Roadtrippin – Oman

Hey dear readers..

it has been a while but here we go:

Roadtrippin’ through OMAN
(one of my fav countries in the Middle East)

My fav travel buddy and I are used to tight schedules and still manage to get the full relaxation out of those few days.. but we are aware that this is not everyone’s travel style.
We did this round trip within 4 nights. Yes. 4.
Despite the tight schedule, his “complicated” mum and the Arab-style system, we were able to fill our hearts and souls with so many beautiful memories, impressions and love.

We started off in AL AIN (still UAE – known as “the Garden City”) where we visited the green oasis, the ancient fort and spotted some camels along the way.


Our next stop (after 4h drive) was: JEBEL SHAMS.

Jebel Shams is Oman’s highest mountain and known as the “Arabic grand canyon”. The road up the mountain is quite rocky but we managed to do it with our cheap rental car (Toyota) and did not require a 4×4.
The landscape is rather dry but the air up there is soooo fresh. We loved it.

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Once we arrived and enjoyed the views, it was already sunset-time.
A lovely colorful play.
After enjoying this moment, we checked in at the Jebel Shams Resort.

We booked a bungalow with mountain-views.
Actually this “resort” is not a classic “luxurious resort” but a rather urban, local thing.
It had all we needed and we enjoyed the stay a lot.
Dinner as well as breakfast was included in the rate: a vast buffet variation in a dining room nearby the bungalows.

Good morning!

Obviously I got up to catch a glimpse of the sunrise.. and loved the colors and the peace up there.
Another BIG PRO on the list: the resorts’ towels were PINK 🙂 hehe! They know how to convince the princess of their service.. well done!

Prior check-out we hiked a bit through the bordering areas and met some goats. Yes, free-roaming goats.

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After walking a little further we finally found THE PLACE TO BE and THE VIEW TO APPRECIATE.
The Omani Grand Canyon.

..Wow..

Steep, rocky, astonishing, big, impressive and breathtaking.

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After inhaling and exhaling a few times, appreciating the moment – we drove down the mountain, crossed the Oman for 6h more or less in the direction of the coast and paused in SUR.

The Omani landscape is comparable to the Portuguese landscape in the sense that while driving just a few hours – you are able to spot a constant transition within the flora and fauna. Such a huge diversity on a rather small piece of land.
People’s warm-heartedness and kindness, despite of the language barrier, are also comparable to my Portuguese fellows.
Good-hearted, supportive and lovely people.
While writing this blog post I realized how hard it is to describe what I feel for Oman..

It is somehow indescribable. You really got to check it by yourself.

After a rather intense drive (yes, my partner in crime drove all the way – thank you once again! I should not have taken this for granted.. Sorry.), we finally arrived in SUR – a lovely little fisherman’s village.

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The sea view was amazing but unfortunately the shore was insanely polluted. It is a pity – why do we humans spread our garbage everywhere we go? Why do we even produce that much garbage? A really sad picture.

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We drove a lil further and tested the water: lil chilly but nice.

Our next stop: RAS AL JINZ.

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Ras al Jinz “is world renown for the nesting of the endangered green turtle (Cheloniamydas), probably the most important nesting concentration on the Indian Ocean” (quote).

I was soooo looking forward to this place. I knew that we would be able to spot some turtles and hatching baby turtles. BABIES. 🙂

After our arrival, we checked-in and took a lil nap.
Arabic dinner was served – d e l i c i o u s.
After dinner we met for the first turtle-tour. Jupiiii.

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We walked to the beach to spot the nesting XXL Mami-turtles. Wow.
This was crazy… they seem to be slow but in fact they press out around 90 eggs within a few seconds. C r a z y.
We waited and appreciated this natural spectacle.
@parents: Great that you want to share those moments with your little ones but kindly inform them that those natural beauties are so special and it is crucial to keep silence and to behave properly.

With a heart full of gratitude, we finally went to bed.
(Actually s.th. else happened prior – his mum managed to get the car keys locked into the car trunk.. which turned into a huge drama.. haha but I will not elaborate this further.)

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5am:
Meeting point for the second turtle tour.
His mum was not in the mood reason why we went on our own.
We went to the same area but that morning we were able to witness the actual hatching procedure.
So those baby turtles did their best to make their way out of the eggshell – and once they got this – they started running towards the sea.
Such little babies but so strong and capable of living.
Sad news: Out of those 90 baby turtles only 20 survive – the rest will be killed by the natural predators (crabs, seagulls, etc.).

So there we were – sitting on the beach, watching sunset and the first steps of this little creatures.
One of the “cutest” bullet item of my bucket list.

We proceeded with our roadtrip: next stop: WADI SHAB.

Oman is quite known for its natural Wadis. Wadi is the Arabic term for “valley” – in fact Wadis are rather “natural pools”.

There are soooo many of them and we chose the one of our way to Muscat.

A beautiful natural spot.
A bit too crowded.. but the further you climb into the Wadi the nicer it gets. Less crowded, peaceful and empty.
We recommend sturdy shoes so that you are able to climb even higher – be cautious (and adventurous) at all times.

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We enjoyed our time over here.. soaked those sunrays up and discovered this special place.
Afterwards we drove on to the capital: MUSCAT.

By the time we reached the city, it was already 21h – so we grabbed a quick bite at a local restaurant and went to our hotel.
From the outside this place looked rather dodgy but actually it was very cosy and welcoming from the inside.

We visited the famous souq, one of the palaces, the mosque and walked on the boardwalk.

 

In general you can walk around Oman just as you like. Of course you should always respect local traditions, reason why I opted for rather “long” clothing.
For the mosque you should cover your hair and shoulders (just like in any other mosque).

2016 I went to Muscat with 2 friends of mine and we LOVED this shisha bar/garden.. unfortunately I cannot recall the name. I just remember it was  a m a z i n g.

Traditional, outside comfy seating and lovely staff. A must-do.

 

..OH-MAN..

We loved this trip.

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On our way back we slept one last night in Ajman (4h drive from Muscat) and enjoyed the luxurious treat.

 

A delicious dinner under the sky, a xxl comfy bed and a delicious breakfast treat.
We enjoyed the sunbeds and then we drove back to Abu Dhabi (incl. a quick stop-over in Dubai).

All good things come to an end. 🙂

Hope you enjoyed the read and stay tuned for further INSIGHTS BY JENNYLICIOUS.

 

 

 

Bahrain

…cute!

Whenever you have the chance to widen your horizon – do it 🙂

Distance: less than 1h by plane (AUH-BH))
Ideal stay: weekend trip
Temperature: depending on season, between 20ºC and 42ºC

My fav travel partner and I took a flight on Thursday evening and 40 min later we arrived in Bahrain. As usual we got our rental car right at the airport and drove to our Hotel – Sheraton Bahrain Hotel.

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..lets start his LOVEly weekend..

Bahrain is well-known for its Formula 1 track in the south of the island and among the “drinkers” for the party place to be within the Middle East.

At around 10ish we woke up; went for breakfast in our VIP Lounge (since we got a room upgrade) and made our route for the day.
As you know: we share our “travel-job” – I am in charge of the overall To-Do of the particular city and he is in charge of the perfect route plan.

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Our first stop:

The bridge which connects Bahrain and Saudi-Arabia. Probably the closest I will ever get to this rather “special” country.
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To be very honest – the atmosphere over here was quite strange and paradox.
Saudi is known for strict rules, misogynistic conduct, anti alcohol consumption and restricted entry requirements.
Having said this, it is absolutely weird to see all those Saudi cars stuck in traffic on a friday on the bridge in order to enjoy a casual weekend in Bahrain.

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..hello barb wire fence.. 

Even if we do not agree with the regulations over there – we are grateful for all experiences and impressions we gather.

..off to our next stop..

We made our way through some abandoned villages and actually saw some of the so-called “burning tires”.
Shocking truth: those living conditions vs. European standard.
One more reason why we should always be grateful for what we have 🙂

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Another 10km and we reached the famous Formula One track. Somehow “abandoned”, too.

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We did our own tour; checked the souvenir shop and took some pictures. We got to admit that since we have the nicest Formula One track back home in Abu Dhabi – we were not too impressed over here.

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On our way to the next official spot of our To-Do list, we spotted a nice shore and the open sea. As true sea lovers we HAD to stop over here and enjoy the moment.
1min & we we both walked barefoot in the water.. we enjoyed ourselves (#qualitytime), spotted thousand mini-mussels and discussed our upcoming life-plans.

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..tu e eu..

After 45min we finally reached the famous – TREE OF LIFE.

This tree, located in the middle of the desert, is 400y old, almost 10m high and has green leafs. Green leafs? In the desert? Without rain? How is this possible? No one has a answer to this good question.

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Since this is a touristic spot, too we were expecting way more people over there. Thankfully we had to share those views with 5 others – easy one.
Shared some LOVE with that fascinating tree and then we spotted another thing:

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An oil-pump 😀 HaHa
Like in those movies.. a real oil-pump –  fascinated by this machine – we took some pictures, got excited and laughed hard. Us being us.

To-Dos for today: done.

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We drove back to the city, enjoyed a snack in our VIP-lounge (gratis gratis), went to the gym and took a nap.

For dinner we went to a lovely, brazilian, meat-place and enjoyed an all-u-can-eat treat.
After our yummy dinner we enjoyed a romantic stroll through Reef Island.

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The highlight of the evening was an Asian spot which a friend of ours recommended: Bushido.
No, the German Rapper does not own this spot 😉

We sat outside – yes, in April – because weather over here is just amazing. A thin cardigan is more than enough!

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So many impressions, good laughter, great pictures, stories to tell, memories – time to sleep and get some energy for tomorrows action-day: last day in Bahrain.

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..that elevator selfie..

Two grateful hearts went to sleep 🙂

Day 2

We took it pretty easy.. woke up.. went to the lounge.. had breakfast.. relaxed in our room.. I waited for him to finish some work stuff and then we went to explore the city centre.

We embraced the SOUQ-feeling. The REAL Souq-feeling not the “wannabe-Gold-Souq” in Dubai for eg..

He loves those sunflower seeds – and obviously he would never buy them w/o pre-tasting.
We walked through those narrow lanes, explored every corner and ended up at the Alfateh Grand Mosque.

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The mosque was quite impressive – as usual – but I somehow got tired of those visits. Not because of the religion, nor location, etc.etc. but because I always gotta get the abaya although I am already wearing a long sleeve / long trousers.
With all due respect – but me being me – is an essential need.

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After this impressive visit, we went to the National Museum and spotted the dhow-builders.

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The whole Middle East has a pretty similar development history:
They came all the way from desert living, fishing, pearl-diving, handcrafting etc. over to the oil-boom which then led to economical setup & stabilization.
Great to be part of this whole process and able to witness this “live”. 🙂

IMG_7104..tanned & happy..

We love to check on old traditions – the real thing – the roots to all the new, modern, fancy structure.
We drove along the shore and found some traditional houses.
We stopped and entered..
It turned out – that those were not “public” but absolutely private houses.

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Thankfully I am who I am – open-minded, kind, bold and cheeky – which is quite often a “door-opener” (literally in this case!).
Being blonde and having some arabic skills is indeed advantageous 😉

So there we were.. the locals showed us how to open oysters and how to spot pearls.. Wow! Absolutely cool and unique!

They offered some tea & biscuits – and showed us the greatest views towards the city of Bahrain.

Living for those moments! Spontaneously in the right place at the right time! 🙂

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We left with another great experience in our bag!

The next & last To-Do spot: Qal’at al-Bahrain.

We played our princess & invader game – like in good old days.. laughed loads.. imagined magical stories and created memories which will last forever.

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In order to round this weekend-trip off – we went for dinner on Amwaj Island.

We ordererd Arabic mezze; he enjoyed a well-deserved shisha (he had to handle me & my untamed hunger) and the aim was to finish our bahraini dinar.

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In the end the whole order took ages and our timeframe to get the plane back to Abu Dhabi got smaller and smaller.
Thankfully I am the “cool”-one in our relationship when it comes to flights, schedule, etc. – therefore I tried my best to calm him down. We paid and drove to the airport.
We made it on time – obviously – & left this lovely place with another checked-ToVisit-Box 🙂

Almaty (+ Astana Part II)

Ideal stay: prolonged weekend trip
Temperature:
similar to Astana (depending on season; winter very cold (-20) & summer quite hot (30°C))

..here I go again..

The “see you later”-day has finally arrived. There I was – sitting in the fully booked airplane to Astana.
Astana? Once again I realized that many people are not really familiar with this capital and are not too sure to which country it belongs..

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After a few hours of good airplane-sleep I arrived at the Astana Airport. Incl. my damaged luggage piece…well done. How to report a damaged luggage piece in a country where barely s.o. speaks English.. Licious made it. Not too sure how but it worked out.

After going through that struggle – I was even happier when I spotted HIM in the crowd at the arrival area.

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We took a UBER and went to his new kicka** place (super fancy high-tech apartment) to get some sleep & recharge for the upcoming sightseeing days.

btw: UBER is the best way to move around since you do not need to speak the local language; distance and destination as well as price are set – no struggle to bargain etc.etc. = super convenient)

 

DAY 1

..same old same old..

He left early to work and I stayed a little longer in bed.. cosy & nice observing the snow storm out there.

I wrapped myself in my winter clothes and left for grocery shopping. The “European” & classic stroll through the city, window shopping and unwinding is a no-go with these freezing temperatures. I quickly went to the supermarket, grabbed some fruits, spotted the Crossfit place and decided to have a relaxing manicure & pedicure.

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The way to get the mani & pedi was again quite tough – google translator, pictures and videos helped to get what I was looking for.

..me-time..

Afterwards I went home, relaxed, watched a movie and two series, did some paperwork and all of a sudden it was 18h & he got home from work.

Cute to see that he enjoyed the fact that I was waiting for him at “home”. Till his career step & move to Astana we have lived in several countries together – this was the first time we were “forced” to live apart.

We enjoyed some qualitytime at home before heading to the restaurant near his flat.

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The Chef is famous for delicious burger, homemade sauces and affordable prices. For the first time in my life I ordered a burger with a black bun – crazy.

..Fun fact: they give you gloves prior serving your burger.. 

After dinner we went to the nearby mall and checked on the different products. I love to do such store checks! One is able to buy almost everything (overpriced!) since they import around 32% of the products from Russia, 26% from China and 4% from Germany.

We went home, watched a movie and talked until we fell asleep.

 

DAY 2
He went to work and I – yes – stayed in bed.
This time it was not possible to stay that long since he booked a crossfit trial class for me.

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I got there, tried to communicate (fail), changed clothes and waited. All of a sudden everyone gathered around the trainer – so I joined.
He explained the whole training in Kazakh (well-done) but at LEAST the technical vocabulary is the same all over the globe: sit-ups, dead lifts & burpees. After the first intense round I wondered why burpee is such an international term – else I could have skipped it, reason: lack of understanding. 😉

At the end of the session I went to the adjoining coffee shop and had a “Paleo”-meal. Not. My. Style.
I left quite unsatisfied, went home, did the laundry – well at least I tried to do the laundry. But…

..excuse me?..

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At 19ish a UBER drove me to the St. Regis Astana: dinner with my loved one.

This property was brand-new and its unique restaurant “The Grill” – the new place to be.

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Impressed by the well-matched interior decoration we were escorted to our romantic table. I was not even done with reading the menu & I already smelled the truffles and saw him looking at me like “you see, I know what you like”. 😉

..TRUFFLE LOVE – BIG TIME!..

While freakin out on the truffle (+ the extra truffle topping + the truffle butter + the truffle mashed potato) I felt so much gratitude. Gratitude for our collective life, the mile stones we achieved, our lifestyle, our trips, our future vision, our exclusive taste when it comes to food etc.etc.

We ate pasta, bread with the dif. sorts of butter, he got his onion soup (he LOVED it).. We had steak with truffle mashed potato as a main course and wrapped the dinner up with a sweet dessert assortment: chocolate souffle & “destroyed” tiramisu.

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UBER picked us up, drove through the “Schlagbaum” (Kazakh for toll bar – HAHA) and brought us home.

..happy and lucky us.. 

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At home we had a really good laugh (us – being us) and brushed our teeth in our dress & suit. Fancy manancy. I was unable to open the child safety lock of the mouth wash – and relied on the “house husband”. Just a quick glimpse into our “routine”. 😉
We fell asleep and were looking forward to our trip to ALMATY!

 

DAY 3

..early börd..

Not amused by the way he woke me up at around 4h.. got up, prepared myself – he packed my suitcase – we rushed down, caught the UBER and drove to the Airport.

..Boarding: Almaty..

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Prior Boarding he showed me a super fancy app: Google translator with SCAN. Deeply impressed, I have to admit.
Basically your phone serves as “scanner” – you just hold your camera towards the document / sign / letter you want to translate from Kazakh to English and the letters on the screen change immediately into the translated version. Super cool..
Obviously then he got obsessed and translated almost everything around us.. boys.

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Travelling with my best travel buddy has always been great – and just now a huge advantage having him by my side since he managed to study RUSSIAN in the past few months!

We arrived at the Almaty Airport , got our rental car and drove to our hotel: Ritz Carlton Almaty (+/- 30min).

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We were escorted to the reception, impressed by the views and got our upgraded room quite fast.
I love to enter hotel rooms, inhale those vibes and the BEST part: personalized treatments or Cards. 🙂

..knowing me..

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We ate the heart-shaped cake, drank a coffee and left to the St.Nicholas Cathedral. We took a stroll through the park and ended up at the bazar.

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Well – in case your tummy is sensitive this would probably not be the best idea.. Meat all over, horse penis (yes..) but also homemade honey, jam & a huge variety of dried fruits, fruits and veggies.

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It was a super cool experience since in “Europe” you would not encounter this (anymore).

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This country is so full of contradictions: top modern banking system with instant transfers or super high-speed internet connection vs. old-school, poor housing and missing food cooling-system.

..#whataview..

We decided to check on Kok Tobe Hill, took the cablecar up and were amazed by the city views. IMG_3276

Up there it was pretty cold but we walked on, talked and ended up in the amusement park. Always a child 🙂

..incredible sunset vibes..

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Dinner was served at the restaurant “Inkhzu” – not my stlye but okish.. Afterwards we went to the hotel and enjoyed the amazing facilities.

 

DAY 4
We got up quite early and drove to Leo’s where we had an amazing grapefruit juice and a yummy omelette with goat cheese.

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Butter over here is quite “animally” to be honest… just FYI ;).
We joked, laughed and were looking forward to the mountain trip.

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After entering the reservoir & the endless ride up to the mountain, we paid the entrance fee and walked around. What we spotted next was just INCREDIBLE – such a beauty..

..wow..

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Big Almaty Lake

Amazing views: shiny, clear, blue water..snowy mountains..fresh air..sun on our skin.
Us: 100% HAPPY ..and ok, a bit tired of me – poor him. Haha.

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He promised I would be able to spot some animals – but this was not the case. You can imagine how I reacted.. #BockigeJenny.

The mountain was steep and snowy but obviously we aimed high and drove all the way up.. LOVELY view.

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At one point we got stuck – managed to get out and drove back down.

..schöner Rucksack..cooler Rucksack..Profi-Rucksack..

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We spotted the (dried out) Ski-Area and enjoyed a hot chocolate in the sun.

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It was amazing to feel the warm sunrays on my skin – living for such moments!

..Liebe..

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Lived also for those endless laughing fits; our stories; our words; our signature features; our vision; our shared opinions and opposing views; our spirit; our humour and our love.

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Till our city trip to Almaty, I was not aware that this area is well-known for skiing. If you are into skiing you should def. give it a try!

For Lunch we stopped at an amazing place with local food. Unfortunately I was not able to read the name of the restaurant, check the picture:

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I immediately fell in love with this place. Calm, peaceful, traditional, romantic, sunny and – it turned out to be – DELICIOUS.

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As usual he was hungry AF and we nearly ordered the whole menu.. a normal thing 😉 At least we got to try it ALL.

We also enjoyed a hot tea after the winter feeling on top of the mountain.
A glorious laughter ensued.

..us being us..

Me = a wannabe influencer and at times advertising specialist and him = an involuntary follower which had the best giggles because of my attitude.

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Our day was not over yet.

..Yes, our travel pace differs from other travel styles (never relax & chill only)..

We drove to the Central Park (also known as Gorky Park) and went for a walk.

Interesting: In KZ they do not just sit on the floor and beg for money (like in Hungary or Portugal).. but rather try to sell sth to you or offer you a service which they want to get paid for later on.
eg. They take pictures of you while walking in the park with your loved one and afterwards they show you the printed pic version and try to sell it at an horrendously high price. Smart.

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The park is lovely.. huge green areas, multifaceted flora, cute lake with a waterfall, amusement rides (yes, seems they are into it!) and stunning TOP views.

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We rode the big wheel to get one last shot of the Skyline, afterwards we enjoyed the sunset at the Barfly Rooftop Bar.

..sunset is my fav color..

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Unfortunately this bar did absolutely not come up to scratch. Service was “non-existent”, windows were dirty and the whole place rather shabby.

Tired we went back to the hotel, checked on the nearby posh mall, purchased some fresh juice and fruits. We got a “quick” rest and went to the jacuzzi….yesssssss.
An amazing end of a quite eventful day!

 

DAY 5

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We grabbed a coffee and a croissant at PAULs and drove to the airport – time to fly back to ASTANA.

We arrived in Astana, took a UBER, went home, relaxed a bit and went to the Nur-Astana Mosque.

..beauty..

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This mosque was so full of energy, good vibes, style, classiness and love. It reminded me of the positive spirit which Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque spreads.

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This mosque is the third largest mosque in Central Asia. The minaret is 63m high which stands for the age of Muhammed when he died. The whole structure is made of the best glass & granite and has capacity for 5000 people.

We left quite impressed and walked aka. jumped over to the famous “Pyramid” aka. Astana Piramida.

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The Piramida is also called “The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation” – “..it is a Symbol of friendship, unity and peace in Kazakhstan..”.

We paid the entrance fee and waited for our guide. After +/- 20min the (rather military) lady showed us around. She showed us different national dresses which stand for the over 130 diff. Nationalities who live in peace and harmony in KZ.

..clichee-ridden..

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After showing us the basement, the Atrium Hall and the Opera Hall, we got into the fancy elevator (build by SWISS engineers) which took us diagonally up to the peak.
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Under the sky-blue roof there is a meeting room which is – among others – used for the worlds’ leaders congress.

..the sky is the limit..

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The whole room radiated such a positive and peaceful vibe. No matter how rainy or snowy it is outside – inside it will always stay bright and friendly. Well done!

..proud..

As mentioned earlier he already acquired some Russian skills – reason why he did such a good job at bargaining the taxi price. The crazy taxi took us to the famous Baytarek Monument.

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Remember? This is the tower which I have already seen the last time I came to Astana but was back then under construction.

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The price to access this 97-m high tower is around 700T and “..embodies a Kazakh legend in which the mythical bird Samruk lays a golden egg containing the secrets of human desires and happiness in a tall poplar tree, beyond human reach”.

..one world..one love..

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The elevator takes you – basically – inside the egg. The view from up there is incredible. The highlight is President Nazarbayev’s palace.

Exhausted and overwhelmed by all the information we have received, we decided to take a break at my fav. place: Rafe Cafe.

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Obviously I had to order the BEST HOT CHOCOLATE – ever. But – guess what – he was not INTO IT!! How come?! (“How comes” like he would have said)

He took a snacky-pumpkin soup and drank a fresh juice before we headed in the direction of the parliament.

Our last stop for this day was: The Ritz Carlton Astana.

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A surprise for me 🙂
He took me there to enjoy a couple massage as the GRAND ENDING of this beautiful trip.

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The spoiling started with a dip in the (cold) pool and after 30min they called us for the main treatment: a hot stone massage.

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We relaxed and enjoyed it sooo much. It was literally the perfect ending. During this massage I just remembered how grateful I am for this life and my travel buddy. This travel style is unique but exactly what we love.
We love to explore it all in a rather tight time frame and at the same time we love to indulge in those fancy treats. I could not wish for a better travel buddy.

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After this incredibly unwinding massage, we got some tea and cookies, talked and laughed in the relaxation room.

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Following this we went to the mall near his place, ate plemini and went back home to sleep because at 4h a taxi would pick me up and take me to the airport.

..all good things come to an end..

Thank you ASTANA, ALMATY & my LOVE for this incredible trip! I had a blast and will never forget those HAPPY FEELINGS back in those days 🙂

Forever grateful.

 

Astana

Ideal stay: weekend trip
Temperature:
depending on season; winter very cold (-20) & summer quite hot (30°C)

..long time no hear..

Hey my dear READERS

I am so sorry – it has been a loooong time since I wrote my last post. I am sorry.
Life just happened in between and my priorities changed!

Actually I thought about my upcoming post and I prepared my notes for my favorite topic (at the moment): HAPPINESS.

But – somehow I felt the strong desire to rather tell you more about ASTANA and right after about ALMATY in Kazakhstan.

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..Here we go..

The first time I arrived in Astana (December) – I was shocked by the cold temperatures. Obviously it did not really help coming straight from Abu Dhabi & 32°C.

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I went to visit my best travel buddy and partner in crime, my boyfriend who recently moved there.
To be honest – Astana was not on my bucket list till then – but I really have to admit that I left with a heart full of gratitude and the desire of coming back.

DAY 1 (evening only)
My trip started off pretty well since he got Opera Tickets for us.
I dropped this wish in one of our conversations and was not really prepared for it.

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Surprise = check!

Prior making it to the Opera tho – I encountered the huge language barrier at the airport & in the taxi. Incredible. No one spoke English. I believe it is ok to say that I have been roaming around the world since quite a while but never – ever – came across THIS during my journey.
Taxi drivers rather strange than friendly – was not sure whether he was asleep or dead…?

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Somehow I managed to get my visa and left to the Opera House.

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Priority was obviously to hug my love since we have not seen each other for a while – but right after I got overwhelmed by the beauty of this traditional architectural masterpiece.

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We enjoyed our evening, indulged in those classic sounds and were looking forward to having a yummy dinner.

We drove to Arnau – a National restaurant – where we had horse meat accompanied with „bestbamark“ (noodles) and „boursaky“ (bread). Yes, horse meat.
Kazakh cuisine is traditionally focused on horse meat.

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I have to admit that it tasted a bit like venison – so def. not as bad as „expected“.
We talked, talked and talked – had tea to beat the cold outside and left quite late by taxi (don’t forget to bargain! – Google translator will help 😉 ).

DAY 2
He got up quite early in order to work and I enjoyed the sunrise above the city of Astana, looked up my route on Google maps and left to the bus station.

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The situation in the bus was quite weird: again, no one spoke English – so no one was able to tell you whether you were riding in the right or wrong direction; further the bus Driver and the ticket salesman played music with their cellphones and in between those tunes one of them announced the bus stops. The craziest part: it cost 90t only (20cent).

My first stop was – THE MALL: Khan Shatyr.
Coming from my sunny Abu Dhabi – I had no winter jacket, gloves, beanie nor proper shoes – reason why I first had to get all of this.

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After shopping I went to the Sky Beach Club which is located on the upper floor of the mall. It is comparable to Ski Dubai – just the opposite: Beach.

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Funny enough that it was packed by locals which apparently felt like escaping from the freezing cold outside (-22°C).

Weird facts: you can buy your gold fish from the machine & Kazakh look more or less all the same – at least to me…

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Equipped with my winter stuff I left the mall in search of the „I LOVE ASTANA“-sign.

..Spotted..

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The way towards the sign was quite slippery due to the frozen ground but it seemed that I was the only one bothering. All locals were covered in their fur fashion, did not talk to me and just mind their own business. Somehow sad yet „ok“ since every Nation has its own way of living.

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In front of the 97m-high Bayterek Monument Tower I spotted an exhibition for the EXPO 2018 – all countries were represented incl. the UAE. 🙂
Great to see a small piece of home in between this rather cold environment.

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My next stop was the Rafe Cafe which – as per google – offered the best hot chocolate.
Got to admit: yep. Indeed.
It was delicious – so chocolaty, thick and not fluid like usually. I enjoyed the cosy environment a little longer to escape from the devastating frostiness.

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Till now I have never experienced such a cold weather: The wind attacked my skin, nose, eyes & hands. It seemed that you were about to lose all your limbs. I was literally freezing my tail off.

When I recovered – I left the coffee shop, got to the bus station and somehow made it to the Pyramid and the mosque.

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..Yes, mosque..

 70% of Kazakhstans population is Muslim and 26% is Christian.

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Near the mosque I met a lady – randomly – who took me to a private exhibition.

Funny enough: We did not have any language in common but somehow communicated beyond words. After meeting her, I also met her sister and both were friendly enough to introduce me to the exhibition-head.

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The exhibition-head (famous) showed me all paintings, handmade embroidery etc. with pride and all of a sudden I felt integrated.
They offered me food, drinks, we took several pictures and had a blast.

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This experience was totally unexpected and opened my mind as well as heart. The best example that the universe leads you to beautiful things – if you embrace it, go with the flow and let it just happen.

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These two beautiful ladies brought me to my bus station; rode the bus with me (cuties – they wanted to make sure that I get home safely…) and hugged me prior leaving. Wow.

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With a heart full of gratitude I waited for my BF.

At around 20h we left for Dinner at Epokha – a restaurant which was kept in the „Soviet Union“-spirit. We enjoyed „pelmeni“ and „shashlik“ with potatoes while observing the “Cold war”-decor. Random.

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This place converted in a dance cafe around 22h – interesting to watch – but we were too tired to join them.

DAY 3
He had to get up early, again, I stayed a little longer in bed – snuggled up & watched the ice storm outside. Yes, ice storm.

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Due to those bad weather conditions I was only able to walk to the closest mall where I enjoyed a local crepe with cream.

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..Funny: since I was unable to read the menu – I took a Picture of it, sent it to my best Russian friend who then recommended a dish..

Subsequently I went downstairs to check on their local products at the supermarket. Well. I was surprised and def. shocked with the whole scenario.

..do the math..

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Deeply impressed I went back home. I enjoyed some series, chilled out, wrote some blog posts and waited for him to come home.

With a pretty cool Taxi we drove to the famous GQ Restaurant.

..he knows what I like..

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Yes, right. A classy rooftop restaurant with a splendid view over Astana – the capital of Kazakhstan.
We ate well, drank a glass of bubbly, fell in love with the bread and enjoyed the view.

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The taxi drive towards home was – for the first time – AMAZING! Why? Because we were able to communicate properly with the driver.
An English speaker? No. But a DOer. Why? He had a translator app which he actively used. He talked to it in Kazakh and the outcome was in English. Nice!
We were truly impressed, laughed and bombed him with many questions in regards to life over there, working conditions, language etc.etc.
We def. had the HAPPIEST ride – ever.

DAY 4
Last day.

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The plan was to enter the pyramid and the mosque but cold shock came in between. I am serious.
While standing at the bus station, I started feeling dizzy and very cold. We went back inside and I was barely able to move, my skin was red and I felt exhausted. The shower felt like being burned alive.. not a good idea – at all.
I fell asleep while being cuddled and when I woke up I felt slightly better.

We went to the Astana Mall for Lunch – a quick one.
And then it was already time for the “good bye” or at least a “see you later”.

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..see you later..

 

Sri Lanka

…truly beautiful!

 

Ideal stay: at least 6 days if you want to roam around the island
Temperature: tropical climate, around 25°C

Before starting my research on “Sri Lanka” it was not really on my radar or bucket-list. I believe you feel the same… Sri Lanka.. mh where is it exactly? Beaches or jungle? Country or island? Ok, ok – not that bad.
Still, I was not aware of the beauty and diversity this island provides.

 

Where? What? How?
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There we were – my better half and I – sure about the destination but not on the route (yet).
Me, the main planner (as usual), took the initiative and started the route.

Our aim: to see as much as possible but not backpacking throughout the island!


Our route and the different spots ended up to be a mixture of blog-research but also live recommendations from my lovely, helpful Sri Lankan work mates.
It was beautiful to see how proudly they shared their top insider tips with me and the sparkle in their eyes was contagious!

After 1,5 weeks of planning our route was set.

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Srilanka Map
 
From Abu Dhabi there are direct flights which take you to Colombo in more or less 4hours. Etihad Airways or SriLankan Airlines will take you.
Over there it is highly recommended to take a personal driver who drives you around.

Posh or much needed?

 

Yes, it sounds posh but in fact it is needed if you do not want to roam around by public transportation. Also, due to the street conditions and horrible driving skills you would not get too far if driving on your own.

The driver research was quite complicated. We heard about the average package price which is normal (package: car, fuel, driver, drivers accommodation, drivers food) but were not too sure where we should actually find the drivers. Some agencies “rent them out” which we found weird so I looked up couple of websites. On TripAdvisor I found a girl who strongly recommended “Francis” – after a few emails back and forth with Francis directly I had a good feeling and we booked his service.

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The communicated route was:
26.4. pick us up in the morning at 10h in Colombo to drive to Kandy but stop at the Elephant Orphanage
26.-27.4 night in kandy
27.4. take us mid-day to Polonaruwa
27.-28.4. a night in polonaruwa
28.4. afternoon take us to Passikudah
28.-30.4. two nights there
30.4. morning take us to Yalla Park
30.-1.5. one night in a camp
1.5. evening take us back to Colombo

As usual we booked all hotels in advance – ah wait, not all of them. One night we did not book to act “spontaneous” on site….Well, it was not my idea let’s put it this way 😉

To sum up:
Prior to the trip we booked the flights, hotels, driver and did not book any sightseeing activities.
We took light clothes and the most important: mosquito spray and wipes!

 

DAY 1
We could not have wished for a better start of this vacation: at the boarding gate at the Abu Dhabi International Airport we were told that we were UPGRADED to business class! Woopwoop. Happy since until that day I had never been in business class.

 

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After a relaxed and pampered flight we arrived at night at Colombo Airport.
Once you step out of the airport you get “harassed” by the countless, illegal taxi drivers. You better watch out and look for the official ones! Still it is important that you negotiate the price prior to jumping into the car. He drove like a maniac – but this seems to be normal over here.

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..I feel like a millionaire…
 
One Euro equals 172 Sri Lankan Rupees; the reason why I was not able to keep an overview of the money but thankfully I had my other half with me who managed it all. 

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Since it was only one rather short night we booked the Supun Arcade Residency which was ok for one night only.
Once we arrived at the hotel we went for a stroll around and went back to the hotel.
We – unfortunately – did not sleep like babies; it was quite the contrary: way too hot to be able to sleep properly – itchy all over either from the mosquitos or the hotel bedsheets. We were so tired but unable to sleep, every few hours we were awake but could not get up since it was still too early to do so.  

 


DAY 2

We were finally “allowed” to get up, got ready and had a quick breakfast with a view.

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At 09h00 sharp Francis came to pick us up. We stored the luggage in the rear and drove all the way to the elephant orphanage in Pinawela.
The orphanage was 4h away from Colombo and the drive included some frightening moments in the car.
Francis was at all times kind, friendly, knowledgeable but never too intrusive.

Finally we made it to the orphanage – which unfortunately was full of tourists.
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..breath it all in, love it all out..
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Before entering into the official orphanage we were lucky to spot many elephants who were on their way back to the preserve, coming from the water bath on the other side.
Instead of following the elephants we went reversely to the water.
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Guess what we spotted? Some elephants including many BABIES
🙂 Yes!
Blessed to see and be that close to them.. I was in my own happiness heaven – but it got even better.
We approached them super close and were glad to take some lovely pictures.

 

…cute pachyderms…
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The babies were quite cheerful and playful but such babies are not really small – instead super strong and tend to overdo it.

 

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After this wonderful experience we went inside the orphanage and spotted some more elephants and a few babies which even got fed during our time there. Lovely. Enchanting.

..Fun fact: they cover themselves in sand to “scrub” off the dirt..
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One big minus here though was the constant bothering and begging of the locals – always expecting tips just because of a small hint in regards to direction or other explanation.
In the long run this was really annoying.


Our next stop: the Royal Botanical Garden in Kandy.
Another 45min drive and we reached the famous Botanical Garden with a huge variety of flowers, the oldest and tallest trees as well as most rare plants.

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Actually, all travel blogs and websites state that the Orchid House is something very unique and special – in fact we did not like it that much.

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If you fancy a quick break you get the chance to grab some food or drinks at the coffee shop which is located in the garden.
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After roaming around we got back into the car and drove to Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy – a well-known temple “temple of the tooth” which requires you to cover your shoulders and knees (this also applies to men!).

…friend or lonely dog?…

Btw our driver Francis drops us on the desired spots and while we go for the sightseeing he meets friends, family or grabs some food etc. – he is never just sitting in the car and waiting like a poor lonely dog (if you dare to think this ;)). Since we spent overall 6 days / 24h together we ended up rather being friends than the typical “customer-employer-relationship”.
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A beautiful building with its finest mural paintings and impressive Buddha sculptures.

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I find it a pity however that all temples charge the tourists an exaggerated amount of money. At least it is free of charge for Buddhists and locals.
Don’t forget to take off your shoes!

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On the way down to our hotel we stopped at a manufacturing shop which Francis recommended.
We had a look but did not buy anything – it also seemed a bit “planned” rather than “accidental” – if you know what I mean 😉

 

Did I mention that the island is super green and has a lot of stunning view points?

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Finally this long but still beautiful day came to an end and we checked into our hotel – Cinnamon Citadel Kandy – which provided an amazing open air lobby and stunning views right into the nature!
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We said goodbye to Francis and went for a swim in the pool.
We just swam for like an hour and then a big thunderstorm came and it rained for a few minutes torrentially. But def. cool to watch – from the dry lobby area 😉

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DAY 3
We had no breakfast included reason why we started off the journey at 09h and drove for 2h to the Golden Temple.

Francis dropped us off and we walked the stairs up until the top of the temple.
On the way there were many monkeys which are not scared from the tourists – quite the opposite – they tend to be cheeky and naughty.

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The views from the top were just stunning.

Btw. Francis got paid on a daily basis so that he can take care of himself and the car.

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Afterwards we were driven to Sigiriya Rock – The 8th world wonder. It def is.
It is literally a huge rock in the middle of the greenest flora and fauna.
Unfortunately it was so hot and humid that I had severe circulation problems and was only able to make it half way through.

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Still the view from here was already unbelievable.

My strong and tough partner made it all the WAY UP and recorded it photographically.
Amazing.

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After a quick break and a few water sips we went back down and went straight to the small souvenirs shops to get a gift for our niece.

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..MADE MY DAY..
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Hilarious situation: My better half approached the shops and was told that the wooden toy “was made by my mum” – while he was trying to bargain – I went over to the next shop and spotted (obviously) the same toy – in that moment, he has already purchased the “unique” toy and was proudly presenting it to me. I was cracking and told him that they must have the same mother since they both have exactly the same toy – slightly demotivated he went back to the first shop and told him “well I think you lied to me” – all he obtained was a little SriLankan head shake and a sassy smile. Hahaha. 🙂

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This exciting afternoon ended with the check in at the Lake Hotel in Polonaruwa.
We made it to the pool and had a relaxing nap; once we opened our eyes a HUGE buffalo family was right in front of us. Haha. That’s what I call nature.

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In general since day 1 we were always lucky to spot the weirdest animals just free-roaming on the street: birds, porcupines, cows and elephants.

 

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After swimming we went for a shower and were looking forward to having our dinner. Unfortunately the buffet was overloaded with flies and mosquitos which were more than annoying and disgusting.
Well, in the end it is a tropical island and you cannot get rid of all of them – even if you use the wipes couple of times in a row.
 
DAY 4
In the morning we felt the trials of the horrible, sleepless night before.
Too hot, too cold, too humid, too many mosquitos – and every few hours we woke up and drank water like pigs.
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Somehow the nights over here do not really pass quickly. One wishes that the nights are that long back home!

We went to the downtown area but were rather disappointed, some pics here and there and moved quickly on.

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We stopped in a small village to grab some food and were constantly observed by the locals. The 2 whites incl. the blondie. It felt weird but I did not feel insecure.

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After 1,5h drive to the East of the island we reached our resort “Centara Passikudah”.
Well, “resort”.
Normally our hotel choice is pretty good but somehow on this trip we realized that we did not always take the best option.
Overall we have to say that the service is poor anyways. People are friendly but not “skilled” on a hotel service level.

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Never mind, the resort itself was new, shiny and directly located on the beach.

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We explored the beach and ended the day with a yummy dinner.

DAY 5
We went for breakfast which we had to share against our will with the countless free-roaming crows. Annoying.
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Nevertheless the food was yummy and anyways we were in a relaxed mood looking forward to enjoying the day by the pool.

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At 15h00 we had a wonderful couples full body massage which we both soaked up.

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The day ended with a few drinks by the pool and a relaxing sleep.

DAY 6
The big day has come – our night in the jungle – yes, Licious goes jungle.
We drove almost 5h to YALA NATIONALPARK which was super tiring, annoying and I had the strong desire to throw up more than once.

The only bright light in this dark, montone tunnel was the free-roaming elephant which made us stop in the middle of the street.
Whenever you spot such an animal you have to stop the car and wait until he moves on his own at his own pace from the street – else he could turn your car in a football 😉

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We finally arrived at the Eco Island Sri Lanka Tented Safari Camp Yala.
The welcome was incredibly warm and way better than any other welcome in the previous days.
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Furthermore the camp is really ecological – they move every 6 months to a different spot within the national park so as not to harm the ground! We liked the environment-protection thoughts and were looking forward to our stay.
First of all they meticulously explained the jungle rules to us. Often we heard “But don’t worry, this normally does not happen” – which in the end did not really calm me down… But ok, lets do this!

We “checked-in” to our tent and had to hide our belongings in a big wooden box – not hide from thieves but from the free-roaming animals.

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Generally it was somehow a “deluxe tent” since it had an adjoining toilet and shower but If you looked closer you spotted the mosquitos, spiders and frogs.

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While waiting in our hamock for the lunch call we heard some heavy footsteps around our tent…
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..Oh, oh… Lets see what comes next!..

…in the end we spotted an XXL lizard strolling around outside. He was such a huge thing that it literally sounded like the footsteps of a man.

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The rangers called us for lunch and after having this sumptuous meal we were picked up for the first safari.

Princess..check the tshirt..haha

Well, for those of you who never attended a safari – it is not like in a zoo where you see animals left and right while driving through the nature.

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It is rather an adrenalin rush while playing hide and seek with the many different wild animals! IMG_7510
It was lovely to spot all those animals in their natural habitat – at the same time it was sad at times.
For eg. when we saw a little injured brown bear – which arouses a motherly-feeling inside of you, but since it is nature and the process of “natural selection” no one is allowed to go and help him. 
 

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Some other friends we have spotted:

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This unique experience came (unfortunately) to an end but this amazing day was rounded off by a romantic candlelit dinner under the stars.

 

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Yes, now you go “ohhhhhh lovely” – the same came to my mind when I initially heard this.
It was def. incredible to sit outside, at a table for two, lit by candles and the close fireplace, an exclusive dinner (incl. ONION soup ;)) and above us only the sky – just the two of us – but that’s precisely it – it wasn’t just the two of us.
Many mosquitoes, flies, “flying somethings” joined us here.

 

Initially we were busy hunting or dispatching them but at one point we realized that it was useless since they just became more and more.
So we (tried to) enjoy our dinner and just went with the flow… Yes, we ate a couple of those insects for sure, since they flew right onto our cutlery.

..bugs life..
 

I tried very hard but at one point I was not able to focus on the conversation due to the buzz, whir, and being itchy all over – ear, hair, legs etc.
My partner opted for having the locally made liquor which helped him to ignore this animal show.

 

With a tummy full of food, love and happiness we went to our tent.
Btw. The rangers gave us a bell in case any wild animals showed up and they would come and save us in a few seconds.
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In our tent we were protected by the mosquito net but still were encircled by different types of insects which meant I couldn’t sleep properly.
My better half, who had just confirmed that he also finds it all disgusting and he would not be able to sleep, was snoring next to me not even 2 minutes later. 😉

I, on the contrary, was not able to sleep for even a few moments and was busy hunting the insects with my lamp in the hand.

A few hours later the most hilarious thing ever happened. My significant other was sleepwalking and while he was sitting upright in bed he said “may I go to the washroom? I know they are coming soon to ask for feedback and I don’t want to miss out” – I calmed him down and he went back to sleep. But internally I was laughing my head off. Too funny and sweet at the same time.

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..feedback..
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The “feedback” thing popped up in his subconscious mind because everywhere you go in Sri Lanka they ask you proactively to leave your comment on TripAdvisor 😉

DAY 7
To be honest, overall this night was awful. I truly recommend everyone to have a jungle experience – but I would never, ever do it again 😉 Once is enough!

Finally it was 5am and we got woken up by the rangers serving coffee and biscuits. They came to pick us up for the 2nd safari: the dawn safari.
I was never that glad to be picked up at this time of the day!

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Once again we were lucky to spot many different animals and were even super close to an elephant dispute.

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The very knowledgeable and friendly rangers showed us around and brought us to the most special places and even to the ocean!
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My happiness level was already at 80% but got exceeded and straight up to 100% once I saw those, small cute BABIES all over.
Baby pigs, baby monkeys, baby Bambis… I LOVE THEM!
Totally crazy about them.

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After driving around the jungle for a couple of hours we got back to the camp; packed our things and checked out.

Francis was already there to take us further to our last stop. It took us 5h and at the end we were really annoyed by his crazy driving skills and the long drive.

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Nevermind, finally we arrived in Colombo and – as initially mentioned – we kept the last night to decide “spontaneously” on a hotel. Well, we stepped into a few to get the daily rate and checked the room – but nothing really suited us.

Since Francis comes from Negombo he suggested to take us there; we ended up in a long street with many hotels next to one another.
We were exhausted, tired and annoyed and after negotiating we chose Rani Beach Resort.

What shall I say? Since that day I hated it even more to “act spontaneously” – it was an absolute catastrophe: loud, dirty, mold everywhere and countless bugs & mosquitoes.

We tried to sleep there and were looking forward to having our last day on the island.


DAY 8

We got up and tried to make the best out of this last day since at the moment we were in a quite negative mood. We were not planning on having such an awful last night on the island.

 

In addition to the horrible night, the breakfast was disgusting, the pool side and its sun beds were full of pooping crows and the “beach” was rather a stone field with some beggars/sellers. All-in-all pretty annoying and disappointing.
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..positive mind..positive vibes..


Normally my other half is the positive one during vacation and finds solutions for anything – this time he was so pissed that he had even asked if we should go to the airport now (10am) although the flight was at 8pm. A sign!

Meant, this time I had to be the strong one and tried my best to get something positive out of this experience.

We started walking on that long street and got us some souvenirs – then I spotted a scooter shop and we rented one out.
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All of a sudden this day turned into one of the best days – the best example that no matter how dark and bad things may appear – together, you are better and you will find a way back to the bright side of life.
🙂 *LIEBE*
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We cruised and cruised and ended up in the outstanding Beach Lodge with amazing food and cold drinks, located right on the beach.
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We stayed here for a couple of hours and enjoyed the sun rays. Simply happy.
Afterwards we went to one more shop where my partner bought a few T-shirts and I got a small Sri Lanki portmonnaie.
We went back to the scooter shop since it started raining cats and dogs.
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The uncle of the shop owner drove us by tuktuk to the airport which was an unforgettable experience! We were incredibly wet from the rain which entered in the whole tuktuk but also purely happy.

With a bag full of new experiences, unforgettable moments and hearts full of love we flew back to Abu Dhabi!

If you are seeking an adventure and do not want to fly too far: Sri Lanka is your deal!
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Enjoy it!  
PS: It is still a “hidden gem” therefore you have barely (German) tourists around you 😉

 

 

Al Ain

…enchanting.
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Al Ain is the “garden city” which is located in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and has quite a lot to offer.
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Distance: 90min drive from Abu Dhabi
Ideal stay: either day trip or weekend getaway
Temperature: similar to Abu Dhabi
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Since Al Ain is a kind of neighbouring city to Abu Dhabi I had the pleasure to visit it quite a few times. Each time I was lucky to see something I had not seen before.
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It all starts with the amazing views while road-tripping all the way to the green city.
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..it is daily business to encounter camels or sheep which are tied on the old-school Toyota pick-ups..
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First stop: Al Ain Oasis
The Al Ain Oasis is the largest oasis and was crowned as a UNESCO world heritage site.
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It is def. the perfect getaway from the turbulent, hectic city vibes since here you hear – correct – nothing.
Calm, shady and silent – just you and nature (ok – and some tourists from time to time).
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..stroll around and get lost in the walkaways..
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Historical: Al Jahili Fort
The Al Jahili Fort is one of the most historic buildings which originally served to protect the palm groves and defend the city.
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Nowadays it is an active visitors destination due to its information centre and diverse exhibition area.
Check TCAs website to get the latest updates on exhibitions and events.
It is open daily from 09h00 to 17h00 (except Mondays). Enjoy!
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Ancient: National Museum
The Al Ain National Museum is the oldest museum in the UAE.
It shows the full history from the stone age through to the recent foundation of the UAE (Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was born here).
The fort is a well-preserved mudbrick structure which is divided into three main sections: ethnography, archaeology and souvenirs.
Yes, contrary to popular belief: there is a huge historical background to be seen! See for yourself.
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..as usual cultural sights are free of charge in the UAE..
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Dribbling: Camel Market
This traditional (one of the last of its kind) Camel Market delivers the real experience on how it was in former days.
“Livestock” feeling in the middle of the desert – they are not only bargaining with camels but also goats, sheep and chicken.
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The camel owners tend to be slightly pushy and intrusive but don`t worry: just a have a look around on your own without tipping them whenever you take a picture with the camels.
Try to look for the BABY camels 🙂 They are def. the CUTEST ❤
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High: Jebel Hafeet
With its 1240m height – Jebel Hafeet is the highest peak in the UAE and among the the worlds greatest driving roads.
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Once you (finally) reach the top by either car or bike you will be rewarded with incredibly stunning views.
(Un)Fortunately there is (only) one hotel (Mercure Al Ain) which will be able to satisy your thirst.
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Service and seating falls in the 3* hotel category but gets clearly outvoted by the magnificent surrounding vistas.
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Underwater: Wadi Adventure
At the foot of Jebel Hafeet you come upon the region’s first man-made kayaking, surf and white water rafting facility: Wadi Adventure.
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The almost 3m high man-made surf wave is (obviously) the world largest! Be brave. Be you.
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Wadi Adventure was quite “wild” for me but is for worth a day trip for families.
Caution: at first sight the entrance fee seems quite low – but in fact all activities get charged separately – so in the end you still end up paying quite a high amount (surcharges for locker; rafting; high rope course etc.).
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Also I have noticed that staff near the rafting site are not appropriately trained as they are not able to handle “dangerous” situations.
Yet the flying fox was AMAZING!
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Animal-ly: Al Ain Zoo
Although I am not a big fan of keeping wild animals in locked cages; I have to admit that Al Ain Zoo leads by example.
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All animals have spacious compounds and look quite healthy.
Al Ain Zoo is home to 4000 animals and provides plenty of green public spaces and kids activities.
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If you get the chance: Visit the new Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre – I heard it is quite good but unfortunately you can only access it in combination with the Zoo ticket.
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As you can see from the pictures: quite beautiful and yet different from bustling Abu Dhabi.
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Hotel-wise I would recommend the Al Ain Rotana or the brand new Aloft.
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Whether you are looking for a quick renewal of body and soul or some activities outside of the capital – Al Ain will satisfy either way.

 

Jordan

…mystical!

Ideal stay: 4days for Amman and Petra, add-ons for Dead Sea
Temperature: depending on the season, between 13ºC and 38ºC

When a European talks about Jordan it is (again) often associated with a negative connotation.
If Arabs talk about Jordan – you hear plenty of positive comments. I also love it now after visiting this amazing country not too long ago.

From Abu Dhabi there are several direct flights with Etihad and Royal Jordanian which take you in 3hours to Amman – the capital.

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I went there on my own to visit a friend who was living there for a traineeship/Arabic course.
Yes, on my own – as a Blondie – and I made it safely there and back – don’t worry!

Day 1
I arrived at the airport and was shocked by the huge visa price: 50dollars! Wow. Quite a lot to be honest in comparison to the flight which was only AED 500… The immigration process itself was quite easy and fast. Afterwards I took the local bus to the city which is really affordable and clean and it was easy to find the departure location.

At the central bus station my friend picked me up. Of course, a Blondie is something “interesting” over there but still no one would dare to come too close or annoy you in any way.

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Jordan is a country with a huge historical background but due to the civil war in the 70’s it was partially destroyed and obtained a rather negative reputation. Despite Jordan´s direct “crisis”-neighbours (Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Saudi), it is safe to travel and you will experience true Arabian hospitality.

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..Looking for water pressure..? Not available in most parts of Jordan..

After unpacking my things at my friends quite “basic” flat we went for a walk through his district Jabal al Wabdeh (sahat Paris) by foot (yes it´s safe enough to walk there), went to the local market and ended the arrival day with a traditional, Arabic dinner at a very cozy place (cannot recall the name) – amazing terrace with views over the crowded and lively streets.

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Hotel-wise I would recommend Kempinski Amman and Intercontinental Amman but I must admit that my trip was simply amazing and wonderful through my 100% local experience.

Day 2
This day started very early since we had a long car drive waiting for us – 3hours from the capital to Petra.

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Generally, it was an exhausting drive through not well constructed roads, partially through the desert where you encounter plenty of police stops / controllers. Even us with 2 locals in the car were constantly stopped and asked to show documents etc. So you better be prepared for this…

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On your way down south you will see desert left and right, some villages and a lot of lovely donkeys which belong to the rather poor villagers.

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We reached Petra and before we entered the area we opted for a quick lunch. My locals obviously bargained and there you go – a huge plate of rice with chicken to share among all of us for little money.

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So, here we were, after a long, almost 4 hours drive & countless control points; fed and happy we reached Petra.
Wow. Just the first two sneaks into the area made my heart beat faster. The entrance fee for “maintenance” as they call it – is another 50$ for tourists and 1$ for locals.

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The Italian, the German, the Saudi, the 2 Jordanians and me, the Blondie. Actually I believe it’s a great move from your own country if your “local experiences” incl. museums, monuments, culture etc. are free of charge for the inhabitants.
Take the money from the tourists rather than from the locals. Jordan leads by example!

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Temperature-wise we were absolutely lucky – not too hot, not too cold else you could not do the 10km through the UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’d better wear some good shoes, shorts, sunscreen and light shirt since you are going to walk and hike quite a lot. Heels and dress are not recommended – although it’s seen a lot.

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But don’t worry, in case you get really exhausted you will have to chance to “rent” a horse, donkey or camel from the very attentive and rather pushy shepherds. The whole area is about 60km2 and the walk from the entrance until the “typical” and well-known picture spot is more or less 20min downhill walk.

The exhausting part starts afterwards once you go through the old, abandoned, rock-city up to the last hill. The peak of the “misery” is the whole way back after you finally made it to the top, knowing there is no other exit but hike and walk all the freakin way back to the entrance.

But hey, I do not want to discourage you – this whole thing is totally worth it… Let the pictures talk!

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To be honest, reaching here was already quite tough. I was craving a fresh, ice cooled coke – and there it was – alhamdollilah it was not a Fata Morgana but my life saver selling my coke. Yeah.

..Amira was exhausted and my poor boys had to handle my small crisis-attack..

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Finally we got to the Monastery and as said, it is def. worth it. Giant, tremendous, incredible.
Me, a life-lover sparkling with ideas and fun pictures – convinced my crew to take a rather unusual picture at this beautiful site. Make LOVE not war!

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Usually people turn around at this point and start their walk back to the entrance. Not us though. We went ALL THE WAY UP to the mountain in order to be able to breath in this whole day one last time.

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The lovely Bedouins on “the top of the world” received us with a tasty, traditional tea and offered us some dates which we gratefully accepted.

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After our little time-consuming Photoshoot – yes, because our Saudi guy was never happy with his face or position…;) we handed a tip over and left thankfully this incredible, breath-taking place.

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During your exhausting walk you will encounter several eager camel and donkey owners who will make it very tempting to you to hire one of them for an exaggerated amount of money.
The best way to get rid of them is with one of the top 10 Arabic phrases.

..“La, Suekran” (No, Thanks)..

Dusk arrived and we made our way back – the lazy ones took a camel but we walked all the way through.

..Let’s go the whole hog..

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Meanwhile all tourists were gone and the employees started preparing the candles for the “night-tour”. This must also be a nice one… but honestly, once is enough!
By writing this review and choosing the pictures it comes straight to my mind how we suffered that day…

Yes, it is beautiful but the walk/hike was likewise unforgettable.

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Once we were all reunited at the Entrance/Exit we went for a local bite and slept at the Valentine Inn located in Wadi Musa.
A quite cosy, affordable, basic but nice hotel where we could finally get rest.

DAY 3
Yes, this picture was taken in the morning. Start your day right – with a Shisha.

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We had a quick breakfast and drove back to Amman. On our way we encountered some roaming camels and again we had a small photoshoot.

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In the evening we went for a fresh juice and a nice, simple traditional dinner (bread, hummus, falafel, etc.) in downtown Amman Albalad.

DAY 4
In the morning we had a walk through the famous “Rainbow Street” where we grabbed some nice breakfast and interesting ice cream flavours. My friends emphasized that Rainbow Street would be more fun at night…

..Well, we gotta get through my “To Do”-List, shbab!..

Midday we went to do some more sightseeing and opted for Amman Citadel, the historical site in Ammans´centre. The entrance fee to the Citadel is only a few Jordanian dinars, and you can get access to the Roman, Byzantine as well as early Islamic ruins which is located at the top of Jabal al-Qala’a.
Not only are the artifacts still extraordinary, but so are the views of Amman!

If you are into culture and archaeology – Jordan is definitely the right place for you!

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If you wonder what you should wear in Jordan – in general it is an open-minded country. Obviously in the countryside you should cover yourself a bit but in the city or even in Petra it is completely fine to walk in a sleeveless shirt and long skirt.

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It looked like rain the whole day – but it never did actually rain.

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This was actually the most fascinating thing in the whole citadel: the spoon.
What happens here? What is it all about? Go, and find it out by yourself!

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Our afternoon was completed by the warm welcome from my friend’s aunt to her house – I will never forget this moment.
Not only because my Italian friend was not familiar with the local behaviour code (unmarried man should not touch married woman at the greeting) and wanted to kiss and hug my friends aunt but also her total open behaviour towards me, the Blondie, in her house.

She was happy to see me, so was I and proudly introduced me to her daughter.

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She offered us homemade cookies and tea and prepared a shisha on her handmade carpet. It was soooo cool! How can an auntie prepare a shisha in the middle of her living room?

Arabian culture and her openness did totally represent the warmth of Arabian hospitality. Incredible.

By end of the day I was exhausted but happy.
Fulfilled and grateful for life.
Thankful for this local experience and in the end we were even rewarded with this splendid sunset.

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Of course it was not enough for today – my boys would not let me depart without showing me their favourite coffee shop aka. Bar – “books@cafe” where we enjoyed our last yummy dinner, some drinks, completed by amazing city light views.

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Jordan was simply mystical and surely not my last visit!

Dead Sea and Wadi Rum are still on my bucket list and therefore I would recommend everyone to stay a little longer than I did to be able to enjoy it all to the max.!

Beirut & Byblos, Lebanon

 

…surprising!

Ideal stay: 4days
Temperature: depending on season, between 12ºC and 32ºC

My other half and I were looking for a spot to travel to during a longer weekend so Beirut came to our mind. My Arab friends (incl. Lebanese) were so excited that I was going and I got kind of snowed under with recommendations – whereas my European friends immediately discouraged me from doing this trip.

Why is this? Yes, due to Media and the urge to quickly spread rumours about the unknown.

Beirut got nicknamed the “Paris of the Middle East” due to its cultural and intellectual life as well as French influences. Yes, it got partially destroyed during their civil war but has been rebuilt in the decades since.
So, as usual we took our credit card, booked the flights (Etihad: AUH-BEY) and started this journey!

We booked the early flight with Etihad at around 4am – which I do not recommend at all. A flight full of crying babies, noisy and hectic people all over – and us, surrounded by them, lacking sleep. Mabrook!
The proof of severe fatigue – self-painted picture made on the airplane board computer…

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DAY 1
At 6am we arrived at the old-fashioned airport and encountered straight away the typical, rather lazy but friendly, Lebanese at the Europcar stall. As usual, we rented a car.
It’s simply the best way to come around and explore the most within a tight time frame.

After a crazy drive, where we learned that in Beirut you get to ignore the red lights, we checked-in at the Four Points by Sheraton which is centrally located.

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We slept for a few hours and went for a late breakfast nearby. Once we were strengthened we went to Jeita Grotto. To reach the top Grotto you have to take the cableway to the top, which is included in the entrance fee of around 12$ for both Grottos. This dripstone cave was just stunning.

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We walked through the bigger one, took the kids train down to the smaller one – but this Grotto was even more incredible due to the water and the recommended boat trip in the Grotto.

Caution head!

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Our journey continued to the well-known “Cristo Rei”. In Portugal we have a similar one… Btw. I constantly commented “oh this looks like Portugal” – “ah like in Portugal” – so, Portugal-Lovers, you would def LOVE Beirut!

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So far the drive was quite tiring due to the crazy driving style of the Lebanese people. Before you plan your trip people will recommend you to take a taxi or “rent” a car with driver but if you are a good driver, willing to adapt to the local behaviour – you will be fine.

Rule Nr 1: Just don’t stop! You have to go with the flow… Everyone speeds? Speed, too.

Everyone rushes over red lights? Do it, too, otherwise the guy behind you will become your seatmate.

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To recover from this, we stopped at the wooden bakery which is well-known for its delicious Manakeesh. Normally I do not like “Zaatar” but this time – wow. It was soooo nice and yummy, we could not stop!

After this yummy stop we moved on to Harrissa where we searched for the Lady of Lebanon. Many come up the mountain by cablecar – we opted for our car.
Don’t worry – you will see some machine guns from time to time – but contrary to our “European Point of view” this is really to ensure safety.
Once we found her, we were just amazed. We walked all the stairs up and this is what we got:

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We waited there till…yes, Sunset! Like usual and felt just blessed to be part of this natural spectacle.

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Our evening ended with some drinks in the famous district Gemmayzeh – Mar Mikhael a road full of bars and restaurants which caters to everyone’s needs.

Good to know: If you ever take a taxi, like we did in the evening, ask for “servicienne” else the Taxi drivers will try to bullshit you with an expensive taxi price.

DAY 2
This morning started quite crazy. Well, it’s actually just us… We turned the music on and danced through the room while preparing for the day. It makes such a difference if you sleep properly in a bed during the night instead of spending the night in an overcrowded plane.

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Btw during this trip I fell in love with the song ‘one dance’ by Drake which from my point of view stands for ‘life is one dance’ – sometimes it’s a steps-sequence easy to memorize and sometimes off-beats due to rapid changing life rhythm.

We went for breakfast at Paul’s near Beirut Souks. To be honest, it was totally overpriced and not worth it but still great views from our outside seating.

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This new city centre is just incredible. It’s the perfect mix between traditional and modern flair. Bit like an Arabic city but has def also the “Parisian” atmosphere.

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In the middle of the city trouble of a cosmopolitan city I was lucky to spot a church and a mosque on the same street. This is the perfect example for tolerance and freedom of belief. There is no need to fight for “the right” – who judges right or wrong? You should not…

Good to know: It’s quite normal to select the reverse gear in the middle of the highway as well as it is regular business to turn 3 lanes into 5! I told you its quite chaotic over here…

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We dedicated this second day to “Byblos”. Byblos is only 30min drive away from the city centre of Beirut. We strolled down the ancient city… with its lovely souq.

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This country has a great cultural background and you come to learn things which you would have never thought. Byblos is justifiably crowned as UNESCO World Heritage.


We enjoyed our walk through the temple of obelisk and its stunning views over the eastern Mediterranean.

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After this great trip we drove back to Beirut city where we chased the sun through the lively corniche until the famous pigeon rocks.

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Again, “just like in Portugal”… I just love it! The whole ambiance, the crowd, the sights, the temperature – it was all just perfect. I could not imagine a better place to be on that particular day – just happy with and thankful for life.

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DAY 3
On our third day we woke up (again) in a great mood, excited to drive up the hill to Broumana. We checked-out from the Four Points and on our way to our next temporary-home, we stopped at a lovely Boulangerie.

Actually, it’s almost impossible to fail culinary-wise here in Lebanon. Everything is just yummy, fluffy and simply mhhhhh.

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We finally checked-in in one of the most beautiful places we have every stayed in:
Grand Hills, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa.
Hard to explain but I believe “wow” would do.

Incredible room with THE view. 

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Coming from the European world, stamped and shaped by the circulating rather negative rumours, I would have never thought to encounter such beauty in “disreputable Lebanon”.

Beautiful vineyards, natural mountains and first and foremost: gracious people.

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We took our time to reach the famous restaurant MOUNIR and enjoyed a “Radler” on our way. Contrary to popular belief, Lebanon has a quite balanced religious mix: 54% Muslims and 41% Christians.I always wonder where these rumours and associated prejudices come from…

For Dinner we went to the in-house restaurant but my highlight of the day was the surprise organized by #favtravelpartner – Sunset on the hotel’s roof. Incredible…

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B e a u t I f u l

Day 4
Unfortunately our last morning has come and this trip has come to an end.
These days were just revitalizing, astonishing and lovely.

I really enjoyed the time over here and am proud that we did this trip despite all negative influences…

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Start your day right

We enjoyed our last breakfast with a perfect view and headed to the airport.

To sum up, this trip was so much more than we expected and I do recommend it to everyone.

Yes, there are some parts which are still not very safe to travel to but Beirut and especially Byblos are awaiting you and your open mind!

The Lebanese style is much influenced by “go with the flow” and if you do so you will enjoy your time a lot!

Mauritius

…incredible!

Ideal stay: 1week – 10days combined with Seychelles Mainland for e.g.
Temperature: depending on season, between 18ºC and 32ºC

Typically, Mauritius is seen as a ‘honeymoon’ destination and generally placed on the same page as the Seychelles, Maldives, Bora Bora etc.
So obviously, once I told my friends that me and my better half would travel there, literally EVERYONE associated this with a secret engagement, an early honeymoon or just a posh getaway for the ‘newly wealthy’.

Well, none of the above (unfortunately) applied.

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Living in Abu Dhabi gives you the huge advantage of being located in ‘the other’ part of the world (especially when coming from Europe) which gets you closer (at least location-wise – not necessarily budget-wise) to some of the ‘dream destinations’ such as India, Thailand, Singapore and diverse islands.

With ‘only’ 4h flight to Seychelles and from there other two hours to beautiful Mauritius, we decided to go ahead with this trip.

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The flights with Etihad / Air Seychelles range between AED 1500 and AED 4500 depending on the seasonality and there is only one airport on the whole island.
Mauritius is – unlike to all rumours and generic perceptions – not a pure beach island. It is as diverse as for e.g. Sri Lanka and contains high mountains, astonishing flora and fauna, humble inhabitants, long and historical culture, untouched nature, endless waterfalls and is rounded off by sandy beaches.

My personal advice is to take your time to explore the WHOLE island and its beauty rather than focusing on one area by spending your precious time in one of the high-end resorts.

..soak it all up – not just the 5* white hotel towel..

We travelled in September and I would definitely recommend this season. It is warm, not too hot, just partially rainy and importantly, not overcrowded with the typical tourists.
To move around freely it is def. beneficial to get a rental car – my usual ‘licious touch’. Obviously you also have the option to use the public transportation or tramp around on foot.

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DAY 1
At around 14h00 we arrived at the International Airport – and yes, it is def. appropriate to call it an ‘international’ one because the architecture, facilities and modernism would not tell you just landed on an island (quite the contrary to Mahe-Airport).
A very friendly guy came (late! Island style) to hand us the key for our rental car. The rental car was in quite good condition – it seemed – so we moved from the AIRPORT to our first stop in the North: Troux aux biches.

..all-rounder chewing gum..

Keep in mind that there is left-hand traffic which could lead to an over usage of the windscreen wipers instead of indicator.

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As mentioned earlier, the rental car ‘seemed’ to be ok, but after our first attempt to configure our left car mirror it fell right off. Well, … this island trip was going to be interesting. It took us more or less 1 hour to drive to Trou aux biches.

Hotel-wise it depends, as usual, on your budget and expectations – you could do Mystik, Trou aux biches Resort or Westin Turtle Bay.

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Since we only arrived in the afternoon, we showered quickly and went for a sunset drink with a stunning sunset over the ocean at Mystik. THIS is what I call #islandlife! Breathtaking… Is there any better way to start your trip?

DAY 2
After breakfast we went to fix our rental car in the nearby city centre and opted for an automatic car – it eases a lot and you will be able to focus on the crazy traffic and wiper-challenge.
Use your car to drive around and stop wherever you feel like.

We’ve stopped at the Kite Beach, sat there for a while and ended up for Lunch At LINDA’s PLACE.

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An amazing, caring, individual place which feels like home. You will be able to taste quite a few different home-made rums and choose your favourite dish from a selected menu. I highly recommend the crab risotto served in the shell, overbaked with cheese. Yummy…

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The ‘botanical’ garden was a recommendation but did not impress us too much, to be honest. It has quite a few tall trees, bushes, plants but nothing which made us stop open mouthed. Especially not if you have seen the Botanical Gardens in Miami and Sri Lanka. Still, worth a walk.

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In order to complete this relaxing second day, we stopped spontaneously at a rocky beach to enjoy the sunset. Sunsets are anyways my secret passion but I must say that Mauritius did a pretty good job here.

DAY 3
This day started quite early (6h) since we had one hour drive ahead of us towards the South of the Island.

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We wanted to scale LE MORNE – UNESCO World Heritage. This hike is doable by ‘non-hikers’ until a certain height and for the remaining part only the ‘brave’ succeed. In general it takes you almost 3 hours to reach the almost-top and 4 hours to reach the TOP TOP.
Still, what you get by climbing 0,75-way up is just incredible.

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As a reward after this climb you should enjoy a dip in the sea at the adjoining beach. The bar will provide you with cool drinks and tasty snacks, the ocean with a refreshing moment and the beach with the well-deserved relaxation. This is def. a good bet.

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We spent our evening in FLIC EN FLAC where we had some great street food (boulette, mine frits) and watched the romantic sunset on the beach with a traditional ‘Napolitana’.

Afterwards we drove all the way back to the North – the island is not too elongated therefore it is doable.

DAY 4
The fourth day was dedicated to Grand Baie.
We were looking for some water activities, which are offered abundantly. We decided to go for the Underwater Walk at reduced 1800.- (local currency) for two incl. full equipment.

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After a clear instruction lesson, we went on a boat and were brought near a collar reef where you got your ‘own helmet-aquarium’ upon entering the water.
One could face slight pressure issues but no need to panic – just breathe normally and do the altitude compensation as advised by the instructor. The underwater walk is suitable for people like me, who fear the mask and oxygen bottle which you require for scuba dive.

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One will be able to spot different fish and beautiful corals – perhaps you are even lucky to spot a moray eel or turtle. It’s an incredible feeling to be that close to them and still there is no need to panic since you are not too deep in the ocean and with both feet (literally) on the ground.

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At this point I would like to underline the great value for money which you get by choosing a WESTIN but especially this WESTIN TurtleBay. It starts with the incredible open lobby, the cosy white tea smell, friendly staff till the incomparable HEAVENLY SLEEPER BEDS. Oh my…

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The hotel offers a vast choice of complimentary outdoor activities which we actively used. I loved the transparent kayak, the stand-up paddling, the wakeboarding but also the relaxation time near the pool/beach.

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In the evening we went to Port Louis where my attention got caught by the colourful umbrellas which you spot in the city centre. The straightforward City-Centre is great for a walk, an ice cream and a lovely dinner with (local) friends.

By the way, my good friend Romina is the owner of the page MAURITIUS CONSCIOUS and will be able to guide you through ‘her’ island – even better than me.
Her boyfriend and her are real local experts, residing there now for a couple of years and promoting green travel.
It is important to maintain the beautiful natural scenery of the island so that your descendants will be able to see this incredible spot by themselves.

DAY 5
‘Start your day right’ – well, I guess 10/10 were achieved this morning. Wow. Simply wow.

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 Is it not exactly this what comes to your mind when thinking of an island? For me, it was almost unbelievable but the bright shining sun and the nice breeze in my face made it clear to me: yes, life is good and this is what you get!

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After enjoying some more time at the Resort we drove south to the so called ‘Chamarel – seven coloured earth’. If we would have known the ‘failure’ it would be, we would not have left our perfect place – The Westin.

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This place was OVERCROWDED with different tourist buses or hustler tourist guide-cars. In Sri Lanka you kind of ‘need’ a personal guide due to the rural conditions but in Mauritius you are better off to move around by yourself – especially if you now have my insiders advice as well as Romina’s recommendations.
Between the masses of people (+incredible camera zoom) we were able to spot the waterfall and after a short walk we finally got to ‘THE-7 coloured earth’. Well, … ‘okish’ is all it gets.

Never, ever forget your mosquito repellent – these useless insects are very aggressive and all my bites (40 or 42 – can’t recall) ended up as infected, swollen wounds

Since we have not spent too much time at the ‘place to be’ we went to the Curious Corner Of Chamarel which was also an ‘okish’ fun time but fell in line with this freakish day.

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On top of this, our beach bar at Le Morne Beach was also closed so in the end it seemed that the highlight of the day was the sugar cane juice on our way down to the South, which was handmade by an elderly woman who was adamant to explain all her steps meticulously.

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The long car ride and the failure day was coming to an end but got somehow turned around by overlooking the stunning St. Regis. Love at first sight – literally. Great open reception area, spacious pool area, choice of outdoor restaurants and a cosy bar where we (really) enjoyed our cocktail before the long awaited dinner.

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For dinner I was craving Spaghetti with seafood – and guess what, there was not such dish on the menu of all restaurants. Somehow I was upset, and somehow this did not surprise me after the rather unproductive day. BUT – I have to admit that I got surprised by the flexibility and competence of the restaurant employee who made it possible (along with the chef) to get me my favourite dish. Jackpot!

While having dinner we got company by a typical Mauritian-Bat which looked like a monkey but turned out to be a flying jumbo – making us smile by the end of this day.

DAY 6
Our 6th day started off very well with a delicious, healthy breakfast at our almost fully-booked resort. Boosted by the freshly made juice we drove all the way to Chamonix, in search of our local tour guide for the upcoming Wild-Zipline experience. Yey.

Somehow we managed to get to the right starting spot in the middle of the bushes.

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Equipped with belts, ropes and two knowledgeable guides we made our way through the jungle. All kind of ‘climbs’ were followed by a small or long (250m) zipline through the forest, crossing rivers and waterfalls at a height of 70m.

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This was such a great experience and incredible feeling. I was not scared at all since the guides were always by our side, making me feel more than comfortable. The best thing about the tour with CHAZAL was that it was only us 4.
On the way to the last ziplines we were even taught how to identify a ripe sugar cane and how to suck the juice without anything other than your teeth.
At the end of this tour a homemade lunch awaits you (included in the total price).

Don’t forget to take a change of clothes with you – heavy rain could always surprise you

After a warm shower and the afternoon-cake at the St. Regis – I enjoyed the Sunset Yoga Session on the beach. My personal ‘me’-moment.

DAY 7
As you can see from my review, we explored the whole island in an ‘active’ way rather than just enjoying the resort. Yes, we booked resorts and enjoyed them but we managed to combine this with the real local experience.

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Near the Cascavelle Shopping Village in Flic En Flac we met our private guide for the quite famous but tricky 7 waterfall hike. Our drive took us through the sugar cane fields, bushes – left-right combinations to the parking spot-like spot.
With nothing but good sneakers, mosquito repellent and water bottle we started this crazy hike.

To be honest, Ms. Licious is not the type of girl who goes through the deepest bushes and likes to get dirty – but today, it was different. I was brave enough to hold tight onto the thick branches, press my fingers into spider homes to manage to climb behind the numerous waterfalls. Higher, lower, easier, tougher following always the knowledgeable guide.

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Even if we looked like pigs afterwards, had scratches on arms and legs and some more mosquito bites here and there – it was one of the best things I was lucky to do in my life. Breath-taking views from top of the waterfall, fascinating water sounds and interesting background information on all the types of vegetation. A must do!

After this ‘torture’ we rewarded ourselves with a tamarind and brown sugar body scrub at the St. Regis SPA. – revitalizing. Our day ended – surprise – with a beautiful sunset.

DAY 8
Our last day has come – unbelievable how times runs but on the other side, we can say we saw and experienced a lot within the past 7 days.

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We kept the ‘Point Naturelle’ for our last day since we were not too sure if this was a real must-see. It turned out to be a quite peaceful and interesting nature spectacle worth visiting. The 15 Chinese tourists agreed on this.

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We continued our trip in the direction of the airport and stopped at the famous, traditional Biscutterie H.Rault. For little money you can book a tour where you can see all the handmade steps within the production, rounded off by a sumptuous tasting of all the biscuit flavours – accompanied by tea or coffee.
It is totally worth it and with your small entrance fee you help to keep the tradition going!

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Our flight back to the Seychelles was scheduled for the afternoon and we opted to stop one last time at one of the beautiful beaches to soak up the last sun rays and great Mauritian flow.

With bags full of memories and a quite empty wallets we left this beautiful island. Revitalized, relaxed, wiser, thankful for life and, first and foremost, blessed to have my #favtravelpartner by my side.

Dubai – more to see, eat, drink & do

..one post is not enough!

In my previous post I elaborated “the perfect day trip to Dubai”. Obviously this city has so much more to offer so one day only is almost not enough.. In the following post I will just quickly enumerate some more attractions, actions and dining experiences to round off your Dubai experience. These are just “elements” which you can incorporate into your personal plan according to your interests, budget and time frame.

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Bar Level 43 @ Four Points by Sheraton Sheikh Zayed

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Dubai Miracle Garden

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Global Village

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Chillout Dubai

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Souq Madinat Jumeirah

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Sunsets @ Old Dubai

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JBR Walk

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Beachin’ @Kite Beach

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Cruisin’ around

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Skyscraper by night

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Win Victory Love

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Milkshake @ IceLab

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City Walk Dubai

..and many many more! Go & explore!..