Petra is amazing. Fortunate to be able to visit it for the second time, I had some idea of what we were in store for and also how best to go about it. Although, having kids in tow meant plans couldn’t be set in (rose) stone.
Located up the top of a giant hill in al-Kerak, thankfully this time accessible directly by car, is the large Crusader castle, Kerak Castle. Pagan the Butler, Lord of Oultrejordain, began construction of this desert fort in the 1140’s and is living proof that you can work your way up from the bottom, having literally been the King of Jerusalem’s butler earlier in his life.
I’ve been called quite a few names over the years, but not nearly as many as that of the Dead Sea. Past names have included the Primordial Sea, the East Sea, the Sea of Lot, the Sea of the Arabah, the Sea of Sodom, the Stinking Sea, the Sea of Asphalt and the Devil’s Sea. Even now, the sea is not content with having just the one name, with it also being called Yam HaMelah (Salt Sea) in Hebrew and Al-Baḥr Al-Mayyit (Sea of Death) in Arabic. The funny thing is, that all these names are in fact wrong. Because the sea, is in fact, an inland lake.
Seven hundred metres above the Jordan Valley, on a mountain now called Mount Nebo, Moses is said to have sighted the promised land of Canaan before dying. Thanks to Google Maps, we didn’t spend forty years wandering in the desert before arriving. Instead, we drove up the winding road from Sowaya and were there in about 30 minutes. Modernity does have its perks.
When it comes to sightseeing, I’m definitely Toy Story’s Woody to Veronica’s Buzz Lightyear. Bounding around looking for new things to see, I’m always rushing around taking just one more picture. As the perfect foil to Woody, Buzz looks after the kids when they (or Buzz) start complaining about getting bored or tired. Usually that means I race off on my own, so as not to make everyone’s life completely unbearable, arriving back drenched in sweat from being a power tourist.
It is said that Jordan has some of the best preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. While this mostly relates to the ruins in Jerash, an hour or so north of Amman, the capital city has its own fair share of quality Roman ruins. Our own Roman recce began in downtown Amman with a visit to the Roman Theatre.
Over the next six months or so that we plan being on the road, we’re booked into a reasonably wide range of accommodation types. Most have been booked through www.booking.com, which, when I was doing price comparisons, always came out as the cheapest on identical properties. Apart from the odd hotel-stay, we have opted for apartment style “living”. This seems the cheapest way for us to travel outside of staying in hostels, which Veronica vetoed by saying she’d take me hostage if I booked anything along those lines.
Amman is a city often overlooked by people visiting Jordan. When you’ve got uber-famous sites such as Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea in your stable, not to mention the Jerash Ruins, Karnak Temple and Red Sea diving, it’s easy to see why. Our experience so far is that anyone who invests the time in Jordan’s capital city will, however, be amply rewarded.
It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to get from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. At least that’s how long it takes me. I’m sure 90% of the UAE’s population is able to do it in about an hour travelling at the official speed limit of 140 kmph, but travelling even at 120 kmph, is more than enough to test my nerves and I’m happy to trundle along at what feels like snails pace knowing I’ve got some chance of arriving in one piece.
Abu Dhabi is a modern metropolis with inspiring architecture that creates stunning skyline. The capital city of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is stepping up its game as a major tourist destination and now rivals itself with its more brash and better well known neighbour, Dubai. With some amazing sites, such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi Louvre, Qasr Hosn and the newly opened Qasr Al Watan, what it lacks in glitz and glam, it makes up for in style and class.
Braving one of New Zealand's best known beaches on the West Coast of Auckland in the middle of winter is not most people's idea of a great time. And doing so at dawn will have most people wondering just how geographically challenged I might be, given the sun rises completely in the other direction. But you might just be surprised at how worthwhile a trip to a west coast beach is at this time of day, where all the right ingredients are already in place to greet the sun's rise.
Wanting to prove to ourselves that we could have a family holiday with a bit of real travel thrown in, we ventured to Bali, which we thought should be an extremely easy place to visit with kids and to "initiate" them into travelling. To spice things up a bit, we also decided to throw in a side trip to Java to look at some of the amazing temples on offer and were surprised with just how easy this was as well.
Bora Bora in ancient times was called "Pora pora mai te pora", meaning "created by the gods" in the local Tahitian dialect. However, in more recent times it has also been dubbed Bora Boring or Pora Poorer, in reference to beliefs that 1 - there's nothing to do on the island beyond lying on the beach sipping cocktails and 2 - the exorbitant cost of everything. Whilst there is a bit of truth to both of those labels, Best Travel Books provides you with a collection of tips and tricks in order to help you get the most out of your time in "paradise" based on our experiences on the islands of Bora Bora and Tahiti in beautiful French Polynesia.
Niue (pronounced NEW-ay) doesn't seem to go out of its way to self promote. Neither is the word being spread by the 4,000 or so annual tourists (half of which are overseas Niueans returning to visit relatives) who travel just over 3 hours from Auckland, New Zealand on twice weekly flights. By all accounts, the South Pacific's "Rock of Polynesia", situated some 600 kms to the east of its nearest neighbour Tonga, is an unknown and underappreciated destination.
Why this is a so is a mystery, as there is definitely plenty to see and do both in and on the pristine sea waters that surround one of the largest coral atolls in the world. With plenty of unique landscapes to further explore on land, this is definitely one island worth visiting that rewards the adventurous.
So, having experienced some of the best on offer, here is my list, in no particular order, of the top 20 Things to Do In Niue.