a good thing I’m not Muslim because I don’t think I could face that scrub every week. You can set yourself up for your own do it yourself hammam with a quick trip to Home Depot. All you need is a hose, extra coarse sandpaper and some soap and you’re all set. Scrub until you’ve lost at least 3 layers of skin. Enjoy!

One of my favorite cities was Essaouria, a really laid back artsy beach town. They have the best working harbor I have ever been to, with all the fisherman sitting on the docks with their fresh catches of eel, sea bass, skate, sardines, monkfish, etc. We saw a guy walking out of the harbor holding a 4 foot shark by the gills, its blood dripping along the street as he walked.

On our last afternoon some of us had tea at La Mamounia Hotel, a very exclusive place owned by the King. The Sex and the City cast stayed here when they were filming the movie. It’s right near the medina in Marrakech, but surrounded by walls so you feel like you’ve entered another world- quiet, clean, green, and peaceful. If you’re not staying there, you can only go in between 3 and 5 and we had to pass a dress code-I was kind of worried because the only shoes I have are flip flops, but I wore my most sparkly pair and made the cut. If you’re going to Marrakech, you should definitely stay there- only $500 a night.

Morocco was very interesting, and while some part were really beautiful, others were really dirty. The people aren’t especially friendly and it was a definitely a male dominated society. I’m glad I went, but after 2 and half weeks I was ready to move on.

Next port of call -Croatia!

Casablanca countryside

Casablanca countryside


Hassan lll mosque, Casablanca

Hassan lll mosque, Casablanca


An assortment of guards-Kings&#38;#39;s Palace -Rabat

An assortment of guards-Kings&#38;#39;s Palace -Rabat


Fez kitties

Fez kitties


Outside one of the King&#38;#39;s 47 Palaces

Outside one of the King&#38;#39;s 47 Palaces


Bees and cookies- a delicious combination

Bees and cookies- a delicious combination


Fez tanneries

Fez tanneries


Moroccan salads

Moroccan salads


Fez donkey

Fez donkey


Camel chops anyone?

Camel chops anyone?


At the rug store

At the rug store


Mint tea-sweet and good

Mint tea-sweet and good


Chameleons at Fez market

Chameleons at Fez market


Tagine spices

Tagine spices


Yellow melons-yum!

Yellow melons-yum!


Farm ladies selling honey on the street

Farm ladies selling honey on the street


Barbary  apes on the side of the road

Barbary apes on the side of the road


Typical scenery

Typical scenery


Butchery at a local market

Butchery at a local market


Date palm oasis

Date palm oasis


Ready for my camel trek!

Ready for my camel trek!


En route to our camp

En route to our camp


My Berber nomad tent

My Berber nomad tent


Sahara sunrise

Sahara sunrise


Headed home

Headed home


Small farm

Small farm


Kasbah

Kasbah


Ourzarzarte

Ourzarzarte


Marrakesh medina

Marrakesh medina


Cobra at the medina

Cobra at the medina


Goats in trees

Goats in trees


Essouaria port

Essouaria port

Posted by travelinglisa 17:00 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

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