vacation

Pyramids

We went to Egypt a few weeks with one purpose: see the pyramids.

Mission Accomplished. IMG_5718We went to the pyramids on our first full day in Cairo and my first impression was “whoa, these things are huge!”  I realize that I could have looked up the fact that they are 456 feet tall but honestly I probably still would have been surprised at how big they were. IMG_5682I tend to take pessimists approach when I am traveling to famous destinations, I think things such as “I bet Machu Picchu won’t even be that impressive” (it was) or “the fjords of Norway won’t be as beautiful in person as they are in pictures” (they were) and in this case “I bet the pyramids won’t look that big in real life.” (they did) I have a bit of a fear of giving a destination more credit than it deserves before I get there, and then being disappointed once I arrive. As a way to combat my fear of being let down, I bad talk the travel destination in the months leading up to a trip. Irrational? Probably.  Am I going to stop doing this?  Nope. IMG_5653 We roamed around the pyramids for a bit before we decided we wanted to go inside the first pyramid to visit the tomb of King Khufu.  We weren’t really prepared for what the climb inside the pyramid would entail.  We started walking through a small tunnel on the path up into the pyramid.  IMG_5649

As the tunnel ascended it also narrowed, till it was just wider than our shoulders.  The narrower the tunnel became the more the roof dropped in on us.  Before we knew it we were hunched over, essentially climbing through the pyramid on our hands and knees.  It was hot inside the pyramid, it was dark, and you were surrounded by stone just above your head, and to your left and right.  As the tunnel hit its smallest point we came face to face with a group of people on their way down, trying to exit the pyramid.  We would press our bodies against one side of the stone tunnel as the people on their way down would press against the other side and carefully slide past one another, becoming awfully familiar with each person as they passed our way.  All of a sudden our progress stopped.  IMG_5626 Lauren had been our fearless leader the entire trek up into the pyramid and she had stopped in her tracks.  All I was able to see from my crouched position was Adam’s tushy.  Lauren was unable to continue on her path as a gentleman coming down through the tunnel began to feel the anxiety that comes along with being in a hot and very small space.  Unfortunately, the only path up was through this man.  We all held our squatted positions waiting for him to gain enough composure to continue on his way.  The longer we held our position waiting for him the louder the voices in my head were telling me to turn around and run for the fresh air.  After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was probably less than a minute, the man slowly continued on his trek down and out of the pyramid.  We quickly snuck past him, and scurried as fast as we could the remaining climb into the tomb, and thankful for the tall ceilings and the wide open spaces that met us once we arrived. IMG_5713Of course, any day where you can spend a ridiculous amount of time taking jumping photos is a success.  

Sneak Peek: Pic from Egypt

Today we received a message from one of our most loyal fans, from New Brunswick, Canada asking, “where are the pics from Egypt?”  We have been super busy this week, and just finally got them downloaded from our camera to our computer this weekend.  We are still in the process of finishing up some blog posts to share a few stories from our trip, but in the meantime I thought I would give everyone a little sneak peak of whats to come . . . . .

The pyramids were incredible, huge, and an engineering feat that I will never understand.  Here is a group pic with our friends Adam & Lauren, in front of a few of the pyramids.

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The Pyramids were HUGE! Take a look at the cars in the background to get an idea of their size.

 

We also visited the Great Sphinx during our trip.  Again . . . . . . . . super cool!

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These ruins are about 4,500 years old!

 

This little punk ass camel caused a LOT of drama during our ride through the desert!  There was swearing, people flying off camels, bruising, yelling, pleading, whips, and blood.  Everyone survived, so we can laugh about it now!  I think you will enjoy this story . . . . . coming soon!

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We called this camel “Angry Arnold” and he was a jerk.

The last pic of this special edition: Sneak Peek, is probably the most memorable story from our trip to Egypt, and one that I will never forget.  It was taken from the backseat of a luxury car, as we were rushed across the runway at the Cairo Airport, to board our plane back to Kuwait.  You will never believe what led to this ride!!!!

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We should have been on that bus with all of the other passengers, but instead . . . . we were in the backseat of a luxury car!

 

I apologize for all of the “cliffhangers” I’ve provided you!  Hopefully this week, we will have some time to fill you in on all of the details from these pictures, as well as more photos.  Until then . . . . . I ‘Might As Well’ go to bed now.

Good night New Brunswick!!!   🙂

 

 

 

Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

Remember way back in October when we went to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for our week long Eid break?  No?  Maybe this will refresh your memory….here, here, here, and here. One thing I never wrote about was the tour we took of the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and it is far too awesome to just skip over!

Mosques are everywhere in Kuwait, I heard a fact that no matter where you are in Kuwait there is a mosque within a five minute walk from you.  I have no idea if this is true or not, but with the amount of mosques we come across on a daily basis, I would not be the least bit surprised.  So when we left for vacation, and I really wanted to go to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, I think Mitch was a bit surprised that would be my choice, but as always he quickly jumped on board with seeing something new.  IMG_4908 We arrived at the Grand Mosque an hour or two before sunset and realized that the term “Grand” was the understatement of the year.  This place was gigantic!  The Mosque itself covers 30 acres, this number does not include the parking areas or the outdoor landscaped areas.  It is big enough for 40,000 people worship at once. IMG_4919 This tour focused mostly on the building and architectural features.  The design and the materials come from all over the world to symbolize how the Islamic faith is all over the world.  Materials came from Morocco, Italy, Pakistan, Malaysia, Germany, New Zealand and the UAE to name a few.  IMG_4922 Of course as we entered into the interior of the Mosque, out of respect to the Islamic faith, we removed our shoes before we entered to prevent any dirt from the outside, from entering the inside of the Mosque. IMG_4926 The tile and glass work was amazingly beautiful.  Each small detail had been carefully planned out with a symbolic meaning attached to it.
IMG_4936One thing we have noticed a bit as we learn more about different Mosques around the world is that there appears to be a bit of a competition amongst themselves.  Which Mosque has the biggest dome, which one is the tallest, etc. etc. etc. This Mosque was no different.  Out tour guide made sure to point out to us their bragging rights….IMG_4945Largest chandelier…check…until the Grand Mosque in Doha put up one even bigger.  I can’t imagine a chandelier bigger than this one.  The picture truly doesn’t do it justice, but inside the chandelier is a set of stairs to help out the cleaners, that’s right STAIRS inside of the chandelier!

IMG_4947 The carpet inside the main prayer hall is the largest known continuous piece of carpet in the world.  IMG_4956 The part though that was most impressive to me was the view of the Mosque from the outside once it got dark outside.  The soft light given off from the hallways light the area up so beautifully.  IMG_4964This guy, looked pretty great too!
IMG_4974It was a wonderful tour, all completely complementary and gave me yet another layer of understanding about the Islamic faith and the Arab culture.

Sri Lanka Through the Eyes of Mitch’s iPhone

I was going through the pictures on my iPhone the other day, and found a few candid shots I took while we were in Sri Lanka. They are nothing special, just a few little tidbits I captured during our trip. Enjoy!

This is called a tuk tuk.  There are millions of these little micro-tricycles all around Sri Lanka. Since gas is so expensive, they are the most popular form of transportation in the country (2nd is a moped). They operate on a little 50cc engine and get good gas mileage. We rode these all over place and they are super cheap! A 5 minute ride would cost about $0.50.  The fun thing about them . . . . each one is personally decorated by the owner! There was a variety of colors, advertisements, posters, sound systems, etc. I would always pick the “coolest” looking one before we would hop in with the driver.

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Check out all the chrome man!

In Sri Lanka, they drive on the left hand side of the road.  It is always a little weird getting used to at first, but luckily we didn’t do the driving.

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The view from the back seat of a tuk tuk.

This was the sound system in one of the tuk tuks we rode in.  The driver was about 20 years old, and OBSESSED with Tupac! He decorated his entire tuk tuk in memory of him. There were posters, paintings, stickers, and all kinds of other stuff. Being Mr. Obvious that I am, I asked him, “Do you Tupac?” He smiled and responded, “You like?” After I nodded “yes,” he pumped up the sound system and we listened to “California Love” bumping through the speakers for the rest of our ride!

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Rachel jammin’ out to 2Pac!

This was the main road through the town of Unawatuna.  It is about the width of an alley back in the States. When a car would come down the street, everyone would have to pack to one side of the street so that it could pass. This is also a good view of all the tuk tuks lined along the roads.

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Beep Beep

Here is a cool panorama picture I took at Jungle Beach.  It is located on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, about a 15 minute tuk tuk ride from Unawatuna.  You have to hike down a dirt path for about 15 minutes to reach the beach.  It was a super nice beach, and very quiet compared to Unawatuna Beach.

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Jungle Beach

This sign was posted outside a small surfer bar in Unawatuna called Koha Surf Cafe & Lounge.  It was one of my favorite places, because they didn’t have any tables to sit at. Instead you took your shoes off, and climbed into like a king sized bed. There tons of cushions and pillows, and you just made yourself comfy there. A super hippy place, just how I like it!  I took advantage of the “free smiles” but didn’t want a hug.

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Free hugs & free smiles!

These little rigs were all over the streets and highways in Sri Lanka! they basically took the front end of a large garden tiller, put bigger tires on it, and attached a homemade trailer to ride around in.  I think they did it because it is so much cheaper to operate that little gas engine, rather than buying a pickup truck.

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Weirdest invention ever!

I know it’s 2015, and there is free wifi virtually EVERYWHERE . . . . . however I still get pumped when a place offers it.  I usually keep my excitement to myself.  However one night when we were looking for a place to chill at, I blurted out, “let’s go here, there’s free wifi!”  Rachel and our friends gave me a look of, “really dude? You get that excited over free wifi?”  Of course, from that point forward, it became the joke of our trip every time we saw another sign advertising free wifi!

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Woohoo, free wi-fi!

One of our favorite things about Sri Lanka was all of the fresh seafood!  Just about everyday for dinner, one of us was enjoying a plate full of fresh (and cheap) seafood.  All along the southern coast of the country, you would see these little fish stands on the side of the road.  The fisherman would literally park their boat on the beach, and unload their daily catch at their stand.

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My favorite was the fresh tuna!

During our time in Unawatuna, we had a chef come to our chalet to make us breakfast.  Everyday he said we were going to have sausage.  We quickly realized that the word “sausage” in Sri Lanka was not the greasy, fatty, pork that we so desired.  Instead it was a grilled Oscar Meyer hot dog that tasted like it was grilled the night before, then microwaved before breakfast.  Yuck!

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WAIT!!!! That’s a hotdog, not sausage!

There was so many fruit stands along the roadways too!  There were so many different kinds of exotic fresh fruit you could buy for a couple of nickels.  Our favorites were the mangos, papaya, bananas, coconuts, passion fruit, and pineapple.

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There was so much fresh fruit!

Our favorite place in Unawatuna was the Kingfisher Hotel & Restaurant.  They had the best food, best service, and was just a super nice place.  One night we were all sitting on the beach for dinner, when Rachel excused herself to the bathroom.  Moments later she returned with a look of disblief on her face!  She stumbled for the proper words to describe what she had just encountered . . . . a dog in the women’s bathroom!  Apparently, she opened the door and started walking into the dark bathroom when she heard a dog growling. She JUMPED back, turned my iPhone’s flashlight on, and realized there was a dog snuggling up to the toilet!  So she did what any tourist would do . . . . SHE TOOK A PICTURE!  (then used the men’s restroom).

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That dog must have had too many Lion Lagers the night before. He was snuggled up to the toilet all night!

Mr. Pillow . . . . . Saved Again!

You may recall a blog post I did a few months ago, when we first moved to Kuwait called: Mr. Pillow.  Well, he still holds the top spot in Rachel’s heart, and I’m a distant second. However I am thinking I might have a scored a few bonus points with the Mrs. when I saved his life . . . . AGAIN!

During our Holiday Break, we checked into our tree house at Yala National Park, when Rachel suddenly realized that Mr. Pillow was gone!  We had just completed a 4 hour tuk tuk ride (it was supposed to be 2 hours) and I thought for sure it was laying on the side of the road somewhere in the beautiful countryside of Sri Lanka.  Rachel was bummed, however I was a bit excited. (Perhaps this was my chance at being #1 in her heart!)  Unfortunately though, my feelings of excitement did not last long. . . . .

We had just sat down for dinner at the hotel restaurant on our first night there.  We were hanging out with a few people from New Zealand, drinking some Lion Lagers, and watching some cricket on tv, when I noticed a blue blurr.  For a second, I just assumed it was the Lion Lagers taking their effect on me after 4 months of sobriety, but then I realized what it was . . . . . Mr. Pillow!

I asked Rachel, “is that your pillow?”  She nearly broke her neck, as she twisted her body in world record speed.  Her face lit up when she realized that it was indeed Mr. Pillow.  She nearly pulled a hamstring sprinting across the restaurant to go grab it!  It somehow must have fallen off her pack when we were getting out of the tuk tuk, and whoever found it, just put it in the lobby.

I was sure to capture this pic as she was reunited with Mr. Pillow:

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This is Rachel reuniting with Mr. Pillow. She had to go to the “lobby” of our “hotel” to grab it. It is kind of hard to see her ear-to-ear smile in this pic, but it’s there!

 

And then he joined us at the table for the rest of our dinner:

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Mr. Pillow got his own chair at the dinner table.

 

Everyone is happy that he is back with us:

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I’ll thumbs up to this!

 

I will continue to update the comings and goings of Mr. Pillow during our time in Kuwait.  He has survived a couple of times, but we’ll see how many lives he has!

 

 

 

Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

The first stop on our Christmas Vacation was Unawatuna, Sri Lanka.  Unawatuna, pronounced just as it is written una-wa-tuna, is a small beach town on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.  Nearly all of our teacher friends who recommended Sri Lanka to us, said we had to spend time in Unawatuna! Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 6.08.39 AMWe heard it was the perfect spot to swim, lay on the beach, drink out of coconuts, and relax. IMG_5011 Unawatuna delivered on all of those promises and a few more that we weren’t expecting, like monkeys coming out from the jungle and checking us out during our breakfast. IMG_5005 We chose to stay at an Airbnb that was located “upstairs” in Unawatuna, a short Tuk Tuk ride up the hill from the beach into the jungle.   Our view was amazing, we were surrounded by jungle with a view of the Indian Ocean off in the distance.  So with a view like that, we spent as much time as possible sitting out on the deck and soaking in all the greenery that we have been desperately missing since we live in the desert.  On our second morning in Unawatuna, a brown adult male monkey decided to come and check out what we were up to while we ate breakfast on the deck. He swung his way from tree to tree and hopped right up onto the deck railing.  Even though the camera was sitting right on the table, Mitch was too excited by our visitor to snap any pictures.  The monkey stared at us for a few seconds before climbing the post on the deck to go to our friend’s Lauren and Adam’s deck to say hello to them as well.  Lauren and Adam were clearly aware that a monkey was nearby, as once the monkey started to make his way up to their deck, I began yelling like a crazy person: “MONKEY, MONKEY, LAUREN, MONKEY, ADAM, ADAM, ADAM, MONKEY.”  The nice part about my crazy yelling is that Adam reciprocated my crazed enthusiasm by answering with “MONKEY, MONKEY, HOLY SHIT, I SEE A MONKEY!” IMG_5004 After Mr. Monkey made his way across Adam and Lauren’s deck, I had composed myself enough to snap a couple of pictures, but none of them would truly do justice for how close this buddy had come to investigate what we were up to. Once he was at a safe distance from us, we heard a bunch of crashing in some nearby trees.  Soon after, Mrs. Monkey and her three babies emerged and followed him from tree-to-tree making their way deeper into the jungle. IMG_4994 The beaches here are great, the views are beautiful, but sometimes it’s an unexpected breakfast guest that makes the trip worth it.