Allie's Adventures

One Girl Travels the World

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Back Home!

I back home! The trip was amazing, but at the same time I am glad to be home. Constant travel was tiring and exciting. I am very proud that I fulfilled my dream of traveling around the world and being able to visit many different places…

Egypt (Cairo, Aswan, Abu Simbel, Luxor, The Red Sea)
Tanzania (Northern Safari Circuit)
Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai)
Cambodia (Siem Reap, Phnom Penh)
Laos (Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang)
Vietnam (Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City)
Thailand (Phuket)
Malaysia (Penang, Kuala Lumpur)
Korea (Seoul)
West Coast USA (San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Portland, Seattle)

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Tanzania Day 2

We have a long drive past the Ngorongoro crater to the Serengeti. I am happy that my digestive tract is better, so it doesn’t feel so bad. We stop above the crater to take some pics. Nice views.

The drive is like I imagined East Africa to be only greener. The trees are gorgeous.

Arriving to the Serengeti we see the fees are $50 per a foreign adult and 1500 Tanzanian shillings for a Tanzanian. It’s also $40 for a small vehicle and $150-200 for a large vehicle. Cha-ching.

We see some vultures and a few elephants on the drive! Elephants, so adorable… It’s not much of a game drive day, and the top of the land cruiser stays closed most of the time.

The lodge is gorgeous again. I think my room is the best place I’ve ever stayed in. It’s so different from the crap places in some of the Egypt hotels. They have a beautiful tiled shower. It’s gigantic. You don’t even need a curtain because the shower water won’t leave the shower area. There are two double beds and giant mosquito net that covers the area of the two beds. I still check diligently for bed bugs. None found. I have a little balcony area with a view, a desk, and a safe.

I arrive to dinner early and I stay after my meal because the lodge puts the safari group together at a table. It’s good to talk to people again! We are strangely quiet on the drives.

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Beginning of Safari

When I arrived in Tanzania, I expected desert with a brutal hot sun and barren landscape. This was the short dry season. Turns out, I arrived in a tropical paradise with green grass and plentiful fields and trees. Eric, my driver/guide picked up at the airport. He is very nice, but doesn’t talk that much. His English is good, but I can tell it’s hard for him. I tell him I am alone and hope the people who are all traveling in groups is nice. He says it will be “hakuna matata,” which means no worries… Cue the song! Disney didn’t make that expression up. He says people will eat together and become one big family.

Eric drops me off and I talk with Julius, who is charge of the orientation. He is to the point and cold. He says there are tse tse flies in Ngorongoro crater and I should not wear black or blue. Long sleeves are advised. Oh great, I bought only black and blue long sleeves. He also mentions we are going to be staying at 5 star places for the whole trip. Woohoo! After staying in cheapo places, 5 star does sound nice. I paid enough for this trip to warrant 5 star. Most expensive trip I’ve ever taken.

I sit around for a long time at the Serena Arusha lodge. I am not staying overnight, but eating lunch. The place is very spiffy with a beautiful courtyard and butterflies flying around the bushes. There is a meandering path around the lodge area so I do a little exploration, but not beyond the point that it says to stop. The orientation guy Julius said you should have an armed guard. Wondering what could happen and being exhausted, I decided against finding out.

I have five travelmates, all older affluent British people on a package tour. I feel out of place immediately when I strike up a conversation with one of the couples on the trip. We eat lunch together, but the talk is light.

We go on our first safari drive! Destination, Lake Manyara. I read that there are elephants there… We get to the National Park in 2 hours and then drive along a winding nature trail in the forest. It’s has many baboons and velvet monkeys. We even see an elephant mom and baby. They look different than I imagine because they are forest elephants. I am putting my 100-400 IS lens to good use. That thing is a hunker and perfect for capturing wildlife handheld. I end up pretty satisfied for the day.

The place I am staying Lake Manyara Sopa Lodge is nice. They have big stone huts with some rooms in it and winding pathways lit softly. It takes some effort to navigate at night. They have a large lobby, bar, restaurant, and a gift shop. I put down a 5 dollar security deposit for a plug adaptor.

I ate alone at dinner feeling a bit out of place. I don’t see one person from my group. I wonder if what Eric said about hakuna matata is true. Oh well, I figure will just get along by myself. I am happy with staying at a nice place. Maybe the camping safari would be more festive?

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African Safari - A Dream Come True

Going on a safari in Africa is one of my biggest dreams ever. I tell everyone I can confide in, well basically anyone who will listen. It was one of those I’ll day it someday dreams. That day has finally come! It costs a fortune, but it is my wildest dream (no pun intended). I hope it is worth it. After a close call with my passport and an uneventful flight, I am looking at safari time! Here is the itinerary given to me by the Ranger safaris representative:

2/7 – Arrive at Kilimanjaro Airport and transfered to Mountain
Village for lunch. In the afternoon continue to Manyara. Manyara Serena
Lodge for dinner and overnight
2/8 – AM game drive in Manyara park, and return to Manyara Serena for
lunch and at pm to Serengeti Sopa Lodge for dinner and overnight
2/9 – Full day game drive in Serengeti National Park and overnight at
Serengeti Sopa Lodge
2/10 – Excursion Olduvai, picnic lunch , continue to Ngorongoro Sopa
Lodge for dinner and overnight
2/11 – AM crater tour, lunch, PM visit to Masai village and return to
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge for dinner and overnight
2/12 – After breakfast drive to Tarangire Sopa Lodge for lunch, PM game
drive, dinner and overnight at Tarangire Sopa Lodge
2/13 – Arusha, end of services

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Missing Passport

A long story, short: I had a frantic time trying to get my passport after realizing that it was missing when I arrived at the airport. There wasn’t much time to spare, but thank goodness for the kindness of strangers and a little bit of luck at the last moment, I was able to board my plane and start my journey to Tanzania.

The Long Story:

Ahmed, my driver drops me to the airport after going through loads of traffic. I go to the bathroom to retrieve my documents. I then notice that my passport is missing from my hidden pocket in the airport bathroom. When I step outside the stall, this woman calls me. She just finishes washing her face. She recognizes me from a snorkeling trip we did from a couple of days ago in the red sea. I tell her my predicament. She says I should go through everything I have, but I’m pretty sure I would only put it in one place and it’s not there. She leaves the bathroom and says to let her know if she can be of any help.

I see a man when I exit the bathroom. He starts talking to me. I’m in my frantic mode, trying to carry my super heavy duffle bag and almost completely ignore him. You get used to doing that when you go to Egypt. He asks me if I found my passport. Oh, I figure he must be with the Indian woman. I see her sitting with their baggage. The man runs around the airport with me trying to find help. He presses to the agents that it is an emergency. I want to call the hotel, but I don’t know how to call an Egypt number on my cell phone. The one pay phone in the new terminal is not working and the tourist police do not speak English. We try the Egypt air info counter and the woman doesn’t understand what I try to tell her. She eventually points me to the information desk. The man at the desk says the phone doesn’t dial outside the airport. I offer him money to use his cell phone, but he said he was forbidden to use it during working hours. He said he wants to help, but can’t. I swear I had the most desperate face. The man at the counter helps me figure out how to dial the hotel on my cell. I call them, and give them my name and room number. I wait for those few desperate seconds until they repeat my name. They have my passport!

I offer to pay to have someone bring it over. I really didn’t care about the price. It’s 150 pounds, about 30 dollars, that fine. The flight cost me 686 dollars. The Indian man is trying to help me with the logistics: get the drivers number, tell them to hurry, copy down the driver’s number on his phone for me.

I chat with the Indian woman and her husband. They are just married and on their honeymoon. How sweet! I get their names, but they are Indian and I am horrible with names, especially foreign names. Oh, they are so kind. I thank them profusely. The husband says I should tell the airline about my situation. They are having a quick bite to eat and then have to check in for their flight.

The guy at the information desks can’t help me call with his phone, but helps me figure out how to dial the hotel with my cell phone.

I wait nervously for a long time. I couldn’t get the driver on his cell phone. I called the hotel many times trying to get in touch with the driver, since I can’t get to his cell phone.
the guy at the counter says the gate will close at 9. There’s only about 15 minutes left. I wait by one of the  and talk to a gatekeeper. He tries to help me. Finally the driver finds me apparently, he was looking for me for over an hour.

Thank goodness! I drag to the security. Through the security, I wait for check in. There are so many Chinese people ahead of me and I try to speak mandarin to convince them to let me go first. Thank goodness they understand me through a mix of mandarin, cantonese, and English. They let me go and I make it to the gate extremely nervous. I wait for awhile and there are people much later than I am.

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Thrown onto a Donkey and More Pyramids

I visited Saqqara (step pyramid) and Dashur (bent pyramid and red pyramid). Yea, love those pyramids. I remember building them in my old Egyptian city building game. I’m exhausted right now. I woke up naturally at 5:30 and got the hotel to book me a taxi for Saqqara and Dashur.

The driver seemed nice, implied that if I like the services, he should get a tip. The view driving was spectacular, like the pages of National Geographic. Unfortunately there’s no road to the bent pyramid at Dashur and I could only look at it from far away. I start walking close, and he honks. I ask if I can walk up to there, but the driver, Ahmed says it’s dangerous. I take a picture from far away. He says we can drive a little closer after the Red Pyramid closeby.

We go to the Red Pyramid at Dashur, smaller and earlier than the one at Giza, but I like it. Unfortunately, I need to pee and there is no bathroom. So I’m holding it, I’m holding it. I buy the ticket. I take some pictures and enjoy the view. There are barely any people here and the atmosphere is nice. I think that’s the best view to enjoy a monumental piece of architecture. The ticket includes entry into the Pyramid, so I climb to the entryway, pretty steep. When I get there it’s a long very steep way down, so I pass seeing how I am holding pee and don’t want an accident. I would brave it if I didn’t have to go.

Ahmed drops me off a little closer to the bent pyramid following a bus that is going along a dirt road. He stops, the brave bus keeps on going. Ahmed says I can walk, but not to far. I don’t walk to far because I am still holding it…

Bent Pyramid at Dashur

We drive to Saqqara which isn’t far away. Thank goodness there is a bathroom there! Then I look at the museum and it’s quite lovely with a mummy and nice artifacts. Afterwards, it’s on the the step pyramid. It’s wonderful being that it is less crowded then Giza, but there’s scaffolding. It’s ok. I really enjoy the view. Everything is going well and I ignore the merchandise hawkers.

That is until… I make the mistake of talking to a man who offers to take a picture for me. I misunderstand him and we take pictures together, he puts on a Egyptian hair covering on me and passes my camera to another man. He asks me where I’m from and I say China listening to the advice of my driver who tells me to pretend I’m Chinese to the Egyptian tourist entry point police, so they don’t think I’m rich. We proceed to take pictures at different points. I am hopeless to stop him because the other man keeps on walking away with my camera. Eventually, the first man put me on a donkey against my will for a picture. I cry bloody murder. He then demands a tip for the guy who owns the donkey. It’s so annoying how some people will do anything for money.

I paid 1 Egyptian pound (about 20 cents), just to have them go away. He agrues that it is too little, but eventually the donkey man takes the money and goes away. I take it they do this routine all the time. Thank goodness they are gone and I get some peace with the pyramid.

Ahmed takes me somewhere to eat and it’s fancy with people performing. I am really hungry, but figure I’d get something light to save some money. Ahmed goes somewhere else. He is not eating with me. Turns out it’s a set menu with an exorbitant price. I refuse the lunch and wait till Ahmed finishes praying until we leave.

Ahmed says he’s hungry. I am too. He takes me to a carpet making shop. I am not planning to buy anything, but Ahmed says we get free tea, if we go to the shop. I end up buying a small carpet anyway. I am a sucker as I wanted to buy something like that for a long time. I look at the carpets, which look like works of art and the merchant tells me I can take pictures especially since I bought something.

Ahmed promises to pick me up and drop me off at the airport for an additional fee. I negotiate the same price I pay when I traveled from the airport to the hotel. He drops me off so I can eat and go to an Internet cafe. A long story later…

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Touring with the Israelis

Israeli Duckies (Tour Members)

So, my tour ends here. Hmm, independent traveling. Whatever shall I do, all alone in Egypt. I go down to breakfast and by chance bump into Cory, a woman from the Americans living in Turkey group. She is going to Alexandria. She has her train fare booked and is hoping to the best, since she doesn’t have a guide, except a phone number she can call in case of emergencies. She asks me to join, and I would like to but I didn’t buy any tickets in advance and don’t fancy going on any more long rides. I want to see Coptic Cairo (Christian) and the Citadel.

So this guy says hello and asks if he can sit down. We say yes and he does. Then Cory has to go, so it’s just me and this guy. Turns out that he is a guide and is taking a group out to see some sights in Cairo for the day. They are going to the Pyramids, Coptic Cairo, Islamic Cairo, and the Citadel. He asks me to join and it’s cheap, only about 8 dollars for the transportation. They said they upgraded to the 14 seater van. There are two Brits and the rest are Israelis. I consider it. Those were all the sights I wanted to see in Cairo.

I come back down after changing out of my t-shirt and sweats and the whole group is there. They seem friendly enough. Dang, the Brits are tall. They actually are in the tourism industry and looking to start tours for Israelis in Egypt. One is very talkative, the other quiet.

So for the day, I was rushed with a pack of duckies (my nickname for tour members) quacking in Hebrew most of time. The tour guide hired an Egyptian guide spoke in English. The found the man who was arranging the tour speaking to the Egyptian guide in a Arabic. All of the tour members were Israelis could speak English too, but mostly spoke in Hebrew. Even the Brits could speak Hebrew. It was ok, but a little out of my comfort zone. I almost got left behind at Coptic Cairo when I went to the bathroom. The guide said there was a potty break, but when I got out they were all gone! I was nervous, but I figured I could take the train since the statio was so close. Eventually the talkative Brit found me and said that he was going to get good karma for it.

There’s an Israeli girl. She looks like she’s in her thirties, a little pushy. She looks like she’s into the talkative Brit. However, the guy is constantly on the phone doing business and he’s a bit pushy. He just cuts through people and says you can only do it if you are bigger. He is definitely bigger. They usually don’t cause any trouble with him because he is tall and big. So much for good karma :)

The Israeli girl wants to buy my guidebook and I consider selling it to her because I am leaving Egypt. That will leave me no reading material, however. I think I at least need it for the rest of my stay in Egypt. I tell her I will think about it.

The mosque at the citadel was beautiful. I really enjoyed it, except it was a bit rushed due to the tour rush mentality. I don’t want to do tours for awhile. Hopefully, the safari is different.

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The Long Ride – Red Sea to Cairo

Quenching your thirst is an art. Drinking water can result in water splashing up your nose on bumpy roads. Timing is key. Also do not eat right before your ride. I learned this the hard way. If I had a weaker stomach, I would need a bag. But come on, it’s Egypt. When the place is so amazing, these complaints are minor. When you look out the window, images from National Geographic appear before you eyes. Farmer tend their fields and using donkeys to transport their goods, women covered in long black gowns float past you, and you can stare at  miles of scenic landscapes right alongside the highway.

I am on the road between Hurghada and Cairo. The drive is about 6-7 hours, but I expect about 8 because my guide underestimated the length of last drive.

Before the drive I went to fill my stomach at a restaurant called the Cocao Bar. The waiter offered the actual metal eating utensils when I asked for a fork for takeaway. He said that it is a gift to remember Egypt by. I politely declined. People can be very friendly, but you are paranoid because you always hear, “nothing is free.” Egypt time is different from American time. I expected to be able to eat in an hour, but was unable. The waiter was extra nice and offered to enter his password when I wanted to use their wifi. He said that the standard wifi password would only last 2 hours and his would last for 8. He asked a lot of questions about my name, where I’m from, and what hotel I was staying at. When I told him that I had to go soon, he left me alone. I think that Egyptians have a culture where you are more free to ask personal questions without being rude.

Wow, we are driving past an extremely lengthy beach. Much of the highway is by a dream inspiring cerulean blend of blue waters. I could stare at it all day. I know my beach paradise is somewhere. Maybe in Thailand.

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The Red Sea

I arrived at the Red Sea yesterday. It’s pretty windy here. Every store in the town is labeled in English and there are shops selling things at higher than expected prices. I bargained for a toothbrush and English biscuits. Still got ripped off. I hung out with the Americans who live in Turkey a little. It’s good that they adopted me because I felt so strange being the odd one out of the group even more so now that the young girls have left. I ate a cheap falafel hoping my system wouldn’t give me any problems. It wasn’t all that pleasant, but I survived.

The Turkish, ok the American people said they heard the hotel was very good. I didn’t have my hopes hi after being at some pretty iffy hotels on the trip. The hotel was huge for sure. I had to walk close to 7-8 just to reach my room. The first room’s bed was disgusting and the second room’s key jammed many times, but eventually it worked and I stuck with the second one because they didn’t want to change it.

I went snorkeling twice in the red sea today and saw colorful fishies. It was the full day and a long one being on the boat. It was a long way from the shore and we went to a place called “Paradise.” Paradise was ok. The beach was very rocky and we couldn’t actually sit under these grass hut umbrellas, but I was able to get a non alcoholic drink from the bar. They didn’t even have alcoholic drinks.

It was a high of 75 degrees, but very very windy. Like crazy windy. I was quite cold on the boat, maybe except if you sit in the sun. The water felt warm especially since I had the wetsuit on. It was hard to pee with it in. Ew, no not in the water… I couldn’t unzip my zipper without someone to help me. I went 3 times so I had two different women help me. Amazing how you need help with things when you are by yourself.

The boat captain was hitting on me. He kept on popping up and talking to me. He was very close and touched me on the shoulder. It was awkward, but I casually brushed him off. He did ask me what hotel I was staying at. I said I couldn’t remember. He was quite good looking and I suppose he might hook up with some girls on tour on lucky days. Still, not a good conversationalist in English.

Hurghada, the place we are staying is very touristy in an unpolished sort of way. There are many Russians. I learned the Russians have a bad reputation in these parts. All the shops I’ve been too have someone who speaks English. It’s amazing… Well maybe not amazing, but surprising.

I don’t like the area too much. Too many speed bumps and is too windy. I being cold and I have run out of long pants. Ai yi yi. I will figure something out and try to do laundry back in Cairo. I will be on a 7 hour ride tomorrow!

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Hot Air Balloon Ride, Donkeys, Valley of the Kings, and Luxor

Wow, what a very long day. I got up before 5 to get ready, and went on a hot air balloon ride! It was spectacular! I love the views of the Nile, the countryside, and the Valley of the Kings. At one point we flew low enough to see people on their farms. They were waving to us! It was so good to see the smiles on their faces.

There was a fog in the air over the Nile and I could see the beautiful fields of crops. It was surreal. I couldn’t decide whether I should appreciate the atmosphere or take lots of pictures. I tried to do a little bit of both.

I am so glad I decided to do it despite the negative review I read awhile ago on the net. Sure they fit over 20 people into one balloon. No, that is not a typo.

There were separate compartments with a huge basket with 5 people in each and a separate compartment for the captain. I got put into a basket with a family 3 adults and a kid. It was quite cramped. The balloon was made for less people. I would imagine it would be more crowded with all adults, especially if they are of a bigger stature. The view was so amazing, it didn’t matter.

We had a landing position where we crouched down in the balloon and held onto these straps inside the basket. It was a funny position and there weren’t enough straps for each person to hold, but the landing was very smooth. The balloon ride a crew helped us land and then deflated the balloon. It was quite a laborious process. The crew also assisted us into the balloon just scooping up people like they weighed nothing and putting them into the balloon. Strange being scooped like that. They didn’t ask, they just did it. Hmm, different views of personal space? Some people just got in themselves apparently.

Afterwards we rode on donkeys! Yep, donkeys! They are so much smaller than the camels and cuter too. You bounce if they move fast. Women were warned to wear a sports bra and men warned to protect their jewels. The donkey was much less scary than the camel although it was scary that we were riding on the road. The donkey man kept on warning is to stay on the right side of the road. I wanted to feed the donkey a granola bar, but the man said the donkey had bad teeth and would feed him later after returning home. He took the granola bar. I hope my donkey actually gets to eat it.

Then we walked around in the valley of the kings. So tiring. The tombs were pretty, but I was way to tired to enjoy it fully. There were beautiful painted, carved, and etched artwork in each of the 3 tombs we saw. After lunch I went to the luxor museum with some of the girls. Again I was too tired. Wish I passed on the museum because it was quite a long walk from the hotel. I went to sleep early after visiting an internet cafe my tour leader showed me to just print the safari information and flight tickets. I said goodbye to most of the tour group as they headed off to Mount Sinai and we stayed in the hotel to head to the Red Sea the next day.