The Bible As A Travel Guide

December 9, 2008

mt-nebo-jordan-valley290.jpgEric at Travel Blogs has come up with another innovative way to explore the way we all travel – in reality or in our minds. He asked us to connect up the books and other media that had inspired travel. You can read these, including a slightly unusual source of inspiration for the Pickled Eel here. A related photo here from Mt Nebo looking across the Jordan towards Jericho.

On the Lighter Side

September 16, 2007

Part of the preparation for visiting a place like this is to have a “Run Away Quick” bag. More colloquially known as the F^%* off Quick Bag in another organisation I once worked for. Or perhaps simply a “Grab Bag”. Its not a bad habit to have when you are travelling. Have all the survival essentials in one little bag along with your passport and tickets in case you have to make a run for it. Leave the suitcase and souvineers behind for the new ruling junta and keep the essential stuff.

I thought I would share some of the essentials to surviving in Iraq – which is actually a very civilised place in which to survive. For me at least. A snapshot of the workdesk reveals some critical items – and tells some of the story of my stay.

Green Numerals First.

1. Diary. What was I doing here again? Good to have a note here to remind yourself. Actually a boiled down version of the RAQB – every contact, meeting, appointment, timetable, itinerary all in one document. Sachet of cash as well. If worst comes to worse the diary, passport, tickets and wallet are all I need. Clothes probably help too.

2. Lamp. Made in China. Chinese instructions still pasted across it. Careful of the lead, one of the lads gave himself an electric shock on one. Room is dim and cool, to combat that 43 degrees out there. So a light becomes important.

3. Indonesian betatine – past its use by date but still stings like crazy. Useful if a limb is lost.

4. Pepsi. Sits side by side with that other cola drink in the fridge. Important part of the Dubai Tea Formula. See “8” below.

5. Movie. Black market version but keeps Hussein in his little store in food and water. I have not seen a reproduction as bad as this in twenty years – filmed in a theatre, so the audience contributed to this version as well. It’s taken me four sittings so far and I have not yet finished it – which indicates how bad it is. Good therapy though.

6. Dental Floss. My new South African friend hands out biltong which he has made himself. Its actually very good. But you need floss for three days after to dig the last of it out from your teeth. This is a multicultural environment in more than one way.

7. Would hate to leave it but would if I had to. But new RAQB designed to include this. I no longer travel with a separate laptop case.

8. My Saudi friends introduced me to this stuff as Dubai Tea. Regardless of brand, age, malt, it is all Dubai Tea. As in, “I think I will nick over the border this weekend for some Dubai Tea.”

9. Pocket New Testament. Food for the soul and balm for the heart.

10. Pear Soap. And something for the body!! Advantage – cake dries very quickly (almost instantly) after use and can be thrown into bag without leaving soapy slime everywhere. Sorry, nothing here about whether it is good for your skin or not. I still have a baby soft bum after 45 years anyway so don’t need any special soap.

1. Multivitamins –Executive Stress formula. Need that around here? Am convinced the stress stuff is good marketing baloney but the multivitamins are not a bad idea when you are on the road. Sometimes (most times) local menus need supplementing.

2. AA Batteries. Longest life ones you can find. Nothing worse than the lens retracting into the camera as a battery dies just as the shot of a life time pulls into view. Be careful of AA’s loose with coins in pocket – nearly started a fire once. They were Beijing back lane AA’s which lasted for 3 photos but had enough zap to start cooking me. I think they were radioactive. My theory and I am sticking to it.

3. Listerine. Helps with process at 6 above.

4. It is a civilised place after all, so mixing Green 8 with Green 4 in the can is not the done thing. Use the mug. Never wash it out of course, we are not THAT civilised.

5. There is a tray of 24 of these at my feet, all being fed into the fridge where they have a very short time to cool – I am going through 4-6 of these a day.

6. Passport with wallet (out of sight) – with exit visa stamped and signed. Part of the RAQB but out on the desk since I need it on a daily basis to get around this place.

Hotel Reservation Resource

June 29, 2007

The online reservation game is a pretty competitive one but that is to the advantage of those of us who travel. Hotels usually offer blocks of discounts to companies who promote their businesses across the web. Like plenty of others before me I have found the online booking is a brilliant way to get a discount, and often in hotels that might otherwise claim there is no room at the inn. The group at seem to have caught up a useful round of resources for the traveler, especially if you are US based.

But the real test on these sort of sites is what sort of results you get from the search engine on hotels. So I try a search on the home town, Sydney, and all the mid to top tier pubs are featured, with cheap hotel rates that I know are pretty good. Push it a bit harder. Try Sanaa. Where? The capital of Yemen, part of the old city shown in this photo. Worth a visit if you have a spare couple of weeks. It is a veritable museum of old Russian stuff – and some new Russian jets (Mig-29s) beating up the airport kept me distracted for …. OK, it seemed like hours. There are two “top end” pubs in Sanaa. The Sheraton will be disappointed it did not come up on the list but I was VERY impressed that Sanaa returned a result at all. Including the other, local hotel, so they will be very happy with that result. So try something a bit more obscure – let’s try Ballarat.

All the regular motor inns even we Aussies try and avoid are there – but you have no choice in Ballarat unless you have a relative living there. But not everyone wants to admit to a flannel-shirt wearing, mullet haired, ugg-boot shod relative in Ballarat. If you do, and therefore need to book some accommodation, this site will do it for you. Especially if you don’t want to “top and tail” with said relative. Push the site a bit further and search on Yakandandah. That is a bit unfair. Most Aussies would have no idea where this one horse, three fly town is either. And I am not even sure if there is accommodation there. Or if anyone would want to stay there. Unless they are on their way to Ballarat perhaps, and need to get themselves mentally conditioned to stay with that relative. So no return from the search engine on Yankandandah. But that is OK, it passed the Sanaa and Ballarat stress test with flying colours.

So too the airline bookings that will get me from Sydney to Sanaa and back with a choice of just about any airline in the region. And some. In fact the one stop shop nature of this site is a bit deceptive – the site name suggests hotel reservations only but it turns up car, flight and holiday deals as well. Might not be backpacker material but if you are traveling closer to the front of the plane these days than you did when you were a student, and you are the ones keeping us awake 9 hours across the Pacific with your toddlers with inner ears not yet adjusted to the pressure differential, then this site is worth a bookmark.