Off to Jordan!

A year+ ago, we wrote about how we’d dream to be in Petra (here). And later on we wrote about how we were assessing the ways to get here (here). Yeah. Finally fruition has come through!

When we get to Jordan, this is the photo we want to take:

Approach to Petra

Ok not sure if there would be camels there or a busload of tourists photobombing us, but this scene is surely what we want. And so it keeps playing in our head. “In your heeaaad, in your heeaad, zombie zombie…”. Because like zombies we were unable to focus at work or our meals. And we were but mindlessly going about our day before we headed to the airport.

And we are off!

Actually, by the time you read this we would already have zipped across the Indian Ocean to Amman via Dubai and should be on the road towards Petra. Or for those in a later timezone, we would have already reached the town and preparing for tomorrow’s walk. Ooooh, can you feel our excitement exuding towards you from half a world away?

Don’t you get that kind of feeling when you’re about to go on what you perceive as an epic adventure? Some have written about this anticipation being a significant part of the entire journey. Do you think so? That excitement that Suan have (butterflies in the stomach) has apparently infected Mel too…

So what will we be embarking on?

We start off in Amman. From there it will be 5 days in the country getting to you know where before we cross over to Israel. Yup, we will explore Israel too and spend Christmas in Jerusalem. Well, last year was in the frigid cold, so this year’s quite a change.

A slew of scheduled posts will continue to stream from our blog, but no responses will come from us. Yeah, we’ll put our mind off blogging for the next two weeks and focus on the journey. So, we’d lay off logging in and reading blogs or posting comments, just like when we were in Hua Hin. Live the moment thoroughly and harness the days we have in the lands of the prophets. Anyway we are too damn cheap to data roam… heheh… though we’ll continue to post on IG whenever free wifi comes within range. Provided you follow us there too…

You folks enjoy the holiday season and ‘see ya’ in the new year!

Is it safe? Egypt

Today we start a new theme or series of posts. Not the handprint stories. Nor the usual travel topics. We call it the ‘Is it?’ series. What is the intent? Well for one we are a little tired of fake news and media sensationalization. Wow. That’s a long word and we are not sure if it stands up against spell check.

Anyway. The point of this post is to remind you to focus on accurate information. Or at least getting a stab at obtaining some. So today we are focused with Egypt as an example.

And what prompted us to do this post was something we read in our local newspaper a couple of months ago (here). If one reads the chatter on the web, it would appear there is still a lot of reticence to visiting the country. The tourism numbers illustrates the current plight of the industry, which formerly used to contribute more than 11% of the country’s GDP (at height of 2010). Approximately 12% of the workforce was connected in some ways to this industry. It has shrunked significantly since then.

But is the country as unsafe as the media (mainstream or social) portrays it?

Sure. There are places in the country and sections of cities one should be extremely careful about venturing to. However that is applicable to many places around the world, even in the little red dot! Apply some good sense by observing your surroundings plus doing some of your own research we are sure you’d be fine.

We enjoyed our journey to Egypt (read all about it here). And we are sure you will too!

Rescuing a cat

As you might know, Mel loves cats (though he’d never live with one). And this story really got to his heart when he read this a few months back. Imagine you spotting what appears to be just a lump of rock in the snow while you are driving. And we are talking about it snowing in Russia… pretty cold we think.

And that ‘lump’ rock it was not, but rather a curled up almost lifeless body of a kitten!

Orgh…

You know, for all intents the poor kitten could have simply perished by the roadside. It was incredible that this man stopped and picked her up. But sometimes you have to wonder what was he looking at while driving… Yeah Mel love cats and he photographs them wherever he can find them. We even wrote about them here. And here is an example of cats Mel that captured on ‘film’:

Anyway, fortunately for Nika she is a well taken care cat today. She might have lost part of her tail, but she is alive and well! That’s such a wonderful happy ever after story don’t you think? Do you like cats?

PS: Did you notice something about their ears?

A selfie is all it takes

Imagine you are walking to your airline departure gate. You have only your hand carried luggage with you. Your passport or identification documents are tucked safely inside your bag. No boarding pass. And you get onto the flight.

What! No hassles?

Yep. If the trial that this airline in the US proves viable (read here), we could all just be taking a selfie and get on our way – flying across the friendlier skies… without being beaten up or dragged off the plane heheh…

Yes. Simply take a photo at the boarding gate and you will be waved through when the system signals the all clear. Wow we hear you holler out. Is that possible in today’s security obsessed airport terminals? While it is only a trial between one port pair from Boston to Aruba (hmm… wonder why), this pilot (not the flier) has great potential to be rolled out across all airports and airlines. A wonderful development in our opinion. Because it’s definitely coming, since iPhones can already do that.

One thing though. Because this technology works on image recognition, one might want to ensure that one’s photo records in the passport, immigration and identification documents are closely matching. Perhaps the software is intelligent enough to get through it these days (such s the physical features), but it pays to be diligent. Because our facial features do change as we age (that’s another topic to delve into). Don’t rely on that old photo in your driver’s license!

We’ve been writing about how it gets more onerous to travel these days. So this is definitely one step in the right direction to lessen stress from air travel. Here’s to more seamless travel. One less hassle is always welcome.

Forbidden to take pictures

Can you imagine not being able to take a photo at a place of sightseeing? Yep. That’s right. At this town you are not allowed to take photos. Why? Because apparently photos taken at this town and shared on social media may will cause envy. Read this article from Huffington a few months back here.

Heheh. Think about it. The town was so magnimious to forbid photo taking so that it will not incite envy…

But seriously, this is not the only town where one is not allowed to take photos. And the rationale pro-offered by the town in the article has a point. Aside from the revenue it collects from making you pay a fine… How often have you noticed that tourists are frequently more focused on taking pictures than actually taking in the view? There are lots of shuffling and elbowing just to get a photo, quite often with selfie sticks getting in your face if you are not careful.

That’s probably one of the pet peeves of “travelers”, ie those who want to be more than just casual tourists.

And sometimes it is for safety reasons too. In some places, the use of flash photography is forbidden, given the data that suggest excessive exposure to bright light may accelerate damage to antiquities. On the other hand, it can be risky in some places for folks to take photos too – dangers from falling off cliffs, buildings, boats, trains, aircraft… did you recall our post about how some folks take risky rooftop photos here?

So no photography in this village in Switzerland. Should that be a rule strictly enforced? What do you think?

PS: Heheh… if you read the article, you might have noted that it was also mentioned that this was a likely marketing gimmick of an off the beaten track town to gain some fame… at $5 per fine, they did not mention how they’d collect it, or if it will come with a cup of coffee! LOL.

Staying connected to the grid

Would you walk naked along the streets?

We mean, stark naked in your birthday suit. Just like the emperor with no clothes, will you be able to walk confidently along the streets, far away from home? Heheh.

Yep, we are referring to being offline when you are traveling.

Because today we are almost naked if one is not connected to the grid. In the sense that one might feel helpless, vulnerable and yes – exposed…! When Mel & Suan first started journeys together, the web was still in its infancy. Certainly no Googling for information. Good old fashion tourist maps were the norm. In fact, we still have many them in the cupboards somewhere… eh time to declutter? Nooo…those were such dear memories.

So if you are one of those folks who would be a lost puppy without access to the web, perhaps Internet roaming packages might be your savior when you are on a journey outside your home base. Yes we know about buying local SIM cards and data plans. The question is: why bother to change SIM cards in your smartphone when you can simply roam. Especially when the roaming plans are not the same sky-high price anymore?

We talked about being too cheap to roam or buy local plans (here) but in the end we relented. Otherwise we would not had been able to update this blog regularly while on the road on free wifi alone.

Is staying in touch with loved ones back home critical to you when traveling? What do you think – would roaming be your choice or would you still stick with buying local plans?