Tag Archives: foodie

Border crossings, travel hiccups,…and finally, Jordan!

I finally arrived in Tel Aviv, having flown the last leg of my journey from Instanbul with an abnormally high number of children aboard – I was soon to learn this is the norm around here.  Families have a HUGE number of children and traveling with all 5-8 children is certainly way more common than in the US.  Ben Gurion airport is beautiful and security was a breeze, despite my apprehensions from all the warnings I had been given about it.   Basically I just got interrogated with a few specific questions through some thick glass – I had to keep asking the guard to repeat himself as I could barely hear him with all the noise in the background. I’m sure he thought I was extremely dense and could do no harm in his country and let me through to claim my bag and get my adventure started! J

First couple hiccups included my debit card being refused by the airport ATM, and subsequently my taxi driver refusing to let me pay with a card despite my being told clearly before I got in that it would be no problem. So here I am in the middle of the night with a taxi driver who needs to be paid, me with too little cash and no clue where I am, and a debit card that doesn’t work… lovely J We found a little free-standing ATM that worked (thank goodness!) and I arrived at my little hotel…where I couldn’t sleep at all thanks to the time change. It turned out this place had an absolutely lovely rooftop deck that overlooked the Meditteranean Sea and it felt soooo good to be up there, feeling the night breezes and taking in all the sensations around me. Being awake in such a lovely setting was a great excuse to get a work out in and I felt truly ALIVE and so happy and excited to be exactly where I was and for what the next few weeks held in store for me.

Early the next morning I arrived at the little domestic airport in TLV way too early and had to wait outside the (well-secured) gates till the airport opened. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one that made that mistake so I had some good conversation to keep me occupied. And, oh, did I say that security was a breeze somewhere earlier in this blog?! Yeah…nope. They scrutinized my passport, didn’t really like what they saw, made a very long phone call to god knows who, scrutinized it some more, questioned me about pretty much everything, ran my bags through the scanner LITERALLY about 5-7 times (I lost track), unpacked my fastidiously packed backpack, and finally handed me my stuff and my passport back and told me to enjoy my flight to Eilat. Whew!

So I arrived in Eilat (very far south resort beach town on the Red Sea) but I immediately zoomed off to the Jordanian border to begin my grand Jordanian tour. The border crossing was another almost unbelievable amount of passport checks. I think I literally had to show 7-8 people my passport, stopping at each different window, checkpoint, gate, scanner. Carrying my bags down a rather long stretch of no-man’s land to the Jordanian gate, it felt exactly like something in a movie… the hot desert air, the tall white metal gates in the distance, a couple other people in the distance struggling solo with their bags as well… interesting. I’m learning to really embrace the moments though and roll with each part of the happenings as part of the adventure. It makes it way more peaceful and way more exciting too, ironically.

My Jordanian driver deserves a blog devoted entirely to him, but for now let me just say he and I were quite the buddies by the time we arrived in Wadi Musa 2 hrs later. An older gentleman with 8 grown children, he really had quite the perspectives on Jordanian culture and population, the world, the USA, people, marriage, etc etc. More on him perhaps later…

The first thing my tour coordinator had booked for me was a cooking class with the Bedoins. I really had no idea what to expect but it sounded fun… boy, was it ever SO cool and completely different than anything I could have even made up or wanted. My Jordan experiences will be continued in next blog… Have to get ready to go have breakfast and leave Jerusalem for exploring up in beautiful Northern Israel… J

 

 

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Phnom Penh to Kanchanaburi

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, 

we must carry it with us or we find it not.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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You wouldn’t believe the atmosphere of where I’m (finally) writing up my first blog from Asia: a little floating hostel in Kanchanaburi right on the banks of the famous River Kwai, sipping on Singha beer and feasting on homemade spicy Thai food while chatting up a couple other guests from California, of all places!

I probably need to back up a bit though…I have almost two weeks of catching up to do – solo traveling can be rather mentally and emotionally exhausting and blogging was the first thing to go. However, I keep getting repeated requests for updates so I am definitely attempting to give it a go here!

I spent the first 24 hours in Phnom Penh quite sick from my previous Mexico trip, emerging only once from my room to obtain some much needed Gatorade and medicine! Enough said about that. Phnom Penh I found to be quite dirty, busy, noisy but there seems to be some attraction for expats as there are quite a number of them there. While it IS the capital of Cambodia, there really isn’t that much to see or do there as a tourist. A few highlights from my time there included the following:

  • a really great cooking class (complete with an AM visit to the market to collect ingredients, lovely international fellow students)
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We learned how to make “amok” – a very traditional fish dish of ginger, lemongrass, mashed up spices, and egg – all steamed together in a banana leaf bowl. Delicious!!

  • an open air jeep ride and tour to a wildlife preserve (tons of creepy monkeys, native Cambodian deer, crocodiles, otters, tigers and other endangered species),
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feeding little fish to this very greedy otter

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okay, this is pretty cute but I still think monkeys are quite awful and unpredictable little beasts

  • and a private guided tour through the infamous Tuol Sleng Genocide museum and the horrificChoeung Ek Killing Fields
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20,000 men, women and children were brutally tortured and murdered at this former Phnom Penh hi-school during the Khmer rouge regime. Hard to even fathom such evil. How is it possible that humans can really do this to other humans…?!?

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  • the delights of eating delicious (and cheap!) Cambodian street food

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I’ll admit, this night wasn’t street food. celebrating Christmas at a rooftop bar overlooking the river.

Much more could be said about each of these activities but perhaps more detail is better for further posts when I can sort through my pictures and reflect.

Siem Reap was AMAZING and I loved it so much better than Phnom Penh! It is open and clean (er) and magical with so much to do and see and explore!

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I had such a lovely lovely time there I almost get shivers thinking about it! I shall DEFINITELY save all my adventures and pictures for another post (double procrastination at its finest…) but to highlight my time there,

  • I went on an absolutely FANTASTIC offroading cycling tour through the Angkor area, getting off the beaten path and visiting non-touristy temples, and basically having the time of my life with the coolest tour group ever: two British girls (whom I ended up hanging out with the rest of my time there), Candadian couples, a German.

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  • Tour of the floating villages and forest,
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there really are no words that do justice to how mesmerizingly enchanting and magical this was…just looking back at pictures has me transported back to fairy land.

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i took many more pictures of this unique river village but it is getting quite late so I will be posting more as i can!! it was such an incredible day of flavors (snake! and sun baked baby mussel) , sights, sounds, encounters

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  • facial and 90 min foot massage at lovely prices,
  • super interesting tour of a silk factory!! from start to finish…poor little silk worms.  cannot BELIEVE the work that goes into handcrafted silk material

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  • insane NYE countdown on the famous Pub Street.
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countdown!! grabbed drinks at an Irish pub (?!) with the Brits, a couple newly arrived and jet lagged American guys and a couple Japanese gals. down in the street was not my scene… I think that was my first time being showered with booze! At least no one got trampled here as far as i know! Cambodians DO love their NY celebrations!

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world famous bar on Pub Street

Anyway, my other lovely cycling compatriots talked up the glories of Thailand, so I spontaneously booked a flight into Bangkok, where I arrived yesterday and stayed for just one night. This morning I absolutely reveled in ART!! There is a relatively brand new contemporary art museum there (took me literally interviewing SIX taxi drivers to successfully get there. Seriously, NONE of them know how to read a map!!!) but it was well worth the effort. I photographed some of my favorite pieces. Some of them so bizarrely beautiful with Very different Thai flavor of course to most of it.

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This afternoon I railed it out here to Kanchanaburi – a 3rd class ticket on an ancient train. Seemed straight out of a turn of the century British film – corrugated metal shacks so close I could touch them with my fingers, branches whipping by the windows, near-fluorescent green rice fields, towering palm trees and sunlit hills. I felt newly strong and beautiful and happy gazing out the windows at it all, the wind in my face. And now, here I am, enjoying the night river air, good company, background Thai soap opera, and excited about tomorrow’s adventures: waterfalls, elephants, caves, and bridges!

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And now I shall attempt to insert some photos…the picky artistic side of me is loathe to include unedited versions but above are a few – some just from my iPhone.  Enjoy! and my love to you from Southeast Asia!

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Oakland…many surprises…

I’ll not lie:  I had some nervousness about the fact that I had accepted a work contract in…shudder….Oakland, CA.  I mean, who hasn’t heard about Oakland?  Unfriendliest city, gang riots, violence, crime galore….I had even promised myself that that was one place I would never work….BUT here I am… and in place of all the aforementioned frightening scenarios, I have found a foodie’s paradise, beautiful neighborhoods, parks and trails too innumerable to mention, organic markets, coffee shops, bookstores, delightful and welcoming people, dogs, and of course, my beloved ocean…

In a nutshell, that describes my first few days here in the East Bay Area.  I arrived from a lovely, but LONG two-day drive down Hwy 101 from Portland.

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Stunning ocean views, Redwood forests, Oregon sand dunes…unfortunately, I was, as usual with a new assignment and agency, attempting to finish last minute paperwork and testing demands on the road and had to race through the last day of my drive to get my blood drawn, only to be called and told that my work start date had been pushed back a week…lovely.

IMG_8996yep, had to climb over this train as my first introduction to Oakland…and then realized I had crossed the street needlessly and had to wait as it rattled endlessly by to RE-cross the street.  My navigational skills at their finest.

Having rented a room here sight unseen, I had little idea of the housing situation I was going to be living in, so had many surprises when I pulled up to the address given me.  First: safe and friendly – most important:).  Three young kids in the house?: yeah, that would have been nice to know…  A dog and cat.(Yay!)  Everyone lives on the same floor and my room is just off the main hallway?…not so cool.

My landlady took me exploring around Berkeley and grocery shopping.  Organic produce heaven…I had a great time (over)buying fresh produce and delighted in other specialty shops featuring international cheeses, flavored vinegars, Spanish almonds, locally raised meats, wines, gourmet coffees, freshly baked breads…I had a lovely little repast of cheese, wine, almonds and olives that night!! Just missing some good company.

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My first week is almost complete here and I’ve packed a lot in:  one of my top goals while here to GET BACK IN SHAPE.  Ironic that about this time last year I completed my first marathon up in this city…I found a gym that I already love.  Super great, fun atmosphere.  All classes so none of that awkward self-conscious walk-in-the-gym&attempt-to-work-out-on-your-own type of thing.  Currently so stiff and sore from the last two days’ workouts that it will be a miracle if I can creak my bones over there again today.  But I. Am. Determined:)

Had a great day with my cousin yesterday driving down the coast and having lunch in Half Moon Bay.  Hiked a bit to work off all the seafood we ate. And best news of all, my good friend, Dr. Cat from LA is coming up to visit this weekend!! SO excited:) Hope you all are happy and healthy.  Miss my family and friends.  Come visit anytime.  Hugs.