(These are all iPhone 4 shots. I will share some of my professional shots soon.)
So, this is the 2nd of many intended blog updates about my travels recently. I kinda have a lot to write about from the past few months so it will take time. It’s crazy to think that this exact time last year we spent Christmas day strolling the surreal gardens of Versailles and the lovely Christmas streets of Paris. Of all the places we’ve been to so far, Paris is at the very top of the list of places that I cannot wait to return to. No correction: that I NEED to return to. That and New Zealand. I’ve fallen in love with every place we’ve travelled to; it’s like being in love with more than one person. But talk about falling in love with a city. You honestly need awhile to really see the city, and 10 days was not nearly long enough. I think you need at least a month, but one day that will happen. It takes at least 2 days to walk the Louvre and appreciate all the works of art, not to mention all the other historic places and neighborhoods. Paris is a city best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. I think it’s simultaneously the world’s most loved and hated city. But to me it’s the greatest city in the world!! Shoot, we didn’t even see the Montmartre district!! We reasoned that it’s best to leave it to another time, because we will return sooner rather than later. Well, to France for that matter as well. Tangents like this often happen when I start to think of Paris….
However, this year we found ourselves climbing the dunes of the Arabian desert, 2 hours south of Abu Dhabi just about 15 miles from the border of Saudi Arabia. What a year this has been. It has been so incredibly extraordinary, I honestly think we have given Elizabeth Gilbert a run for her money. But I suppose it was an apropos trip to end our year of adventures. Pictures will come soon. My hard drive is completely filled up now with travel photos so it’s been a process to make room for these new pictures, which is pretty much killing me with suspense. It’s actually what I’m doing up now at 1 in the AM, waiting for my backup DVDs to burn as I write this post. But I’ll likely be posting about this trip through June, or later…
Our decision to go to the UAE was interesting. We never really book our trips that far in advance as we like to keep things spontaneous since we change our minds a lot. But we reserved this time of year to travel between November and February to Thailand, possibly Dubai, Tanzania, or India because that’s the only time to visit these places. Going to India, well particularly Rajasthan, has long been a dream of mine, but we’ve decided to save that for later when we are starved for more Asian adventures once we settle back Stateside. The visa requirements are too demanding as well, as they require you to actually mail your passport to the States which doesn’t work out for us because we really need them.
After just coming back from Bali and Thailand in October, I had reached my limit of traveling to 2nd world countries for the short term. As much as people think this kind of traveling is a vacation, it’s really not. True, it’s incredibly fun most of the time, but adventure travel and vacationing are two totally different things. Both are fun, but the former involves a considerable amount of stress. Although a part of me thinks that this stress is what makes it fun as well, in an adventure seeking and often sadistic sort of way. Although Lydia and I made a vacay out of our SEA excursion at the end of our trip, most of the trips Daniel and I go on are so packed full with seeing things that we hardly ever have time to just relax. We get up super early, catch sunsets, drive for hours, hop trains, etc….it’s nonstop which really beats you down. But we are using this time in our lives that we have to actually see the world, to see the many different cultures, and to have as many unique and rewarding experiences as possible which is why we travel so much. It’s all about the self growth we obtain and just seeing the world together which is priceless. There really doesn’t seem to be a diminishing marginal return to traveling yet because every new place you visit adds a new layer of perspective to your evolving worldview.
Up until my return from my Southeast Asian adventures in October, we had decided to travel to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in December and were excited about this. We really wanted to go on a safari in Sri Lanka and the country looks super interesting since it still hasn’t really branched out too much into tourism because it just recently ended its long civil war so you can see a lot of culture without a lot of Western influence. Plus, it’s practically India so it will be something new and exciting to see. But these kinds of trips do tend to be a lot more stressful and deep deep down we both just really wanted to take an actual vacation. So we scratched those plans.
Dubai was always on my list of places to see in the world but it never really was at the top. It’s another city and you know how I feel about staying in cities. It was more at the top of Daniel’s list than mine because he was fascinated with the Burj Khalifa and I’d be lying too if I said I didn’t care to see the world’s tallest skyscraper. It turned out that nonstop round trip tickets from Tokyo to Doha with a small layover were actually less than $500USD. That had to be some mistake, but it’s not. It’s really baffling to us as to why this is since the flight itself was over 12 hours long!! So, Dubai it was. But I still felt like I didn’t want to fly half way around the world just to go to another city, especially just Dubai. I REALLY want to see Istanbul so we toyed with the idea of flying there for the 2nd half of the trip. I even MORE want to see Petra, but the conflict in Syria has brought some issues to Amman and it’s just best to go later. But it’s probably a good thing we didn’t go to Istanbul because a large snowstorm hit the region at the time we were there which would have made things interesting. Although seeing Istanbul all snow covered would have been a site to see!!
I did some more travel research and found some things we HAD to see in Abu Dhabi. Primarily the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which as it turns out Rihanna of all people was kicked out of from recently for having a photoshoot, which I can imagine haha. They were insanely strict there; it was really an odd feeling. But after seeing some pictures, we knew this was a must see place on our list. Lastly, the peak of our trip was at an ancient inspired fortress in the rollings dunes of the Arabian desert. As much as I wanted to see Istanbul, I gladly put that on hold upon seeing this place. It also made this trip a lot more stress free since it was super easy to plan. I literally spent like 1 hour travel planning for our entire trip!! But the both of us couldn’t stop talking about it before the trip. I think we showed all our friends pictures on the net of QAS and were like “check this place out! this is where we’re going to next!” It was always met with the same wide-eyed reaction every time. I’m shocked this place isn’t more common in the travel community.The QAS is a 5 star luxury resort and we spent the morning watching sunrises, the evenings hiking dunes and watching more sunsets, the days at the oasis pool, activities such as riding camels, and meals sprawled out on our bed ordering room service or attending the elaborate buffet spreads. It was certainly the vacation of a lifetime. And I think for the first time on our travels, I gained 5 pounds which has been brutal hell trying to get back into working out, especially after the splurge of Christmas dinner. But it was totally worth it, but I’m really paying for it now.
So there you have it. The UAE of all places was pretty much the coolest travel experience we’ve had as of yet. I would not have guessed that at all. New Zealand was still the most beautiful in terms of landscape, but the vast dunes in Arabia were actually just as strikingly beautiful. I’m a bit worried now that Petra will be a letdown after seeing the QAS. Indiana Jones would have felt very much at home here. This just reaffirms again that there are so many amazing places in this world, beyond our comprehension.