At the end of each month I am going to send out a summary of the highlights of the month and update you on our plans for upcoming trips and activities. Here is the summary for November 2017.
The Month of No Wifi
This month has been another good one for travel, but so bad for wifi and my blog. It has been a frustrating month if this is the measure! My lack of posts this month is directly proportional to the amount of time I have been able to find good, reliable wifi. In fact, who knows when this one will go live!
We started the month in a nice hotel only a stone’s throw from the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. We were staying here becasue at long last, I was able to get both my iPhone and iPad fixed at the Apple Store there. It was easier to stay nearby than travel back and forward across the city to sort it out. As it was, three visits were needed, so it was good to be only a few minutes walk away.
Once my screens where fixed and I could again read my phone, we moved to my cousin Emma’s place. We have visited here a few times before and we always enjoy our time. This trip was a little more special, with our eldest daughter Bailey flying in from Australia to visit us for a few days too.
We had a huge few days with Bailey. She had been to Dubai with us once before and we have previously visited the Burj Khalifa and Bur Dubai. This time we decided to do something none of us had done before – go skiing! One the way we stopped on the public beach near the Burj al Arab for some obligatory photos.
After spending most of the day skiing, we jumped on the Metro and changed shopping malls. We wanted to watch the musical fountains at Dubai Mall as the sun went down. We’d all seen them before but they change the music and performance regularly, and it’s always fun to watch them again.
Our day wasn’t done, with our final stop being Dubai Garden Glow, a whole area lit up with displays. It also includes a dinosaur park, with dozens of full size dinosaur models. I hadn’t heard much about this place before, so wasn’t really sure what to expect. It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be, and we spent a good two or three hours walking around.
The second day of Bailey’s visit saw us again leaving the house early in the morning and catching a lift with Emma to the main bus station in town. We were going to Abu Dhabi for the day! The main purpose of our visit was to visit the Sheihk Zayed Grand Mosque. Oh boy is this place stunning! Photos can’t quite do it justice, it really is worth a visit to experience the feel of the mosque. I will go back again on a future visit to see it again in the evening, when the lighting makes it look a different kind of beautiful.
Once Bailey had left, Simon and I visited Dubai Miracle Gardens. We went before lunch, but already the sun was warm. The garden had only opened for the new season the day before we went, so as it gets cooler it will be easier to visit. Overall it has some cool displays – like an Emirates A380 – but unlike the Dubai Garden Glow, it was smaller than I expected. I was a little disappointed, but I think that comes down to seeing a lot of people showing off Instagram photos that look amazing and my expectations were too high.
Before we left Dubai we met up with another friend we hadn’t seen for almost ten years. We met him again at the place we saw him last, at the Barasti Bar. It had changed a bit over the years, and we almost didn’t recognise the place. I actually questioned the taxi driver when he drove past what used to be the entrance. It was a great last night, and I like the atmosphere at this bar, but I do not suggest it if you are on a budget!
Next on our list was Oman. We had decided we would hire a car and road trip from Muscat down to Salalah and back. First we spent a day exploring Muscat, visiting the Sheikh Qaboos Grand Mosque, then heading to the other end of town to see the Mutrah Souk and walk along the seafront.
Our first day out of Muscat was spent driving to Ras al Hadd. Along the way we checked out a castle in the town of Quriyat, stopped at Bimmah Sinkhole, then hiked in Wadi Shab before cooling off in a waterhole at the end. We finally found our accomodation in Ras al Hadd and had to drive down what looked like an old airport runway to get to it. A quick change of clothes and we were on the road again to Ras al Jinz, to join a tour out onto the beach in the dark to watch a green sea turtle laying eggs. We missed out, but did see an adult turtle, then we saw some babies making their way down to the sea after hatching. The most amazing sight though was the luminescence of the plankton. The beach glittered in the moonlight.
The next day was a long driving day. We had initially planned (even had accommodation booked) to catch the ferry over to Masirah Island. Unfortunately the earlier ferries were full, and we couldn’t get over there until the 3pm ferry. With over an hour trip on the ferry, there would have been very little daylight left to see anything once we arrived. We had to be on the first ferry back in the morning too, to make the long trek down to Salalah. Instead we skipped Masirah and continued driving to Duqm. We choose to take the coastal road, thinking it would be more scenic. I guess it was, but there still wasn’t much to see apart from sand dunes and electricity poles.
We knew nothing about this town, it was just a reasonable distance along the coast to make to driving the next day not too onerous. As we came into town we could see huge amounts of development going on. Infrastructure seems to be being built at a huge rate. We ended up staying at a big fancy hotel, and talking to people there we discovered a new port is opening there soon. But I also did a Google search when I was back in our room, and discovered Chinese investors are building a huge new industrial city. While it possibly won’t be on the radar for tourism for a while yet, that is part of the plan too.
Our final day driving into Salalah was pretty boring. Mostly flat, featureless land – except for those electricity poles and the occasional rubbish bin. About 75km north of Salalah the landscape changes dramatically. All of a sudden there is vegetation on the hills. There is a whole different climate down here, with a lot of rainfall during the Khareef season of July – September. Tourism is popular during this time of year to see the greenery, and the enjoy waterfalls and rivers running on many hikking trails in the area. It was a bit too late in the year for us, but the temperature in the high twenties made it perfect for a couple of days relaxation in a resort after driving for days.
We eventually had to leave Salalah, and so our trip back to Muscat began. The whole trip was a bit under 1100km, and we considered lots of towns to stop at along the way. Our flight out was late the next night, but I still preferred to do more driving on the first day to get closer to Muscat and reduce the possibility of an issue the second day. We ended up trying to get to Nizwa, about 900km from Salalah. With good roads, a 120km/hr speed limit and little traffic, we did the trip in 9 hours and were in Nizwa before dark. It was actually nowhere near as bad as I expected.
Another reason to stay the night in Nizwa was so we could spend the morning having a look at the Nizwa Fort and surrounding souk. With time to spare, we decided to drive 100km in the wrong direction to visit the Al Ayn beehive tombs. We were there all of fifteen minutes, before we turned around and began the drive into Muscat.
I wasn’t watching the map, and the next thing we were at the airport! We were thinking we would head into the city and grab some food for dinner before we made our way to the airport, but since we were there already, we changed our minds. We were done with the driving! It had been a long couple of days in the car. Our last few hours in Oman were spent holed up in an airport lounge enjoying the decent wifi, a glass or two or wine and endless plates of food.
Our flight to Goa landed at 4am! I normally don’t like to land in a new city (let alone country!) in the middle of the night. It’s disorienting enough in daylight but at night it can be stressful at the best of times. I knew in advance taxis had fixed airport rates, so at least we didn’t have to feel ripped off before we even got to our hotel. We had booked a Hilton. This one was a bit expensive, but we booked it specifically because our Gold status meant we were entitled to early checkin so we would only have to pay for one night. Simon had emailed them in advance to let them know we would be there very early, and was told that would be fine. Of course once we got to the hotel, it was not fine, and they wanted to charge us an extra day. It was 6am, we hadn’t slept yet, and I was not happy about this. They backed down once we showed them the email, and we finally fell into bed for a sleep.
After a lazy afternoon by the pool, and then a good night of sleep, we jumped in a taxi for the two and a half hour trip down to Patnem and the beaches of South Goa. We were staying in a very basic beach hut, right on the sand. When we arrived there was no electricity and our shower didn’t work but the beach was clean and uncrowded, and happy hour blessed us with 2-4-1 cocktails as the sun went down.
We spent five days enjoying the peace of Patnem Beach. Electricity was continually intermittent, when the wifi did work it was bad at best, and once the shower started working it only had cold water, but what a great break. We barely moved more than 200m from our hut, spending our time swimming, reading, sleeping and eating.
On leaving the beach we had one night at the Hard Rock Hotel, mostly so I could finally wash my hair and book some ongoing travel with their wifi. Then it was on to Mumbai. Our trend of wildly fluctuating accommodation continued, and we dropped our stuff of at our hostel before meeting a friend who lives locally to spend the evening soaking up the noise and atmosphere of Mumbai. We ate local food, saw where all the Bollywood actors live, visited the dirtiest beach I’ve ever seen and crashed a wedding at a five star hotel. It was a fantastic night.
In the morning we did a slum tour – Indian style. So everything went a little haywire, and we didn’t actually do the tour until nearly midday. Slum tours are controversial, and I wasn’t so sure I wanted to do one, but in the end I am glad I went along and had a look. It’s not pretty, but it also wasn’t as emotional as I expected. The people seemed busy and productive, like they really are making the best out of their lives. The slum is not just a whole pile of houses cobbled together, there is a lot of industry too, and schools and shops and everything else a community would have. It’s horrible to see people living like this, but the human spirit also shines through.
The last day in November was spent getting from Mumbai to Agra. Only a couple of days beforehand we decided to add in a few days up north. As Simon said, can we really say we’ve been to India if we don’t go to the Taj Mahal? Well, we should have stayed in the south, because this day turned into a complete disaster, starting with our flight being delayed, and our transfer car leaving even though we had emailed them. We were messed around trying to sort it out, and had to pay too much to try to get to Agra and the Taj Mahal before closing, but that didn’t happen because the car first had a flat tyre, then it wouldn’t start! So no Taj Mahal this trip! Maybe we haven’t been to India…
December will start with a visit to the back of the Taj Mahal to at least say we have seen it! It’s a Friday, so it’s not open to go inside. In the afternoon we will go to Jaipur for a day since we are in the area, before heading south again to Kerala and spending a few days cruising the waterways on a houseboat.
We then say goodbye to India and fly to Sri Lanka for about two weeks. I am still trying to decide exactly where we are going to spend Christmas, but I am leaning towards Hong Kong, with a stopover in Singapore on the way to see the magical Christmas light display on Orchard Road. While in Hong Kong we might make a visit over the border into Shezhen for a couple of days too. We will then head south, probably into Laos or Vietnam for New Years.
We are getting really bad with planning in advance. As I write this we only have accomodation and flights booked for the next three days, so everything is quite flexible. I think I will have to start locking in the flights for the above though, so we don’t pay a fortune for last minute flights.
Don’t forget to follow along on social media where you will see some content that does not make it onto my blog.
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It has been a really slow month on my blog this month! Lack of decent wifi has made it really difficult to get posts out. I promise you I have two or three written ready to go, but editing and uploading photos takes forever (if it works!) on a slow connection. The lack of photos in this post are testament to the wifi!
I did spend some time early in the month going through and updating some of my older posts, both for information and to add in some extra links. It’s only been a year, but there is already so much in some of those first posts that make me cringe.
(Want to see my very first post? Click here)
I mentioned last month that I had added ads to my site. Have you ever wondered exactly how much money these generate (or not!) when you see them online? I made exactly $1.32 this month! It’s going to take me years to get paid at this rate since Google don’t pay me until I reach $100.
And finally an offer for anyone booking a holiday soon. Do you want a few more dollars for another cocktail by the pool? If you use the below link to book your accommodation, you and I will both get $15AUD discount from our next bookings. https://www.booking.com/s/a91d446c
Until next month, take care.
*Note – this post contains affiliate links. If you book using these links, then I receive a small percentage to help me fund this page. Thank you for your help.